dovetail joints

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Forum topic by thumbs posted 04-06-2007 01:42 AM 3082 views 0 times favorited 20 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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22 posts in 5160 days

04-06-2007 01:42 AM

Am interested in getting into dovetail joinery. I have looked at various brands and types and found an extreme range in cost and complexity. I would like to find one w/which I could do regular joints and also smaller ones on small boxes. I found one made by woodline which is somewhat different, in that you do your routing on a router table rather than using a router. It appears intriguing, but wonder if anyone out there has one or is familiar w/how well they work. I have no experience w/dovetailing, so any advice would be welcomed. The one I referred to is viewable on
Thanks for any advice on this one or any other ones you would recommend.

-- Mitakuya Oyasin

20 replies so far

View Dan Lyke's profile

Dan Lyke

1527 posts in 5210 days

#1 posted 04-06-2007 02:07 AM

Is that the one that does the heart shaped dovetails? That’s pretty cool.

However, that jig does only allow regular spacing.

I’ve got the $80 hardware store half-blind regular spaced jig, and while I’m sure I’ll do every drawer from here on out with it, it’s also clear that there’s a huge difference as the price goes up. I assume that the difference between this one and the $120 one from Rockler is that the stamped frame on this one is slightly out of square, and the Rockler one has a dust collection hood as an add-on.

I’m only a hundred bucks (the $80 jig plus a cheap bit and a guide bushing) ahead of you, but I think the initial questions are:

  • half-blind versus through
  • regular or variable spacing

For a decent quality regular spaced jig, the Woodline looks great if you’re not doing huge stock (you can maneuver it easily upright on the router table).

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

View BassBully's profile


261 posts in 5182 days

#2 posted 04-06-2007 03:43 AM


If you have the money, I would suggest the 24” Leigh dovetail jig but it’s priced at $479. Otherwise I would go with Porter-Cable. If you want cheap, the FineWoodworking site has instructions on how to make your own and it’s not very complicated.

-- There are three types of people in the world, those who can count and those who can't!

View Chip's profile


1904 posts in 5178 days

#3 posted 04-06-2007 04:45 AM

I agree with BassBully. I have the Leigh 24” and love it but I have never tried it on anything smaller then 1/2”. As I am sure you have heard a hundred times, the manual is great and if you’re patient and walk through the tutorial, you’re doing great dovetails in no time. I’d be curious myself to hear if anyone has used the Leigh for smaller dovetails.

-- Better to say nothing and be thought the fool... then to speak and erase all doubt!

View MsDebbieP's profile


18619 posts in 5246 days

#4 posted 04-06-2007 11:36 AM

I have the woodline set but if you’ve been following my router story I have yet to use it.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (, Young Living Wellness )

View Wooder's profile


163 posts in 5272 days

#5 posted 04-06-2007 11:57 AM

Have you considered handcut DTs? I noticed your retired teacher so I thought I share this site with you. Just 2 cents worth.

-- Jimmy

View Woodwayze's profile


63 posts in 5171 days

#6 posted 04-06-2007 12:14 PM

By heart-shaped, do you mean cogged-dovetails? Much easier and more satisfying to cut with hand-tools. Mind you, I had to cut off quite a few ‘gone-bad’ attempts in the old days.
Leigh do a jig-template that will allow you to rout them though!


-- Working fast helps you to arrive at your mistakes in spectacular fashion. (Me 2009!)

View Woodwayze's profile


63 posts in 5171 days

#7 posted 04-06-2007 12:18 PM

For Chip,

I put a post on Lumberjocks yesterday, ref the Leigh, but I can’t find the post now.
I have used it for ‘skinny’ work, but I can’t recall the limits off-hand. It is a Public Holiday over here, so I am not going into the workshop today. I’m not religious, but I still don’t like doing woodwork on Good Friday. So after the holidays I will fire up the jig and see what I can get down to in regard the thickness.


-- Working fast helps you to arrive at your mistakes in spectacular fashion. (Me 2009!)

View Woodwayze's profile


63 posts in 5171 days

#8 posted 04-06-2007 12:22 PM

There is a Leigh jig going begging, without bids, on I think even with the shipping it would be worth a look.

Item #300097204622 (Around $450.00 I would say ) In the UK that is good.

it has a ‘buy it now’ price, and it’s idedntical to mine. All the modern templates will fit it.

Think about it.


-- Working fast helps you to arrive at your mistakes in spectacular fashion. (Me 2009!)

