A bit of chisel work adds sophistication to an old-time joint
Synopsis: A dovetailed box is a fine example of craftsmanship in its own right. Add a miter to the top edge and it’s even more slick. Add a second miter to hide the through-grooves the the bottom panel and you’ve got something even better. Here, John Tetreault shows you how to use miters to kick up the refinement of your pieces just a notch. It isn’t difficult, and it pays off handsomely in the finished look of the piece.
My town’s agricultural fair has a farm museum that includes a woodworking shop. When I was asked to demonstrate hand-tool techniques at the fair, I decided to make this kindling box as I did so. It’s a traditional piece that’s also useful in the modern home. Simple and sturdy, the box has through-dovetails at the corners; however, to give it a more refined look, I mitered the joint at the top edge. I also mitered a section of the joint so I could hide the through-grooves for the bottom panel.
You might think that mitering a dovetail joint is difficult, but it isn’t very different from cutting a normal through-dovetail joint. In fact, it differs only in the two spots where there are miters: at the top edge and where the groove is. Because I cut tails first, nothing about the technique changes until I transfer the tails. Fortunately, it’s not complicated.
Lay out the miters after cutting the tails
I start this joint as I would any through-dovetail joint—by laying out and cutting the tails. There is one thing to keep in mind when laying out the tails: Make sure to use a half-tail at the top edge of the board, where it will be mitered.
After cutting the tails, I…