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November 22, 2014

DOVETAIL JIG REVIEWS

We have the best Dovetail Jig Reviews, comparisons, and advice including Keller, Leigh and Porter Cable Dovetail Jigs. Our expert reviews of the best Dovetail Jigs on the market explain the important features you should look for so that you can choose the perfect jig for your woodworking needs and budget. Remember, nothing gives your woodworking projects a more professional look than perfectly cut dovetail joints.

Porter Cable 4212

Porter Cable 4212 Dovetail Jig Review

The Porter Cable 4212 Dovetail Jig is the middle of Porter-Cable’s 4200-series of jigs, and we think it’s the best of the range for most woodworkers. It gives you the ability to easily cut all the most common joints, including through dovetails, half-blind dovetails, sliding dovetails and box joints, and add to that an incredibly low price of only $135.00, and you can see why it’s the bestselling dovetail jig on the market.

Porter cable 4216 Dovetail Jig

Porter Cable 4216 Dovetail Jig Review

The Porter-Cable 4216 Dovetail Jig is the top-of-the-range jig in Porter Cable’s excellent 4200 range of dovetail jigs and comes with all the finger templates for making all the joints. If you cut a lot of dovetails and you know that you will definitely want to cut the whole range of different dovetail joints, the Porter Cable 4216 is the most cost-effective way of buying the jig plus all the templates.

Leigh D4R Dovetail Jig

Leigh D4R Dovetail Jig Review

The Leigh D4R Dovetail Jig is the ultimate variable finger dovetail jig, made by the people who invented variable finger jigs. The infinitely adjustable fingers mean that you can let your creativity run free and design unique variably sized and spaced joints with 100% accuracy. If you want to take your dovetail skills to the next level, the Leigh D4R is the jig that will make it happen.

Porter-Cable 4210 dovetail jig

Porter Cable 4210 Dovetail Jig Review

The Porter Cable 4210 12-inch dovetail jig is the entry-level dovetail jig in Porter Cable’s excellent 4200 range. Like all the jigs in the range it has Porter Cable’s patented alignment lines and router bit depth stop which simplify set-up and get you up and running in no time. This jig includes a template for creating half-blind and sliding dovetails, and you can add additional templates later when you need them.

Keller 135-1500 Journeyman Dovetail Jig

Keller 1500 Journeyman Dovetail Jig Review

The Keller 1500 Journeyman Dovetail Jig is a simple and versatile 15-inch precision-milled clamp-on template dovetail system. Although the Keller 1500 Journeyman Dovetail Jig is aimed primarily at beginning woodworkers who want to cut through dovetail joints in drawers, cabinets, midsized furniture and smaller boxes, its simplicity and accuracy mean that a lot of experienced woodworkers buy them too.

Porter Cable Omnijig

Porter Cable Omnijig Review

The Porter Cable Omnijig is Porter Cable’s flagship variable guide finger dovetail jig. Like its main rival, the Leigh D4R, the Porter Cable Omnijig gives you maximum versaltility and the ability to cut all types of dovetail joints, and has a number of time-saving features unique to Porter Cable to make it earier than ever, such as their patented router bit depth gauge and template positioning stops.

Router cutters

Router Cutter Sets

When you’ve decided on the best Dovetail Jig for your needs, you’ll want to get some decent Router Cutters to go with it. Good quality cutters make all the difference to the finished result and last longer too. Buying cutter sets makes sense as you get all the most common cutters you’re likely to need and it’s a lot cheaper than buying them individually. Generally you get a storage box too which helps keep them in good condition.

Dovetail Jig Recommendations

  • OUR RECOMMENDATIONS are based on a careful selection of the top-rated Dovetail Jigs, concentrating on the specific features that make them the best in their class. Our analysis of the resulting benefits should then help you to choose the Dovetail Jig that is best for you.
  • WE LOOK at the important questions that you need to consider to make your choice of the best dovetail jig for your woodworking needs and budget:
  • HOW much do you want to pay - like everything else, the more you pay, the better the quality and the more features you get.
  • WHAT type of joints do you want - through, half-blind, sliding or variably-spaced dovetails, plus box joints
  • HOW often will you use it - if you use a dovetail jig every day you can justify paying more and you'll be able to quickly learn how to use all the capabilities
  • HOW easy is it to set up - if you buy a top of the range dovetail jig and, like most of us, you only use it now and again, you may have to re-learn how to set it up every time
  • WE AIM to make our reviews objective and precise; our goal is to report the truth about each product so that you can be confident in your choice of Dovetail Jig. Ultimately, we only recommend products that we would buy ourselves.Click on the compare button for a side by side comparison of the best dovetail jigs on the market.
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Porter cable 4216 Dovetail Jig

How To Choose A Dovetail Jig

How to choose a dovetail jig is one of the most common questions facing woodworkers. You might disagree on the best way to cut them, but one thing that most woodworkers can agree on is that a dovetail joint is one of the most attractive joints around, plus it’s incredibly strong.

It’s also generally regarded as the mark of quality workmanship, and for good reason – if you’ve ever tried cutting any kind of dovetail by hand, you’ll know it’s one of the most difficult joints to master. It takes a lot of practice and if you want to see how an expert woodworker does it, watch this video on Hand Cut Dovetail Joints

The thing with dovetail joints is, unless you’re a professional woodworker, you’re not cutting them every day. However, when you do need them, they’ve got to be right!

