Dovetail Jig opinions sought

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Leon wrote:

Just to be clear, I think Akeda is Canadian, but they don't distribute directly. Right now, there are two distributors. One is thejigstore.com, a company that shows as Milwaukee on the Akeda site link, but an Illinois address and Mauritius address on The Jig Store's site. The second is toolking.com, located in Colorado. When I was looking for mine, I checked with both companies. Toolking didn't have the C kit,something that was essential for my purposes and it would have been 3 to 6 weeks before it became available. The Jig Store had the C kit but with a couple pieces missing. They were willing to ship the C kit with the missing pieces and to drop ship the missing parts when they became available (I need to follow up on that) and to sell the one cutter I needed individually (I will get another with the missing jig kit parts). That was why I went with the Jig Store.
Like I mentioned, I really, really like the Akeda jig and I'm not knocking the service I received from the Jig Store. I am not pleased that the jig store lists a US presence but banks off-shore. Had I known that, I would have used Amex instead of Master Card.
--

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.
Hard to say, I have a Citibank Mastercard and recently made an Australian purchase for $206 IIRC the conversion rate was $6. If Mark's conversion was $20, did he spend $686 for his Akeda, I hope not.
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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Uh - oh the other shoe drops, but good to know. I have the Leigh D4 and the finger joint template. After hearing all the recent reviews and especially the comments made by charlieb I was beginning to think that the Akeda might be easier to remember how to use. ;~) For me the Leigh works fine and the finger joint template is a no brainer but I always find myself refering back to the owners manual for a refreser on how to set the jig up. Personally I thought the Akeda had too many loose pieces to keep up with but then I recently built two towers with about 250 pieces. It can be done. LOL. BUT as you pointed out and apparently Woodcraft no longer carries the Akeda, key replacement parts need to be quickly available. something to consider.
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wrote:

I used a Leigh Super before and I would say they are pretty similar as far as steps involved. I have a little note written on the board the jig is attached to remind me which way the boards should be facing, though I don't really need it anymore but that was the part I would always freeze on if I hadn't used it in a while, for both jigs.
I would say the Akeda is faster to set up though because you don't have to fuss with getting everything spaced evenly and the fingers all locked properly and even. I find the 1/8" increments instead of the infinite spacing to actually be a benefit even though most people who haven't used the Akeda would list that as a con.
And it's definitely nice to be able to go back and make a replacement part(s) if you screw something up later, whereas with the Leigh if you've moved the guides you're pretty much going to have to replace the entire assembly rather than one part.

It's a nonissue, really. Sure there's a bunch of pieces but you never use more than a few at the same time. You make a box with compartments to keep them sorted in. Mine is cardboard and took under 10 minutes, but you can of course be fancy about it too. It's kind of like saying a full set of drill bits is too much to keep up with :)

In my case I can still get everything I need, I would just have to source it out from a couple different places if I really needed it right now. The common bits are all in stock at the jig store, I'm just an oddball in that I'm almost always using it on thin stock where it really is hands down the best jig on the market. There is something to be said for having the industry standard model though. But I have talked to Kevan of Akeda and there is something also to be said for having the guy who invented the thing and runs the company be the one who directly answers all your questions and problems.
-Kevin
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If I ever decide to get a new jig, I will certainly consider the Akeda.
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My experience is #13 in this thread http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=98823&highlight=dovetail
Listen to what CharliB has to say. I spoke with Kevan at Akeda many times before I purchased and he has a lot of respect for Charlie although he has never met him(me neither). Go to the Akeda website and read the reviews. CharlieB has one there. http://www.akeda.com /
Here is a video also of the smaller, older version.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfcDus-l-pU

Here is a review by Woodshop Demos http://www.woodshopdemos.com/aked-1.htm
Enjoy your dovetail jig search.
Jim Eller Kodak, TN
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wrote:

My experience is #13 in this thread http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t 823&highlight=dovetail
Listen to what CharliB has to say. I spoke with Kevan at Akeda many times before I purchased and he has a lot of respect for Charlie although he has never met him(me neither). Go to the Akeda website and read the reviews. CharlieB has one there. http://www.akeda.com /
Here is a video also of the smaller, older version.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfcDus-l-pU

