I’ve cut lots of dovetails over the years, some by hand, some with dovetail jigs and a router. If I’m doing a run of drawers, I’ll use the jig and router ten times out of ten. But for a small project, I’ll still cut them by hand.
Why? First, in the time it takes to get the jig and router set up and dialled in, I could be well into cutting them by hand. Second, cutting them by hand is fun and rewarding.
There are lots of “right ways” to hand cut dovetails, so let me show you how I learned it. Most importantly, work as accurately as you can, but don’t be concerned with perfection. Enjoy the look of something truly handcrafted!
Step 1: Mark dovetail depth
After milling your parts to final dimension, use a marking gauge to lay out the depth of the dovetails on each piece. For through dovetails like these, that depth is equal to the board’s thickness.