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Anonymous

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Hi all

I know that the mention of woodrat usually starts a squabble but I ask you all to keep calm and forget about comparisons/defending your favorite* system.

I would like to know why woodrat users think they are so great? this is a serious enquiry.
It appears to me, from postings and tutorials I have seen, that one has to literally draw the positions of dovetails on the machine and then move the cutter by eye when cutting the joint. Surely I have missed the point here as this method sounds very inaccurate and prone to producing scrap wood. Also cannot see how several joints of exactly the same dimension can be made.

I ask all of this as despite my scepticism I respect the forum members opinions and am intrigued to the point of considering purchasing one - though not for dovetails as my Leigh does that just fine and I cannot believe that 'by eye' alignment can better the guide fingers of the dedicated jig.

However, my Leigh is not too hot on mortice and tenons or finger joints though :cry: which I hope the Rat can be used for. Anything else it can do?

What other joints do you cut with it? Why use it for these joints? Is is worth all that money? Is it quick? Is it easy?

Thanks for your time and patience with this ratter skeptic

Cheers

Tony

*mine is the Leigh D4 :wink:
 

sawdustalley

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To me the woodrat looks too fussy aswell.

looks like you have to spend ages setting it up, and learning to set it up in the first place.

Also, I have no idea why its so pricey, i'm sure the construction (From what i've seen) and materials used are fairly simple and minimal.


I did get their demo CD - and sure the results were impressive, but they actually explained bgr all on how to set it up and things, didnt really make me want to buy one.
 

johnelliott

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I'm sceptical too. I read right through the on-line manual but remain highly unconvinced. If I wanted to do dovetails I would get a dovetail jig
John
 

Newbie_Neil

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Hi Tony

I'm probably the wrong person to be doing this, but here goes.

If you are after a jig just for dovetails, get the Leigh. If you want a jig just for M&T's then, if you have the money, get the Leigh M&T jig.

But, if you want to be able to produce lots of joints have a look at the 'Rat. Don't bother with a demo at a show, because their skills are certainly not in showing the 'Rat off to its' best advantage.

I had the pleasure of a demo at one of the shows and I came away wondering whether I would ever be a good enough woodworker to actually be able to use one.

To understand it properly you need to see a 'Rat owner actually using it.

Hope this helps and that the offers pour in.

Cheers
Neil
 

Chris Knight

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I have both the Leigh and the Woodrat and use both - getting excellent results with each.

The business of drawing dovetails for the Rat, as mentioned by Tony is erroneous to say the least. One simply makes a reference mark and thereafter uses it like any other mark you make in all of woodworking, as a line to cut to. It is no more or less accurate than that except that having a "machine" that holds everything firmly, it is easier to cut to a line with the Rat than say a chisel or handsaw.

Contrary to James's supposition, the Woodrat is not in the least fussy and unlike the Leigh, really needs no setup to speak of. Having once cut a set of dovetails in the distant past (and recorded a couple of settings) I can go to it and cut a drawerful of dovetails by the time you (or I) have the Leigh set up for a first cut.
 

Alf

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Tony, one word:

Flexibility

Other than that, a nice long search should find all this gone into at some length... :roll:

Cheers, Alf
 
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Anonymous

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As someone who's just started playing with his rat, believe me when i say drawing the DT on the rat and lining up with it is amazingly accurate. The button position (for doing the diagonal cuts) is also very easy, with lots of spreadsheets available to help. Only the spirals have given me grief, but it doesn't take long to go from too tight joint to perfect joint, and then that setting stays for all the corners in the box being made.

The up-cut looks pretty bloomin good too - I had doubts, but looks like I've got a new way of cutting small tenons!
 