Here is a review by Woodshop Demos http://www.woodshopdemos.com/aked-1.htm
Enjoy your dovetail jig search.
Jim Eller Kodak, TN
Thanks for the links Jim, very informative. Having now trawled various forum discussions on a variety of different systems I have no doubt that the Akeda is a really good piece of gear. One thing I do have reservations about, is the maximum width of 24 inches. With that in mind, I need to make some decisions as to what I intend to build in the forseeable future. If the available width of the system will do what I need, then the Akeda will be my choice.
Diggerop
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Firstly, thanks again to all who replied with advice and information. It was much appreciated.
I have decided that for my main intended purpose, - (through dovetails on large boards,) the maximum width capacity of the Akeda would be a limiting factor. In all other respects, it would do all I required and more.
I've decided on a "first generation" jig, primarily to accommodate wider and longer boards. Similar to the one at this URL.
http://www.gifkins.com.au /
These are the pro's and cons as I see them at this stage:
Pro: Can handle wider and longer boards than many systems. Gifkens gives a standard width/length dimension of 1m x 300mm, but states that this can be extended considerably with care. I believe one option would be to route with a hand-held for larger dimensions. Can be used on a router table. (I have two, - can use one for pins, one for tails.) No bushes or adaptors required on router. (Router bits have bearings.) Excellent visibility. Can do variable spaced dovetails (with spacer shims) Simple device and intuitive setup and operation. Australian manufacturer. Spares should be easier to source. Templates have tail and pin on opposite sides. Once the tails are indexed, the pins are automatically indexed as well. Can do finger joints.
Con: More expensive.The Akeda would cost me almost $1000 landed here in Australia. The Gifkens package with everything will cost me around $1300 delivered. Does not do half-blind dovetails.
Time will tell if I've made a good decision or not : )
Diggerop
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$1300 delivered? Gulp, from the guy that buys Festool. I wonder if a good $350 jig would do 98% of what you want to do. I wonder if the attitional 2% is worthe the extra $950. Seriousely for the ability to cut wider joints, a 24" jig does not limit you to 24" joints. You can easily cut joints on a 24' panel and on another panel for the remainder of the distance needed, and glue the 2 pieces together. If you can see doing that, you might want to also consider a similar jig to what you have chose but lots cheaper and apparently many more templades for different designs. http://www.mlcswoodworking.com/shopsite_sc/store/html/smarthtml/pages/fast_joint_system.html
More food for thought.
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http://www.mlcswoodworking.com/shopsite_sc/store/html/smarthtml/pages/fast_joint_system.html
Thanks for the thought Leon. I did come across a discussion in another forum on the MLCS system, - didn't seem to be much enthusiasm for it. There are a few cheaper similar types in retail outlets locally, but anything I've looked at didn't inspire me. It seems you get what you pay for at that end of the market. I'm confident that what I have in mind to buy, will suit my purpose and will last for many years.
My problem in being from down under, is that I have to be absolutely certain anything I buy from overseas is bulletproof. I would rather pay whatever is necessary to secure something I have total confidence in. (I'd happily import an Akeda or Leigh if they suited my purpose.) Anything produced locally suffers from high manufacturing and transport costs and small market. (Australia has only 22 million people.) So Australia at retail level is expensive. However, it's not all bad .......
I balance the above with the fact I have been able to source a lot of my tools and materials from auctions for next to nothing. e.g. sliding compound mitre saw - $35. I have seven metal handplanes, old Stanleys mostly, from No. 8 to No. 4 - average cost $40. I haven't bought wood for years, - about 5 years ago I picked up several tons of 10" x 2" pine planks, plus a ton of Jarrah boards, - cost about $300 for the lot. Still got about one and a half tons to be broken down. My workbench cost me $100 to build about 9 years ago - all salvage materials, including the vise. One of my makita routers, still in the box, came with a router table thrown in - $80 the lot. ....... swings and roundabouts. : )
Diggerop
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Well good luck with what ever you end up with.
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diggerop wrote: snip

You've got access to, and can afford boards that are over 16" wide - or over 24" wide - and will be working with boards of these widths regularly in the future? If that's the case, the price of your stock will far outweigh the price of whatever dovetail jig you decide on.
If, on the other hand, you will glue up panels wider than 16" or 24", made up of edge joined boards - you CAN cut the dovetails on the boards BEFORE glue up. If you save a cut off from the first pieces you can use them as spacers for doing the second boards and so on.

There are two earlier versions of this type of router table based dovetail jig - the Katie Jig and the Keller Jig. All of them require an Above the Cutter Guide Bearing - which makes the bits - the consumables of routed dovetail and finger joint jigs - more expensive.

Just for the non-metric folks 1m x 300 mm is about 39 3/8" by a bit over 11 3/4". I'm gonna guess that they've got the length and width reversed and the 1m (39 3/8"I is the Length of the board. So the WIDTH of the board jig capacity is under 12" - less than even the 12" dovetail jigs out there in the U.S. market, most of which are 16" and 24" width capacity.
Note the qualifier "can" in the "can be extended considerably with care." Also note the qualifier "with care". I'd want to know what I'd HAVE TO DO in order to meet the "can" and "with care" qualifiers.
I'd also be concerned with holding 12" or wider boards in this router table and guides dovetail jig type. If the board being routed moves - AT ALL - you're joint fit will suffer.

