Joiner’s Toolbox – Episode 3

Joiners Toolbox 3

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It’s time to start the joinery by dovetailing the four corners of the box. Paul shows a couple of different techniques that can be used and discusses some of the idiosyncrasies involved when there are a large number of dovetails on a corner.


  1. bit101 on 7 January 2015 at 7:38 pm

    If I had a pound for every dovetail I’ve watched you do… well, I couldn’t retire, but I might be able to buy a fancy Lie Nielsen plane. 🙂 As always though, I never fast forward. There’s always some useful hint in your comments as you’re chopping away, or suddenly you’re doing something a bit differently and explain why. Good stuff.

    • bit101 on 7 January 2015 at 7:40 pm

      Also, take into account that I’ve watched some of your dovetail videos over and over. It adds up!

  2. Eddy Flynn on 7 January 2015 at 7:43 pm

    i think this will be the project i perfect my dovetails on (i’m sure i’ve said that before HaHa) one question Paul do you prefer cutting dovetails with the recording lights on or just your regular shop lights ,i dont think you can ever have too much light but mr magoo has nothing on me .

    • Paul Sellers on 7 January 2015 at 10:43 pm

      Lotsa lights works for me because we only have two very high up narrow windows for natural light and of course its darkening after 3.30pm. I do have the best lighting I’ve ever had.

    • Ben Fisher on 18 February 2015 at 10:38 pm

      I get G7 Power LED lights from Amazon for my garage. They are the BR40 1600 lumen or so each and work out nicely. As long as you have the light socket with no casing for the bulb, it works and they will last a long time. I just wish G7 was offering them in 5000k as well as the 3000k, but it works.

  3. STEVE MASSIE on 7 January 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Paul again everytime I see you work I learn a new trick or process. I am getting better with my Hand Cut Dove Tails but I do believe after i finish this project I will be very happy with what I have done.

    I am enjoying this series very much, also my bench is right at the end of shop near the overhead door so I have natural light sometimes to much or bright.


  4. Dennis_C on 8 January 2015 at 12:25 am

    Can not wait for warmer weather as my shop is not insulated, so working in it right now is a big issue (28 degrees). So now I spend my time watching all my DVD’s of Working Wood wishing there were more To watch.
    Paul will you have more DVD’s to go with the Artisan Course in the future?

    • tompslattery on 16 January 2015 at 9:13 am

      I’m the opposite, can’t wait for it to cool down it’s been 38degrees Celsius in Brisbane Australia with high humidity. Been making photo frames out of cedar so feels like a sauna and smells like one too

  5. mike melendrez on 8 January 2015 at 5:45 am

    I could watch you work for hours. Great video Paul I can’t wait to put some tools inmy box.

  6. Anonymous on 9 January 2015 at 5:28 am

    I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that a 23″ dovetailed warped piece of wood would go together with simple hand pressure perfectly the first time. Amazed is probably the better word.

  7. ausworkshop on 9 January 2015 at 6:31 am

    The wood is quite thin so it flexes easily, its a bit harder if your using thicker hardwood but even then if you cut out the waste accurately it shouldn’t be a problem. I usually stop if I feel it’s still too tight rather than just forcing it with a hammer. Paul’s ones are just the right fit. I usually have to stop and adjust a little more but I’m getting better. Just takes practice I guess.

    I’m still looking out for the never before seen method Paul briefly mentioned leading up to this series. Maybe I missed something or maybe it’s still to come?

  8. ausworkshop on 9 January 2015 at 6:59 am

    I think it’s important to note something about the dovetails being a little proud still after fully driving them home. This is fine as it can be planed down but the important thing is to make sure each corner is made the same. I made a box once and the first corner was a little proud. I then adjusted slightly on the next one I did by putting a little more pressure against the base line by hitting the chisel a little harder when chopping the waste. This worked fine and the corner fitted nicely so I could plane the nubs off as originally hoped. Problem is that with one corner slightly proud and the next corner ever so slightly deeper in fit this then makes the whole box out of square unless you re adjust the first one deeper to the same depth as the second corner. I’ve made this mistake before and over the length of a large box like this it can be a problem so just thought I’d make people aware of this or you may end up with a box that simply cannot be squared up. Once its all glued up it’s too late to do anything about it.
    Mine was only a little out of square but it was still annoying chasing my tail trying to figure out why I couldn’t get all 4 corners square in a mad panic on a hot day while the glue was almost fully set.

    Hope I made sense. In other words. How hard you hit the chisel and how deep you chop in one hit can effect how square the box will be after assembly. It pays to be consistent and stick to the same method on all four corners in my opinion. I will be using the coping saw method on all 4 corners on mine because I find it to be quicker and easier to get consistency flush to the baseline without compressing it too much.
    Thanks Paul for this series. Can’t wait to start mine but unfortunately I’m about to move workshops again 🙁

  9. dpaul on 9 January 2015 at 7:24 pm

    I don’t know why, but it bothers me too, to see end grain torn out in the sockets. But, does it make a difference in the joint strength?

  10. Sandy on 10 January 2015 at 1:39 am

    I get that end grain tear out every time I use that second method. The chisel is sharp but I’m trying to cut too fast!

    • Joel Finkel on 25 January 2015 at 5:08 am

      In pine, I almost always get tear out and I am trying to figure out why. Is it a matter of chisel sharpness or being greedy and chopping too hard or something else? Any thoughts or suggestions?

      • Philip Adams on 27 January 2015 at 11:20 am

        Hello Joel,
        If you are using the first method, are you leaving a rim at the edge so there is something supporting the waste from the other side when chopping vertically? If you are, then it is probably a matter of holding the chisel back a bit when you make the last few vertical cuts through and coming from both sides. Hope that is clear.

      • david o'sullivan on 18 February 2015 at 8:05 pm

        hi Joel ,i find when chopping in pine that if i sharpen to a lower angle say 20 to 25 degrees it helps a lot

  11. dsigntrail on 13 January 2015 at 12:27 am

    I am about to buy new blades for my coping saw. What type and what tpi would you recommend for cutting your dovetails?

  12. warnerjohn316 on 15 January 2015 at 9:47 pm

    Would it cause any problem if the pin size were increased to say 1/2″ or other width. Say 8 pins across the board of this project.

    • Philip Adams on 18 February 2015 at 7:19 pm

      Hello, I asked Paul and he said it wouldn’t cause any problems. Kind Regards,

      • joeleonetti on 15 September 2018 at 6:32 pm

        One of the things I lie about these comments is that I am now just getting atpround to actually building this project and was wondering the same thing.

        Also, I’m glad to see that Paul had some serious cupping. Paul having these issues leads to good teaching moments for us so we are less apt to panic when something happens to us.

        • joeleonetti on 15 September 2018 at 6:33 pm

          Love not lie. Sometimes I wish we could edit comments we type too quickly.

  13. Mgolfyork on 15 April 2015 at 4:41 pm

    I can cut one tail dovetails, but when 3 or more are involved the pins tend to break in the middle. I lost about half my pins in the middle when trying to fit the joint. Anything i can do to prevent this?

    • Philip Adams on 16 April 2015 at 12:40 pm

      Hello Michael, it sounds like you’re dovetails might be too tight or misaligned. When fitting multiple dovetails, you may need to ease the inside corner of the tails as there is lower tolerance for misalignment. Does that help?

      • Mgolfyork on 8 May 2015 at 10:44 am

        Yes, that helped. I needed to square up the tails to get them aligned properly. I must have missed my square line on the end grain when i cut the tails. Thanks

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