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Dovetail Joints: A Foundation of Woodworking Quality

March 06, 2018

A sign of quality kitchen craftsmanship that’s quick and easy way to check for is to look at how the drawer boxes are put together. Ideally, you will see dovetail joints, which are a simple yet strong woodworking technique that ensures the strength and longevity of drawers.


Dovetail Joints: a Foundation for Strength

Dovetail joints are a type of woodworking seam which provides significant strength and durability to high-use kitchen elements like drawers. If the boxes of your drawers are solidly built and dovetailed, you might not need to upgrade those during a kitchen remodel.

To look for it, simply open any drawer and look around at the side. Hopefully, you see a strong dovetailed wooden bow supporting the drawer front, connected to the rest of the box part of the drawer like the picture above. This type of wood-to-wood connection makes a world of difference in the quality and stability of kitchen cabinets.

Cabinet Refacing and Dovetail Joints

When a contractor or company will be standing by their work for a long time (such as with a warranty), quality construction is a must. You can expect a quality refacing company to require all pre-existing drawer boxes that aren’t dovetailed to be removed and replaced with those that do have these stable joint styles. This is to guarantee quality work that will stand the test of time. 

Drawer boxes that have been glued, nailed, pegged or stapled together instead of dovetailed often fall apart under frequent or sometimes forceful drawer use. The least sturdy drawers of all have an incomplete drawerbox, with no front panel so that the box is connected straight to the decorative drawer front. Both of these would mean the hard work and money that went into refacing your kitchen has been wasted. 

What is a Dovetail Joint?

Dovetail joints (sometimes known in Europe as a swallowtail joint) are commonly used in carpentry, furniture, and more. This method connects two planes or pieces of wood by fitting together interlocking pieces (similar to a puzzle piece fit) which are shaped similarly to dovetails.

A pet dove showing the “dovetail.”

This type of joint has proven to be one of the strongest and most reliable means of joining wood to create lasting kitchens. The dovetail method is believed to have existed as early as ancient Egypt and has been used throughout most of history. 

There are multiple kinds of dovetail joints, and a good craftsperson knows which joint is best for each task. Variations such as the secret mitred dovetail, half-blind dovetail, sliding dovetail,  and others are used in the construction of items such as drawers, cabinets, and even some musical instruments. These specialty dovetails are also especially useful in hiding visible joints and joining wood at varying angles.


When it comes to the kitchen drawers that you’ll be using every day for decades, you can count on the stability of dovetail joints to always be there for you.  

As always, feel free to contact us with any questions!


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