Watch a dove fly off and you will see its tail flare out in the shape of—guess what?—a doves tail. When you see such configurations connecting the ends of two pieces of wood, you refer to the joint as being dovetailed. In common dovetail joints, all the "tails," the flared pieces, are on one board, and the "pins," the pieces remaining between the sockets cut for the tails, are on the other board. Pins are the wood that remains on the sides of the cavities hollowed out to take the dovetails of a joining piece of wood. In old work, the pins are generally much smaller than the tails. In simple machine-cut dovetails, the pins and tails are equally sized.

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