View Full Version : Dovetail jigs
01-04-2001, 08:14 PM
I recently went to a woodworking show and saw so many demos on dovetail jigs, my head spun. They all seemed great, but if you thought through the "speedy" demo, you'd see there would be some limitation to them.
Can anyone recommend a good dovetail jig that seems to fit most applications? for small boxes to big units, all types of joints, etc.?
I'll be going to another show Jan 19 and would like to have recos before I go.
Or, should I really try to do them by hand?? I've watched craftsman do it, but not sure I want to go that way.
01-04-2001, 10:13 PM
LAST EDITED ON Jan-04-01 AT 10:14PM (CDT)[p]Jigs tend to be finicky to set up and align. Sometimes if you only have one drawer to make, cutting by hand is faster.
Once you get a jig dialed in, they'll run 100 drawers perfect.
Leigh is usually #1 rated jig.
Most jigs will do an adequate job.
For the cost of some jigs you can get an Incra Ultra or TS-III and make some *wild* stuff - including the fabled double-double dovetail. These are simply impossible to cut any other way.
First thing to set is depth of cut. This is normally not stressed sufficiently in the manuals nor is the method clearly spelled out. You can do this easily by placing two pieces vertically into the jig and just cutting a couple of pins on each. Then attempt to interlock them with each other. Start a little too deep and pull up to loosen. Once this is set *perfect* then the rest of the cuts will fall into place. This is such a critical setting that I would suggest dedicating a router to this one bit and glue the depth knob once you got it right. (No joke!)
Having botched as many as I've cut right I can tell you that it requires patience and practice.
Oh, and American Woodworker's current issue has a comparision on the jigs.
01-04-2001, 11:46 PM
I read somewhere (Not my original idea.) that after you get the dove tail bit set you use it to cut a groove in the board that the dove tail jig is mounted on. You place the router base plate on the edge of the board and route a small groove. Then when you go to set up the next time the exact depth is there for you to set the router.
01-05-2001, 02:00 AM
I have the leigh Jig. Have had it for years and love it. I have made lots of drawers and even a very nice toy chest for my Grandaughter.
The key with this jig is that you set the size and spacing for each dovetail independantly just like you would if you were hand cutting them. The results are more custom than machine made like most of the other jigs.
Mark is very right on the setup issues. The Leigh is a bit of work to set up the first time but then its quick to go back to the settings you have had before. As long as you don't use a different bit, you go right to the settings you record.
But, if I am making just one drawer, I hand cut the dovetails. Its just as fast for one drawer and keeps my hand skills up to speed.
there are lots of fancy jigs and the incra fence will let you make real fancy dovetailly type joints. But, I for one don't use them and wouldn't if I had the equipment. They are just a little to cute for my liking. But, that is what make the world interesting different stroks for different fokes
01-05-2001, 08:53 AM
While that sounds like a good idea (and it is) I've found that the tolerance of the bit depth is tighter than that. When you lower the bit the full weight of the power head is behind it and you'll settle into the grove a few thou. Tweaking it back up is problematic and it's hard to see down under the finger guide and the bottom of the router.
A human hair is around .003" and any depth error in a dovetail is *doubled* in the joint (High on the pins is low on the tails & viz-a-viz) so even a hairs bredth can make a difference in a joint. You *always* have to test cut if you change the router setting.
01-05-2001, 08:07 PM
One of the advantage of the Leigh jig is this is less of an issue. For the through dovetail you use two different cutters. The dovetail and a straigh bit.
The debth of cut is controlled by the Jig set up, by alligning the right marks on the jigs setup pannels.
01-08-2001, 09:18 PM
PorterCable 24" Omnijig, hands down, in my opinion. I've used many different brands and types, and this one is truly the "Cadillac" of them all.
The complete package, including all the templates (finger joints, half blind, through, etc.), is around $500.
It is money well spent.
01-08-2001, 11:58 PM
I am a big fan of PC tools, and I have looked at their Dovetail Jig, but even Norm that has PC as a sponsor uses the Leigh Jig. Right after PC became a major sponsor he use their Jig for one show, then the leigh came back without the logo.
The difference is that the Leigh Jig has random width and spacing of the dovetails. No other jig has that because of Patents.