A few weeks ago, Stumpy Nubs offered plans for a dovetail machine on his website. You can see the video here, or order plans for the dovetail machine here. Anyway, as soon as I seen the video I knew I wanted it. It reminded me of some very expensive jigs which I can’t afford. So I ordered the plans. Then those plans sat on my computer and I’d almost forgotten about them.
Then a few days ago, my I was given a Dovetail jig that is made by general tools.
I got it for free, and as the old saying goes, I got what I paid for it. This thing actually is pretty easy to setup and use. The problem is that to get dovetails that fit correctly is only by pure luck. The results are not consitant at all. Besides that, I don’t like the round look of the joint where the pins and tails meet.
And as you can see, I didn’t just whip out one crappy joint and give up. I spent the better part of the day messing with this thing. To me, that is a good reason to stick it somewhere in my shop until I find someone else who wants to try their hand with it. I’m not wasting that much time again when after a day I didn’t even get one single satisfactory joint. The best of the lot still was too loose for my taste.
Some good came out of it though. It reminded me to get my butt in gear and build the Stumpy Machine.
The frame of the jig, although it looks simple, actually employs some pretty nifty features. Everything is adjustable on this thing. I am impressed with the thought that went into it.
I did make a few changes. I don’t remember the last time I built something from a plan though that I didn’t change at least a few things to my liking.
I was not able to get ten inch drawer slides locally. I wound up getting the shortest slides I could find of quality I was willing to deal with, which were fourteen inches long. Therefore, I had to make slots in the rear panel for these to fit and work correctly. Although, this may not be pretty sticking out the back, they shouldn’t effect how the machine works.
The knobs on top for the lockdown feature were supposed to be temporary, since I forgot to add the correct length screws for this to my list when I went to town for supplies. I am a little further along in the project now though and am thinking of leaving these knobs unless they get in the way of the machine functioning properly, which I don’t think they will.
The adjustment knob in the middle is wooden. I was not able to get large enough plastic knobs locally for this. I lik making things myself instead of buying them though, so this is not an issue.
The biggest change I made to the design is the width. The machine is designed to use a section of track. I desided to use the whole thirty six inches of track that I had though instead of cutting it. This required me to change the measurements of everything accordingly. I probably will never need that much width to the machine, but I think it’s nice that I have it if I do.
I got the best drawer slides I could get locally. I am not happy with them either. I may order some at a later date to replace them. I made absolutely sure everything was square. I double and triple checked my spring locations on the side. This thing just wouldn’t track right. Then I took it all apart trying to figure out where I messed up. As it turns out, one slide does not move the same as the other without applying more force to it. This is creating a tracking and allignment issue. For now though, it is workable. I will just have to measure and double check my adjustments to the forward and back location before locking it down each time.
If you plan on building this, be sure to get some good quality drawer slides.
I then added the slide mechanisim across the front that the jig fingers will ride on. This is the piece I mentioned earlier that I decided to use the whole length of. At first I was worried about it being too much flex with this length. After thinking about how the jig works though, the material being cut will be up against the bottom of the fingers, keeping them from flexing downwards. Because of this, I don’t see an issue with the extra length. I will let you all know at a later date if this becomes an issue.
On the rear fence, you may notice I have a thing for big hard knobs.
Actually, I had some plastic knobs of the correct size for these, but I decided I liked the wooden one I have for the rear adjustment and would stick with that design.
And so I used the same wooden knobs for the front fence.
For the fences, and later for the fingers, I’m using pecan. It is the hardest, most durable wood I have available that’s already in my shop. Since one of my objectives of this project is to keep it as cheap as possible, I didn’t want to go buy any wood. I’m using what I have available.
The plywood on the frame and the cottonwood for the top panel is all wood I already had around. So the wood will not be adding to the cost at all. At the present time, I think I’ve got everything I need to complete this project. With the price of the plans included, I’ll have less than fifty bucks in it when I’m through.
I haven’t gotten done to test it yet, but I am highly impressed with the design of this dovetail machine. I have tried different designs, both shop made and store bought. From what I can see so far, this design ranks right up there with the higher end dovetail machines. I will tell ya’ll if my opinion changes, but at this time, I would highly recommend these plans to anyone who wants a well made dovetail machine and can’t afford hundreds and hundreds of dollars for one of the top of the line models available out there.
My objective with building this is two fold. One, I wanted a way to cut dovetails quickly and easily. I know how to cut hand cut dovetails, but just am not going to take the time to do them by hand except for my closest family members and friends. Because of this, I like this design because the fingers are adjustable. As long as it functions correctly, this will cut as close to hand cut looking dovetails than any jig I’ve ever used.
My second objective is to do this as cheaply as possible. My finances are ugly lately. I mean things are bad. If it cost a lot to do this, it would have had to wait untill things improve. Because of this, my machine may not be pretty. I don’t care about that though as long as it functions as it should. I am using what wood I have availble. I am also using all the hardware I can from my many coffee cans full of nuts, bolts, and screws. The most expensive thing I’ve bought for it was the Incra T-Track plus, which I ordered from Woodcraft. It was $16.79 plus shipping.