Moravian Workbench
Comments 4

Moravian Workbench: Dovetail Stretchers Part 2

A substantial amount of brain power has been utilized since my last update. I needed to come up with a better way to cut dovetails for the lower, dovetailed stretchers of my workbench (see more here). I called on a shop made jig for this. Also, the next step in this build will see me utilizing a second jig and I think a third jig could come into play before these legs are completed. All these jigs are needed to ensure accurate repeatability as I cut the four different joints needed for each leg, and has had me thinking, searching online and thinking more about how to cut the remaining leg joints.

Last time I had attempted what I call the dovetail stretcher’s joinery by way of a Veritas dovetail saw. And I wasn’t happy with the results. Even after taking care to scribe lines and chisel a little valley in which the dovetail saw could ride. Here is what my first attempt looked like…

Close-up shows gaps.

Since this is most likely a workbench I’ll use for the rest of my life, I wanted clean dovetails (even though it took a hammer to tap the joint apart, meaning the joint was sound). I decided to re-cut these dovetails. And since I wanted them to work this time, I decided making them at the table saw was a method I could gain more control over…

A quick jig to keep things vertical.

You can see jig #1 in use above. I simply glued three 1/2 plywood boards in place on my table saw fence, then glued on a thick upright board which you can barely see behind the stretcher. Simple and throw-away quality, but I may keep the jig around since it worked so well. I tilted my saw blade to eight degrees and made the four cuts on the two stretchers. Nice and clean cuts.

Cutting the shoulders.

I finished the dovetail profile with cross cuts and used a chisel to clean up the corners.

Completed dovetails.

The original dovetail sockets were enlarged to accommodate the larger dovetails.

The legs were trimmed to final width (3 3/4″) and temporarily screwed together. The screw hole will be cut away later.

Nice beefy legs.

Much better dovetails.


So with the dovetail stretchers completed, time to move to joint number two: the front stretcher through mortise. As I mentioned at the top of this post, I have been searching for the best way to cut at least the boundary of these mortises with my table saw. I’ll need to make a 16 degree angled cut to create the walls. After looking online, I opened the current issue of Fine Woodworking and saw these two photos…

Marcus Soto building his trestle table.

Tim Manney building a shaving horse.

Marcus Soto’s article titled “A Fresh Take on the Trestle Table” showed him making accurate, repeatable cuts at the table saw using a slender sled attached to his miter gauge. And Tim Manney’s article, “Build a Thoroughbred Shaving Horse” showed Tim hogging out a thick dado using a circular saw. I’ll have to come up with a unique jig for my workbench legs, but a jig which borrows an idea or two from Marcus Soto. And then I’ll use something like a circular saw and a router to get rid of the waste. That will be next…

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Have a question or comment about this post? Leave me a comment below; but I also like email. Use my contact form to send me an email (click here).


  1. The joints are looking good Jeff.

    It is interesting to read that you feel you have more control with the tablesaw than with a handsaw and chisel. I know it is all about comfort level, but I have always found the tablesaw crude at best for this type of work. Your results are anything but.

    I look forward to seeing how you end up tackling the next joint.

    • When using my dovetail saw, I could see where the saw tilted a little, don’t think it was always square to the face of the board, that kind of thing. With the jig and my table saw, I feel I get consistent, square, straight cuts. I can easily trim 1/32 at a time and keep things square, etc.

  2. potomacker says

    I don’t understand the logic of cutting the lowest stretcher first. It’s in fact the least important of the three, and the easiest to cut after the other two have been made and assembled.

    • Each leg is made up of four boards. I cut lower stretcher first because the length of the dovetail is two boards thick, seen best in the photo with all the parts laid out on my table saw. I can easily cut the shape of the dovetail at the table saw and then the third board becomes the last wall of the dovetail socket (hope this makes sense). The next joint to cut is the front stretcher mortise. I can do this by hogging out mirror image dadoes in the two leg halves (best seen in the illustration at the top of the post). Then I can glue the two leg halves together and cut the through mortises. If I were making this leg out of solid stock (vs. built up from four boards) I am sure I would have approached the joinery differently.

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