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Dovetail joints might be strong and elegant, but they’re problematic to cut by hand.
The strength comes from the way the pins and tails are shaped.
Whether you’re making bookcases, drawers or cabinets, a dovetail jig can save you time and frustration while delivering accurate and secure joints.
Cutting those same tails and pins by hand takes a level of skill beyond the average home woodworker, and the results are usually subpar.
Today, we’ll look at eight of the best dovetail jigs on the market to simplify your buying decision. We’ll also give you some concise pointers on what to look for in the best jig.
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The Best dovetail jig with reviews
Here’s a list of the best dovetail jigs we found on the market:
1. PORTER-CABLE 4216 Dovetail Jig
– Extremely wide scope of applications with the ability to create box joints, miniature throughs, and rabbeted half-blind dovetails thanks to generous template pack.
– Robust clamps with locking bars give you all the stability you need.
– Set bit depth without measuring up thanks to nifty onboard gauge.
– Base made from a single piece of steel is highly durable and offers completely stable working conditions.
Not so Good
– Marginally more expensive than most dovetail jig in its class but you get a complete package here from an industry giant.
– The depth gauge is welcome but is made from fragile plastic, so handle with care.
This is a comprehensive dovetail jig kit with a wide range of joints available thanks to a trio of templates. These templates are machined aluminum, so they’ll stand the test of time.
The PORTER-CABLE 4216 is tailor-made if you frequently carry out a diverse range of dovetailing and need to work quickly and accurately.
While this adjustable gauge is a winner, the build quality is questionable, so don’t handle it too roughly.
You can deal with material anywhere from ¼ inch up to 1 1/8 inches at the upper end.
Crowned with that solid 3-year PORTER-CABLE warranty, you’ll even get a 1-year service contract so that you can buy with complete confidence. For ambitious home woodworkers and small shop owners, the 4216 stands proudly among the very best dovetail jigs.
2. Leigh Super 12-Inch Dovetail Jig
– Fence slots help you with sliding dovetails.
– Finger assembly allows you to create 5/16-inch and 5/8-inch joints further widening your scope.
– Aluminum clamp bars and cam action, so you can always keep workpiece tightly secured.
– The bits included help you make half-blind dovetails quickly and easily.
Not so Good
– Kit shown in the image is not included, so make sure you aren’t expecting it.
– You might find a little learning curve when you get started unless you’re more experienced, but it’s a user-friendly piece of equipment.
While you can find cheaper dovetail jigs in this class, the Leigh Super 12-Inch wins out regarding overall value. You’re not only buying into a highly reputable brand, but part of the money you’re spending goes into research and development. The result is the Leigh e-Bush which helps you work with precision while being very easy to adjust.
Just like the PORTER-CABLE, the Leigh Super 12-Inch is incredibly versatile. Bits allow you to take care of half-blind dovetailing fuss-free. The 1-piece fingers included make it possible to create templates for various joints regardless of how wide the board is.
That finger assembly means you can make both 5/16-inch and 5/8-inch joints.
You might think a dovetail jig with such a wide breadth of applications might be challenging to use, but the opposite is true. Once you’ve played around for a few minutes, you should be up and running with a very user-friendly experience.
While you might not get the choice of templates of the PORTER-CABLE, this is a heavyweight dovetail jig suitable for just about any workshop.
3. General Tools 861 Pro-Dovetailer 2
– Integrated clamps for increased accuracy.
– Takes away the sting of aligning joints, so you’ll get perfectly matching joints every time.
-Extremely portable; perfect if you need to take your dovetail jig from job to job.
– Although this is a limited package, you’ll be all set for making furniture or cabinets along with a nice spread of other carpentry calling for dovetail joints.
Not so Good
– No templates included, so bear this in mind to avoid disappointment.
– Limited to a single bit, so make sure this meshes with your needs or you’ll end up wasting your time and money.
An unbeatable budget option, the General Tools Pro Dovetailer 2 is not perfect but makes absolute sense if you’re looking to dovetail without spending a fortune.
You won’t get any templates included, and you’ll get just a single bit. Nevertheless, you’ll still be able to press the Pro Dovetailer 2 into action for a variety of woodworking projects.
Whether you’re using this jig in a home workshop or on the job site, the aluminum build gives you durability in a highly portable piece of equipment.
If you’re clear about the kind of dovetail joints you want to make, this sturdy, self-aligning jig is a must.
Don’t let the price tag or the minor limitations of this dovetail jig fool you. You’ll end up wondering why you ever even considered making dovetail joints by hand.
