A clear sign of solid craftsmanship on any wood project is when that piece has dovetail joints. It features cleanly cut lines and edges on two pieces of wood that allow these two parts to connect perfectly. When you cut the wood the right way, you don’t even need to use any glue or adhesive because a simple tap will make the pieces fit together.
Making this type of joint with a saw or another tool is almost impossible because you’ll need to sand down each piece multiple times to create the precise edges that you need. That is why I highly recommend using a dovetail jig. The best one lets you create perfect lines every time.
After looking at the best product reviews, prices, and other factors, I picked the Leigh Super 12” (Check Price on Amazon.com) as the top model. I especially like that it comes with an instructional DVD that shows you how to set it up and use it on your projects. You can check out this model and other products after finding out how to choose the best model for your needs.
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Top Products on the Market
6 Best Dovetail Jig - Reviews
1. Leigh Super 12”
As you read over the best product reviews, you’ll quickly find that everyone has their thoughts and opinions on which ones are the best, but this model gets high reviews from almost all customers. One feature I like about this model is that it comes with an instructional DVD that you can pop into your DVD player or computer and watch before using it for the first time or when you need a quick refresher course later. This DVD not only shows you how to use the tool, but it also includes some tips on working with different types of wood.
The 12” size also makes this one of the biggest ones that you’ll find on the market. That size makes it perfect for most home and amateur projects and allows you to use it with wood up to 12-inches in size. If you need to use larger pieces of boards, you might need a professional model with a higher price tag.
Also included are three router bits that make it easier to work on all your projects. Those bits come in and out to help you cut clean lines in the hardest of woods. You’ll also find that the fingers on this model adjust quickly for all your projects.
2. Woodhaven 7660
A good option for those who need to make dovetail joints but can’t afford to spend a lot of money is the 7660 from Woodhaven. Though it has a nice look and an easy to use design, it costs a fraction of what my top choice costs.
Designed to give you more stability, this one won’t shake or move the way others do as you use it, which can often lead to uneven edges and other problems. A large and rounded knob on one end lets you keep your hand on it to give it some extra stability as you work. There are clamp knobs too that you can clamp down before using it.
Included with this unit is a dovetail bit with a carbide tip that won’t wear down as quickly as others can. This carbide style also makes it last longer than ordinary metal bits will. This bit has a bearing-guided design that lets you use the included bearing to guide it.
Woodhaven also gives you a lifetime guarantee when you purchase this model. It protects you against the tool breaking and from defects caused by the tool. If you aren’t happy with the end look of your project, you can take advantage of your guarantee.
3. Porter-Cable 4216
This Porter Cable is like the 4216 model is excellent for all types of projects and is the type of affordable jig that will help you get started. Included inside the box are three different template sets that you can use for setting up your cuts. Those templates make this product as easy to use as putting them down and getting to work.
One template is perfect for making sliding ones and creating half-blind and rabbeted dovetails. The second template allows you to make the type of box joints that you see on drawers and other pieces of furniture. You’ll also get another template that you can use when making miniature ones.
It might be the best product for those who want a product that is easy to use. The tool itself has lines that help you align the template that you want to use with this product and to set it in place. It also comes with depth gauges for configuring your router to the right depth before cutting.
Though this set does not come with an instructional DVD, it does come with an instruction booklet that offers some helpful tips on using it and setting up the tool. Porter-Cable also gives you a wrench and two lock nuts.
4. Keller Dovetail System 135-2200 Journeyman
The Journeyman from Keller System makes a great gift for someone just starting out their journeyman training, but this set is reliable enough for those who want to make furniture at home. Using a jig for the first time might leave you feeling frustrated and like you need to something more fundamental. You can’t get more basic than this set, which comes in at a highly affordable price.
One reason I ranked this product lower on my list is because it will slightly limit the types and sizes of wood that you use. While it can work with boards of any width or length, it restricts the thickness of the boards you can use with it. Those boards must be at least 1/8 of an inch thick but no thicker than ¾ of an inch, and using a thinner or thicker board can damage the tool.
Designed to eliminate the test cuts that you usually need to make, this tool can help you save time and money because you can set it up almost instantly and feel confident in making cuts. You can place this right on your wood and run your router across the top to make your cuts. It works with router tables and hand-held routers.
This tool works on all types of projects too. It lets you make box and dovetail joints, and classic cuts as well as obtuse and acute cuts.
5. MLCS 6406
Depending on how you want to make it, you may find basic products like this tool from MLCS more helpful than some of the more complex tools on this list. Made from solid aluminum, it provides all the stability that you want but also manages to keep its overall weight down. That makes it easier to carry this tool when using it on a table and to store it around your shop.
