Dovetail Jig opinions sought

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I'm looking at purchasing a dovetailing jig. I'm inclined toward Akeda at present but would like to hear opinions on alternatives. I'd be particularly interested in hearing of experiences with Woodrat or Router Boss machines, both of which appear to be extremely versatile.
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diggerop wrote:

The WoodRat and RouterBoss appear to use the same principles - and like most of the other router based dovetail jigs - appear to have lots of moving parts - most of them exposed - to dust and crud cutting dovetail jigs with a router generate. What may work just fine in pristine situations may not work quite as well in the real world under real world conditions of use.
Then there are the other practical considerations. Working backwards think about the following:
1. When not in use - where do you keep the sytem? If it remains bolted to the wall or a bench - have you got that much space available. 2. What do you have to do to use the router for other purposes? If you have to take parts off that router - parts which the system requires - how long does it take to get them off - and back on - and where are you going to keep those parts when not on the router? Should one or more of those parts be "misplaced" can you still use the sytem? 3. How sturdy are the parts and should one break, how easy, and how much does it cost to replace it?
To the functional parts of the jig:
1. Part Registration & Clamping: These jigs require that the part to be cut be oriented in a specific way and at specific locations. So is there built in parts registration or are you going to have to do that? And once the part is where it's supposed to be, how easy is it to secure them there? If you need to hold the part in position with one hand, will you need two more hands to secure it there?
If the jig requires two clamps to secure the part to be cut, can you work each clamp with just one hand? Does that hand have to be just your right hand - or left? If so, will that be a hassle for you?
With most jigs, you have to cut "lefts & fronts" with one set up and another set up for "rights & backs". If the jig has built in symetry - ie. left and right vertical stops to register the part vertically or horizontally relative to where the cutting will occur that's taken care of. If the jig is asymetric - that responsibility falls to YOU to work out and do.
2. How is the router supported while in operation? Is it supported by separate parts or rely, at least in part, on being supported by "guides/fingers"?
3. How is the spacing for the cuts set? If moveable "guides/fingers" are used - how easily are they set where you want them - and keep them there - oriented properly? If anything can move once "set", Murphy's Law says they will move even if just once in a while. THAT is not good when cutting dovetails with a router. So if the part can move, or the guides/fingers can move - even a little left/ right or rotate, even just a little - the resulting dovetails will show the effects of that movement. And faults will ALWAYS occur such that they WILL show (don't know why they always seem to be on the "show face" - but that's the way things seem to work).
There's a LOT more critical things about these jigs that can make or break you - some obvious - once you've used them, some not obvious at all. And in general a tool that "can" do multiple functions usually won't do them as easily and or as accurately as a dedicate to one purpose tool (think Swiss Army Pocket Knife).
I've got the AKEDA and I've really studied it - and compared it to other "systems" out there. You might want to go through the stuff that starts on the following web page. It'll give you some generic things to look for in ANY dovetail jig system.
http://web.hypersurf.com/~charlie2/AKEDAdtJig/AKEDAdovetailJig1.html
Hope this helps.
charlieb
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"charlieb" wrote

Damn, when Charlie does a review, he does a review. Mere mortals may have difficulty getting through all that material. But it is complete review, not like those short puff pieces that the magazines are proud of.
Good work Charlie.
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Lee Michaels wrote:

There's only so much that can fit in a thousand to fifteen hundred words and four pictures magazine article - and that's what they often have to work within. And they do make their money from ads, not from the subscriptions.
But even the stuff I do probably has an "I bought it so it must be good" bias. Let's face it, when you plonk down a chunk of change it's easy to overlook shortcomings of the thing we were sure was the best product to fill an existing - or imagined - "need".
To eliminated the Owner Bias, I've been loaning tools to other folks who know their way around furniture making as well as to folks who don't know squat about furniture making. I show and tell them how the thing works and send them on their way to try it. In return I ask for either a written evaluation based on their experience, or that I get to interview them and write up their responses. Since they have "no dog in the fight" they are more apt to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth - as they know it and have experienced it.

