He did some creative thinking and solved the problem not by duplicating the dovetail joint but by inventing another type of joint entirely that was at least as good as the dovetail and could be made by machinery.
A skilled cabinetmaker could turn out 15 or 20 complete drawers a day.
On a really good day, the machine could turn out 200 or more and work more than one shift, if necessary.
The early 1800s saw a lot of advancement in machinery for wood working and by the Civil War mechanized furniture factories were on line but the dovetail drawer joint was still a holdup.
While the joint had been refined and perfected it was still too difficult to be made by a machine.
The ‘tail’ and ‘pins’ are cut using small precision saws and chisels. The first dovetails, as used on early walnut furniture, were fairly large and crude.
Small angled cuts were made, followed by careful cleaning down by a sharpened chisel on both sides to avoid splintering. As cabinet makers refined their skills the joints became smaller and neater.
In 1870 he sold the rights to an improved version of the patented machine to a group of investors who formed the Knapp Dovetailing Company in Northhampton, Mass.
The investors proceeded to make further refinements in the machine and actually put it into production in a factory in 1871 where it proved to be a technological miracle.
That sentiment was the beginning of the Colonial Revival – the resurrection of things in style during the era of the founding of our country.