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Split Dovetails

author-gravatar joelav Jun 18, 2018

I've made these split dovetails in a sample joint before, but wanted to complete a box with them. I'm not thrilled with the overall dimensions of the final box since I started over, but lessons were learned and this is a joint I will be using going forward 

Like always, the project begins with breaking down stock to rough lengths. And like always, my 300mm zsaw dozuki does the heavy lifting        

After that I get the pieces flat and smooth

To begin the layout, I use a marking gauge to establish my baselines. The hard maple here is about 5/8" thick (15mm)

I lay out the tails first. I've gotten out of the habit of marking my waste on standard dovetails, but split dovetails can be confusing so I make sure to mark it. I start the half pin inside of the groove on the right side. This will be a miter to hide the groove. 

Now I saw inside the lines being extra careful not to stray. Usually it doesn't matter if I veer off my lines at this stage, as long as I stay straight and plumb. However with this layout I cut it close with the size of the chisels I have

Here's the part where I realized I tossed my old dovetail alignment board when I moved and never made a new one. So I made a new one

I clean up the miter using a chisel and a guide block

Pins and tails cut.Tail board looks cool, pin board not so much

Yeah, no. It fits well, but this is NOT what I had in mind

So I chopped them off

Time to start over

This time it's tiny pins and huge tails. I mark 2 boards at once so I can just flip them end for end and then transfer the knife lines instead of using measurements on each side

Laying out the mitered edge. If you do this, DO NOT reference your miter from the edge of the board. Start it from your baseline. 

Saw then remove the waste

I cut the miter a bit proud so I can refine it with a chisel and a reference block after

Now go away for a weekend, come back and  transfer the layout to the pin board, forgetting all about the dovetail alignment board I made until I'm on the last corner. 

Trimming the waste between these is difficult. I did nick a few of the pins with the back of the saw blade. Fortunately it doesn't show. Repeat x3

Test fit looks pretty good

Now I smooth the insides of all the pieces and apply a wax finish to them. 

Then I assemble the box and flush up the corners. Pretty happy with the fit overall, but I don't like the dimensions, It's too tall now that I cut 1 1/4" off the length of each board to redo the dovetails. Oh well, the next one will be better

Now the lid. I cut a rabbet in the bottom for a 1/4" piece of plywood

I want to go with exposed joinery on the lid, but I don't want to mess up my dovetail pattern on the box. So I chose a half lap

Sawing off the cheeks

Weird looking joint to hide the rabbet

Making sure the inside is square. I will be friction fitting a kumiko panel. If it's not square I'm going to have a tough time

Lid completed. I'm glad I went with half laps. the exposed end grain looks cool.

Now on to the kumiko. I'm just doing a simple asa no ha pattern

The gluing part seems to take forever

Here I mortised in some hinges I have. Later I realized I don't have the screws for these hinges. I couldn't find any that were the same size and the ones I got were a tad shorter. This left me with a not so perfect fitting lid. I want to finish this in time for the contest, so it is what it is for right now. I do plan on mortising in some larger hinges and properly fitting the lid

2 coats of watco teak oil applied here. It did darken the maple a little but it has a UV inhibitor in it so hopefully it will keep it from getting much darker later on. I really like the contrast in the dovetails now. They look 3D

And "done". I sill need to install new hinges and make trays for the inside. 

I like the double asa no ha in the lid. 

The inside of the lid is cherry. There are 4 too small screws and 4 too big screws holding the hinges on right now

The kumiko. I still saw my half laps by hand and made an error on the last one. There is a little gap that I may tap a small wedge in to fill. 


Thats beautiful Joe.  I dig the kumiko with the dovetails, nicely done.

Love the joinery, this came out awesome Joe!

Really clean and tasteful. Love it.

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