Types Of Dovetails

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Through dovetails are found on many solid wood cases and drawers. They are a common choice for decorative joints in boxes and chests.

Half-blind dovetails arc used to join drawer sides to drawer fronts and backs. Rabbeted half-blind dovetails are used in overlay-type drawers.

Sliding dovetails arc used to connect shelves to uprights. These are also good joints to use when installing a batten across a wide board.

CMT's Wood Rat and the Match Maker from Woodworker's Supply, weren't included in this test. Even though they can cut through dovetails, these jigs are really wood machining systems, not dedicated dovetail jigs.

judging the Jigs

What's important in a premium dovetail jig? Our evaluation work began with unpacking and initial assembly and continued through the adjustments and procedures required to cut the different types of dovetails possible with each jig. Here are some important considerations for anyone interested in buying a premium dovetail jig.

Capabilities—All of the jigs shown here will cut through dovetails, but the minimum and maximum stock thicknesses vary. Maximum workpiece width is also different from one jig to the next. And you'll notice that different capacity models of the I.eigh and Keller jigs and the Omnijig are available. Cheek out stock thickness and width capacities in the "Specifications" box for each jig, and match these up with your requirements.

Then there are other types of dovetail joints to consider. The Leigh and Craftsman jigs and the Omnijig will all cut half-blind dovetails and rabbeted half-blind dovetails. With the Leigh jig and the Omnijig, you can also cut variably spaccd through dovetails, sliding dovetails and box, or "finger," joints.

Instructions—You don't need a great owner's manual to get the most out of a new electric drill. But well-organized, coherent instructions are crucial with these jigs. This is especially true of the Omnijig and the Leigh jig, which arc-capable of more functions and have more optional accessories than the Craftsman and Keller jigs.

In evaluating instruction manuals, wc looked for user-friendly features: good organization, helpful illustrations and clear, concise text. In the write-up for each jig, you'll find a rating on the instruction manual along with our specific comments.

Ease of use—How long does it take to set up for specific dovetailing operations? How well do the clamps work? What adjustments are necessary to improve joint fit and alignment, and how difficult are these adjustments to make? These are a few of the questions wc asked when wc evaluated each jig's ease of use.

While putting these jigs through their paces, wc found that all were capable of precise joinery, but that adjustments to enhance precision varied from easy to fussy. For example, the Craftsman jig is equipped with a pair of easily accessible adjustment knobs that will quickly move the template forward or backward to adjust joint tightness. On the Omnijig, you need to tuck a wrench into a tight spot and turn a nut to make the same adjustments.

The Jig Is Up

So, if you decide to spring for a premium jig, which one is right for you? Before we venture into the specific pros and cons of each model, here's a brief overview of the significant differences we found among the four jigs we tested.

The Craftsman jig is the best choice for entry-level machine-cut joinery. Although it's not as rugged or versatile as the Omnijig or Leigh jig, it gets you cutting through dovetails for around $120, and you'll also get the capability of cutting half-blind dovetails.

If you're primarily interested in through dovetails, particularly for carcase joinery, the Keller is worth considering. Although it won't make half-blind dovetails, it will make a wide variety of through dovetails. It's precision-made, durable, and foolproof to use. Just the ticket for anyone with an aversion to studying instruction manuals.

The Omnijig and the Ixrigh jig both offer extensive dovetailing capability, but it takes some effort (and, in some cases, extra money for additional templates) to draw out their full potential. In fact, it could easily take several hours before you're ready to turn on the router. But patience and practice will really pay off with both of these premium jigs. With them, you'll be able to grace your projects with a variety of dovetails, including variably spaced dovetails, creating that sought-after "handmade" look with machine-made precision. ►

Craftsman 25450 Deluxe Dovetail Fixture

Street price: $119.99

Phone: See your nearest Sears store.

Ease of use: • • • • Instructions: • • I Versatility: • • •

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