Best Dovetail Jig Reviews and Buying Guide

Best Dovetail Jig Reviews and Buying Guide

While dovetail joints are remarkably strong, cutting them by hand is tough and awkward.

The way in which the tails and pins are shaped on these joints gives them their strength and elegance.

Any piece with dovetail joint demonstrates a degree of craftsmanship has been injected into the project. With clean-cut lines and edges meshing together perfectly, you won’t even need any glue. 

Cutting these same tails and pins manually demands a degree of skill far beyond the scope of the average home woodworker. If you tried to take the job on by hand, you’d spend a huge chunk of time repeatedly sanding down the material to get the level of precision required for the pieces to slot together.

From bookcases and drawers to cabinets and shelving, investing in the best dovetail jig can save you a great deal of time as well as frustration. You’ll be sure of secure, precise joints every time and you won’t need to spend much for the privilege.

Luckily, we’re here as always to streamline your buying decision every step of the way. 

We’ll first walk you through 5 of the leading dovetail jigs so you can get a feel for the type of equipment you have at your fingertips.

After that, we’ll serve up the usual handy hints on using and maintaining these nifty power tools along with a collection of the most frequently asked questions.

Once you’re done today, choosing the most effective dovetail jig should be a cinch.

You find dovetail jigs in different forms. Essentially a simple tool for holding pieces of material in place, you can then use a woodworking jointer to cut accurate tails and pins so what types are available?

Some of the simpler dovetail jigs come with nothing much in the box except the tool itself. You might find this type with a template already attached to the underside of the body. You’ll clamp the workpiece to the side of the jig’s body. You then move the jig toward the router to remove negative space.

Most of the dovetail jigs we look at today come with a variety of separate templates. You’ll be able to cut a wide variety of joints from finger joints and half-blind joints through to mitered blind joints and through dovetails.

The Best Dovetail Jig Reviews 2020 – Comparison Chart By Mitersawjudge.com

With so many of these dovetail jigs on the market, it’s tough to determine which ones are actually any good so we’ll make that easy for you. 

We’ll be looking at these 5 great models so you can see which best fits your needs and budget…

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS

Makita 7 ½-Inch Metal Cutting Circular Saw

  • 13-amp motor
  • 3500 RPM
  • 10 ½ pounds
VIEW LATEST PRICE

Bosch 18-V Metal Cutting Circular Saw

  • 18-volt lithium-ion battery
  • 3800 RPM
  • Four-pole ferrite motor
VIEW LATEST PRICE

MK Morse 7-Inch Metal Cutting Circular Saw

  • 11-amp motor
  • 3500 RPM
  • Chip collection cover
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Milwaukee 8-Inch Metal Cutting Circular Saw

  • 13-amp motor
  • 3700 RPM
  • 8-inch dry cutting blade
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Evolution Power Tools 7 ¼-Inch Industrial

  • 9-amp motore
  • Adjustable cutting depth
  • 0 to 45-degree bevel tilt
VIEW LATEST PRICE

Detailed Dovetail Jig Reviews

The PORTER-CABLE 4216 is fundamentally the same as the 4212 except it comes with an extra template ideal for making much smaller cuts.

Coming fully assembled, you won’t need to mess around when your package arrives, you’ll get everything you need included except for the router. Check out our study of the best routers right here if you don’t already have one in your workshop.

Before we dive down in a bit more depth, here’s a snapshot of the core features of the 4216…

  • Amazon's Choice
  • 500+ Reviews
  • by PORTER-CABLE

This is a really well thought out jig and very well built. I was able to create a box jointed box in roughly 10-20 mins including time to cut the box faces. My only beef is with the instructions. So far for the box joints instructions the guide recommended using a 3/4” template guide but this should have been 5/8” – so definitely make sure you do some dry runs on some sacrificial work pieces before unleashing on your prime lumber.

By Amazon Customer

Main Features

  • 12-inch dovetail jig
  • 3 templates
  • 4 template guides
  • Accepts stock to 1 1/8-inch thick
  • 4 router bits
  • 3-year limited warranty

If you frequently carry out a lot of dovetailing work and you want to get this done quickly without sacrificing precision, the PORTER-CABLE 4216 is a smart bet.