Luckily, you don’t have to be an expert or a professional. Armed with a router and a dovetail jig, creating accurate, good-looking dovetail joints is within the capabilities of everyone. So what should you look for in a dovetail jig?

There is a wide variety of router jigs designed for cutting dovetails. Some can cut both through-dovetails and half-blind dovetails. Some allow variable spacing of the pins and tails. Many offer alternate templates for cutting finger joints or sliding dovetails. When making your decision about which type of dovetail jig to buy, you need to consider:

Points to Consider when Choosing a Dovetail Jig

  • HOW much do you want to pay – the more you pay, the more features you get
  • WHAT type of dovetails do you want – through, half-blind, sliding, variably-spaced
  • HOW often will you use it – if you use a dovetail jig every day you can justify paying more and quickly learn how to use all the capabilities
  • HOW easy is it to set up – if you buy a top of the range dovetail jig and, like most of us, you only use it infrequently, you may have to re-learn how to set it up every time

All the dovetail jigs that we have reviewed on this site can produce accurate dovetail joints, so the decision comes down to choosing a jig that offers the best balance between the diversity of joints it can create and the complexity of its setup and adjustment. There are 3 main types of dovetail jig:

Stock Mounted Through Dovetail Templates

These dovetail templates are the most basic. They have no jig body, and no clamping system. Instead, you screw them to a backing board which you then clamp directly to your stock to form a row of uniform equally spaced through dovetails.

Keller 135-1500 Journeyman Dovetail JigThese dovetail jig templates come in pairs. One has a row of parallel fingers used with a dovetail bit to form the tails. The matching template has a row of tapered fingers used with a straight bit to form the pins. Usually these templates are joined back-to-back, although the more expensive versions come as two separate templates.

They offer the advantages of being easy to set up and of having no stock width limit. For example, an 18″ template can be moved across a 32″ wide board. Most other types of dovetail jig are limited to 24″. Sometimes the simplest solution is the best. A good choice is the Keller 1500 Journeyman

Bench Mounted Template Dovetail Jigs

These are the most popular type of dovetail jig and allow you to cut through, half-blind, sliding and miniature dovetail joints. Typically, these dovetail jigs feature templates that mount to a jig body, which has two clamping systems, one vertical and one horizontal.

Porter Cable 4212 dovetail jigThe vertical clamping position is used for through dovetail pins and through dovetail tails, half blind tail pieces, and sometimes box joints. The horizontal clamp is used only for half blind pin pieces. The best example of this type of dovetail jig is the Porter Cable 4212

The main disadvantage of these dovetail jigs is that your pins and tails are all the same size and uniformly spaced. This gives the joint a machine-made look that is not as attractive as a variable spaced joint. You will also have to make your stock match the incremental pitch of the template, as all dovetail joints should begin and end with a half pin.

Variable Guide Finger Dovetail Jigs

The third and most advanced type of dovetail jigs was invented by the founder of Leigh Industries. They replaced the fixed pitch template with a row of moveable guide fingers.

Leigh D4R Dovetail JigThis is truly an improvement over the template dovetail jigs because it allows you to get closer to the look of hand-cut dovetails by forming narrower pins and wider tails, it allows you to vary the spacing, and it also allows you to work with any width of stock, up to the capacity of the jig.

The original is still the best example of this type of dovetail jig – the Leigh D4R

However, with these type of jig, versatility comes at a price. The dovetail joints that they can produce are amazing, but the jigs are quite complex. They require a lot of adjustments, settings and test cuts, so they have a steeper learning curve than other types of dovetail jig – you can’t have it both ways. You need to consider how often you will use this type of jig, not just because of the price but because, unless you’re a professional woodworker, you may have to re-learn how to use it every time you pull it off the shelf.

To help you decide whether you need a variable guide finger jig, see our guide Dovetail Jig Templates – Fixed vs Variable

Conclusion
As a general rule, dovetail jigs are like everything else – you get what you pay for. Don’t expect a stock mounted through dovetail jig like the Keller 1500 Journeyman to do what the more expensive jigs like the Leigh D4R will do. And don’t expect any dovetail jig to do it all for you! Whatever type you go for, dovetail jigs demand very accurate work and the more complex the joint, the more time consuming the set up. But then the better it looks.

It comes down to what you want out of it compared to what you are prepared to put in, which is probably why the bestselling dovetail jig on the market is the Porter Cable 4212, a top of the range bench mounted template dovetail jig, which offers the best all-round combination of price, options, and ease of use.

 

Leigh D4R Dovetail Jig Video

Leigh Industries invented the variable guide finger dovetail jig and we think the Leigh D4R is still the best on the market. Watch this video of the Leigh D4R in action and we guarantee you'll want one of these jigs.

 

 

Click here to read the full Leigh D4R Review

Porter Cable Omnijig Video

The Omnijig is the flagship model in Porter Cable's range of dovetail jigs. It's got variable guide fingers plus a host of other useful features - watch the video to see it in action:

 

Click here to read the full Porter Cable Omnijig Review