How to Make Sliding Dovetail Joints

A sliding dovetail joint is very similar to the mortise and tenon joint. The socket has the same function as a mortise, and the dovetail is comparable to the tenon. Unlike a mortise & tenon joint, sliding dovetails must be open on one end of the socket. You cut the socket and the dovetail tenon with the same dovetail bit.

Sliding Dovetail Benefits

A sliding dovetail joint does extremely well in tensile strength or pull-apart strength. It excels in connecting the sides of a drawer to the front and back. Also, they are excellent for doors, legs and rails, and shelves.

Joint Design

The taper of a dovetail joint defines the fit. Of course, the dovetail bit’s design restricts the shape of the sliding dovetail joint. Sliding dovetails are easy to plan in the ends of drawer sides. To provide greater strength on the back of the drawer, you can offset the sockets. You can do the same in the front of the drawer to hide the drawer slides.

Router Bits for Sliding Dovetails

Most dovetail bits have angles from roughly 7° to 9° up to 14°. Of course, they come in various lengths. I suggest you stay away from very narrow-necked dovetail bits. It is best to cut the dovetail socket at full depth in one pass. Prior to using the dovetail bit it is a good idea to use a straight bit to pre-plow the socket. That prolongs the dovetail bit.

You don’t have to worry about a climb cut if the socket is only one router bit wide. With one pass and one setup, you can rout the socket. The fitting process is easier this way. In addition, you have a target for the dovetail tenon. The tenon is the same size as the dovetail router bit.

To make the tenon, you adjust your router table fence in small increments. You need to take a little bit off of each side. So you slide the edge across the dovetail bit. You turn the board over and do the same on the other side. You can see how the dovetail tenon is forming. You perform this procedure several times by moving the router table fence back a little. Once the dovetail tenon fits the socket, you are finished.

What could be simpler?

You can spend a lot of money on commercial dovetail jigs. However, you can make sliding dovetails using a router table.

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