The Best Dovetail Jig For 2017 – Complete Buying Guide & Reviews
Recent advances in mechanics and technology have seen the rise of various power tools used for everyday construction tasks. The woodwork and carpentry scene has had its fair share of the game. Dovetail jigs, often referred to as dovetail saws are essential woodworking tools used to join together pieces of wood via the use of dovetail joints. Traditional dovetail saws comprised of thin blades with fine teeth. These were used for high precision and detailed cutting. This article’s main aim is to help you identify the best dovetail jig models available on the market and what to look out for when buying or renting one.
How Dovetail Jigs Work
Some of the oldest known furniture pieces in the world were joined by dovetail joints. Treasure chests and drawers various ancient civilizations suggest that this woodworking art has been around for some time. Dovetail joints through history have been made using handheld saws up until the late 19th century. The industrial revolution brought along all manner of fancy machines and contraptions.The Alexander Dodds Company developed the first machine capable of cutting simultaneous dovetails. The first of such machines was produced in the year 1882.
Dovetail jigs are the most recognizable of all carpentry and woodwork joints. The reason for this is that it is extremely efficient in terms of mechanical strength and also beauty. The aesthetics part of dovetail joints makes it popular for use in furniture and other household pieces.
Special jigs cut precise dovetail shapes into wood. First, a piece of wood is loaded underneath the template face up. The wood is allowed to protrude beyond the template crevices by about a sixteenth of an inch. With the wood firmly secured, a dovetail bit is attached to the router. The router then proceeds to make neat cuts on the inside of the template. The process is repeated and the pieces joined. The main types of dovetail joints are as follows;
- Secret Mitred dovetail joints.
- Sliding dovetail joints.
- Through dovetail joints.
The use of dovetail jigs is often accompanied with specific rules and guidelines for effective and high-quality results. The basics include;
1. The wood lumber should be of uniform thickness and should be adequately prepared.
2. The router cutters ought to be kept sharp to allow full depth cutting and precision.
3. Ensure that your dovetail jig is fitted with fine height adjustment features. This is critical for delivery of fine and accurate cuts.
4. As a safety precaution, always wear protective gear such as goggles and a face mask. Human health is always at stake to some extent during woodworking operations.
5. For increased strength, a dovetail should be accurately and precisely cut within the parameters of what is considered a correct slope. This ensures that it suits the wood being used.The creation of dovetails on corresponding lumber pieces makes the joining process a sort of lock and key fit. Glue may be added into the slots which then solidifies and strengthens the joint. Dovetail jigs eliminate the need to use screws or nails to join two pieces of lumber.
As far as versatility is concerned, dovetail jigs are capable of making a variety of both invisible and invisible joints with impeccable precision and detail. Hardwood and Softwood varieties of wood are used in dovetail joints.
Choosing A Dovetail Jig; The Basic
Irrespective of price, design or brand, most dovetail jigs perform the same basic task. The efficiency and precision is well spread across the entire class. However, there are minor differences that set apart the various brands and models. For inexperienced carpenters and beginners, consulting woodworking power equipment dealers can offer some valuable insight into what constitutes a great dovetail jig and the different proficiency levels associated with each. It is highly advisable to take into consideration several power tool reviews prior to making a purchase. Generally, the factors to consider should include;
Working with large pieces of lumbar may at times require you to introduce the aspect of portability as far as the equipment being used is concerned. The perfect dovetail jig should be easy to carry around and clamp onto any working surface. Weight concerns come into play in this same regard.
As mentioned earlier, most dovetail jigs perform the same basic functions. An overpriced dovetail jig won’t necessarily do anything a normal price range jig won’t. The quality of dovetail jigs often determines how far apart the prices are.
3. Ease of operation
This is a basic point to consider when prospecting for a dovetail jig. A great jig should be relatively easy to use to both advanced users and beginners.
4. Precision and accuracy
Clean and precise cuts are the embodiment of dovetail joints. The whole point of using a machine to make such cuts is to enhance the precision of cuts made. Accuracy should be among your top considerations when prospecting for a dovetail jig.
What Is The Best Dovetail Jig That You Should Buy
In the segment below, I have sampled and reviewed a compilation of the top dovetail jigs available on the current market.
1. Keller Dovetail System 135-1500 Journeyman DoveTail Jig
The Keller 135-1500 is a versatile 15-inch precision cutting jig. This model utilizes a clamp on template dovetail mechanism. Most Keller dovetail jigs are designed to allow mounting on shop-made backer boards as opposed to bench mounted models. This product has a beautiful design and durable finish that is bound to impress.
Things We Liked
- Setting up is quick and easy. No adjustments are necessary.
- This product is made of high-quality materials that prolong its service life and durability.
- Unlike average bench mounted models, the Keller 135-1500 doesn’t have a limit to the size of the stock used.
- This particular product doesn’t rely on the use of guide brushes. The diameter of the ball bearing guide matches the cutting bit.
Things We Didn't like
- Unfortunately, the Keller 135-1500 can only cut through dovetails.
