In woodworking, the quality of your work is apparent from the finished product. Every woodworker knows that his joints can make or break a project, and none more so than dovetail joints. They are the most common type of joinery used in carpentry.
While you can carve out intricate dovetails by hand, the process is very time consuming and frustrating. A quality dovetail jig is your best bet when you wish to produce first-class work.
There are many brands and models of dovetail jigs, but they all differ in terms of quality, versatility, and design. Our team of experts has contacted expert carpenters who have been using various woodworking equipment for years and compiled this list of the 7 best dovetail jigs as of 2020.
Best Overall – PORTER-CABLE 4216
- It comes with a 12-inch dovetail jig.
- It has a selection of three templates and four template guides to choose from.
- Quick and easy set-up.
Best Premium – Leigh Super 12 in Dovetail Jig
- Takes boards of up 12”W.
- One-piece fingers with countless adjustment options.
- Top-quality construction with sturdy cam lever holds.
Best Value – General tools 861 Pro-Dovetailer 2
- One-piece aluminum construction for durability.
- Self-aligning design.
- Infinite options for board size.
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In terms of functionality, versatility, and durability, the Porter-Cable 4216 is the best overall dovetail jig. It is a solid piece of equipment designed for accurate dovetail joints and ease of use. It is also well priced for the value you get.
- Heavy-duty clamps made of solid steel to grip your workpiece tightly.
- It comes with template 4211 for half-blind, rabbeted, and sliding dovetails.
- It has template 4213 for box joints and through dovetails.
- It also comes with template 4215 for miniature through, half-blind, and miniature box joints.
- It features template alignment lines and router bit depth gauges.
- Made of machined aluminum.
- It accommodates pieces of thickness between 1/4in and 1 ⅛ in.
Why We Like the Porter-Cable 4216 Dovetail Jig
We love how firm and solid this jig is. When using it, you can see that the workpiece won’t budget. It makes high-quality cuts, for a wide range of boxes, cabinets, drawers, and other furniture.
- This machine is solid and firm, which means that your workpiece will not slip as you’re working. It makes for more accurate cuts.
- It is very durable. It will easily last for decades.
- The various templates give you different options to choose from.
- It is very easy to use, thanks to the alignment lines and depth gauges.
- Very reliable, with a 4.7-star review on Amazon.
- It is heavy, at 26 pounds.
- The price is a little steep compared to other models.
The Porter-Cable 4216 is an excellent dovetail jig in every respect. It is for the accomplished carpenter or hobbyist woodworker who wants to make first-class dovetail joints. It is well worth the price, and you can below.
Leigh Super 12inch Dovetail Jig
Leigh is a world-leading designer and manufacturer of dovetail jigs and other woodworking equipment. The Leigh Super 12” dovetail jig is a premium model which features an ingenious infinite adjustment design, compared to the others that need fixed templates. It also gives you the best precision cuts.
- It comes with 3 router bits.
- Its one-piece fingers are infinitely adjustable.
- It will accept all boards up to 12”.
- Two-function spacer enables you to offset the tailboard and rout the whole joints in one pass.
- It includes a pin wrench for adjustments.
- It consists of a steel base and aluminum clamp bars.
- It has a variety of bits such as the ½” 140 dovetail, 5/15” straight bit, ½” to 8mm collet reducer, among others.
Why We Like the Leigh Super 12” Dovetail Jig
Like other super jigs, the Leigh Super 12” gives you almost infinite adjustment options when it comes to creating the dovetail of your choice. Plus, it is also very easy and intuitive in design, which helps to save you time when making adjustments.
- Deluxe quality construction.
- The one-piece finger design allows infinite options for you to design custom dovetails.
- It makes very precise cuts.
- It is easy to use thanks to cam-action aluminum clamp bars.
- It comes from the factory with various types of bits.
- It commands a higher price tag than most other models.
- If you have not used other jigs before, this one might take a bit of a learning curve to get accustomed to.
If you’re unsure about the rest of the jigs on the market, just get the Leigh. It will cost you more, but it won’t disappoint. That is especially so if you’re a professional carpenter; it will take your work to the next level.
General Tools 861 Portable Aluminum Dovetail Jig
For students, beginners, or even experts who have a tight budget, the General Tools 861 dovetail jig is the best option. It is a portable model made of machined aluminum, with all the basic functions you can expect from a dovetail jig.
- Durable aluminum design.
- It produces strong joints without much adjustments being required.
