Last Updated on August 14, 2023 By Emma W. Thomas
Dovetail drawers are sturdy and decorative drawer joints in woodworking. They’re created by interlocking trapezoidal pins and tails, enhancing durability and aesthetics. Commonly, pins and tails have a 1:8 or 1:6 slope ratio, ensuring strong connections in furniture and cabinetry.
Jump To A Section
What Are Dovetail Drawers?
Dovetail drawers are a pinnacle point for many furniture manufacturers and enthusiasts worldwide, owing to their perfect blend of robustness, longevity, and aesthetic appeal. The name derives from the unique dovetail-like pattern visible on the side of the furniture.
Here is an exploration of dovetail drawers:
- Definition of Dovetail Drawers: Dovetail drawers get their name from the ‘dovetail’ joint that joins the side and front panel of a drawer. The joint resembles the tail of a dove; hence the name ‘dovetail’. This particular joint technique is considered superior to others due to the tensile strength it provides to the drawer.
- Construction Technique: A dovetail joint is constructed by cutting a series of ‘tails’ and ‘pins’ into the respective wood pieces which are then carefully interlocked. These interlocks give it support and strength, negating the need for nails or screws. The number, size, and layout of these cuts can vary, offering customizable aesthetic options.
- Strength and Durability: Dovetail drawers are renowned for their strength and ability to withstand heavy loads. The interlocking ‘tail’ and ‘pin’ design provides unparalleled tensile strength and resistance, enabling it to handle considerable weight without deforming or falling apart.
- Aesthetic Value: Besides their practical advantages, dovetail drawers add a touch of class and sophistication due to their intricate details and craftsmanship. High-end furniture often features visible dovetail joints as a sign of quality and aesthetic appeal.
- Different Types of Dovetail Drawers: There are several styles of dovetail joints used in drawer construction, including English dovetails, French dovetails, and Sliding dovetails. Each offers a different balance between strength, complexity, appearance, and ease of assembly.
- Caring for Your Dovetail Drawers: Due to their robust construction, dovetail drawers require minimal maintenance. However, regular dusting with a cloth or vacuum cleaner with a brush attachment will keep them looking their best. Additionally, avoid exposing them to excess humidity or rapid temperature changes to prevent warping or cracking.
- Affordability: Dovetail drawers are typically more expensive than standard drawer types due to the accuracy, craftsmanship, and time required to make them. However, they are usually well worth the investment due to their longevity and aesthetic appeal.
Benefits Of Dovetail Drawers
For you to appreciate these expensive drawers, you need to understand what you are paying for. We researched some of the benefits of dovetail drawers so that you don’t have to. Here we go:
- They are designed with precision and skill, making them look elegant and stylish
- Dovetail joints make them durable and enduring to wear and tear
- They are strong enough to hold heavy items, making them ideal for storage of heavy kitchenware
- Dovetail drawers are made from superior-quality wood
Step By Step Procedure For Making Dovetail Drawers
In case you want to make your kitchen cabinets or dovetail drawers for your bedside stand, this section is for you. We take you through everything you need to know, including the tools and materials you need, and show you how to assemble elegant and robust dovetail drawers. This project is beginner-friendly, and you don’t need much experience to execute correctly. Read on!
For this project, you will need:
- Table saw
- Dovetail jig
- Dado blade set for your saw
- An orbital sander
- Solid maple for front and sides cut according to desired drawer size
- Maple plywood for the bottom (¼ inch thickness will do)
- Woodworkers glue and 1-inch wood screws
- Eye and ear protection
For accuracy and precision, it is advisable to have a sketch with the dimensions you want to make. This project will take about two hours to complete.
1. Cut four sides of the drawers to length according to your plan and sketch. Mostly, drawers are built from 1x stock, but the widths vary depending on the drawer’s height. Use a table saw to rip the stock to the desired width then cut four sides to their finished lengths. Every opposite side should have the same length: the front and back should measure the same length.
2. After cutting the sides to their desired length, it’s time to cut the pins and dovetails. Traditionally, dovetails were handmade using a chisel and dovetail saw, but now we have dovetail jigs for better and easier results. For best results, it is advisable to follow step-by-step instructions on your dovetail jig since every model is different and has different instructions. Here are some general recommendations when cutting dovetails and pins regardless of your model:
3. Please start with the tails since pins are easy to adjust and cut off until they fit. Set up your dovetail jig, ready for cutting tails, and begin with the side pieces. Always ensure you follow specific instructions on your dovetail jig. After cutting the first tail, turn the stock 180 degrees and cut the opposite side. Once you finish with one piece, similarly cut the opposite side.