You’ll be able to work with material from ¼-inch right through to 1 1/8-inch at the upper end giving you a great deal of flexibility.

Unlike many less complete packages, you’ll get everything you need thrown in except that router. Assuming you have the correct adapter and collet, the 4216 is compatible with any router on the market widening your choice out completely. 

Along with the base and 4 router bits so you’re ready to roll, you’ll get the following templates:

  • Template for half-blind, sliding dovetail and rabbeted half-blind joints
  • Template for miniature throughs, miniature box joints and half-blind dovetail joints
  • Template for through-dovetail joints and box joints

4 template guides, supports nuts and bolts are also thrown in.

These templates allow you to get creative with a full gamut of joints ideal for even more ambitious projects. Made from machined aluminum, they might look fragile but they’re built to stay the distance.

Like any new power tool, looking at the PORTER-CABLE might intimidate a beginner. Creating precision joints is also not a task for a complete beginner. Assuming you’ve got some basic skills in place, though, take your time to read the instruction manual thoroughly and you shouldn’t have any problem with this user-friendly piece of kit.

Indeed, it’s the ease of use and the fact this tool comes fully assembled that seem to be the key selling points for the legion of satisfied users delighted to have added this jig to their workshop.

Build quality is first rate with the base constructed from a single piece of stainless steel.

Cam-type clamps are remarkably heavy-duty and come with sandpaper backing on the locking bars so you’ll get a sure grip on any work-piece.

The proprietary alignment and holding system lets you line up your material with ease then lock them in place with the security of those clamps so you can focus on your work without fear of instability.

Another leading benefit of this endearingly popular dovetail jig is the way you can set the bit depth without needing to fiddle around measuring up. This comes in especially handy if you’re working on larger projects as the time you’ll save adds up over the course of a day.

Although this jig comes assembled, there are a number of complex pieces bundled so take the time to read through the comprehensive manual so you get a clear idea of what’s what before trying to steam ahead with some joints.

The 3-year warranty is class-leading and PORTER-CABLE take things a stage further. You’ll also benefit from protection against any parts that wear out during the first year, even if this is due to normal wear and tear. Customer service is responsive and helpful so you’re in safe hands every step of the way.

Take a look at the principal advantages and drawbacks so you can see at a glance whether this dovetail jig makes the right fit for your requirements…

Pro's

  • This dovetail jig allows you to work on a broad spread of applications from cabinet and furniture making through to more general woodworking
  • Create miniature throughs, box joints and rabbeted half-blind dovetails with the outstanding template pack provided
  • Base fashioned from a single piece of steel is remarkably rugged and gives you a rock-solid and stable base to work from
  • Clamps complete with locking bars further enhance this stability
  • Onboard gauge lets you set the bit depth with no need to measure up which is a nice time-saver
  • Easy to use despite such wide-reaching functionality
  • Wrench and a pair of lock nuts thrown in which is a bonus at this price-point
  • Everything comes fully assembled so get going straight out the box

Con's

  • Although the 4126 is not cheap, you’ll get such a comprehensive package you won’t be complaining about overall value
  • While it’s a nice addition, the depth gauge is made from flimsy plastic so handle with care
  •  

Conclusion

This versatile and portable dovetail jig will see you up and running pretty much straight out the box. 

Once you’re operational, using this tool is reasonably straightforward and the accuracy combined with speed and time saved makes it a valuable addition to any workshop.

While marginally more expensive than some of the lower-end models in this vertical, you’ll nevertheless get outstanding value for money and that top-notch 3-year PORTER-CABLE warranty to take the trepidation out of purchase.

Stepping things up in terms of price but remaining in the same 12-inch size bracket, this dovetail jig from the inimitable Leigh’s Super series is a first-class performer.

If you’re looking for the cheapest dovetail jig you can find, this is absolutely not for you. If, on the other hand, you have a slightly more fluid budget and you’re looking for a precision power tool from a brand you can rely on, read on to see just what you’ll get for your money.