- It is self-aligning.
- It can be adjusted to create tight or loose joints as needed.
- It can accommodate boards of any width.
- It includes a ½ bit for a handheld or table-mounted router.
- It comes with control knobs for a table router.
- It has integrated clamps to help secure your workpiece.
Why We Like the General Tools 861 Dovetail Jig
One major advantage of this model is that it is light and can be transported easily from one work site to another. Another advantage is that it has no limitations as to the size of the board you can use it. Plus, it is very cheap.
- It is very light and portable.
- It is the easiest to use and is suitable for students.
- It is strong due to a machined aluminum design.
- It can fit almost any workpiece.
- It can be used both with hand-held routers, but also with the table-mounted ones.
- It only comes with the ½ bit.
- It cannot be used to cut less common types of dovetails.
For experts, students and novices who like something that will be easy to use and portable, the General Tools 861 dovetail jig is the best option. More importantly, it will last for ages and is very cheap.
Woodstock D2796 12-Inch Dovetail Jig
The Woodstock D2796 12″ dovetail is easy to set up and easy to use. Part of its appeal is that it allows you to create the pins and tails at the same time, making it very fast to carry out your project. Plus, it is very affordable and gives great value for your money.
- It accepts boards of ½ to 1 ¼ inch thick.
- It is a 12” jig, which enables you to work with a wide variety of boards and stock.
- It features horizontal and vertical single-action cam designs to quickly and accurately secure your workpiece.
- It requires 7/16in guide bushing, as well as a ½ in router bit.
- It features a ½ inch aluminum template, thus the need for ½ in router bits.
- Heavy stamped steel construction for the ultimate in durability.
Why We Like the Woodstock D2796 12in Dovetail Jig
The best thing about this model is the ease of use. It allows you to set it up in minutes, and also complete your projects fast and efficiently. For a novice who wants to make fast and accurate jigs, as well as an expert who prefers stress-free action, this is the perfect solution.
- It offers fast and efficient cutting of various dovetails. That is because you can cut tails and pins at the same time.
- The secure cam-action levers are simple and safe to use.
- It is lightweight and easily portable.
- It will last for long given the durable construction.
- It creates top-quality ½ inch dovetail joints, which is the most common type used in woodwork.
- The template is fixed and specifically requires ½ in router bits with a ½ inch shaft. These have to be purchased separately.
The Woodwork D2796 Dovetail Jig is super easy to use and lets you create dovetail joints fast. However, it is quite limited in the types of dovetails you can create. If you’re looking for fast performance or just for basic joint work, this is for you.
Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig
The Rockler complete dovetail is a deluxe-quality, versatile jig. The manufacturer is a world-class producer of tools, and this particular model is a favorite among expert woodworkers. It is heavy-duty, comes with all the accessories needed in the box, and features a friendly price tag that guarantees the best value for money.
- It accommodates wood stock of up to 11” width.
- It makes use of unique 8mm dovetails bits. These are 25% larger than the typical ¼ in type, which helps to eliminate chatter. They are compatible with all Rockler dovetail jigs.
- The standard fence locations and preset template are marked for ease of use.
- Cam-action clamping bars include an abrasive surface to prevent slipping and ensure security.
- It has a depth gauge on the template to set the dovetail bit depth for half-blind joints.
Why We Like the Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig
The Rockler dovetail jigs are well known for their professional quality. They’re made of industrial-strength steel and aluminum parts for top performance and are perfect for the proficient woodworker.
- It comes with a full set of bushing guides and router bit included in the box and price.
- It features a depth gauge to help you make fast and accurate half-blind joints.
- It has clamping bars for simple and secure fixing of your workpiece.
- Top-quality construction ensures durability, including carbide tips for the 8mm bits.
- Great value for your money.
- It only features one template, which limits your choice if you prefer making different types of joints.
- It is expensive compared to other models, despite the limited versatility.
The Rockler brand of dovetail jigs is best known for its legendary quality. For a proficient carpenter who values reliability year in, year out, it is worth much more than its price tag.
Leigh Super 18-inch Dovetail Machine
The Leigh Super 18-inch dovetail machine is a big brother to the more popular 12-inch model. Leigh Super jigs offer the best in versatility and quality, despite their high prices. The Leigh 18″ Super Jig is meant for the dedicated professional who wants unlimited options in the types of joints he can cut, with the best in precision.
- The locking mechanism consists of a unique pin wrench and locking pin.