Aragorn

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Chris
Being the owner of both the Leigh and Woodrat, I'm intrigued as to why you use both? Doesn't the 'rat do everything the Leigh does and quicker (according to your post)?
What makes you choose the Leigh when the 'Rat is setup right there, all quick and easy?
Also, since most people use one or the other, and we rarely get impartial assessments of them as users tend to love their jigs at the expense of an unbiased review, you would seem to be in an ideal position to answer Tony's (totally reasonable) question!
It seems to me (Leigh user here) that the 'Rat is an ideal jig for a newbie to buy. It seems to be able to do so much and take up such little room.
What's your impression?

Thanks
 

Steve Maskery

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HI all,
At the risk of sounding like a spoilsport.....


Dovetail jigs are a waste of money and time.


No doubt you would like me to justify that statement. That is a fair enough request, I will try to oblige.

First let me say that I know that the Leigh can produce "perfect" dovetails. At least withi the limitations of the mchanical strength of dovetail cutters. I used to own one. I have no doubt that the Rat can produv equally accurate dovetail joints, and is probably more versatile. Let me explain why I got rid of my Leigh and did not buy a Rat.

I, like most other Woodies on here, do not make my living fromwoodwork. Heck, I don't make a living, full stop. (Anyone want to employ an unemployed MBA graduate right now?). The Leigh, and I suspect the Rat, come into their own when used in a batch process environment. If you have 200 drawers t make, that's the tool.

I, however, make drawers singly or in pairs. Once or twice a year. The learning curve of a jig exceeds the time it takes to cut a set of dovetails by hand. Read that again.

Fot the 3 or 4 hundred quid required to buy a jig to do one job (let alone th cost of the router) you can buy an excellent Japanese dovetail saw and a set of high quality chisels. In the time it takes to read the manual and set up the jig, you can practise on a couple of lengths of scrap wood. By the time you have done it a dozen times (that is 12, not 12 thousand) you will be producing presentable joints. It is not rocket science. I have only one useable eye, and I can do it. So can you. If you want small batch production, invest in a decent bandsaw (very versatile indeed) and lean to cut dovetails on that (read Mark Duginski).

For one-offs it is easier, quicker and QUIETER. And a lot more satisfying. Dovetails are not Magic Art. They require skill and practice. You do not have to sell you soul to the devil. You can do it. OK, so the first ones will be firewood, but you will soon get something you wll not be ashamed of.

I bet that most people who buy a jig (of any flavour) have never even tried to cut them by hand.

If you have two eyes, you have a head start on me. Try it. Buy a jig if you are going into production. Otherwise, buy a saw and a chisel and ENJOY!
Cheers
Steve
 

Bean

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Dear All May I point out that I do not own a Rat or a Leigh

The Rat certainly does look flexible and if you have any background in machining......Using a milling machine for instance you will see the flexibility with out the need for specific jigs. The Rat is in fact a milling machine a very simplified one, but one none the less. They work in very different ways and there is little comparison, its just a case of whats best for you and only you can decide :wink:

And to dare to go off topic for a moment does anyone know of one for sale I may be interested. please pm me if you do.

Bean
 

Chris Knight

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Aragorn,

They both have strengths and weaknesses like most things. I prefer to use the Leigh if I have a large carcass to joint. I generally use half blind dovetails at the corners. If the pieces are long, depending how high up the wall you have mounted the Rat, they may not fit between the Rat and the floor (I now have my rat mounted at headheight and stand on a stool to use it, just because I want to joint an odd long piece). If the piece is also heavy as it will be if it is, say, four or five feet long and a couple of feet wide, then I do not trust the Rat's clamps to hold it firm without any slippage while cutting the joints. With my Leigh jig mounted on a baseboard, I simply clamp it in my tail vice at 90 degrees to its normal orientation and then I have the whole length of the bench and more to accomodate whatever I am jointing (for the piece that would normally hang under the jig if mounted normally on your bench)

I find the Rat is ideally sized for things like drawers and unless I'm feeling in a hand jointing mood, I will normally do all my drawer dovetailing with the Rat. I should point out that once set up, the Leigh can be quicker at half blind dovetails because no bit change is needed whereas with the Rat you need to install a straight bit to cut the pins for the method I use (there is actually another method for the Rat, more akin to the Leigh that doesn't require a change to a straight bit)

The Rat is peerless for loose tenon joinery. It excels in cutting mortices in end grain. I like loose tenons because they are strong, quick and they save wood.

