Are there any good online tutorials for using a dovetail jig?

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Forum topic by 2xmahi posted 09-24-2009 08:38 PM 2700 views 1 time favorited 14 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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62 posts in 2694 days

09-24-2009 08:38 PM

Topic tags/keywords: jig question trick tip

i have been trying to find a site that has agood tutorial on making dovetails using a dovetail jig… any info would be appreciated.. thanks cory


14 replies so far

View jockmike2's profile


10635 posts in 3670 days

#1 posted 09-24-2009 08:48 PM

I second that I just got my new 12 inch Leigh jig and although I’ve read the directions I’m still apprehensive about using it without seeing it used. Maybe MLCS has something. I’ll check around.

-- (You just have to please the man in the Mirror) Mike from Michigan -

View Kindlingmaker's profile


2656 posts in 2950 days

#2 posted 09-24-2009 11:18 PM

Well I guess I will third this one. I have a HF jig and so far have been able to start many a campfire with the results. In theory, I know what to do but in doing the hands on, well, I might as well be using my feet.

-- Never board, always knotty, lots of growth rings

View dbhost's profile


5590 posts in 2655 days

#3 posted 09-24-2009 11:43 PM

Pretty sure it won’t help with dissimilar jigs / templates, but MLCS has a good tutorial / video on their website for using the Pins & Tails dovetail template set…

One thing they don’t go into, that I wish they would is proper bit speed for those of us with variable speed routers…

-- My workshop blog can be found at

View Tomas's profile


47 posts in 3411 days

#4 posted 09-24-2009 11:53 PM

I have the best tutorial for you on how to use a dovetail jig -it is called experience. I am not trying to be funny or smart. I read up on my porter-cable tutorial and it is a good place to start but you really will not learn much until you actually use the jig. The reason for that is the tutorial will probably fail to underline, emphasize or shout out to you that you have to try different depth of cut adjustments to get a proper fit. One time I tried the half blind dovetails they would not fit into the sockets so I was hammering away and splitting the boards. I made another adjustment and this time they were too loose. You really should get some cheap wood and experiment with the settings until you can run the boards through the jig and get a perfectly matched set of boards that fit together with light pressure. You should resort to the manual to orientate yourself with the tool but experience is the final chapter of any tutorial – good luck.

View SKFrog16's profile


661 posts in 2623 days

#5 posted 09-25-2009 03:42 AM
Here, try this website. It should help you get to the point where you understand it better. But also, practice, practice, practice. Like Tomas said, there is no better teacher than experience, but you have to learn to crawl before you can walk. Every jig is different too. They are tools, so they have their own traits that you have got to learn. Kind of like compensating for that drift you have on your band saw.

-- Methods are many,Principles are few.Methods change often,Principles never do.

View Jim Crockett (USN Retired)'s profile

Jim Crockett (USN Retired)

852 posts in 3156 days

#6 posted 09-25-2009 04:46 AM

I need more than help with a jig, I need an ‘Idiot’s Guide to Dovetails’! I don’t know pins from tails – from one side, I see pins but from the other side, the pins look like tails. I’m so confused! Box joints are so much simpler – everything looks the same!


-- A veteran is someone who, at one point in his/her life, wrote a blank check made payable to "The United States of America," for an amount of "up to and including his/her life".

View Monty Queen's profile

Monty Queen

1593 posts in 2675 days

#7 posted 09-25-2009 07:26 AM

I just purchased a 12 in dovetail jig from a friend because he has a 18 and 24 inch. I have the owners manual and i played with it for about 5 hours. I got pretty good however i have a ways to go before i fill comfortable to start makin stuff out of hard wood. I basicly practice with 3/4 pine there was a little splintering but looked pretty good. I agree with the above coments read your owner manual to understand the basics. Then cut you some blocks of wood and practice.

-- Monty Q, Columbia, South Carolina.

View TomHintz's profile


207 posts in 2821 days

#8 posted 09-25-2009 08:21 AM

I have a couple stories on dovetails at the links below. The second, about aligning the guide collar, should be mandatory reading for anyone with a dovetail jig as that one router tune-up cures many problems that get blamed on the dovetail jig.
The other point I can make is to take your time and follow the instructions, step-by-step on some test wood. Experience really is a big part of using a dovetail jig but poor instructions can push the learning curve way more vertical and more time consumming. One of the things I love about the Leigh jigs are the super instructions with full-on graphics and well-written text.

-- Tom Hintz,

View BeeJay's profile


71 posts in 2611 days

#9 posted 09-25-2009 01:27 PM

Mate, every jig has its own differences. Whatever jig you have, go to their websit. All the good manufacturers have videos and downloadable user guides available to owners. I have recently bought a leigh having cut all dovetails by hand for near 40 years and found it invaluable. But as they say practice and setup are the key. Take care, take time and get it right, then you will enjoy the experience.

-- If you try to fail and succeed, what have you done?

View stefang's profile


15512 posts in 2757 days

#10 posted 09-25-2009 03:40 PM

I have a Bosch 24” jig. I have gotten good results with it, but all the test cuts and height readjustments are really irritating, to the point that I cut them by hand now. This is ok for me, but I’m making very few thing that require dovetails.

It is revealing to hear others complain about their jigs though, because I didn’t know others were also unhappy with their experience. I think BeeJay is right. If you keep at it long enough you will learn to avoid the glitches and get the necessary experiences to adjust it correctly.

When cutting dovetails for appearance’s sake, I would go for hand cut ones every time providing the total number was not overwhelming. This is because the thick shank on the dovetail bits create very wide cuts and in my opinion they don’t give the graceful look that many are shooting for. However, I wouldn’t hesitate to use the jig where durability and/or speed is the main issue.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View rwyoung's profile


385 posts in 2895 days

#11 posted 09-25-2009 04:29 PM

There is a good podcast over at

Heck, lots of good podcasts…

-- Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things.

View NBeener's profile


4808 posts in 2597 days

#12 posted 09-26-2009 09:05 PM

YouTube seems to have a number of different how-to vids. Maybe one of them will get you started….

-- -- Neil

View Joe Lyddon's profile

Joe Lyddon

9330 posts in 3475 days

#13 posted 09-26-2009 09:11 PM

Fine Woodworking has a great online sight… but you have to get with a Subscription…

If you get it, look at this… The guy reviews 12 dovetail Jigs…

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

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Joe Lyddon

9330 posts in 3475 days

#14 posted 09-26-2009 09:18 PM


“Easy Set-Up and instruction video for Through Dovetail Templates”
(just down a little from the top of page… in the center…)

I have the jig… all of very good quality… The video is a Must Watch…

I agree, there should be some talk on Bit Speed for us using ‘variable speed’ routers.

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

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