A Woodworker’s Notebook
Jeff Gorman
Decorative Dovetails

Small dovetails cut at the customary angle of 1 in 8 tend to appear to have little gripping power, so you might think of making the angles of the smaller pins the 1 in 6 usually used for softwoods. If you make the larger pins 1 in 8, the subtle variation might add a touch of visual refinement to your joints.

Take care not to make them too tight since I have known them to be extracted by their roots when trial joints are pulled apart.

The upper joint has structural value since the extra grip at the sides could help to restrain a board that might cup, though this might really be a bit of an academic point.

Because the half-pins only receive pressure on one flank, they can easily be bent sideways and possibly will split. Make them a bit more robust than the intermediate pins.

Anyway, they look pleasing to some people and can add a distinctive touch to your work - English Arts & Crafts designers used them.

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