Furniture Making Course: Traditional Dovetailing

Skill Level: Intermediate & Advanced  (Is this course right for me?)

About this Course

cut dovetails

In this course you will learn and practice traditional dovetailing techniques and the skills needed to layout, mark and cut dovetails by hand. This course is designed to teach you how professional cabinet makers make traditional hand cut dovetails without using magnetic saw guides or other gadgets.

It is ideal for those with some woodworking experience who want to widen their furniture making capabilities by learning the secrets of this gold-standard woodworking joint. You will take home your own dovetailed pieces, plus a kit of prepared components made from locally sourced timber, to help you practice dovetailing at home.

This four-day course runs over two consecutive weekends, or one extended weekend. The course is run in our workshop on the Surrey / Hampshire border, just outside the Georgian town of Farnham. To ensure individual attention, there are never more than six students taught by one of our experienced tutors.

Background and History

dovetailed box from Vasa

The ability to create a perfect, hand cut, dovetail joint is the pinnacle of a woodworker’s joinery skills.

Because of their exceptional mechanical strength, dovetail joints are used throughout furniture making - in drawers, cabinet carcasses and boxes. The strength of the joint comes from the trapezoidal shape of the tails, the pins in the joint and the increased gluing area gained from the shape.

The dovetail joint has a long and impressive history. It can be found on ancient Egyptian furniture in the tomb of Tutankhamun, as well as boxes (example shown) discovered aboard the Swedish warship, the Vasa, which sank in 1628.

What you will Learn

The course covers:

  • The attributes of perfect dovetails
  • Dovetail joint selection
  • Preparing timber (refresher)
  • Setting / laying out dovetails
  • Dovetail saws and sawing tails and pins
  • Dovetail chisels and paring joints
  • Speed dovetailing: The fast way to hand cut dovetail excellence?
  • Gluing up
  • Advanced dovetail setting out
  • Using hand tools, such as mallet, chisels, marking and cutting gauge, dovetail saw, marking knife, smoothing plane

dovetails in contrasting wood

Objectives and Follow-Up

At the end of this course you will have gained the knowledge and skills to plan, set out and cut dovetails by hand in the traditional way. You will also have developed the confidence to continue practicing dovetailing for your future projects and know how to use hand tools safely.

Following the course you will receive an email with a range of information to help you take your next steps. For example, advice about buying and maintaining tools and details of suggested suppliers. We will also include plans and a materials list for a project using the skills you have learned during your course. This will help you put your new knowledge into practice.

Skill Level

If you haven’t trained with us before and would like some guidance on whether this course is right for you, please get in touch by emailing me at or calling 07811262360.


In Summary

Dovetailing Course: through dovetail closeup

The Dovetailing course runs over four days, either over two weekends, or a single block of four days. A range of dates are available throughout the year. Please see our Course Booking page for availability.

Courses run from 9.00am to 5.00pm. All tools and materials are provided.

Course fee: £595 (materials included).

We provide tea and coffee throughout the course, but you will need to arrange your own lunch. I recommend that you bring a packed lunch each day. However, we are only a few minutes by car from Farnham town centre if you need anything.

If you want accommodation, there are many excellent hotels and B&Bs in the area. Click this link to see a selection.

Please note that we are unable to accept applications from anyone under the age of 18 at the start of their course.

Here is a summary of course dates:

  • 18-21 July 2024 (Thu-Sun)
  • If you would like to be notified when new course dates are available, you can do so via our Newsletter here.

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