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New Dowel Jig

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Review by trasner posted 01-07-2013 07:20 PM 11685 views 3 times favorited 23 comments Add to Favorites Watch
New Dowel Jig New Dowel Jig New Dowel Jig Click the pictures to enlarge them

I have been doing a lot of pocket hole joinery because I usually build shop furniture, jigs, etc. However, I wanted to make some things that did not have visible screw holes. I have a biscuit joiner but do not feel that would get the job done. That leaves dowels or m&t joints. I realize that most authorities say that m&t will provide the strongest joint with dowels a close second. However, for my uses, If the joint fails because over 500lbs of pressure was placed on it, my concern will most likely be for who was hurt : )

Lets face it, all dowel jigs are nothing more than several evenly spaced guide bushings. The difference is the ability of the jig to place accurate holes in different configurations. The inexpensive self centering dowel jigs cannot do this. I searched and reviewed all the different jigs on the market. I found the three highest rated ones are the Dowelmax, Joint Genie, and Jessem Paralign jig. The Dowelmax is ridiculously priced (it is over $400 for a complete system with different size bushings). That is more that most of my powertools with motors and other complicated electronics. I can only imagine how much markup the makers of Dowelmax make on each unit. That being said, obviously they did something right as people do really like the Dowelmax and continue to buy it. But not this guy. The joint Genie looked good but seemed a little more complicated with so many parts which leaves more room for error.

When I was looking at the Jessem Paralign, I saw their new Dowel Jig: The 8350:

http://www.jessemdirect.com/JessEm_Dowelling_Jig_p/08350.htm

What really stood out to me was that it is the only dowel jig that is adjusted without having to remove the jig and add a spacer or change the setting. Brilliant! The 1/8” indexing system locks in exact every time. It also has an alignment slot to match the dowel on an opposing board of different lengths. Simple, and also brilliant! No other dowel jig has these features. You do have to use your own clamp to clamp it to the board, but it is probably for the best as you do not have to keep reassembling the jig each time you want to place it on another board. Even with the Dowelmax you have to use an external clamp when clamping to a second board when beyond the spacers reach.

As with all Jessem tools, it is rock solid and quality made using CNC anodized aluminum with laser engraved markings. HERE IS THE BEST PART: $99 FOR THE 3/8”SYSTEM (for $159 you can get the master system which has 1/4” and 1/2” bushing guides). I am not sure why Jessem sells this one and the more expensive Paralign, but my thought is that they realized they can manufacture a more diverse, and lighter jig for less money. I guess it will only be a matter of time before they discontinue the Paralign because the 8350 does everything the Paralign does. I have a Jessem router lift and it is a wonderful product. All their tools are made in Canada.

I received the jig 1 week after ordering it and was very nicely packaged. My only gripe is that the instructions and videos could be a little more detailed. In the video and instructions, they scribe a line in the wood and center the jig at its centerline. The only problem I found with this is that if joining to the face of the 2nd piece, you cannot see the centerline mark on the wood. JessEm should have laser engraved a centerline along the front as well. This is not a big deal beacuse usually I will not use the centerline but will just line up the jig at the edge of the wood and go from there. I will just mark the sides to be drilled. This is how the Dowelmax is used. The jig comes with an indexing pin so I can drill as many accurate holes as I want.

The test joints I have made are perfectly flush. I even did a test piece using three rows of dowels like the video. They fit perfect.

I hope this helps those looking for a reasonable priced quality dowel jig.

BTW, I made the storage box.

-- Todd




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trasner

62 posts in 1565 days



23 comments so far

View asmang's profile

asmang

20 posts in 2172 days


#1 posted 01-07-2013 07:27 PM

Todd,

This is interesting, and certainly a low price point, but why not go with the Festool Domino? I love it and think it’s about the best for alignment, stability and ease of use. Granted it’s not cheap but you only worry about that one vs. worrying about stability, fit and finish on every project. Just my $.02.

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trasner

62 posts in 1565 days


#2 posted 01-07-2013 07:38 PM

Hey Greg, Whaz up? What are you making these days? To answer your question: space and price. The 8350 is compact, inexpensive, and will get the job done. I have never used the Domino but no doubt it is a fantastic tool like the rest of the Festool line. At this point, I don’t know how often I will use dowels. I use a lot of pocket screws. If I find I am making more real furniture, I may eventually invest in a Domino.

-- Todd

View asmang's profile

asmang

20 posts in 2172 days


#3 posted 01-07-2013 07:41 PM

The Domino is awesome. You’d love it. Right now, we’re building a house so I’m planning on doing a few built-ins, all our closets and a Big Green Egg table. I use the Kreg Jig too but the Domino’s pretty cool. Of course, I borrow my dad’s. :)

Come up for IWF and we’ll play in the shop!

