Chris Schwarz's Blog

Video: Mitered Shoulder Dovetail

When building the Monticello Bookcases for the June 2011 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, I used through-dovetails with a mitered shoulder to join the cases. This joint gives a nice finished look to the front edge of the boxes, yet it is easier to do than some other similar joints, including the secret mitered dovetail.

While I know that some woodworkers will be put off by the mitered section of this joint, I encourage you to try it in scrap to see how simple it is. If you can make a regular through-dovetail, this joint is only a couple extra saw cuts.

The trick is to cut the miter freehand and right up on your line. Then, when you assemble the joint, you can tighten up the dovetails by sawing through the miter with a thin-kerf saw. Every cut will tighten the joint at the baselines of your pin board.

I prepared a sample joint this morning and filmed the process.

— Christopher Schwarz

22 thoughts on “Video: Mitered Shoulder Dovetail

  1. George West

    Great video, trying to understand the same written would not be as easy as seeing it done. Thanks Chris, love the tunes.

    Camera work was flawless too.

  2. Darrin

    Very cool Chris… For me, you make it look easy to a point. I have almost 0 exp. in woodworking but with a little patients, I think I could pull this off.

    The only thing I would suggest with the video is maybe talking through what you are doing rather than adding the banners.

      1. blindleader

        I was going to jump on that question myself, but overslept. I have one of those on my desk right now but never use it because I break the .3mm lead every three seconds? Perhaps the HB is too brittle?

  3. muthrie

    I’ve seen carpenters do the saw through the miter trick when fitting two mitered flat trim edges together. They clamp the pieces together and run the circular saw down the miter joint/seam and wa-la they fit perfectly together. Maybe its kinda like plane the edges of two boards at the same time so the fit.

  4. Andrew Yang

    I’m not clear on the process of “sawing through the miter”. I understand the gap in the baseline caused by too much material at the miter joint, but how do you ensure removing the right amount of material from the joint to close it up without then leaving a gap in the miter itself?

    Is it clear if you just try it?

    1. Steve_OH

      I think the Zona saw is one of the hidden bargains of the hand tool world. The cut is phenomenally fine (I measured the kerf at 0.014-0.015″). It’s also phenomenally slow, but that hardly matters in this context.


  5. bricsuc

    I posted a half-blind version of that recently for a small project that I’m working on:

    I’m not saying that it was a particularly good idea, but there it is. For whatever reason, the “kerfing in” technique didn’t work very well for me. It could be that my saw is too big or that I had the case pieces banged too tightly together, causing the joint to close up around the saw as I was cutting.

  6. David Cockey

    Suggestion for “how to do it” videos such as this one. Start the video with what the result looks like. For a joint show the separate parts and then assembled. A little bit more time in the editing but it will be a significant improvement in understanding. It took me a while to understand which part of the joint was mitered.

  7. ChrisG

    Brilliant!!! I’ve always seen folks use a guide block to clean the miters in a mitered dovetail. This is sooooo much better, since it inherently creates two complimentary miters and will offset any error in the miter angle (I assume).

  8. Gareth00

    A couple of comments: What’s the rush? Man Chris works fast!
    Great music, is it Steve Martin? Oh and I hope he wears a hat when turning on a lathe. 🙂

    1. johnw

      This technique seems to require full assembly and then disassembly of the dovetail joint prior to gluing it up. I’ve heard this may weaken the joint – any opinion on whether this is a valid concern?

      1. Christopher SchwarzChristopher Schwarz Post author

        I have never heard that disassembly could weaken the joint. And I cannot fathom how it could weaken the joint.

        Most of the advanced joints (such as the secret mitered dovetail) always require a test fit.


      2. blindleader

        The only concern, if it really is a concern is that a test fitting of a tight joint compresses wood fibers which never return to their uncompressed state. So the joint is never as tight again.

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