As someone who has woodworking as a hobby, you will encounter various pieces of tools and equipment. Some of them are important as they will be used daily while others are not.
If you’re specializing yourself in making furniture or doing some DIY woodworking activity, we have the right tool for you, a dovetail jig.
But what is a dovetail jig? What is it used for? Do I really need it?
Well, whenever you’re about to make a joint between two pieces of wood, you will surely need a dovetail jig. This joint is often called the dovetail joint and you have probably seen it already in tables, chairs etc.
You can make these joints by hand and some people still do it like that, but due to it being time-consuming and since you need the skill to do it, woodworkers usually buy the best dovetail jig for that.
And since they are not that expensive, it really pays off to buy a machine like that which will save you time.
Table of Contents
- Top 8 Best Dovetail Jigs: Reviews & Top Picks
- #1. PORTER-CABLE Dovetail Jig 4216 - Heavy-Duty
- #2. PORTER-CABLE Dovetail Jig, 12-Inch 4212 - Durable Construction
- #3. General Tools 861 Aluminum Dovetail Jig, 12-inch - Affordable
- #4. Keller Dovetail System 135-1500 Dovetail Jig - Novice Use
- #5. Leigh Super 12-Inch Dovetail Jig - Full Package
- #6. Leigh D4R Pro 24" Dovetail Jig - Professional Grade Jig
- #7. Rockler Dovetail Jig - Quick Set-Up
- #8. POWERTEC 71529 15-Inch Dovetail Jig System - Practical
- Things to Look Out for When Buying a Dovetail Jig
- Are There Any Types of Dovetail Jigs?
- Using a Dovetail Jig: General Tips & Tricks
- Final Thoughts
Dovetail jigs are used by beginners and professionals alike due to several benefits that you can get with buying one.
Some of the main benefits are the following
When you use the best dovetail jig out there, you can save yourself a lot of time since you don’t need to waste hours of doing it manually.
And you don’t even have to care about quality, the end result will be identical, if not better when used with the machine.
When it comes to special expertise, you don’t really need it when using a dovetail jig.
The thing is that even if you do have the experience and skill to make a dovetail joint manually, it will still take a lot of time and may not end up perfect.
But if you’re using a machine you’re going to make all the pain go away since it is just so simple to use.
When it comes to security and having a stable construction, you don’t have to worry about it when using a dovetail jig.
Since the whole process is almost automatic, you will ensure that the end result is durable and done in a professional manner.
Top 8 Best Dovetail Jigs: Reviews & Top Picks
The following section is going to consist out of 8 popular dovetail jigs with each one being reviewed in detail.
You will find out which features make them the best dovetail jigs on the market and what pros and cons they have.
Straight from the beginning, we give you our number one recommendation for the best dovetail jig on the market, the PORTER-CABLE Dovetail Jig 4216.
When it comes to versatility and overall quality, this is the product that you should look out for. It can create all the standard types of dovetail joints with ease - sliding, half-blind, and miniature fittings.
Individual templates for all models are included in the package, so there's no need to order them separately.
Precision will be none of your concerns since the template alignment lines are easy to set up, and the device is henceforth easy to use.
It features heavy-duty clamps that allow your wood stability that it needs to manufacture a stable dovetail joint. When you start cutting with a router, wood will be placed in a perfect, vertical position, and you'll have no problems finishing the job.
The aluminum templates are well-built and will last you a long time, even though woodworking can create an impact on them over time.
After all, this Amazon's Choice product is quite reasonable compared to other dovetail jigs on the market.
If you feel like three templates coming with this kit are not enough, you can always order this version with nine of them.
#2. PORTER-CABLE Dovetail Jig, 12-Inch 4212 - Durable Construction
Next up is another Porter-Cable product that does not disappoint, the PORTER-CABLE Dovetail Jig, 12-Inch 4212.
Coming from the same manufacturer, it shares some resemblances with the previous product, but mainly, this one might be different and more suitable for you.
