Last updated on February 27th, 2021 at 11:37 am
If you’ve ever cut dovetails and box joinery by hand before, you’d definitely see the need for dovetail jigs.
A dovetail joint is a very common but difficult-to-make woodworking joint professional woodworkers, furniture and cabinet makers use quite often for making crafty-looking furniture and woodworking pieces like jewelry boxes, drawers, cabinets and even for building log homes.
It’s not only strong but also attractive, making it a joint used not only for its strength but to also display good craftsmanship.
The problem however is that it’s very difficult, labor-intensive and time consuming when you make them with simple hand tools like hand saws, chisels and mallets.
Apart from being labor-intensive and time-consuming, there’s also a high chance of making mistakes, and ending up with loosely fitting dovetails and box joints when you use simple hand tools to make them.
Hence the need for a dovetail jig. It will allow you craft flawless dovetail and box/finger joinery for your woodworking projects, without spending much of your time and energy.
No matter the type you want to make, whether half-blind, through, sliding or box joints, a dovetail jig will allow you use your router to rout your way through them with minimal effort and time.
There’re different types and brands of dovetail jigs you can choose from, but I’ve taken my time to review and list the best ones here so you can make the right choice when you choose one for you projects.
Porter-Cable 12 Inch Dovetail Jig 4210
If you’re thinking about owning a dovetail jig, Porter Cable makes some very good ones you can choose from.
They have about 3 models which include the 4210, the 4212 and the 4216 model. All three Porter Cable jigs are 12 inch wide, and thus will not accommodate projects larger than 12 inches.
This particular model is the 4210 model, and it includes the 4211 dovetail template that allows you to cut half-blind, rabbet half-blind and even sliding dovetails.
The machined aluminum template ensures maximum accuracy when using the jig.
Setting up the Porter-Cable 4210 is very easy as it features template alignment lines and router bit depth gauges, making it very easy to use.
The jig also features heavy-duty cam-type clamps with locking bars backed with sandpaper which helps secure wood pieces firmly to the jig.
Operating it is quite easy as there’re on-board instructions that provides clear guidance or how to make use of it.
Overall, this Porter-Cable 4210 is the ideal jig you need to cut any half blind and sliding dovetails not wider than 12 inches, especially when you’re working on boxes and cabinet drawers.
Leigh D4R Pro 24 Inch Dovetail Jig
If you’ve been using dovetail jigs for some time, then you probably must have heard about Leigh.
Leigh specializes in making joinery jigs, and the D4R Pro 24 is kind of their premium jig for making dovetails.
In fact, if you visit this page, Leigh calls it “The best dovetail jig in the world”, and it’s pretty hard to dispute considering how good this thing is.
With the D4R Pro, you can make flawless dovetail and box joints easily. The design of this jig is quite similar but also very different from the other template models you might have come across.
The D4R Pro does not make use of a fixed template that restricts the shape or the type of joint that can be made with it.
It instead makes use of an adjustable template that allows you to make equally or variably spaced through and half-blind dovetails and box or finger joints you’ll never attempt with a template jig.
Although, you can attach an optional template to it which will allow you to make even more unique joinery styles as you carry out your projects.
Of all the jigs you’ll come across as of now, there’s none capable of producing the range of joinery that this D4R Pro can produce.
With it, you can cut or route different types of joinery including half-blind and through, variable spaced half-blind and through dovetails, and half-blind and box (finger) joints.
Setting up and operating the Leigh D4R Pro is nothing but easy. Once you know the pattern you want, just position the guide fingers to your desired pattern, and after setting and clamping the boards in place, just guide your router around the guide finger to cut out the pattern you want.
At first, the Leigh D4R Pro might seem complicated to use, but as soon as you go through the well-illustrated user guide that comes with it, and with some practice, you’ll quickly get a hang of it.
All in all, you should get the Leigh D4R Pro if you want the most versatile tool for quickly creating beautiful and accurate dovetail-joinery during your woodworking projects.
Keller Dovetail System 135-1500
Whether you’re a beginner woodworker, a hobbyist or a professional woodworker, the Keller dovetail system is one tool I’ve found that is very easy to learn and master.
This particular model is a 15 inch precision-milled jig/template that allows you to cut different types of dovetails and box joints on stocks from 1/8 to ¾ inches in thickness.
Although it’s a 15 inch template, when you master how to use it, you’ll be able to cut dovetails and box joints on different lengths and widths of wood stocks.
It allows you to cut classic, acute, obtuse, variable-spaced, compound-angled and even curved dovetails, including box and knuckle joints.
You can definitely buy and use any other jig no matter your level of expertise as long as you have the right tools. But if I’m a beginner woodworker and I want an affordable dovetail jig that’s easy to master, this Keller system is probably the first one I’ll go for.
When you buy the Keller system, the kit comes with a phenolic guide, a straight bit, a standard dovetail bit, ball-bearing template guides, and last but not the least, fully illustrated instructions to help you use it effectively.
Porter-Cable Dovetail Jig 4216
This Porter-Cable dovetail jig 4216 comes with a mini template kit that includes template 4211, template 4213 and template 4215, all 12 inches wide.
When you pair the jig with the aluminium templates that come with it, you can cut half-blind, rabbeted half-blind, sliding, through, miniature through dovetails and box joints.
Just like the Porter-Cable 4210, this 4216 model also features template alignment lines and depth gauges that allows you to quickly set up the template and the jig.
The router bit depth gauges is a very useful feature that allows quick and accurate depth settings without taking measurements.
When you get this Porter-Cable 4216, you get a jig with a durable, single-piece steel design that ensures long term durability because, apart from the machined aluminum templates, you don’t have to assemble or disassemble its components.
It accommodates stock from ¼ inches to 1-1/8 inches in thickness, with a 12 inch maximum width. It features heavy-duty cam-type clamps with sandpaper-backed locking bars that ensures a firm grip of your stock as you cut through with your router.
All in all, you should get this Porter-Cable 4216 if you have furniture or cabinet making projects that involves cutting of half-blind, rabbeted half-blind, sliding, miniature half-blind, through and miniature dovetails, including box joints with stocks not wider than 12 inches.
It’s a highly accurate and durable dovetail jig you can use for all your woodworking, furniture and cabinet making projects.
CMT300 Universal Dovetail Jig
If you’re talking about the best dovetail jigs, this CMT300 Universal jig definitely makes the list. Although dovetail joints are strong and adds a professional touch to your woodworking projects, many woodworkers avoid using them due to the difficulty of making them.
This CMT300 is one easy solution to the complexity of making these joints. Setting it up and using it is very easy.
All you have to do is clamp your stock, aligning it with the edges against the factory-set stops, set your router bit depth, and get to work with your router.
With it, you can work on stocks from 7/16 inch to 1 inch thickness, and you can cut different types of dovetails.
There are a few templates you can use with it that allow you to cut but half-blind, through dovetails and box joints, but the standard template that comes with it when you purchase it allows you to cut only ½ inch half blind dovetails.
The jig is also comes equipped with a template guide, a CMT carbide tipped dovetail bit and complete instructions to help get up to speed with it.
Overall, this CMT300 is one that will definitely make the work of cutting dovetails and box joints in the workshop way easier than using Japanese saws, chisels and mallets.