Dovetail Cutters Information

Ball nose cutterDovetail cutters are specialized tools for cutting dovetail angled grooves into a workpiece and are used for fitting or joining parts. They may be of solid construction or with holders and inserts.


Dovetail cutters can be used with a number of end or tip geometry options, including square end, ball nose, radius tip, and chamfer tip. 

  • Square end tip geometry for dovetail cutters have a square or straight end that features no radius, chamfer, or other finish.
  • Ball nose dovetail cutter tips have a “ball nose” whose radius is one half of the cutter diameter. This type of dovetail cutter tip is useful for machining female semicircle grooves of radii.
  • Radius-tipped dovetail cutter ends are straight flutes with ground radius on the very tip.
  • Chamfer tip ends feature an angled section of the side or the end. These tips produce an angled cut of chamfered edge on a workpiece.


When selecting a dovetail cutter, consideration must be made to the desired finish type. There are typically two finish options: roughing/hogging and finishing. Roughing/hogging cutters are designed so that the machine geometry, flutes, and materials can be used for rapid and heavy material removal. They are typically used to machine workpieces close to the desired finishing dimensions, where a finishing dovetail cutter takes over and produces closer tolerances and higher-quality surface finish. 

Other considerations for dovetail cutters include cutter size and construction criteria. Size considerations for dovetail cutters relate to the:

  • cutting diameter
  • shank or arbor diameter
  • flute or cutting edge length
  • overall tool length
  • radius dimension and angle


The material of the dovetail cutter is important for understanding the level of cutting the machine can handle. Materials like carbide, cobalt, and diamond are hard and can be used in high-speed applications, whereas materials like steel are used for general metal machining. Other material options for dovetail cutters include micrograin carbide, which is used most often in surface finishing applications, and ceramic.

Coatings for dovetail cutter machines are important considerations as well, as they can provide additional protection against corrosion and abrasion, increase the tool’s hardness, provide lubrication and smoothness assistance, and improve the overall lifetime of the tool. Other considerations and options for dovetail cutters may also be available depending on the make and manufacturer.

Related Information

CR4 Community—6061-T6 Alternative Material

CR4 Community—Different Countersink Bits

Image credit:

Glenn McKechnie / CC BY SA 2.0


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