The design of this device is quite straightforward and easy to connect with your workbench or router table. You can bolt it or clamp it for extra security and more precise work overall.
It includes three templates - one for half-blind joints and sliding joints, one for dovetail box joints, and a standard full dovetail joint. With this variety of templates, you'll have all the tools needed for everyday DIY projects at home.
They are made of aluminum, which is an excellent material for templates, considering they are exposed to heavy-duty processes. Aluminum accounts for the durability and overall longevity of this product.
However, you might find it hard to adjust it at first since many parts need to align correctly. Once you master that, you'll be making furniture in no time.
#3. General Tools 861 Aluminum Dovetail Jig, 12-inch - Affordable
If you're on the budget and you need something affordable, this is the product to get. We give you the General Tools 861 Aluminum Dovetail Jig, 12-inch.
This Amazon's Choice product speaks for itself. You can use it with all hand-held routers and router tables and still get precise and accurate results.
Its design is self-centering, meaning that the pins and tails will match up every time you decide to use it.
When they are cut by a router precisely, they'll fit like a glove, and you won't have anything to do with it - it's all thanks to the jig.
It adjusts the interference to create both loose and tight joints. And thanks to its aluminum construction, you won't worry about wearing it off if you plan on using it frequently.
When it comes to individual joints, it produces edge-to-edge, through, half-blind, and square joints - basically everything you'll need from a dovetail jig.
Remember that you'll need a ¼-inch shim that does not come in the package if you plan on creating box joints, so you'll have to buy it separately.
All in all, it's an excellent product for the value.
#4. Keller Dovetail System 135-1500 Dovetail Jig - Novice Use
If you're a beginner woodworker and you're not sure from where to start, this is the dovetail jig for you. Take a look at the Keller Dovetail System 135-1500 Dovetail Jig.
This Amazon's Choice product may not seem like much, but it will undoubtedly get the job done. It works with all types of wood whose thickness ranges from ⅛ to ¾ of an inch.
This jig has a precision-milled phenolic plate that is ideal for any smaller and larger project to help you with the entire process.
This jig's design suits the production of anything from classic joints to compound-angled and curved joints.
With the package, you'll get both standard dovetail bits and a straight bit, along with fully illustrated instructions that make the set-up way more straightforward than with some other products on the market.
However, in terms of price to quality, this might not be the best that you can get. Like some on our list, you can find other dovetail jigs that offer more features for a similar price.
Still, the easy-to-use feature makes this product one of the best for beginners.
Leigh Industries is very proud of its woodworking tools, including this incredible dovetail jig that comes with some very cool features. So, let's see what the Leigh Super 12-Inch Dovetail Jig offers.
The first thing you've got to know is how sturdy and precise this dovetail jig is.
Thanks to the E-bush that makes this jig supremely accurate, the user is capable of adjusting by using the pin wrench and the locking nut to secure everything in place.
Moreover, the cross-cut fence transforms this jig into one big template that enables you to create perfect half-blind dovetails.
As far as the design and the build are concerned, this jig weighs 14.15 lbs and measures 25.5 x 8.3 x 8 inches.
It can cut boards up to 12 inches and even includes three router bits - the 1/2 "-8 degree dovetail bit, 1/2 "-14 degree dovetail bit, and the 5/16" straight bit.
It's compatible with most routers, but you'll want to use a bigger one to get the full experience from this dovetail jig. The bottom line is that it has to be compatible with the collet.
We'd like to tell you that this jig is super affordable, but it's not. It's quite expensive, and you'll have to invest a bit to purchase it, but it does pay off.
It's a sturdy template/jig that'll cut your working hours by a huge factor, and it's certainly one of the best jigs on the market.
#6. Leigh D4R Pro 24" Dovetail Jig - Professional Grade Jig
Not all jigs are easy to use, a Leigh D4R Pro 24" Dovetail Jig some require professional hands to operate at its finest. This is where Leigh D4R Pro 24" Dovetail Jig.
