A dovetail joint is made up of a series of pins cut to extend from the end of one board interlocking with a series of tails cut into the end of another board. It is highly regarded for its resistance to being pulled apart (tensile strength) which is why it is commonly used to join the sides of a drawer to the front, and its attractiveness, allowing a feature to be made of the joint itself with an infinite number of variations.
One thing that most woodworkers can agree on is that a dovetail joint is one of the most attractive joints around, plus it’s incredibly strong. However, if you’ve ever tried cutting one by hand, you’ll know it’s also one of the most difficult. However, with a router and a dovetail jig, creating accurate, good-looking joints is within the capabilities of everyone. So what should you look for in a dovetail jig?
With a router and a dovetail jig you can cut perfectly-fitting dovetail joints easily – just so long as the dovetail jig is set up properly in the first place. What this means is that setting up to rout machine-cut dovetails is always a trial and error process. There will always be lots of test cuts on test pieces and adjusting of the jig to get a perfect fit.
There’s no shortage of dovetail jigs on the market, and it’s not always easy to pick out the best one for your needs. To help make your decision a little easier, we’ll take a look at some of the features that can make the difference between a jig that isn’t bad, and one that makes dovetail joinery the trouble-free experience it ought to be.
You may be asking yourself why do you need a dovetail jig anyway? And the answer is, if you’re as good as this guy, then you probably don’t. I get the feeling though that he’s probably done this once or twice before.
The Porter Cable 4212 Dovetail Jig is the middle of Porter-Cable’s 4200-series of jigs, and we think it’s the best of the range for most users. It gives you the ability to easily cut all the most common joints, including through dovetails, half-blind dovetails, sliding dovetails and box joints, and add to that an incredibly low price of $159.99, and you can see why it’s the bestselling dovetail jig on the market. It’s easy to set up, with very useful setup lines and instructions etched onto the templates, so you don’t have to keep referring back to the manual. In practice it’s very intuitive to use and switching between templates, joints, and different-size boards is quick and easy. The Porter cable 4212 is an amazing combination of price, options, and ease of use.
The Leigh D4R-PRO dovetail jig stands out from the competition when you’re searching for the best and easiest way to make perfect dovetails. The D4R Pro jig is without a doubt the most versatile joinery jig available. After 30 years of Innovation and Excellence, there is only one standard to measure all other jigs by. The Leigh D4R Dovetail Jig is the ultimate variable finger dovetail jig, made by the people who invented variable finger jigs. The infinitely adjustable fingers mean that you can let your creativity run free and design unique variably sized and spaced joints with 100% accuracy.
The LEIGH RTJ400 Router Table Joinery Jig deserves serious consideration if you want an alternative to a traditional bench-mounted dovetail jig. It’s easy to set up and makes precise, accurate joinery easy on your router table. It’s extremely versatile and you can cut full & half pitch through dovetails, half-blind dovetails and box joints (finger joints) in a number of different sizes on boards up to 16″ wide. Even though the jig can cut many different kinds of joinery, each setup is simple to achieve, and it’s straightforward to switch from one setup to another when needed. The LEIGH RTJ400 Router Table Joinery Jig has all the usual attention to detail and build quality that characterize all of Leigh’s woodworking products.
The Porter-Cable 4216 Dovetail Jig is the top-of-the-range jig in Porter Cable’s excellent 4200 range of dovetail jigs and comes with all the finger templates for making all the joints. If you cut a lot of dovetails and you know that you will definitely want to cut the whole range of different dovetail joints, the Porter Cable 4216 is the most cost-effective way of buying the jig plus all the templates. The Porter Cable 4216 retails for $174.99
The Keller 135-1500 Journeyman Dovetail Jig is a simple and versatile 15-inch precision-milled clamp-on template dovetail system. Unlike bench mounted dovetail jigs, all Keller Dovetail System jigs are mounted on shopmade backer boards, which allows for an extremely versatile setup. All the jigs in the Keller Dovetail System are extremely easy to set up and use, and have the added advantage that there is no limit to the length or width of stock that you can use them with. For boards that are longer than the 15-inch template you simply slide the template along the workpiece. The Keller 135-1500 Journeyman Dovetail Jig retails for $159