I spend hours looking at photos of furniture. If I don’t have my nose buried in books, I gaze upon photos sent to me by other woodworkers. In a flickr set sent to me by Mark Firley (thanks, Mark), I stopped on a bow-front chest photo. (I think Mark was on a dovetail expedition that day; each piece of furniture he snapped also has a close-up look at drawer dovetails.) The chest, as shown in the left-hand photo, is nice, but it was the photo right after that really caught my eye.
Take a look at the pins on the drawer pictured at the right. The pins are extremely thin. So thin, in fact, that there is only room for a saw blade to enter the pin waste area in order to make the cut. True pin dovetails. This method of work brings about discussion on the strength of these dovetails. Do you think these pins and tails have the necessary strength?
Before you respond, let me tell you that Frank Klausz swears drawers built with this dovetail layout will fail; the pins will break off. Also, take a look at the photo of the second drawer on the chest. It’s shown below.
What you should see (you can enlarge the photo by clicking on it) are the obvious round holes in the center of each tail. The only rational conclusion you could make is that this joint failed and was, at one point in time, reinforced with nails, round wire-cut nails.
Before you make these ill-fated dovetails on your project, you may want more dovetail instruction. At shopwoodworking.com, we only have 100+ dovetail related DVDs, articles and downloads from which to choose. I’m not sure why, but I am extremely fond of this particular product. You may be, too.