4. Change to pin configuration on your dovetail jig and change your bit to a straight-cutting one if you need to. Remove your board from the jig and test fit with one that has a tail-end. If satisfied with the fit, continue to cut the other side and also the opposite piece.
3. The next step will involve cutting grooves on all pieces to accommodate your drawer’s bottom.
a) First, try to fit all sides of the box together, then use a pencil to mark where the groove should be made.
b) Set up your router and table with a quarter-inch straight cutting bit and adjust your bit to 3/8 inches above the table. Verify the thickness of each piece of stock.
c) Make a pencil mark at a distance on the fence on each side of the bit to show your groove’s start and stop points
d) Wear eye and ear protection gear and turn on your router then place your stock facing the table. Slide your stock forward while holding it firmly against the fence on the table until it reaches your pencil mark. Angle your stock carefully, then lift if off the bit starting with the back edge. Repeat the process on the other three stocks to precisely cut grooves.
e) Cut your plywood to size in readiness for the drawer assembly.
4. Assemble your drawers
Before you assemble your drawer, it is crucial to test fit and see if everything goes in well and make adjustments where necessary. Dry fit all pieces together and when you like the outcome, start the final assembly. For this, you will need to apply woodworker glue into each tail and spread using a brush that fits into the tails and ensure each edge is coated with glue.
The next step is to attach properly glued tails to the pins and ensure they seat correctly. Wipe off any excess glue that squeezes out. Repeat the process until you assemble three sides of the drawer leaving out one side to make it easy to attach the bottom. Insert the bottom drawer by sliding the bottom into the grooves of the pinboards.
5. Clamp the drawer and set it to dry, ensuring it is appropriately squared. It would help to use bar clamps at the bottom and top sides of the drawers to hold your drawers in place while they dry.
6. Sand your drawer box and attach it to a front, then you have your lovely dovetail drawers made from scratch.
Making your drawers from scratch can be difficult but fulfilling for people who are hands-on and love DIY projects. But if you are not a handy person, you can still enjoy the durability and elegance that comes with these drawers by buying ready-made ones. You can make this project exciting and hustle-free by shopping online. Not only will you get a variety to choose from, but you will also enjoy great prices. Let’s look at some key things you should have in mind before purchasing dovetail drawers online.
Factors To Consider When Buying Dovetail Drawers Online
Dovetail drawers are popular for their unique and robust joints, which can only stand when made with the right type of wood. If you want long-lasting drawers that will withstand heavy use, go for hardwood. Drawers made of hardwood may cost you more upfront, but in the long run, you save on maintenance and repair costs.
If you are looking for cabinets for decorative purposes, you will want drawers with extra fine details such as stylish drawer pulls and matching panels. If your drawers are for storage purposes only, go for fewer details to save on the cost.
Just like everything else bought online, reading customer reviews on your choice of drawers will equip you with first-hand information on quality. Ensure the drawers you choose to have positive reviews from customers who have used them. You can also consult your family and friends who have bought such drawers for an honest review.
The price of dovetail drawers is a good indicator of quality. Best-quality dovetail drawers require skill, hard work, and pricey wood, thus making them expensive. If you find dovetail drawers that are too cheap, chances are they are low quality. For drawers, it is better to save up and buy expensive ones that will last longer than buy cheap ones that will need replacement now and then.
Dovetail drawers get their name from the sturdy dovetail joints that make them durable and elegant for any cabinet. If you want new drawers that will last forever, then these drawers are the way to go. They can be used for your kitchen cabinets, bedside drawers, or even storage in your pantry. Before buying or making dovetail drawers, ensure you have all the details. We hope that this post equips you will all the information you need on dovetail drawers.
Emma is a graduate of Domestic Science or Family and Consumer Sciences (Home Economics) from the University of Wisconsin. She has 7 years of experience Working with the strategic section of BestBuy and now writing full-time for Homeeon.
From Managing the Home, Interiors, Cleaning, and Exteriors to Gardening and everything about Making A Home Liveable – is her passion and this Homeeon is the result of this.
Emma loves decorating her home with the best stuff found online. She cares about quality over anything and writes reviews about them here in Homeeon. Get in touch with her over Pinterest.
Keep reading her blogs.