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The use of hand tools and hand-cut dovetails is now the province of hobbyists and a few small shops creating authentic replicas of antique furniture.This over-view of the dovetailing techniques should easily help identification and dating of most furniture from the last 200 years.
One board had tiny tails, and the other had the larger pins, carefully measured to match and fit together exactly.
The type of dovetailed joint, especially in drawers, reveals much about furniture construction and dating.
With just a little study of these examples, it is easy to spot true hand made construction vs. The name dovetail comes from the appearance of the joint, resembling the triangle shape of a bird's tail.
This secretary desk from about 1780 was built by a good country carpenter, notice the dovetails on the side of the drawer, and holding the top and side planks together as well.
Hand cut dovetails were used to hold the sides of drawers together, but also to join the structural members of case furniture.