Introduction: Making Half Blind Dovetail Drawers for a Walnut Desk

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Using half blind dovetails is really great for certain projects like making drawers for example. Half blind dovetails don't go all the way through, like through dovetails so you can't see the dovetails until you open the drawer. I made four drawers with half blind dovetails for a desk that I built, so I wanted to go over the process of how I made them.

Step 1: Choosing Your Wood

For the frame of the desk I'm using walnut, so I'm going to be using walnut for the drawer fronts as well.

Now there are lots of different ways to build drawers. You can butt join them, or use pocket screws. However when it comes to strength and beauty, you really can't beat dovetails. Half blind dovetails are really nice when you don't want a seamless front, so that's what I'm using for this project.

Step 2: Building the Drawers

For the sides of the drawers, I wanted a nice strong, contrasting wood, so I ended up with maple which I resawed into thin 3/8 inch pieces. So I'm cutting the side piece to length, and here I'm using the one side to mark the other side of the other tails so they're exactly the same.

Mark out your tails. I'm using my first piece of wood to mark out the other boards, so they'll all be consistent. You can choose the angle you want, depending on the look of your project and your preference. Common angles for dovetails range between 7-15 degrees. Also decide how many tails you'll need, that will depend on the size of the board that you're working with. Mark an x on the pieces that need to be removed.

Step 3: Marking the Tail Board

When you have your dovetail lines in place, make sure to bring the marks across with a pencil or a knife.

Next, I'm marking the baseline of the dovetails with a marking gauge. This will determine how long the pins will be. This is also the distance of how far the tail board (the maple) will go into the pin board (the walnut).

There is a lot of customization possibilities here. You could really place the maple anywhere on the walnut expect at the end to still be half-blind.

Step 4: Cutting Out the Tails

To cut out the dovetails, I use a rip saw, and it's a good idea to cut on the outside of the line (on the side of the x).

Once the dovetails have been cut, I place the piece in the vice and cut the sides off with a cross-cut saw.

To remove the waste in the middle I use a coping saw, make sure to cut rather quickly because you can't change the direction if you're going slowly. Make sure to stay within the lines!

Finally, clean up up the lines with a chisel.

Step 5: ​The Pin Board

Now once the tail board is done, it's time to move on to the pin board. So I'm setting the walnut down flat in the vice, and I'm laying the maple right on top, marking out where the pins need to be.

Next I'm setting my marking gauge, and marking out the pin board, and bringing the lines down.

Then I'm cutting the pins at an angle with a rip saw, because I can't go all the way through. Since these are half blind dovetails, it's a little trickier than through dovetails, because the tails will fit inside the walnut, and won't show on the other side. So I can only chisel down so far, so I have to be a bit careful so I don't take out too much.

For this job I find it really nice to use a small mallet that's easy to control. Once I have some of it chiseled out I place it in the vice and chisel that way, being really careful to not go down too far. This is pretty time consuming, because you don't want to crack the wood and you want to stay within your lines.

Carefully chisel out the area until you have a clean pin board ready for the tails.

Step 6: Assemble

I routed out grooves on the maple so I could fit a piece of hardboard for the bottoms. I also cut out a piece of maple for the back.

Once I had all my pieces I glued the dovetails together, slipped in the hardboard bottom, and nailed in the back.

Step 7: Conclusion - Watch the Video

For a much better perspective, make sure to check out the video where I do the half blind dovetail drawers for a desk.