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Simple question i'n sure, if you know the answer. But i'm thinking of purchasing a dovetail jig and have researched on various sites and watched a video, my only remaining question is after using the jig will i need to fininsh up with a chisel? the videos/images i have seen seem to show one of the 2 routed pieces to have a circular shape to it. if anybody could quickly detail how they use their jig and whether finishing up is needed i'd be very grateful. cheers guys.
 

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Papa Red
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I have used the Leigh 24" jig for years. No chisel is needed. It does a fantastic job. If you have it adjusted correctly, it will be a nice fitting joint. It will take some practice to get good at it, but it's worth it. Red
 

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Curmudgeon in Training
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Most of the jigs, especially the cheap ones, make half-blind dovetail joints. The circular shape you're refering to is on the inside of the half-blind joint and isn't seen. I use a simple and cheap half-blind jig, which usually works well when it's adjusted properly and the boards are fitted in it properly (and that does take a little effort and practice). The fronts (or backs) and sides are cut at the same time. I've never used a really nice jig but I've heard they are great and many can be adjusted for various size pins and tails.
 

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I am also in the market for a dovetail jig, so I look forward to comments from other forum members. I am seriously looking at the Porter Cable 4212 - $170 or the Rockler jig currently on sale for $130. Both will do through dovetails, which is really what I want to make. I reviewed the Porter Cable user manual and it indicated there may be a need, at times, to do some light chiseling to make the final fit perfect.
 

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Thumb Nailer
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there are quite a few types of dovetail jigs.

Type:

1. go over to the "router workshop" and take a look around at how they do dovetails. It is unique and their approach is unique and quite foolproof but it requires their particular setup. Easy, fixed pins and tails but much too frilly for my taste.

2. there are a lot of dovetail jigs out there that cut both the pins and tails at the same time. The pins and tails spacing is fixed. Different sized templates are available for 1/4", 1/2" and 3/4" dovetails and some sell finger joint templates as well. The end result is quite acceptable. Essentially, these jigs are all identical in setup, operation and results. There are little things that differ one from the other. Observe carefully and you'll see the differences. Adjust perfectly and they do an excellent job. I've lost quite a bit of hair during the adjustment process.

I would suggest that you buy the cheapest version of this one that you can find. Your objective is not to keep it for the rest of your life but to learn and test with it hence "cheapest!" Once you've used it, you can see all of the things you don't like about it and you can purchase one setup the way you want. Once I tried mine, I went and looked at others and everyone I saw had something different that I liked. Little things like levers instead of knobs in tight spaces. There's also a home made version of this one in one of the magazines.

3. there is a type of jig that uses a double-sided template. Use one side for the pins, turn it over and use the other side for the tails. Allows for different pin/tail spacing.

there are several other philosophies out there but essentially I believe these are the most popular.

If you get the second type of jig, I found the manuals to be terrible individually but collectively they became quite usable. For example, I have a Fox????/Samona/General dovetail template jig. I went to the P C site and downloaded their manual. I did the same with quite a few other manufacturers and studied them all. Only then could I understand the process and produce dovetails. I made them too tight but with "adjustments" they became quite acceptable.

Next, all jigs are going to require a template guide. Make sure you have the specified guide for your router, or that you can get it. Alternatively, some jigs use top bearing bits and are setup for that exact bearing size. Just because your vendor says that a 3/4" dovetail template is available, that doesn't mean that he has it in stock now, or even that he can get it. Many jigs are made in China and although the parts are available in China, some vendors don't bring in all of the "accessories."

One area where I ran into trouble is with my "D" handled router. I have a Makita 3600B. I removed the base and replaced it with an Oak Park with the appropriate sized template guide. I dropped the collet down as far as I could and fed the bit through the guide. I didn't have a long enough shank on the bit. The collet would only grab about 1/2" of the bit shank and I considered that really dangerous. I ended up searching around for a long shaft dovetail bit. I found one at Woodline USA. I couldn't find them anywhere else.

I also had a problem with the Oak Park 7" baseplate. It barely fits my jig. I had to reconfigure everything to make room for the base. Yes it works and nicely, but not all jigs will have the same clearance. Some of the big brand name jigs might be setup only for their routers. I like the 7" baseplate for its stability and ability to cantelever out over the end of the jig without wobbling for that last pin.

I think when I get to the point that I'm going to have to make lots of dovetails, I'm going to use my laminate trimmer. I'll take a piece of clear lexan and mount the trimmer on it with some good beefy handles and a proper template guide. It will be powerful, light, accurate, safe and easy to use.

I really had a problem with the bit. I'm so used to making sure that the bit is well trapped and even if it does come loose, there is always something between me and the bit so I don't end up with an extra unwanted hole somewhere. With the dovetail bit, it hangs out totally exposed. With a straight bit, just a small part projects through the template guide. The dovetail bit really hangs out. When you don't know what you're doing and you have no one to turn to, it's scary.

