Cutting Repeatable Dovetails to Perfection by Hand?!!!!

DSC_0038 Yes, it is my method and yes it has worked for me for years. If you are making 30 same-sized kitchen drawers and you don’t like the mechanics of dovetail guides and router’s screams this could well be the method for you. I can make a hundred dovetailed sides using my guide and have them all interchange with the fronts I cut. I don’t do it for that reason though, I do it for speed and efficiency and to eliminate the need for individually laying out each one at a time. You still fit the dovetails to the drawer fronts and backs, but it works for both through and half lap dovetail joints. It’s also of value if you make a particular box size over and over as a line in a design.

Try at least one for size and see how you feel.


  1. I watched this technique and thought, this is brilliant and looks easy. It is now on my short list of things I need to do. 🙂

  2. I tried Paul’s tecnique for a couple of drawers I made recently and it is great. Fast and effiecient and probably the best hand cut dovetails I’ve made.

  3. Paul, Transferring the 1/4″ offset, using a compass/ divider might be quicker and a shade more accurate?
    I will post this to my educational fb page.
    It is a pleasure to watch someone that KNOWS his stuff!

  4. I forgot the rest of my comment! Often when you are doing detail work, it is difficult to understand you. Sometimes it seems that you are talking to yourself. (not a THING wrong with that BTW) Have you considered a boom type mike?

    1. I was thinking the same thing . . . mumble, mumble, mumble . . . It’s OK but we want to pick up on those little tips you might be passing along.

      1. I’ve never once found that – maybe it’s an accent thing? I do find the overall volume level quite low but that’s the same on all the videos – I just turn up the dial and it’s all good.

        1. I’m with you here Michael – had no trouble catching everything… Mr Sellers, I would prefer if you would continue “mumbling” every so often – it feels like I’m in your shop instead of some studio setup. I find myself mumbling at my work-piece often. It would be most distracting if I had to stop or have some fellow shove a mic in there.
          Btw, I love the technique. I also love the 2 minute dovetail you demonstrate elsewhere – that one has opened a world of sturdy quick joints for me! So thanks a stack for that one!

        2. The mumbles are mine. They don’t really have any value to what I am doing and to be honest I like to mumble in a question and an answer to myself now and then ‘cos it makes me think. Often times it’s, I hope they can see this and not the back of my head, or, I can’t believe that went together so well. Hope Phil got that in time. Just stuff like that.

  5. Great video Paul, I love the technique and will start using this on my next DT project.

    Thanks for sharing !

  6. I’ve just used this technique, again, making a box to store some things in a cupboard. (Shame I mis-measured the cupboard depth… but’s that’s another issue… I should have had my glasses on!!).

    Paul had shown us part of the method when I did the 9 day course in May last year, and I’ve used it twice now. For me the most beneficial part of it is the fact that the distance is extended making the 90 degree cut that much more accurate!

    Thanks again Paul!



  7. Dear Mr. Sellers, after using this template it will not miss the cutting precision due to backsaw pass several times through the slot originally created?

    1. You will be able to cut dozens of joints without inaccuracy. The teeth don’t touch the top section of the guide.

  8. Excellent method for producing a jig/guide. I will incorporate that into my workflow. Thanks for sharing your technique Paul

    1. Neater, crisper, less endgrain tearout, more controlled. But then again you could remove the bulk of ht waste that way too and we have shown that way on some projects.

  9. Although I may not ever make several drawers again, I wish I had known of this little jewel 20 years ago. I find myself staring at the partially open drawer of a small dresser I bought several years ago from a shop near Chattanooga, which specializes in English furniture. The top drawer, some 8″ deep, sports only 2 pins and three tails (half blind), the pins only 4mm or so at the widest point. Just thinking how I would do it differently……

  10. Hi Paul, thanks heaps.
    One idea,perhaps a couple of small blocks superglued on the face of the guide could set it to rest on top of the piece being worked on. That way it would register exactly every time, same for a block glued on one or both edges. Just thought that might be a time saver in setting up each cut, obviating the need to fiddle to get the two pieces square.

  11. This seems a better technique than cutting out the waste with a fretsaw. The latter seems to an American technique, which I guess is supposed to be quicker but realy isn’t as it involves using an extra tool. I like the precision of your method and the fact that you can lever against the waste side, which obviously you can’t do if you’ve chopped the waste out.

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