Monday, February 2, 2015

Cutting Huge Dovetails For Benches And Other Stuff

A few years ago I wrote an article for Popular Woodworking Magazine on how I cut very large dovetails for joining the end cap to the benchtop when installing our Tail Vise. But the technique applies to any large dovetail joint you might encounter. I've always been fascinated by these large joints since I first saw Frank Klausz's bench in the early 90's at a woodworking show in Chicago. Frank was off teaching a seminar, so I pored over his bench, virtually alone. That bird's eye skirt that formed the tool tray was burned into my memory that day, along with Frank's signature under the gloss of the Waterlox. That was also my first exposure to Odate and Lie-Nielsen. Odate was sitting in his booth completely alone, sharpening a plane iron on the floor. No one seemed interested in him. I do remember watching him for some time and feeling a great sense of awe and mystery. A few years later I got my first Lie-Nielsen plane, a 164, which I paid Thomas for in beeswax. I didn't have enough money, so we traded. I still have that plane, use it regularly, and will never sell it.

The thing I like about the technique is that it doesn't require much skill in using a backsaw. In fact, I don't even use a backsaw to cut the joint. It's done almost entirely with machines, guided by very precise (but easy) layout by hand. If you're careful, you get results like the example above. We all know the dovetail is overhyped. But a crisp, well proportioned example still gives me a buzz.

The article is available for free directly from the Popular Woodworking Magazine website.

Condor Tails Article


  1. Thank you, Jameel. Your timing couldn't be more perfect. This is the exact step I'm on in my split top roubo build. I was about to go dig through my back issues to find this article. If these heavy slabs of ash don't kill me I'm looking forward to finally putting my new bench to use.


  2. I know this is old content so not surprised but the link doesn’t work anymore. Takes you to popular woodworking but says page not found.

    1. The article is on our instructions page at


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