What I Like
What I Don't Like
The dovetail is one of the key woodworking joints. It is attractive, relatively strong, and aligns the mating parts. One of the great woodworking debates is whether dovetail joints should be produced by hand or machine. The advantages of hand-cut dovetails include artful, variably spaced layouts, pin/tail ratios that are pleasing to the eye, little or no tearout, unlimited work pice widths, and a small investment in tooling. The primary advantage of machine-cut dovetails is that they are easy to use and easy to reproduce the same joint dozens if not hundreds of times.
The ideal dovetail jig would offer all of the advantages of both hand-cut and machine-cut dovetail methods. 25-plus years ago Leigh unveiled the Leigh TD514 through dovetail jig. It offered many advantages of of hand-cut dovetails including infinitely variable layout/spacing. A few years later, Leigh designed the 1258 dovetail jig that produced half-blind and through dovetails using the same template. The 1258 was easily the most capable dovetail jig of its day--I purchased one when it was first released and have used it for 20 years. The downside of the Leigh 1258 (and later D4) is that it requires some time to set the layout and perform the test cuts. Plus, their pin angles are not adjustable. So regardless of the thickness of work piece, you cut the same pin angle. Finally, if you do not use the jig frequently, which is often the case with part-time woodworkers, you may find you have to re-read the manual each time you use the jig. I have received enough remarks from owners over the years to know that a significant number of Leigh dovetail jigs lay un-used collecting dust under home shop workbenches.
In the mean-time, fixed dovetail jigs continued to pop up. Such jigs are typically designed to cut only half-blind dovetails and perhaps box (finger) joints. Their advantage was simplicity and fast joint making. The problem, the resulting joints had the "cookie cutter" look. I have purchased several of these jigs, and currently own one, the Porter Cable 7116. I appreciate it for what it does best: quick and painless half-blind dovetail drawers and boxes.
A few years ago, rumors of a new dovetail jig hit the Internet woodworking forums. It was named the Eurojig and the mock up or prototype had the appearance of something "European", or at least foreign. I contacted the company for additional information and like many others, was excited about its proposed features. After a number of startup delays, there were many that said the product was a ruse, vaporware if you will.
Following several delays, Kevan Lear finally introduced his proudct, the AKEDA DC16. Designed for drawer construction, the DC16 offers the advantages of the Leigh including variably-spaced symmetrical and asymmetrical pins/tails, produces both half-blind and through dovetails, and even does box (finger) joints. But unlike the Leigh, the AKEDA is very simple to setup and use, and does not require test cuts! Furthermore, as you will read in the following review, the AKEDA DC16 adds key features not found on the Leigh (or perhaps any other conventional dovetail jig): variable pin angles (to match the pin angle to the thickness of wood), incremental layout that ensures you can easily and quickly reproduce a specific layout in the future, rails to suppport the router (rather than riding on the template fingers), one-hand clampling, and built-in dust collection.
Note: Clicking the hypertext links (bold-faced blue text) and blue-framed images will launch additional content.
Special thanks to Peter Collins of Woodcraft and Kevan Lear of AKEDA for providing the AKEDA DC16 and the DC Accessory kit for our use and this review.
Installation and Setup
The AKEDA DC16 is the ideal dovetail jig for those who hate setups and tinkering....it takes more time to remove the AKEDA DC16 from its box and inventory its contents than it does to prepare it for use! All of the key components of the AKEDA, with the exception of the guide fingers, are built into the jig. For instance, the clamp bars, guide rails, and edge guides are part of the main unit and thus are not installed by the user. To prepare the AKEDA for use, perform the following steps:
That's all there is to it! No adjustments, no muss, no fuss. Prepare some boards and you're ready to use the jig. Most dovetail jigs require some amount of assembly, adjustment, and calibration (edge guides, templates, etc.). The AKEDA simply does not require assembly or adjustments prior to use.
What I Like About the AKEDA Dovetail Jig
Quick and Easy Initial Setup
As described above, preparing the jig for first use could not be easier.
Fixed Edge Guides
No "jig" Adjustments Required
When making drawers, I typically use half-blind dovetails to join the sides to the front and through dovetails to join the sides to the back. The beauty of the AKEDA is that you can use the same tail guide finger setup to rout the tail boards for both the through and half-blind dovetails. Also, if the back is the same thickness as the sides, I don't even have to change the depth of dovetail cutter. This is a real time saver.
Box joints are a piece of cake. Unlike the Leigh or the Keller, no offset needs to be setup by the user. It is a simple matter of cutting one set of fingers using the standard tail guides and cutting the mating fingers using the half-blind pin guides. I did run into a couple of key issues that I discuss on Page Two of this review.
One-Handed Clamp Bars
Guide Finger Layout
With the AKEDA, you simply snap the guide fingers into the rear guide rail where you want it. The guide rail is machined with notches, spaced exactly 1/8" apart. The guide fingers have two corresponding nubs that align with and fit into the guide rail notches. Furthermore, each guide finger is manufactured with grooves and tabs that work with the guide rail to hold the guide in place. A pencil ledge is provided along the rear guide rail that allows you to easily mark the position of the pin and corresponding tail guide fingers. Each finger is machined with a center mark to ensure that you can line up respective guide fingers with precision.