In all of your setups, the bit depth is the one that's going to drive you nuts. I use Bob Rosendahl's "fine adjusting tool" and that's just about right. I adjust by 1/1000ths of an inch and an hour later I'm getting closer. Now, remember, I'm an inexperienced klutz with more thunbs than fingers. I'd over adjust then under adjust eventually I got frustrated to the point where I'd just adjust in one direction only and not by 1/16th of an inch but by 1/1000th of an inch.

I started to pay real attention to how loose or tight a knob was. Did the template sit perfectly flat against the workpiece? Did I push down enough on the router when going through the template fingers? Were the work pieces in the jig tightly? Was everything tight, square and even? I checked the cuts on the ends of boards where I was going to put the joint to make sure they were fresh cuts and perfectly square to all faces. After a while and before reason kicks in, you get paranoid and suspicious of everything.

I hope this will provide you some insight. It is not intended to discourage you but to provide you with assurance that, yes, others have gone before you and had the same damned problems :-(

Yes, they lived to tell the tail and yes THEY WERE VICTORIOUS!

Allthunbs
 

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I picked up an entry level INCRA off ebay a few years ago and once I had it set up I couldn't be happier with the dovetails I can get. Granted, it did take some time and adjusting but once I had it and my router dialed in I got consistantly good results.

 

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I think Allthumbs brings out a lot of good points. We had a thread on these jigs earlier in the year that was quite extensive. I would agree that you don't need an expensive jig to start with. Mine is an offbrand that I picked up at a Hartville Hardware tool show. It was around 59.00. I have not had any trouble with it. But I will say looking at the different instruction manuals online is a great idea. If you can't understand the manual, you probably are going to have a hell of a time trying to use the tool. Your router can make a huge difference. I am a big fan of milwaukees routers. I have two, a hand held 1 3/4 hp I use for freehand work including dovetails, and a 3 1/2 hp that stays in the router table. Both have a very easy to use and very precise depth adjustment. If your router is sloppy and hard to change the depth setting in fine incraments, then get another that is. I use a cheap guide collet, good bits, and am careful to make sure every piece gets marked and goes in the jig the same way. It isn't that hard, the jig does all the work. But you have to remember one thing: "You have to control the jig, don't let the jig control you." Once you understand that grasshopper, you will have total conscienseness(spelling?). When you decide which jig you want, check with any of your local woodworking stores if they are nearby for any demos they may be doing on dovetails. Seems to be a popular topic for demos. Even if they aren't demoing the exact jig you are looking for, you will have a much easier time when you see it up close. Good luck,
Mike Hawkins:smile:
 

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Practice, practice and then practice some more

I think that whatever jig/system you opt for, the expectation is always higher than the initial outcome. I, over the years have tried many jigs, some better than others, but one thing always is constant; Practice, practice and practice. Don't steam in with your expensive piece of wood straight away, use some offcuts, get it set up right and yourself comfortable with how it works. It is just the same as hand cut joinery, you have to practice to make perfect, but perseverance is key.

Happy woodworking.:thumbsup:
 

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firehawkmph is right...you have to BE the JIG!
If you are getting sloppy fits check your plate on the router. Cheap plates aren't very ridgid sometimes. They will flex where they are unsupported and this caused the depth of your cut to vary slightly. This is exacerbated by the force one exerts downward on the router in effort to keep the router flat and the nervousness of the operator caused by a 14000 rpm carbide bit in such proximity to metal templates.
 

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I started with an inexpensive Craftsman jig but eventually wanted more flexibility and control. I have the Leigh D4 now. There is a steep learning curve but it makes beautiful joints after you learn how.
 

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I used to demo P-C 4212 at Woodcraft. I made nice joints after a good bit of practice. I never bought any of the jigs for myself, even tho I got a discount. I learned to hand cut DT to avoid the set up and trial and error hassle.
 

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The best way to dovetail fast and easy

The best dovetail jig is a router table set up. Its called the Incra Dovetail System. You can do any type of dovetailing very quickly cutting multiple pieces all at once
 

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Different jigs appeal to different people. There isn't an overall right answer. I would recommend that you spend a lot of time going through the online reviews available. There are several head-to-head comparisons that do a great job of detailing the strong and weak points of each offering.

If I only have a few to cut, I still like to cut through dovetails by hand. Once you get the hang of it, it is quite rewarding. When it makes sense to automate the process, I personally use both the Leigh D4R and the Porter Cable 4212.

The PC is very easy to use for fixed-width and half-blind work. It is hard to beat this style of jig for ease of setup. Once calibrated (mine was almost dead on out of the box), you can very quickly start creating perfect joints. I bought this first, as an entry into routing dovetails. I kept it because it is so easy to setup and use. If cutting half-blind drawer boxes, it is 3x as fast as the Leigh.

The Leigh is a marvel. You can do just about anything that you want with it, but it takes considerably more practice at setup to get great results. I love the capacity, versatility, creativity afforded by the D4R.

As a couple of other posters mentioned, the router-table based systems are also great. I have used, and like the Incra. It just requires a lot of "movements", especially if you have many pieces to route. While I haven't used it, I think the Katie Jig is an interesting concept.
 
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