I'm thinking of buying Dovetail Jig.

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Forum topic by FrankA posted 01-29-2008 10:05 AM 3871 views 0 times favorited 28 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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139 posts in 4344 days

01-29-2008 10:05 AM

I’m thinking of getting a dovetail jig to make a few boxes for my wife. I would like to dovetail the drawers and sides. Can anyone recommend a good jig for this.
The Leigh jigs are out of my price range at this time .

As a first jig and only for hobby work i would like to keep it at around $100.

Does anyone have any suggestions?


-- Frank Auge---Nichols NY----"My opinion is neither copyrighted nor trademarked, but it is price competitive."

28 replies so far

View motthunter's profile


2141 posts in 4364 days

#1 posted 01-29-2008 02:06 PM

woodline has some cheap systems that seem to work and woodcraft has a basic jig that they stock. Good luck

-- making sawdust....

View Mario's profile


902 posts in 4616 days

#2 posted 01-29-2008 03:26 PM

If you have some spare time on your hands to set up -resetup and resetup the Jig you can get the one from Harbor Freight. It is inexpensive and may be a good starter unit.

-- Hope Never fails

View SPalm's profile


5334 posts in 4447 days

#3 posted 01-29-2008 04:43 PM

Dovetails are kind of a show off type joint. If they are not really perfect, they don’t look so good. Maybe you should try to use another joint to do what you want that does not require such perfection. There are many types of joints that can be used for drawers that will look really nice.

-- -- I'm no rocket surgeon

View FrankA's profile


139 posts in 4344 days

#4 posted 01-29-2008 04:58 PM

Thank you for the replies.
To anyone who read my post before I edited it thanks for deciphering the rambling question.
That’s what happens you wake up and sit in bed with the laptop without grabbing your glasses.
When I get a jig I was planning on a lot of practice before attacking any good wood. I have found out that hand cutting dovetails is something I will never master.

-- Frank Auge---Nichols NY----"My opinion is neither copyrighted nor trademarked, but it is price competitive."

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1520 posts in 4690 days

#5 posted 01-29-2008 05:28 PM

I’ve got a super cheap even spacing blind dovetail jig. It was worth the $80 or so that I spent on it, but next time I’ll go bigger. I think Rockler has a cheap one that gives more control, including different width pins and tails, and I’d seriously consider that if I were going to go cheap next time.

The things I know of to look for in a dovetail jig (and I’m a newbie) are:

  • General alignment: My super cheap one has a slightly warped frame. It’s been fine for what I use it for (drawers and larger boxes), but for fine small box work it wouldn’t be reasonable.
  • Through vs blind: Generally blind dovetails are cut in one pass, with both pieces clamped at right angles, through dovetails are cut in two passes, the tails with a dovetail bit, the pins with a straight bit.
  • Spacing of the pins: At the low end you’re not going to get complete control over spacing, but some of the low end systems do have templates that let you have narrow pins and wide tails, or even some templates for fixed widths (Rockler advertises 4”, 5”, 7” and 10”) with alternating or other interesting spacings.
  • Dust collection.

Were I to do it again I think I’d get the Rockler $140 jig with one of the “Distinctive Series” templates (on special for $20 right now) and the appropriate bits. It’d come to about twice what you were hoping to pay, but I think you’d get four times the utility of a simple half-blind cut-it-all-in-one-pass no dust collection option jig.

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4527 days

#6 posted 01-29-2008 06:33 PM

I have the Porter-Cable. It doesn’t cost too much and is available from Wood craft and about a dozen other places. It can be had with through dovetail capablity and is understood by many who can help you if need be.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View Alin Dobra's profile

Alin Dobra

351 posts in 4453 days

#7 posted 01-30-2008 01:44 AM


Machine made dovetails on a box look artificial and showy in the wrong sense. Machine made dovetails make a lot of sense on drawers (mechanical joint that will survive the glue failing) but not on boxes. A simple miter joint with keys is visually more interesting since you can break the repetitive machine made pattern. As suggested before, if you do not get them perfect (probably about 1 hours setup time if you cannot keep a router only for this task and always work with fixed width stock) they look bad. Handcut dovetails are, of course, a different deal and can be used to a great effect. Look around on this website for boxes people have made to see what joints you can put on your own boxes.


-- -- Alin Dobra, Gainesville, Florida

View matter's profile


210 posts in 4334 days

#8 posted 02-02-2008 04:20 AM

If you are going to buy a jig, buy a good one. Porter Cable makes a decent jig, and it’s only a couple hundred bucks.

I do my dovetails by hand, not because they are superior, but because I am cheap. My wife is always impressed (with the dovetails) even if they are slightly imperfect. Never give up on that one. Perfection is a journey.

-- The only easy wood project is a fire

View bobdurnell's profile


317 posts in 4462 days

#9 posted 02-02-2008 04:36 AM

The Keller Journeyman dovetail jig I believe can’t be beat for cost $145 at Woodcraft. I had complete success the first time I used it. It only makes through dovetail though. My LJ brother and I used it to make a large toy box for his granddauther and It came out great. If you want to see it just click on my projects listed as toy chest for daughter of niece.

