The Porter-Cable Omnijig dovetail jigs are finally available! Woodcraft in West Springfield, VA had the Porter-Cable rep in Saturday for demonstrations all day long. He said he got the jigs on Monday and only started playing with them then. So there’s a really fast learning curve.
My first question to the rep was do you have them in stock? Yes. Not wanting to look too eager I asked him to demonstrate a few things and asked him some questions. I didn’t get the sense that he really knew why it took so long for PC to launch the product. He blamed it on a “total redesign.”
Happily I plunked down the $500 for the 24 inch version (that’s after a 10% store discount and $50 gift card provided by PC) and had the guys load it in my truck. It weighs 76 pounds according to the shipping label on the box.
As they were loading my truck, I heard one guy murmur to the other “How many dovetails do you have to cut to make $600 worth spending?” Then he asked me if I was going into the “dovetail business.” I just smiled and said I was going to have fun playing with my new toy.
So here are my first impressions. The impressions of someone that has never created a dovetail joint in his life.
As I said, the box is big and says it weighs 76 pounds. Though to me it only feels like 40.
Whoever manufactures these for PC put a lot of care in packaging. There’s a ton of Styrofoam, and all the small parts are individually wrapped, even the screwdriver. The two PC router bits are encased in rubber, wrapped in a plastic bag and then put into plastic boxes. (They’re nice bits with long ½ inch shafts.)
That’s a DVD on top of the Styrofoam. It’s pretty good. Norm Abrams hosts a well produced instructional video. It’s also available on the PC website, which was nice for pre-purchasing decision making. I hope more manufacturers go this route.
There’s almost nothing to assemble on this thing.
I haven’t figured out what the little wrench is for yet.
The whole thing screams quality. Solid feeling large, knurled thumbscrews, template, and base. Robertson (aka. square drive) screws are used to hold everything together except the template support bars. They’re held on by four Allen screws.
Quality is seen in the little things. PC provided a little window to see if the screws are lined up when installing the depth pod (the rack of depth settings above the jig). It’s nice not to have to close your eyes and “use the force” to get them in straight.
Another bit of unnecessary(?) quality are these contoured finger grips on the depth stops. This is not a part that requires any amount of effort to remove once the thumb screw holding it in is loosened.
You also get THREE large, nicely bound, thick paper, glossy covered instruction manuals, one in English, one in Spanish, and one in French. They are all the same and have lots of big, labeled drawings. I would prefer one cheaper manual and a couple of copies of the instruction card. My hunch is that card will get lost a couple of times in my workshop.
One really neat feature is the stabilizer bar holder on the back of the depth pod. Instead of piling it up on the bench somewhere when changing templates, you just lift it up and put it on these hangers in front of you and out of the way. Ingenious. (Now if they could only put a router pad on this thing to hold it while I change bits.)
Storage bar? I don’t know what this would be used for beyond shipping. Evidently, I’m supposed to reinsert the screw after removal for safe keeping.
The pins are pretty beefy. I don’t think they’ll be bending/twisting anytime soon.
I tried to make some through dovetails on my own, without looking at the instructions. It was a big mistake, but that’s what the rep said he did. “All the directions you need are on the instruction card.” Well, not quite. As you can see by my prototype, I was a little off. I would advise reading through the instructions once. (My problem was I didn’t adjust the template height when I began. Hence, different depths for pins and tails.)
At this point, I have no complaints with the Omnijig. It seems very stable and high quality. The only concern I have is with the template support bars. Detaching and reattaching the template and stabilizer bar may chew up the steel of the support bars. However, replacement will be easy if the parts are available. I’ll keep my eyes on this one.
While I didn’t buy any, accessory templates will be available for both sizes of Omnijig. According to the instructions it looks like installing these templates will require taking out 8 screws. They will probably assure alignment, but it seems a bit tedious to do. We’ll see.
I’ve got to build some drawers for a bathroom vanity, so this toy will get some use over the next few weeks. I’ll update with any new comments.