French Dovetails or Sliding Dovetails
Before I jump onto my soapbox to spout off, I’ll share a bit more about drawers for my upcoming workbench. I plan to have two stacks, each with five drawers. Sizes range from a small 2-3/16″-deep drawer to the deepest, bottom drawer at 3-3/8″ deep. My SketchUp drawing shows an exploded drawer, including how the parts assemble – I have dovetails drawn, but I can just about guarantee that I will not dovetail these drawers.
In the comments on my last post, Narayan suggested making my drawers accessible from both sides of the bench. That’s a great idea, thank you. And due to the fact that my bench may sit away from any walls, this idea moved to the front of my plans. (This is why I ask for your ideas.)
OK. I am now up on my soapbox to preach. As I searched for information on sliding dovetails for my drawer fronts – an idea that has now been trashed – I discovered that I have been wrong when I talked about sliding dovetails. This joint seems to now be known as “French” dovetails.
I’ve been building furniture for more than 30 years and I just discovered the term French dovetails. Who the hell renamed this joint? It certainly could not have been in the woodworking community – the folks that build furniture and use proper terminology – or I would have heard something. No, I discovered that this was a term adopted by furniture stores to differentiate between a true dovetail (what these stores call English dovetails), and a less-impressive sliding dovetail. I can only assume that furniture stores did so because customers have learned that dovetailed drawers equate to better quality. And it’s easy to say English or French dovetails without really knowing the difference.
If I were of French ancestry, I’d be hacked off. If you know of other woodworking terms that have been manipulated and twisted by retail store marketing, please let me know.
Build Something Great!
— Glen D. Huey
Looking for more information on dovetails? Pick-up a copy of Chuck Bender’s DVD, “Dovetailing Apprenticeship” or learn my router setup and process for easy sliding dovetails in this download-ready article, click here.