Dovetails in long grain/ end grain

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    I am building a coffee bin out of 3/4 inch poplar and wanted to use it to practice cutting dovetails. The bin is 25″ high, 14″ wide and 12″ deep with a slant top lid. The grain on the sides runs vertically but the grain for the front (17″ wide board) runs horizontally. I was planning to use dovetails to attach the front to the sides until I realized it wouldn’t be end grain to end grain. Would there be problems due to the boards expanding/contracting in different directions? Also, I realize dovetails are much weaker cut in long grain. But if I cut the pins in the end grain of the front and made the tails much wider (2 inches?) in the long grain sides, do you think I would still be asking for trouble?
    Don Hatcher

    Richard Senior

    IMO those boards are wide enough that you are asking for trouble.

    Is there a reason that the grain on the sides must be vertical? Could you laminate the sides to get your 17-25″ height?


    You must be very fond of coffee!

    I was thinking the other way – why can’t the front board be vertical? Then no dovetails of course. In fact you may as well just use glued butt joints.

    You can’t cheat wood movement, and 17″ is really too much.


    Southampton, UK


    Thanks for the replies. I’ve already made the sides, so that ship has sailed. Actually, I don’t drink coffee. I’m going to use this as a trash bin. I guess I’ll take everyone’s advice and forget about using dovetails. I think I’ll practice making rebate joints instead.

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