I'm trying to figure out the best way to make clean dovetails joints using a router (maybe?). I've tried by hand, results were not so good. I got excited a while back and bought one of those porter cable router jigs. It kind of worked but chipped out great chunks of the dove tail when I tried to use it. That ended up a mess for me.

Now I was tempted by the incra router table and fence system which seems accurate at least. Someone showed me something called the woodrat which looked interesting at first but started to look a little hokey as the demo video went on.

I was all excited to get an incra table but then I thought, is this just going to chip everywhere like the jig? So I'm not sure the best route to go.

I'm a moderately experienced hobbyist, and I don't have a router table yet. About the most complicated thing I've built is a crib with mortise and tenon joints. I want to be able to make dovetails to make drawers and boxes.

  • Are you specifically interested in router / jig based approaches? Dovetails can of course be cut by hand with some practice, or via combined power tool and manual approaches...
    – keshlam
    Apr 5 '15 at 13:35
  • I think I'd like some kind of jig approach, doesn't have to be a router. I've done them by hand, saw and chisel, they didn't come out great. I tried with a band saw and chisel too. Same problem they weren't very clean.
    – confused
    Apr 5 '15 at 14:55
  • It's also possible the issue is with the tools or the technique, rather than the jig itself. Wrong/dull/chipped bit, direction of cut, that sort of thing. finewoodworking.com/how-to/video/…
    – Daniel B.
    Apr 5 '15 at 15:06
  • Is a jig for the hand saw acceptable? Using for example this jig/guide with this kind of saw, I get perfectly clean dovetails, and it is very easy indeed. If you want a proper router jig (like e.g. WoodRat), prepare to spend ~500 currency (without router and without bits).
    – Damon
    Apr 5 '15 at 18:56
  • I see several questions here...if you're asking for the "best" way to cut dovetails, you're likely to get subjective answers based on several people's personal opinions and preferences. It is possible to make clean hand-cut dovetails but they require practice and proper technique. If you specifically want to use a router, it would be better to explain your process when using the jig and find out (1) if there's anything you can do to achieve better results with that jig, or (2) if you need to look into other methods.
    – rob
    Apr 5 '15 at 18:56

I have tried several different router-dovetail jigs with varying levels of success. I have had the most success with the Keller Dovetail system. I was at a woodworking show a few years ago, and saw it being demonstrated by the inventor. I was pretty skeptical about it being better than the others I had tried, but he handed me the jig, took about 1 minute to explain how it worked, and then I cut some perfectly fitting dovetails on my first try.

Some caveats: the jig does require some setup, and doing the setup correctly is very important (mostly milling a very square piece of wood to attach it to, and making sure it is aligned perfectly). Once the initial setup is done, you can cut dovetails or finger joints. My test project was a small pine box using the finger joint bits with the jig. The dovetail version came out just as tight.

First Project

I also have the PORTER-CABLE 4210 12-Inch Dovetail Jig. It works well for half blind dovetails but you have to be careful about the boards not slipping. Some self-adhesive sandpaper along the clamp mechanism really helps with that.

I have tried the Leigh jig and the Omnijig. Both are very versatile but are considerably more complex to setup and for an infrequent user such as myself, it was more work than it was worth.

  • 1
    Would it be better to add a picture that does not just look like a finger or box join?
    – Matt
    May 17 '15 at 12:08

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