Sliding Dovetail Drawers

Sliding Dovetail Drawers

Quickly build a stack
of strong drawers
using your router table.

By Tom Caspar

Without question, dovetails
are the strongest way to
hold a drawer together.
Sliding dovetails are often
used in production shops, because they’re
fast to make and easy to assemble. These
shops use special equipment, but here’s a
dovetailing technique that requires only a
router table and two ordinary bits.

Tools you'll need

Accurate dovetailing requires flat, straight stock.
You may be able to buy planed wood that’s flat and
straight already, but often it’s cupped or bowed. To
be sure your wood is flat, we recommend preparing
your own stock with a jointer and planer.

You’ll need a router table to make this joint. Our
technique is easier to master if your router table
has a miter gauge slot, but it isn’t required. You’ll
need two router bits: a 1/2-in.-dia. 14-degree dovetail
bit, such as the type used with a half-blind
dovetail jig, and a 1/4-in. straight bit (see Source, below). Both bits will perform better if they have
1/2-in. shanks.

Mill the parts

1. Joint and plane lumber for the front, back
and sides (Fig. A, left). The front can be any
thickness over 1/2 in. In this example, it’s
3/4 in. thick. Plane the sides to 1/2 in.
thick. Make some extra sides for testing
the joint’s fit.

2. Cut the front to width and length.
Cut the sides the same width as the front.
Trim the sides to length, allowing an extra
1/4 in. for the front dovetails. Leave the
back and plywood bottom oversize for now.

Set up the router table

3. Install a dovetail bit in your router table.
Raise it 1/4 in. above the table’s top. This
height determines the depth of the sockets. It’s
arbitrary, but routing a deeper socket can cause a
bit to vibrate excessively.

Why use sliding dovetails?