An Unjustified Mystique: Period Dovetails Up-Close… Issue Two Table of Contents


The modern obsession with perfectly-spaced, aerospace-tight, single-kerf-pin dovetails is rampant. Why is Instagram full of immaculately executed dovetails? Or, more importantly, why does today’s woodworker agonize over the few thou of an inch gap on these joints? It’s because they haven’t seen period dovetails.

Although artisans of the past were exceptionally skilled, I would like to bust the myth that they obsessed over dovetails as much as we do. It is apparent from the work they left behind that the vast majority of pre-industrial artisans were more concerned with the strength of the joint than they were with impressing their “social following”. It is not uncommon to find noticeably irregular spacing of the tails, considerable variation in the angle of each tail (showing it was done by eye), and overcuts beyond baselines everywhere.

By providing a host of close-up photographs of actual period dovetails, this article will blow the lid off today’s perfection-obsessed engineer approach to building furniture. One of the goals of M&T has always been to empower today’s woodworkers with knowledge from the past to enhance their work today. Feeling discouraged that you don’t cut flawless joinery? Wishing you could be free from the pressure of working to engineers’ tolerances to keep up with your peers? You’ll love this article. Let’s lay down our digital micrometers, folks. It’s only woodworking.

Issue Two article announcements are being releasing one at a time here at the blog. Pre-orders open November 1st.