Vertical Milling ( ie Dovetails)

I will be mounting a new machine soon. I have toyed with the idea of vertical material holding. The question is … “Is it worth the effort”. Now that you have it do you really use it or doe it gather dust?

I built my journeyman table to have the spindle to extend out over a space at the front of the table where by I could cut dovetails and when I can setup a rotary fixture. I the setup includes a vertical wall with t-tracks to hold the boards for dove tails. I have seen some people leave an area in the middle of the table where the have a temporary waste board that can be removed to accomplish dove tails. Frank Howarth built his avidcnc to do dove tails and that is where I got my inspiration.


I use it occassionaly, and when i do it is great.

All depends on what you want to make.

I’m sure that if I vertically milled a lot more than I do I would be more efficient than i am and this lack of efficiency makes me reluctant to use it as often as i would like.

Vicious circle.


If you’re doing a lot of dovetails, get a table-top jig and use a hand-held router. It’ll be so much faster and won’t involve any compromise to your CNC table.

Extra clearance on a rotary axis is another matter and that’s a tough call - you can still do a lot by simply setting the rotary on top of your existing spoilboard. If you have a top-mounted QCW you can remove one panel to get more clearance.

I’ve seen some cool table designs to allow vertical material, so how I decided against it for myself was like this: Is the job better accomplished some other way with different tool(s)? If yes, then forget it, if no, then next question: How often will I need it? 1 time or less per week, forget about it. 2-3 times per week, then consider it. More than 2-3 times, then go for it.


Hey Carl or Lynn,

if you consider what professionally made drawers cost, it would be crazy to own a CNC machine that is not able to mill some. Traditional joinery, adapted to CNC, makes very strong joints.

I am also a friend of tradiditional wooden drawers that run in wood since I made the experience that the modern ball bearing drawer slides may seem very convenient at first, but you have to buy expensive, thick ones so they will hold a decent load for years. I’ve overloaded some so much that the balls have fallen out.

That’s where I see the advantages of traditional wood in wood drawers that have worked well for millennia and can easily take a collection of hammers, and will do so forever.

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Espressomatic, we meet again, chuckle.

Your rule of thumb seems reasonable… 1 time or less per week, forget about it. 2-3 times per week, then consider it. More than 2-3 times, then go for it.

I have had a Woodworker/Journeyman for 18 months or so. When I started I had grand plans of a flip top bench with vertical capability. I ended up with just a 5x6 baltic table over 2x4s that I put a QCW over … I also realized that the spoilboard was just that a consumable, so don’t waste time on it.

I have drawer and the lock miter bits for the router and if I started to do a lot of dovetails then a router jig is probably more efficient. I am going to guess with a Porter Cable or Leigh jig it is probably faster than the CNC anyways.

I think I will be skipping this feature, thanks for the feedback folks.

There are bits specifically designed to flat cut dovetails with a geometry where the pins can be cut rounded to fit like this:

I’ve never used them and I understand they’re tricky to set up but does provide an option if you don’t have vertical clamping set up in the table.


Yeah I remember those bits, if I recall about $500 for one. A little rich for my blood. But like the multi tools once the patent expires 29.95 and I am all in.

Hey Derek, hey all,

@ben posted this extremely interesting link to 50 Digital Wood Joints by Jochen Gros that are joints reconsidered and developed to be used in CNC wood processing.

Two considerations for dovetails and finger joints.

  • you will probably find you can cut wider boards with a cnc
  • but you have fewer options to raise the cutting height vs a leigh jig for cutting boards that are longer than the height of your table.

Other positive of a cutout:

  • milling deep items. I milled the end of skittles, i have surfaced big chunks of timber.

Hey Andy,

to circumvent this limitation, which is present with every vertical clamping on a table, I have imagined a CNC with an open frame for this purpose (like this one), but which can additionally be swiveled forward by 90°, to mill workpieces on the ends that are not limited in length (e.g. bed side panels).

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This is the first Ive seen of this type dovetil joinery. I like it. something new to test my abilities lol