Scorecard

Basic jig produces a wide variety of dovetail sizes and spacings; excellent instruction manual.

Steep learning curve; half-blind dovetailing requires two setups.

A very versatile (but complicated) jig capable of making most types of dovetails.

Circle #604

The Leigh jig is the most versatile—and the most complicated—of the jigs we tested.

With its single, basic template, you can cut variably spaced through and half-blind dovetails, sliding dovetails, and even box joints. The jig's versatility lies in its template design. The "fingers" on the template—which guide a router bushing—adjust for the dovetail width and spacing of your choice. This allows you to achieve the look of hand-cut dovetails. It also trees you from having to design the width of your workpiece to suit the spacing on a fixed-finger template.

To make through dovetails, you clamp the tail board vertically under the bar at the front of the jig, placing the board's end underneath the template. Tails and pins are routed in two separate operations. A handy scale at the end of the template helps you fine-tune its position for a tight joint.

You'll need a router that accepts both '/4-in. and '/2-in. collets. You'll also need to get two guide bushings—one S/16 in. dia. and one 7/16 in. dia—to fit your router.

It takes a few hours to set this complex jig up initially and a while to learn to use it. Fortunately, the excellent instruction manual leads you clearly through setup and operation.

It's worth noting that the Leigh is the only jig that will make variably spaced half-blind dovetails—for that handmade look on drawers. But it's also the only jig that requires two setups, instead of one, for half-blind dovetails.

All in all, if you're a cabinetmaker look- Custom template. The Leigh's ing for the most versatile dovetail jig on the adjustable fingers let you customize market, this is it. the size and spacing of the pins and tails in your joinery.

Wooden Hand Plane

Make a Tool You'll Treasure From a Blade and a Block of Wood

Ilikc to make my own planes. When you make a plane, you can size and shape it to suit your hands and the type of work you do. You can choose the width and style of iron you prefer and set it at whatever cutting angle you like.

Although I also use metal planes, I prefer the feel and simplicity of wooden planes. Metal planes are heavier and have more complicated adjustment mechanisms, while wooden planes arc adjusted with a few taps from a small mallet. A wooden plane also won't break if you drop it on concrete. And when the sole eventually wears out, it's a simple matter to laminate another one on.

There are several ways to make a plane from a block of wood. One common by Yeung Chan ▲

method is to rip the sides off a block, shape the center (throat) section, and then glue the sides back on with a metal pin spanning the throat to hold the wedge and iron in place.

A different approach—which i'll discuss here—involves shaping the throat with a drill, chiscls and knives without cutting the block apart. The wedge and iron are held in slots, or abutments. in the sides of the throat. (See drawing, opposite page.) 1 like the simplicity of this design, which has only three parts: the body, the wedge and the iron. And this approach is a great opportunity to sharpen your hand-tool skills.

Designing Your Plane l or this articic, I made a lO-in.-long, 2-in.-widc, 1 ®/8-in.-high smoothing plane, but you can make a plane any siz.c you like. The width of your plane should be !/2 in. wider than the iron you choose. This allows for 7/32 in. of wood and */32 in. of space on each side of the iron.

You will notice that the mouth of the plane shown in the drawing is closer to the heel of the plane than to the toe. This design, typical of oriental planes, puts more than half of the plane's sole in contact with the work before the iron begins cutting. I prefer this to the design of western metal planes, on which the mouth is about one-third of the way back from the toe.

Fine shavings from a shop-made plane. The author uses his wooden plane, which consists of only three pieces: the body, the plane iron and a wedge.

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