As a newbie to woodworking, I'm researching dovetail jigs (the few
dovetails I tried by hand convinced me that I get more pleasure from
the end product than in the construction, plus my wife is more willing
to let me spend money when she sees end products).
Here's what I'm finding:
First there are two basic approaches. One can use a jig of the
Leigh-type or a precision router fence like the one from Incra or
JoinTech. The latter approach is more expensive but provides accurate
(very accurate) precision in non-dovetail router applications, too.
The former approach, using a fixed jig (shouldn't that be called a
fixture?), presents one with a myriad of choices. Most consider the
Leigh to be the top end. It's pricy but very flexible. Porter-Cable
has a medium priced unit but it's not as flexible as the Leigh. The
Katie jig seems to be a reasonable compromise for me -- medium price,
simple but doesn't have nearly as many features as the Leigh --
features I don't think I'll use -- kinda like all the featues on my
cell phone that I never use.... Althoug I might want half dovetails --
not sure how katie jig does them..
Anyway, I'm getting ready to buy the katie jig -- anybody think I'm
making a serious mistake?
Here's the relevant URLS:
Leigh : http://www.leighjigs.com/d4.php
Katie : http://katiejig.com /
Porter Cable: http://www.portercable.com/index.asp?eT7&p (48
Join Tech: http://www.jointech.com/index.html
On 3 Jan 2004 16:30:31 -0800, email@example.com (Never Enough
No, I don't think you're making a mistake. A dovetail's a dovetail.
And it's your money.
However, I own a Leigh. I like the flexibility of it, and I use it.
Variable spacing and a wide variety of sizes are possible. Through,
blind, sliding. It's great.
And while I don't have any of them, there's the attachments for the
other shapes like bears ears and so on.
For me, in the beginning it was a matter of simply buying the best
even though what it could do was far beyond my immediate need. Like
you, I was solely interested in a through dovetail. Over time, it's
ability of doing a lot more was an advantage that has made me
appreciate it more and more.
So I think you may consider that your needs may change over time and
having something that can do more may be worth the money. And if it
turns out you don't really need all that it offers, it'll certainly be
easy to sell.
With the jigs, the connection between the procedure and the
end result is more direct than with the precision postitioned
fence. The latter take a little more thinking before making
the first cut.
Most woodworkers will, fairly early on, need and use a router
table. The real power of a router table is in the fence and
how easily and precisely it can be set and moved relative to
a bit. The additional capability to cut dovetails, box/
finger joints etc. isn't that much of a stretch for
such a fence system. If the fence is split and each part
independently adjusted and with precision, the uses for
the router table increase even more.
So, for me, rather than having to find a place to store
another jig, and another set of special router bits (The
Leigh require special top bearing bits) the JoinTech Cabinet
Maker System was a good choice. It certainly gets used
often and not just for dovetails. Being able to fine
tune a dado or rabbet width, sneaking up on a tenon size
to match a mortise or tweeking the fit of a sliding dovetail
is really handy.
A jig is a jig - but a router table with a great fence
ps: several Christmases back I made a bunch of small
four sliding dovetails boxes. Ran a 4" wide piece of
3/4" pine through to cut "tails" on the bottoms,
another piece to cut the "pins". Set up a stop on
the SCMS and cut a bunch of "box" blanks. Routed a
half inch deep pocket in the middle top of the bottom
and a corresponding pocket in the bottom of the top
(did that make any sense?). Put sets together, round
overed the edges on the router table and stained
some "colonial maple", some "cherry" and some
"mahogany". When things were dry I placed a folded
bill in each pocket, slid the box shut and glued the
last quarter inch of the dovetails Pasted a picture
of the face on the bill to the top and shot the
boxes with varathane. I'm devious - but generous.
Just so you won't get led astray TOO much...the Leigh does not use "special
top bearing bits". The bits to be used are specific, determined by the
material thickness that you are using, but they are generally common bits. I
broke a bit the other day and went to Sears and bought a quick replacement.
I bought my Leigh about 7 years ago and would buy it again. Hope this helps.
