How To Make Dovetail Keys

Meisch Made - Dovetail Keys

Dovetail Keys

And how to make them

A Dovetail key, Dutchman Joint, or Butterfly joint is a type of joint used either to hold two or more wooden boards together or to keep two halves of a board that have already started to split from splitting further. I make and use these quite often so I thought I'd share my process.

I typically use contrasting wood species to make these keys really stand out. I think they add the personal touch like saying, "a real woodworker has made this table" not just some average Joe.

Part One

  1. I started with a board that's thickness is around .5" - 1" thick. Most keys I use end up being around that thickness depending on how strong I need that joint to be. If I feel the wood needs actually structural support, I'll make the keys around .75" - 1" thick. If it's mostly aesthetic than i'll go as thin as 3/8" - 1/4".
  2. I cut them to length and marked the center line, in this batch I cut 2.5" 3", and 4" so I had some options later on.
  3. Using a bevel gauge, I drew my angles from the corners to my centerline. These vary depending on size, it's all personal preference. I don't like them being too sharp, a nice "bowtie" shape is pleasing.

Part Two

  1. At the bandsaw, I cut a relief line from the center on both sides of each key.
  2. Then I cut the angles being careful not to cut into my line.

Part Three

  1. Using my 12" disc sander I clean up the rough edges of the saw blade keeping an eye on my pencil line.

Part Four

  1. At the bench, a took a chisel and pared down to my centerline, checking for 90˚ with a combination square.
Dovetail Keys


On to the inlay themselves, post coming soon!