A few minor annoyances, but otherwise a great dowel jig.

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Review by Marcus posted 01-25-2013 01:24 PM 17604 views 1 time favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
A few minor annoyances, but otherwise a great dowel jig. No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I just completed my first project using this jig after picking up the master set from JessEm . At the introductory price, it was a very appealing setup compared to what else was on the market.

JessEm shipped it out quickly and it arrived at my home safely a few days later. First impressions were that this was a very solidly made jig. Previously, I had been using the small clamp on beadlock jig from Rockler and was expecting something of the same heft. This jig will shock out when you see how robust it is…definitely no worries about flexing.

Using the jig is very intuitive and easy. You just have to mark your centerline and both pieces and then line it up with the centerline of the jig. I found this to be very easy and as accurate. The pieces I were working with just happened to be the right size so that I could use the side of the jig as a reference and still get the dowels centered. This proved to be an extremely quick and accurate way to align the pieces and I will probably do this going forward even if I end up with dowels not exactly centered.

When I started getting in the swing of things and really putting the jig to use, I ran into a couple minor annoyances. The first being the drill bit. The included bits really seemed to struggle chewing through some maple compared to the bit that came w/ the beadlock setup. I would really have to push down to chew through 3/8” and clean the bit very often to remove debris. Not a deal breaker, but to me, I know there are other bits out there. My biggest complaint is with the adjustment. It is extremely accurate (measured within the margin of error on my el-cheapo digital calipers), but its in 1/8” increments. I was really hoping for 1/16” to be able to fine tune the dowel placement. If it wasnt for this lack of fine tuning, I would probably call this a 5 star jig. Its extremely well made, as accurate as you can hope for, and priced right especially while on sale.

My final complaint is more of a personal one, but it may apply to some other people as well. When I have jigs with multiple parts, I like a nice case to keep them in. This just came in a cardboard box. It will be a fun project making a nice box to keep everything in, but I would have preferred a nice molded plastic case to keep everything safe and secure. Of course I know this is personal preference as some people hate these cases.

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1165 posts in 2786 days

6 comments so far

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1165 posts in 2786 days

#1 posted 01-25-2013 01:35 PM

I forgot one other “nice to have” that I would have liked to see with this jig. It would be nice to have some sort of depth setting gauge like on the kreg jig for setting the collars on the drill bits. Once again, a minor annoyance that doesnt change the fact that the jig just works.

View mbs's profile


1668 posts in 3707 days

#2 posted 01-25-2013 02:57 PM

I have the other style of Jessem’s jig and I have the same minor complaints. Was yours supposed to have a collar in the kit? A collar is shown on their website as being part of the kit. Maybe they forgot to ship it or it’s hung up in the box.

I wish it had a 1/2 inch drill option on mine but I don’t. I’d like to have a plastic case too but the box is well built and will probably last a long time. Just difficult to keep everything in it’s place in an open box.

You might try the Colt 5 start bits. They were recommended to me by a fellow LJ who said they’re designed to eat the wood quickly quickly. They’re pretty expensive as far as bits go. I bought a few 1/4” bits on sale at Woodcraft but I haven’t tried them yet..

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

View bullhead1's profile


228 posts in 3016 days

#3 posted 01-26-2013 02:13 AM

I got mine a little while ago and I’m glad I saved my money and didn’t buy the Dowelmax. I watched the video(on Dowlmax) and changing depths with spacers would be a real pain in the you know what. I’ve only done a small end table project with the Jessem it and performed as expected. Your wish of 1/16 spacing would probably not be feasible with how this jig is designed. If you look at the the stops on the bottom I don’t think they could have put them any closer and still have structural integrity. I doubt that anyone will notice on a hidden dowel if it’s 1/16 off.

View don1960's profile


227 posts in 3454 days

#4 posted 01-26-2013 03:51 AM

I recently purchased the same kit, and agree with all you’ve said. I found a set of Dewalt brad point bits on sale for $7 at the local HD, and replaced the bits in the kit with the brad points. Big difference.

I think the bits that came with the kit could be sharpened differently to do a better job in hard wood. That will be an experiment for the future. The brad point bits I got have a much higher helix angle and clear themselves way better. This could be something Jessem could do to improve the kit without adding any additional cost. (or very very little)

After having pretty much duplicated the three line joint in their video with some scrap hard maple pieces I had laying around to test the thing, I’m impressed. Less than 5 minutes, and I had a joint that would stand up to pretty much anything you could throw at it. Can’t ask for too much more.

The other part of the kit I would like to see made better are the stop rings. Although completely functional, they look like something you’d get in a knockoff toolset. This really stands out when you look at the precision fit and finish of the rest of the pieces. It would be cool if they were made out of polished brass. (yea, I know, I’m anal)

-- -- Don from PA



280 posts in 2770 days

#5 posted 01-29-2013 03:40 PM

Great review Marcus and thank you for sharing. The 1/8” increment limits were a point of contention for me as well on both of Jessem’s jigs, albeit, a minor issue IMO. I like both of their jigs but think they had nice features and capabilities in each model, even Jessem’s designer admitted they both had their own unique advantages.

Bullhead – I initially came across the dowelmax system when searching wood doweling 101 joinery. I did get a good laugh out of the YouTube Billy Maye’s style “have you ever tried to yada yada yada” sales pitch video with this character fumbling with every tool but his own jig, I understand it was a sales pitch video, but still funny.

Actually spoke with this gentleman (the inventor) and guy in the video over the phone acquiring details on his jig, very nice guy and extremely helpful. He explained everything about his jig which I questioned and was ready to purchase until I asked him about Jessem’s version and how his compared. It was the only other product I had found to this point that was a high-end dowel jig, I thought they were both nice. He instantly started airing dirty laundry about how Jessem purchased a dowelmax and copied his design, blah blah blah, not what you tell a customer, ever! Wasn’t impressed at that point and hopefully he’ll clue-in on what customers expect from a professional standards protocol.

View DannyW's profile


279 posts in 564 days

#6 posted 12-09-2019 07:44 PM

I got the 3/8” version of this jig for a project building dining table leaves. I tried using 2 cheaper jigs that I had on some scrap and could not get the locating pins accurate enough, so I asked around on this site and the JessEm came highly recommended. I got the jig and was immediately impressed by how well made and hefty the unit was, and with the positive positioning of the adjustments. I tried it out and got perfect alignment immediately, so I used it on both sides of all 4 leaves. The leaves mated up perfectly in my shop but I was afraid that it might not fit as well in the actual table, but I was wrong, it fit perfectly! Very impressed! I can tell that I will be using this jig a LOT in the future.

I agree that the cheap bit was a disappointment; as cheap as good bits are this was a real surprise. However I have a nice set of Montana brad point bits that I plan to use. Another disappointment was the cardboard box, but I will end up making a box for it myself.

-- DannyW

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