  • Kit
  • 12"
  • by Leigh

Several years ago I experimented with a cheap dovetail jig, and hated it so much that I thought I’d never do dovetails again. The Leigh Super 12″ has completely changed my mind. Not only are the dovetails easy, they are easily adjustable too. I also bought the vacuum and router support and I am happy I did. This set-up is super easy to make great dove tails right away. The directions are as others have stated, really good, and by following them the jig is easy to set up and use. I did one practice run, then I made drawer boxes for an entertainment center I am working on. Take your time and follow the directions and you will be making dovetails faster and more accurate than you imagined. I don’t have anything bad to say here. The Super 12″ is just that good!

By Amazon Customer

First, a shotgun summary of the main features:

Main Features

  • 12-inch dovetail jig
  • Completely adjustable guide fingers
  • 3 router bits
  • Cut dovetail joints on boards to 12 inches wide
  • Leigh E Bush

While you’ll need to dig deep for the privilege, the Leigh 12-inch gives you precision that few other dovetail jigs can rival. You’ll also get a huge amount of freedom with the ability to create almost any type of dovetail joints.

One of the principal reasons for this versatility is the almost infinitely adjustable one-piece fingers. From sliding joints to box joints, you can take care of everything quickly and easily without standing on ceremony. You can make templates for almost any type of joint with these fingers regardless of the width of the board.

The 3 router bits included in the package are ideal for half-blind dovetailing. You can also make 5/8-inch and 5/16-inch joints thanks to the innovative finger assembly.

Where you’re not limited to a single bit or just one depth, you’ll immediately appreciate the wide scope afforded by this powerful jig.

You’ll be able to make very accurate adjustments to fit thanks in large part to the E Bush. A pin wrench is chucked in for the purpose of fine-tuning. With a strangely shaped locking nut, you’ll find everything snaps quickly and easily into place with tightening practically effortless.

You won’t need to fly blind either since clear markings show you which direction is required for adjustments, a thoughtful touch. By just twisting the E Bush, you can alter the active diameter and this changes the fit of both half-blind dovetails and finger joints.

For once, the presence of this E Bush translates to more than just a hollow term used for marketing purposes and gives you an ergonomic, precise and straightforward experience rendering the Leigh a sheer pleasure to use.

So…

Does this diversity of applications means the Leigh Super 12 is a chore to use?

Far from it. Just like with any dovetail jig, complete beginners will struggle. The thing is, though, if you’re just starting out then you’re highly unlikely to be undertaking any kind of project where you’d need the intricacy of dovetail joints anyway so it’s almost moot. As long as you’ve got a little experience in the workshop, you should find this tool a cakewalk to operate and this is one of its primary selling points. You’ll get precision engineering and massive flexibility married to ease of use.

Before we round out with our verdict of the Leigh Super 12-inch dovetail jig, here’s a breakdown of the chief advantages and drawbacks…

Pro's

  • Keep workpiece completely secure throughout thanks to the aluminum clamp bars and the cam action
  • Fence slots neatly into place to help with the creation of precise dovetail joints
  • Router bits bundled give you the ability to create half-blind dovetail joints
  • Finger assembly allows you to make 5/8-inch and 5/16-inch joints giving you even greater scope
  • Variable spacing throughout as on all Super jigs from the legendary Leigh
  • Crosscut fence acts as a de facto template for sliding dovetails
  • Simple but tech-driven E Bush is a pleasure to use
  • Instructional DVD thrown in which is ideal if you’re a visual learner and not particularly experienced with dovetail jigs
  • Wide range of bit and depth of cut options at your fingertips

Con's

  • As with all dovetail jigs, expect a fairly steep learning curve if you’re inexperienced but don’t let this put you off

Conclusion

To reiterate, if you’re hunting purely for the least expensive dovetail jig, steer well clear of Leigh. As with any highly reputable brand, a significant portion of the sticker price goes toward funding the extensive R&D costs required to bring pioneering tools like this to market.

And, with that patented E Bush, you can see clearly where those research and development dollars went. Everything looks and feels just right with this jig and if you’re considering the investment, it’s well worth keeping this in mind…

When you’re building out a workshop, you should always buy the best you can afford without overextending yourself financially. Sometimes, this means you’re better advised to wait and buy a tool a few months later rather than rushing in and trying to shave off a few bucks. The best tools will last you a lifetime and this dovetail jig could be a versatile ally in your arsenal for many happy years of woodworking.

