The dovetail jig is one of the most appreciated tools in woodwork due to its ability to create tails and pins with utmost efficiency. This tool is used to join on right angle joints and on end-to-end joints by attaching two pieces simultaneously with speed and accuracy.
It is a vital tool in every wood craftsman’s shed. It is essential in the cutting of the different dovetail joints which range from Through dovetail joints and Half-blind dovetail joints to mitered blind dovetail joints.
Before buying a dovetail jig, one needs to consider sticking to purchases within their budget. Next, one must consider the intended purpose of this tool. Thus it must compliment your specific type of woodwork.
Therefore the goal is to purchase the best jigs which can work on a wide range of joints and is also reasonably affordable.
Fixed and Variable Dovetail Jigs
One is then required to choose between fixed dovetail jigs and variable or adjustable dovetail jigs. Fixed dovetail jigs are made of aluminum and have equally spaced fingers to guide on the fitting of pins and tails. The result is an attractive, strong dovetail joint.
On the other hand, variable dovetail joints do not have stable guiding fingers; rather, their fingers can be adjusted to suit your required spacing. This consequently allows you to alter the general joint outlook and essentially produce the unique designs.
Fixed Dovetail Jigs
These jigs are easy to setup and use. They are also averagely priced and also happen to give you value for money. However, fixed dovetail jigs tend to produce a machine cut look.
Many people, especially those with an eye for handmade crafts, tend to steer away from machine cuts. They like to look at a piece of work and consider it as having been made by a handy craftsman with an eye for detail and not simply by a machine.
The inability to adjust fixed dovetail jigs is also a potential problem faced by most woodworkers.
Variable or Adjustable Dovetail Jigs
Variable jigs are suitable for woodworkers who wish to customize their work since they allow a diversity of designs. They also produce the hand-made appearance of well-crafted joints that most consumers tend to prefer.
The use of a variable or adjustable dovetail jig is non-restricted. Despite these great qualities, variable dovetail jigs tend to be very costly and sometimes not too easy to set up.
Features of Dovetail Joints
Dovetail joints are easy to pull apart and also ensure that one has tight and durable results. They are quite attractive to traditional wood craftsmen due to their ability to hold together the pieces without a need for mechanical fasteners.
The name dovetail’ comes from the shape of the tail part which is quite similar in shape to a dove’s tail. Dovetail joints are common in antique shop furniture. They are preferred due to their large gluing area, their easy interlocking and ability to hold.
Dovetail joints are considered the strongest and most durable, not to mention highly attractive, joints ever invented. In spite of these great features, dovetail joints can be very hard to mark and cut out accurately. Unfortunately, they do not function as required if any error is made in their cutting.
There are a variety of dovetail joints to suit the purpose and design of the woodwork.
Through Dovetail Joint
It is the simplest dovetail design which includes a finger-locking technique at the ends of all pieces of wood. These joints are visible on the outside. The through dovetail joints are used in joining corners of frames, cabinets and other household items.
Half-blind Dovetail Joint
This joint has tails within the sockets at the end of the piece of wood and thus is hidden from the front end. They are commonly used to fasten the front and sides of drawers.
Secret Mitered (mitered blind) Dovetail Joints
As suggested by their name, these joints are completely hidden from the eye as they are crafted by forming an outer edge to meet at an angle that hides the dovetails internally in the joint. They are commonly used in picture frames, in high-class cabinets and boxes and similar items.
The Sliding Dovetail Joint
These joints are used to join some pieces of wood at right angles but not at the end of either of the pieces. They are crafted by sliding the tail part onto the socket and thus the name sliding dovetail joints.
Technology has made it possible to use the best tools to create beautiful dovetail joints without a near perfect handmade effect. In order to accomplish one’s goals of creating the perfect dovetail design, one must choose proper dovetail jigs to accomplish your specific goal. Some of the best in the market are described below.
Leigh Super 12″ Dovetail Jig
The 12” dovetail jig from Leigh is great in quality, versatility and has amazing precision. It works very well in crafting half-blind joints and can create a variety of dovetail patterns. It also works significantly well in sliding dovetail joints.
The Leigh Super 12” Dovetail jig is currently capable of making a clear-cut adjustment due to the Leigh E-bush additional feature. This allows the change in settings by adjusting the pin wrench to ensure proper fit.
The Leigh Super kit comes with aluminum clamp bars made of the non-slip material to ensure that your work is held securely in position.
- Both metal and aluminum construction
- Capable of half-blind dovetail design
- One of the most user-friendly, convenient and reliable tools
- One of the most costly dovetail jigs thus may be out of reach to some consumers
Sommerfeld’s Dovetail Jig
This particular type of dovetail jig has variable dovetail jigs on the market. It is constructed by setting and locking the nine turning forks below the jig.