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 5247 days

#9 posted 04-06-2007 06:03 PM

In the Leigh dvd, they show small furniture replicated down to something like 1/8th size. They even have dovetails on the sides, drawers, etc, so I am betting it can be done. Since I just got my Leigh jig, I have not had the chance to make even regular size joints. I will be working on that the next few weeks.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 5173 days

#10 posted 04-07-2007 01:28 AM

I, too, have a Leigh jig. I played with it for a while and did OK. But they had a course at Highland Hardware (now Highland Woodworking) and the most important lesson I got was that you cannot just use it as it came out of the box. Sand the fingers down just like you polish the back of a chisel. The shinier they are the more easily they work.

Take sticky sided sandpaper and put it on the bottom of the hold down to hold the wood more securely.

More better DT’s now. 1/2 inch thick is as small as I’ve done.

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

View Karson's profile


35273 posts in 5486 days

#11 posted 04-07-2007 02:04 AM

I’ve got the Leigh and I’ve only done 1/2 inch but they sell 1/4 – 5/16 etc on their web site The half blind are limited to 1/2” as the only size but the through dovetail is 1/4”

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View frank's profile


1492 posts in 5291 days

#12 posted 04-07-2007 02:42 AM

—-thanks for that link Wooder;
....more than two cents worth!

-- --frank, NH,

View Wooder's profile


163 posts in 5272 days

#13 posted 04-07-2007 05:49 AM

Most welcome Master Frank!

-- Jimmy

View coloradoclimber's profile


548 posts in 5153 days

#14 posted 04-09-2007 06:26 AM

If you’ve read the 2 bits on router bits thread you know I broke open my new PC DT jig this weekend. I got the 4216. It’s the 4212 with the 4215 template for making 1/4 inch DTs and finger joints.

I’m pretty happy with it. I’ve invested a couple half days playing with it and so far I’ve found it fast to setup and easy to use. I’ve cut half blind dt, through dt, sliding dt, and finger joints on it. In terms of out of the box to first dt, less than 30 minutes. Additional time to first reasonably tight fitting dt, another 10 minutes. It turns out you have to fiddle with setting bit depth and template position to get a good tight joint. But it’s pretty straightforward and PC scribed the instructions for adjusting the joint right into the template.

I started with sliding DTs. I tried a couple different sizes, width and depth. Cutting the joint was easy but I did have to fiddle with the settings to get a reasonably tight joint.

Next I tried half blind DT. It took three tries but on the third try I had an excellent joint. Tight, clean, and spot on edge to edge match up. I was very pleased with results.

Note here, if you’ve read the other thread on router bits this where I comment about using high quality bits. I tried a few different bits and there is a notable difference in the ease and quality of cut between an el-cheapo bit and a high end name brand bit. I tried some cheap box set brand new carbide bits made in china and struggled to get really crisp results. I switched to a brand new Whiteside dt bit and the difference in quality of cut and joint were significant. If you use this jig for joinery (which, I assume, is what you bought it for) get quality bits that you reserve just for cutting joints.

I switched the template to through dovetails. I only cut one, it came out ok, the cut was clean but not as tight as I wanted. I’m sure I could have adjusted the bit or the template and gotten a very nice joint but that was the end of the first session and I was done for the day. I just wanted to set up the jig and try a through dt, just to see how it would work. For no adjustment or tweaking the joint came out pretty good, just not as tight as I’m sure I could get.

The next day I focused completely on 1/4 finger joints. This was journey of discovery. Read my post in the 2 bits on router bit thread for the whole story. The bottom line ended up being, use a 1/4 HSS up cut spiral bit and you can get excellent results. Try to use a cheap 1/4 carbide straight bit and you’ll waste hours trying to figure out how to overcome all the tearout. I cut a couple dozen joints today and I never could get a good clean cut with a cheap carbide bit. I eventually tried the spiral bit and cuts are great, the joints are tight, with near zero tear out.

Overall I’m very happy with this jig. It was fast to setup, easy to use, and it allowed a weekend warrior like myself to produce some tight clean joints pretty quickly. It wasn’t cheap, a couple hundred bucks for the jig. And I’ll probably spend another $50 to $80 getting some high end bits I’ll dedicate to joinery.

That’s my 2 cents so far. And since this is my new toy I’m interested in anyone else’s take or stories on this jig.

View Bill's profile


2579 posts in 5247 days

#15 posted 04-09-2007 06:54 PM

Great write-up CC. Nice to hear of your experience with the dovetail jig. I will be trying my Leigh jig soon, so this gives me some starting tips.

What woods did you use for your trial cuts? I was thinking of using pine, since it is much cheaper than my oak. I think I will have to make several attempts to get it down correctly, and the pine can be a money saver for that.

-- Bill, Turlock California,

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