Dovetail jigs, router table template vs. bench mount

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Forum topic by eflanders posted 11-04-2017 04:29 PM 1403 views 0 times favorited 5 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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326 posts in 2620 days

11-04-2017 04:29 PM

Topic tags/keywords: jig router

I’m wanting a dovetail jig mostly for box an drawer making. I’m wondering what the pros and cons are for the router table use jigs (like MLCS 9411) or a bench top jig (MLCS 8711, or PC ). Obviously one cuts both the pins and tails at the same time supposedly making for perfect alignment. However I work at a high school shop and have seen how easily things don’t go as planned with the (Porter Cable) bench top jig. I have never used the just a template jig though. I assume there is more margin for error in aligning the pins to tails? But are they inherently safer as you use them on a router table. I would love to hear from only those that have worked with both styles that can offer some first-hand insight and experience please.
Thanks in advance!

5 replies so far

View Lazyman's profile


5384 posts in 2157 days

#1 posted 11-04-2017 08:54 PM

I’ve got a Milescraft Dovetail template master. It is actually a template that you use to make your own dovetail jigs. It can be used to make jigs that can be used on the router table or with a handheld router. I’ve only used it on one project so far (my lathe tool rack) but it worked fine. Most jigs, this one included, require very careful setup so the key to success is to make sure you understand how to do the setup to get close tolerances.

My only concern about using a DT jig on the router table is that it would seem to me that really large or long pieces might be a little difficult to manage.

Of course the other approach is to cut them by hand and skip the router altogether.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

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326 posts in 2620 days

#2 posted 11-04-2017 09:07 PM

Our shop only has one dovetail jig (the porter cable) with over 20 students in a class we need to get another one or two. I was thinking that if the other set ups are safer and/or simpler, we would change jig styles.

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5384 posts in 2157 days

#3 posted 11-04-2017 09:40 PM

With the Milescraft template master, you could make as many jigs as you want or even have the students make their own jigs. The jigs are made entirely of wood so if one of the students hits it with a spinning router, it might be less likely to cause injury or destroy an expensive template guide. With this system you can make them for use on the router table or handheld and if nothing else, see for yourself which style is safer or simpler to use.

Another thought: There are also a several plans out there for making your own jigs that are similar to the PC or Leigh style. Stumpy nubs has plans and I seem to recall that Woodsmith has several different sets of plans. Might be a good shop project to have the students build a few jigs. You could even break up them into groups and have each one work together to make a jig.

-- Nathan, TX -- Hire the lazy man. He may not do as much work but that's because he will find a better way.

View Markmh1's profile


115 posts in 1213 days

#4 posted 11-06-2017 03:52 PM

I own a Porter Cable 4216 jig and I understand how things get misaligned. Usually when I read a review on this jig, it starts with the words “For the money”. It’s not a good tool. On my jig, the horizontal and vertical clamping surfaces are not at 90 degrees to one another. When I get the pins to align with the tails, the jig will not hold this adjustment, the alignment wanders. For the effort I put into using this jig, it is IMO, a hole to pour time into.

I use a Keller jig. Looking on E-pay, and C-list, these can be had for 1/2 retail, sometimes less. Once the Keller is adjusted, it holds it’s location for sizing pins very well. As the cutter wears, it will need a little tuning. I have found the difference between magic and “what now?” to be as little as .003-.004. Same as other dovetail jigs.

I have read various methods of aligning pins to tails on the Keller, I’ve found sliding the pin jig into the already cut tails, and setting a small c-clamp as a stop to bump the pin board against works the best. Because I always cut tails with the tail board centered in the jig, I can check alignment before cutting the pins by making sure the pin board is centered in the pin pattern on the pin template.

Boy, I hope this makes sense.

There’s a you tube video where a fellow named Harlan uses a Keller jig. It is just about that easy.

The downside of the Keller is no provision to cut 1/2 blind dovetails. Through dovetails is the only option.


View pintodeluxe's profile


6150 posts in 3583 days

#5 posted 11-06-2017 05:18 PM

I have the PC 4210, Leigh Super 18, and the Akeda DC16. All are good jigs.

The P.C. 4210 / 4212 will produce good fitting joints if you are careful with the setup. It has the obvious disadvantage of being limited to fixed spacing, but for some projects that’s no big deal. If you use two routers… one with a small straight bit and one with the dovetail cutter… it creates very clean joints.

The Leigh style jigs have been a disappointment for me. Maybe because the price is fairly high, I expected a stellar quality tool. The elliptical E-Bush is a weak point to the whole system. If the bushing loosens up and rotates on the router sub-base, it fouls up the joint fit. And if you don’t have the optional VRS, the router is quite unstable. Does it make dovetails that fit? Yes. Is it a pleasure to use? No.

The Akeda is my favorite. In fact I haven’t touched either of the other jigs since I got an Akeda.
The router is stable, and the bit is protected within the jig so it is much safer. Dust collection is excellent with the optional waste removal kit. Joint fit is perfect every time. It is almost hard to mess up.

I even have a dedicated finger joint template for my Leigh, and the thing is beautiful. The aluminum gleams like justice, but I prefer to make asymmetrical box joints on the Akeda. All you need is the box joint bit.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

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