ShopNotes Issue 43 Dovetail Jig

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Project by DaveTPilot posted 12-16-2011 03:26 AM 8281 views 22 times favorited 10 comments Add to Favorites Watch

I was very intrigued by this shop made dovetail jig I found in a past ShopNotes Issue so I just had to build one. The plans called for 1/2 inch phenolic for the fingers. (An alternative is to used hardwood.) I thought the phenolic was very cool so I went with that. I was not possible to purchase it locally in small quantaties so I went to my old standby…eBay. What a great material! Very hard and durable and easy to machine.

The instructions for setting up and using the jig called for using two stops, labled “A” and “B”. To be honest, I don’t understand the instructions. They are vague and ambiguous at best, IMHO. Instead, I just used the “A” stop for both sides of the board to cut the pins and then the tails in the same way. It worked great! I just really wish the setup instructions were better. I’m sure there is a good reason for the “B” stop.

In the ShopNotes plan, the author used cherry, way too precious of a species for me to use for a jig. I used 3/4 inch plywood for the base and red oak for the pressure bars and stops. I already had the red oak that purchased from Home Depot for a kitchen trim project years ago. The plywood was acutally a red oak ply that was on sale for 50% off at Lowes. I bought it 6 months ago just because it was so cheap. I also figured that plywood would be better for the base because it is so stable. It seems to me that wood movement would not be good on a precision jig.

The knobs were made from some left over hard maple and cherry I had left over from another project. It was already glued up in that alternating pattern. (I would not have gone through that much trouble for shop made knobs.) I cut the hexagon pattern using the method I posted in my blog. Then I drilled a counter bore with a forstner bit a little smaller than the nut and a through hole for the threaded rod. I hammered the nut in place for a very tight fit. (This method does not work well with red oak, it split the knob in half.)

-- How valuable is time to a person who spends his disparaging the beliefs of others? --David Berthelette

10 comments so far

View cwdance1's profile


1159 posts in 3497 days

#1 posted 12-16-2011 04:17 AM

Very nice project.

Anyway I could get a copy of the drawing or an issue number? Sure would like to make one.


View a1Jim's profile


117417 posts in 3815 days

#2 posted 12-16-2011 04:20 AM

super jig well done

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View jdh122's profile


1058 posts in 3055 days

#3 posted 12-16-2011 02:05 PM

very nice. now we want to see some dovetails made with it…

-- Jeremy, in the Acadian forests

View MShort's profile


1797 posts in 3656 days

#4 posted 12-16-2011 02:28 PM

Nice jig… Looking forward to seeing a project made from using it.

-- Mike, Missouri --- “A positive life can not happen with a negative mind.” ---

View Roger's profile


20965 posts in 3042 days

#5 posted 12-16-2011 02:41 PM

gr8 lookin dovetail jig. look forward to a project, and how well it works out. I’m sure it’ll be just fine

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

View ptweedy's profile


75 posts in 3631 days

#6 posted 12-16-2011 07:42 PM

very nice knobs, as I use to tell my gal friend. the jig looks great and I dont understand the left and right stops…. the finger adjustment and possibilities for customization are outstanding. bravo….

View DaveTPilot's profile


282 posts in 3536 days

#7 posted 12-16-2011 10:20 PM

Here are some pics of the first joints. The fit is perfect, I had to tap the joint together with the palm of my hand, but it needs a little tweaking on the half pins. It’s probably setup technique. As I said, I couldn’t follow the instructions in ShopNotes so I just did it my own way.

-- How valuable is time to a person who spends his disparaging the beliefs of others? --David Berthelette

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

10369 posts in 4290 days

#8 posted 12-16-2011 11:17 PM

Not bad for 1st try…

-- Have Fun! Joe Lyddon - Alta Loma, CA USA - Home: ... My Small Gallery:"

View DaveTPilot's profile


282 posts in 3536 days

#9 posted 12-20-2011 08:44 PM

Thanks guys.

@ptweedy…That’s funny. I love the creative comments on this site!

-- How valuable is time to a person who spends his disparaging the beliefs of others? --David Berthelette

View DaveTPilot's profile


282 posts in 3536 days

#10 posted 12-29-2011 04:08 AM

Hey Guys and Gals,

Here is an update: I emailed ShopNotes Magazine and asked for additional information regarding the usage instructions of the dovetail jig. I am very pleased to report that I received a response. That, in and of itself, speaks volumes about the folks at ShopNotes and their customer service.

The instructions were correct after all but the author did not specify that using the “A” stop and the “B” stop was not designed to create the same spacing on both sides but simply to give you a half pin on both bottoms while ensuring that the sides line up with the front and the back.

Now that I understand what the author’s intent was, it makes sense. When I make drawers with through DT’s, however, I prefer to have half pins at the top and bottom with both sides identically spaced. Not a problem, I just need to use the “A” stop exclusively and remember to orientate my boards correctly…i.e. outside of pin boards facing jig, outside of tail boards facing user.

Thanks again for looking and for the comments. I really wanted to follow up and more importantly give kudos to the ShopNotes people for taking the time to answer a question about a not-so-recent past issue.

-- How valuable is time to a person who spends his disparaging the beliefs of others? --David Berthelette

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