Dovetail joint drawers – A hallmark of quality

Dovetail joints in furniture drawers

If you’re considering new furniture in the near future and you’d like a certain longevity from whatever you buy then it’s important to look out for features which may hint at the broader quality of workmanship.

The use of dovetail joints in drawers can certainly be an indicator of quality and here we take a look at how and why they are used in many furniture pieces

What are dovetail joint drawers?

A dovetail joint is a long-practiced joinery technique which involves interlocking two wooden elements. The technique is used on a variety of timber buildings and, on a much smaller scale, is often used when crafting domestic drawers, either for kitchens or furniture. There are variations on the technique but the fundamental interlocking principle remains the same.

Why are dovetail joints used on furniture?

Drawers are such a frequently used part of many furniture pieces that they are usually one of the first elements to show signs of wear and tear. In particular, on cheaper items the front panel of the drawer can begin to separate from the main drawer tray as a result of repetitive use and poor binding. This problem is compounded when drawers are weighed down with contents. Unfortunately, this can result in furniture being replaced prematurely, simply because drawers become unstable or unusable.

By contrast, if the drawers have dovetail joints at the corners, it’s incredibly unlikely that they’ll become damaged through repetitive use. Not only does this give you peace of mind, but it also affords you the confidence to load drawers to their capacity without worrying about the implications of repeatedly pulling on the front panel when opening them.

As you can see from the accompanying images, the interlocking elements of a dovetail drawer have a trapezoidal shape, almost like a jigsaw puzzle. Once fastened together it (intentionally) becomes difficult to separate, especially if glue has also been used. You consequently have a much sturdier and more durable piece of furniture.

Therefore, although the drawer is a relatively minor part of the overall furniture piece it can play a crucial role in the piece’s overall longevity.

Are there any other benefits?

The technique is not easy to apply and requires a certain level of craftsmanship. As such, if the drawers have joints then it helps to indicate to you that a similar level of quality is likely to be inherent in other aspects of the design and build.

Are there any disadvantages?

The only minor downside is that furniture of this quality is likely to be more expensive than most and therefore might not suit every budget.

How can I tell whether dovetail joints have been used?

It’s usually easy to see within seconds of opening a drawer. If a particularly dark varnish or paint has been applied it might not be as obvious and, in which case, either read the product description or ask a representative from the furniture retailer.

Are only the front panels of drawers dovetailed?

Not necessarily. Some drawers will also have dovetails on the rear, and of course this gives the drawer even greater strength in the long term.

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