My Akeda BC24 arrived last week. I was just waiting for the accessory C-kit, with all the bits and guide pins, to get started. That finally came yesterday.
I had the new 24 inch PC Omnijig, but was frustrated with the time to set-up and having to make multiple test cuts to get it dialed in. I wound up selling it and got the Akeda.
Out of the box, and there is nothing to assemble. The jig itself is self-contained; no finger template bars, stops, router rest to add to the jig. It's all in one slick, well-designed system. I snapped in the dust collection port and plenum in about a minute. The longest part of getting it ready was making the plywood sub-base to mount the jig to my workbench. Once that was done, I was ready to cut some DTs.
I purchased the complete 64 piece accessory kit with the jig. It has all the guide fingers, guide bushings, DT and straight bits, spacers, collet reducer, dust collection, etc. for all the DTs and box joints the jig can make. Other than new router bits when these wear out, I won't need to buy any other add-ons.
The accessories are a lot of little pieces that screamed for a storage case. I could see some pieces getting lost unless I organized them right out of the packaging. So my first DTs were for building the storage case for all the parts. I laid them out and sketched up a measured drawing. All of the components are separated in compartments, making it easy to grab the right guide fingers, bit and bushing for the project at hand. I used some scrap maple and mahogany to make the case.
Oh, and the accessory C-kit comes with an 'Akeda' lapel pin, which made a great storage case logo!
I read the manual before making any cuts. But the jig is incredibly intuitive that I could have snapped the fingers into place and ploughed out the DTs without it. I didn't make any test cuts before making the case, just went right at it. The DTs were little shallow and a slightly loose, due to operator error. I don't think I set the bit depth correctly. I just adjusted the depth, re-routed the pins and planed the tail boards down about 1/64 inch. Since it was just a storage case, I wasn't worried about it.
There was some tearout in the mahogany pin sides, even though I was careful to do a climb cut (right to left), slowly plough out the middle material and finish along the pin guides. This Mahogany is a bit stringy (African), so I'll attribute the tearout to the wood and not the straight bit. There was no tearout on the maple tail boards.
From start to finish, including set-up of the jig was about 20 minutes. I was going slow to make sure that everything was right. I bet that once I get used to it, I could knock out a drawer box in 5 minutes, set-up to finish. IMO, it's that easy.
Dust collection is incredible on this jig. There was virtually no chips or dust on the floor or bench after making the cuts. I hooked it up to my shopvac and the chips disappeared. I always found the PC Omnijig dust chute to be large, clunky and in the way. You also had to remove it when changing fingers for pins/tails.
I have a Pat Warner clear precision plate on my Bosch 1617EVS router and I could see what I was doing while making the cuts. I never was able to clearly see the cuts on the Omnijig; too much metal obscured the view.
The fact that the router rest is built in to the jig and the router never touches the pin or tail guides, makes the cutting operation smooth and friction free. I waxed the router base and jig guide rails and the router slides smooth as silk. The Omnijig router rest was the fingers and a slide-on bar that never felt smooth to me.
Laying out the DT joint for the storage case couldn't be easier. I snapped the first tail guide in the jig, clamped the tail board in place, mirrored the tail guide on the right of the workpiece and filled in the guides in between. Depending on the width of your piece, you can easily play around with tail/pin positioning for variable spaced DTs. The fact that the guides snap in in 1/8 inch increments doesn't bother me. I feel that I'll get as much variation as I need with the jig. If your board widths are in 1/8 inch increments, everything will fall out just fine. I saw on the Akeda website that they are coming out with an 'Index Strip Adjuster' that basically offsets the index strip on the jig for widths other than 1/8 inch increments. This will solve the issue that some have with the jig.
When I'm finished using the jig, it's easy to store (especially with my new case). I don't have a large shop, so it doesn't have a dedicated station.
I have a couple of minor things that I think that Akeda should change.
1. The jig itself doesn't come with any DT or straight bits. Since the bits are specific to the jig (you can't just use any DT bits), it would be nice to get at least one DT and straight bit with the jig, maybe for 3/4 inch or 5/8inch stock.
2. Everyone recommends (including Akeda) purchasing the dust collection port/plenum for the jig. The jig was designed with integrated dust collection, so why is it an add-on? I don't think I would use this jig without the dust port. I could see the enclosed chamber getting clogged very quickly.
3. Storage case? Even though it was fun and a great way to test out the jig, by making my own case, I think it would be wise for Akeda to offer a dedicated case for all the parts. The pin/tail guides could easily get lost, as well as all the other things. If you are thinking of getting this jig with the accessory kit(s), either make a case right away, or have some stackable lidded plastic containers ready and labeled to store everything. You'll go crazy if you just put all the pins/tails in a bin together.
I've got a Arts & Crafts style dresser to make next. Can't wait to get to the drawers and use the jig again. I may just get out some scraps and play with it just for kicks.