If you’re looking to add some DIY finesse to your woodworking projects, learning how to cut dovetails on a table saw is a great way to up your game. With the right technique and some practice, you can create beautiful and sturdy dovetails that will impress your friends and family. In this blog post, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about how to cut dovetails on a table saw, from setting up your workspace to making the perfect cut. Let’s get started!
How to cut dovetails on a table saw step by step:
First, set up your work area. I suggest using sacrificial material under the project you’re doing so that you don’t run into any problems with your blade guard during the sawing process. Make sure it’s also at least 6″ away from where you’ll be cutting. You’ll need room for removing waste pieces during the sawing process, too!
Next, make marks at both ends of the side pieces in order to find their center points. Place them flat against the miter gauge and leave about 1/16″ of space around each end between them and the fence. Then, mark one line straight down each piece, about 3/4″ from either end to find the center. After you’ve marked both pieces, connect the lines so that you can clearly see your cut line
Once you’ve got your line marked out, place one of the side pieces flat against the fence and adjust it to about 1/8″ away from your blade. Make sure that the lines are still visible on this piece, then lock everything into place (if there’s a lockdown handle for your miter gauge like mine) before making any kind of cut. learn more here How to cut circle on table saw.
Now raise or lower your blade until it matches up with this mark, putting it at about 3/4″. Then make small test cuts in scrap wood to make sure you can get all four sides of one cut right next to each other without any gaps.
This will be difficult, but keep trying until you get a perfect fit. If your test cuts don’t come out well, make adjustments to your blade height and try again. I suggest going no lower than 1/8″ because going any deeper will probably prevent you from being able to cleanly remove the waste pieces without damaging them too much.
Once your test cuts work perfectly, use a featherboard clamped onto the miter gauge with one hand while holding onto both ends of the side piece you want to cut with the other in order to guide it through the sawing process. Don’t push or force any wood through – let it do its job! The motion should be smooth and fluid if you’re doing everything right so just concentrate on keeping the wood still. If you’re having trouble, first adjust your featherboard to be closer to the blade and then try again.
After cutting one side, flip your project over so that you can see your freshly made cut line on the other side. Repeat all these steps for this side as well! Now you have two half dovetails ready to be glued together later.
In order to make a complete dovetail joint, you’ll need two half dovetails with perfectly matching cut lines. If this doesn’t work out for some reason, you can always butt them up against each other and glue them together. learn more here How to cut 60 degree angle on table saw.
Once both sides are cut properly, use a chisel to separate the waste pieces from both sides. You’ll save a lot of time by doing this instead of ripping them out with a circular saw or coping saw later on. Just be careful not to hit your dovetails while chiseling because it could cause damage!
After you’ve removed all the wood in between the dovetails, use a large chisel for this next step. You can also use a router if you have one available, but I think that’s unnecessary unless you plan to make several of these or want an extra level of precision that isn’t necessary for wooden joints like these.
Place your board flat on the table with the end face down. If you’re using a router, set it just barely above the wood to shave off any material that might be sticking out past your tails or pins.
Use sandpaper to smooth down all four sides of each dovetail now that they fit together perfectly. This will make them look much more pleasing to the eye! You can also use a chisel to clean up any rough spots that might still exist.
If you’re satisfied with the way your joints look, it’s time to assemble everything! Apply sparing amounts of glue between both sets of dovetails and then clamp them together once they’re aligned properly. Make sure that your clamps don’t press on any of the joints – they should only be touching the wood.
Once your glue is dry, cut off each end of both pieces as shown in this picture. This is where you’ll be joining them together later! I used a chisel for this step but a table saw or any other saw could work just as well.
Use a chisel and mallet to cut away any excess material from the junction in between your two pieces. This should leave you with a clean, finished look like this! If you want, you can do an extra step of sanding down these edges before moving on. That’s all there is to it – you’ve got a completed dovetail joint!
You can make all kinds of things with dovetails such as drawers, boxes, or even furniture like nightstands and dressers. If you want the extra challenge, try making some on your own without using a saw first by chiseling them down entirely! I learned this by watching a video on Youtube and it wasn’t nearly as complicated as I thought it would be.
Safety tips when using a table saw for dovetails:
Your workpiece should be securely clamped to the miter gauge.
The cut line on your side pieces should always face up toward you. Allow for more space at the bottom of the wood if necessary so that you can see this through your blade’s kerf. If there are any gaps between the sides, it will affect how well they fit together. learn more here How to cut 22.5 degree angle on table saw.
Take it slow! Don’t force anything through your saw – let the blade cut through on its own.
Don’t forget to wear hearing protection and safety glasses. This is very important for doing this safely, especially if you’re still practicing or teaching yourself how to do this for the first time.
Always remember that power tools can be dangerous and you should always be completely focused on what you’re doing when using them.
Make small, shallow cuts for a more accurate result. It’s better to go slowly than have your wood fly through the blade at high speeds and cause a lot of damage!
Why would you use a dovetail joint instead of a mortise and tenon, for example?
You might use a dovetail joint when you don’t need something to be as rigid as a mortise and tenon would be. If the piece only needs to stay together when it’s in an upright position but not when it’s being pulled from different directions, a dovetail joint would be the best choice.
When cutting dovetails on a table saw, why is it important to keep everything perfectly flush?
If both sides of your board aren’t completely flat and even with each other, your dovetails won’t fit together properly and you might damage the blade in the process. This is why it’s important to keep everything flush with each other even when you’re cutting.
What is the difference between half-blind dovetails and through dovetails?
In a half-blind dovetail joint, only one side of the pieces has pins (the sides with the tails). The other pieces are made flush on one side like in regular dados or grooves. This makes it easier to put together but won’t hold together as strongly.
When you use through dovetails, the pieces are made so that both sides have pins and tails, making them much stronger. There are also double-sided versions of this joint where both sides have tails and either side could conceivably be the top or bottom.
we showed you how to cut dovetails on a table saw, from setting up your workspace to making the perfect cut. I hope you found this helpful and if you did, please comment below and share your feedback. Thanks for reading!