Introduction: Sliding Dovetail Geta

Most of the Instructables for geta either saw a thick piece of wood to make the cleats, or attach cleats using some kind of fastener. I had some pallet wood that I wanted to use for geta, and I wanted to secure the cleats using a sliding dovetail. I felt that they would be more durable and secure this way, and it was an excuse to practice the technique.

Step 1: Location of Cleats

Geta are funny to walk in, because they do not flex at all. In order to take steps, the cleats are placed to allow the foot to tilt forward during a step.

I find it works to have the rear cleat just forward of the heel, and the front cleat a little behind the ball of the foot.

Step 2: Cut the Main Deck

After measuring against my foot, I cut two planks that are both 11 inches long. This is a bit longer than my feet.

Because this is pallet wood, it is quite dense and rough. It also has an odd channel cut down the center of one side, which I'll kind of have to work around.


Some pallets are treated with toxic materials, so they will be resistant to insects or rot. These should not be used for geta, which will be in contact with your skin. Also, dust that is released during sawing and sanding will be harmful when inhaled, or if it is in contact with your skin.

*** Be sure to check if your wood is safe to use ***

Here's a link

Step 3: Lay Out the Sliding Dovetail Channel to Receive the Cleats

These will be the 'female' portion of the dovetail joints.

I am leaving about 1/2 inch of 'neck' to the dovetail (the narrow portion). Less than this will make the cleat too weak, and it will break as I walk on it. I'd actually prefer to have a thicker neck, and may try that the next time I make these again.

Step 4: Cut the Dovetail Channel

Use a sharp saw that can make straight cuts. I am using a Japanese-style Dozuki saw, which is a precision crosscut saw with a stiffening spine to keep it straight. A miter saw will also work (I imagine there is probably a specialized "dovetail saw" somewhere as well).

Cut a bit to the inside of the pencil marks, to make the channel a little bit smaller than you measured. It is easier to trim things off, than it is to add wood back.

After making the two angle cuts, which takes some practice to do correctly, chop out the waste wood with a chisel.

Be careful not to cut out too much with the chisel. Be patient. After roughing out the wood, you can smooth the bottom of the channel with a chisel.

Do this for both channels on each of the two decks. This makes four channels. (I took two days to do this, a bit at a time. It can be frustrating.)

Note: It is also possible to cut these with a dovetail bit and a router. I just don't have one, and I like using hand tools like these.

Step 5: Cut the Cleats

I wanted my geta to be 2.5 inches tall. This would be about 1 inch for the deck, and 1.5 inches for the cleats.

I had previously made geta with 1 inch cleats, but these felt too short. I made taller ones, and nearly sprained my ankle, so I don't recommend taller ones.

Lay out your cuts in pencil. While some people can measure and draw their cut lines on the wood, I need to measure the dimensions of the 'tail' against the channel that I just cut, because my cuts are not so accurate that I can depend on them to match the measurements I laid out. (does that make any sense?)

In any case, draw your lines to match the actual dovetail channel that you will insert the cleat into.

Use your saw to cut the shoulders of the dovetail 'pin'. Cut it a bit generously, so the pin will be a bit too large for the channel. You can then trim it down with a chisel, as needed.

Step 6: Slide in the Dovetail

Try to match up the dovetail pin into its channel. If it is obviously too large, use a chisel to trim it a bit.

It should be very snug, however, otherwise it will slide out over time.

If the fit is pretty good. Maybe a bit too tight to push in by hand, be ready to use a hammer to drive it in. But if the fit is really too tight, you run the risk of splitting the wood of the deck.

When you have made your adjustments, and are ready to take a gamble, add a bit of glue to the pieces, and drive them together with a hammer (the glue will slightly lubricate it, until it gets absorbed by the wood and makes it swell).

Note: I have broken several of these geta at this stage. Hammering, etc is very stressful on the wood, but you want the joint to be very tight, so it won't work loose as you walk on it. It's a matter of experience and luck to get it right. You might be making several of these, before you have it right. Good thing this is pallet wood!

Step 7: Trim the Cleat to Length

Now that it's assembled, use a saw to cut the cleat to length.

Repeat this for all four cleats.

You're almost done!

Step 8: Add the Front Thong

You need to drill a hole for a bit of rope or clothesline that will hold the strap for your geta. I am calling this the 'thong' for no particular reason.

Note that, for geta, the thong is positioned in the midline of the deck, not off-center as it is on a pair of sandals. It is a strange thing, but it makes a difference. If the thong is placed off-center, the geta will run into each other as you walk, but if it is in the midline, the geta will be positioned at a slight angle on your feet as you walk, keeping them from hitting each other. I don't know why . . . it's magic!

In any case, stand on your geta, and use a pencil to mark where the front thong should come up.

Choose a thin rope or clothesline to use as the strap to hold your geta on your feet. Use something that is smooth enough to be comfortable. I am using a thin braided nylon rope.

Drill a hole at your pencil mark, in the midline of the deck, that is wide enough to let the cord go through it twice. This will leave a loop of cord at the top of the deck, while you tie a bulky knot underneath.

Be generous with the amount of cordage used for the knot. You will need to adjust it a bit, and it's hard to do when the free ends of the cord are too short. In general, the loop on the top should be a little bit above your big toe, when you are standing on the geta.

Because I am using nylon cord, I melted the cut ends of the cord with a lighter, so they wouldn't fray.

Step 9: Drill the Rear Holes for the Strap

Drill two holes, just in front of the rear cleat, for the strap to go through.

The holes are big enough for the cord to go through once.

After running the strapping cord through one rear hole, tie a knot to secure it there. Be a bit generous, so the knot can be untied and adjusted later.

Put the free end of the cord through the loop of the front thong (between the toes), and then run it into the other rear hole.

Adjust for a snug fit, and then tie another knot and cut the cord.

Melt the cut ends to prevent fraying.

You're done! You will need to adjust the tightness several times, as the cord stretches.

Note: Geta are very stiff, and make a lot of noise on pavement. They will also really damage interior floors. Don't wear them inside your house.

They work nicely in the dirt. I wear them when gardening, and the cleats sink into the dirt, providing stability. They also keep my feet above the ground, helping keep them clean.

But geta are also a bit awkward to walk in. Even short ones like these may suddenly make your feet slip to the side on uneven ground. Be careful as you walk. Still, enjoy!

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