A Foolproof Method for Making Corner Joints for Dovetails

We already covered how to size the sides and bottom of a wooden box made with dovetail joints that’s custom-sized to the items you want to store. In this post, we’ll learn how to mark and make the corner joints so that the bottom of the box will fit securely without being seen from the sides.

Half-blind dovetail joint hiding a groove

To do this, we’ll be using half-blind dovetail joints. This was covered in more detail in a previous post, so it might be good to review that before starting.

How to make corner joints

Step 1:

Take the one of the tail boards and get it ready for making the tails.

Tails board with groove marked in pencil

The vertical lines in this picture mark where the groove that will ultimately hold the bottom board is going to go. Normally, I wouldn’t shade it in, but I did it for the purpose of demonstration.

Step 2:

Next, mark the tails, as shown below. Shade in the areas that will be cut out.

Tails marked incorporating the groove for the bottom


Tails marked incorporating the groove for the bottom

The key to getting this step right is to make sure that the groove for the bottom is contained within a tail. You can see that the shaded area for the groove is between the sides of the tail on the far right.

Step 3:

Go ahead and saw and cut the waste from the tail board, and use it to mark the pin board. Be sure to keep the outside of the boards oriented to the outside of the joint.

Marking the pin board from the tails board

After marking the pins board and shading in the waste areas, you’ll see that the corresponding groove on that board will be completely contained within the socket.

Pins board, with groove contained within the socket

Step 4:

Saw and chop out the waste, being sure to saw just to the waste side of the pencil lines. After that, the two boards will be ready to fit together. Use a chisel to adjust the fit if it doesn’t go together the first time. You can see how the groove will fit relative to the joint.

Ready to fit the half-blind dovetail joint

After fitting the boards together, you can see that once the groove is made, it will be able to accept the bottom board.

The place where the groove will be for the bottom board

But if you turn the joint around, the nature of the half-blind dovetail joint hides the groove from being seen from the outside.

Half-blind dovetail joint hiding a groove

If this box were made with through dovetails, then there would be a visible square hole sticking out between the pins, which would have to be plugged. The half-blind dovetail covers the hole up, resulting in a nicer looking box from the outside.

Repeat this process for the other three corners of the box, and the joints that hold the sides together will be done.

Next time, we’ll make the grooves and fit the bottom into the box.

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