sliding dovetails


Working on some cabinets where I want to use sliding dovetails -- this will be my first attempt. Got the basics down but the more I read I keep coming across the recommendation to use a tapered dovetail vice a straight one -- the intent is to avoid the build up of force needed to seat the dovetail as the width of the material gets larger. The stuff I am making is 24" wide -- is it wise thing to do to try a regular, straight, dovetail over this width ? My thought is I may have to narrow the tail to get it to slide such that the exposed edge would then not look decent. Any advice from those that have gone before ?
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There is an article in the latest, October issue #117, of American Woodworker on making a jig to cut tapered sliding dovetails for deep cabinets. The idea is that the dovetail will tighten fully only after it is slid in most of the way. Chuck

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The only sliding dovetail I have done is to seat the legs of a Shaker "chandle stand". These were about 3 inches long and *not* tapered. I think that your gut impression is spot on. I would be loath to try to slide together (if there was glue involved) 10 inches of untapered DT never mind 24. Its a pretty unforgiving joint.
-Steve

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My thought is I may have to narrow the tail to get it to slide

I have made straight sliding dove joints that are short, maybe 5 or 6 inches long. However, they are not easy to make. The difference between too tight to assemble and sloppy loose is minute. I wouldn't attempt a straight sliding dovetail 24" long. I have no experience with a tapered sliding joint but suspect that would be the way to go if you get a good setup to cut them. Something else you might consider is a one half dovetail joint where the angle is cut only on one side leaving the other side straight. You can cut them a little tight and then sand the straight side to achieve a good fit. Earl Creel
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[...]
Wrong set of tools. If the dovetail is too tight a slight pass with the dovetailing plane is all thet's needed. http://www.fine-tools.com/G301049.htm shows how that tool looks like.
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Dr. Juergen Hannappel http://lisa2.physik.uni-bonn.de/~hannappe
mailto: snipped-for-privacy@physik.uni-bonn.de Phone: +49 228 73 2447 FAX ... 7869
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Another thing you can try is to make only the front 2" or so a dovetail joint and the rest (22") a regular dado. More or less you use a router to cut the dado just into the dovetail joint (say 22.5") and then cut the dovetail pin in the front section. Then you only cut the tail on the front 2" (or so) of the shelf (or whatever it is). Only you will know that it's not a full dovetail and the dado will slide in quite easily. It's still a strong joint and you get the look you want as well. I believe this is an acceptable way of doing this type of joint as I have read about it in multiple books (if you're going for accuracy or something).
Good luck and do quite a few practice joints. One thing to watch for (that bit me the last time I did this) was to make sure as you cut the tail that you make sure the bit is level on both sides. I did it on a 3" wide piece and my Rouseau router plate is slightly crowned and I ended up with slightly different depths on each side of the tail (or is it pin, I can never remember). Anyway, if I had it to do all over again I'd use my Leigh D24 to cut the tail so it stays parallel all the way across on both sides. My problem in not recognizing it with the scrap test pieces is that they were wider than my final pieces and though they slid in well (so I had the width right) they weren't flush at the front so I wasn't able to pick up on the slight parallel problem with the "shoulders" of the tail (is that the right way to describe it?) until I actually glued in the final piece. It's only about a 16th off on each piece but damn that bugs me. No one else will probably know but I always will ;)
Mike
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I used the Leigh and had no problem on 24" wide red oak desk deck, other than slight bow in the pin panel that straighted out as I slid it in. The Leigh clamped the panels perfectly flat. I amazed myself when it went together.
Jim in KY

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SLIDING dovetail. There is no pin panel. we are discussing a different animal.
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Mike -- Thanks for the idea -- I'll give this a try
Cheers

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It would be very cool to do a tapered sliding dovetail, but one option that hasn't been mentioned is cheating by doing a standard sliding dovetail but with most of the middle of the tail chopped out. This way it would only bear at the ends. In choosing how much to cut out you'd have to balance ease of assembly with strength, depending on the application. Come to think of it, you don't even have to cut the tail out all of the way down to the edge of the board, you could leave it just 1/8" or so high.
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