Home > Small Tool Chest, Techniques, Tools and Schools, Woodworking Master Class > Small Tool Chest – Half Blind Dovetails

Small Tool Chest – Half Blind Dovetails

20131215-184703.jpgI have a fair amount of confidence in my through dovetails. Generally they come out well and only occasionally do I have to make a repair or repeat a cut. Half Blind dovetails is a different experience. In fact I have no experience at all and when I have made drawers that required a clean face I have made through dovetails and used a face board.

I begin by preparing stock for the two drawers. The front of the drawer is obviously Sapele. The sides and back could be Sapele, but I like the look of contrasting woods so I dig through my offcuts and come up with poplar and Oak. The key to any dovetail is to begin with well prepared stock that has square edges.I carefully plane the sides then take a few minutes to sharpen my blade and smooth the end grain. Two years ago I would have hesitated before planing the ends and left them to the saw cut from a table saw. Now I just sharpen the blade and plane three quarters of the way across from one side, Reverse the board in the vice and finish up the work . There is something particularly satisfying when smoothing end grain. The blade makes a crisp sound and if all is right the grain comes away like flowers of a petal.



The next task is to lay out the dovetails and sides. Experience tells me that the clearer you mark your work the less chance for a mistaken cut. I always take the time to mark each line and then mark the material to be removed with an X. It guides the cuts, ensures I place the saw on the correct side of the line and reveals what the work should look like when completed. In the picture you can see that I am using a backer board for the cut. This board will be used to transfer the cut lines from one side of the drawer to another ensuring a perfect match.

I saw out the tails for both sides of the first drawer and then pause realizing that I need to resharpen my saw. I’ve been sharpening my own saw’s for the past year and have found it a fairly easy task. I tend to wait too long before resharpening saws however, making the task more difficult than it should be. After five minutes I finish off the tails for the second drawer and begin layout of the  pins. This is where I am moving into new territory with the half blind pins.

I am following Paul Seller’s method that he demonstrated when I was in his class. I’m certainly glad that I took detailed notes and follow them for this task. There seem to be many ways to cut all manner of dovetails and it is fun to look around the internet and listen to people’s passionate explanations of  

20131215-185058.jpghow their method is best. This is the only way I know how to cut half blind dovetails so I have no experience for comparison. It takes me a couple hours to chop out and fit all of the pins and when I am done I am fairly satisfied.

My only regret is not using the red oak for all of the sides. It is much prettier and I am more satisfied with the crisp lines that I leave after chopping away the wood.


  1. December 16, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Just wondering how you’re experience has been with the Paul Seller’s classes. Are you doing the monthly membership or did you purchase the plans outright? Fine woodworking here in Las Vegas is somewhat isolated so I’m exploring options. Wish I could afford the time and money to attend workshops back east but ……

    • December 16, 2013 at 12:03 pm

      I have really enjoyed the class and the on line classes. I pay monthly and each Wednesday an email is sent and a new video is up on the web. There are other videos thrown in as bonuses along the way. I have nothing but praise for the teaching style and choice of projects to challenge and practice skills. I understand that you can cancel any time if it’s not your cup of tea. The class in reality is an absolute bargain.

  2. December 27, 2013 at 10:20 am

    I subscribe to Paul’s videos too, it’s a good deal. Very informative.

    I’ve been practicing my half blind dovetails this week – I need to make six drawers for the wall hung tool cabinet I made a while back. They are all coming out OK, although I’ve made a couple of interesting mistakes along the way.

  1. January 12, 2014 at 4:22 pm

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