Woodwork projects require the right tools that can improve the projects. A dovetail jig is among the best tools to create accurate and robust dovetail joints for different household projects like furniture, drawers, and boxes without fasteners.

You should consider this basic tool for your woodworking shop for creating an interweaving joint that looks like a bird’s tail. The best dovetail jig would clamp the workpiece in place, allowing you to run the router along with a template.

The dovetail can interweave the joint that looks like a bird’s tail, as the name implies, a strong, stable joint with a lot of surface for gluing. Here is a guide on choosing the best dovetail jig for your projects.

Top 7 Dovetail Jigs Comparison Table

ImageNameSupported ThicknessNumber of Templates IncludedRating (1-5)
1. PORTER-CABLE 4216 Dovetail Jig with Mini Template Kit1/4 to 1-1/8 inchThree4.7
2. Leigh Super 18" Dovetail Jig13/16 inchesOne4.7
3. General Tools 861 Portable Aluminum Dovetail Jig1/2 inchOne4.2
4. Leigh TD330 Through Dovetail Jig13/16 inchOne4.9
5. Keller Dovetail System 135-1500 Journeyman DoveTail Jig1/8 to 3/4 inchOne4.6
6. PORTER-CABLE 4210 Dovetail Jig1-1/8 inchTwo4.7
7. Leigh D4R Pro 24" Dovetail Jig1-1/4 inchOne4.4

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Dovetail Jig

Although dovetails are not a new technology, they are popular and an easier to approach joinery, unlike pocket hole jigs.

The dovetail joints are old school, and if you are a new DIY person, you might not be aware of the technology or what to look for when shopping for one. These are tips that can help you when choosing the jigs.

Material

Consider the products used to construct the dovetail jig. Old models were made of cast iron, and they lasted more when maintained well. However, they were heavy and pricier.

Modern models are made of cast aluminum or steel, and they are light, accurate, and less costly. The steel jigs are heavy and less expensive and hardly bend inaccurately like the aluminum jig.

The aluminum dovetail is not susceptible to rusting, unlike the steel dovetail, and it would be wise to store them away from conditions that cause rusting.

One-Step or Two-Step Dovetails

Two types of dovetails are available. The one-step dovetail jigs are more expensive than the two-step dovetail jigs as it allows the user to cut the joint in two boards simultaneously. You can cut the joints by perpendicularly holding the boards end to end.

In addition, you can run the router over both boards to create an accurate joint. However, the two-step dovetail can cut through the board only one panel at a time.

When cutting, the board should be unclamped and replaced with other boards, introducing room for mistakes.

Fixed or variable template

You can choose either the fixed or variable template dovetail depending on the level of customization needed. Each dovetail template makes robust and reliable joints using different degrees of customization.

The fixed template gives solid cuts, which create a perfect and uniform consistent joint with well evenly spaced and consistent guides. However, the basic templates are not adjustable.

The variable dovetail templates are adjustable and give different spacing with different numbers of guides, and produce different dovetail look. The less uniform look gives your woodwork a more uniform appearance thus increasing the value.

Capacity

You should know the size of the dovetail jig and its capacity based on the size of the boards. Many jigs can handle specific board sizes up to a given size before being removed and repositioned.

The more you adjust the dovetail jig board, the more inaccurate the cut. A jig with a 12-inch capacity will be great for cabinetwork and drawers. Drawers are least likely to go beyond the 12 inches, and if they do, you can use an adjustable dovetail jig that can be repositioned.

However, deep boxes and crates need more capacity.

Accuracy

Accuracy trumps all factors when choosing the best dovetail jig for your projects, as inaccurate dovetail jigs create loose and sloppy joints or joints that do not fit together well.

Most jigs are consistent and accurate, and the jig’s quality has a lot to do with the accuracy of the joint, and shifting creates less consistent results when working on the woodwork.

The Joint

You can create different looks and styles with a dovetail jig, and you may choose a specific dovetail jig based on the joint you want to create.

Different templates can create different joints and may help create a half-blind or even a full-blind mitered joint. Different joints would need different dovetail jigs.

Ease of Use

If you are engaging in a DIY project, you will choose a dovetail jig that is easy to use. You should opt for one which is easy to set up and use. A quick-change jig guide might help with the set-up process, and they are available for setting the depth of joints accurately.

Some of the best dovetail jigs are easy to handle, and it makes it possible to achieve smooth projects which are beautiful and worth your time.

However, some of the established companies have complicated jigs, making joint creation difficult. You should always opt for jigs that are easy to use.

Top 3 Best Dovetail Jig Reviews

1. PORTER-CABLE 4216 Dovetail Jig

The PORTER-CABLE 4216 Dovetail Jig is an excellent woodwork tool that should be among your project’s collectible tools. The company has an extensive history with the innovation of tools, and it sits in the mid-tier.

Their dovetail jig is easy to work with and is very versatile due to the inclusion of three different templates. The jig can produce about eight different joints, such as; half-blind, rabbeted blinds, and miniature box joints.

