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December 11, 2017

Porter Cable 4212 Dovetail Jig Review

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Porter Cable 4212 Dovetail Jig

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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 users. 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 $154.99, and you can see why it’s the bestselling dovetail jig on the market.

It’s easy to set up, with very useful setup lines and instructions etched onto the templates, so you don’t have to keep referring back to the manual. In practice it’s very intuitive to use and switching between templates, joints, and different-size boards is quick and easy.

Another great additional feature that’s unique to Porter Cable dovetail jigs is the built-in gauges for setting the router bit height – it’s one of those features that you soon wonder how you lived without it. The base is solidly made and uses fast-acting cam clamps, and it also comes with 1/2-inch shank router bits, all of which help reduce vibration and so improve cutting accuracy. It’s a fantastic combination of price, options and ease of use – what more could you ask for?

What to look for when buying a Dovetail Jig

There are plenty of dovetail jigs on the market, and it’s not always easy to choose the best one for your needs. These days, quality and features are always improving and so they all do the job, but the best make it easy to do it well. Because most people don’t cut dovetails every day, or even every month, it’s often necessary to reacquaint yourself with the jig each time you use it, so we put particular emphasis on the ease of set-up and adjustment.

To help make your decision a little easier, in this Porter Cable 4212 Dovetail Jig Review we’ll take a look at some of the features that can make the difference between a jig that’s OK, and one that makes cutting dovetail joints easy and, more importantly, easy to do well.

FOR the vast majority of woodworkers the best all-round bet is the Porter Cable 4212 giving you a fantastic combination of price, options and ease of use 😀

Easy to use adjustment features – does the jig make adjustments easy?
The tightness of your dovetail joint is controlled by adjusting the depth of the router bit and the Porter Cable 4212’s patented router bit depth gauges allows you to quickly and accurately set the depth without taking measurements. This makes it easier to get the exact same depth each time and it’s one more thing you don’t have to hunt around for.

In addition the Porter Cable 4212 has patented alignment lines and on-board instructions which provide clear guidance and mean you won’t have to hunt for the instructions when setting up for the most common cuts. (When you do need it, the manual is well written and the instructions are easy to follow and precise).

The whole design is all about ease of use and being able to get on with cutting the joints without needing anything more than the jig itself. The main reason for buying a dovetail jig is because it’s easier and faster than doing it by hand, so it makes sense to buy the jig that’s the easiest and fastest.

Ready to use – does the jig come with everything you need to get started?
Not all jigs come with everything you need to get started and the last thing you want to do after you unbox your brand new dovetail jig is to go hunting for equipment that should have been included (or even worse, have to buy it separately). The 4212’s single-piece steel base comes fully assembled and you can either clamp it or bolt it directly to the work bench, depending on how permanent a fixture it’s going to be. You also get 2 carbide-tipped bits and 2 template guide bushes so you’ve got everything you need to be up and running.

Reliability – does the jig keep stock where it needs to be?
When you’re working on a project, workpieces need to be clamped and unclamped frequently, so it’s critical that they are easy to set in the correct position, and that they stay there. If there’s one thing that can wreck an afternoon in the workshop, it’s having to chuck a few expensive pieces of wood into the scrap bin because your jig let them slip in the middle of a cut. Dovetail jig components that hold stock in place during the cut need to be sturdy and reliable and the 4212 has heavy-duty, cam-type clamps with sandpaper-backed locking bars to provide a solid grip on the wood, and is able to accommodate stock from 1/4″ to 1-1/8″ thick.

Porter-Cable 4212 dovetail jigHow much should you expect to pay?
You can find the Porter Cable 4212 for just over $150 on the web.

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What’s included?
Everything you need to cut through, half-blind and sliding dovetail joints and box joints.

  • Easy-to-mount, heavy-duty steel base
  • Template 4211 for half-blind, rabbeted half-blind and sliding dovetails
  • Template 4213 for through dovetails and box joints
  • Dovetail bit and straight bit, 2 template guides, 2 lock nuts and T-handle hex wrench

Comparison with the Porter Cable 4210 and 4216

The Porter Cable 4212 sits between the 4210 and the 4216 in Porter Cable’s deluxe 4200 series, in both pricing and capabilities. They all share the same steel base but come with different templates for different dovetail joints. The table below shows the options:

Porter Cable 4210 Porter Cable 4212 Porter Cable 4216
Half blind dovetails check mark check mark check mark
Sliding dovetails check mark check mark check mark
Through dovetails check mark check mark
Box joints check mark check mark
Miniature dovetails check mark

So think about what you are likely to be doing on a regular basis. Based on our experience we’d sum it up like this

  • Pretty well everyone is going to want to cut half blind and through dovetails more than anything else (making drawers in particular) and you can’t do through dovetails with the entry-level 4210;
  • At the top of the range, the 4216 gives you miniature dovetails which are great if you want to make boxes;
  • But for the majority of woodworkers the best all-round bet is the Porter Cable 4212 giving the best combination of price and options (and you can always buy the template for miniature joints later if you need it).

Porter Cable 4212 Customer Reviews

There’s a lot of happy campers out there who agree with us about the 4212 – it’s received some pretty rave reviews: 😀

  • “Porter Cable 4212 AWESOME!!!”
  • “PC hits another homer!”
  • “Porter Cable Got It Right”
  • “Outstanding Jig”
  • “WOW”

Any downsides?
Nothing much that we could find.

Porter-Cable 4212 dovetail jig

What kind of warranty is there?
All Porter Cable tools come with an excellent warranty – there’s a ninety-day money back guarantee plus a 3 year limited warranty and 1 year free service contract. In practice this dovetail jig is so solidly made that you’re unlikely to ever have a problem.

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