Dovetails on the CNC

The CNC may not be the fastest way to produce dovetail joinery, but if you have spare CNC time available there are ways to do it. Here are suggestions. March 22, 2013

I'm looking at doing dovetail drawer parts on my flatbed CNC. Is anyone doing this? What's the best tooling to use?

Forum Responses
(CNC Forum)
From contributor W:
Check out Vortex - they sell tooling and software.

From contributor D:
I bought my flat table router from a guy who had attempted to use it to build drawers for a living. Compared to the simplicity, speed, and accuracy of a CNC dovetailer by Dodds or Omec that's available for 1/5th the cost, it didn't work out for him. As an example, cutting drawer parts from a single sheet of 5x5 Baltic birch took nearly an hour.

From the original questioner:
I don't disagree, but I have some free CNC time and I need some drawers. Once the drawers cut into paying time on the CNC, it's time to look for another method.

From contributor M:
The best deal I could find was from CNC Solutions. It's not insert tooling but it's lasted for 200+ boxes so far and no problems, plus it has the nicer looking .1875 radius shoulder, so you'll need a bit for that (3/16) in your tool changer as well.

From contributor D:
I made a jig to hold the drawer parts vertical off the end of my machine in sets of two, and toolpathed it for through dovetails. I wrote files in 1/2" increments 2"-26" wide. Since I don't have a tool changer, I set it up to do a straight cut first (pins), switch bits to a dovetail, then do tails. Works pretty good. I average about 15 boxes an hour. A dovetailer would be the way to go, but for my one man shop it's fine.

From contributor S:
We just built a pneumatic jig for the end of our flat table CNC. While we can do both pins and tails on the end, we also nest the parts and do slightly rounded tails on the flat table and then just do the pins on the end. This works especially well for long things like door jamb legs that cannot be put on the end of the table.

I just designed a rabbet joint that we can do rabbet joint all nested on the flat table too. Took a week of fiddling around on the CAD, the CAM and the tooling, but now we can do fully rabbeted cabinet cases that are strong and lock together well.