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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The following section is going to consist out of five 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.
Porter Cable created one of the most popular dovetail jigs on the market, at an affordable price as well. This jig is perfect for making furniture and cabinets, with additional templates for them included in the product. And if you’re not content with just three templates, you can get the version with nine templates for just few bucks.
If you’re looking for something that is neither at a low-end or high-end quality level, you may want to think about buying this jig. This is mostly because it offers a lot of features while maintaining an easy to use feel. The aluminum templates included are: 4211, 4215 and 4213.
This dovetail jig is a new low-profile type that allows you to place the clamping action closer to the routing. It is easy to use and the construction quality is great for the price. Along with the jig, you also get a dovetail plate, toaster bar clamps, and dovetail pattern bits. With an aluminum build and new single plate technology, it might pay off to buy this dovetail jig.
You also have an option where the jig can be used on a handheld router with the bottom facing up or you can have it upturned on a router table. If you want to make half-blinds you can buy tuning forks or organic bits.
Leigh’s Super dovetail jig with a metal alloy and aluminum build can accommodate boards up to 12 inches. The material used for the construction makes it very durable and versatile for all sorts of operations while professionally making joints with precision. The jig is also versatile when it comes to joint types as well, since it can support a variety of them such as the half-blind joint.
Dovetail bits of different degrees and sizes are included in this kit. Besides this dovetail jig, there is also a completely identical jig that supports wood sizes up to 18 inches.
This is a portable dovetail jig that is very user-friendly and we would recommend it for people who are just starting out with making dovetail joints. It can make joints with wood up to 15 inches in length and thickness ranging from 1/8 to 3/4 inches. With a back to back type model, you don’t need to worry about anything being complicated, and another benefit is that no wood will be wasted.
If you’re looking for something that is compact, beginner friendly and can be moved around easily and quickly, you should end up buying this jig. A lot of woodworkers bought it because of exactly this reason.
For the last dovetail jig in this list, we feature a compact and budget oriented one which should be bought by those who don’t plan on using it too much. The construction is pretty solid as it is made out of steel and the templates have a similar quality with the only difference being that they’re made out of aluminum.
Its main purpose is to main half-blind rabbeted joints as well as regular half-blind dovetail joints. While it is small and compact it does not offer a lot of features, but with a small price it makes up for it.
There are various features and novelties that you will encounter when searching for the best dovetail jig, but knowing that you will save a lot of time and effort by buying one is clearly worth it. We reviewed some of the best dovetail jigs on the market and hopefully, you’re ready to order one, but which one is ultimately the best for you?
Well if we only had to choose one, it would be the Porter Cable 4216 super jig. It is a great dovetail jig that is adequate for both beginner and intermediate level uses. With a variety of different aluminum templates included as well as a proper steel construction and user-friendly features, choosing this one is a no-brainer.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Each time you make a joint you should immediately write down the measurements you used. This is useful since if you already done a joint in the correct way, you can reproduce the same result when making future joints.
If you aren’t happy with the edges of the join, you will need to calibrate the jig. Adjust the alignment of the stops so that you can get a better offset.
In order to get the best joint possible, you will need the correct shallowness in it. If the socket is too big or too small for the pins, you will need to adjust the jig according to it.
You would want to avoid a joint that is too tight or too loose, and in order to do that, you will need to adjust the depth of the cut you’re making. The best way to do this is to use already standardized measurements. Either check the numbers for these measurements on the internet or talk with someone who has the same hobby.
It is common for people to cut down the tails first before they cut the pins, this can be considered as a bad habit that should be avoided. The reason why you should cut the pins first is that cutting them first in order for the tails to fit in later is easier than vice versa.