All Replies on ready for dovetails

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View lazyoakfarm's profile

ready for dovetails

by lazyoakfarm
posted 03-03-2013 07:25 PM

26 replies so far

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3503 days

#1 posted 03-03-2013 07:36 PM

I use the Leigh D4 jig. I have had it for quite a while now, and it does a great job, very accurate, and I like the ability to space out the dovetails to any combination I like. It takes a bit to learn to use it though. If I havent done dovetails for a while, I sometimes have to get the manual out. Its a great jig though with endless combinations. I also like its ability to do sliding dovetails. Leigh has a great customer service group also.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View Francisco Luna's profile

Francisco Luna

943 posts in 3416 days

#2 posted 03-03-2013 07:48 PM

I got a leigh years ago from woodcraft to make all drawer boxes for a kitchen client….....I sold the thing after completed the job….
If I would have to go over that process again, Dovetails by hand are much easier, precise and you just avoid all the hassle about getting unnecessary gadgets!

-- Nature is my manifestation of God. I go to nature every day for inspiration in the day's work. I follow in building the principles which nature has used in its domain" Frank Lloyd Wright

View Loren's profile


10476 posts in 3671 days

#3 posted 03-03-2013 07:51 PM

You can jig up to cut dovetails on the bandsaw pretty
easily. To cut the bottoms you’ll need a 1/8” blade
or a scroll saw. You also need a fence.

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2708 days

#4 posted 03-03-2013 08:03 PM

I’ve got the Leigh D4 (older one pre D4R and now you say they have a D4Pro) as well. Unlike Wayne, I have to leave the book open at all times (for me it’s not intuitive at all). As for your “mirror” image concerns, it’s a single initial set-up that works for both the pins and tails (don’t mess with it). Everytime I use it I scratch my head as to why it works but it does. I assume you’re going half-blinds which does require a few “test” boards to get the depth corrrect. Once you are happy with fit, they tell you to save the test board and mark it with the cutter used so you can return to that depth setting on your router at a later date.

I did my kitchen drawers and only did half blinds in the front. I dadoed the backs figuring nobody seems them anyway and there are no stability issues at all once the dovetail gets “locked” in the front. It made assembly a lot easier also. Lock the dovetails (square is pretty much a given if you followed the set-up instructions but check it anyway) then measure/cut the backs. I don’t know about the Akeda BC24 but I am really impressed with the quality of the old D4.

View iminmyshop's profile


284 posts in 2017 days

#5 posted 03-03-2013 08:58 PM

Both the Leigh and Akeda get great reviews. The Akeda is supposedly easier to use but, except for the occasional jig showing up on craigslist and estate sales has been unavailable from the manufacturer for years.


View lazyoakfarm's profile


144 posts in 2820 days

#6 posted 03-03-2013 09:06 PM

Both of them sure look great. I dont see anyone using any kind of backer board which i thought was strange. I have to with my Incra, even using a brand new Whiteside bit.

View DKV's profile


3940 posts in 2527 days

#7 posted 03-03-2013 09:51 PM

Do you have a bandsaw? Why spend money when you don’t need to. Make points with the wife.

-- This is a Troll Free zone.

View Kazooman's profile


1024 posts in 1975 days

#8 posted 03-03-2013 10:05 PM

I have an older model Leigh D4 jig and it works well. I would have to say that there is a learning curve and you need patience and practice to get good results. As was mentioned above, it is nice to be able to vary the sizes of the dovetails. I’ll attach a couple of photos of an example. As far as setting up the jig, I sorta stumbled upon an easy way to make certain that the spacing is symmetrical and identical end to end. I roughly set the fingers in place to find a pleasing arrangement. Then the end fingers are locked in place. (You need to do this carefully so they are the same on each end.) I then measure the gaps between the sets of fingers and cut small spacers out of scrap. I don’t ever measure again. I place the spacer against the end finger set and slide the next pair over and tighten them down. Working in from each end gives a perfect result every time.

