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.
Reliability – does the jig keep stock where it needs to be?
If there’s one thing that can wreck an afternoon in the workshop, it’s having to chuck a few expensive pieces of wood into the scrap bin because your jig let them slip in the middle of a cut. Dovetail jig components that hold stock in place during the cut need to be sturdy and reliable.
Clamping bars and mechanisms should be built to consistently apply the right force to every part you cut, and to make sure your stock will stay put to the end of every cut, some jigs, such as the Leigh D4R and the Porter Cable 4212, have non-marring textured clamping surfaces.
Adjustment features – does the jig make adjustments easy?
A good dovetail joint is one where the parts fit together in perfect alignment and there’s no “slop” between the pins and tails. One advantage to using a router and jig to cut dovetail joints is that it makes it easy to cut perfect joints every time. But that doesn’t happen until the jig is set up correctly.
Jigs like the Porter Cable Omnijig have single-hand clamping system for easy set-up, as well as “Set & Forget” template-alignment stops to ensure unmatched repeatability and fewer test cuts.
Easy to use – are the jig’s adjustment features and instructions well-placed and easy to use?
Nothing seems to eat up more shop time than fiddling with difficult or hard to access tool adjustments. The Leigh D4R has built-in scales to provide rapid and accurate fine adjustment for stock thickness and through-dovetail fit, and all the Porter Cable Dovetail Jigs have patented alignment lines and a router bit depth stop tp allow for quick, easy set-up. In addition, on-board instructions provide clear guidance and mean you won’t have to hunt for the instructions when setting up for the most common cuts.
Ready to use – does the jig come with everything you need to get started?
The last thing you want to do after you unbox your brand new dovetail jig is to go hunting for equipment that should have been included. A good dovetail jig like the Porter Cable 4212 comes fully assembled and includes two carbide-tipped bits, two template guides, two lock nuts, and a user guide. In addition the Porter Cable Omnijig comes with a storage case and dust collection.
Some dovetail jigs will obviously have more features than others (mainly dependant on price) but the above features should be present in any quality dovetail jig. All of the jigs reviewed here on Dovetail Jigs meet these requirements.
To help you decide what other features you might look for in a dovtail jig, read our article How To Choose A Dovetail Jig