dovetail jigs Anyone here use the WoodRat?

I'm about to obtain a jig... I've researched the Leigh, the Akeda, Incra and the dedicated simpler jigs... So far it's a tie between the Leigh and Akeda, or was until I looked at http://www.woodrat.com/info1.html . Now I'm wondering if that might be a better choice. So once again I want to tap the collective intelligence of our august group! Anyone here use the WoodRat or Little Rat? Or know someone that has? I have read one review, looked at the above site and it would *appear* as though there are no practical size limitations, and what seems to be an endless array of possibilities. Thoughts and suggestions welcome here! Thanks, Tom
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I bought a woodrat a few years ago, got pissed off with it and bought a Leigh jig. The woodrat is a very good machine, possibly more versatile than the leigh, but unless you are using it regularly it can be a pain to remember exactly how to set it up. I found it fiddly to use. You also need a clear area of wall to attach it to and of course the space around it for the "unlimited" applications. The Leigh is easy to use but very expensive for the add-ons needed to increase it's versatility. It's really a case of "horses for courses" and if you live in America you may find the prices there are an influence to your purchase. Here in UK nothing seems to be cheap any more, ( apart from Taiwan imports, that is) I saw the woodrat being exhibited once at a show over here and when I politely asked a question about a problem I was having, was treated to a sneer and spoken to as if I were an imbecile for asking such a question, so you see, I am just a wee bit biased. Good luck with your purchase what ever you decide. Rodger

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<snipperoo>
Thanks for the insight, Rodger... Hopefully others will contribute as well and I can put the issue to rest. Thanks again, Tom
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I just dusted off my Leigh jig to build 8 drawers in a window seat. It's been sitting for 3 years since my last dovetail project. It took me around 2-3 hours to get it set up properly - which included lots of "duh" time re-reading the manual, using several scrap pieces and fine tuning the joints.
The manual is actually very well written. Lots of pictures with easy to comprehend instructions. Important for me, as I am loathe to actually read every word until forced...
Once the set up was complete, I was able to zip through (zip is used loosely, here) all 32 pieces of wood. Everything is going together well. For mass production, the Leigh is really hard to beat. I'd recommend it.
I haven't had experience with any of the other jigs, so I can't compare & contrast. Remember, YMMV ;-)
Good luck.
Kay

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It's been sitting for 3 years since my last dovetail project. It took me around 2-3 hours to get it set up properly - which included lots of "duh" time re-reading the manual, using several scrap pieces and fine tuning the joints.
I seem to do the same 1/2" half blind dovetails most of the time, and I made a test piece for setup for the Leigh. For those that don't know, it's the depth of cut that determine the tightness of the joint.
Well, I clamped the test piece in, put the cutter to the right level, and without running a test piece (I forgot to mill up a test piece and I was kinda short on wood anyway), I whipped out a drawer with 4 cornered dovetails in about 1/2 hour from start to finish. Fit like a dream!
I really recommend the Leigh. Everything is so well made on this piece.
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Woodrat opinions and illustrations here - http://www.woodshopdemos.com/wr-1.htm
JeffB
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Thanks, Jeff. This was the review I had read in my research thus far. It seems like a lot of steps, but then there is a lot of flexibility of use. Box joints, dovetails, mortises and tenons (and more as shown on the MFG site). The plastic clamps are a potential weakness (I have been known to get a little "ham-fisted" occasionally <G>) Tom

http://www.woodshopdemos.com/wr-1.htm
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No practical experience yet -- maybe this weekend though -- but the full video (50 mins DVD ordered from woodrat) convinced me to put down my hard earned cash.
I see this as a probably saving me having to buy a router table, with lift, as well as an expensive dovetail jig. That makes the prices a little closer.
I was also particularly sold on the ease of making sliding dovetails (stopped if necessary); practically I imagine this will be the most common thing I shall be doing. In general terms the great reduction of the need to measure anything with a rule seems like a big plus; most things are done by aligning one half of a joint with the already cut other half - can't really mess that up as badly as my mental arithmetic (how many time have I said to myself "half of 35 is 16.5" and cut accordingly :-))
Delivered from UK to Germany in just over 48 hrs, all present and correct, and currently in a box on my living room floor awaiting assembly and wall fitting .... :-)
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Let us know how things went.
--
mare

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'Scuse the top post... I eagerly await your observations (can you hurry up a little <BSEG> it's supposed to be a Christmas present:>) Tom

