How to Precisely Adjust a Dovetail Joint

Don't worry, it's a very common thing even at my level to need to adjust the fit of your dovetails from time to time. Sometimes your sawing isn't quite up to scratch and a little bit of leftover material is preventing your joint from fully assembling. In this video, I will show you how to fix this.

This lessons objectives:

  • How to benefit from grain direction
  • Hidden walls and edges with dovetail joints
  • How to remove waste on pin walls
  • How to remove waste on pin bases

This step requires careful planning and visualisation, especially with regards to grain direction and accurately predicting which way the grain is going to want to split. You will need to know where to sever the fibres, and where the exposed faces and edges of the joint are; or more importantly, where the hidden faces and edges are so you know what you can get away with.

By the end of this lesson, you will have all the dovetails fitted as well as a very good understanding of grain characteristics.

A Swann-Morton SM-01 scalpel blade is an amazing tool for cleaning the corners of the dovetail joint as it is extremely sharp and rigid. I find it indispensable when removing the fluffy bits left over after sawing and chiselling. These blades can be purchased directly from Swann-Morton with a retractable handle.

Alternatively, you can buy the blades individually and fit them into one of my custom marking knife handles which are available from my store. These are available in over 15 different woods and 4 different ferrule materials meaning they can be customised to suit your taste.

Don't forget that you can also use a Katz-Moses Dovetail Guide to cut the pins of the dovetails in addition to the tails!

A Snakewood Knife with Brass Ferrule

Supporting Material

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

How To Chisel Correctly

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How To Cut a Bridle Joint

The main technique I use when precisely removing material from a face is establishing the edges before removing the bulk of the material. I mainly demonstrate this in my hand cut joint series where I show you how to cut a halving joint and a bridle joint. Give these videos a watch if you want to see the technique in action.

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!

How to work out where to remove material from – 1:17

Tails not bottoming out in the pins – 5:28

What order to fit the tails – 8:35

Overview – 9:28

Matt's top tip for this stage – 15:30

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