The Rat is much more flexible in its application than the Leigh but it has always suffered from poor presentation and until recently, lousy manuals with the result that people perceive it as difficult to use. If I could only keep one, it would be the Rat.
 

Adam

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I own a 'rat, and am happy, but was at the Homewood workshops the other day, when they were reviewing jigs, and sharpeners, and they had the Leigh chap from Brimarc demonstrating.

Boy, I thought perhaps everyone who kept saying how hard the woodrat is to understand and learn might be correct, until I saw the Leigh in action. OK, there is a one off time to learn the woodrat but after that, it's plain sailing. I can finish a batch of drawers in the time it takes to setup a Leigh. He only had an hour to demonstrate the Leigh dovetails, finger joints, the "fancy joints" the M&T, sliding deovetails, so he was motoring through the demo, but even so, "slide this bit in", check, "draw a pencil line here", take the wood out, "put the other piece in", flip this the other way up, "take a cut", careful yiou dont' dip in between the pins, watch out for tear out here, "flip this back, loosen here, align here........ it went on a bit I have to say! Also, quite a few time when demonstrating he seemed to set things up on the Leigh "by eye". He kept saying align this to the 20mm graduation etc. I guess I'd presumed that there wasn't any "set-up" on the Leigh which was "user" adjustable.

Now it did produce some lovely dovetails (the Leigh), and I'm impressed with the quality of engineering, but, he did use pencil lines to assist him which I found interesting (depth setting I think), given the Leigh people who like to tease us 'ratters! The joints were spot on, but the tearout did concern me slighlty, he rather glossed over it and said he had a "blunt" cutter. :? Anyway, it answer to the original poster, it does take quite a long time to setup, and I have limited enough time as it is. One thing I particularly like about the 'rat is you can use it immediately.

I mean basic Leigh machine? £300? Finger Joint template = £235, Set of three "isoloc = £430, Leigh M&T jig £630.... You ain't gonna see any change out of £1600 for all the bits? (I know it's a bit cheeky to include the M&T, but it comes "for free" in the 'rat!!! :lol: So... instead of thinking the 'rat is expensive, you could, in a way, consider it just a third the price of a Leigh, with all that additional flexibility and functionality.

The woodrat always gets knocked for cost, but if you add up the price of all the individual bits of the Leigh - it's real expensive, and for every extra function you need, you have to buy a "new" bit, or template, or whatever. I like experimenting and trying new things and ideas out on the 'rat. I made some monster joints for the garden gate a while ago. The manual is much improved and has plenty of suggestions of other joints to make, if you are stuck for inspiration.

For a production environment, the Leigh looks superb, fast, accurate, reliable etc. But for a budding WW, who makes lots of different projects, unusual joints, experimenting etc. I'd recommend the 'rat. If I had a big enough project, with enough repetition, I'd really consider it (a leigh) , it would be a blessing. For the limited number of projects I have, I don't think it has enough flexibility to do other things.

I thnk the main thing to remember, is people have been cutting dovetails "by eye" for hundreds of years, with unbelieveable levels of accuracy, dare I say, better than machines? :shock: Let's be honest, we are only using machines (either 'rat or Leigh) to make joints we have neither the time to learn nor skill to do by hand.

Occurs to me I haven't actually answered the original question...

"I would like to know why woodrat users think they are so great? "

I like mine 'cos it's fun to use. The machine is limited by my imagination, not by my ability to purchase a new template, which had been designed by someone else. I also find it intuative, I can try something new. In the same way people build hundreds of jigs and bits and bobs to extend the abilities of thier tale saws and router tables, it also, should you be willing to invest the time to make a jig or two, have it's capabilities extended even further.

