Looking for a rock solid way to join drawers that doesn’t require a dovetail jig? If you’ve got a router table, you can easily make a sliding dovetail and get many of the strength advantages a half-blind or through dovetail would provide.
You’ll only be able to use sliding dovetails for drawers on which the front will overlay the sides of the opening.
Any dovetail bit will work. I commonly use a 1/2″ 14-degree cutter. The diameter of the dovetail bit needs to be less than the thickness of the drawer sides.
Make The Dovetail Slots First. Locate the fence by installing the V-bit and measuring from the point of the bit to the face of the fence. Here’s the deal. Because of the shape of the dovetail cutter it’s hard to use it to locate the fence. Instead, calculate the distance to the center of the dovetail slot, which is the amount of overlay plus 1/2 the drawer side thickness. Use this number to set the distance from the face of the fence to the point of the V-bit.
Make The Tails. Measure across the narrow point of the dovetail slot. Subtract this measurement from the thickness of the drawer sides, and divide by two. In my case the measurement is 3/8″ and my drawer sides are 5/8″ thick. The difference is 1/4″ which, divided by two, leaves 1/8″. This is the amount the point of the dovetail bit should project past the face of the fence.
Position the fence using the distance calculated in the previous step. I’m using 1/8″ bar stock. It’s better to start this step with a conservative setting (the fence too far forward) so you don’t remove too much material. I’m leaving the point of the bit short of the face of the bar stock. This should result in a tail that’s too big. The bit height remains the same as in the previous step.
Before adjusting the fence mark its position on the table. This provides a reference point of where you started. If the tail was too big move the fence back, exposing more bit. If the tail was too small move the fence forward, exposing less bit. Remember that small changes in the fence have a large affect on the cut. Moving the fence 1/32″ results in a 1/16″ change in the tail.
Tails too large can be run a second time. Tails too small need to be cut off so you’re starting with fresh material. Adjust the fence and check your work until the fit is perfect.
Before cutting tails into your drawer sides make a zero clearance fence. Do this by pushing the infeed face of the fence into the running cutter. This will eliminate chipping in the faces of the tail board.
Start by installing the V-bit and using it to locate the start and stop positions of the blind sockets. Mark the positions on the fence. On the first end you’ll need to plunge the material onto the bit to start, then push the board through the cut. Don’t forget the backer board to prevent blow out as the bit exits.
The cuts look like this, with a “keyhole” at the starting point of the first cut and the stopping point of the second cut. If the diameter of the bit is less than the thickness of the drawer sides, the sides will cover the keyholes.
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Set Up Gauges/Bar Stock