Dovetail Jig

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Forum topic by Vince85 posted 02-23-2010 06:40 PM 3369 views 0 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Vince85's profile


23 posts in 3356 days

02-23-2010 06:40 PM

I visited a woodworking show this weekend and watched several demos of guys using dovetail jigs. Now i know they can make it look easier than it may be because they use them all the time, but I am interested in purchasing a jig. One of the guys doing the demo said his was best because the bit didnt need to be centered in a bushing like most instead it ran with the bearing from the bit.(I have never used a dovetail jig so I dont know I am just taking his word for it) My question is what do you recommend to be a good jig for a BEGINNER.
Thanks in advance

15 replies so far

View Fireguy's profile


132 posts in 3414 days

#1 posted 02-23-2010 07:05 PM

Isaw the same demo a few weeks ago. It made sense to me that it is esier to center the bit in the jig using a bit with a bearing rather than the bushing. I had the same feeling that they make it look much esier than it really is. In the end I decided that dovetails where further down my list than some other things, so I am going to wait until next year.

-- Alex

View CharlieM1958's profile


16278 posts in 4396 days

#2 posted 02-23-2010 07:32 PM

I’m not familiar with the jig you are describing, but most jigs are easy…once you get the setup right. Bit depth and positioning of the workpieces in the jig are critical.

I have the Porter-Cable 4212, which is a very popular mid-priced jig. I’ve been very satisfied with it. There are some more expensive jigs out there that give you more options… it all depends on what you want to do

-- Charlie M. "Woodworking - patience = firewood"

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2718 posts in 3464 days

#3 posted 02-23-2010 07:41 PM

I have the Porter cable 4212. It will do basic through and half blind dovetails, as well as dovetail dadoes. The learning curve on it is not too bad—but there is a learning curve. Yes, experience does make it look easier.. My advice, whatever jig you buy, is to relax, don’t rush it, and be determined to see it through. Most of us want things to work instantly, and it rarely happens that way.

While there is a valid point on the bearing bit, don’t be intimidated by centering the bit in a template guide. It takes a simple centering cone which is inexpensive and easy to use. I know Bosch makes one and I’m sure several others do.

Good Luck


View Randy Sharp's profile

Randy Sharp

363 posts in 3850 days

#4 posted 02-23-2010 07:45 PM

I have the PC like Charlie, except its the 4210 model. I chose to use the Milescraft Bushing Set my router. Centering is a snap with the included centering pin.

It’s a bargain at $119 from Lowe’s. I’ve very pleased with its performance. The bushing set is available at Lowe’s too.

-- Randy, Tupelo, MS ~ A man who honors his wife will have children who honor their father.

View BigG's profile


56 posts in 3247 days

#5 posted 02-23-2010 07:51 PM

I got the new General Tools jig that was written up in one of my mags just before X-Mas. I ordered mine from General but now see that HD has them for $40. It is very simple to use, works quite well and is cheap. One thing regarding the bearing bit that comes with it; The bearings tend to ride up and down whle the bit is spinning which can create some mis-cuts. I have since bought a bushing set and a good bit so no more problems. Just a cheap suggestion for your first try at dovetails. They look good and they are fun.

-- Big G

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3252 days

#6 posted 02-23-2010 08:39 PM

In my opinion, there is one jig that stands out from the rest, Leigh. It used to be that you could not get one for much less than $400. However, now they offer a 12” Super Jig for $229. That’s what I have now. It allows for variable spacing of the tails and pins and in ever regard it is true top of the line quality. The better jigs all cost between $100 and $200. The extra for the Leigh is, in my opinion, well worth it.

Yes, there is a learning curve, but Leigh provides a great DVD and a great manual to help you get started.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View 8iowa's profile


1586 posts in 3939 days

#7 posted 02-23-2010 09:10 PM

I don’t cut dovetails all that often, so when Rockler had their jig on sale ( I think it was $119.95) I purchased it with the dust collector accessory included as a “freebee”. It comes with the router bits and the guide bushing, which fit my PC 690 perfectly. Everything was there to get me started.

Now I purchased this Rockler jig even though I already had the PC 4212 still “new in the box”. Why? I confess that I am somewhat of a “neatnik”, who doesn’t like to engulf the shop in fine wood dust, and the PC jig has no provision for dust collection. After setting -up and using the Rockler jig I really began to appreciate the dust collector accessory, which captures about 90% or so of the dust.

