A Guide to Finding the Best Dovetail Jig For Woodworking
Best dovetail jig. Dovetail joints are not only beautiful, but they’re practically unbreakable. In fact, woodworkers have been using them since ancient Egypt, and the pieces we find throughout history are still intact today.
If you want to get into creating dovetail joints for your woodworking projects, you’re going to need the best dovetail jig you can find.
Luckily, we’re going over the best dovetail jigs for woodworking, so you can decide which one has the best features for your needs. Stay tuned to learn all about dovetail jigs and their features to determine which one is right for you.
What are Dovetail Joints?
Dovetail joints take the ends of the wood you’re working with and interlock them together with tails and pins. This creates more surface area for the attachment if you use glue, but it will also hold together well on its own.
These types of joints are the best for making cabinetry since they are so strong. Cutting these joints by hand is possible, but very difficult. That’s why most professionals use dovetail jigs to craft these high-quality joints for their projects.
There are a few types of dovetail joints, including half-blind joints and through joints, with some more advanced techniques including secret mitered and sliding dovetails.
Check out our blog on how to make dovetail joints for woodworking tips and other advice on how to use dovetail joints.
Guide to Finding the Best Dovetail Jig For Woodworking
Types of Dovetail Jigs
The jig itself is a tool that holds your wood in place and acts as a template for you to cut the pins and tails for your dovetail joints using your router or jigsaw.
Fixed: Fixed dovetail jigs use standard size templates to help you make clean, consistent cuts with your router or jigsaw. These are much easier to use than variable jigs since the shape you make with them is “fixed.” There is not as much variety in these, but many of them still have different templates for sizes and shapes you can cut.
Variable: These jigs have fingers that you can move on your own, rather than a set template. Variable jigs give you more variety in the size and shape of the dovetails you can make, but they are more difficult to use. You have to be careful when you’re measuring to set up the fingers on a variable dovetail jig to make it even.
Whether you are looking for the fixed dovetail jig template or the variable jig, there are plenty of options and features available to make it work best for you.
Best Dovetail Jig Features to Look For in Choosing the Best Dovetail Jig
Size: What size of boards will you need to cut dovetail edges into? There are models for 12-inch, 18-inch, and 24-inch dovetail jigs depending on how much room you will need.
Fixed or Variable: Are you looking for a fixed or variable jig? Keep in mind the differences, and know what you’ll be using the jig for most often. Some models are more versatile than others, for a price.
Styles: Do you only need to make a standard through dovetail or half-blind dovetail? Or do you need to craft something a bit more sophisticated? Cheaper jigs can do everything you need for basic dovetails, but you need the more complicated ones for variable dovetails and other techniques.
Templates: Fixed dovetails will have different size templates included, including templates for different shapes you can make, including rounded vs. flat dovetails.
Guides: The best models will also include guides for your router and other bells and whistles you can use to make the cleanest cuts possible every time.
Cost: Any extra features you get will come with a higher price tag. If you want the cheapest model because you’re just starting out, you might want to go with one that works well for beginners. If you’re a pro looking to use this every day, you’ll want a dependable model that will last a long time.
Manufacturers of Dovetail Jigs
Some popular manufacturers of dovetail jigs are Porter-Cable, Leigh, CMT, Keller, and Rockler. Let’s look at some of the popular models for each and compare them.
Porter-Cable makes some of the best top-of-the-line fixed dovetail jigs for professional use. Some of their most popular models are the 12-inch Dovetail Jig 4210, 4212, and 4216.
These models can accommodate boards 12 inches wide. The 4216 model comes with the additional 4211, 4213, and 4216 templates to make half-blind, rabbet, and sliding dovetails. The standard model doesn’t come with the extra templates, but still has guides for making other size dovetails.
Leigh is another manufacturer that many woodworkers call the best-of-the-best. They have larger models available than the Porter-Cable ones, including a Pro 24-inch model, and these are the best variable models you can get.
The Leigh D4R Pro and the “Super” series Leigh dovetail jigs have 12-inch, 18-inch, and 24-inch models depending on your price range. These variable jigs can be used to make variably spaced half-blind, through, box, sliding, inlaid, end-on-end dovetails, and more, making them the most versatile dovetail jigs on the market.
The CMT300 Universal Dovetail Jig is a great starter fixed jig for new woodworkers. It’s easy to set up and use. The standard model only allows for 1/2 inch half-blind dovetails, but you can buy separate templates to make different dovetail varieties. This way your tools can grow with your skillset.
The Keller system 135-1500 is a basic 15-inch fixed template for beginners. This system comes with a straight bit, standard bit, phenolic guide, ball-bearing template guides, and instructions manual to help you learn how to use it. This is the cheaper option for anyone new to dovetails, and it’s easy to learn how to use.
Rockler and Others:
Rockler makes a lot of great models and templates for a wide variety of price ranges, so you can always start small and work your way up. There are other models available as well from other manufacturers, and these can be effective for beginners.
If you’re looking for other woodworking tools (not for dovetails), check out our blog about other woodworking jigs you can use for a wide variety of projects.
Which is the Best Dovetail Jig?
Deciding which is the best dovetail jig for your woodworking projects will ultimately come down to what you want to use it for.
If you’re a professional woodworker, you want the best of the best, and the best you can afford. We recommend the Porter-Cable or Leigh models in whichever size best fits your needs. If you’re a beginner, you’ll want to start small with a jig like the CMT, Rockler, or Keller models.
If you have a question about woodworking, we can answer it! Contact us today to learn more about woodworking and get practical tips and guides for any number of projects.