Next up we’ve got a cheaper entry point to the world of dovetail joints with this neat little system from Keller.

As with any tool, intended purpose should inform your buying decision to a large extent. Maybe you’re just finding your feet as a woodworker and you fancy the idea of taking on some dovetail joints but you’re not convinced an expensive and complex jig makes sense for you…

If so, the aptly named Journeyman from Keller is a superb choice. You’ll get a user-friendly introduction to dovetailing without needing to spend a fortune but you’ll benefit from a highly reputable brand at the same time.

  • DoveTail Jig
  • 10+ Reviews
  • by Keller Dovetail System

I have been making keepsake boxes since 1995 and I have never been able to cut a dovetail that I was satisfied with. This thing is a GAME-CHANGER! I am telling you that anyone with a limited knowledge of wood can cut grade A dovetails using this jig. I got them right the first time. The price of my boxes just went up!!

By Amazon Customer

We’ll summarize the core features first then dive down into what sets this inexpensive dovetail jig apart from the competition…

Main Features

  • 15-inch template
  • Works with material from 1/8 to ¾-inch thick
  • Standard and straight bits included
  • Single phenolic plate
  • 30-day return option

Where other manufacturers seem to include everything except the router, Keller has stripped things down to the absolute basics but in return the price stays rock-bottom, too.

You’re fundamentally getting a template for your router so you need to sort yourself out with some sturdy clamps to secure the Keller.

The precision template included is capable of dealing with material of all sizes giving you effectively unlimited width capacity. If you want to go beyond the 15 inches listed, this is as simple as sliding the template along the workpiece.

In terms of thickness, you’ll be able to deal with stock from 3/8-inch to ¾-inch giving you decent scope for most projects.

As well as the template, you will get a few extras to get you up and running. 2 carbide-tipped router bits come in the package, you’ll get a 7-degree dovetail bit and guide bearing along with a straight bit that also comes with a guide bearing. A complete set of mounting screws give you a robust bundle considering the cut-throat price tag.

This phenolic plate template allows you to cut the following:

  • Classic dovetail joints
  • Variable-spaced dovetail joints
  • Curved dovetail joints
  • Compound-angled dovetail joints
  • Both acute and obtuse dovetail joints

With very few moving parts, this kit is highly unlikely to let you down. The laminate comb is less prone to incurring damage from your router than a metal alternative so don’t look at this material as a downside, it could serve to benefit you.

Instructions are first-rate which is extremely important when you’re buying something as potentially complex as a dovetail jig. Keller makes it easy for you every step of the way even if you’re not accomplished with this type of equipment.

One thing to be aware of is that you will need to cut your own wooden block for the purpose of keeping the jig in place.

Another downside is the truncated 1-year warranty. We have to say you should keep your expectations reasonable at this price-point, though. You’ll benefit from a full 30 day return period after purchase and you shouldn’t experience any issues with this jig anyway so we can’t legitimately flag the short warranty as a deal-breaker.

Pro's

  • An effective piece of kit for casual hobbyists looking to undertake smaller and less ambitious projects on a tighter budget
  • Although the single template initially looks a disappointment, you’ll be able to undertake a surprisingly varied series of applications
  • Stripped-down design and ease of use make this a perfect tool for anyone just starting out with dovetail joints
  • No adjustments to make so you should be up and running in relatively little time
  • With no guide bushes or offset, what you see is what you get, another bonus if you’re a beginner
  • Where this model is not bench-mounted, you won’t be limited by the size of stock you can use
  • If you need to work with pieces wider than 15 inches, just slide the template along the material to accommodate
  • Great brand heritage an manufactured in the US

Con's

  • You’ll need to make separate provision for clamps 
  • Getting set up can be a little awkward but, once operational, ease of use is uppermost

Conclusion

If you need a dovetail jig for high throughput workshop or projects where unerring accuracy is paramount, this is not for you.

For beginners, hobbyists and casual woodworkers, though, Keller makes life easy while also delivering an extremely flexible piece of kit worthy of a place in any home workshop.