Its vertical dovetail bits form pins on one side and tails on the other, essentially giving the user a lot of control. The use of this new dovetail jig can vary, that means, the tool can be used upturned and also a router table may be used or with a router that is handheld and placed bottom side facing upwards.
One can opt to buy a tuning fork to make box joints or an organic bit for half-blind dovetail joints.
The Sommerfeld jig is made of thick plated aluminum for a durable and resilient use. It also has large wing knob bars to hold work in place and ensure efficiency of use.
- Used in different ways which include the use of a handheld router or the use of a router table
- Edge stops allow efficient and accurate cutting
- Simultaneous pin and tail locking
- Comes with a rather vague user manual that makes set up and uses rather hard
- Bit costly in comparison to other similar tools
PORTER-CABLE 4216 Super Jig – Dovetail jig (4215 With Mini Template Kit)
The Porter Cable 4216 dovetail jig has templates which can cut a great variety of dovetail joints. It also has a template for box joints and through dovetail joints.
The Porter Cable 4216 has heavy duty clamps with sandpaper locking bars. This ensures great stability while working on your craft. Its aluminum template is built for long-term durability and efficient and accurate cutting.
It has a depth gauge that allows it to set bit depths without measurement thus ensuring work is completed with expediency.
- One of the easiest tools to use and has a simple user manual to refer to
- Very powerful thus used even in high scale commercial projects
- Light – thus efficiently portable
- Made of resilient and durable material thus offering value for your money
- Versatile – accommodating a variety of dovetail joint designs
- Comes with a 3-year warranty and a 1-year free service package
- Relatively costly compared to other jigs however it still offers great quality for your money
Keller Dovetail System 135-1500 Journeyman DoveTail Jig
The Keller dovetail jig is commonly used for cutting through dovetail joints. This can either be done by a handheld router or placed on a router table.
This dovetail jig is mainly used for domestic small-scale use. It has been designed to ensure fast, versatile and safe use in woodwork. The lock is one of its best features as it prevents slipping which can harm the user and the piece of wood.
It is capable of cutting 15″ in width and its ability to adjust to all lengths and widths is a great feature. These and other features have earned Keller the title of the most advanced dovetail jig ever invented.
- Reversible design allows it to be used on a variety of cutters
- Strong and durable
- Fairly priced and thus is in the reach of many consumers
- It can only be used to cut box joints thus limiting its use
PORTER-CABLE 4210 12-Inch Dovetail Jig
The Porter-Cable 4210 12” Dovetail jig comes with both horizontal and vertical cam-action clamps for simultaneous lock and securing of the piece.
Its tails and pins are cut in a single pass of the router ensuring expedient results. Its adjustable knobs are used in place of the wingnuts and are user-friendly.
The porter cable 4210 is a very strong and stable tool made of strong steel and it’s great for making half-blind dovetail joints on the stock of up to 12 inches in width. It comes with an aluminum template with full instructions on use.
- User friendly
- Ensures speedy results due to its top-notch efficiency
- Not for beginners
- Time-consuming set up
MLCS 6406 Pins and Tails Half Blind Dovetail Jig Set
This is a brilliant and great performing invention in the dovetail jig industry. It is mainly used in the construction of boxes and drawers with half blind dovetail joints or half-blind rabbeted joints
The MLCS 6406 also ensures efficiency by cutting the sides of the dovetail joint in one single cut.
This efficient tool also is constructed with self-spacing edges for great alignment in cutting. You can create 1/2″ to 1″ drawer sides and 5/8″ to 1″ drawer fronts (up to 12″ in width).
- Does not have permanent templates and therefore the user has to make their deal spacing template using either adjustable or fixed slot
- Accommodates longer dovetail pieces
- Strong and durable construction that makes it suitable for both small-scale domestic use and large-scale workshops
- Detachable routing insert is one of its best features
- Reasonably priced in most retail stores
- Unfortunately, the use of this amazing tool is limited to only support a single dovetail bit
In conclusion, one must be keen to observe the key shopping guides to buying a suitable dovetail jig. It must allow versatility of use and fit in your intended budgetary limits.
The most important feature of all dovetail jigs is that should be reliable. This means that it should be able to hold the pieces in place and secure them while cutting.
There is nothing more irritating and dangerous to the user and the crafty as slipping. Therefore, ensure that the clamping bar is efficient and can hold the work steadily during the whole cutting process.
The adjustment features should also ensure accurate cutting. This ensures proper alignment and essentially a great outcome. In many instances, slipping caused by slippery dovetail jigs have been known to result in gruesome accidents which may not necessarily be by the user but may occur on your intended wood item.
While purchasing a dovetail jig also ensure to buy one that has a user-friendly manual and is essentially easy to use. Consider the purpose of use and the room available to work on so as to ensure proper functionality of the tool.
Finally, it is important to ensure that you have all necessary pieces of equipment required to set up the dovetail jig. Avoid buying cheaper units as they lack some essential equipment due to the general assumption that the user already has some of the required equipment in hand.