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Best dovetail jig?

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RogerP

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Until now I've handcut dovetails but I have a project which will require a great many drawers and I'm thinking of easing the work with a router jig. I've searched the forum and the web but I still can't really come to a conclusion of which, of the many on the market, would be the best to buy.

Any suggestions please?
 

marcros

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how are you doing the drawers- half blind dt's or putting a false front on and using through dt's?
 

marcros

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That might narrow your search a bit.

If it was me, I would go for the Leigh d4, or its latest revision. IIRC, the additional features on the d4pro etc wont be particularly useful to this project, so a previous model would save you some pennys. There is a comparison on their website between the models.
 

RogerBoyle

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Almost 10 years ago I was looking around for something to help me with dovetails and finger joints. In my searching
I came across the woodrat .
After some serious thought ( 3 months ) I decided to buy it. I really cant fault it even now
It is one of the most versatile bits of kit that I own and In many respects so much better than using a router table
I still use it as much now as i did when i first bought it..
The major downside for it though is they are not cheap but there are Forums out there dedicated to them so help and advice is in plentiful supply

Roger
 

Tony Spear

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Me too! I've only got the Little Rat 'cos it was all I could afford. It took me ages to save up the money to buy a "proper" Woodrat and by the time I'd done it they'd just put up the prices. I'd been talking to Martin Godfrey about it for ages, but no amount of pleading would get him to let me have it at the old price! :(

I should probably have waited for a second hand one to come up, but I really can't remember why I didn't.

Even so despite some of its limitations it serves my purposes pretty well.
 

RogerP

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Thanks for the suggestions guys. I'm investigating them all :)
 

beech1948

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RogerP,

I had the same problem about 3 yrs ago when a project called for 45 drawers to be made.

I looked at the Leigh and many other devices and simply concluded that they were all too expensive and too limited. After all £500 for a dovetail jig is a bit extreme.

I did subsequently buy a Woodrat ( used) but for this project I built my own jigs. The drawers were in three sizes so I built three jigs, the jig had the shape of the dovetail in it and worked for only one size of drawer side. I used a straight bit with a bearing top.

Best thing about this was it was easy to clamp down solidly, fast to use, made good dovetails/pins and was dirt cheap. Made my job very profitable.

I would not do this again as the potential for a cock up on some rare wood was quite extreme as well and very nerve racking.

I NOW USE MY BANDSAW to cut dovetails/pins using a small ramp to rest the wood on. Its safe and fast and cheap and for me better than a £500 dovetail jig. I am usually using plant on drawer fronts. It takes me 8 minutes MAX to cut the dovetails for both front and back of a drawer and they fit first time, every time with no breakout or gaps. If you have a bandsaw then try to use that. £500 will buy a lot of beer.

Al
 

promhandicam

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The trend jig (CDJ300 ?) is fine for drawers although you have to use standard widths of drawer side as the pins aren't adjustable.
 

RogerP

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beech1948":9de0pvae said:
RogerP,
...... I NOW USE MY BANDSAW to cut dovetails/pins using a small ramp to rest the wood on. Its safe and fast and cheap and for me better than a £500 dovetail jig. I am usually using plant on drawer fronts. It takes me 8 minutes MAX to cut the dovetails for both front and back of a drawer and they fit first time, every time with no breakout or gaps. If you have a bandsaw then try to use that. £500 will buy a lot of beer.
Al
Yes I also have used a bandsaw for dovetails and the method can work well - but unfortunately not for half-blind dovetails :(

The small Trend looks interesting and cheap. The drawers are all identical so it's definitely thought. Thanks.
 

wcndave

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Woodrat gets my vote, although i disagree that it a router table "the right way up", (i like to see my fingers), the ability to do climb cuts is great. You can do fine dovetails. Bit fiddly to set up first time, but then you can blast through them, and if you like, sell it again after ;-)

I had never even attempted a dovetail of any kind in any way, and had half blind perfect fit within an hour, then it's just a case of repeating...
 

beech1948

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OK then half blind dovetails.

I guess that the best way to proceed is to buy the cheapest solution you can find in jigs or make your own like I did but I get a feeling that you are not too keen on that.

The other productive approach is a Woodrat, which I bought after my 45 drawer dovetail marathon, that would now be my choosen method.

