A good dovetail jig is a true staple of any shop. You know that. What you don’t know is which dovetail jig to get.
There are a lot of products out there, and as we all know they just aren’t all created equally. In fact, even a really good dovetail jig might not be the one that is best for your individualized needs.
Researching the best dovetail jig can be tough and the fact of the matter is most hardworking woodworkers and hobbyists simply don’t have time to do the studying that they would want to.
That is what we are here for. We’ve done our homework so that you don’t have to. Not only have we assembled a list of five of the best dovetail jigs that are currently on the market, but we have also created a buying guide that will help you identify everything you could possibly need to know about a dovetail jig.
Read on for a comprehensive dovetail jig review guide!
|PORTER-CABLE 4216 (Super)|
|Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig||24 lbs||4.7/5|
|PORTER-CABLE 4210 12-Inch (Standard)|
(Best for the Money)
|Leigh Super 12″||14 lbs||4.2/5|
|General Tools 861 Pro||3 lbs||3.9/5|
Let’s start with the best of the best, shall we? We landed on the Porter Cable Super Jig being our top pick on this list because it provides both a combination of features and value.
In our buying tips section, we will go into a little bit of detail on how some dovetail jigs might be better for certain users than others. That said, the Porter Cable should perfectly suit the needs of most average users. Let’s get into why shall we?
One of the first things that potential buyers might notice about this product is its extensive list of templates that allow you to make a wide variety of dovetail joints with ease. From sliding dovetails to box joints, there are few things that won’t be able to do with this jig.
All three of the templates that come with this set are made of aluminum—a material that ensures the jig is both durable and lightweight.
It is worth noting that the extra templates bring the price up on this unit a little bit, but we generally feel that the increased utility is worth more than the slight hike in price.
Last but not least, the 4216 features a bit depth gauge that considerably improves the ease with which you will be able to use this tool.
The bit depth gauge is a really great feature because it allows the user to quickly and flawlessly set the gauge without ever needing to take a measurement.
Remember that the entire point of a dovetail jig is to make cutting dovetail joints as simple as possible. Any feature that facilitates or improves upon this utility is extremely valuable.
All of these features account for a dovetail jig with lots of points in its favor, and very little in way of cons.
The Rockler Complete falls slightly short of the Porter Cable (at least in our book anyway) but still has plenty for the discerning shopper to find appealing.
It is because of this value that we have listed the Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig as our choice for the runner up on this list.
If you liked the Porter Cable but weren’t completely sold on what it had to offer this is definitely a dovetail jig to keep an eye on.
The Rockler is not as versatile as the Porter Cable, featuring only one template instead of the three included in the last offer. That being the case you are pretty much only going to be able to cut half-blind dovetail joints.
But reduced versatility aside, there are plenty of quality components that make this tool accurate and resilient.
For one thing, like the Porter Cable that we just looked at, this unit features a depth gauge, preset this time to make the half-blind dovetail joint cut.
It also features a one-piece stop that gives you the perfect offset every time and clamping bars that resiliently grip stock to make sure that the material does not slip as you use the jig.
These features all work in harmony to ensure that the Rockler is easy to use and reliably consistent. When it comes to tools, consistency is king, so if you are in the market for a jig that will help you to make the perfect half-blind dovetail joint this is definitely a unit to consider.
Porter Cable is something of a staple in the world of tools so it really should be no surprise that they have not one, but two products featured on our list of the best options on the market.
This model is not quite as feature-rich as the last Porter Cable that we looked at, but it does still possess their signature quality that has made this company the juggernaut that it is in the world of tools.
Given the price and overall utility of this dovetail jig, we have listed the Porter Cable 4210 as our best dovetail jig for the money.
Due to the nature of where this product finds itself on this list, let’s start by discussing the price. While we never list the specific price of a product on this site (price just fluctuates too frequently to responsibly list) this unit definitely offers the most for its cost.
However, the bargain price does not correlate with a shortage of features. Like the other Porter Cable, this unit includes multiple templates that improve its versatility. The 4210 includes the 4211 which empowers users to cut half-blind, rabbeted half-blind and sliding dovetails.
