I am making a medicine cabinet and I want to use a stopped, sliding dovetail joint so that the joint will be hidden. I can cut the sliding dovetail in the side boards with a dovetail bit in a router, but what is the best way to cut the corresponding dovetail in the end grain of the joining board? I have tried making some jigs, but they always seem to be precarious to use.

drawing of sliding dovetail joint

(Please excuse the poor drawing. I'm not so good with GIMP yet.)

  • Not an answer because I've never done it, but it looks like you can rmeove most of the waste with a table saw, and then move to the router table to make the actual dovetail (though it looks like you can use a router and some scrap to do the whole dovetail). Looks like a challenging joint. Popular Woodworking and others have articles you can search. The trick for you is working with the end-grain. You'll have to make some practice cuts I think.
    – jdv
    May 10 '20 at 1:51

I would just cut this with a handheld router and an edge guide. Stand the board on end and clamp it to your workbench so that the edge is flush with the bench top or clamp a thicker board to it so that your router doesn't tip back and forth.

As long as your edge guide has a microadjust it should be easy enough to dial in the fit. You might want to cut all the bottom sides first so that they're flush and then dial in the thickness.

I would caution you, though, that this looks like a pretty weak joint. At the "point" of the dado in the sides you're going to have very little material and the grain will be oriented so it will be easy to break off the edge of the board...

  • Thanks. I can't do it this way because I don't have room for a bench. But I saw a video yesterday of a guy hand-cutting with a bench vise, back saw, and chisel, although he wasn't cutting "sliding" dovetails. I used a makeshift edge guide with a hand-held router years ago to make sliding dovetails for the headboard of my bed. It was not elaborate, but it was precarious. May 11 '20 at 23:09
  • I just looked at this again and it occurred to me that you might have meant that the end of the side board might break off. If that's what you meant, I didn't show the edge board in my drawing like it is on the project. The sides are cut at an angle, so there is about an inch of material below the dovetail at the back of the sides and it tapers toward the front. So it should be strong enough. May 12 '20 at 3:14
  • oh ok yeah that should be fine then. May 12 '20 at 15:38

I figured out a way to do it but it's still precarious.

I built a tall fence for my router table and then hand-held the piece against the fence and moved it across the dovetail bit. I got reasonably good dovetails on the ends of the pieces where I need them.

A better solution might have been to build a sled and mount it on my miter gauge. Then I could clamp the wood to the sled and guide it past the bit with the miter gauge.

  • 1
    Do you have enough room for a featherboard? This helps support it along that axis so you can concentrate more on feed and speed.
    – jdv
    May 10 '20 at 3:32
  • @jdv GREAT idea! Thank you! Why didn't I think of that! May 10 '20 at 14:35
  • 1
    In addition to my comment about featherboards: there are featherboard kits you can buy that stack so you get lots of support along tall fences. Or, make your own stackable, or make a nice big one a few inches tall.
    – jdv
    May 11 '20 at 14:37
  • Thanks. That's a great idea. It would work well when the boards I'm cutting aren't too long. May 11 '20 at 14:52

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