Best Dovetail Jig 2018
The dovetail joint is one of the oldest types of joins in woodworking. They are a stable in drawers and box joinery.
Requiring no nails or screws a good join is the mark of a competent woodworker who has taken the time to learn their craft.
However for some people they can be a pain to cut be hand.
If you are one of those people then using a dedicated dovetail jig can make that pain point turn into a pleasure.
Nothing beats seeing the pieces of a drawer or jewelry box fitting flush and square together.
Ensuring you have the best dovetail jig in your workshop means you can make clean and flush cuts time after time. Using a jig and wood router together can really increase you efficiency versus using a clamp and cutting by hand.
Very few professionals will cut out dovetails by hand as it can be quite laborious especially if you are doing a lot of them.
Once set up correctly a jig and router can really eat through the work load far quicker than by hand and generally it is more accurate too.
Types of Dovetails
Although the plain dovetail is certainly ample for a lot of home projects or on furniture where the joints may be hidden or out of sight, there are a number of different types of dovetail joins.
Knowing which type of join to use and when is pretty much a necessity if you are to take on harder projects where the aesthetics of the finished product play a vital role. This is probably most true when it comes to high end furniture design.
When making furniture that needs to have a perfect visible finish the little details are what really matter. This it true not just for the finish on the main surface areas but also on the joins.
Hiding the wood grain or having it run in a certain direction if it is visible on the join can make a marked difference to the overall look and feel of the finished piece. And if you intend to sell your creation can also affect the sale price too.
Different types of dovetails:
- Through Dovetail - Also known as the plain dovetail. It is the simplest join and usually the first one that everyone learns how to make as their first. The end grain of both boards is visible. Mostly used for making boxes or drawers.
- Half Blind - A half blind is when the tails of on piece fit into mortises on the other piece. It is used when you do not want the end grains showing on one piece of board.
- Full Blind - Also called a "Secret Mitred Dovetail" is a true test of skill. It is a corner join where none of the wood grain is visible from the outside. It is used in cabinet making and expensive furniture.
- Sliding Dovetail - A sliding dovetail is when the join does not happen at the end of the boards rather one piece is joined at right angles to the other piece somewhere between the ends.
Dovetail Jig Reviews
Depending on your needs you can spend a little or a lot on a dovetail jig. If you do use a jig regularly then it needs to be able to handle the work load and the abuse it will get from the router bit.
For a heavy user all metal construction particularly in the templates really is a must. If however you are just a light user than you can get away with some plastic parts on the jig. Just be aware that plastic and hot spinning bits really don't mix too well especially with a lot of use.
Porter Cable appear to dominate the market right now. They have 3 models in their 4200 series of jigs. The top of the range is the 4216. It is a 12 inch wide all in one kit that has 3 separate templates.
If you are on a tight budget the Woodstock D2796 and the General Tools 861 are both pretty competent jigs but lack the flexibility and the quality of the Porter Cable.
The classic Leigh Super 12 inch is a little pricier than others among these dovetail jig reviews however it is the highest grade jig that you can buy and has a reputation for being a near perfect jig for commercial and high end use.
Best Dovetail Jig
Porter Cable 4216 Super Jig
The 4216 is Porter Cable's top of the range dovetail jig. It comes with three different templates, four router bits and two lock nuts.
This is the top dovetail jig all in one kit available on the market. It is also available with a 9-piece template kit giving you massive flexibility in the types of joints that you can make.
- Width 12 inches
- Joints: half-blind, sliding, through, box joint
- 3 templates
- 4 router bits
- 2 lock nuts
The standard kit contains three templates. The three different templates are as follows:
- 4211 - half blind, rabbeted half-blind and sliding dovetail
- 4213 - box joints and through dovetails
- 4215 - for small sized box joints, dovetails and half-blind dovetails
Making repeatable dovetail joints with the 4216 is a breeze. With the 4216 you'll find that the cam style clamps keep your stock perfectly positioned and locked in place for each and every cut.
