The words “always” and “never” will get you in trouble , so you should always endeavor to never use them.
During the early stages of learning to cut dovetails, I foolishly tried to read everything I could on the topic. It was foolish because it would probably take two lifetimes (in dog years even) to get through all that material. And it was foolish because that time would have been better spent practicing the joint.
In any case, several of the accounts I read sternly stated that you should never saw past the baseline when dovetailing.
Not even when cutting the half-blinds on a drawer front? Those overcuts will never show.
No, not even then.
Of course, the historical record begs to differ. Today we measured four pieces of furniture belonging to the White Water Shaker Village in Hamilton County, Ohio, and I spent a lot of time pondering the drawers.
All three drawers in one stepback cupboard we measured had drawers where the craftsman overcut the baseline by as much as 1-3/4″ to make it easier to clear out the waste.
Like all drawers, this Shaker one has its own personality. Check out the through-dovetails at the rear. On the right side you can see there’s a straight tail to house the groove for the bottom. I’ve seen that detail before, and I use it in my work as well.
On the top of the drawer there is a very unusual partial tail , about 1/4″ wide , that overlaps the back of the drawer. I don’t think I’ve seen that one before.
And if you think that’s an unusual drawer, here’s a peek at what I like to call the condor-tail joint.
– Christopher Schwarz