It depends on what type of projects you are planning to complete. If you
are considering doing larger projects, such as case work, or need variable
spaced dovetails, then you should consider looking at the Leigh D24. Yes,
it's expensive, but once you master it, it's a pleasure to use. If you plan
on smaller projects, then the P/C is good.
You should also consider doing your dovetails by hand. Yea, it's a bit of a
hassle at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's a very rewarding
task. In addition, I find that in come cases, if you add in the time to set
up the jig, get the router ready, do the test cuts and tune the settings,
and then the cuts themselves - I can get much of the handwork done.
What kind of work do you want to do with it and in what quantity? A Leigh
won't do everything that an Incra will do but what it does to it does a
good deal faster for example.
There's no one "best" dovetail/box jig--just best suited to particular
I researched DT jigs extensively a couple years ago. Looked at PC, Leigh,
Akeda and Keller. I ended up buying the Keller. It does not do half-blind
DT's, but the only place those are usually used are drawer fronts. You can
do through DT's and slap on a drawer front as an alternative. The Keller
does do variable spaced DT's, but it's a bit more work than the Leigh.
The real reason I bought the Keller is it is fool proof. Once you set up
the jig and lock it in, you don't ever have to futz with loose or tight
joints again. You do have to adjust the depth of cut, but that only affects
whether the tail is too shallow or too high. A couple of test cuts will get
that adjusted in and you are ready to go. It doesn't hurt that the Keller
was also least expensive, although I believe PC has a new low cost unit out
this year. I was also impressed that David Keller himself does the show
demoes and will talk your ears off about dovetailing if you've got the time.
Since you seem to want to consider all options, you might
consider shop-built dovetail/box jigs.
A few photos of the original versions of mine can be seen at
<http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto/cnc_joinery.html and some of my
doodlings of (drawer) joints can be found at
Mine is mounted (more or less permanently) to a CNC router and
the templates are disk files - but there's nothing to prevent a
person from building a similar jig and routing or scroll-sawing
templates for whatever joints they can dream up.
You aren't necessarily limited by what's on somebody else's shelf...
This one is my favorite by far.
It's completely adjustable to accomodate almost any size or pattern of
dovetails, and costs much less than any other jig i know of on the market.
Plus, quite simple to set up and use. However, you will need a good set of
If you have many drawers to cut, I'd suggest a router jig. But for a couple
of drawers, I think this is the way to go. Besides, what can say "I'm a
true craftsman" better than hand cut dovetails? --dave
(snip) Purists wouldn't even use the guide, just a pencile, sliding miter,
Certainly, in fact, that is how i learned to cut 'em. The guide simply
added an element of production to the process by eleminating using the
sliding miter to make the layout lines, and it keeps the dovetail saw at the
right cutting angle with a strong magnet. Waste still must be removed with
chisels, which is the most time consuming of the process, but it still
doesn't take very long for a couple of drawers. After a little practice,
(mostly for the spacing of the DT's) hand cutting with the guide has
essentailly become a no-brainer, and the fit is perfect almost every time
(occasionally, a little shaving needs removed here or there, due to bad
eyesight) I think for a project with a couple of drawers, hand cutting
adds a strong display of craftsmanship, especially in finer furniture.
However, for projects involving many drawers I have no reservations
bringing out the router jig. --dave
Morris, I'm impressed with your ingenuity using the stuff from ENCO and
McFeely's. However, it looks like you built a nice vice, not a
dove-tail jig. Did I miss something?
When I think of a dovetail jig, I think of a device to run your router
on which guides the router bit to the proper places for both the tails
and the pins.
Perhaps. It's a vise to the same extent that most off-the-shelf
dovetail jigs are vises. <g>
What you can't readily see is that the vise face is exactly (to
the limits of my ability to measure) square to the table and all
this squareness is relative to the router spindle - over the
entire width of the fixture and length of the table. I "cheated"
by machining both the MDF table surface and the wooden clamp face
in place with the same spindle used to cut the joints.
Fair enough. That's where I started from, before I started
pricing various off-the-shelf jigs and templates. When I added it
all up it looked pretty expensive. Then I started having ideas
about joints that the OTS jig producers seemed to have overlooked
or decided had insufficient market...
My router bit /is/ guided to the proper places for joint elements
(provided I don't have programming errors) not only for
dovetails, but for /any/ joint that can be cut with a vertical
spindle on a three-axis machine and for which I can puzzle out a
I think it'd be fairly easy to add a hardware template capability
so this jig could be used with a freehand router - which is
exactly the point I wanted to make to the OP. (-:
The machine was purchased to hold down the labor content and to
minimize material waste of a product with a significant amount of
simple routing. That production activity isn't particularly
interesting ("incredibly boring" might be a more apt description)
but I enjoy, in a geekish sort of way, looking for joinery
geometries and techniques that weren't practical/possible before
CNC - after hours of course. <g>
I rather like the drawer joint with through tenons. The photo on
my "jigs" page shows tenons with a round end cross section - but
I'm tickled by the possibility of other shapes: five-pointed
star, cross, Star of David, fleur de lis, etc. Who sells
templates for stuff like that? I like the idea of matching
joinery elements with decorative inlay patterns. So many
possibilities and so little time...
The best I've managed so far isn't a dovetail/box joint; it's a
3D lap joint that's strong (well, at least not weaker than the
boards it joins), rack-proof (can be used to build screen doors
and garden gates that /can't/ sag), and doesn't require any
fasteners except glue - and when cut to exactly fit (a program
option) doesn't even seem to need glue; but does need to be
pressed together /immediately/ after machining because even
slight moisture content change in either direction tightens the
joint. Photo at <http://www.iedu.com/DeSoto/design.html .
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