It boasts one of the sturdier and is built of aluminum and steel. The company is reputable, and you can trust it for the woodwork tools that improve the DIY projects’ outcomes.

Pros
  • Has multiple templates

  • Made of aluminum and steel

  • It has a stronghold, which makes it possible to achieve steady work on your projects

  • It has a solid capacity, and you can easily customize it for handmade projects

Cons
  • It is not the easiest to use and proves to be difficult for first time DIY projects




2. Leigh Super 18″ Dovetail Jig

The Leigh Super 18″ Dovetail Jig offers craftsmanship which you would need for your woodwork projects. The jig might be a bit expensive as the company is aware of their prowess and the price of their items accordingly.

It is versatile as it offers the ability to determine the width of the dovetail joints making the tool a bit complex to use.

This dovetails jig features quality machining, ensuring perfect joint curves. It has a solid aluminum one-piece steel fingers base and can accomplish heavy-duty woodwork.

Pros
  • The jig is extremely precise

  • It is a variable dovetail jig

  • It comes with a complete kit

  • It is made of steel and aluminium thus is durable. However, you should protect it from rusty cleaning and oiling before storage.

Cons
  • It is not easy to use as it is highly customizable, making it challenging to fit during cutting.




3. General Tools 861 Portable Aluminum Dovetail Jig

Designed with both novice and professional woodworkers in mind, the General Tools 861 Portable Aluminum Dovetail Jig produces strong, precise joints quickly and easily. Its self-aligning design ensures that each end of the joint matches up evenly every time, ensuring a tight fit without further adjustment or supervision.

Weighing only 2.94 pounds, it is made from heavy gauge aluminum for durability and yet manages to be lightweight enough for mobile use on location.

It works well with a router table and can be adjusted for boards of any width. The kit includes a jig and one cutting-teeth router bit that makes this perfect as a starter bundle. This dovetail jig has no additional templates but does help create box joints or dovetail joints on boards.

Pros
  • It offers good precision, thus improving the outcome of the DIY projects

  • It has solid stability, which improves its ease of use
  • It is reasonably easy to use
Cons
  • The instructions are not very clear

Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Make Dovetail Joints With a Router?

Although the dovetail joints can be cut by hand, a router could make the work easy and faster for a beginner.

What Type of Router Should I Use With a Porter Cable Dovetail Jig?

Many routers work well for the dovetail jig. Craftsman routers are among the easiest to use, and they would work on your cable dovetail jig.

You may need to consider other brands like 2HP and Bosch as ideal for a dovetail jig. However, you should ask for recommendations on the routers which will work well for your jig.

Which Board Goes First in a Jig?

You start with two pieces of plywood when making a jig, and you may start by cutting two exact sizes of plywood and attach them with glue and a few brads before adding a third piece to the front edge, which acts as a lip.

You should ensure you keep the edges of the jig straight and the square piece to catch the rail.

What is Lapped Dovetail Joint?

The lapped dovetail is very common and is used to hide the joints on one side, making it visible on the other side of the drawer. The lapped joint is demanding, and it makes wastes in a drawer construction difficult.

To achieve an elegant appearance, you can try to construct it with small pins. Before starting the project, you can prepare the timber carefully and ensure the ends are square and have a uniform thickness.

Mark the thickness of the lap on the end of the pin member and avoid making it too thin as it could break. You should aim for about 4mm and run the gauge along the inside of the face of the workpiece.

Then start with the same setting gauge, mark the end of the rail member, fix the pin, lever the timber out, and make any necessary corrections.

What is a Full-Blind Dovetail?

The full-blind dovetail is similar to a mitered dovetail with a useful rabbet when cutting wooden pieces on a joint. It acts as a transition between the half-blind dovetail and the secret miter dove.

Can You Cut Dovetails on a Table Saw?

Yes, you can cut the dovetails on a table saw as it provides enough working space, which is essential for your DIY projects.

Are Any Dovetail Joints Weaker than the Rest?

Some dovetail joints are weaker than others, and it depends on the materials used to make the joint. For instance, nails make the most important joints, while glue makes the weakest joints.

However, the strength of a joint will depend on its application of the joint.

How Long Will My Dovetail Joint Last?

Your dovetail joint will last for a long time, but it depends on o the application of the joint. If the joint is prone to misuse or overuse, it will wear down faster than one rarely used.

What Can I Make With a Dovetail Jig?

A dovetail jig is a wooden tool that applies to many woodwork projects as it creates dovetail joints for drawers, boxes, and furniture without fasteners. It gives a smooth and robust surface which is key for household application.

Do You Glue Dovetail Joints?

You can glue the dovetail joints, especially if the joints will not be subject to overuse in the long run. For instance, you can glue dovetail joints on boxes and drawers. However, you would use nails to achieve strong dovetail joints.

Conclusion

The best dovetail jig will give you the best and smooth projects, and they are suitable for making joints on the boxes, drawers, and furniture. When choosing the dovetail for the project, you can consider the ease of use, materials used to make the jig, and its costs.

It is wise to operate within the budget when shopping for jigs as they are tools that should last for a long time.