- It accommodates boards of up to 24inches in width.
- It comes with three bits in the box: a straight bit, as well as 80 and 140 dovetails.
- It comes with Leigh’s proprietary E-bush system.
- It can create either 5/16 inch and ⅝ inch joints with the adjustable finger assembly.
- You also get a fully illustrated user guide and an instructional DVD.
- It features a solid steel base and aluminum parts.
Why We Like the Leigh 18” Super Dovetail Jig
The Leigh Super 18″ is the most versatile super jig you can use to create different types of dovetail joints. We also love its high-quality construction which enables you to create precision joints with minimum effort.
- You can use to create almost limitless types of dovetail joints.
- You can make precise cuts thanks to the accurate adjustments enabled by the pin wrench.
- It is wide enough to support up to 24” wide boards.
- It is very durable and solid.
- You don’t have to buy anything else because every part you need in the box.
- Quite expensive.
For the enterprising carpenter or woodworking hobbyist, it pays to have options on the type of dovetail joints you can make. That way, your creativity can soar without restraints. You can put a price tag on something like that.
MCLS 6406 Dovetail Machine
The MCLS 6406 is an excellent dovetail jig designed for the budget market. You can use it to create accurate joints of different kinds, thanks to its premium metal design. However, like all budget options, it has a few flaws that you can overlook given its friendly pricing.
- It is a 12” dovetail jig.
- The template has adjustable spacing capabilities.
- It comes with a ¼” inch shank bit because it is the only type that will fit in with the template.
- The jig is made of solid steel, with the jig consisting of machined aluminum.
- It has self-spacing guide edges for accuracy.
- You can cut the tails and pins of half-blind joints at the same time.
Why We Like the MCLS 6406 Dovetail Jig
This is a very affordable jig that doesn’t compromise too much on performance. If you don’t want to splurge on a high-end model, you will love the versatility and functionality the MCLS 6406 provides.
- This is a versatile performer, allowing you to cut dovetails of any length thanks to the adjustable template.
- It is durable, thanks to its solid construction.
- It comes with a 140, ¼ inch router bit so that you won’t have to buy anything else.
- Fast set up and operation, thanks to the cam-action levers.
- It allows for precise joint alignment, thanks to the self-spacing edge guides.
- It only supports one dovetail bit.
- The setup manual is a bit confusing.
When you want a good quality dovetail jig at a friendly price, the MCLS 6406 dovetail machine is the perfect solution. It gives you the best selection of functionality and versatility without too much compromise on its quality. However, you will have to take some time to set it up and learn to use it.
Buying Guide for the Best Dovetail Jigs
What to Look for When Buying a Dovetail Jig
When buying a dovetail jig, there are a few things that you need to keep in mind to ensure that you select the best one for you.
- Use – You need to keep in mind what types of jobs you will be using it on. The size of the boards you will be joining determines the type of jig you buy. Also, if you will be doing precision work, you will need to go for the premium models.
- Budget – Generally, dovetail jigs depends on the price. The premium models are more expensive but will serve you better. You need to be ready to pay for quality.
- Versatility – This is the most important feature of dovetail jigs. Some allow you to use different templates, while others are restricted to only one. You will need to look out for this feature if you need it.
What is a dovetail joint?
Dovetails are the most common type of joint in woodworking. It involves creating a ‘tail’ on one section and an interlocking ‘pin’ on the other. It is called so because of the characteristic shape of the assembly that resembles a dove’s tail.
How does a dovetail jig work?
A dovetail jig makes use of a template which is reproduced on your workpiece using a router. In effect, it guides the router bit so that you can carve out the pin and tail of the joint.
What is the best dovetail jig?
There are many types of dovetail jigs, and each is good for certain uses. Some of the premium models such as Leigh and Rocker are good, but they may not fit everybody’s needs.
What is the best dovetail jig for fine woodworking?
If you need to create precise joints, always go for the premium jigs. These are more solid and offer you more options regarding the types of joints you can create.
How many types of dovetail joints are there?
There are five types of dovetail joints. These are through dovetails, half-blind or single-lap dovetails, secret mitered, secret double-lapped, and sliding dovetail joints.
Dovetail jigs are a must-have tool in any carpentry workshop. It is invaluable in creating different types of dovetail joints fast and efficiently. It will vastly help you improve the quality of your work and thus draw in more customers.
They come at different types and prices to suit the needs of different users. At the end of the day, you need to invest in one and you will surely reap the benefits within days.