-- bobdurnell, Santa Ana California.

View Catspaw's profile


236 posts in 4380 days

#10 posted 02-02-2008 02:20 PM

Porter Cable has a new one out that’s running about $110. Everybody is carrying it, Lowes and such. (maybe it’s not new, but, i don’t remember them having one that cheap for awhile.)

Looks good, but, don’t know. I spotted it and started thinking….hhmmmmm..maybe I needs me a dovetail machine.

Guess I may agree with Alin and disagree with Spalm….maybe. I’ve been given lectures on how “people” can tell a hand made dovetail from a machine made one. If one of those “people” is paying for hand-made craftsmanship, they’re not going to want machine stuff.

I posted a thread awhile back about what the deal is with people (various woodworkers) thinking everything has to be perfect (joints and surfaces and what-not) then they spend more time making it look rustic and hand worked. I still haven’t reconciled that mindset yet.

My bosses son started some apprenticing with Randy O’donnel (don’t know if he’s a famous/known kinda guy or not.) He’d come back to the shop and try to make hand cut dovetails. Looks to me like I would rather machine cut them, then, rustic-ify them by hand.

Guess it’s a personal asthetic choice. Of course let us know which one you get so we (maybe just me) can drool alittle.

-- arborial reconfiguration specialist

View Alphie's profile


39 posts in 4351 days

#11 posted 02-02-2008 04:00 PM

My wife (bless her) bought me the 12-inch Porter Cable for Christmas. I think it ran about $120-$150, but I was so happy she did it, I didn’t ask the price. It will do half blind dovetails (I think that’s what they’re called) and also through dovetails. I’ve played with it a little, and I was impressed. It’s been cold up here in the north and my shop is unheated and outside, so I haven’t done anything extensive. O.K., I’m a wimp. I’m not experienced with dovetails, but have always wanted to create the look. This unit seems fairly easy to work with, but again, I haven’t used it a lot.

-- Tom, Michigan ~ Working with a renewable resource called wood

View FrankA's profile


139 posts in 4344 days

#12 posted 02-02-2008 04:12 PM

Alphie, I would not concider you a wimp. Living here in upstate NY my shop is also a detached garage with no insulation or heat. If it is below 35f it is just to cold to work out there. I am hoping for an early spring. I plan on putting a wall up to seperate the shop from the car area and insulate the shop.

-- Frank Auge---Nichols NY----"My opinion is neither copyrighted nor trademarked, but it is price competitive."

View CedarFreakCarl's profile


594 posts in 4618 days

#13 posted 02-02-2008 04:18 PM

Frank, there are lots of opinions regarding dovetails. Machine cut, hand cut, fixed spacing and variable spacing. Although I intend to tackle hand cut dove tails in the near future, for the time being, I’ve got the Porter Cable jig. I bought the PC 4210 at Lowe’s and I think it was $119. This one only does half-blind dovetails. The other version is the 4112 which does half blind and through dovetails as well as standard box joints. One drawback of a fixed template jig is just that. It’s a fixed template. That means your stock width in limited to fixed dimensions of 1” plus 1/4”. So, the width would be 2 1/4”, 3 1/4”, 4 1/4” and so on. The dovetails are centered every inch. (1/2” wide each). This provides for half tails at the top and bottom. I’ve also got the miniture template, I think the 4215 which is basically 1/2 as big as the larger ones. In other words the stock need to be cut in 1/2” increments plus 1/8”. If you want variable spacing, your only option is to skip every other tail (or more) in between. Here’s a link to the Porter cable website which details the 4200 series jigs. 4200 Series Also PC has a supplemental manual in PDF format that shows many variations on how to use this particular jig. (Angled, inlaid etc. )Supplemental Manual
One more thing to mention is that with this system, you are limited to 7 deg. dovetails that are 17/32” width at the widest point. At one point, you could only get these from Porter Cable, but both Freud and Rockler now carry these.

Wood Magazine had an article in the March 2007 (#175) that compared dovetail jigs. They picked the PC 4212 as the “Top Tool Value”.

The bottom line for me was simplicity. Once you’re familiar with it, this think is really easy to use, particularly if doing half blind dovetails as both the tails and pins are formed at the same time.

Well Frank, I hope this helps. Just my $.02 and what works for me.

-- Carl Rast, Pelion, SC

View gizmodyne's profile


1784 posts in 4655 days

#14 posted 02-02-2008 06:36 PM

1 1/2 years ago I bought the P.C. jig and returned it. It does not allow half-blind dovetails in 1/2” stock, which is something I do. Maybe this has been changed.

-- -John "Do I have to keep typing a smiley? Just assume it's a joke."

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 4527 days

#15 posted 02-02-2008 07:45 PM

I believe it does 1/2 inch now, John. I use 5/8 stock for all my drawers.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

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