Where are the Pins?

vase-faces_illusion_01aFig. 1. Do you see a vase or two faces?

I see both the vase (positive) and the faces (negative space) simultaneously.

Whilst talking about dovetails, there has been some natter about ‘pins’. I’ve been cutting dovetails for many, many decades and I’ve yet to encounter a ‘pin’ (metal trades nomenclature anyway) during their fabrication.

As with other interconnecting joints with male and female elements (box joint, bridle joint, dowel and hole, hinge joint, housing joint, mortise and tenon, peg and drawbored holes, table hinge joint, tongue and groove, to name some), dovetails’ counterparts are the sockets (or, on occasion, long tapered housings) on adjacent components and not the lands (C, fig. 2) that are sometimes referred to as ‘pins’.

dovetail_joint_01aFig. 2. Male dovetails ‘A’ occupy female sockets ‘B’ twixt lands ‘C’. I think I got that right.

I’m not claiming the high ground in the dovetail-naming stakes and suggesting the ‘pin’-sawyers all be locked up with the drawbore-‘pinners’; I just can’t comprehend how the scenario came about where the all-important female part of the joint was usurped by the no-man’s-lands of the joint. After all, there aren’t names for the immediate areas of wood surrounding mortises, or peg and dowel holes etc.

giivwcod_160612_01aFig. 3. Where are the pins?

Fig. 4. No pins here either.

Isn’t the assembling of a dovetailed- or mortise and tenon joint similar to inserting the pins (correct usage of the word) of a power tool’s plug into an electrical socket (see, there’s that word “socket” again)?

I see only dovetails and sockets. I don’t see how the lands warrant any more deliberation than the tapered voids that they occupy… which, no doubt, someone will point out, the ‘pin’-sawyers probably have a name for too. I’m very easily confused and not ejamacated in the ways of working wood, so I really can’t lend verisimilitude to the enigma.

Jack Plane


About Jack Plane

Formerly from the UK, Jack is a retired antiques dealer and self-taught woodworker, now living in Australia.
This entry was posted in Distractions, Techniques and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Where are the Pins?

  1. richard says:

    I am claiming the higher ground for tenon throughout.


  2. Tico Vogt says:

    I wonder if you have heard the term “relish” used in connection with mortices. I learned that term in timber framing referencing the short and weak section of grain between the top of the mortice and the end of the stick (or stile in a door frame), as in a stub tenon corner joint, the section of grain partially removed when you create a haunched tenon.

    How do them unejamacated sailors learn all that nautical nomenclature?


  3. dtugboat says:

    ejamacated ?? My computer dictionary can’t find it.


  4. Burbidge says:

    When Mr Tails loves Mrs Sockets very much…


  5. wesleytanner says:

    I remember when learning to cut these joints how utterly flummoxed I was trying to figure out the difference. Dovetails and sockets makes so much more sense.


  6. Pingback: Drawer Front Dovetail Evolution | Pegs and 'Tails

  7. Pingback: Picture This CXXIV | Pegs and 'Tails

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