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RTJ-400 Dovetail Jig review

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Review by Jarrhead posted 03-05-2016 02:26 PM 4342 views 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch
RTJ-400 Dovetail Jig review RTJ-400 Dovetail Jig review No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

Working on a dresser for my daughter. I decided to do the drawers with dovetail joints. Let me preface with what I am about to say with the facts that I never owned a dovetail jig, and I have never cut dovetails by hand. I have a very close friend who has a Rockler dovetail jig, and he graciously offered to let me use it. Meanwhile, I kinda had my eye on purchasing the Leigh RTJ400 jig. Well the dresser project got around to the point where I had to get to work on the drawers, but I hadn’t yet pulled the trigger on the Leigh jig. So, I took my buddy up on his offer and borrowed his Rockler jig. He has pumped out some beautiful work on that jig, so I was reasonably confident it would meet my needs. Well, his results and my results were not really comparable. I really struggled with getting consistent joint fit in my test pieces. There are a number of variables involved that contribute to those inconsistencies, and I won’t go into all that here. Suffice to say that the results I was getting made me very apprehensive about moving forward with my actual project pieces. I had a lot of time involved in the stock prep for these drawers, including grain matching the drawer fronts. So, I really didn’t want to risk screwing them up. Further research on the Leigh RTJ400 was pushing me toward making the purchase. The most important reason I was convinced to move ahead on the Leigh jig is that it seemed to remove many of the variables that can cause problems. For the uninitiated, the Leigh RTJ400 jig is designed to be used on your router table. With the RTJ400, instead of moving the router (like you do with a conventional dovetail jig), the jig is what gets moved across the stationary router table top. I’ve had it for a couple weeks now, and so far, I can say the results are exactly as expected. I am very pleased. The price gave me pause at $329.00. You can get two of the Rockler jigs (and have cash left over), for that price. However, I feel the old adage about getting what you pay for certainly applies in this case. My biggest beef with the Rockler jig was the difficulty in making adjustments. For example, the side stops that your pieces register against are held in place with phillips screws that are hidden behind the clamping bar that holds your piece in the jig. It is a laborious and time consuming job to adjust those sidestops because you have to completely remove the clamping bar to access the screws. Very poor design. The depth stop was almost equally frustrating. While it was easier to access the knobs that hold the depth stop in place, the scale was not very helpful or accurate. You end up have to use a separate measuring device like an adjustable square to get decent results. For accurate dovetail joints, you are typically dealing with adjustments of about .001 to .002 of an inch. Very difficult to achieve with the Rockler jig. The RTJ400 is very easy to set up and use, and adjustments are way easier to make. One last positive note about the RTJ400. Dust collection. I was able to easily (and inexpensively) rig up a dust hood on top of the router table that catches nearly all of the waste. Rockler does offer a dust collector attachment for their jig, but I have not used it, so I can’t really offer a comparison. I can say that using any dovetail jig without dust collection creates a hell of a lot of dust and chips, much of which is fine enough to create a health hazard. I highly recommend the Leigh RTJ-400.

-- trn2wud




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Jarrhead

50 posts in 3268 days



9 comments so far

View Desert_Woodworker's profile

Desert_Woodworker

1309 posts in 1124 days


#1 posted 03-06-2016 02:42 PM

Best of woodworking to you with your new dovetail jig

-- Desert_Woodworker

View a1Jim's profile

a1Jim

116914 posts in 3486 days


#2 posted 03-06-2016 02:47 PM

Thanks for the review well done.

-- http://artisticwoodstudio.com Custom furniture

View WhoMe's profile

WhoMe

1564 posts in 3153 days


#3 posted 03-07-2016 05:02 PM

Thanks for the good review. I have had my eye on that jig since it came out. I own the Rockler jig too. Most of your complaints about the Rockler jig are what I run into also. A couple are not that big of an issue.
As for the Leigh, your review cleared up some of my questions. But like you, I feel the price is a sticking point. And imo too much for this jig, especially since the spacing is fixed.
The other issue I have is pushing the jig into the router bit/bushing basically blind. I would rather pull the jig towards me so I can see what I’m doing and the handles don’t appear to allow this easily.

I would love to hear your input on my last point and if this is really that big of a deal.

-- I'm not clumsy.. It's just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies, the wall gets in the way AAANNNDDD table saws BITE my fingers!!!.. - Mike -

View John Little's profile

John Little

32 posts in 2153 days


#4 posted 03-08-2016 01:48 AM

Excellent review! Thanks.

-- John Little, ToyMakers of East Lake

View Grumpymike's profile

Grumpymike

2217 posts in 2225 days


#5 posted 03-08-2016 11:30 PM

Your review is pretty unfair to the Rockler dove tail jig.
I agree that the Leigh jig is a nice tool; but at a cost that exceeds most budgets, and the Leigh concept is so different from the Rockler style there is no way to fairly compare the two tools.
The only thing the same about the two tools is that they both make a dovetail with a router collar and a bit.
I made a dovetail jig from a Woodsmith project many years ago, and still use it today.
The number of drawers I make in a years time just won’t justify the cost of any Leigh jig even their cheepie at $300 to $350.
Any of the comb style jigs will take a bit of tweeking to get that just right dovetail but once they are set up they will make all the dove tails that you want.

-- Grumpy old guy, and lookin' good Doin' it. ... Surprise Az.

View Mikesawdust's profile

Mikesawdust

325 posts in 2948 days


#6 posted 03-09-2016 08:34 AM

I went for the RTJ400 about two months ago, loved the results. Setup is easy and the instructions are easy to follow. The price is a high but the ease was worth it to me, I don’t do dovetails often but when I do I don’t want to fight with the process. I had more trouble with setting my table up than anything else, when I initially built my table I was off center by about 1/32” on my bit; this is a problem with the RTJ400, since the collar doesn’t leave much space around the bit. I also ran into an issue with the collar, the nut that holds it in place has studs or flanges around it that make gripping easy for tightening, these actually extend below slightly and limit the router to a very narrow movement up and down. If your router touches these protrusions, the router stops spinning and the collar is tightened extremely; required some pliers to get it back off. I plan to file off the protrusions that extend below the nut; don’t know if its a great idea but I’m doing it.

-- You never cut a piece to short, you are just prepping that piece for a future project

View pintodeluxe's profile

pintodeluxe

5569 posts in 2723 days


#7 posted 03-09-2016 07:42 PM

Good review. I have a number of dovetail jigs, and am always interested in the next version. Looks like a good setup.

-- Willie, Washington "If You Choose Not To Decide, You Still Have Made a Choice" - Rush

View John Downing's profile

John Downing

10 posts in 2602 days


#8 posted 02-11-2017 09:42 PM

I just discovered the RTJ400 via Woodpecker and eventually, I am gonna get it! I have been using the Rockler dovetail jig with the dust collection attachment and it dust collection is pretty good, but the jig is a pita.

I have a Woodpecker lift in a Woodpecker pheonelic table on a custom cabinet base with the Rockler dust bucket. Combined with a dust fitting on the fence, it is virtually dustless! I am looking forward to getting the RTJ400 and fabricating a dust hood on the table for it.

-- Jacks Dad

View JerryinCreek's profile

JerryinCreek

209 posts in 1751 days


#9 posted 02-23-2017 03:37 AM

Used a buddy’s Rockler and it was “ok” but I wouldn’t buy one. Looked at the Leigh version when I saw your review of this router table version. Will definitely consider it. Thanks!

-- Jerry, Johnson Creek, WI "If it was meant to be different it would be."

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