The dovetail joint in it simplest form is a joint commonly used to hold the sides of a drawer together. The joint consist of interlocking pins and tails that are cut in precise angles that must fit tightly. Once the pins and tails are set they create high tensile strength and will last for an extremely long time.
This post isn't going to be a debate on what you should cut first-tails or pins. The reason why I don't discuss what part to cut first is simply because it depends on the situation. But when it comes to drawers I often cut tails first because it is easier for me.
Which leads me to the drawer shown below. I got a request to reproduce a period drawer for a Boston butler's desk using period materials. Unfortunately the original drawer has disappeared in a recent move, which is more common than many may know. Thank goodness for organ donors otherwise known as broken antique furniture. I often use these pieces or parts of furniture for repairs/making new elements.
So where do I begin when making a drawer? I take photos and study the details. The details I am looking at are: the layout/spacing on tails and pins. Is the layout the same? Is there undercutting or over cutting? What is the size of the kerf? What about the scribe marks, material, the grain of the material, and the tool marks? After I have made my observations I will figure out what I am going to cut first tails or pins.
I am currently in the observation stage and thought why not share with you this awesome little drawer made from pine and veneered with cuban mahogany. There are so many awesome details that is worth studying. Enjoy the subtle details, there be more to share soon.