Leigh Dovetail Jig Tips and Tricks?


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You probably don't want to hear this but...

I had a Leigh, and when the output was good, it was very good indeed. But.

It was a pain to set up, it was easy to get it wrong, and for the few DTs I do each year I was happier using a bandsaw or even a Jap DT saw to do the work.

The Leigh is a very good jig, but it is not a panacea for the serious woodworker.

It is indeed a lot of work setting up. A lot of it at the moment is mis-understanding. I realized I was moving the gauge the wrong way last time for the fit. The thing is once you've got it set you can literally do hundreds of dovetails in minutes and you know they are going to fit.
Well I'd have a jig over cutting them by hand anyday. I have spent hours and hours tring to cut them by hand and the results are still poor. People say it's quicker to cut them by hand and it just can't be true. It takes me just as long to get my routing jig out of the box and set it up than it does to get out the chisels, saw, marking gauge etc. All the dovetails are cut in seconds and the fit is perfect. To add insult to injury when I've asked people they generally prefer the look of a machine cut joint. Woodworkers will favour the hand cut ones but that's only because we're biased knowing the extra skill thet went into it.
Once the Leigh is setup then it's a joy to use. It would really come into it's own if you had a chest of drawers to make or a kitchen. You can't knock leigh on quality and they have spent a lot of time with the manual and DVD. Apart from one problem with the template bush, I setup and cut dovetails without posting for help on the forum.... Now that's saying something :shock: :lol:
Chems":1q3wwpj9 said:
I once you've got it set you can literally do hundreds of dovetails in minutes

That's exactly the point Chems - once it is set up you can indeed do hundreds. The question is, how long does it take to set up and do you actually have hundreds to do? For me, the frustratingly long setup time was not justified by the very few DTs I was ever cutting. So I bought a nice Japanese DT saw and learned to cut them by hand. It was far more enjoyable. I now cut all my DTs on the bandsaw. It's fairly fast, very configurable (so they look just like hand-cut0 and the fit is excellent.

The olny downside is that you can really only do through DTs (unless you want to fake it, and it's quicker to cut them by hand than fake it anyway) but even then it's only the sockets you have to do by hand, you can still cut the tails on the bandsaw. But as I tend to make drawers with false fronts, even that is not really an issue.

Well I do have 7 draws to do at the moment each with 4 corners and each corner has 5 pins and 6 tails so thats 140 pins and 168 tails, so yes I do.

I'm really looking forward to getting to do something where I can make the joins of a cabinet with Dovetails 609mm wide. Unfortunately I managed to break my 2nd Guide Bush yesterday, new one on order but won't be here till Tuesday at the earliest so no progress to be made. I'm so close to the perfect fit!
Hi Chems,

I've been following the saga of your recent routing and wonder what on earth these guide bushes are made of? - cheese perhaps?
My leigh ones are solid brass and I've seen other ones made of steel - both pretty unbreakable.

Third time lucky eh?

Its my own fault. My first router had had heavy use and the plunge lock was slippy, it slipped up ramming the spinning dovetail bit into the bush breaking it. Luckily no damage to the bit which was expensive. Got the new router under warrenty and a new guide bush, but this time I didn't fully lock the plunge and the same thing happened again. Yeah hopefully 3rd time lucky!
Just thought I'd like to update this. Got it all sorted to perfection today, and heres what I've learned.

1. You need a good sized base on your router, big the better. No more than 3-4mm as said earlier.

2. Very tiny adjustments in height of cutter for tightness of fit, literally hair widths movements.

3. A bit of lubricating wax across the fingers and the base of the router does wonders.

4. When adjusting the fit of cut on Half Blind dovetails and the manual says move the guide fingers away from you, it only means on the sockets side, leave the pins part at the same measurement.

5. Do a lot of tests!

This is the first drawer, once done and set up, which once understood took about 3mintues I was able to do 6 draws in about half an hour. The only problem was I didn't have a good router bit to do the rebate for the draw base so it didn't all go together smoothly, mallets were used!

I hope anyone whos been reading or finds it through a search this and are thinking of buying a leigh jig or learning hand cutting dovetails aren't put off by my poor start as I have to say the jig is 100% perfect it was only user error that was slowing it all down.
Well done Chems. I can highly recommend the VRS. It makes life so much easier and cleaner.

It's a joy when you finally get it working.
Thanks, its very satisfying when you can run off lots of them and know they are all going to be perfect. I was thinking, my big sub base, I could easily attach a VRS type affair to it and save myself the money. Although Leigh do a mini type thing now which just attaches to the router and follows along like that. £31 from Axminster. VRS is £64.
Yes you're right the VRS could be home made. It's relatively simple. Just a bar\beam with magnets to attach and then a rolling\sliding vacuum shroud.