The dovetail jig is a convenient go-to tool for amateurs and professionals woodworkers. With this handy tool, you can create pins and tails quickly and precisely. But which dovetail jig is the best for you? As always, there are different models available and many features to take into consideration. To narrow down the search, we have chosen 4 top-rated models that really deliver.
- 1 How Dovetail Jigs Work
- 2 Factors To Consider When Choosing A Dovetail Jig
- 3 Stock Mounted Through Dovetail
- 4 Bench Mounted Jigs
- 5 Variable Guide Finger Jigs
- 6 Routers For Dovetailing
- 7 Points to Consider
- 8 The Best Dovetail Jig list
- 8.1 PORTER-CABLE 4216 Dovetail jig
- 8.2 Keller Dovetail Journeyman DoveTail Jig
- 8.3 Leigh Dovetail Jig
- 8.4 Woodstock D2796 Dovetail Jig
- 9 And the winner is…
How Dovetail Jigs Work
Some of the oldest furniture pieces were joined with this tool. Drawers and treasure chests of ancient civilizations suggest that woodworking has been around for quite a long time. Dovetail jigs have been made using saws up until the industrial revolution that brought fancy machines.
Dovetail jigs are the most often used tool in carpentry. The reason is that they are very efficient in terms of strength. The design of dovetail jigs makes their popular use in household pieces and furniture. They cut precise shapes in the wood. In order to use them, you should take a piece of wood and load it underneath the template.
Then secure it and attach a dovetail jig to your router. The router will make precise cuts. Then the process is repeated and the pieces are joined. The process is so simple that even beginners can get amazing results from the first try. The only secret is to choose the right dovetail jig.
Factors To Consider When Choosing A Dovetail Jig
Irrespective of brand, design, and price, all dovetail jigs do the same work. They all are quite efficient and precise. However, there are still differences in performance that set apart different models. For beginners and everyone looking for a cheap dovetail jig, consulting this guide will provide valuable insight into what makes a great dovetail jig and the different proficiency levels of each model. We highly advise going through it before making a purchase.
The main factors to consider include:
Working with lumbar sometimes requires you to consider the portability of the dovetail jig. You want to get the one that is easy to carry around and clamp onto any surface. Consider the weight and size of the tool.
Even the cheapest dovetail jigs can perform basic functions. Thus, an expensive jig doesn’t always mean it is better than a cheaper model. The quality of the material, however, is important and that’s what makes some dovetail jigs more expensive.
Ease of Operation
You don’t want a dovetail jig that you cannot operate conveniently. A good jig should be easy to use by both professionals and beginners.
Clear cuts are the main feature of dovetail jigs. The whole point of using it is to achieve the precision that you would otherwise never achieve. Precision is one of the top considerations when choosing a dovetail jig.
Now when you know what features to look for in a dovetail jig, let’s go through the types of them.
Stock Mounted Through Dovetail
This is the most basic type of jigs. They don’t have a jig body and a clamping system. All you need to do is to clamp them directly to form a row of dovetails. These dovetail jigs are often made of aluminum or phenolic. Both materials are very durable and will serve you for years.
These jigs come in pairs. One has a row of tapered fingers that you use to form pins and another has parallel fingers to form tails. Most often, they are joined back-to-back. The main advantage is that they don’t have a stock limit so you can move a smaller template over a bigger board.
Bench Mounted Jigs
These are the most popular types of jigs. Most of them feature templates that are set on a jig body with vertical and horizontal clamping systems. The vertical clamping position is necessary for half-blind tailpieces, dovetail pins and tails, and box joints. The horizontal clamps are used for half-blind pieces.
These templates are very similar to the stock-mounted templates. They have a row of tapered or parallel fingers and are made of phenolic or aluminum. However, the cheapest models can have stamped sheet metal or model plastic templates which are less durable.
The main drawback of these jigs is that your pins and tails are the same size and have a machine-made look that not every woodworker likes. Besides, your stock has to match the incremental pitch. The prices may vary from $50 to several hundreds of dollars.
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Variable Guide Finger Jigs
At some point, someone decided to replace the fixed pitch with moveable guide fingers to improve the jig. It helped a lot because you can get closer to the look of hand-cut dovetails by making narrow pins and wide tails. Thus, you can change spacing and allow it with any width of stock. You’re only limited by the capacity of the jig.
Some of the jigs have only a vertical clamping system. However, more expensive models have variable jigs with a horizontal clamping system for forming through dovetails and half-blind dovetails. Of course, it’s quite convenient and many professionals switch to this type of jigs.
The main drawback is the price. While these jigs can perform a lot of tasks and serve you for years, they are complex and expensive. They require adjustments and test cuts, and the learning curve is steep. This is too much for beginners. And if you don’t use the jig frequently, you will have to relearn and readjust the jig every time you take it off the shelf.