Designed specifically for making half-blind joints, this one helps you perfect rabbeted joints that create the straight sides that you need when making boxes. Not only can you make decorative boxes that you give out as gifts, but you can produce drawers with flush sides that fit perfectly on a dresser or another piece of furniture.
Capable of working with drawer fronts of up to 12-inches in width, it can also work with drawer fronts of up to one-inch thick. It lets you set up two pieces of wood at the same time and cut both in one motion, which ensures that they will fit together without any hassles.
MLCS gives you an instructional manual that walks you through how to set up each feature, what to do with your wood and what steps to make before cutting.
6. Woodstock D2796
Some people will try to warn you away from using a dovetail template for router made from aluminum; I think that products like the D2796 from Woodstock are an excellent choice for many workshops. Though this product uses aluminum, it features a durable form of aluminum that is lightweight but will still handle the weight of your router without bending or breaking. That aluminum also allows you to store it and use it anytime you need without requiring help to move it.
One thing I love about this tool is how quickly you can set it up. You just slide one piece of wood through the side and push the other section through the top. Once those parts meet in the center, you can run your router along the template to make your cuts.
To ensure that you don’t make any mistakes and waste wood, Woodstock added knobs to the top and side that you can tighten in place to keep the wood from moving. They also help you keep one hand on the unit as you cut to give it more support.
Suitable for making half-blind joints of up to ½ inch in size, the D2796 comes with a 14-degree router bit. It will work with a 1/2-inch shank that Woodstock sells separately too.
Our Top Choice
After looking at a number of different models, I picked the Super 12” from Leigh as the best. It is one that professionals can use as clearly as amateurs without any experience because it comes with movable fingers that you can adjust and move in seconds. It also features a larger capacity that lets you use it with 12-inch boards, which gives it one of the largest capacities on the market.
My final verdict is that this is one of the simplest models to use too because the manufacturer provides you with an instructional DVD that you can watch before ever using it and anytime that you need some help. This DVD gives you some tips on using it with different types of woods too. Leigh is one of the only companies to include this product with a jig.
No matter how much experience you have or what projects you hope to do, Leigh can help you with this 12” jig.
How to Choose the Perfect One for You
1. How Much Can You Afford?
While it might seem like knowing how much you can afford to spend before you buy is common sense, far too many people find themselves swayed once they start looking and wind up spending more money than they wanted. My top ranked model is a little on the expensive side, but you can find a machine priced at between $100 and $200. Spending more towards the higher end of your budget helps you avoid tools that might break quickly.
2. Does the Tool Come with a Template?
The biggest reason to invest in this tool is because of the included template, but not all of these products come with a template or even with the same type of template. A template is a piece of metal that you can place flat on the wood to line up your cuts. When you move the router over the top, you can cut out the wood that you don't need and create smooth edges.
Some of the top units actually come with more than one template. Those templates let you make joints that are a little more fluid or decorative and those that have perfectly straight edges. You'll also find templates designed for making unique or unusual cuts like obtuse and acute cuts.
3. How Does It Hold the Wood?
Another reason to invest in this product for router table is because it keeps the wood perfectly flat as you cut, which helps you stay on target and move just the router without holding the wood. You want to make sure that it has at least one clamp, but those that have multiple clamps usually do a better job. Each clamp affixes to a different part of the wood to keep one piece from slipping out of place.
4. How Much Does it Weigh?
Though I try not to focus too much on weight because most tools are fairly portable, weight is important when it comes to using it. If the product is too heavy, you're more likely to keep it stored under your table or in a closet instead of using it. Those made from aluminum are fairly lightweight and are easy to pick up, carry and store.
5. Can it Accommodate More Than One Piece of Wood?
The best product is one that can accommodate more than one piece of wood at a time. When you take a look at the top units, you'll find that the top products allow you to join or meet two pieces of wood in the exact center. When you cut, you'll make cuts across both pieces at the same time to ensure that those two will fit together.
How to Use This Unit
You can read hundreds of reviews and even look at how to make a DIY one and still feel confused about how to use one. That is why I highly recommend the Leigh product, which comes with a DVD that walks you through each step in using it. Though other products come with an instructional manual, the information in those manuals can be a bit confusing.
The best way to figure out how to use it is with a little practice. Try using those scrap pieces of wood that you have around your workshop to figure out where you’ll want to place the wood before turning on your router.
It’s also important to keep in mind that not all products will work with a router table. Some of the tools that you see today are too small or too large to sit on your table.