Dove Tail Question

Robert166

robert166
Senior User
Considering tackling dovetails, searched this forum and others for advice already giving about jigs, not using jigs, easiest jigs to use etc. I have never attempted this before. Seems like the most expensive ones provide the best results, but one question I have. How wide of a board can I cut dovetails with a jig? Can I glue two boards together after cutting the dovetails if it is too wide? Current project is 15 inches wide, but the board is 30 inches total length. Most jigs are 12 inch. All the videos are showing short boards. The products I have researched are:

LEIGH Router Table Dovetail Jig, RTJ400 $350.00 (looks easy to set up, but standing a 30-inch boards on its end would be awkward.)

24" Dovetail Jig Porter Cable $250.00 (looks like a difficult set up to me)

These are the types I am looking at. An investment I do not know if I will continue to use or not. That’s why I am asking you guys for your opinions.

Thanks!
 

Raymond

Raymond
Corporate Member
A question, Robert, if you don't mind - have you considered hand cut dovetails or are you going for a small production shop operation?
 

Jeff

Jeff
Corporate Member
Considering tackling dovetails,
Why are you considering dovetails? If you learn how to lay them out and hand cut them accurately you don't need any jigs, particularly if you're not going to do dovetails routinely in your woodworking. There are lots of ways to join 2 boards that don't require dovetails and those ways produce joints that are as strong as a dovetail.

I'm just curious. I went through a similar excursion a couple of years ago learning how to do hand cut dovetails from another member (Graywolf). That was an excellent one-on-one learning exercise.

 
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Robert166

robert166
Senior User
A question, Robert, if you don't mind - have you considered hand cut dovetails or are you going for a small production shop operation?

No, I have not considered cutting them by hand, because the project is two toy boxes, so that would require a lot of hand cutting. And I have only two handsaws. And those are not very good saws.

There are lots of ways to join 2 boards that don't require dovetails and those ways produce joints that are as strong as a dovetail.

Agreed, I have done “box joints” but I wanted a nicer “look” for this project. I considered dowels, or something like that. Thought about 45 the edges, not crazy about that.

If you have some suggestions please share, if you think dovetails are not the way for me to go please say so. I am open to any ideas that will produce a nice look, and easy to do.
 

BKHam

Bradley
User
i've never used a router jig but if you are doing an entire kitchen, that seems like the way to go. maybe you can find a registration point somehow and shift it over to do your wide board.

if you doing the case or a few drawers in a furniture project, handcut or some hybrid approach is kind of fun. for any handcut or hybrid you are going to need a marking gauge. i think that is the only must have. though i guess you could use a knife and a straight edge. that seems more error prone.

i have done entire pieces with just a handsaw and that is fun to learn but for me i don't need to keep doing that over and over.

i typically cut my tails with a wedge on the bandsaw. This ensures absolutely square tails and if the piece is symmetrical, can be a timesaver. you can also cut very small pins this way, the width of the bandsaw blade at the tip.

i then transfer to the pin board using a single bevel knife and blue tape. i then cut my tails with a Cosman dovetail saw.

to clean up the waste, i use a router with a top bearing flush trip bit. This method is awesome because i usually get my hand saw cut started in the right spot but not always square. the bearing rides near the top of the pin which is likely in about the right spot. This can help you square those pins that lean toward to tails and identify the ones that lean away from the mating tail. and it leaves dead flat pin board bottoms.
 

nn4jw

Jim
Senior User
I can't speak to the Porter-Cable 24-inch jig but I have the 4216 12-inch jig and it looks very similar in operation to the 60CM 24-inch. I found it to be quite finicky to set up and never could get it to consistently produce tight dovetails. When I get around to it I'm going to sell it.

I consider dovetails to be more decorative and a hallmark of the craftsman style of furniture building than anything else. If you are going to go for craftsman style furniture it somehow seems wrong to machine cut the dovetails given that craftsman style was in reaction to mass produced machined furniture. Double if you are building period furniture.

A really nice dovetail saw still costs less than a jig. And it will take less time to mark out and hand cut one project than all the fiddling around trying to learn how to get tight dovetails with any jig. And you likely won't waste as much wood in the process. YMMV.
 

creasman

Jim
User
Regardless of which method you use to cut the dovetails (hand cut, use of specialized jig, etc), I recommend you buy some inexpensive pine and practice first. Don't assume because you spend $350 on a jig you'll get it right the first time. Each method has its own unique challenges and you'll want to become confident before tackling the real project -- especially as you're wanting the dovetails to be part of the finished look. They do make a great statement about the craftsmanship.