Routers For Dovetailing
A dovetail cut is a heavy cut. You can’t just make several passes – you should always cut at full depth, and that’s why you need enough power. For most dovetail jigs, cutters come on ¼ inches shanks, so a medium power router is a good choice unless you are going to cut extra-large dovetails, then you need a ½ inches router.
Another item you need is a fine height adjuster. You will need it to set the precise depth of cuts and without it, there is a danger that the cutter will try to come up through the template with awful results.
Lastly, your dovetail jig should be compatible with the model of your router. Thus, you should ensure that you can easily fit the guide bush to the router. Basic dovetail jigs come with a bush, which is compatible with many router models. And if yours will not take the bushes directly, you should try fitting a circular sub-base to it.
Points to Consider
Before we discuss our top 4 picks, let’s go through the main points to consider when choosing the best dovetail jig to your needs. This will help you choose the best model for your needs.
- What type of dovetails do you need?
- How much you are ready to pay?
- How often you are going to use your dovetail jig – if you use it every day, you can justify buying a more expensive model and invest in better quality materials?
- How easy it is to set up a dovetail jig?
All dovetail jigs listed below can produce precise cuts, so the decision comes down to a model that has the best balance between the prices, the complexity of setting up and adjustment.
The Best Dovetail Jig list
PORTER-CABLE 4216 Dovetail jig
Porter-Cable has a huge series of dovetail jigs and this model is arguably the best one. It has been praised as a favorite to both beginners and professionals alike. It is a versatile tool that allows for precise cutting of the most common joints, including Secret double dovetail joints, Sliding dovetail joints, through dovetails and half-blind dovetail joints. The model is so easy to use you can get amazing results from the first try. It is a great balance between versatility and price. It comes with comprehensive instructions about its capabilities. This eliminates the need to search for tutorials online.
Moreover, aluminum templates come with the jig are made according to high American standards; thus, you’re guaranteed to get superior accuracy and extreme durability. Another useful feature is the router bit gauge has the ability to set depths without the need of measuring anything. It helps get the work done faster.
Porter-Cable created a durable, steel-based dovetail jig that can be clamped to any work surface for increased stability when making cuts. Another benefit of this model is its 3-year warranty that covers defects that could arise due to workmanship or faulty materials.
Things We Liked
- Built-in gauges
- Quick switching between templates
- Different sized boards
- Ease of operation
- Comprehensive instructions attached
Things We Didn’t like
- The manual quality could be better
Keller Dovetail Journeyman DoveTail Jig
This dovetail jig is a versatile precision cutting tool that is perfect for beginners. The model uses a clamp on the template dovetail mechanism. It is designed to allow mounting on work surfaces and shop-made boards, as opposed to the bench, mounted dovetail jigs. It features an ergonomic design and durable finish that is bound to last.
The set up is easy and once everything is done, you won’t need to adjust anything. It doesn’t have a limit of the stock size and you don’t have to use guide brushes.
Things We Liked
- Quick and easy set up
- No adjustment necessary
- High-quality materials
- No limit to the stock size
- No need to buy guide brushes
Things We Didn’t like
- Can only cut through dovetails
Leigh Dovetail Jig
This is one of a kind dovetail jig that has been termed as the most versatile model on the market. The company has been here for 30 years and they have had enough time and experience to make the perfect dovetail jig. They invented finger dovetail jig with adjustable fingers. With this jig, your creativity isn’t limited.
You can quickly make clear-cut adjustments using the E-bush. You can change the settings quickly using the pin wrench, while the tightening system is simple thanks to the locking nut. And if the E-bush twists, the jig will alert its active diameter.
Things We Liked
- Easy setup
- Useful alerts and reminders
- High precision and accuracy
- High-quality materials
- Can produce both half-blind and through dovetails
- Sliding template fingers
Things We Didn’t Like
- The jig is more complex thus it takes time to learn how to operate it
Woodstock D2796 Dovetail Jig
This dovetail jig features a cam-action clamp that can lock 2 boards simultaneously. You can cut tails and pins with one quick pass of your router. Thus, you will always get faster, more accurate results. Another great benefit is the large knobs that are an alternative to traditional wing nuts that you can find on other dovetail jigs. This ensures convenient handling.
Everything mounts quickly and conveniently, which is important when you operate a heavy tool made of steel. It also has both vertical and horizontal cam action clamps that keep your wood in place. The dovetail jig can make half-blind joints and handle stock up to ¼ inches thick and up to 12 inches wide. The jig comes with an aluminum template and instruction.
Things We Liked
- Durable design
- Easy to use
- Create quality dovetail joints
Things We Didn’t Like
- The jig is heavier than other models in the list
And the winner is…
Leigh Dovetail Jig which is the finest dovetail jig available on the market. It is very versatile, well-made and easy to use. When you get this jig, you are sure to buy from a reputable company that values its clients.