How To Cut the Half-Blind Dovetails

In this part of the Cabinet project, I show you how to both layout and cut the half-blind dovetails that hold the carcass together.

This lessons objectives:

  • How to accurately layout the tails
  • Learn which dovetail ratio to use
  • How to cut the tails
  • How to refine the tails before fitting

Half-blind dovetails, often referred to as ‘lapped dovetails' in the UK, are what we are going to use to hold this cabinet together. So we need to strive for a nice tight fit here! On the other hand, if your joint end up a bit gappy, you'll be pleased to know that the majority of them will be hidden anyway. These are purely constructional.

With regards to the ratio of the tails, this is largely up to you. But I would strongly advise going for a 1:6 ratio as it provides a better locking action once the cabinet is assembled.

To mark these out, I use a 1:6 dovetail marker made by Veritas. This allows me to quickly mark the ratio onto the end of a piece of wood, while simultaneously being able to square a line across the endgrain. These are available with both 1:6 and 1:8 ratios.

In addition to this, you could also use the Katz-Moses dovetail guide to cut the tails, although this may be tricky on individual components.

An easy way to get around this is to clamp 2-4 of the components together in the vice at once. This will give you a wider surface to rest the dovetail guide on, and will also make the job slightly quicker!

Keep in mind however, when cutting the corresponding sockets of these dovetails in the next part of this series, you will not be able to use the guide.

Supporting Material

Click the images below to see supporting material helping you with this part of the project.

How To Cut a Lapped Dovetail

This video breaks down the entire process of cutting a lapped dovetail into minute steps. Perfect for those who need further clarification on this video.

Cutting the Tails - Dovetail Box Project

Want a refresher on this step when we made the dovetail box project? This link takes you directly that that lesson.

How To Saw Correctly

Unable to cut a straight line? Can't make square cuts? Can't get the saw started in the first place?! This lesson will help!

Have you got the plans yet?

Package includes working drawings, a cutting list, and a 3d SketchUp model!

The Student Series

Want to see another beginner make this project before you? It's a great way to scope out any mistakes before you make one yourself!

*To be filmed

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