I've tried a number of different jigs over the years and finally settled on cutting dovetails by hand. I had a project that required 18 drawers with half-blind dovetails in front and full dovetails in the back. I decided I would cut all these by hand. The first couple of drawers looked more like they were made by a drunk monkey, but I had mastered the technique by the end of the project. Now I only cut my dovetails by hand. I find this personally to be more satisfying. Jigs are limited in size and shape, and can be fussy to adjust. For the $350 you would spend on a jig (you'll also need a router and a dovetail bits), you can purchase a top of the line dovetail saw, chisel set and mallet. As with the previous comment, I would only purchase a jig if it was for production use in a cabinet shop.

Another thought is to use a bandsaw if you don't want to cut these by hand. If you own a bandsaw there are several good tutorials on YouTube and in FineWoodworking that explain how to do this. It requires making a couple of inexpensive jigs to set the angle and maintain the cut. In fact, if you don't already own a bandsaw I'd recommend putting the $350 towards that :).

Hope this helps. In the end it's a matter of personal preference and practice. No right or wrong ways.
 

Robert166

robert166
Senior User
Can I bring them to you? And you cut for me? LOL, just kidding that looks very nice! I think you guys are getting me to consider the hand cut method.
Drunk Monkey, I like that.
 

nn4jw

Jim
Senior User
Regardless of which method you use to cut the dovetails (hand cut, use of specialized jig, etc), I recommend you buy some inexpensive pine and practice first. Don't assume because you spend $350 on a jig you'll get it right the first time.
Agreeing completely and would add this. Once you got a jig all dialed in during practice and had it producing acceptable dovetails you'd find out that the wood you want for your real project has a slightly different thickness than your practice wood. Now you are pretty much back to square one trying to get the jig reset that tiny little bit to give you the same results.
 

Oka

Oka
Corporate Member
The jigs I have used in the past did not yield the consistent results I thought they would. You can make your own jig just with a stop stick with holes drilled in it at the correct distance (1/4", 3/8" etc). But, to cut a dove tail or any type joint requires only a few things how you measure and scribe and then learning to cut with a saw accurately (keeping it straight)........ and patience.
 

Rwe2156

DrBob
Senior User
I got rid of my jig a long time ago probably because I wasn't very good at setting it up.

I cut them by hand. I can space them as I please, and I enjoy the craftsman aspect. That said, you do need to invest in a decent saw and chisels.

In a production type setting, I cut the tails on the table saw using a miter gauge and a flat top blade ground to 7° & do the pins by hand. I can the gang sides up and make VERY short work of it.

For $350 you can buy a premium dovetail saw and a premium set of chisels ;-)
 

JimD

Jim
Senior User
I do not do through dovetails. I am too impatient to do them by hand and what I read on the leigh jig indicates there is a lot of setup. I do half blind dovetails for drawers with a HF jig and Grizzly template guide. I keep a router set up so I can be cutting joints in about 5 minutes. I can make a chest worth of joints in a couple hours. I normally dovetail the backs too. I don't think there is a way to do through dovetails this quickly. But I enjoy the craftsmanship of others who make nice through dovetails.
 

Robert166

robert166
Senior User
Half Blind dovetails? Said the one eyed carpenter as he picked up his hammer and saw. That may be the way the to go. Hmmmm more research is required. Back to youtube.
 

Dave Richards

Dave
Senior User
It sounds like you have pretty well decided to go with handcut dovetails and that's great. The bandsaw suggestion is good and there are some hybrid methods that use a combination of hand work and router work that can speed up the work. You can also do some of the work at the tablesaw. See episode 3 in Michael Pekovich's video series. Hanging Wall Cabinet with Mike Pekovich - FineWoodworking

Joe mentioned the Router Boss so I'll add a bit. If you want to do router-based dovetails, the Router Boss is a good option to consider. You aren't limited to a specific set of dovetail bits like with other dovetail jigs. You can cut dovetails with any dovetail bit on the market. With the 470 model you can cut dovetails on pieces as wide as 39 in. and your 30 in.-long pieces would be easy enough to handle under the machine. You can layout the dovetails any way you like because there's no template you have to follow. (When I set up for cutting dovetails on the Router Boss I mark the centers of the pins on the end of one board and that's it.) The Router Boss doesn't take up any space on the bench because it mounts on the wall and it isn't limited to dovetails. Mortises, tenons, box joints, frame, edge profiling, etc. My Router Boss has replaced my router table for nearly all router operations. I usually have my Porter Cable OSS mounted in my router table or the table ends up being another work bench.
 

Dave Richards

Dave
Senior User
Understood. If you were only looking at it as a dovetail jig, it is kind of on the high end. If you were thinking of buying a Leigh Jig of some sort and machines for doing mortises & tenons and tools for doing other things the Router Boss can do, the price gets to be favorable. And it doesn't take up as much shop space as having all those other things.

In any case, I thought I would mention it since not a lot of folks know about it. Good luck with whatever route you go.
 

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