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I'll do my best ... the rate determining step is delivery of the new 1/2 inch router to go with it.... shipped yesterday from the UK, if they're as good as woodrat it should be here tomorrow.
Why a new router? Using my Metabo was going to require taking off the phenolic plate which seems to be a destructive operation; didn't want to do that. Also, I figured a 1/2 machine would let me use some of those fancy cutters that only come in the big size, and can't be used without a table or some sort of 'power feed' anyway.
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<snip>
Any excuse to get new tools is OK with me! Good luck and please do post your opinions about the equipment. Tom
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After a long pause (I was sick, then some family business came up) I have just today had a chance to unpack my woodrat and start playing with it. Here my first impressions:
1) Package was complete, nothing missing or damaged
2) Instructions made mounting and assembly easy (about 45 mins) although I had to read some bits 3 or 4 times to understand what was meant.
3) Tomorrow I'll be remounting it a little lower - you need a clear view of the top plate and I'm a little long sighted to see it clearly when the top plate is at just below shoulder height. This was my fault, trying to maximise the length of wood that could be fitted vertically underneath and overdoing it slightly, 6 inches lower and I#ll be all set. Of course, I could also just make myself something to stand on (but I prefer not to risk falling off whe playing with power tools, I think).
4) The 'plunge bars' for the router depthing are a good idea. I do believe I'll be ordering some for my other router too.
5) The brush used to provide upwards pressure to keep the wood against the base plate when it's not in the cam clamps works surprisingly well. I can see myself using this idea at the table saw as well instead of feather boards. I flattened the top of the brush and glued it to a length of wood so I could use the cam clamps to hold it in place.
6) Sliding dovetails are easy too. It took a little practice to get them tight enough (but still leave room for some glue) -- this is where I realised I didn't have a clear enough view of the top plate to align the marks easilyly. 2 or 3 attempts are all it took though ...
7) Changing cutters is a pain. Shame that the Jacobs collet isn't made any more (but then it apparently didn't work very well any way). Any other tipe for quick release collets?
Tomorrow is an expedition into the land of the dovetail ....
So far (which is not very far yet) I'm quite impressed. I don't see the learning curve being too steep -- but then I've never used a router table so maybe I don't have too much to unlearn ...
Nigel.
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Nigel, Your comments are right on. There is a new laser that is available and mounts on the Dewalt router for showing where your bit will touch the owrkpiece. I havent connected mine up yet but it sounds quite feasable. It is fromthe US Dealer.... http://www.thecraftsmangallery.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc Lewis is owner there and knows the WoodRat inside out.
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Hhhmmm, that's yet another way to do things!
I looked at the 'finger' joint description and I can see how it would work. It seems like it would solve a problem I didn't have (yet?) which is alignment in the E/W direction with marks on the front face. My problems were more with N/S alignment which needs a clear view down from above.
Thanks for the hint, but I'll hold my $100 for a while until I've lowered the mount slightly. I just looked at the woodrat video again and he has the thing set at just above elbow height, which is certainly lower than my initial effort.
N.
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<snipped>
Thanks for your continued input... I bought the DVD, and will probably get one soon. Thanks again, Tom
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check this out-
http://woodshopdemos.com/wr-1.htm
-Dan V.
On Thu, 6 Jan 2005 05:59:24 -0500, "Thomas Bunetta"

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I just found this place and thought I'd comment on the Rat. First, Dan's link is to JLucas ILS"s very nice website.
Second, I find the Rat to be very easy to use. I've had mine for about 2.5 years. Dovetails are not at all difficult as long as you keep your head about you. (Which you should be doing anytrime you're using power tools anyway.)
I spent a long time considering before choosing the Rat over the Leigh D4. As far as dovetails are concerned, I prefer the Rat ove the D4 or other machines for several reasons. One big one is that I'm not limited to specific DT bits with the Rat. With the D4 you are limited to a specific angle.
I was also sold on those HSS dovetail cutters. Compared to them, all the carbide tipped DT bits look fat to me. The dovetails from those bits are definitely lifeless in my eyes. that's just me of course.
The other reason I chose the Rat over the D4 was cost vs. function and space. I don't have room in my shop to store a dovetailer as well as a mortiser and tenoner. I would also like to spend my shop money on things like L-N hand planes and wood. The Rat was a more cost effective choice for me.
Finally, to address the business of bit changes, I don't think it is anymore difficult to change bits with the router on a Rat than it would be with the router in a table. Still the folks that make the Eliminator chuck which ahs been around for Porter Cable routers for sometime, now offer them for DeWalt and Bosch routers. What a cool thing that is! Dave
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