Stumpy's Dovetail Machine - Part #1

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Blog entry by William posted 04-04-2012 02:56 AM 7613 reads 4 times favorited 16 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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.


16 comments so far

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2806 days

#1 posted 04-04-2012 03:07 AM

Looking real good William. Stumpy will be proud. I am interested to see the outcome and production.
Now good job.
Keep a dry head its raining.
Nice blog as well;)

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View Roger Clark aka Rex's profile

Roger Clark aka Rex

6940 posts in 3401 days

#2 posted 04-04-2012 03:11 AM

Good going William, we misfits are proud of you.

-- Roger-R, Republic of Texas. "Always look on the Bright Side of Life" - An eyeball to eyeball confrontation with a blind person is as complete waste of Time.

View devann's profile


2246 posts in 2658 days

#3 posted 04-04-2012 03:18 AM

Looks good William, now fire it up. I want to see it run. I’ll be checking back to see how you like it.

-- Darrell, making more sawdust than I know what to do with

View William's profile


9949 posts in 2808 days

#4 posted 04-04-2012 03:19 AM

Thanks guys.
I still have to make the fingers. That I believe is going to be the most time consuming part. They have to be perfect or the machine won’t work right.


View DIYaholic's profile


19597 posts in 2641 days

#5 posted 04-04-2012 03:29 AM

Stumpy is grinning “ear to ear”, knowing that you are building/liking his design.

It is looking GREAT. I can’t wait to see the finished product & a project built with it.

Keep posting progress & pics!!!

Keep up the good work, Thanks for sharing.

BTW: Your handles look “Just Right”!!!

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View Philip's profile


1277 posts in 2505 days

#6 posted 04-04-2012 04:14 AM

Awesome, let us know how it works..

-- I never finish anyth

View Chips's profile


199 posts in 3678 days

#7 posted 04-04-2012 12:47 PM

Looking Good. I too want to know how it works.

-- Make every day the best day of your life. Chips, Mississippi

View Roger's profile


20923 posts in 2770 days

#8 posted 04-04-2012 01:03 PM

As Arti Johnson said long ago on “Laugh-In” peakin through some vines: “verrrrrrrrrrrry innnnnnterrrrrrresssstinga”

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed.

View foneman's profile


112 posts in 4060 days

#9 posted 04-04-2012 01:15 PM

I am another of the many wanting to hear how it works.. Excellent review!! Thanks for posting!!!


View StumpyNubs's profile


7578 posts in 2766 days

#10 posted 04-04-2012 01:15 PM

The fingers are the critical part. Just make a few of them and try them out. If you need to adjust them, you won’t have to remake a whole pile! Just be sure they fit tightly on that bar with no wobble at all. As Charles Neil says… “sneak up on it” when you cut those dados.

I also suggest making the fingers a bit wider than the plans call for on the straight ends. Your router collar may not be the same as mine. So make them 1/8” or so wider and test them out. If the joints are too loose even after you use the micro adjust feature, then trim a bit off the edge of the fingers that the router collar rides along. Remember- I am talking about the straight ends of the fingers, not the angled ends.

Once you get it dialed in, you can make a bunch of them.I found that the band saw was the best tool to cut the fingers out.

I love mine! Keep us posted! I’m glad to help where I can!

-- Subscribe to "Stumpy Nubs Woodworking Journal"- One of the crafts' most unique publications:

View DamnYankee's profile


3301 posts in 2528 days

#11 posted 04-04-2012 01:41 PM

Looking good William! Let us know how it goes making the fingers. I too like the plan but I’ve already got a dovetail jig yet have rarely used it. Not because it sucks or anything, just because I haven’t had made many dovetails.

-- Shameless - Winner of two Stumpy Nubs Awards

View eddie's profile


8565 posts in 2580 days

#12 posted 04-04-2012 06:54 PM

informative post William .i’m leaning toward this too.waiting to get thur with my table build then it will be time to order my plans and start on it.can,t wait to see it great blog .

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

View boxcarmarty's profile


16029 posts in 2326 days

#13 posted 04-04-2012 10:40 PM

SalvageCraft can help you make the fingers…..

-- My mind is like lighting, one brilliant flash, then its gone.....

View Dave's profile


11429 posts in 2806 days

#14 posted 04-05-2012 12:28 AM

Fuunnnnnyyy stuff right there Marty. Funny!

-- Superdav "No matter where you go - there you are."

View BigTiny's profile


1676 posts in 2854 days

#15 posted 04-05-2012 03:20 PM

Hi William.

Good job so far, buddy. I’m going to try building Stumpy’s box joint jig when my back let’s me get into the shop again. He made a good case for box joints versus dovetails on is web site and I decided to go with the box joint one. May go with the dovetail jig at a later date, depending on how well i do making this one. (also depending on how many fingers I have left; I’m not the most co-ordinated guy on the planet.)

Looking forward to the next installment.


-- The nicer the nice, the higher the price!

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