Hand Tools Archive

Assembling a dovetailed drawer *PIC*

Bill Tindall, E.Tn.
There are endless demonstrations on how to make a dovetail joint; fewer on what to do with it. I have not seen anyone else assemble a drawer so what follows is self-taught for better or worse.
Pic 1

Step one is to carve a tiny chamfer on the inside of the tails. This chamfer will guide the joint together when things get frantic during assembly.
Ideally what follows would be illustrated as it was being done on an unassembled drawer. Not possible, so we need to make do with a recreation on a finished drawer.
Pic 2

Apply glue to both mating surfaces of joints 1A,B. I always apply glue to both mating surfaces. It ensures wetting both surfaces, essential for a bond to form. Glue is at the ready and the spatula shown is ideal for application.
Pic 3

With side 1 flat on the bench add the front and back pin boards and seat. Ideally the joint has been properly prepared and these joints will gently slide tight.

Pic 4

Add glue to both mating surfaces of joints 2a, b and add the drawer side. Tap it to seat the joint.

At this point the joints are likely not tight. Glue may be keeping the joint slightly apart.

Pic 5

Apply clamp pressure to the length of the drawer to pull the tails against the front and back. I typically just use one clamp and reposition it up and down the drawer height, on each side, until the tails seat. I might have to hold clamp in place a few seconds to allow the offending glue to squish out of the way.

Pic 6

Repeat clamping up and down the drawer sides to seat this orientation of the tails. It may be necessary to repeat the previous step of the tails don’t stay in position.

Finally square the drawer and set aside to dry. Or install it in the opening, shim into place and let it dry where it will live.

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