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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

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Review by FloridaUFGator posted 07-03-2008 07:57 PM 6043 views 1 time favorited 27 comments Add to Favorites Watch
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I purchased this after seeing it at a woodworking show. Man did it look good. The guy was doing all kinds of stuff with it (including sucking the money out of my wallet). He cut half blinds, through, sliding dovetails, variable spaced, fixed space, etc. I then proceeded to watch Norm do the same thing on the video that was running next to the demo. It was about 1/2hr long and I think I watched it 3-times throughout the day (before I bought it). The great part is that is a $599 retail machine but they were selling it for $529 plus a free Porter Cable D-Handle router (and I had another $20 off coupon from the show). So I got the jig and router for $509. I know what you are thinking – “That is still VERY expensive”. Just wait – keep reading – it gets worse.

Now for the Good, Bad and Ugly:

The Good: The thing actually does everything I saw it do and more. In terms of functionality there were no smoke or mirrors (sort of). I’ll explain the ‘sort of’ in the bad. It is extremely flexible in all kinds of cutting. I made a few drawer carcasses to try it out and they were great. Of course it wasn’t as simple as watching Norm do it but I eventually got to where I was cutting variable-spaced through dovetails very accurately. I’m not sure there it much this thing can’t do. It is huge so if you are considering the 24” version make sure you have the room (and the back support to lift it off the ground).

The Bad: I said in ‘functionality’ it does all it claims to do – with relative ease. The issue comes when you try to do these things with a board thickness other than 3/4”. I don’t know why I didn’t see or think of this while I was watching at the show. They never changed the board thicknesses they were using. You see, the jig ONLY comes with the preset stops, bits and templates for 3/4” thick wood. If you want to do anything other than that you will have to go to your wallet AGAIN (if the initial hit wasn’t hard enough). I’m not sure why PC decided on the 3/4” as their delivered standard. I would have thought 1/2” or 3/8” would have been more desirable (seeing that MOST dovetailing are on drawers). Anyways, I pulled mine out of the box and was ready to start cranking out some 1/2” drawers that I’ve been waiting to do for a very long time. Lo and behold $530 later I still can’t do them. I called Porter Cable and they confirmed what I thought I must have been imagining. They gave me a phone number to a local PC service department that would be happy to sell me the parts. Of course they don’t have the parts in stock (no one does) but would order them for me. To purchase the kit to allow me to cut dovetails in various wood thickness would be an additional $225 (just for the stops and bits). I don’t have a price for the router templates yet. If anyone knows of where these accessories are available online please let me know. I can’t find them.

The Ugly: For the most part the jig’s fit and finish is fine. I had a lot of trouble initially separating the fingers from each other. It took all of my strength (for about 15 minutes) to get each finger to slide. Once I broke the initial seal they started to slide a bit easier. However, the bar they slide on isn’t flat in all areas. The fingers bind in certain places making it difficult to microadjust when the time comes to set the fingers up for a cut.

Final Comments:

All-in-all this is a great functioning jig. For this I give it a 4 or 5 star rating. Unfortunatley I have to bring it down to a 3 star because of the misleading marketing of what this thing can do out of the box. If you are ready to shell out about $1000 for a fully functioning dovetail jig I would highly recommend this.

Side note: They sell a separate dust collection connector for it. This works very well and is highly recommended if you have a good collection system.

-- ...and remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these — safety glasses - Norm Abram




View FloridaUFGator's profile

FloridaUFGator

39 posts in 2702 days



27 comments so far

View Dominic Vanacora's profile

Dominic Vanacora

508 posts in 2558 days


#1 posted 07-03-2008 08:21 PM

I’m a long way from buying a machine, but I must say I would expect it to make dovetails on 1/2” boards. Is not that the reason you buy this equipment for in the first place. Than you start to play with it for other things.
Thanks for the heads up.

-- Dominic, Trinity, Florida...Lets be safe out there.

View Woodshopfreak's profile

Woodshopfreak

389 posts in 2431 days


#2 posted 07-03-2008 09:13 PM

I want a dovetail jig really bad but the money is the problem. I was looking at the 12 inch porter cable and the 12 inch leigh, but now that I have read this review I’m looking down upon the porter cable. Do you know if this is a problem with all the porter cable dovetail jigs or just this one.

-- Tyler, Illinois

View FloridaUFGator's profile

FloridaUFGator

39 posts in 2702 days


#3 posted 07-03-2008 09:28 PM

NewMexico: It was a wood show here in Atlanta. It is a great show that comes every year. All the big (and some little) vendors are there but some really good deals.

Woodshopfreak: I’m not sure of the other PC jigs. There is a 16” version of this one that would have the same issues.

Don’t get me wrong – it is a great jig – just be prepared to spend additional money if you want to do to anything other than the 3/4”.

-- ...and remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these — safety glasses - Norm Abram

View Lee A. Jesberger's profile

Lee A. Jesberger

6664 posts in 2668 days


#4 posted 07-04-2008 02:39 AM

Hi Guys;

If I had spent that kind of money, only to find it won’t do dovetails in 1/2” stock, unless I spend $ 250.00 more, I would return it in a heart beat. If for no other reason than the principal of it. It really drives me nuts when I get sold a bill of goods that have a surprise attached to it.

I have the Leigh Dovetail jig and never use it, well rarely ever. D-4 is the model I think.

Seems my dovetails are always on curved parts thanks to some nut named Lee. I have come to the conclusion I get much more satisfaction from cutting them by hand anyway. The precision required is nothing more than good practice at using hand tools. something I feel is pretty important.