It also features all of the other components that attracted us to the Porter Cable 4216—a sturdy aluminum build, clamps, and a depth gauge for accuracy and consistency.
If you admired our top pick on this list, but couldn’t reconcile the price, this is definitely a really good unit to consider.
The Leigh Super 12 comes in fourth on our list. Does that mean that it is bad? No, but it does mean that it is flawed.
While the quality of the tool itself is sound, the price definitely serves as a significant blemish in regard to its value.
We’ll put it on front street: if you are looking for a budget buy, there’s really no need to even read this entry.
On the other hand, if price isn’t as much of a factor there is plenty to like about the Leigh Super 12. One of the things that you will notice right away about the Leigh Super 12 is that it is about as versatile as it gets.
The adjustable one-piece fingers can be manipulated to make any joint pattern. The utility of the jig is further enhanced by the patented “Leigh E-bush”—a component that allows for simple wrench adjustments to be made to the diameter that changes the fit of finger joints and half-blind dovetails.
These are definitely premium features, which make them a great option for anyone that will be using this tool regularly for a variety of projects.
The deluxe features that accompany the tool will require a bit of a learning curve, but if you are a professional or an ardent do it yourselfer, the time and money will be well spent.
You know the phrase “last but not least”? ….It doesn’t apply here.
Our final entry, the General Tools 861 pro, is an exceptionally simple unit with limited utility and not much to make up for it.
Why is it included here? Well, while the features of this selection fall well short of the other entries on our list, at the end of the day there are two things that can be said of it: 1.) With some effort on the part of the woodworker, it will cut a dovetail joint and 2.) it costs significantly less than the other jigs that we have featured today.
If those are the only things that you are looking for then here is what you get with the General Tools 861 Pro: A very basic joiner that, while technically capable of making a dovetail joint, struggles in the two departments that that matter the most: accuracy and consistency.
One of our biggest problems with this tool is that the product does not even perform as advertised. While the packaging suggests that you will be able to make box tail joints, and other variant cuts, that simply is not the reality of the product’s performance.
Bottom line? If quality and consistency are an important part of the buying process for you, I would stay clear of this.
On the other hand, if really don’t plan on using your jig much, and you’re just looking for something that will make the process of cutting a dovetail slightly simpler, this is something to consider.
Now that you have a firm idea of what the dovetail jig market has to offer, let’s take a deeper look at the tool, shall we?
Keep in mind that, while there are discrepancies in quality from model to model, all of the dovetail jigs that we have listed in this guide are at least capable of cutting a dovetail joint. That being the case the considerations we will now list should help you distinguish between the quality of options listed here.
First, a word on price. While talk of budget is never particularly fun, the fact remains that most of us have one, and it can definitely be helpful to think about what yours can buy.
Price is a very basic consideration to list, but it does also bear mentioning. The price of a unit does matter in that unfortunately higher prices often do coordinate with quality.
However, you can still find good dovetail jigs out there that won’t completely break your bank. In order to get the most out of your dollar you just need to figure out what you want to pay for.
Qualities that matter the most are accuracy, reliability, and durability. You can get all of these things at a reasonable rate if you know where to look.
Extra bells and whistles are going to cost more but may not be necessary to your situation. Knowing exactly what you are looking for out of your dovetail jig going into the buying process can do a lot to help you get the most bang for your buck.
There are plenty of different jobs that benefit from the utility of a dovetail jig, but while the tool is the same for all of them, the approach isn’t necessarily. Different dovetail jigs are going to be better at accomplishing different things.
For a lot of people, creating dovetail joints, in general, is not necessarily a mainstay of their woodworking experience. Even for those that do find themselves in need of this utility on a semi-regular basis, the fact of the matter remains that different jobs require different things.
These differences can be as simple as size (with larger jigs being more suitable for larger projects) but it can also translate into the very make and features of the joint itself.