I find it easier to setup mirror image asymmetrical layouts with the AKEDA than the Leigh, since the tail/pin guides snap in at 1/8" increments. I don't have to measure, mark boards, or fuss around to setup the "mirror" image layout. And of course, you can match any past tail/pin guide layout perfectly in the future--something that is nearly impossible to do on jigs with "infinitely-adjustable" templates.
I have read reviews where AKEDA users have snapped (broken) the guide fingers trying to snap them in and out--I don't get it! It could not be easier, and I have large, insensitive hands! Just don't try to force them! If the guide finger does not readily snap in, chances are its rear notches have not indexed with the corresponding notches in the guide rail.
I asked Kevan Lear regarding the possible wear and tear on the guide fingers, this is his response:
Almost a year of engineering, prototype tooling, research, and experimentation went into the guide fingers! They are carbon fiber with a complex mix of resins. We did wear tests. Apart from the shaving down to size that takes place the first time they are installed, there is a "wear in" process that takes place during the first 200 insertions. After that, we tested to 1,000 insertions with no measurable deterioration. We are also making some invisible changes that will further extend guide finger life, and we are experimenting with different fibers and resins. Also, when the snaps actually flex, they never exceed the material's ability to return to its original shape.
The Guide Rails
The Jig is Completely Enclosed
Overall Look and Feel
Easy to follow user's guide
What I Don't Like About the AKEDA Dovetail Jig
I originally reported to Kevan Lear of AKEDA that I had not found a single serious fault in the jig. Sure, there is always something, but nothing of importance. So the following are mainly annoyances, rather than things I don't like. Perhaps they'll strike a chord with you, or you'll think I'm nuts--just trying to call'em as I see'em!
The following is a suggestion from a woodworker regarding reducing tear out, sent to me through Kevan Lear of AKEDA...
Take two tail guides. Using a fine tooth hacksaw, very carefully cut the right leg off one tail guide and the left leg off the other, taking care to keep clear of the snaps that engage the guide rail. Install these modified tail guides at the extreme L.H. and R.H. ends of your guide finger layout when you're cutting tail pieces. The missing leg gives you more freedom to rout around the edges of the tail piece when you're cutting out the sockets for the half pins, and will result in less tear out. I've tried it myself and it works very well.
Tear-out is less of a problem, at least for the face, of through dovetail pin boards since they face towards the operator. Tear-out is non-existent in half-blind pin boards.
Rout half-blind dovetails in two steps
As I stated earlier, when making drawers, I typically use half-blind dovetails to join the sides to the front and through dovetails to join the sides to the back. The beauty of the AKEDA is that you can use the same tail guide finger setup to rout the tail boards for both the through and half-blind dovetails. Also, if the back is the same thickness as the sides, I don't even have to change the depth of dovetail cutter. This is a real time saver.
Kevan Lear's response....
You can in fact cut variable-spaced half-blind dovetails in a single pass, If the work piece width is less than half the width capacity of the jig. Simply make identical pin and tail layouts at opposite ends of the jig, clamp the pin piece at, say, the LH end of the jig and the tail piece at the RH end, then machine the pin piece, and continue on to machine the tail piece--without stopping. It's just as fast as a dedicated half blind template jig, and faster than the [place name here]!
Tail Guide Spacers
Kevan Lear's response....
I always use the front guide rail and dispense with the tail guide spacers, ....I have used the jig so much, I can do it by eye. ....someone else suggested making marks on the front of the jig, in line with the tail guides, where you can see them while you're routing. I've tried it and it works well.
I keep knocking the clamp knob off the unit!
Picky Guide Bush Requirements
The Bottom Line
I first reported about this jig several years ago and said that if it could deliver on half of its promises, it would be a welcome addition to any shop. I'm not really keeping track, but I believe that Kevan Lear and company indeed met all of their lofty and seemingly outlandish promises (did you ridicule the artist's rendereing?). The jig produces through and half-blind dovetails without any adjustment whatsoever to the jig. Period, end of paragraph. The in-built dust collection works very well. I added the Leigh dust extraction attachment to one of our routers, and it works, but the AKEDA system works better and does not require an after-thought attachment. The jig flat out works as advertised. My first couple of through dovetail boxes came out perfectly. My first half-blind dovetail drawer was close to perfection, requiring only a slight adjustment of the router depth.
The bottom line is this. The AKEDA produces the same wide variety of dovetails as the Leigh and does so with less setup and hassle. By the way, don't think I am cutting down the Keller, PC Omnijig, and Leigh jigs. I use them, will continue to use them (well, probably continue to use them). They are all excellent jigs that have strong market share for a reason: they work.
However, the AKEDA seems to have taken the best that these jigs have to offer and added key additional features that woodworkers have requested for eons (i.e., built-in dust collection, ease in layout, perfect joints without test cuts, and so forth). If you get a chance to see the AKEDA in person I think you'll be equally amazed with the look, feel, and operation of the AKEDA. If you like, I would be happy to demo the unit, side-by-side with the Leigh, Keller, and PC 7116 Omnijig. Just drop me a line. We also plan to have some videos available very soon, demonstrating the AKEDA features
Check Out Page Two!
The following AKEDA pages detail how to use the jig, tips, hints, and so forth, including a few videos that demonstrate the function of the AKEDA DC16!
|AKEDA DC16 Review Page 2|