When I reviewed this product on Rockler’s web site, I mentioned that the instructions were not the greatest, and that they should produce a DVD.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View SnowyRiver's profile


51457 posts in 3658 days

#8 posted 02-23-2010 09:52 PM

I think the Leigh and PC are great jigs. I happen to have the Leigh D4, which is an older 24 inch jig. It’s been great. No problems. It did take a bit to get used to it and understand what I am doing, but its been a nice jig. I have called customer service at Leigh a couple of times too and they are great to work with. If you are concerned about price, check Ebay and Craigs list. There are usually dovetail jigs of all types listed there at good prices.

-- Wayne - Plymouth MN

View russv's profile


262 posts in 3347 days

#9 posted 02-23-2010 10:00 PM

I have bought & used the mlcs jig recently and it’s OK. I like my Incra jig ultra best and get what i think are a wide variety of dovetails from one jig. I also found it was the easiest to set up and use. I can get excellent dust collection because of my router table set up. Also, you’ll find you won’t be buying other templates and accessories. The Incra comes with everything except bits. they also have an excellent DVD selection if you want to learn what else you want to do with this system.


-- where to go because you don't want no stinking plastic!

View Vince85's profile


23 posts in 3356 days

#10 posted 02-23-2010 10:14 PM

Thanks for all the replys! One more question like I said I have never used a dovetail jig before but can you use a bearing bit with every jig or do you have to use a bushing with some?

View JimmyNate's profile


124 posts in 3528 days

#11 posted 02-23-2010 10:36 PM

I was at the woodwoorking show in Kansas City this weekend as well and I saw 2 or 3 people demonstrating products a little different than what most of us would think of as a dovetail jig. They had router tables set up with either bearing or bushing guided dovetail bits used inconjunction with plastic patterns. This system produced lots of odd shaped joinery in addition to dovetails so it’s nice in that respect but I wouldn’t trade it for my Porter Cable jig for ease of use and reliable results.

Also, one of the keys to getting a good fit is adjusting bit depth. This is easy to do with a dovetail bit and guide bushing but I don’t even see how you could do it with a bearing guided bit.

The bottom line is I would recommend a porter cable or Leigh jig.

Later on, If you want to do the system they used at the show, you can easily make your own patterns with some patience and a bit of 1/4” MDF and use the same methods with a router table with the added bonus of having your own custom designed ‘signature’ dovetail pattern.

Regarding your question…most router jigs require bit depth adjustment—-making the guide bushing system necessary. Theoretically if you didn’t need the bit depth adjustment or if the bearing height were adjustable, AND if the bearing were the same diameter as the stock guide bushing, you could use a bearing guided bit with jigs. I haven’t personally seen the need—centering has never been an issue for me (porter cable 690 routers).

-- "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then is not an act but a habit." ---Aristotle

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3252 days

#12 posted 02-23-2010 10:51 PM

Vince – You need a bushing with most jigs.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Vince85's profile


23 posts in 3356 days

#13 posted 02-24-2010 05:33 AM

JimmyN I was at the show in KC as well I saw the guy you were talking about making the “odd” dovetails, heart shaped etc. And the other guy I saw talked down about those jigs because you needed to be centered in a bushing. He did his job because he had me feeling like that was alot of trouble and almost had me sold on his jig. That is until I thought “Why would I take one guys advice when I could ask 15,000+ people with a few clicks of the keyboard”. Thank you guys so much and I am taking your words for it that its not hard to center into a bushing. I am also thinking of just finding a used one to start so I can get used to everything before I invest big.
Thanks again guys!

View JimmyNate's profile


124 posts in 3528 days

#14 posted 02-24-2010 08:20 PM

If you’re not too far from Kansas City, Woodcraft is having a sale this weekend…though even with the sale, jigs might be cheaper elsewhere…

I haven’t seen one on there in awhile but sometimes used jigs show up on

-- "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence then is not an act but a habit." ---Aristotle

View grub32's profile


215 posts in 3226 days

#15 posted 02-24-2010 08:49 PM

I have the DR4 leigh jig…it is amazing….so simple, great dvd and manual… I only recommend having a digital caliper for measuring depth to make it go faster. I have a router dedicated to dovetailing so I just leave the bit in. it takes me more time to calculate length of side boards with the pin length than the time it takes to route the whole thing.

I think I am going to make a video of me, novice, using it.

I think it is powerful seeing a rookie, mainly, using the jig.

good luck


-- Educator by Day, Wood Butcher by Night!!

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