Professionals and Amateurs Together

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Pins First or Tails First


Why would you create pins first and tails second or vise-versa? What are the advantages and disadvantages?.—Michael Brown


Al Breed replies: It really doesn’t matter. I always make pins first because I like to stand the pins up on the tails piece to mark them, with the exception of lipped draws, where I will sometimes make tails first because it’s very hard to reach in and mark the tails with the lip of the draw in the way.

Dave Emerson replies: I lay out pins from tails. Can’t think of any reason to do it any other way. Most of my tails are made on a router table with a DeStaCo clamp ( to hold the piece against the backboard of a jig that runs in the slot in the table. They chip a little—can’t do this with figured maple. I just trim the tail a little smaller to get rid of the chip. The machine cut tails are nice and accurate for laying out the pins for hand cutting. I put the pin piece in the vise and align the top with a block on the bench so I can put the tail piece one end on the block and align the other end with the pin piece. This enables me to hold it down firmly on the tail piece for marking.

Tags: Joinery