Porter Cable 4216 dovetail jig... what am I doing wrong?

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Forum topic by Fallon posted 03-15-2010 03:20 AM 11149 views 0 times favorited 12 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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92 posts in 3331 days

03-15-2010 03:20 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question router jig

I knew nothing about dovetails until recently & bagged a PC 4216 to learn on & for an upcoming project. Tonight I finally got the chance to mess around with the jig.

First try I was using some junk 1/4” plywood… Lets just say it shouldn’t make gunshot type noises when you hit it with the router. Tear-out doesn’t adequately describe how badly it got tore up. Oh well, it was just junk to learn on.

My next 2 tries was on some 1/2” poplar & only had minor tearout. However my problem is not getting the right depth I believe. I end up with joints that look like (sorry for the blurry photos, but I just snapped quick ones with my cell phone, didn’t want to bother taking the time to do get good photos, it show off the basic flaws in the joint at least).

Bad dovetail

Bad dovetail

The length of the pins & depth of the tails seems to be off. Both are 3/8” deep when they should be 1/2”. I set the depth of the router bit (via the gauges on the side at) at 3/8” for both bits. The manual says to set the depth gauges to 3/8” one at the very beginning. Am I missing something?

The joint is nice & tight & my alignment issues are just because I’m trying to get the basics down on some scrap for now.

12 replies so far

View CharlieM1958's profile


16281 posts in 4421 days

#1 posted 03-15-2010 03:35 AM

It definitely looks like your depth setting is too shallow. I have that jig, but I’ve only used it for half-blind dovetails so I can’t offer too much help. As I recall, though, the manual is pretty good about telling you what adjustment needs to be made when the joints come out a certain way.

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

View Fallon's profile


92 posts in 3331 days

#2 posted 03-15-2010 03:57 AM

Ya, the manual looks pretty good, except for the section on troubleshooting through dovetails.

For joints that are too loose, move the template toward you slightly.
For joints that are too tight, move the template away from you slightly.”

My joints are nice & tight

It make repeated references to using the depth stop to set the router depth, but only the 3/8” reference to setting the depth stop at the very beginning.

View Madwood's profile


68 posts in 3254 days

#3 posted 03-15-2010 05:27 AM

I have a 4216 that I’ve had for a year and it’s not even out of the box yet :(. I do know that with through dovetails, the depth of cut has to be identical to the thickness of the stock you’re using. Using a pc the same thickness of what you’re using, adjust the depth stop to that thickness and go from there. You may still have to do a little fine tuning, but at least you’ll have a better starting reference point.

I hope to get mine out this week and have some fun with it. I’ll be making some new shop cabs with through dovetail drawers. Yeah, 20 or so should do the trick!!


-- In the shop making chaos out of order

View Branum's profile


54 posts in 3370 days

#4 posted 03-15-2010 06:04 AM

On the left side of the jig attatched to the template is a small thumb screw. When you are ready to set your router depth (do this after you have set your template height and clamps) take the piece of wood and place it between the thumb screw and the bottom of the template. Raise the thumb screw untill it touches the bottom of the wood then screw it back down a full turn. You should be able to wiggle the wood between the top of the thumb screw and the underside of the face of the template (does that make sense?). Tighten the nut (3/8 I believe) to lock the thumb screw in place. Take the router with the template guide bushing attached to it and slide it into the small grove over the thumb screw. Lower your bit untill it hits the top of the thumb screw and your depth will be set. May take a little practice to get it just right. I have the 12” p-c jig and once you get used to using it you will be able to bust out a box in about 15-20 minutes total time. A neat trick you can do with this jig is, instead of making say 8 tails and 6 pins, cut out the first two tails then skip one, cut out two more, skip one, then cut out the last two. Move the piece of wood over to the right and center the 3 small tails so you can cut them out. You then get 3 large tails instead of a bunch of small ones. Flip the template over to cut the pins and line up the tail board to the pin board so you know which pins to cut out. Makes a neat looking large through dove tail. PM me if you need any more help. I can take pics to show you what to do if you get confused.

-- Branum

View Branum's profile


54 posts in 3370 days

#5 posted 03-15-2010 06:07 AM

Sorry, one thing you need to know when doing through dove tails or box joints is that you want your cut to be deeper than the thickness of your wood. Not too much though. After the box is glued you go back and sand down your pins and tails.

-- Branum

View rwyoung's profile


409 posts in 3675 days

#6 posted 03-15-2010 06:07 AM

I have a 4212 which is the same base as the 4216 but without the smaller template.

The depth stops are not guaranteed to be properly adjusted. Period.

I don’t even use them, instead I gauge the wood just like I would if I was to hand cut a dovetail. Then looking down under the template I can lower the bit until the edge just catches on the scribe line. Done, depth is set.

If all your pieces are the same thickness, you only have to scribe the test piece and set the bit. After that just crank them through.

As to the chip out, plywood will do that. You can use backer boards if you must make the dovetails (or box joints) in ply. And even in the “good” wood you can get chip out. The scoring trick I mention above helps a little bit. If you score along the short edges of the tail boards it helps to minimize the chip out. A shallow backroute pass at the beginning also helps.

If you search at you can find a video the Woodsmith guys made where they walk you through the use of the 4212.

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

View Fallon's profile


92 posts in 3331 days

#7 posted 03-15-2010 06:28 AM

Thanks for the info. Setting the gauge height to the thickness makes a whole lot more sense.

As I said, I haven’t ever done any dovtailing at all. Will look into the scribing & other anti-tearout stuff once I get the basics down. Kind of doubt I’ll ever go down the hand cut road, but you never know.

View Branum's profile


54 posts in 3370 days

#8 posted 03-15-2010 06:33 AM

One more thing, you don’t want your joints tight. You need a little room for the glue. The joints should slide together easily, no pounding.

-- Branum

View rwyoung's profile


409 posts in 3675 days

#9 posted 03-15-2010 03:50 PM

@Branum -

The best way I’ve heard to describe that “loose” fit is that you can tap the joint together with your hat. :)

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

View Winut's profile


1 post in 206 days

#10 posted 05-24-2018 01:25 PM

I am having a nightmare with this Jig, all my joints are to tight, i have gone through countless lengths but can not put my finger on the reason can any kind person give me a insite into why i can not join the pieces of woods together, i have followed the instructions to the tee but cant go them to join except hammer them

View Mike_D_S's profile


496 posts in 2418 days

#11 posted 05-25-2018 04:06 AM


You resurrected a bit of a zombie thread, you will probably get better results by just starting a new thread. A lot of people would see the original poster’s date of 2010 and maybe not read down much.

As that jig can make a few different joints, when you create the new post make sure you specify exactly what joint you are trying to make and what bit you are using. You’ll get more feedback in your own thread.


-- No honey, that's not new, I've had that forever......

View Markmh1's profile


92 posts in 646 days

#12 posted 05-25-2018 12:50 PM

If you google “porter cable dovetail video John Van Wald”, this should be a great help to you.

He has two videos, one for 1/2 blind and one for through dovetails. This is a video in a high school shop class setting. IMO, this is one of the best, if not the best, out there.

For through dovetails he mentions a sacrificial piece to prevent tear out.

Good luck,

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