How to Make a Dovetail With a Router Table

Written by jonah morrissey
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How to Make a Dovetail With a Router Table
Boxes often have dovetail joints. (vintage oak dovetailed recipe box image by Scott Williams from

Knowing how to make a dovetail will increase the number of woodworking projects that you can consider. A router table reduces the required amount of work to make a dovetail. Carpenters use dovetails for a number of joints, such as those for boxes and drawers. There are many types of dovetail joints including dovetails and hidden dovetails. You can use a router table to make either kind, but the most common are through dovetails.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Steel ruler
  • Router table
  • 3/8-inch dovetail bit
  • Spacer fence
  • Clamp
  • 2 1 by 3 by 6-inch walnut boards

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  1. 1

    Set up the router table to make a 1-inch deep cut with the 3/8-inch dovetail bit. This will ensure that the cut goes through the entire thickness of the boards. Use a steel ruler to measure from the table to the top of the router bit. Once it is at the correct height, lock the bit in place.

  2. 2

    Place a 3/8-inch spacer fence so that it is offset 3/8 inch from the edge of the bit. Clamp the spacer fence to the table.

  3. 3

    Route the first dovetail in the end of one of the 1 by 3 by 6-inch walnut boards. Slide the board along the table into the blade until it hits the fence. Slowly back the board out of the blade to make a dovetail cut. Place the routed cut over the spacer fence to make the second cut. Continue making dovetail cuts until you reach the end of the board.

  4. 4

    Route the first dovetail of the second 1 by 3 by 6-inch walnut board in 3/8 inch from the edge. Continue making dovetail cuts until you reach the end of the board. The offset cuts in this board will fit into the cuts in the first board. This will create a perfect through dovetail joint.

Tips and warnings

  • Use contrasting boards for end and side pieces. This will accentuate the beauty of a through dovetail joint.
  • Wear eye protection when woodworking.
  • Follow tool safety precautions for safe operation.

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