Al
 

RogerP

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Thanks Al,

I've bought a Trend jig from a fellow forum member and I think that will do the job as there are basically only 2 drawer sizes (but many of them), so I'll set up a small production line.

Thanks everyone for the help :)


beech1948":3td93i8f said:
OK then half blind dovetails.

I guess that the best way to proceed is to buy the cheapest solution you can find in jigs or make your own like I did but I get a feeling that you are not too keen on that.

The other productive approach is a Woodrat, which I bought after my 45 drawer dovetail marathon, that would now be my choosen method.

Al
 

custard

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I've owned both a Woodrat and a Leigh DR4 Pro. It's not as simple as one being better than the other, as you'd expect from two very different solutions they each have strengths and weaknesses.

The Woodrat can cut finer dovetails. Even when cutting by hand I tend not to cut the ultra fine dovetails any more, so for all practical purposes the Woodrat will cut dovetails that are indistinguishable from my hand cut versions (except they're better!). However, the Woodrat is fiddly to use, tends to dfift out of calibration (which can be exasperating in the middle of big job), and still leaves quite a lot of room for operator error.

The Leigh can't quite cut such fine dovetails, however they're still pretty elegant and nothing at all like the blocky, uniform dovetails you normally associate with dovetail jigs. It's also faster, and very very stable once initially callibrated.

If you're a hobbyist with all the time in the world and looking for the very best quality then go for the Woodrat. if you're in a commercial or semi-commercial operation then the Leigh is the better choice. Personally I've settled on the Leigh, but on occasions if I really want ultra fine dovetails (for say a box or a very small and delicate drawer) I do a "half and half" operation where I cut on side on the Leigh jig and the other side by hand. this gives even finer dovetails than even the Woodrat can manage, and it takes about 40% of the time that hand dovetailing takes.
 

Steve Maskery

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beech1948":u26l1my4 said:
I NOW USE MY BANDSAW to cut dovetails/pins ........ and they fit first time, every time
Hey! Get your own strap line! :)

Roger,
If you are used to cutting by hand, then the bandsaw is a great boon even for half-blind. You can do all the tails and the through pins for the back, leaving you just the front half-blind sockets to chop out.

You can cut the tails either by eye and chop out all the pins to fit, or, with a couple of simple jigs cut the tails and pins. Mark Duginski set out the idea in his Bandsaw Book, and I have developed it further to make it more versatile and safer. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it for batches. You can have fixed or variable spacing and you can make it symmetrical or asymmetrical, which is handy if you are sliding in a drawer bottom.

It's true that you will have to practice a little, but only a little and you will find that there is a significant learning curve with the other jigs. Certainly there was when I had a Leigh, I can't comment on the Woodrat.

If you do look at the Woodrat, look also at the Router Boss. It's similar, but with many of the shortcomings ironed out (or so I'm told).

Lots of options. The only other thing I would say is that, if you are used to cutting them by hand, I think it is very unlikely that you will like the appearance of the basic router jigs, where the pins and tails are all the same size. Very ugly.

Good luck
Steve
 

heatherw

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It's a long time since I made a set of drawers, and when I was thinking about buying a jig they were just inventing the Woodrat, and noone was sure if it worked or not. It was too expensive for me, anyway. The Leigh was the jig of choice at the time, but I couldn't afford that either. I ended up buying the Incra jig, which more or less served my purpose. I seem to remember making 20 or so drawers for a fitted wardrobe, and we were making bespoke rustic kitchens at the time, I managed to make the dovetails for these with few problems with the Incra jig. I can hardly remember how it works now, but I do remember that you had to be very careful with the increments, changing to the next cut, as they're so small that you don't notice the difference. It is very verstile, although I don't think I used even half of its possibilities.
I can't remember whether it does through dovetails, though. I seem to remember them all being half blind. And It took at least a day to figure out how to use it properly.
 

angelboy

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promhandicam":1gfgj9v2 said:
The trend jig (CDJ300 ?) is fine for drawers although you have to use standard widths of drawer side as the pins aren't adjustable.

For novices like me the CJ300 is great, especially as it cost me £50 S/H. You have suggested drawer depths to which there are about 7+ and material depths of 11mm to 32mm (although it could be 25mm, I can't remember) and cuts half-blinds and recessed half-blinds with the main templates.

The older CJ is better to go for than the later DJ (not sure about the CDJ) as it has the ability to set and move the offset guides, which I've been told the later one doesn't.
 
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