The Porter Cable 4212 is part of Porter Cable’s 4200 jig series. It has been hailed as a favorite to both professionals and beginners alike. This model is a versatile jig allowing precise cutting of the most common joints including Sliding dovetail joints, Secret double lapped dovetail joints, half blind dovetail joints and through dovetails. This model is the ultimate culmination of ease of use, versatility and price range. Useful operating instructions accompany the Porter Cable 4212 etched on the templates. This eliminates the need to refer to the manual.
Things We Liked
- The Porter Cable 4212 offers easy switching between template, different sized boards, and joints scoring heavily on versatility.
- This particular model includes built in gauges for setting the router bit’s height. This coupled with ease of operation make it the perfect dovetail jig for beginners and professionals as well.
- The instructions are etched out onto the templates elimination reference to the instructional literature. This saves a lot of time.
Things We Didn't like
- Despite the obvious non-usefulness of the operators’ manual, the manual quality is disappointing.
3. PORTER-CABLE 4216 Super Jig - Dovetail jig (4215 With Mini Template Kit)
Similar to the 4212, the Porter Cable 4216 is a top of the line dovetail jig that is part of Porter Cable’s 4200 jig series. The Porter Cable 4216 comes with a set of finger templates useful for making all the known dovetail cuts including Sliding dovetail joints, Secret double lapped dovetail joints, half blind dovetail joints and through dovetails.
This model is particularly easy to use and is a favorite to professional carpenters and beginners.
Things We Liked
- This model comes with an assortment of templates that are useful for cutting every imaginable type of dovetail.
- This product is designed and built from durable single piece stainless steel. The compact design eliminates the need for clamping onto the workbench.
- This model features onboard operating instructions.
- This product features Porter Cable’s patented adjustment lines and router bit depth gauge. These features allow for setting bit depths without the need for measuring. This makes it extremely versatile and easy to use.
Things We Didn't Like
- The downside to this dovetail jig is that it doesn’t accommodate variably spaced joints.
4. Leigh D4R-PRO Dovetail Jig
This product is a one of a kind dovetail jig and has been termed as the most versatile of all dovetail jigs. The Leigh Company has been in the game for 30 years. This means that they have had more than enough time to craft and perfect the ultimate dovetail jig. The Leigh Company is accredited with the invention of the finger dovetail jig. Infinitely adjustable fingers mean that the operator’s creativity isn’t limited.
Things We Liked
- This model is a high precision tool made of durable high-quality materials which is quite synonymous with the Leigh brand.
- Easy and fast set up of the dovetail jig saving time. Set up diagrams accompany the jig acting a1s useful reminders.
- This product comes with a single template that is capable of producing both through and half-blind dovetails with variable spacing as well as the sliding dovetail variety. This particular model features sliding template fingers allowing beautiful configurations.
Things We Didn't Like
- Jig complexity means that the learning process associated with this dovetail jig is quite lengthy.
5. LEIGH RTJ400 Router Table Joinery Jig
This model is considered a replacement for the average traditional bench mounted jig. The Leigh Brand is a market leader in the production and design of dovetail jigs. The Leigh RTJ400 is a top of the line jig comprising beautiful designs and wonderful finishes. The specs on this model are above average reinforcing the superior quality of the build. This model is capable of delivering different kinds of cuts for different joinery purposes.
Things We Liked
- This particular model features elliptical guide brushes that allow precise adjustments during operation.
- The Leigh RTJ400 is capable of making various dovetail cuts and box cuts. This scores heavily for versatility points.
- The design and build of this model incorporate durable and high-quality materials which is synonymous with the Leigh brand.
- The Leigh RTJ400 is capable of making precise, detailed and accurate cuts on wood.
Thing We Didn't Like
- The only disappointing feature to the Leigh RTJ400 is the absence of a dust collection feature.
Dovetail Jigs come in an assortment of brands, designs, and sizes. The optimal dovetail jig should combine the basic aspects of precision, durability, adaptability to the specific materials being used and ease of use. All the dovetail jigs sampled above are excellent picks. They all qualify in their own respects as top sellers. However, the Porter Cable 4212 Dovetail Jig claims the top spot. It is a dovetail jig that effectively gets the job done despite the tough competition.
Compared to its competitors, The Porter Cable scores the most points in performance, design, and versatility. For a Dovetail jig of its specifications, the Porter cable 4212 Dovetail jig offers the best value for your money.
Porter cable 4212 Dovetail jig
In summary, Dovetail jigs make clean professional joints necessary for linking together wood for various reasons such as furniture design and construction. Dovetail jigs are essential woodworking tools any homeowner or professional indulging in any form of carpentry or woodwork should have. These tools are one of those indispensable tools that come in handy during home carpentry projects and serious professional purposes. When seeking to buy or rent a Dovetail jig, it is recommended to seek the opinion of experienced carpentry tool dealers before making that important decision to settle for a particular brand.
I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading through this article. It was a fun and learning experience for me as I researched on the very best the market has to offer in terms of plate joiners. Feel free to share your comments, thoughts, and suggestions in the comments section provided below. I wish you good luck choosing the best dovetail jig. Happy carpentry!