This was an interesting problem I came up against the other week. I needed to determine the angle of some tiny dovetails used to secure the front sight of an air rifle. I used two methods: one, a graphical solution that leveraged the power of my CAD program, the other a purely mathematical one.

I measured the dovetail over some PeeDee thread wires. Then I repeated the measurement with a second set of different diameter wires.

Here’s the result. By drawing the diameters and distances of the wires in my CAD program I was able to draw a line tangent to the two circles (the thread wires) and measure the angle. It’s very quick. The alternative?

The Machinery’s Handbook formula for measuring dovetail slides is x=D(1+cot 1/2θ)+a

I used the pair of measurments (x1,D1, x2, D2) to solve the unknown “a” and then used that value to solve for θ.

((x-a)/D)-1 = cot 1/2θ
((x1-a)/D1)=((x2-a)/D2)
Solve for a, then solve for θ I won’t spoil the fun for you. Plus I might have made a humiliating mistake somewhere.

This process nets the same result of the graphical solution after much scribbling, erasing and calculator use — so before reaching for the calculator it’s always a good idea to see if a graphical solution will be easier to achieve.

In any case, the dovetails are likely 60 degrees, but the measurements were thrown off by the small magnitude of the measurements, burrs, etc. which highlights another limitation of such calculations.

Machinery’s Handbook [Industrial Press]
Via Amazon [What’s This?]

### 5 Responses to A Small Dovetail Problem, Graphical vs Mathematical Solution

1. jeffrey immer says:

you know what they say, all the best laid plans go to shit when the first shot is fired, strive for perfection and good luck making it come out that exact.

2. mark in folsom says:

I believe all firearm dovetails for sights are 60 degrees. Brownells website can likely confirm that. plus they have dovetail cutters for mills as well as a plethora of gun sights.

3. Joe C. says:

That will work in practice, but it will never work in theory.

4. Rembreto says:

I was told there would be no math…

5. jugos10.net says:

Buenas

Estuve leyendo tu articulo y hay demasiadas cosas que no sabia que me has enseñado, esta
espectacular.. te queria corresponder el periodo que dedicaste, con unas infinitas gracias, por preparar a personas como yo jejeje.

Saludos