Joining two pieces of wood together is one of the basic principles of woodworking and is something everyone should know the basics of. However don’t let the complicated joints that advanced woodworkers use prevent you from getting started in woodworking. While a set of hand cut dovetails is a thing of beauty, it is not really needed with modern strong glues. As I understand it dovetails are a method to add some mechanical strength to joints because the glue from times past wasn’t that strong.
Matthias Wendel over at Woodgears.ca did a series of test of different joints and glues and something that I found interesting is in many cases the glue was stronger than the wood. The amount of force required to cause even a box joint to fail (around 100 lbs) tells me that for most things I don’t need to be that concerned.
Granted if you are building something where a joint failure could cause injury or damage you should learn to make the stronger joints with a fine box joint being the best for a corner joint and mortise and tenon being the best for one T shaped joint. I have built many a utility project with either pocket holes or glued butt joints and they have held up fine. I am going to take it a step further and start making spline joints for my beehives, but that is a subject for another post.