Episode #31: Entertainment Center Case Dovetails

Note: All of my old podcast videos have been moved to my YouTube channel.  You can now watch this video here:



11 thoughts on “Episode #31: Entertainment Center Case Dovetails

  1. I always wrestle with “dovetail fetishism” Looking at the period pieces I have, I see a real workmanlike attitude toward the joint. Someday I hope that cutting these will feel like playing music, where you just think it and it happens, but I’ve never been near that!

  2. Bob
    I’ve been following your blog and watching your videos since the start, but without commenting. I’d like to say thank you now for the wonderful job you do. You combine a wealth of knowledge and skill, a down to earth no nonsense style of presentation and very effective communication and teaching skills. And I should add, great video technique. I learn so much each time I watch one of your video, I really need to thank you for all your efforts.

    The specific ‘ah ha’ moment for me in this episode was your description of leaving the ‘bridge’ when remove the waste from the tails. I may have seen this done elsewhere before, but there is so much confusing dovetail information out there (for me and my novice skills) that I may have missed the significance. Now I may be able to get my baselines straight and tight. Joy! May 2011 bring many more episodes!

  3. I just discovered your website and Podcasts and subsequently lost (in a good way) some hours out of my life ;). I’m really enjoying your presentations, and like the fact that you don’t shy away from showing the warts. That’s real life. I’m a power tool guy that likes to incorporate hand tools when possible, and your sharing via the Blog and Podcasts is a great motivator for me to pull out the hand tools more.


  4. I appreciate your feelings about the necessity on “perfect” dovetails. I work in a antique store, where part of my job is to make repairs on old antiques, some up to 240 years old.Since I get to work with these elderly pieces of furniture, I have noticed that the craftsman of those days were very economical about what they spent time on.Hidden dovetails were often produced with workman like efficiency. The best ones tend to be in drawers. Dovetails at the back, or other out of the way places, under crown molding, for instance, tended to be good, but not “Krenov” quality, so to speak. If you use hand tools, you can sort of “read” what the older craftsman was thinking and doing. Here he planed against the grain….here a chisel slipped a bit…etc. By the way, love your informative blog.

  5. Bob, thanks again for a great podcast. I still consider myself in the early stages of my woodworking journey, but get there is have the fun. I enjoy watching and reading your podcast and blogs, because you speak just like your everyday woodworker. I approach each project as a learning experience. If something goes array, and I learn from the mistakes, and move forward. I used to get frustrated, but I have changed my attitude to enjoy this hobby, and respect the great craftsman of prior and present. I used to be so intimated to do a mortise and tenon or dovetail, because I thought the joinery was too over my head. After seeing this podcast, and how you mention that not every dovetail was perfect, and heck they don’t need to always be perfect. You nailed it, when you said that everyone thinks a dovetail is the golden standard to woodworking. How many projects to you really see a dovetail? Most of the time they are in a draw, or hidden.
    Again, thanks Bob for taking time out of your busy schedule to share your knowledge and expertise with fellow woodworkers. I have found that hand tool woodworkers seem to really share their knowledge and tips a little more than our machine woodworker contemporaries.


    • You should see some of my dovetails. Sure, I can take my time and cut them nice and pretty. But sometimes I just need to cut them quick, like the hundred or two I cut for these cases. I’m not ashamed to wedge a loose tail. Especially when they’re all hidden like in this piece. I’ve seen wedges in dovetailed drawers in what are otherwise some of the finest pieces of antique furniture in history.

  6. Many of the people I know think dovetails are the golden standard for cabinetry making, however 99.9% of the dovetails they are looking at were made with a machine, so naturally they look perfect. Unfortunately, handmade “anything” is starting to become something of the past. My wife and I love going to antique shops and flea markets, and finding handmade furniture that was built to last. You are lucky if you get 10yrs out of the crap they sell today in these furniture stores. To me, if it is too perfect, then most likely is was made with a machine. I have nothing against power tools, and use them regularly for my large cutting, but when it comes to joinery, I will stick with hand made via hand tools.

    • Hand made is important to me not because it is better quality I don’t believe that to be the case whether you cut a tenon by hand or use the table saw or bandsaw they are all structurally sound. To me a craftsman is someone who can do it by hand not someone who relies on a machine to do it for him. A close friend of mine Tony Konovaloff said to me were not here to replicate machinery but I am guilty of that my aim is perfection and yes I do want to replicate what a aching can do. Every joint has to be tight fitting gap free the boards completely flat, the widths of boards after ripping to be planed so the width is consistent along the entire length as if it’s come off a table saw. One day I hope this achievement will be second nature to me.

  7. Hi Bob!
    Just stumbled upon your site (through Bill Schenher’s Youtube Channel) and i love it!
    I also absolutely agree with your opinion about dovetail joints. I saw a video about old japanese furniture masters doing completely hidden dovetail mitred joints. Absolutley awesome! No visible endgrain, no visible dovetail, just wonderful looking grain all around the workpiece.
    Anyway. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and joy about woodworking!

    Greetings from Austria.


    • Thanks Mike, and welcome! As infatuated as I am with traditional western woodworking, I’m also fascinated by the traditional eastern traditions as well. The full blind mitered dovetail is just a beautiful joint, but it’s also very interesting to note.

      As separated as the eastern and western traditions were during the height of handwork in each culture, bot found ways to deal with a very similar aesthetic taste, i.e. the desire to hide the end grain. The western world used moldings and the eastern hidden joinery. But both cultures had a similar desire to hide the joinery and end grain from sight in the finished piece. Quite different from today where the joinery sometimes seems to be the main focus while the rest of the piece’s aesthetics go practically ignored.

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