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2708 days

#9 posted 03-03-2013 10:15 PM

lazyoak…the D4 manual does recommend the use of backer boards if tearout is a problem. I’ve found it depends on the wood, the sharpness of the cutters and the technique (the book gets into all that also…thats why it is always open when I use it). DKV, the router jigs are fun to play with (the only difference between men and boys being the price of their toys). And properly set-up, they have to be faster than band saw (and I don’t know if you can do half-blinds on a bandsaw).

View lazyoakfarm's profile


144 posts in 2820 days

#10 posted 03-03-2013 10:17 PM

Oh shoot. I just ran across the PC OmniJig. this thing looks nice too. Akeda is not being produced at this time.

View a1Jim's profile


117115 posts in 3600 days

#11 posted 03-03-2013 10:40 PM

Here’s one jig that helps you make dovetails that look like their hand cut.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View lazyoakfarm's profile


144 posts in 2820 days

#12 posted 03-03-2013 10:53 PM

have you guys seen Norm demo the omniJig? Leaning hard that way after I look for some reviews of course.
It sure helps to watch a series of videos of how it works. Well worth the investment for a company to do that. Im just about sold. any thoughts are appreciated.

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3182 days

#13 posted 03-03-2013 10:54 PM

Do yourself a favor and watch the Incra videos. It’s not that difficult when you watch Perry do it a few times on the videos.

You can knockout all the dovetails for your kitchen drawers in a couple of hours because you can cut so many of them at once.. Devote the time saved, compared to what it would take doing them individually with the Akeda or Leigh, to learning the Incra system.

It’s jobs like kitchen cabinet drawers where Incra separates itself from its competitors.

-- jay,

View lazyoakfarm's profile


144 posts in 2820 days

#14 posted 03-03-2013 11:08 PM

Cosmicsniper. (cool name) I will do that before I spend that kind of money. Ive already started modifying the push plate with larger bottom runners for added stability. Im all for saving several hundred bucks.

My dad hates perfect joints, he likes the looks of the had cut with a few flaws.

Many thanks

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3182 days

#15 posted 03-03-2013 11:20 PM

No problem. I firmly believe you already own the best tool for that job. I know it’s intimidating at first, but I think it’s one of those things that really pays off in the long run.

I’d hate to see you spend the kind of money on something else…it’s not like those systems are a piece of cake either. Heck, even handout dovetails have a learning curve…which is probably why I’m awful at them. :)

-- jay,

View Cosmicsniper's profile


2202 posts in 3182 days

#16 posted 03-03-2013 11:21 PM

BTW, nice idea for modifying the runners of the right angle attachment. I need to do the same. Stability is an issue there.

-- jay,

View bbc557ci's profile


595 posts in 2097 days

#17 posted 03-03-2013 11:55 PM

In the link below they make it look pretty simple. Appears tough it takes a bit of hands on type experience.

I have the 24 inch model. The older model and probably had it for +10 years now, but haven’t used it yet :o/

-- Bill, central where near the "big apple"

View BBrown626's profile


37 posts in 1984 days

#18 posted 03-04-2013 04:34 AM

If you are taking on something that requires some learning and patience, make some dovetails by hand. You won’t regret it.

I have the PC jig and I have made a lot of drawer boxes with it and it is very simple. I used it for entertainment center drawers when I was doing that sort of work. Now that I am just woodworking for myself, I am making them by hand or bandsaw & router.

I use the bandsaw for all the cuts and then clean between pins by using the the router with a spiral cutter. This combination provides flexibility, a hand-made look and great results.

View lazyoakfarm's profile


144 posts in 2820 days

#19 posted 03-04-2013 12:43 PM

A lot of great info here.
The first thing I am going to do is try and learn how to use my Incra that I have a ton of money invested in. Then I am going to try some on my band saw and by hand. The learning curve is half the fun.

bbc557ci – I may have to start searching with Bing. what a great link. Thanks.

View helluvawreck's profile


31363 posts in 2890 days

#20 posted 03-04-2013 01:20 PM

Just for the fun of it you really ought to try some hand dovetails. Maybe make some simple utility boxes for the shop.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Kelby's profile


134 posts in 2434 days

#21 posted 03-04-2013 06:40 PM

I have the Incra system, and I recently bought the Leigh D4R with the VRS accessory. I also cut by hand.

