Frustration with MLCS Dovetail Jig Defects

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Review by mikedrums posted 03-15-2010 03:41 AM 15428 views 2 times favorited 19 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Frustration with MLCS Dovetail Jig Defects No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Don’t you love having to fix something, out of the box, that you bought, new.
I bought a dovetail jig from MLCS.
I open it up and start to assemble it and there are problems, right off the bat.
You can see in the following pictures that half of the six bolts on it are bent.

What you can’t see is that the template brackets were also bent and the
jig body was out of square. (The jig body holds the stock together at 90degrees)

Of course, they offered to replace it, but I would have to ship it back to them and wait for them to get it, until they send another one back. And I don’t want to pay to ship something back… then wait a couple more weeks until I could use it.

So I decided to repair it, myself.
(I spoke with MLCS and told them I was going to see if I could bend the parts back without them breaking. The pictures I took are for for the record.)

That’s what I did, I bent them back and put it together. It worked fine… I guess. It turns out that the out-of-square jig body also needed to bent back to 90 degrees, because I was getting dovetails that help the joint at an acute angle. The jig body was at an obtuse angle, and since the stock is held together upside-down in the jig, it makes sense that the assembled angle would be opposite.

First of all, I know I got a lemon and I know I could’ve sent it back. But I find it hard to believe that just about every part of this jig was bent to some degree and it was a fluke. Maybe so, maybe it had been dropped down a flight of stairs, or maybe it was a return. Enough about that, now on to the things that weren’t “defects.”

I know this is a budget jig, but there are some things they could do to make it MUCH better and much easier to use.
First off, as others often find, the clamps are too smooth and the stock often slips.

All it would take would be to add some sandpaper or rubber to this piece.

The instructions call for making a set-up block that helps position the template in the correct position. You need to mark a scrap with a line 19/32” from the edge. You then position the template so that this line is at the gullet of the teeth.

The main flaw with this procedure is that, in order to have it set properly, the line is hidden under the template. One quickly discerns that it is prudent to mark a line proud of 19/32” and set the template so you can see the line a bit, as in the second picture.
I went a step further and glued an mdf stop that rests against the back of the template and holds it in the proper position.

I think they could’ve easily marked 19/32” ON the template with some score lines, as pictured here in sharpie marker.

Also, I don’t have a picture of this, but the template is bowed slightly, so that it is higher in the middle. This causes it to sit off the stock a bit, which effects the depth of the dovetail cut. I’m going to see if I can bend it back flat.

So anyway…. I know, I know, you get what you pay for.


I was able to bend the template to flat…
and I added sandpaper to the clamp bars.
I noticed it now takes much less pressure to securely hold the stock in place, which will help prevent the bars from bending when using narrower boards.

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102 posts in 3809 days

19 comments so far

View Routerisstillmyname's profile


763 posts in 4282 days

#1 posted 03-15-2010 04:09 AM

Sorry to hear about the problems. But MLCS is extremely good about exchanges and refunds.
These days, no matter who you purchase stuff like that, they are all made in china and just have a different logo.
It’s a toss up between harborfreight and the rest. You want a US made jig, you have to mortgage the house ;-)

-- Router è ancora il mio nome.

View Branum's profile


54 posts in 3940 days

#2 posted 03-15-2010 04:27 AM

My condolences on your problems. My Grandfather used to always say that he wasn’t wealthy enough to buy cheap tools. I didn’t really understand what he meant untill I bought a skil router kit. Its an ok tool but that is just it, ok. It is supposed to be skil’s top router but it doesn’t compare to p-c’s base model (which I ended up getting). If I would of just bought the p-c first I would have saved money and time. Personally I have the p-c 4212 dove tail jig and I can bust out a drawer or box with through tails and pins in about 15-20 mins. It does cost more but what you save in time, material, and headaches makes it well worth the price.

-- Branum

View mikedrums's profile


102 posts in 3809 days

#3 posted 03-15-2010 04:42 AM

Routerman, I know their customer service, but I just didn’t want to wait around… especially considering that I may have gotten another one like this one. :-)

Branum, I’m in the same boat as your Grandfather on that. Generally, if I’m buying a tool that I need for a money-making venture, I’m going to splurge a bit. I got my hands on that PC at Lowes and it seems to be a notch or two above this MLCS. I may end up getting the PC or another good one if I get into this more. I love the one handed clamp on them.

I bought this one as an into jig, just to wet my whistle. I plan on rebuilding our kitchen drawers and this should do fine. After I did all the work on it, it works well and does the job.

View bigike's profile


4057 posts in 4061 days

#4 posted 03-15-2010 05:10 AM

sorry to hear about that, but you get what you pay for

-- Ike, Big Daddies Woodshop, http://[email protected]

View dfdye's profile


372 posts in 3810 days

#5 posted 03-15-2010 05:40 AM

Grumble grumble. . . . I was considering this jig since it looked decent for the money.

Coincidentally, that Porter Cable you mentioned was my second choice, so it looks like that will be the one I am getting instead!