Considering what looks on the surface to be a simplistic and somewhat limited dovetail jig, you’ll be amazed at the breadth of scope you’ll enjoy. For a wide variety of dovetail joints with a huge amount of customization up your sleeve, this is one budget tool we can strongly recommend. If you’re clear about how you intend to use the Keller, this might be the best investment you make this year for your workshop.

General Tools has a hard-won reputation for producing rugged and precision-engineered equipment for your workshop that won’t call for you to take out a bank loan.

This dovetail jig comes in at a very keen price-point and doesn’t throw in quite as many extras as some of the other options we outline today but is it any good?

  • Amazon's Choice
  • 200+ Reviews
  • by General Tools

I bought this product despite all the bad reviews. I can chalk up the bad reviews to user error and/or having a crappy router. I ran this on my Bosch table router setup. It made perfect joints after tuning the bit height and the depth gauge on the jig itself. I wouldnt want to use this without a router table though. If you want something that will work well and not break the bank, this is the way to go. If I could change one thing, it would be the bit. Bit will need replacing sooner than later after doing a lot of joints in red oak.

By Amazon Customer

In a word, yes. After all, here at Miter Saw Judge, we only bring you high-grade tools while also remaining aware that not everyone is looking for the most expensive model.

Take a quick look at the main features of this 12-inch dovetail jig then we’ll break down what makes it tick…

Main Features

  • 12-inch dovetail jig
  • Compatible with handheld or table routers
  • All-aluminum build
  • Self-aligning
  • 14-degree dovetail router bit (½-inch)

Whether you’re looking to carry out some general carpentry or you want to make some furniture or cabinets, this simple but effective dovetail jig from General Tools punches above its weight.

This uprated model has improved accuracy while also making the jig even more ergonomic and user-friendly so you’ll get a beginner-friendly tool that’s also capable of helping out with more intricate and involved projects.

You should note front and center that you won’t get a template included with this jig so bear that in mind to avoid disappointment.

One of the main attractions of this jig is the self-aligning nature of operation. This makes certain that both ends of the dovetail joints you create match perfectly every time with no messing around on your part. If you’re working on larger projects, this small amount of time-saving can soon mount up and lead to significantly increased efficiency. If you’re just pottering around in the workshop and time is not of the essence, you’ll still appreciate the ease of use.

Cast from a single piece of lightweight but durable aluminum, this jig is a portable model ideal if you often carry your equipment out onto the jobsite. 

Integrated clamps are great for ensuring that your workpiece remains resolutely stable throughout. Whether you’re making furniture or cabinets, you can do so without constant concern about your material wobbling around and wrecking your hard work.

While you’ll only get a single bit in this package, you’ll still be able to create the following:

  • Through joints
  • Half-blind joints
  • Square joints
  • Edge-to-edge joints

You’ll also be able to use this jig with either a router table or a portable router giving you complete freedom whatever the configuration of your workshop.

Pro's

  • Since this jig is self-aligning, you’ll get perfectly matched joints every time with no user input required
  • Onboard clamps help increase accuracy and stability
  • A portable piece of kit so perfect if you need to carry the jig from workshop to jobsite 
  • Ideally suited for basic furniture making and cabinet making along with a spread of other woodworking applications
  • Fully adjustable to accommodate boards of any width
  • The one-piece aluminum build gives you the ideal combination of a lightweight unit that’s built to stay the distance
  • Control knobs for a table router included for your convenience
  • Highly responsive US-based customer care perfect if you run into any snags at all

Con's

  • You won’t get any templates included with this model so be clear about that before committing to purchase
  • You only get a single bit with this model

Conclusion

There’s a classic saying, “Buy cheap, buy twice.” Usually in life, this holds true. With this dovetail jog from General Tools, though, you can capitalize on a real bargain without worrying about sub-par build quality or shoddy merchandise. Instead, you’ll get that rare product: an inexpensive tool that doesn’t stiff you on the performance front.

Don’t get us wrong, you can’t expect and won’t get the same hard-hitting capability of a Leigh and you won’t be laden down with extras, either. What you will get is a surprisingly flexible addition to your workshop from a reputable brand.