If you plan on preferably using this jig for professional uses than at DIY home projects, you can rest assured knowing that it can support boards up to 24 inches wide.
Compared to the previous products, this is the most substantial width support.
Precision-wise, it has a one-piece aluminum extrusion base that ensures accurate non-stop work.
Also, it can manufacture various types of joints that all woodworkers need, with the right extension. Ranging from half-blind joints to fully operational dovetail joints, you'll be in great hands.
It's stable and secures the wooden boards rather easily. Once you set it up and bolt it in place to your router table, it will stay in a vertical position without any jerks.
Still, the first thing you'll notice about this product is the price. It's quite expensive and probably one of the pricier ones on the market, which is why it landed in sixth place.
But, the price does account for its quality and efficiency, which is why you should consider it for any substantial works.
#7. Rockler Dovetail Jig - Quick Set-Up
For the final product on this list, we give you the reliable and straightforward Rockler Dovetail Jig.
Rockler has been a source of quality and innovative woodworking tools from 1954 and carries on its tradition to this day. It's one of the many reasons why you need to try this product, and the list goes on.
It's efficient in cutting through and half-blind dovetail joints with the help of its two quality phenolic templates.
They allow for quick and easy set-up for ½ to ¾ of an inch thick wooden boards. When it comes to width, it can support slightly modest 11-inch plates.
It features abrasive surface clamping bars that help reduce slipping and offer a robust and vertical grip on wooden boards. A depth gauge is included for setting dovetail height for joints such as half-blind.
The template and the bracket are plastics, so some inaccuracies may occur and can wear off in time. This results in you having to make the proper adjustments before each drill to ensure precision.
All in all, you can find some better products, but it undoubtedly deserves a place on the best dovetail jigs list.
If some jigs are too advanced for you and it seems like you won't know what you're doing with them if you purchase them, then the POWERTEC 71529 15-Inch Dovetail Jig System should be perfect for you.
Why should you get this one? Well, there are a couple of reasons.
First, its design is lightweight and resembles a hair comb, including weight. It's perfect for carrying around when you're going in the field since it won't take up that much space, and you won't even feel it.
Secondly, it's capable of creating different types of joints, including classic, compound, angled, or curved - you name it, and it's there.
Also, most dovetail jigs you'll find are exclusively limited to table routers, but this one can be used with handheld models, as well.
Thirdly, most customer reviews and experiences have noted that the accuracy at which this jig operates is extraordinary, and there isn't any room for mistakes.
Many professionals also use it as a backup tool when they're going in the field and don't want to carry around large dovetail jigs.
Overall, the only thing that separates it from the rest, in a bad way, is the quality, but that's what you get for the amount you'll pay for.
It shouldn't be your primary and only jig, but it's nice to have around, which is why we had to put it on this list.
Things to Look Out for When Buying a Dovetail Jig
Straight out buying the best dovetail jig on the market simply won’t do the job, in order to not invest more money than you should, you should consider what you need in a dovetail jig.
According to your needs, you will form an idea on what model will suit you, so check the following aspects out.
Always when buying a product, you should consider how much money you have and how much you can afford to spend.
Dovetail jigs aren’t really expensive you don’t have to worry that much about the price. But note that you still need to buy a machine that isn’t too much or not enough for you.
How often do you plan on using the jig? How many joints are you going to make per day? Which types of joints are you going to make?
Ask yourself these questions and you will get a good idea on what you want in a dovetail jig.
If you don’t plan on producing a huge number of joints, don’t even bother with buying high-end models.
But if you really need a set number of joints per day then it will be worth the price, since they won’t overheat when used a lot.
3. Joint Types Available
We have already mentioned numerous types of joints that you can make with a dovetail jig, depending on which type you want you will buy a jig accordingly.
Some can only make one type while others are versatile when it comes to this.