On all the Leigh type jigs you need something more than just the bit -
a bearing at the top of the router bit, which I mistakenly identified
required by the Leigh Dovetail Jig, or a at least one collar for your
which the Leigh does require. You have to have SOMETHING to ride
provided guide/template. And that means that the bearing or the the
define how well the jig works, not how precisely the actual cutting
Neither guide bearings or collars are required on the router table
like the JoinTech.
Given all the additional things that a router table precision
fence system can do I still say they're worth looking into BEFORE you
spring for the Leigh. Add up what it costs to add box/finger joints
- the Jointech does them all, and then compare prices and features.
Okay, I WILL beat the dead horse: The Leigh DOES NOT use any bearing-type
router bits. It DOES use collars, mounted on your router, to attain correct
spacing between adjacent joints. If you tried to use bits with bearings you
would be on your own because the manual doesn't even mention them. I hope
this clears this up.
If you can afford it get the Leigh D4. If not do what I did, get rid of the
stuff you're not using by selling it on EBay and then by the Leigh like I
did. Now I'm set for the foreseeable future. Like they say it just costs a
little more to go first class.
Any time I see a precision fence ala Incra, I'm always impressed by
the accuracy and potential it offers.
However, I'm always put off by it's fatal flaw for a small shop -
i.e., the long rack sticking out perpendicularly from said highly
accurate fence. For someone (me) with limited shop space this is a
drawback requiring careful thought.
None of these decisions are all that straightforward. Always pros and
I have one of the smallest full-time shops around 11'x15' and you are
spot on about the incra and space considerations.
Another point to make is that is a crappy tool for doing joints beyond
fingerjoints. If you use thier system as, it requires that you adjust
thickness of stock to compensate for tiny errors in bit geometry and
their set 1/32 inch interval positioning. For me that is a pain, but
what is the real showstopper is the weakness of the joints relative to
that which can be done with a real system like the Liegh(sp? I don't own
one but have looked at them extensively) or by hand. The Incra does not
have the same wood->wood contact surface area and has hiden voids in the
joint which weakens the gluing strength. If all you want is a way to
make fancy looking boxes to hold index cards, than it could meet you
needs. If, like me, you want to do dovetails for strength above all
else, I would get a leigh or a good saw and a good set of chisels (or
heck get both).
With that said I don't really want to totally trash the incra, because I
actually use it alot. With the add-on fence, it's good for things like
multiple pass molding where I need acurate repeatable positioning. I
would probably buy one again for that use.
Dovetails can be a very personal thing in woodworking. Some like doing
them by hand, others like the fixed jigs and still others like the
variable spacing. You have to decide where you fall in that range.
None are wrong.
I tried fixed dovetail jigs and while they worked and produced nice
joints, I kept looking at the Leigh because of the variable spacing. I
now have the Leigh and am very happy with it.
I know the Leigh is pricy, something to be considered certainly. I
figure the Liegh will be in my shop always, which reduces the per-use
cost to almost nothing. (Hey, the wife allmost bought that...) The big
thing for me is whenever I bring the Liegh out, I can do whatever I
want with the joint, and I like that.
I have a reivew of th Leigh at the link below if you have not read
enough on it.
"Never Enough Money" <> As a newbie to woodworking,
===================================LOL...we all were at one point ....And welcome to a great hobby...
Now on your question....
I am retired WITH ENOUGH MONEY...to buy what I want as well as what I
But If I were you I would sit down and think what uses you will be putting
this dovetail jig to...and also just how much you think you will use it...
In over 40 years I have found that I use my dovetail jig mostly for making
drawers for chests.,desks, tables etc...... and my old El- cheapo PC jig
works just fine FOR WHAT I NEED A JIG FOR... as a Newbie I personally think
you can spend you money on more useful tools" at this time..
Just my personal opinion... But it all really depends on your NEEDS...
Well put, I agree - if anything, I've actually got allot of money in my PC
4112 for no more than I use it. For drawer fronts, I've moved to using
corner joints which are as strong and don't have any issue with depth.
Granted, they don't look as neat, but they have a beauty of their own.
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