What you dip out on in terms of accessories, you’ll gain when it comes to precise and speedy dovetail jointing without any of the fiddling around or time consumed by attempting this manually.

We’ll round out our search for the best dovetail jig now with another entry from the stellar Leigh…

If you’re hunting exclusively for the cheapest dovetail jig you can find, Leigh is not the brand for you. The core focus here is on quality and accuracy achieved through precision engineering.

This 18-inch model steps things up a notch from the compact 12-incher we looked at earlier but is it worth the money?

  • 18"
  • Premium Option
  • by Leigh

I did a lot of research into dovetail jigs before I purchased one. The jig is easy to use, the instructions are very easy to understand, the setup was very easy. I am very happy with my purchase. I have had a need to contact Leigh about some options to add to my jig, I was very impressed with the way they treat there customers. I would recommend this jig and Leigh as a company.

We’re convinced it is but have a quick detour via the main features first then we’ll give you the lowdown on what sets the Leigh apart from the rest in a crowded market.

Main Features

  • 18-inch dovetail jig
  • 3 bits 
  • E Bush
  • Work with boards to 18 inches wide
  • Adjustable finger assembly

The Leigh Super series of jigs give you an exceptional range of joinery at your disposal. Here are just some of the variants you’ll be able to pull off:

  • Angled dovetails
  • Box joints
  • End-on-end dovetails
  • Finger joints
  • Half-blind dovetails
  • Inlaid dovetails
  • Needle pins
  • Rabbeted dovetails
  • Raised joints
  • Single-pass half-blind dovetails
  • Sliding dovetails
  • Through dovetails

As if this wasn’t enough, you can increase your repertoire further by adding templates. We’re not here to push you toward buying something you’re uncomfortable with so listing out all these joints is not an attempt to sell you on the Leigh if you’re looking for a cheaper jig. If you’re seriously considering the investment, though, this should illustrate the sheer volume of joinery options you can take advantage of by adding the Super 18 to your arsenal.

Leigh recommends you use a mid-size router anywhere from 1 ½ to 2 ¼ HP with a ½-inch collet. This will give you the optimized power to weight ratio you need for best results.

You’ll get a pair of dovetail bit and a straight bit thrown in. You’ll also get a fence, cam-action speed clamps, the proprietary Leigh E Bush along with a collet reducer and screwdriver. The DVD is a nice extra that provides some valuable advice if you’re just starting out.

You can cut boards up to 18 inches wide with this variant of the Super series giving you a great deal of flexibility with your projects.

Unlike the 12-inch model, you’ll be able to use the decorative Isoloc template if your work calls for something like this.

You will need to carry out some minor assembly before you launch in. You should probably set aside a couple hours before you’re ready to start making joints.

You clamp your work into the jig using the cam-locked pressure bars. One of these is for vertical cuts, the other for horizontal cuts. As with the 12-inch model, the backing of these clamps is coarse and abrasive so you’ll get maximum grip and minimal slippage.

The Leigh comes fully into its own if you’re planning to make variable spaced joints. With through dovetails, you’ll need 2 cutters, one straight and one dovetail. All you need to do to achieve this is shift the fork assembly backward or forward. Once you’ve got this sorted out, just keep a note to simplify future projects.

If you want to make half-blind joints, just flip the assembly and match up the markings with the thickness of the material you’re using. 

If that sounds complex, it isn’t so don’t worry. Leigh also color-codes the fork assembly and throws in some simple graphics to help you out with orientation.

We would suggest you also consider picking up the Vacuum Router Support (VSR) dust kit. You’ll get a full-length aluminum support bar which sits in front of the fork assembly. This is held neatly in place thanks to some integrated magnets. This support ensures the front of the router won’t tilt. The dust chute is housed below the bar. The chute moves as your router moves through the joint so it will always be in the optimum position when you’re cutting. While it’s disappointing this kit is not included, it’s well worth the additional investment.

