Compound Dovetail Jig for Log Cabin Timbers

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Project by MJMeers posted 05-17-2009 01:26 AM 42122 views 14 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch

After retiring from the police department, my father-in-law finally had the time to work on his main retirement project… an Appalachian style log home, designed by both my mother and father in-law.

Like any log home, the main part is of course…the logs. The design called for 6×6 white pine timbers jointed with half dovetail compound joints.

Over the Christmas holiday my father-in-law and I built the jigs for cutting the dovetail joints.

Essentially the jig encases the end of the log that is being dovetailed and a chainsaw (with metal guides attached to the bar) slide down the jig and cut the dovetails. Because of the compound nature of the joints we needed to build a Left and Right version of the jig.

The jigs are made primarily out of birch plywood. Held together by glue, biscuits, and brad nails. To secure the log from moving within the jigs we used 3/8” threaded rod epoxied to circular knobs. Turning the knob pushes the threaded rod securely against the log, holding it in place. We reinforced the weaker parts of the jigs with 1/4” flat aluminum. To ensure that the chainsaw guide would slide smoothly on the jig we attached counter laminate at the guide contact points.

-- Matt, RI

13 comments so far

View flcopper169's profile


187 posts in 4628 days

#1 posted 05-17-2009 02:04 AM

That is some jig…. It does a great job… That must have been quite a project…. Any finished pics?



-- Happy and safe woodworking, [email protected]

View MJMeers's profile


29 posts in 4700 days

#2 posted 05-17-2009 03:02 AM

I’ll be sure to have my father-in-law send me any finished pics he takes. I’m actually really looking forward to seeing them myself.

-- Matt, RI

View a1Jim's profile


118297 posts in 4866 days

#3 posted 05-17-2009 03:17 AM

The largest joinery jigs I’ve seen. these are great


View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1288 posts in 5026 days

#4 posted 05-17-2009 04:48 AM

I like those jigs. They are perfect for their intended use. I also would like to see the finished project.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View Bruce's profile


201 posts in 5064 days

#5 posted 05-17-2009 01:50 PM

So cool!

-- I think of Jack Nicholson as the Joker in Batman when he says "Where does he get those wonderful toys" and ask WHERE DO U GUYS GET ALL THAT WONDERFUL WOOD?

View rooster's profile


116 posts in 5226 days

#6 posted 05-18-2009 01:14 PM

Great Idea! Favorited!

View stefang's profile


17040 posts in 4623 days

#7 posted 05-18-2009 09:04 PM

The jigs do a really great job. Well done. Is this a type of construction that is widely used? I’ve never seen it before. It always amazes me at the many uses dovetails are put to.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View sherman's profile


2 posts in 4511 days

#8 posted 07-31-2009 02:02 AM

do you think there is a way to get plans for the dovetail jigs?

-- H. Sherman Vogel, Natchitoches, LA

View Mark Shymanski's profile

Mark Shymanski

5623 posts in 5001 days

#9 posted 08-22-2009 02:26 PM

It would be great to see a video of these in action.

-- "Checking for square? What madness is this! The cabinet is square because I will it to be so!" Jeremy Greiner LJ Topic#20953 2011 Feb 2

View sherman's profile


2 posts in 4511 days

#10 posted 08-23-2009 01:21 AM

perhaps someone could make a template of each part of the dovetail and include instructions. I would certainly pay for them, and I’m sure others will also.

-- H. Sherman Vogel, Natchitoches, LA

View kevintroutt's profile


3 posts in 4403 days

#11 posted 11-16-2009 03:06 AM

Hi Matt,

I would love to get a set of plans for this jig. How could I? Thanks so much for posting this project!


-- Kevin

View MJMeers's profile


29 posts in 4700 days

#12 posted 12-31-2009 12:31 PM

I honestly can’t take credit for the design…my father-in-law sketched out what he wanted and I helped him build them…

However, he did create a Lumberjocks profile and I’m sure he’d be more than happy to talk about the jigs.

-- Matt, RI

View MJMeers's profile


29 posts in 4700 days

#13 posted 07-01-2010 07:48 PM

Bob has started his log cabin…the link below will take you to his blog.

-- Matt, RI

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