I think the picture (below) demonstrates most of what I've been trying to say. I built this almost entirely on my woodrat, and there's no dovetail in sight. I had this before a table saw, so it was used to square off all the ends, produce the M&T in the doors, the M&T for the shelves, including the extended pins for the walnut wedges you can see. It angled the top and bottom surfaces (not sure if they are shown in this picture)..... I produced mortices the full width of the sides, and also set it up (a bit like a router table) to produce the mouldings on the tongue and groove planks that make up the back. (in fact they aren't quite T&G as I wanted a more decorative, and complex profile).

click image for larger view



Adam
 

johnjin

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Chris, Adam

Keep it up you are both saying all the things that I want to hear.
I can't wait to spend the money and open the box.
As Alf said earlier it is all about flexibility.
If you are going to turn out dozens of the same joint then get a specialist tool for the job. But if like most of us you need a lot of different joints then the Rat has got to be what its all about.
And as Bean said , the Rat is really a Milling Machine and therefore allows itself to be used for a lot more than just joints.
I Must get a Rat

John
 

Adam

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John,

Are you sure you aren't really a 'rat owner already? That level of enthusiasm is normally reserved for those *after* they have purchased on, not before!!!

Adam
 

johnjin

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Adam
To tell you the truth, until about 8 months ago I had never heard of a Woodrat or Leigh jigs come to that. I have been working in Israel for the last 20 years and being too lazy or more than lightly too thick to learn to read a different alphabet that is also written right to left instead of left to right (great for left handed people). The consequences of this is a kind of getting behind the times. The murk finally cleared when Screwfix started their forum about last September and I quickly found this site. From then on there has been no looking back and my knowledge of woodworking and the tools in particular has increased leaps and bounds. I will be returning to the UK permanently in the next few weeks (yippee says my everloving) and the Rat will be at the very top of the "to buy" list. I am literally dreaming of using one. Just hope I can make head or tail of it when I get it. Anyway that is my excuse for my enthusiasm.
All the best

John
 
A

Anonymous

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Thanks for the replies guys, especially Adam and Chris.

Although I referred to the Dovetail joint in the original post, this is not something I would consider using the Rat for, not because I doubt it's capability, but because despite the demo Adam saw, I can set my Leigh up for through dovetails (I cut these a couple of times a month on average) in less than 5 minutes and I do not suffer from breakout as I use a backer board.

No, what I am interested in is the other uses for a Rat. These appear to be loose tenons and as a replacement for a router table. I would like to cut 'proper' tenons on the jig and angled tenons in chairs too.

Better find the manual on line and read it I suppose.

I started this thread hoping to be convinced of the worth of the Rat, the posts have not fully convinced me but the most impressive work I have seen on the forum was presented by Waterhead and Asleitch, the two who put forward the strongest argument for the Rat.

Must be something in that.

Anyone selling a second hand rat or know of a third party?

Cheers

Tony
 

Aragorn

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Thanks Chris & Adam
Excellent posts that have taught me a lot!
Just for the record, I agree with Tony - I find the Leigh very quick to use. For through DTs I hardly consider it to have any set up time at all. The slowest part is changing over to a straight cutting bit for the pins, but I guess you have to do that on any jig?
Also just for the record (and to appease those who are already doing too much :roll: :roll: :roll: ) I am not defending the Leigh! As I've expressed before on other threads I think a comparison of the 'Rat and Leigh is very strange. It's like comparing a TS to a router or something!
One last thing - "The Rat is peerless for loose tenon joinery"...
Peerless may be a bit strong! Though it's a high budget item, the Leigh FMT handles loose tenons with incredible ease and accuracy.

_________________
Cheers!
Aragorn


Love my FMT, can take or leave the D4, wishing I'd known about the Woodrat 10 years ago!
 
A

Anonymous

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Anyone near Leicester area with a Rat they would like to show off one weekend soon?

Cheers

Tony
 
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