Narrow dovetails with a Leigh jig?

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Forum topic by bbrown posted 08-13-2019 12:28 AM 249 views 0 times favorited 7 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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260 posts in 4007 days

08-13-2019 12:28 AM

Topic tags/keywords: jig resource joining traditional question

What’s the narrowest dovetail bit available? I have always hand-cut my dovetails, but now need to make 12 chests and that much dovetailing is rather daunting. I’m really particular about the look and want to use a dovetail fig and produce pins with narrow necks that look closer to hand cut. So, I’m just wondering if there are bits that would hold up with neck size of around, say, 1/8 inch, for the tail boards. The boards are 5/8 ” thick.

If not, I’ll at least be able to use a Leigh jig (“Super 12”) to quickly make the pins, and then have to cut all the tails by hand.


-- Micah 6:8

7 replies so far

View AlaskaGuy's profile


5332 posts in 2764 days

#1 posted 08-13-2019 01:20 AM

I don’t know off the top of my head but Leigh has very good website and customer service.

Another off the top of my head. I don’t think you’ll find what you’re looking for. Get 2 narrow and the bit will break.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View bbrown's profile


260 posts in 4007 days

#2 posted 08-13-2019 01:12 PM

Thanks Alaska. I figured that what you said might be the case – a dovetail router bit needs a lot of support for the torque and work it must do. A narrow neck just can’t support that. But this is exactly why I always have hand cut my dovetails; for that small 1/16 or 1/8 neck on the pin. That’s what sets apart hand work. But with this many thousands of dovetails I am willing to compromise that look somewhat for speed. So my question really comes down to is it even possible to make narrow dovetails with a jig, and do they make router bits with narrow necks, and if so how narrow?

Thanks again.

-- Micah 6:8

View splintergroup's profile


2780 posts in 1677 days

#3 posted 08-13-2019 04:09 PM

I have a Leigh D4 and it has a minimum spacing of an inch or so. I seem to remember that drawers needed to be several inches deep if I wanted to use the jig for DTs.

The narrow stuff requires me to use the router table with the Incra fence. No limits there.

View LesB's profile


2154 posts in 3898 days

#4 posted 08-13-2019 05:09 PM

I have never seen a bit narrow enough to cut pin sockets that small. Also the thickness of the wood will make a big difference in the ability of a narrow bit to make the cut without breaking.

The thought does occur that if you removed as much wood for the socket as you can by using a band saw or similar tool it would relieve a lot of the stress on the dove tail bit because it would only need to clean up the edges of the cut.
That adds the two extra steps of marking and precutting the sockets but if you are making a lot of them it would undoubtedly save time.

Now the problem remains finding a narrow dovetail bit. A HSS steel bit would probably be better than a carbide because carbide is so brittle. A quick search on the internet shows there are companies that make custom bits.

-- Les B, Oregon

View EarlS's profile


2988 posts in 2803 days

#5 posted 08-13-2019 05:16 PM

If I recall, Leigh made dovetails on matchsticks as a gimmick. You might look in the back of your user manual or online for instructions on narrow work. I know they have really good appendices for their jigs that are very detailed. I can’t get to their site at work to post a link.

-- Earl "I'm a pessamist - generally that increases the chance that things will turn out better than expected"

View bbrown's profile


260 posts in 4007 days

#6 posted 08-14-2019 01:28 AM

Thanks guys.

Leigh does indeed have a very through manual that does cover narrow pins. Their solution is pretty much what I am doing: using the jig for the pins which are easy to cut narrow (I use a straight bit with a top bearing to get the 1/8” neck) and then cut the tail boards by hand. Not as fast as doing it all with the jig, but hogging all that wood out of the pin boards is super fast and saves a lot of time.

This may sound odd, but I’m curious—-> can a CNC machine do dovetails?

-- Micah 6:8

View LesB's profile


2154 posts in 3898 days

#7 posted 08-15-2019 07:22 PM

“Thanks guys

This may sound odd, but I m curious—-> can a CNC machine do dovetails?”

I don’t know about CNC but you might look at this device, The Pantorouter.

It does great dove tails and a lot more and is faster and easier to set up than the Leigh jig. I have both and I now go to the Panto Router first to make dovetails. If you use your imagination you could probably figure out how the Panto Router can help make the tail cuts on thin dovetails too.

-- Les B, Oregon

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