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Dovetailed Bookcase

No screws, no nails—tapered sliding dovetails hold it all together.

By Luke Hartle

Simple, beautiful, strong. This bookcase is just six boards held together using one elegant joint: the tapered sliding dovetail. Dovetails join the shelves to the sides and the sides to the top. This joint has a well-deserved reputation for being fussy to cut and fit, but I’ve devised two jigs so easy to use that you can’t go wrong.

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Cut the shelves, sides and top to length using a crosscut sled. The ends must be absolutely straight and square to make tight-fitting dovetail joints. Clamp a long stop arm to the sled to ensure similar pieces are cut to the same length.

Click any image to view a larger version

Rout tapered dovetails on the ends of the shelves and sides. I’ve devised a shop-made jig that makes this complicated joint virtually foolproof (see “Tapered Sliding Dovetails”).

Rout sockets in the sides.


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