4. Leigh D4R-PRO Dovetail Router Jig
– Detailed instructions supplemented with a useful video, so you can get going straight out the box.
– Recess on top side stops for rabbeted boards along with the ability to cut through dovetails and half-blinds.
– Adjust the guide fingers to produce a wide range of patterns with absolute ease.
– Jig enables you to work quickly and with absolute precision even if you’re cutting larger drawers.
Not so Good
– The price is one of the only reasons this didn’t make our top pick overall, but it’s money well-spent if you can afford it.
-No information available about warranty.
Not everyone wants the cheapest dovetail jig. If you’ve got a large budget and you’re looking for equipment to last you a lifetime, the D4R-PRO is a strong contender for the best dovetail jig overall.
It’s common now to receive power tools and woodworking equipment with terribly unclear instructions. Not only do you get a comprehensive, user-friendly guide, but the written guide is also put together in such a way you shouldn’t need the video.
Adjustable guide fingers give you the latitude to make just about any joint pattern you can imagine.
You’ll be able to work with materials from 1/8-inch to 1 1/4 inches thick, so you’re spoiled for choice.
The Leigh D4R-PRO would make a fine addition to any home workshop and wouldn’t be at all out of place in a commercial backdrop either. If you can weather the price tag, treat yourself to one of the very best dovetail jigs money can buy.
5. Kelly Dovetail Systems 135-1500
– If you’re a hobbyist or just starting out, this dovetail jig is perfect for small or medium-sized projects.
– While you’re limited to only one template, this allows you to create a staggering array of joints.
– You can adapt this dovetail jig to a surprising range of application, making it highly versatile.
– The simplicity of the design and ease of operation makes this a great choice.
Not so Good
– The weakness of the clamps is undesirable
– Initial set-up can be tasking, but from there it’s smooth sailing
The Kelly Dovetail Systems 135-1500 is a multi-tasking jog giving you the scope to create a huge spread of joints using a single top-tier template.
If you’re a beginner and you’re worried about the complexity of using a dovetail jig, everything after the awkward set-up is smooth and almost idiot-proof.
While you might first find the idea of just one template off-putting, you’ll be able to use this to make almost any joint. The 15-inch template is designed with accuracy and flexibility in mind, and it’s built to last.
The notable shortcoming of the 135-1500 is the clamps that leave plenty to be desired. You need to keep your workpiece secure, and it’s here that Kelly Dovetail Systems comes up short.
Overall, you’ll get an effective and adaptable dovetail jig without breaking the bank. For casual home hobbyists, the Kelly Dovetail Systems 135-1500 is a smart choice.
6. Leigh Super 18-Inch Dovetail Jig
– Pin wrench and locking nut enable quick and easy adjustment any time you want.
– The dual-function spacer allows you to half-blind pin boats and tail boards at the same time.
– Highly effective non-marking clamps keep your work securely in place.
– Leigh instructions simplify things every step of the way.
Not so Good
– Relatively expensive but outstanding value for money
There’s a reason Leigh has such a vise-like grip on the dovetail jig market, and this supreme 18-inch machine further enhances their reputation.
Everything from the clear, thoughtful instructions through build quality and attention to detail showcase the strengths of this hard-hitting brand.
The Leigh is not your cheapest option if you’re looking for a dovetail jig. If you prize absolute accuracy and want a good deal of flexibility as well, this is a great choice.
You won’t be limited to a single depth and bit, so you’ll be able to put the Leigh through its pace and create a wide range of dovetail joints any time you want.
Some cheaper dovetail joints provide you with clamps that are barely fit for the most basic purpose. The cam action clamps and aluminum bars show you what effective clamping should do. You can focus on your project without worrying about any slippage.
7. Woodstock D2796 12-Inch Dovetail Jig
– Mounts to the benchtop very quickly and easily.
– 2-directional clamping gives you all the security you need to work without your material coming loose.
– The template is super-simple to set up with clear instructions.
– The precision-engineered dovetail jig is designed for pace and precision in a package that will keep going for years.
Not so Good
– Steel build makes this jig much heavier than the competition.
– Needs guide bushing and bit, both sold separately and not included.
As with all budget dovetail jigs, you’ll run into some limitations with the Woodstock D2796, but the upside outweighs this dramatically.
Fashioned from steel, this jig will grace your shop for years to come if you look after it. This does make it heavy, but in return, you’ll get a stable and durable unit at a scarcely believable price.
