Why handmade dovetails are often sloppy on antique furniture
November 30, 2017 | 12:15 pm CST
English woodworker Richard Maguire has an interesting theory on why the dovetail joints seen in many handmade antique furniture items appear to be sloppily made. 
Maguire, a master woodworker with a following in England, set out to deliberately create a joint that was too tight for one of his videos. He realized he was unable to cut a joint wrong.
"I was in the process of cutting tenons, and at this point deliberately aiming at a joint that was too tight," he writes. "Not to sound obnoxious, but I came to a problem. I couldn’t cut a joint wrong."
So why do these very experienced craftsmen often times create crude joints? Maguire says it's all in the tool.
"I think historically, gappy dovetails were often the outcome of a poor saw, and not necessarily a lack of care, or for speed, as most think today. In my experience, dovetails are one of the few techniques in woodworking where you really can blame the tool."


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Robert Dalheim

Robert Dalheim is an editor at the Woodworking Network. Along with publishing online news articles, he writes feature stories for the FDMC print publication. He can be reached at [email protected].