View bullhead1's profile

bullhead1

228 posts in 907 days


#4 posted 01-07-2013 08:09 PM

Boy Todd, you sure make me feel good about the order I placed last week for this same jig. Normally I watch Dr. Phil to make me feel good about myself knowing that there are a lot more screwed up people than me out there. I keep looking out the window to see if the UPS truck is coming in hopes I can use it today. I’m not sure I will sleep tonight if it doesn’t come today. Thanks for the good review. By the way did you get the master system with the other two sizes. I did as I have plans to build some pretty beefy headboards. Curious if you did and how they worked.

View trasner's profile

trasner

62 posts in 1565 days


#5 posted 01-07-2013 08:29 PM

Bullhead, you are going to really like it.You are especially going to like the extra $250 in your pocket that you saved over the Dowelmax. I did not purchase the master system. They do sell the 1/4” and the 1/2” inch guide bushings, index pin, and drill bit for $39 each if I decide I want them later. One little caveat, hold the jig when you release the clamp so it doesn’t fall. I bought a Jawhorse on sale at Lowes (I have been wanting one of those for a while) Now I just clamp the the wood and jig with one Jawhorse clamp.

-- Todd

View mbs's profile

mbs

1439 posts in 1598 days


#6 posted 01-08-2013 03:33 AM

I bought the paralign system about a year ago before yours was available. I like it a lot. My only complaint it it doesn’t have a 1/2” dowell option. I’d write a review but my observations would be the same as yours.

I’d like to have a domino too but don’t want to spend the money and it basically duplicates other equipment that I already have.

-- Sorry the reply is so long. I didn't have time to write a short reply.

View Marc82Much's profile

Marc82Much

6 posts in 856 days


#7 posted 01-09-2013 02:22 AM

I have one, too. Pre-ordered it and got one from the first batch. I love it. The ability to use the jig to reference off another dowel is genius. I was trying to join two pieces of plywood to make a longer one (had no wood stretcher at the time). I did not even need to measure anything. I chose one piece, referenced of the left edge, drilled a hole, referenced off the right edge, drilled a hole…then drill three more between them with measuring. I put 5 dowels in the five holes. clamped the two sides together and drilled the matching five holes. Perfect alignment without a single measurement.

-- Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?

View bullhead1's profile

bullhead1

228 posts in 907 days


#8 posted 01-09-2013 02:38 AM

Hey Todd, I just noticed are those twins on your profile pic? Still waiting for my jig, just got email today that it shipped. Holidays I guess.

View trasner's profile

trasner

62 posts in 1565 days


#9 posted 01-09-2013 03:36 AM

Yeah, those are my two little rats. They are almost 8 months. Keeping me and the wife busy. I am doing more late night woodworking after everyone falls asleep.

-- Todd

View iamcliff's profile

iamcliff

481 posts in 810 days


#10 posted 01-09-2013 05:25 PM

Sweet. I’ve had a dowelmax on my wish list knowing I will probably never shell out that much money for it. I’m glad to have found this review. Thanks.

-- Chris, http://www.youtube.com/CMRwoodworks , FACEBOOK: http://www.facebook.com/cmrwoodworks1 , Proverbs 16:9

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

112104 posts in 2235 days


#11 posted 01-09-2013 05:37 PM

Thanks for your review.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View bullhead1's profile

bullhead1

228 posts in 907 days


#12 posted 01-09-2013 07:49 PM

Todd, I have twin daughters that graduate this year. I know what your going through. I bet you can change a diaper with your eyes closed. Think of what you can buy with the diaper money after their pottey trained! My Jessem Jig will be here Friday! Got all my batteries for my cordless drills all charged up and ready to go!

View don1960's profile

don1960

213 posts in 1345 days


#13 posted 01-10-2013 04:29 AM

Thanks for the review. I’ve been looking at some sort of system like this for about a year. Could never decide on anything.

I have a Kreg jig and love it, but wanted something that didn’t show the joint. Most of what I make doesn’t require M&T joinery (yet) and this Jessem jig looks to be perfect, and priced right. Going to order it.

Great review.

-- -- Don from PA

View DaveWatha's profile

DaveWatha

20 posts in 1160 days


#14 posted 01-12-2013 08:10 PM

Arrrrgh! I’ve been thinking about getting a dowel jig for a while and this Jessem looks pretty attractive. Actually got as far as placing it in my cart at the jessem website a couple days ago but didn’t pull the trigger. Today I see that Jessem has raised theIr prices. The Model #08350 Dowelling Jig went from $99 to $129 and the “Master Kit” from $159 up to $199. Guess I’ll continue looking at whether I really need it or not….

View bullhead1's profile

bullhead1

228 posts in 907 days


#15 posted 01-12-2013 09:21 PM

Mine came yesterday and have spent the day practicing and testing before I do my first project. I can attest for the others that speak highly of this product. It is well built and I think still a value at the higher price. After getting it and doing some tests I’m glad I got the Master Kit with the three sizes as I can see applications for all three. It sure is nice to get a well made product from northern neighbors! Being new to doweling I wonder if there is any guidlines as to size and or pattern to use depending on the application?

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