What is the Best Dovetail Jig?
Is there a best dovetail jig? In my humble opinion, I say No. Just like it is impossible to say there is one best automobile, I cannot categorize one dovetail jig as being the best. I recently read an advertisment where Scott Phillips has designated the AKEDA as the hands down best jig available. It's good. Very good. But I do not agree with anyone saying it, or the Leigh, or the [place name here] jig is the absolute best dovetail jig. I have purchased five dovetail jigs over the past 20 years. Peter Collins of Woodcraft kindly provided us with the AKEDA DC-16 free of charge for the purpose of this review. Consequently, I have had the opportunity to use these jigs to produce dovetails for a wide variety of projects. I find that each jig has its strengths and weaknesses.
All of the popular dovetail jigs produce perfect fitting joints. Period. Consequently, base your decision regarding which jig is best or the best jig for you on the features you're looking for and your specific priorities. For instance:
Here is a run down of the dovetail jigs for which I have the most experience:
PC Omnijig 5116/7116
The following table is my attempt at rating the features of the jigs. Rating these jigs is a difficult task. For one the PC Omnijig offers significant additional capability through the purchase of optional templates, and the Keller will do just about anything you can imagine with through dovetails, at the price of additional manual effort. Again, all of these jigs perform their stated tasks perfectly well. Click on the ratings highlighted in blue to access additional information regarding the rating.
Don't discount making through dovetail joints by hand or the hybrid method employing both the bandsaw and hand. If you're not doing a ton of through dovetail joints, doing them by hand makes sense. If you're a novice at making through dovetail joints by hand, buy or rent the Dovetail a Drawer video by Frank Klausz. Actually, this video teaches more than just dovetails. I found his general woodworking techniques to be very enlightening. Here is a run down of dovetail jigs you might consider:AKEDA DC-16 Through and Half-Blind Dovetail Jig
The AKEDA DC-16 from AKEDA Jigs Incorporated is the new guy on the block and certainly is a must-consider dovetail jig. Without any adjustments, the jig produced flawless, variably-spaced through dovetails for a box on my first try. I had the same experience with my first drawer. The jig comes through on its promises: no adjustments, excellent dust collection, virtually no setup, dovetail layout is easy and repeatable. It is quite simply a joy to use. Also, I like the geometry of the dovetails. They're more aesthetically pleasing than most machine-produced dovetails. Woodcraft handles the distribution of the AKEDA DC-16 for the U.S.
Leigh D4 Through and Half-Blind Dovetail Jig
The Leigh dovetail jig from Leigh Industries, Ltd. has long been considered one of the best dovetail jigs on the market. I have had one for many years and would not part with it, especially for its ability to rout asymmetrical dovetails. Leigh offers an extensive array of accessories that allow you to mill mortise and tenons, a variety of box joints, and decorative joints.
Porter Cable 16" and 24" (5116 and 7116) Dovetail Jigs
The Porter Cable #5115 and #7116 Omnijigs run $350 and $400, respectively. They are among the most robust jigs on the market. Porter Cable offers a variety of optional templates to compete with the Leigh as being the most versatile dovetail jig available. Someday we'll get around to publishing a review regarding our 7116 Omnijig.
Porter Cable 12" 4112 Half-Blind Dovetail Jig
The Porter Cable #4112 dovetail jig runs about $100 and is for my money, the best dedicated half-blind dovetail jig around. Click here to read my PC4112 review.
Keller Through Dovetail Jig
The Keller is considered by some as the easiest-to-use through Dovetail jig. I agree! Models run $150-$450. I purchased my Keller 1601 from Seven Corners Hardware for $189.00, which is considerably less than the show price ($209) or the suggested retail price ($249). Check out the Keller web site! It provides some great info and a gallery of work from Keller users!
Woodrat Dovetail/Joinery Jig
The Woodrat is perhaps the most unique dovetail (joinery) jig on the market, and thus appears to have the largest learning curve. I have not used the jig, but it gets high points for versatility and creative/artistic capacity. Setups appear to be more complex than typical jigs. Runs in the neighborhood of $500. I have just recently acquired and installed the WoodRat in our shop and will publish a review of it soon.
RBI Wood Tools
RBI sells a PC 4112 / Hart look-alike for $100.
Hartville Tools Model 12378
The 12378 is another PC4112 look-alike for $100. Hartville sells aftermarket cam-action clamps for the 12378 that also fit the PC 4112.
Woodhaven Dovetail Jigs
Woodhaven sells a variety of dovetail jigs including their new top-of-the-line jig that can be used in the conventional mode or on top of a router table.
Sears Craftsman Dovetail Jigs
Don't laugh, my father uses one of the cheaper models with excellent results. I recently gave him my old Woodstock Intl jig so he might retire the Craftsman, but don't count on it.
Woodstock Intl Half-Blind Dovetail Jig W1099
This jig, also sold by Harbor Freight (Central Machine) and others, runs between $40 and $60. It works pretty well.
A relatively new jig that has received good reviews. It runs $250 plus. Marc Sommerfeld demos the Katie at the Woodworking shows. Impressive in that you can clamp a tail and pin board in the jig at one time (given you're cutting them on a router table). This ensures the alignment of the top/bottom edges and could be a real time saver if you had a two router setup like Marc Sommerfeld has at the shows. One drawback I saw in the demo is that the tails/pins top/bottom orientation is swapped on each end, unless you had two setups. If you get a chance to attend the WW Shows, look at the side of Marc Sommerfeld's drawers and you'll see what I mean. Functionally sound, but a bit ugly in my humble opinion.
Stots Dovetail Template Master
You use this template master to make dovetail and box joint jig templates. You can use it to make templates of virtually any size. It runs about $50 plus another $30 for the router bits if you don't have them. I want to try this tool, but I just have not had the time to fool around with it. Review coming soon.
Incra and Jointech Router Fence Incremental/Positional Jigs
I would not consider the Incra and Jointech jigs for production work, but they work well if you are up to the setup. They work as advertised, but are time consuming to setup and use compared with dedicated dovetail jigs. For what it's worth, I prefer the Jointech positioner over the Incra. The Jointech is more roubust, uses leadscrew technology instead of the incremental racks, templates are easier to use, provides built-in centering, and their fence construction and design is excellent.
The $19.99 Half-Blind Dovetail Jig