Dovetails: Machine-cut vs. Hand-cut

Created through a pin-and-tail interlocking system, dovetails are commonly known as the most beautiful joints in woodworking. Historically, dovetails were purely functional. But now, dovetails are used in modern woodworking projects primarily for aesthetic purposes. The ‘half-blind’ dovetail shown below is a popular decorative joint for drawers, but there are also ‘full-blind’ (or secret) dovetails and ‘through’ (or full) dovetails. 


While today’s advanced jigs allow woodworkers to get quick and easy dovetails, mechanically-cut dovetails simply cannot rival the results of hand-crafted dovetails. The true beauty of woodworking is found in the imperfections, and jig-produced dovetails are unnaturally uniform and static. While they may seem like a simple concept to those who are unfamiliar with them, hand-cut dovetails are a difficult technique to learn. The angle, size, spacing and number of dovetails all must be carefully executed to achieve successful dovetails. Mastering the art of the hand-cut dovetail, therefore, is a major milestone for aspiring furniture makers, and a beautiful dovetail is a sign of true craftsmanship.


Source: Fine Woodworking

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