If I had to cut a bunch of them I guess I would set the jig up, but other than that, I’ll keep cutting them by hand, and liking it.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Lee

-- by Lee A. Jesberger http://www.prowoodworkingtips.com http://www.ezee-feed.com

View Chris 's profile

Chris

1867 posts in 2680 days


#5 posted 07-04-2008 03:53 AM

Thanks for the review… I saw this monster at Woodcraft the other day and wondered it was worth it.

-- "Everything that is great and inspiring is created by the individual who labors in freedom" -- Albert Einstein

View FloridaUFGator's profile

FloridaUFGator

39 posts in 2702 days


#6 posted 07-04-2008 04:42 AM

Lee, I’ve just started learning to cut them by hand. I’ve purchased several of the Rob Cosman videos (very good by the way) and am giving that a shot. I’ve gotten a lot more into hand tools since the dovetail jig purchase. I will keep it because there are times I need to batch out several drawers and this jig will do it very well. However, I agree that the hand cut DTs are very satisfying and as soon as I get good enough to actually apply them to a real piece I will be very happy.

I don’t want to mislead anyone. The $250 spent would be to get the remaining stops (they only ship the ones for the 3/4”) and remaining bits. This will allow other sizes besides 1/2”. It won’t however allow the miniature dovetails or the sliding through dovetail. That is an extra set of stops, bits and entire finger set.

-- ...and remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these — safety glasses - Norm Abram

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27251 posts in 2511 days


#7 posted 07-04-2008 05:25 AM

Thanks for the review. I have been considering one of these. But, not being able to do dovetails in 1/2” stock without shelling out more money probably swings me more towards the Leigh D4R.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View CharlesNeil's profile

CharlesNeil

1141 posts in 2559 days


#8 posted 07-04-2008 06:36 PM

Thanks for the review…I have the 24 and all the whistles and bell’s.and am working on a review/ test myself..and planning some video on it…when I get it finished Ill post it here…i also agree nothing beats hand cutting dovetails..but in my world jigs can help ya eat a little better when ya got alot of dovetailing to do…thanks again a good write

View Rob Drown's profile

Rob Drown

724 posts in 2522 days


#9 posted 07-05-2008 06:27 AM

I have the little cheep Rockler Jig. It does any thickness I thing from about 1/2 to 1 1/8. (To Quote their Catalog) Jig will cut half-blind dovetailed joints from 1/2” to 1-1/8” thick and full through dovetails from 3/8” to 3/4” thick. Accommodates stock up to 11” wide. $99.99. It isn’t perfect but it works well. I wish it were a bit stiffer.

-- The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools. Confucius, 经过艰苦的努力的梦想可以成真

View matt garcia's profile

matt garcia

1832 posts in 2361 days


#10 posted 07-05-2008 08:30 AM

I saw that very demonstration at our annual Woodworking show. I too was impressed with the fact that there were presets on the jig so you didn’t have any trial and error test pieces. Once you use a Leigh D4R, and master it, having presets are pretty amazing. I often wondered how P/C accomplished it? I guess I know now. I’m glad I bought my D4R last year. I previously owned a P/C 4212, and that is a good jig, but you can’t always have a 1/2 pin on either ends all the time. Also, P/C says that you can just take the finger assembly off the jig, mount it to a thick board, and do infinite length through dovetails. I found that this is true, but I tried it so many times, and couldn’t get them to align. Since I had to dovetail the upper case of my Highboy, and it was 17” wide, I decided to buy the D4R. I didn’t want any mistakes. I’m so happy with my Leigh jig. The only thing you need to do different thickness boards are the right bits. All of the drawers on my Highboy are 1/2” draw sides, dovetailed into 7/8” thick draw fronts. I only own 4 dovetail bits for my Leigh jig, but I want them all!!!

-- Matt Garcia Wannabe Period Furniture Maker, Houston TX

View motthunter's profile

motthunter

2141 posts in 2488 days


#11 posted 07-06-2008 03:51 AM

Leigh works so much better and no extra gizmos to bleed your wallet with when you have to buy them

Porter cable should include all the necessary parts at this high price.

-- making sawdust....

View FloridaUFGator's profile

FloridaUFGator

39 posts in 2702 days


#12 posted 07-07-2008 05:54 AM

Charles,
Are you at liberty to say where you got your ‘bells and whistles’? I’ve been hard pressed to find them online anywhere (other than the dust collection hood and parts box).

-- ...and remember this: there is no more important safety rule than to wear these — safety glasses - Norm Abram

View Kipster's profile

Kipster

1076 posts in 2442 days


#13 posted 07-09-2008 12:58 AM

I agree with Lee J. jesberger. Take it back.

-- Kip Northern Illinois ( If you don't know where your goin any road will take you there) George Harrison

View ChuckM's profile

ChuckM

504 posts in 2355 days


#14 posted 07-11-2008 03:16 AM

Sorry to hear about what you found out about the Porter Cable jig. I hope they’d accept your return and your review has done a service to everyone who is contemplating a purchase of this jig.

I recently bought a Leigh Super Jig 12” (under $200) and I don’t think that’s breaking any bank for that kind of amount. It doesn’t have any quality issue with the fingers as you found with yours. You may want to check out with your local store to see if they’d do a demo or allow you to do a test piece. I tried out the 24” model and bought the smaller one because I don’t foresee doing thing that’s over 12”.

About hand cutting dovetail joints, the feeling was really good but after doing several pieces, I thought I’d take the easy way out. If one day, I need to a jint that my 12” jig can’t do, I’d go back to hand cutting for that piece.

-- The time I enjoy wasting is not time wasted

View DustDawg's profile

DustDawg

9 posts in 2302 days


#15 posted 07-11-2008 04:17 AM

Thanks for the review…This jig was on my short list…

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