Thanks so much for your review, Mike! This was extremely helpful and informative.

-- David from Indiana --

View Branum's profile


54 posts in 3940 days

#6 posted 03-15-2010 06:27 AM

One nice feature with the p-c jig is that if you have the 12” jig you are not stuck with doing joints that are 12” and less. You can clamp some wood as a spacer to the inside of the template and with proper measurements you can make any length of joint you want. There is a video of it but I can’t seem to find it right now. If I do find it I will post it.

-- Branum

View mikedrums's profile


102 posts in 3809 days

#7 posted 03-15-2010 06:31 AM

Ike, I know you get what you pay for… I even said that. :-)
For me, there are two points to my review.
1) even for only 50-60 bucks, the thing should come with parts all bent up.
B) for 50-60 bucks, I expect to have to do a bit of reengineering to get the thing to function better.

David, I don’t want to scare you away from it. The damage to mine was probably a fluke. The MLCS guy said it’s the first time he has that complaint after selling hundreds.
I mention the other things, just so people make informed decisions. If you’re on a tight budget and you don’t mind making a few mods, like the sandpaper and making an accurate set-up block, or even scribing some lines on the template teeth, it could be a great jig for you.

View dfdye's profile


372 posts in 3810 days

#8 posted 03-15-2010 07:05 PM

Mike, thanks for the follow up, but there are a couple of things about the PC that I think will probably be worth the price for me after hearing your experience. Like you said, it is whether the extra effort and limited capabilities are worth the cost, and even if I don’t get a lemon, the extra features of the PC look like they will be worth it in this case. This is why we all post and read reviews, right? :)

-- David from Indiana --

View dbhost's profile


5777 posts in 4005 days

#9 posted 03-15-2010 10:17 PM

In all fairness, you did buy a painfully basic blind dovetail jig. And they did offer to replace your defective unit. For the price you paid, the few foibles with it are certainly something you can live with, and I am certain the modifications you mention would push the price on such an item up, which is kind of pointless, if you are going to spend more, why not save up for an Omnijig?

Now having said that, it is good to know about these issues.

With my experience with MLCS Customer Service, you might want to mention the updates to them… You might be shocked at how responsive they are to customer input.

-- Please like and subscribe to my YouTube Channel

View mikedrums's profile


102 posts in 3809 days

#10 posted 03-15-2010 10:51 PM

I may have failed to make my points clear in the original post.

I don’t have any problems with having to customize cheaper tools.
I’m used to doing it and it’s something I consider when shopping for them.

I’m quite certain that the modifications I mentioned could be done with the current manufacturing processes, with very little set-up/tooling modification, and a tiny cost per unit for material (sandpaper/rubber/glue)... probably under 50 cents wholesale. Certainly not the $350 price difference between this and the Omnijig. :-)

Also, you want a “a painfully basic blind dovetail jig?” Try a Keller Dovetail jig. Two hundred bucks for a template you screw to a 2×4. That… I don’t get at all.

I may have the discussion with MLCS. I still don’t think I should have to pay shipping to send it back… but it’s possible they do pay for it, and he failed to mention it to me.

BTW, if they are anything like other companies who do a lot of internet commerce, they have already read this post. Thy should have, at least…. it’s fast, easy, & free market research. :-)

View 308Gap's profile


337 posts in 3776 days

#11 posted 03-17-2010 05:22 AM

For what its worth I got the new one from rockler, it does have a learning curve to it. Would I like the akeda dc-16 YES, can I afford it NO. the rockler one worked great out of the box, half blinds are easy, through DT are best done with 2 routers setup so you dont have to readjust bit depth. It took me one day figure it out, and I just started woodworking. I almost bought the mlcs jig. Thats one of the frustrating things with woodworking is buying a tool thats are suppose to do what it says and they dont. The general tools jig at HD has some good reviews out there also. Thanks for the good review mikedrums.

-- Thank You Veterans!

View mikedrums's profile


102 posts in 3809 days

#12 posted 03-17-2010 05:47 AM

I like the looks of that Rockler, with the dust hood and the one handed clamping.
Have fun and you’re welcome.

Just imagine buying tools before the internet!

View mcase's profile


446 posts in 3902 days

#13 posted 03-19-2010 06:12 AM

Mike, I have a porter cable that you can have for $50.00. I have the Omnijig and no longer use the 12”

#14 posted 03-19-2010 01:42 PM

the omni jig is the way to go i paid a lot for the 24 in one but it paid for its self the first job i used it on

-- i wonder if obama stood in a wind storm with them big ears of his would he start spinning like a drill bit

View Moron's profile


5048 posts in 4666 days

#15 posted 03-19-2010 01:52 PM

buy once ….cry once….....never cry again.

I learned the hard way on dove tail jigs and bought increasingly more expensive jigs. I now own two, the liegh and the Festool. Had I saved the money from all inexpensive frustrating never ever worlks right jigs, and just bought the last 2…............I could have owned 2 of each

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

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