Keep in mind that the more types you can make the more money the jig is going to cost.
4. Operative Difficulty
Although dovetail jigs are easy to use in general as they are not too complicated, there are some types of jigs that require you to have an operating skill level to some degree.
While some jigs offer simpler and more user-friendly features, some will be a bit more difficult to handle.
If you’re not experienced enough with dovetail jigs, you may want to avoid buying a complicated one or a jig that you will rarely use.
Try to find a jig that has a detailed manual included.
Are There Any Types of Dovetail Jigs?
There aren’t really many types of dovetail jigs, most of them are similar in design and work in the same way, with only some minor differences between manufacturers.
But the main characteristic that stands out between all dovetail jigs is the type of dovetail joint that you can make with it.
There are several types of these joints, some machines can only make one type while others can make multiple types, the most common joints are.
1. Sliding Joint
All of these joints are dovetail type joints, but they have some noticeable differences between them in terms of difficulty, the time needed to make them and design aspects.
In this list, the simplest joint to make is the sliding one.
It is popular among woodworkers because of that simplistic design and it is mostly used for furniture such as drawers and cupboards.
The design works so that the tongue of the joints connects with a groove that slides into another groove.
2. Miniature Joint
The miniature joint is usually rarely used and it is really hard to spot a joint like that.
Grooves in this type of join are very small and so are the tongues, so when they connect with each other it is really hard to see that it’s a joint.
This type is for constructions where people don’t want a visible dovetail jig.
3. Half-blind Joint
A half-blind joint is also made because of aesthetic reasons.
Only one part of the joint can be seen which makes it more preferable for woodworkers who care more about the appearance.
This type of joint is mostly used for drawers.
4. Full Dovetail Joint
The full dovetail joint is popular among professionals who want a joint that has improved quality.
But it isn’t lacking in other aspects either, it is very stable as well and has a nice aesthetic design. In this case, both parts of the joint are visible.
Using a Dovetail Jig: General Tips & Tricks
We did mention that dovetail jigs are simple to use when compared to manually making a dovetail joint, but there still are some tips and tricks that are used commonly by both beginners and professionals.
Here are some of the common tips.
What makes a good dovetail jig?
Basically, you have to remember three main things - sturdiness, accuracy, and design.
Sturdiness and accuracy speak for themselves, but in terms of design, we refer to the overall dimensions and the quality of the build.
You need a strong base made from premium materials and a tool that's robust enough to keep your boards in place.
How does a dovetail jig work?
It's the same principle as with a dowel jig or any type of jig.
You load the board or the stock material you're using underneath it, mark the drill points, and go right through with a drill.
What is the best dovetail angle?
It depends on the type of joints you wish to make.
Many expert woodworkers prefer using a 12-degree angle for the standard dovetail joints, but you can set the curve to a bit less if you're making decorative joints.
Anyway, you'll do fine anywhere between 7 and 12 degrees, on the estimate.
Production of dovetail joints has existed for a long time, and it's been a consistent method of designing furniture, tables, chairs, and drawers.
However, as the woodworking industry and technology evolved, we were able to make the entire process much more comfortable with the production of dovetail jigs that make our lives easier.
In the search for the best, you cannot miss out on the PORTER-CABLE Dovetail Jig (4216). Porter-Cable's features, solid build, and accuracy is probably the best you'll find in a dovetail jig.
All the products from this list will not disappoint you, but this one will undoubtedly amaze you.
- Includes Template 4211 For Half-Blind, Rabbeted Half-Blind And Sliding Dovetails
- Includes Template 4213 For Through Dovetails And Box Joints
- Includes Template 4215 For Miniature Through And Half-Blind Dovetails, And Miniature Box Joints
- Template Alignment Lines And Router Bit Depth Gauges Allow For Quick, Easy Set-Up; Router Bit Depth Gauges Allow User To Quickly And Accurately Set The Depth Without Taking Measurements