I have to ask. Are you intending to use this jig to cut dovetails for the sides of TALL blanket chests? Why is width capacity over 25" so important?

Regardless of which jig you use, having two routers is almost essential since the two bits' depth of cut will determine how well the dovetails fit. Once you get each bit set correctly for the thickness of the stock you're working with (more about THAT in a minute) - you DO NOT want to be swapping bits out.

Those are inexpensive relative to router bits with bearings ABOVE the cutting edges. And the guides don't wear out nearly as fast as router bits dull.

The bit is following the guides - so seeing where the bit is cutting doesn't make any difference.

Not sure how the shimming works, but in general, having to shim is a PITA - and more little things to keep track of.

I'm certain you believe that NOW. Check back with us AFTER you've used the jig - successfully.

THAT can be a significant point. Stuff shipped between the US and Oz can involve a month or more - and shipping costs ain't cheap either.

I suspect that "automatically" is actually qualified - probably that "can" and "with care" implied if not stated.

Don't know about the LEIGH, but the AKEDA will do through and half blind dovetails AND finger/box joints.

From looking at the Gifkens, it's a much simpler jig so the extra cost is a mystery to me.

If you're going to do drawers, half blinds are a must - unless you're going to add an overlayed front to the drawers, which kind of negates the value of dovetails.
Now about Set Up. The depth of cut of the two bits is the THICKNESS of your parts - plus a smidge (it's better to cut the dovetails too deep and have some excess to take off on the ends of the pins and the tails - than to have them too shallow and have to plane down the faces of the front and sides of the "box" (assuming it's a drawer. If it isn't, add planing down the face of the back as well).
The other concern I have with the Gifkin, after watching the video is that the Show Face is always facing OUT. And that means you're clamping against the Show Face. I'm not sure I'd cant to use a C-clamp pressing on the show face of my box.
And speaking of clamping - how are you going to clamp a part that's 24" wide - or wider? Wide boards tend to cup. Sure you can clamp near the edges - but that won't be near as good as clamping acrossed the entire width.

Take good notes - and report back after you've used the jig for a couple of projects. And have fun!
charlie b
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Charlie, thanks for once again sharing your thoughts, it's very much appreciated. I have answers to some of the points you raised, although in reality, it's no more than conjecture on my part at this stage.

Certainly possible with any jig I would imagine. My personal preference has always been to edge join, dress, then cut the joints. I'd like to continue that where possible. My logic in doing that may not be unassailable, however it is what I prefer.

Not prohibitively so. I normally use CMT, which are similarly priced to Gifkins. (Here at least, you may have a more competitive market in the U.S). The difference is about $10 between bits that have bearings and those without. (About the same price as an Akeda guide bush.) So, if I wear out two bits per year, I'll be spending $20 more than I otherwise would. Not going to lose sleep over that.

One method, - Attach the template to a wooden block, clamp the block to the workpiece, route from the top. (As some other similar types do.)

One of the things I've long thought about doing, is building large a tool chest to replace the one I have at present. I would like to use dovetails for every joint. It's dimensions will be in the region of 80 x 50 x 40, - (in inches.) One of my considerations with any device, is can I make it do what I wish to do, or am I constrained by that which the design allows me to do. I prefer the former, where possible.

True, but then the router bits dull at the same rate, bearing or not. I would anticipate getting at least one sharpening before I replaced it. As I said above, the difference in net cost to me, is minimal.

Same principle as you suggested at the beginning of your post, - (using an offcut to index.) Shims do the same thing, different combinations giving various offsets.

After studying the design, watching the video and reading a number of reviews, I am confident that the indexing will work exactly as stated. As with any cutting operation, care certainly needs to be taken in setup and execution.

Gifkens appears to me to be what I believe is referred to in your country as a "Mom & Pop" operation. Relatively small operation, no economies of scale. He has patented his device here and the US, which I imagine means he has significant costs to defray on a relatively small turnover.I sincerely doubt that he is becoming rich from selling these jigs, expensive as they are. Perhaps he could do with a different business model and increase volume to reduce costs, which may benefit customers, but on the other hand , may not ultimately do much for his bottom line. For me, the value in the Gifkens is in what I perceive it will do for me, rather than the percieved dollar value of the jig materials and construction.

Every drawer I've built, including remodelling the kitchen, has had a false front. I don't feel that the inability of this jig to do half blinds will concern me, whereas it might be a major concern for others.

The Jig in the video has now been superseded by a new model, which is functionally the same but is slightly more sophisticated overall. He is now also supplying a pair of Bessey clamps which appear to have relatively soft faces. If marking was to be a concern, I would use a thin softwood scrap as a buffer, which is my normal practice when clamping finished surfaces.

I certainly will : )
Diggerop
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