Before you make your ultimate buying decision, think about what you will be using the jig for, and then search for features that will make that task as easy as possible.
Keeping in the same vein of thought as the last heading, you will also want to think about what kind of joints you need to make now, and in the future. Not all dovetail joints are the same, and not all dovetail jigs are capable of making all dovetail joints.
Of course, the more joints a jig is capable of making, the more versatility and utility it will have.
On the other hand, this utility often does come with a price. If you want to be able to make a wide variety of joints, we think that is great, but you also need to keep in mind that it might end up costing you a little bit extra.
As you no doubt noticed, some of the units we took a look at above had more templates or adjustability components than others. In fact, part of the reason that we loved the Porter Cable 4216 was because of the many templates that improved its utility.
Conversely, part of the reason that we did not love the General Tools unit is because of its lack of versatility.
Of course, the astute reader will note the discrepancy in cost between those two units. As the saying goes, you do get what you pay for. You’ll have to decide what is important to you for yourself, but in our books, increased range of use is worth a few extra dollars.
The reliability of your dovetail joint is ultimately going to be predicated on the accuracy and quality of its adjustment features. After all, the very reason that you are investing in a dovetail jig in the first place is because you want to make the usually difficult process of cutting a dovetail joint easy, right?
This is where a big premium gets placed on a tool with an intelligent and intuitive design. Some dovetail jigs out there have better adjustment components than others. There are features out there, like side stops, that are designed to allow you to automatically correct the tails, as well as the pins of the joint.
Basically, this feature means that it’s a virtual guarantee that the finished product of the joint will fit together perfectly when the job is all said and done.
The benefit of this is obvious: good adjustment features provide more accuracy, which provides more efficiency as well.
This is particularly nice given the fact that many woodworkers do not necessarily spend tons of time cutting dovetail joints. That being the case, good features should help to offset the learning curve.
Granted, the adjustment features that we talked about in the last heading do indeed account for an intuitive design, but they also aren’t the only way in which a dovetail jig can benefit from a smart build.
Keep in mind that the whole reason you are looking at a dovetail jig in the first place is to make life a little bit easier for yourself.
That being the case you should probably get a dovetail jig that is, you know, easy to use.
There are a few things that can account for the ease with which you will be able to use your dovetail jig.
Size can definitely have an impact on how easy or difficult your jig is to maneuver around. Smaller jigs are alright in that they save you some space, but they also can feel a little bit crowded. Furthermore, they will also struggle a bit with larger workpieces.
Larger jigs, on the other hand, feature a more spacious interface, and are also going to be better equipped to handle larger jobs, and equally equipped to handle smaller jobs.
Last, but certainly not least, you definitely want to make sure that everything you need to get started is included in the box.
This sounds fairly obvious, right? But unfortunately, it does need to be said. Manufacturers have been known to leave small but important component of these and other tools out, presumably under the assumption that the average woodworker already has access to them.
Of course, this is not always the case, and it can cause plenty of frustration when you do finally get your package.
How do you know if everything is included? There are plenty of ways you can figure it out. Contacting the manufacturer is a pretty surefire way to ensure that you are getting what you need.
You can also read user reviews on sites like Amazon to discover the necessary information. Generally speaking, previous buyers aren’t shy about mentioning when a product doesn’t include everything they were hoping it would.
So that’s that. You’ve seen our top five reviews of dovetail jigs, and now you have a decision on your hands. Just to refresh your memory, we actually do have a recommendation to leave you with.
As mentioned at the start of this article, we are very fond of the Porter Cable 4216 Super Jig for the simple fact of the matter that it provides a combination of quality and value that our other selections just couldn’t quite live up to.
Does that mean that the Porter Cable is the only good choice out there? Of course not. Woodworking is an individualized process and accumulating the right equipment should be as well.
If you decide that the Porter Cable isn’t quite for you, that’s fine. Just apply the information presented in the buying guide above and pick the dovetail jig that is perfect for your needs!
You will be glad that you did when your shop has the perfect jig that will help make creating the essential dovetail joint a simple process with rewarding results.