What is Dovetail Joint? (Types, Uses, Advantages & Disadvantages)

November 19, 2022

Various types and patterns of dovetail joints corner joinery.

Dovetail joints consist of two parts: tails and pins. The tails appear like the dove’s tail. As such, these joints get referred to as dovetail joints. The pins fit snugly between those tails, making it almost impossible to disconnect both pieces. 

There is no doubt that these joints are long-lasting. If you visit, for example, some antique shops and check the joints of their antique furniture, you might chance upon a piece of furniture with dovetail joints. 

Try to pull some drawers of antique furniture, and you might discover that the pull-out drawer has dovetail joints. The presence of dovetail joints indicates high-quality craftsmanship.  

Dovetail joints are challenging to pull apart. They are finger-like joints connecting two wood pieces, creating a very tight and robust fit that could last for a long time. Besides, these joints don’t need mechanical fasteners, making them attractive and good-looking.

Why Dovetail Joint Is Stronger Than Other Joineries?

The dovetail joint is quite strong because of how the pins and tails got shaped. Since the tails and pins fit snugly together, separating them will be almost impossible if you glue them together. For this reason, this joint gets often utilized in constructing boxes like jewelry boxes, cabinets, drawers, and many other pieces of furniture that necessitate strength. 

Nevertheless, the dovetail joint is not easy to build manually. You will need a high level of craftsmanship to achieve a perfect dovetail joint. 

Furthermore, dovetail joints come in different types. Besides, the slope’s angle differs depending on the joint’s purpose, the wood, and the work type. 

If you’re using softwood, the slope is usually 1:6. If you use hardwood, however, the slope is shallower at 1:8. Yet, you can set the slope at 1:7 as a compromise. Despite the difference in slope, the joint’s strength remains remarkable for various wood types.


  • The dovetail joint is considered the strongest of woodworking joints.
  • It provides a more extensive gluing area. 
  • It is interlocking, thus, resisting being pulled apart.
  • It also looks attractive.
  • It can hold together sans any glue


  • Not easy to cut and mark out
  • If not correctly done, it loses the abovementioned advantages
  • It comes in different types, depending on the design, function, and project you will make.
  • Requires a higher level of craftsmanship and skills

Uses & Applications of Dovetail Joint

Dovetail joints often get used in woodworking. Artisans and carpenters, for example, utilize dovetail joints to build furniture, cabinets, and drawers. They also use this joint for carcass construction, log building, and timber framing. 

The dovetail joint is famous for its remarkable durability and strength. It doesn’t require mechanical fasteners for added strength. It relies heavily on its pins and tails to create those interlocking fingers that are hard to pull apart. The way tails and pins fit together snugly makes this joint extremely strong and durable. Its interlocking tails and pins would make it nearly impossible to pull them apart, especially after gluing. 

Thus, the dovetail joint is perfect for jewelry boxes, furniture, drawers, and cabinets that require extreme strength. You might try to build this joint manually, but you may get frustrated because it is nearly impossible to make these joints perfectly manually.

5 Different Types of Dovetail Joint

Dovetail joints come in 5 types, and each type gets put together using a slightly varied method. The making of each of these types may entail different approaches and may be complex. Yet, they carry almost similar basic designs.  

As you become more versatile with making dovetail joints, you will soon learn these variations and their various applications. To determine which dovetail joint best works for your needs, consider the level of support you want for your craft and the visible angle you would like for your dovetail joint. Below are the five different types of dovetail joints:

1) Through Dovetail

The through dovetail gets also referred to as the plain dovetail. It is the most common and basic type of dovetail joint. It utilizes the interlocking finger method. You can achieve this dovetail joint by simply creating interlocking tails and pins on each wood piece you would like to join. 

This dovetail joint exhibits consistent angles, characterized by the absence of gaps between the tails and pins. This dovetail joint lets you see the wood’s end grains, as well as the tail side and the pin side from the external surfaces. 

You can cover the through dovetail joints using veneers. This way, you can mask the point where the two wood pieces interlocked. Nevertheless, this traditional method of hiding the interlocking point has decreased in popularity. 

Contemporary people love to see the end grain and the point of interlocking of the pins and tails. They also love the way connections look. Thus, the traditional masking of interlocking pins and tails has already decreased in popularity.

2) Half-blind Dovetail

Another type of dovetail joint is the half-blind dovetail, also called the single-lap dovetail. The end grain is only visible on one side with this dovetail joint. Thus, it differs from through-dovetail joints. You can use this dovetail joint to hide the end grain from sight. 

The half-blind dovetail joint entails cutting pins until the cutter gets through the entire width of the wood. You can create a shield hiding the tails and the whole connection. 

This dovetail joint got conceived as an alternative to masking the connection or the intersection of the wood. Thus, it is perfect if you want to hide the end-grain connection on a piece of furniture without adding extra material over the wood surface.

3) Secret Mitered Dovetail

This dovetail joint is also referred to as the mitered blind dovetail. This dovetail joint gets used in high-end box and cabinet works. It offers a remarkable strength of a dovetail joint, but the joints are not visible on both the outside and inside corners because the outer edge meets at forty-five degree angle, hiding within the dovetails. 

The mitered dovetail comes with a single dovetail and is perfect for making picture frames and other similar connections. 

4) Secret Double-lapped Dovetail

This dovetail joint is like the secret mitered dovetail. Their main difference, however, lies in the end grain’s thin section on one of the wood pieces. This thin section forms the joint’s end. Thus, sans using a miter joint, this dovetail joint holds well. 

This dovetail joint gets often used for constructing boxes. You can also use this for the building’s structural framework and furniture pieces.

5) Sliding Dovetail

You can make this dovetail joint by joining two wood pieces at right angles. The jointing point intersects differently by sliding the tails of one board piece into the other piece’s middle socket. This joint is also called the French Dovetail joint

You can use the sliding dovetail joint to build shelves and cabinet sides, the cabinet bottoms’ sides, horizontal partitions’ shelves, table frames, drawer fronts’ sides, front rails’ cabinet sides, and even the neck and body of violins and guitars.


The qualities you should look for in a woodworking joint are stability and durability. Dovetail joints have these two qualities. So, if you can make a dovetail joint, you should go for it. However, dovetail joints are challenging to cut, and if you only work manually, creating a dovetail joint is not advisable. 

Making a dovetail joint takes skills, time, and effort. Moreover, it requires precise pins and tails. So, if you’re a beginner, it is not advisable for you to make dovetail joints. Nevertheless, as your woodworking skills improve, you can dabble with creating dovetail joints to raise your woodworking skills further.

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