I used the Incra for dovetails a lot when I first got it, but then switched to hand cut. I haven’t cut dovetails on the Incra in a long time. It took a lot of time to set it up, and you end up with the machine-cut dovetail look. The Incra fence is great for a lot of things, and it will do nice enough dovetails, but it’s not the ideal dovetail system.

To me, the machine look versus handcut look is not about how perfect it is—handcut can and should be just as perfect as machine cut. To me, it is more about the size of the pins. Small spacing between tails looks delicate, and you can’t get that with a router.

I bought the Leigh a week ago in order to make large quantities of dovetails for some cabinets. It takes a while to setup the jig, and that investment of time is only justified if you plan to make a lot of dovetails. But once set up, it works very well. It’s still a machine look because the tails have to be at least 3/8” apart. But you can do variable spacing, and the jig is very clean and tight once set up properly.

I enjoy handcut more, but for a kitchen full of drawers, the Leigh jig will knock out the dovetails in a couple hours, and I would be weeks cutting them all by hand.

-- Kelby

View runswithscissors's profile


2764 posts in 2048 days

#22 posted 03-04-2013 09:42 PM

I used the PC 4212 (right number?) for my kitchen drawers. Had a lot of drawers to do. There is some learning curve, but as you get into the rhythm, the speed picks up. Ultimately, you can do all the dovetails for a drawer in 5 minutes or so. Even the backs are quicker to do that way, once you are set up. I like the looks of machine cut dovetails for that application, as I don’t regard kitchen drawers as equivalent to finely crafted furniture.

It is possible to make custom templates to use on that type of DT jig. I did it years ago with an old Craftsman jig. Made the templates out of hardboard. Not that hard to do, and the end result closely resembled hand cut DTs (not exactly, but close). The only reason DTs were traditionally made with narrow tails and wide pins (or do I have those backwards?) was it was quicker to cut them by hand. It had nothing to do with aesthetics, though I agree they are attractive done that way.

-- I admit to being an adrenaline junky; fortunately, I'm very easily frightened

View kayakdude's profile


97 posts in 2799 days

#23 posted 03-04-2013 10:22 PM

i thick your best bet by far is the leigh d4 or d4r i have done so much with mine i wood not go any other way it ez to set up and it tuff and woodcrafters carry dovetail bits for them and fingers ,,

-- kayakdude

View teejk's profile


1215 posts in 2708 days

#24 posted 03-04-2013 11:59 PM

Leigh D4 is an amazing piece of engineering (like I noted above, it doesn’t make intuitive sense to me until I study the outputs to figure out how and why). I’ve heard about the Incra’s and as long as he already owns one, I’d give it a shot before buying yet another “nice to have” tool. Nothing comes cheap on the Leigh line (although I will say their service and quality is A+++). I got mine on Ebay and later added the dust control and one of their cutter kits. All in I guess I have about $500 or more in the unit but no complaints at all. It’s fun!

View toddbeaulieu's profile


814 posts in 3027 days

#25 posted 03-11-2013 03:30 PM

That Incra system is so sexy I just have to have it. I set out to build a killer table a month or so ago and decided I shouldn’t attempt it until I got the incra in hand so I could guarantee the a perfect table setup.

I have the cheaper PC dovetail. It’s taken my several projects to get the hang of it. Nothing replaces experience for me. I had to learn (and will continue to) by messing up good stock. It seems that there’s always another lesson to be learned.

With jigs, I don’t like the look of evenly spaced dovetails. The expensive jigs allow you to vary the spacing and I think that’s a necessary feature for anything but utilitarian boxes.

I’ve tried hand making dovetails on several occasions and butchered it every time. Someday I’ll figure it out, but until then a jig is my only option.

View DrDirt's profile


4424 posts in 3765 days

#26 posted 03-11-2013 03:45 PM

I have the Leigh and it is great.

But you are mentioning just kitchen drawers, where you don’t really need all of the variable spacing and such.

If that were the “sole purpose” the many 1/2 inch fixed dovetailing jigs do a great job and are a lot easier to set up and much less expensive.

You wont regret having a Leigh, but it may be overkill for making a big pile of drawer boxes.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

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