It's about time that I learn how to make dovetails. Any opinions for a jig
that doesn't have too steep of learning curve? I don't need anything larger
than a 12" and nothing too fancy. Price isn't too important, quality is.
I'll mainly be making drawer boxes and misc projects. I saw a mention for
the P-C 77240, but haven't seen one. Many thanks for your input, Mark
I'm of two minds here. I don't own a
jig, but from what I've read, the better
ones have learning curves that are not
atrocious. Leigh comes to mind, and
Porter Cable has one that looks nice as
well. There are some guys here who own
jigs and I'm sure they'll give you their
impressions of them.
Although I don't own a jig, I've made
passable dovetails, both full and
half-blind. I made them by hand with a a
couple of saddle markers
a dovetail saw and some chisels.
The dovetails I made did not turn out
even close to acceptable the first time.
Nor were the second ones anything I'd
bring in and show my wife. But with
practice they turned out not too bad
The jigs will make them faster, and
they'll make them consistent and
uniform. Attributes that don't appeal to
me that much. Making them by hand gives
you more freedom than the jigs allow.
One member of this NG has put together
an excellent set of webpages that
outlines his way of doing them by hand.
Before you get a jig take a look at
Having said that, if I had to do a lot
of them, I'm sure I'd opt for one of the
Are you doing this as a hobby or for production work? Do you have a
If you have a router table and aren't looking to do high volume
production, then I'd go with an Incra. The one that Rockler sells for
a hundred bucks works fine (it's the original Incra jig that started
the company), has the capacity you want, and will do just about any
kind of dovetail. There's some learning involved but if you get the
"Incra Projects and Techniques" book and work through it you'll be
pretty far along by the end of it.
Even if you decide after trying it that the Inca isn't the way you
want to go, the jig is still a useful thing to have around.
I have the Leigh and the learning curve was pretty flat. Mine came with a
video ( yes video, I have had it for a bit) that was a tremendous help in
setting up and first using the jig. I was making basic dovetails in no
time. With the adjustable fingers, and practice, you can really make some
Not sure if there is one near you but, I think Rockler sells all three of
the jigs previously mentioned in this thread. You could stop by and size
AKEDA dovetail jig. Variable spacing in 1/8th inch increments,
snap in place - and stay there - no screws to tighten and maybe move
tightening. Router isn't supported by the "fingers" but by the jig body
which is beefy. Dust is constrained by the way the jig is made - can
out the bottom, but can't fly out into the shop. If you get the
kit" which includes ALL the "finger sets", all the other router bits and
a dust collector port thing-a-ma - jig which, connected to a vac gets
the dust before it gets into the room. No 200 page, well illustrated,
manual - don't need much instruction to use the jig. My only gripe with
AKEDA is all the snap in fingers - there's a SH*T Load - five sets of 6,
maybe it's six sets. What I REALLY appreciate is the clamping system
- turn either end and the fence face moves parallel to the back of the
part of the jig that the vertical part is held to - one hand operation
so the other hand can hold the part. Same goes for the clamp for
holding down horizontal parts. And the inside ends of the jig are big
and square - so the part goes in square and stays there - no rocking,
no tilting. These are subtle things - but really appreciated AFTER
"doing it the other way".
Earlier poster added the Incra Router Fence System, or whatever it's
called. If you're thinking of going the router table and precision
postionable fence system - add JoinTech's Cabinet Maker Fence
and precision fence positioner.
Note that with all the router methods, getting the joint fit is
a function of the depth of cut. In a router table and fence
set up the memory air is HEIGHTEN TO TIGHTEN, LOWER TO LOOSEN.
(that's a reminder that the deeper the sockets the tighter the joint
But, if you've got a saw, some chisels, a marking gauge and a mallet
have a go at handcutting at least three dovetail joints. Keep it
real simple - two half pins and one dovetail. You should be able
to cut a joint that holds the two parts together at or before the
third attempt. Refining is just a matter of practice. Oh - and
don't try to learn on pine - unless you have REALLY sharp chisels
pine will discourage the hell out of you. Practice on cherry, or
maple, or even poplar.
I have the PC 4212 and the Incra-Jig from Rockler
I got the $60 one:
If I had bought this first I probably would not have gotten the PC
jig. You don't need to buy the fence and sled kit, the instructions
explain fully how to make them and it takes maybe an hour. Comes with
a DVD that is very good and you can make perfect fitting dovetails the
first time. That being said, the half-blind dovetails are note 'true'
dovetails. By this I mean that they are unsupported on the inside of
the joint, nothing you can see once assembled but the joint is not
fully supported. This is not a concern on small projects like boxes
and probably not even an issue on drawer fronts but could be a concern
for a larger project. The width with this jig is about 8" but you
could reset it and go wider without much trouble.
Easy to use and you can make great fitting joints the first time you
try it. One drawback I found was the 'stops' for setting the cutting
depth are slighty rounded so repeating the depth setting is tricky
without a layout joint. Great tool and Shop Notes has a plan for a
box and holding fixture for this jig. IIRC you are also limited to
using PC bits because of the angle of the tails but I may be wrong.
Here is a link to the PC 4212 videos and the advanced joint manual
that didn't come with my jig.
Here is a link to a picture of the ShopNotes jig for the PC 4212
I would go with the Incra unless you plan on building chests.
IMHO the cheapie jigs have a pretty shallow learning curve. There is not
much to do with them except put the wood in and tweak the bit height and
make your cuts. At least that is how my first jig worked in 1980.
From there I bought a Leigh but there are others that compare to the Leigh.
Because each has more adjustments and settings the jigs can be more
confusing and the learning curve can be bigger. For me the Leigh was pretty
simple after the first try out but then I had a pretty good working
knowledge of how these jigs work in the first place.
Most any jig requires "exact" bit depth and 99% of the time determining that
depth is not an exact science.
The more complicated jigs also have to have the bit depth set correctly for
the "right fit". Learning to get this setting correct if first and fore
most. This setting along with the more complicated settings can confuse
some one new to cutting dovetails with a jig.
I have used several different "suposedly" high end dovetail jigs and they
ALL have a learning curve. The new Porter Cable is a good jig but, in my
opinion, it's not as good or as versatile as a Leigh jig. The best, and
easiest to use (if you can read and follow a very well written manual) are
the Leigh jigs. They can make half blind, through dovetail, and sliding
dovetail joints (the only one tthat can do all three) and they can do it
perfectly every time. Their manual is so thorough that you will make a
perfect dovetail the first time you try if you carefully read and follow the
manual, but you will need to make a few of each type of dovetail to get
comfortable with the process. Making dovetails with any jig requires many
steps to be followed perfectly to get good results. If the instructions
aren't well written or followed you will not succeed no matter what jig you
I now own a Leigh D4R, but have previously used Porter Cable, Akeda, Katie,
and a few that I can't even remember the names of.
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