How to Make the Cove-and-Pin Joint
A clever way to re-create a vintage joint
Synopsis: Machined joinery is not a new thing. In fact, there was a dovetailing machine in the late 1800s that made a joint known as the cove-and-pin, or pin-and-scallop, and it was commonly used by furniture makers of the day. That machine is no longer available, but Louis Kern devised a method using a sled and two jigs that allows him to make the joint with common router bits and a brad-point drill bit.
A few years ago I saw an old dresser with a beautiful and unique joint. I was taken with the joint and did some research. Turns out the cove-and-pin joint, also known as the pin-and-scallop joint or the Knapp joint, was commonly used on factory furniture in the late 1800s. In fact, there was a dovetailing machine patented by Charles Knapp and Nathan Clement that was used to make the joint. I’m not sure why, but in the early 1900s the cove-and-pin fell out of favor and the machines along with it.
Finding one of those relics and restoring it wasn’t realistic, so I built a sled and two jigs that allow me to create the joint using the router table and a handheld drill. The rounded fingers on the ends of the drawer sides are simple to make using the sled, which is essentially a finger-joint jig for the router table. The trick is cutting the other part of the joint, the line of semi-circular cutouts in the ends of the drawer front. To rout them I need a template, and I make it by taking a casting of the finger side of the joint. It turns out that casting with epoxy is easy to do and remarkably accurate.
Extra: Megan Fitzpatrick explores the history behind the Knapp dovetailing machine, one of the first…