The router depth gauges mean no more measuring when you want to to set the depth of your cuts, these little extra's really make the Porter a joy to use both quickly and accurately.
The best dovetail for the money available on the market!
General Tools 861
For those on a budget the General Tools 861 Pro Dovetailer is certainly a quality alternative to the more expensive Porter Cable range.
A really great value jig that is both versatile and reliable. IT may not have the quality feel of some of the more expensive dovetail jigs in this review but it does get the job done.
The only real criticism is that some of the parts are plastic and can be prone to wearing especially if you are a heavy user. This model is certainly best suited to a beginner who doesn't want to pay for the higher priced professional grade jigs or someone that may only require the use of it occasionally.
It comes supplied with a 1/2 dovetail bit with bearing.
- Self aligning design
- Joints: half-blind, through dovetails and box
- Includes 14-Degree 1/2 inch dovetail bit
Keller Dovetail 1500 System
The Keller Dovetail System 1500 Journeyman is the more economical version of the 1601 Pro series also from Keller.
It is a 15 inch stencil type dovetail jig and comes with two router bits included; a straight bit and a standard dovetail bit.
It is a quality little system for hobbyists and occasional users. The only real gripe with it is that the comb is made from laminate and not metal. Because of this it may be possible to mark or cut into the comb accidentally if you do not power down you router before removing it from the comb.
- Width 15 inches
- Accepts wood up to 3/4 inches thick
- Joints: box and knuckle
- Dovetails: classic, variable-spaced, acute, obtuse, compound-angle and curved
- Includes straight bit and standard dovetail bit
Woodstock D2796 12-Inch
The Woodstock D2796 is a 12 inch jig that has a cam action clamping system.
This type of system allows you to cut pins tails without the need to re-adjust the work piece.
It has a relatively simple design and uses black plastic knobs instead of metallic wing nuts that are more commonly found on other jigs.
The jig uses a right angle stop bar or fence to make depth adjustments. Woodstock also offer a number of templates of varying different sizes.
It comes with a 1/2 inch aluminum template and can handle stock from between 1/2 inch and 1-1/4 of an inch thick.
- Joints: 1/2 inch half-blind
- Width 12 inches
- Handles stock width up to 1-1/4 inch
- Requires separate router guide kit(sold separately)
Leigh Super 12
If one name is synonymous with dovetail jigs then it is Leigh.
They are the undisputed high end brand available and have been for many many years.
If you are a professional and need absolute precision combined with immense versatility the the Leigh Super range is what you need.
- Handles up to 12 inch boards
- Comes with 3 router bits
- Adjustable one-piece fingers
- Highest quality construction
Dovetail Jig Buyer's Guide
When it comes to choosing the right dovetail jig to match your needs there are generally a few important factors to take into consideration.
How often will you be using the jig ?
How heavy a user along with the types of joints you wish to make are probably the most important considerations when it comes to choosing what type of jig and just how much you are willing to spend on it.
For the heavy user you should be looking at a professional grade jig that can handle a high workload and will not start to wear out quickly.
Accuracy on every cut really is paramount when you are making dovetails so an jig that is too light and develops alignments issues after a few months really is not worth the money.
A full metal template is a must have a preferably the entire jig is metal also. With a full metal construction you greatly reduce the risk of warping or alignment issues further on down the road.
The versatility of the jig ?
If you only need to cut a plain or through dovetail every time then you really don'y need an expensive jig that has a lot of additional features.
However, for those that regularly make different kind of dovetail joins for different projects then you need to be sure the jig you buy is capable of making all of the different types of dovetails that you will require. If a jig is only able to accept one template then if really is of no use the the more advanced user.
Is it suitable for your abilities ?
If you have to spend several hours trying to get the jig set up in the best way and you are only a beginner woodworker then that jig really is not suitable for you.
Wasting away hours before you have even made your first cut is incredibly frustrating and can sometimes mean that you might just give up.
For the beginner a jig that is simple to use and configure is the best bet. For the more advanced user then you experience should be able to set up much quicker than a beginner. You should know what and how the setup should be carried out.