Thanks - I think.
The Silver Tongued Devils at woodworking shows (demonstrators/ salesmen) make it look so quick and easy to make a (fill in the joint). That's their job - and it ain't to inform you of the strengths AND weakness of their product - or to tell you all the things YOU must do exactly right - for the product to perform as the demonstration implies. And most demonstrations of a joinery making tool is usually of just ONE joint. In the real world, it's only after you've made the joinery on the OTHER END - or on all the rest of the parts - and dry fit them that you probably will discover that IT AIN'T THAT SIMPLE, even with their super tool.
I'd like to see the demonstrator make a couple of drawers - to fit the drawer openings in an existing piece - like we're gonna have to do in the real world. (OK, so you could build the piece to fit the drawers -but that would be kind of "unusual".
The reviews I have trouble with is for a tool that isn't like anything out there before it. Case in point, the Festool DOMINO. It has the additional problem of looking like a biscuit joiner/cutter - at three or four times the price. And because it does it's job in a way like no other method it takes more words and illustrations to explain why it's so revolutionary. It puts loose tenon mortise and tenon joinery capabilities in an absolute novices hands.
If you want to see what I mean about the DOMINO - go through THIS stuff
http://web.hypersurf.com/~charlie2/DOMINO/DOMINO_TableOfContent.html
Wish I could condense the reviews - but brevity has never been my strong point. The hope is that it provides objective information to a woodworking needing info for a purchasing decision in an understandable
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Lee Michaels wrote:

Amen to that.
T
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Charlie, - my sincere thanks for taking the time and trouble to write such a comprehensive reply. To quote Lee Michaels, "Damn, when Charlie does a review, he does a review."
It will take me some time to digest all that you have written, including the contents of your website, however you have already given me cause to think about a number of things that up to this point in time, had not occurred to me. Notwithstanding that, the Akeda certainly looks to be a front runner.
Now I have a heap of reading to do on your excellent website.
Once again, - thank you. : )
Diggerop
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Diggerop:
Don't mean to add to your list of things to check out but consider your "needs". The WoodRat and it's pseudo clone probably do a lot more things than the AKEDA. And if it's dovetails - through and half blind - AND all the other things a router table with a precision positionable fence - with replaceable Zero Clearance Inserts IN the fence- can also do - have a look at the JoinTech Cabinet Maker System (which, coincidently I got before getting the AKEDA for just dovetails. If you want cope and stick / rail and stile with raised panels in your project list - it will do those and then some. But for dovetails and box/finger joints it'll be a bit more hassle to do than with the AKEDA.
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Thanks for that Charlie, - more food for thought
.....sigh ........ so many toys ...... so little time : )
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You don't need to think too much about it if you know what you will be using the jig to build and what kind of joints you want to make.
I actually bought the Akeda jig and bit set based on Charlie's excellent, comprehensive review. I was looking to buy a jig for project that would require a lot of half blind dovetails, and it looked all too easy with the Akeda.
Although I haven't gotten around to using mine since my big project fell through, my amigos (again.... Charlie should be getting a commission for the sales!) have used theirs and absolutely love them.
It is a really nice, heavy duty, well made piece of machinery. I have a new project coming up that I will be using it for and after the performance of my fellow professionals, I have no doubt it will fill the bill quite nicely.
In case I never said "thanks" Charlie,
THANKS A MILLION!
Robert

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wrote:

You don't need to think too much about it if you know what you will be using the jig to build and what kind of joints you want to make.
I actually bought the Akeda jig and bit set based on Charlie's excellent, comprehensive review. I was looking to buy a jig for project that would require a lot of half blind dovetails, and it looked all too easy with the Akeda.
Although I haven't gotten around to using mine since my big project fell through, my amigos (again.... Charlie should be getting a commission for the sales!) have used theirs and absolutely love them.
It is a really nice, heavy duty, well made piece of machinery. I have a new project coming up that I will be using it for and after the performance of my fellow professionals, I have no doubt it will fill the bill quite nicely.
In case I never said "thanks" Charlie,
THANKS A MILLION!
Robert
Thanks for the reply, Robert. From the testimonials of yourself, Charlie and others I'm in no doubt that the Akeda is the best of its type. Still investigating ther Woodrat and others, however, Charlie's "Swiss Army Knife" analogy is undoubtedly correct.
Diggerop
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wrote:

The only thing I can say negative about the Akeda is the availability of some things, at least at the moment. You can only get them it at thejigstore.com. I have a worn out standard guide bushing. Not listed on the website to buy separately. I'm using the oversize bushing for the tails now which doesn't really affect the joint fit, but still. It's about time to get new 11 and 14 degree bits, the two I use the most, but the 14 isn't available. Whiteside does make Akeda bits, but they are 1/4" shank instead of 8mm, which I suppose would be fine for the 14 degree bit.
-Kevin
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Kevin wrote:

Just to pile on here, for those in the US, thejigstore.com is an offshore business. Check your credit card terms and conditions -- I wound up getting hit with a $20 "currency conversion" charge on my Citibank MasterCard when I ordered from them. toolking.com in Colorado is also a dealer, but may or may not have what you want in stock.
One other thing, the C kit from thejigstore was supposed to ship the parts that were missing at a later date. Thus far, I haven't received them.
I really like the Akeda, I just wish they had a broader distribution system.

--

There is never a situation where having more rounds is a disadvantage

Rob Leatham
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It sounds like the problem is with the Citibank Mastercard. I use American Express in all my dealings with the jig store and have never been charged such an outrageous fee for currency conversion. I don't think it is fair to blast the jig store for something that Citibank is doing to you.
I have been buying parts from both the jig store and tool king with no issues. In an emergency, Whiteside makes both collars and router bits that fit a standard PC base. Check them out if you need one and they are out of stock at your current supplier.
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Didn't sound like a blast at The Jig Store, rather a blast at Citi. Others often get caught in the bank's crossfire. That's life with CCs. :-( The (very welcomed) point being, watch your CC's T&Cs.

BTW, thanks all. I'll be in the market for a dovetail jig sometime in the near future[*], so this discussion is quite interesting.
[*] I really should get a shop built. The garage just isn't cuttin' it.
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My bad then, if I misinterpreted the comment. I have had such good service from the Jig Store that I guess I am a little defensive of them. I placed an order for some bits and other parts with them and they did not show. So I emailed them asking if they had a tracking number. JS said they sent it air mail so there was none, but they would check into it. Got an email a couple of days later saying they were sending out a replacement package. Total order was around $55, so it was not chump change. Can't say enough about their service.
Parts outages though are usually not their fault, they indicated that some parts are on back order from the manufacturer. That happens.....Whiteside is a authorized alternative. I have used their collars and bits with great success as well.
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romanf wrote:

That wasn't meant to blast the jig store but to warn people to make sure that they know what could happen using their own cards. I have a bit of an issue since their website also gives a Wisconsin location, so I do feel they have a bit of culpability there also in not being straight up about business with them being a foreign exchange.

--

There is never a situation where having more rounds is a disadvantage

Rob Leatham
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Snip
Agreed, and something to think about, I was under the impression that the Akeda was American, US. Have they already sold out to a foreign manufacturer?
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wrote:

Think so, at least a little bit. :)
AKEDA The Jig Company PO Box 700 Brackendale BC, V0N 1H0 Canada
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Well, that woud be better. Wouldn't it.
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As far as I know Akeda has always been a Canadian Company. In fact so is Leigh. I think they are both in the same town. If I remember correctly the guy who runs Akeda did the design work on the original Leigh Jig.....
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