We’ll showcase the main pros and cons of the mighty Leigh Super 18 before rounding out with our verdict…

Pro's

  • With the usual crisp and clear instructions Leigh excel at, every stage of operation from set-up onward is simplified and nicely illustrated
  • Thanks to the customizable finger assembly, you’ll be able to create 5/8-inch and 5/16-inch joints fuss-free
  • Adjustment is quick and easy due to the pin wrench and locking nut
  • Non-marking clamps ensure your workpiece stays firmly in place with no marring to the material
  • Dual-function spacer allows you to rout half-blind pin boards and tail boards simultaneously
  • Proprietary E Bush renders making precise adjustments a breeze
  • Differing pin and tail patterns differentiate this jig from much of the competition
  • Customer care is outstanding in the unlikely event you run into any interference

Con's

  • While this jig is reasonably expensive, you’re getting incredible value for money and the ability to undertake more ambitious projects in your home workshop

Conclusion

There’s a good reason Leigh have such a stranglehold on the dovetail jig segment and the Super 18 drives this point home further.

You won’t be limited to a single bit or depth and you’ll enjoy the freedom of creating an enormous spread of joints for just about any application.

For precision and speed from an industry legend, if you’re an experienced woodworker looking for one of the best dovetail jigs on the market, we’d stridently recommend popping this Leigh on your shortlist.

With our best dovetail jig reviews put to bed, we’ll round out with some handy hints on buying the most effective tool for your needs.

Who actually needs a dovetail jig in the first place, though.

Who Needs Dovetail Jigs?

If you’re looking to carry out any form of woodworking that calls for dovetail joints, a jig is more of a necessity than a luxury.

Cutting this type of joint by hand is not only incredibly time-consuming, it’s also extremely tough to get the accuracy and finished quality you want.

Whether you’re furniture making, cabinet making or racking up shelving, many woodworking projects call for this kind of precision joint. With the right jig in your workshop, making these joints is a matter of minutes not hours. You’ll not only get a much more precise finish, you’ll save yourself the time and hassle of all the calculations and markings needed to get the job done manually.

We will say before we move on with our buying guide that a dovetail jig is not for everyone. Unless you know for sure you’ll need to make dovetail joints on a semi-regular basis, you really might not need a jig.

If, on the other hand, you’re already sold on the idea and feel your workshop would benefit from one of these nifty little tools, what should you look out for on the buying trail?

Buying Guide

As with any buying decision, you should take the time first to double down on what, exactly, you want from a dovetail jig. Think about the type of work you plan to carry out since this will help determine which size makes the best fit.

You should also consider starting by fixing your budget. Firstly, this will help you not to overspend. At the same time, you’ll whittle down your options without needing to lift a finger.

We’ll walk you through the basics of buying a dovetail jig the easy way now…

What To Consider When Buying a Dovetail Jig

Weight and Portability

Most dovetail jigs are pretty portable pieces of kit. 

That said, if portability is one of your primary motivators, look for a smaller model made from aluminum.

When you’re considering weight, you should also factor the wood router into the equation for an accurate overall view.

Capacity

The bulk of dovetail jigs are man enough to handle at least 12 inches. Most of the models we look at today fall into that capacity bracket.

Think about the type of work you’ll be doing and shoot for something larger if you think you’ll need that extra capacity. There’s nothing worse than buying any tool then needing to upgrade it because you’ve sold yourself short.

How Does It Hold The Wood?

You need to make sure the jig you’re looking at has at least one clamp to securely keep the wood perfectly flat as you cut.

Unsurprisingly, you’ll get even better results with multiple clamps. 

Templates

Not every dovetail jig comes with templates provided and not all templates are the same.

Investigate what the model you’re interested in offers and make sure you’ll get the scope to cut the joints you’ll most frequently need.

By moving your router over the top of the template, you’ll be able to remove the wood you don’t want. This will create smooth edges.

Adjustment Features and Stops

Overall accuracy depends to a great extent on the quality of the adjustment features in place.

Side stops allow you to automatically correct the tails along with the pins of the joint. This will almost guarantee a seamless fit.

Type of Joints

Not all dovetail jigs are capable of making all types of dovetail joints.

The more versatile the jig, the pricier it’s likely to be. Rather than shooting for the tool with the widest number of possible joints up for grabs, it makes sense to think first about the kind of project you’ll be undertaking. After all, it’s senseless to spend more than you need for features you’ll never actually use.