Many cheap dovetail jigs are sorely lacking on the clamping front. On the Woodstock, you’ll get clamps in both directions keeping your workpiece safely slotted in while you beaver away.
The template is very easy to get set up, and it’s made from aluminum with maximum durability in mind.
If you’re just starting out and not convinced how much use you’ll get from your jig, this makes a great starting point. While not designed for professional use, woodworkers of most skill levels will find this user-friendly dovetail jig a steal at this price point.
8. MCLS 6406 Dovetail Jig
– A versatile performer in all aspects of making drawers and boxes up to a width of 12 inches.
– Since the template is not permanent, you’ll be able to cut longer dovetail joints using the MCLS.
– Routing insert is detachable for your convenience.
– CNC-machined aluminum gives you a lightweight jig that will keep going for years.
Not so Good
– Only supports one dovetail bit, so be aware of this limitation going in.
– Set-up is not straightforward despite claims from the manufacturer, and the manual does little to clear up any confusion.
The MCLS 6406, like many budget products, is a flawed gem.
On the one hand, you get a price suitable for just about any budget with no real compromise on build quality.
Then, on the other hand, you get a single supported bit, and you’ll also need a 5/8-inch router bushing which does not come in the package.
We have to say that overall this dovetail jig has significantly more in the black than the red and makes great sense if you need to create strong joints for boxes without blowing your budget.
While the template is not perfect, the advantage of this is the ability you’ll enjoy making lengthier dovetail joints.
Not suitable for pros or anyone looking for more bit support, the MCLS 6406 is a beginner-friendly and surprisingly flexible dovetail jointer at a price you’ll love.
Is it worth buying a more expensive dovetail jig?
A more expensive jig usually offers better grip strength and more accuracy, but less expensive models are still great choices for beginners and casual users. We suggest you spend money for an expensive jig if you do not plan on using all the features.
What to consider when buying a dovetail jig
Make sure the dovetail jig you’re considering is large enough to deal with all the material you’re likely to use.
While most of these jigs will deal with workpieces up to 12 inches, you should buy a more substantial model if you regularly work with bigger stock.
Weight and Portability
There will always be some degree of compromise between weight and portability.
Lighter dovetail jigs will be easy to clamp to the workbench.
Aluminum is commonly used for its ideal ratio of durability to portability while steel gives even more resilience at the price of more weight.
There’s no right or wrong answer here, but it pays to focus on your needs, so you get the right dovetail jig the first time.
Many elements come into play to determine the precision of a dovetail jig. The overall design, the quality of the clamps and the finger design all play a crucial role.
Adjustable fingers make fine-tuning a breeze while efficient clamps ensure you can make accurate cuts without the stock moving.
Since accuracy is key when making dovetail joints, look only at models with a solid reputation for precision.
Type of Joints
Whether you want to make full dovetail joints or half-blind joints, sliding joints or miniature joints, ensure the jigs you’re looking at will deliver what you need.
Some units are designed to offer you a great deal of scope while others make just a couple so make sure you’re not going to miss out on what you need to create.
Fixed or Variable Template?
- Fixed Template: Requiring minimal set-up, the traditional fixed template is machined from a single piece of aluminum. You’ll get even and strong joints, but it will be evident they’ve been machined
- Variable Template: Movable guide fingers on variable templates allow you to tweak both the width and spacing of tails. You’ll be able to create very striking joints that look hand-made, but you’ll need to pay for the privilege
What is a lapped dovetail joint?
On the inside of drawers where you’ll only see the joint from one side, a lapped dovetail joint gives incredible strength even if it looks unsightly.
Do you need much experience to use a dovetail jig?
No. All you need to do is make certain your workpiece is clamped firmly to the table, and you’ll be good to go. While you’ll need to experiment a little with templates, they’re there to make your life easier and to make sure results are precise.
What’s a full-blind dovetail?
As the name hints, the grain is hidden on both sides making this strong joint ideal if it’s on display. Small cabinets and jewelry boxes feature this type of joint prominently.
Are any dovetail joints weaker than the rest?
Yes. A sliding joint has a flat piece of material joining an inverted T, and it doesn’t have the strength of more solid dovetail joints. Nevertheless, it works well with dividers or cabinets.
Wrapping it up
By now you should have a firm idea of what makes the best dovetail jig for your workshop.
Invest in yourself and improve your woodworking for less than you might have imagined.
If you’re still stuck, we recommend you use the PORTER-CABLE 4216. You’ll get just about everything you need without needing to break the bank while widening the scope of your joint making. It’s worth every penny if you intend to use it routinely.