Ease of Use

Obviously, you don’t want to buy a labor-saving device and then spend too much time fiddling around.

Fixed dovetail jigs are simplest to set up so shoot for this type if you want something extremely straightforward.

Variable jigs can be a little more time-consuming. 

Reliability

Make sure the fixture mechanism is dependable. If your jig doesn’t hold the workpiece firmly in place, you’re going to experience problems.

You should look at the reliability of the clamping bar and adjustment mechanism. Poor build quality here is inexcusable.

If you’re unable to physically test the jig before purchase, reading plenty of honest user reviews is the best way to get an accurate overall idea of how reliable the jig you’re looking at really is.

Usage and Maintenance Tips

Using a dovetail jig might initially seem like an extremely confusing undertaking.

The good news here is that if you’re in the market for this type of tool, it’s highly likely you’re already comfortable with this type of equipment. After all, beginners are highly unlikely to find the need to make complex and intricate joints.

Maintenance is blissfully low. As with any power tool, make sure you keep your jig clean and ensure that your workshop is dust and debris-free. That aside, your jig should give you years of faithful service with no need at all for tasky upkeep.

FAQ

1) Do you need much experience to use a dovetail jig?

You don’t, no. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the instructions of the specific jig, just clamp your material firmly down onto the table and you’ll be ready to roll. With templates, you might need to experiment a little. That said, these templates are there to simplify things for you in the long run so with a little trial and error, you’ll soon be firing on all cylinders.

2) What are the advantages of dovetail joints?

A dovetail joint makes for a striking joinery feature, especially when the joints are highlighted with contrasting timbers. As well as a beautiful appearance, this type of joint is remarkablty strong. With dovetails cut into a drawer, the front face will never pull away. With interlocking dovetail joints, you’ll also enjoy a large gluing area to increase strength further.

3) What are the drawbacks of dovetail joints?

If you’re looking to make dovetail joints by hand, you’ll need highly precise skills with a handsaw and chisel beyond the scope of most woodworkers just starting out. A poorly made dovetail joint will be neither strong not durable so it’s a smart move to use a jig.

4) Are some dovetail joints weaker than others?

Absolutely. With sliding dovetailjoints, you’ll get a flat piece that joins an inverted T which simply doesn’t have the same strength as solid dovetail joints. This can work well with sliders and cabinets, though.

5) What’s a lapped dovetail joint?

If you think about the inside of a drawer, you’ll only ever see the joint from a single side. For this use case, a lapped dovetail joint might look unsightly but it will deliver enormous strength.

6) What constitutes a full-blind dovetail joint?

The grain on this type of joint is completely hidden on both sides. This makes a great strong joint suitable for display. Full-blind dovetail joints are frequently used for jewelry boxes and smaller cabinets where the joint will feature prominently.

7) What is dovetailing used for in furniture?

The primary reason for this type of joint when making furniture is strength although these joints are also aesthetically pleasing. With coffee tables, cabinets, bookcases or any other piece of furniture calling for strong and durable joints, a dovetail is the obvious solution. It’s the trapezoidal shape and intelocking nature that means a dovetail joint is highly resistant to being pulled apart. A dovetail joint can also be used for decorative effect.

8) What preparation is required before making dovetail joints?

You need to dress the timber all round and make sure the width and thickness are even all along.

9) Do dovetail jigs come with a wood router?

No. You’ll need to buy a wood router separately.

10) How long do dovetail joints last?

The strongest of woodworking joints, when properly and carefully made, a dovetail joint should last a lifetime.

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Closing Words

We very much hope you’ve found the right piece of kit after these dovetail jig reviews.

Since even the more expensive models are still not particularly costly, treat yourself to the best you can afford and consider the amount of time you’ll save as an immediate way to recoup your investment.

Drop us a line if you need any further assistance. We love to hear from our readers here at Miter Saw Judge and we’re always happy to help in any way we can.

Come back later this week when we take a look at the best biscuit joiners to add another edge to your woodworking.

We’ll finish up for today with a collection of the most frequently asked questions with respect to dovetail jigs…

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