Dovetail jigs for router table

demondeacon

Dave
Senior User
Does anyone have experience to share with the Leigh RTJ400 Router Table Dovetail Jig? I am starting to learn more about joinery but do not have much experience other than butt and lap joints. I have made a tenoning jig for the table saw, and have also made two box joint jigs - one for my router table and one for table saw. Over the next month, I hope to practice with all three of these jigs. However, I realize that I need to master dovetails as well. I am not sure I have the patience to learn to cut them by hand but will be taking a class on this after the holidays. Since I am a novice with handtool work, I suspect that I might get superior results with a router.

There are several dovetail jigs on the market for using a (non-table) router - some as cheap as $50 but the Porter Cable is the highest rated and costs about $200. However when using the router, I much prefer using it on the table rather than freehand for several reasons including safety. I have found only one dovetail jig intended for the router table and it is the Leigh RTJ400 Router Table Dovetail Jig, which costs $399. Would like to know if anyone has used it and what they think, as it seems over-priced.
 

creasman

Board of Directors, Development Director
Jim
Staff member
Corporate Member
My encouragement to you is to take the time to learn how to cut dovetails by hand -- unless you plan to do production work and need speed and efficiency. For the price of a jig (one that won't be more frustration than help) you can buy a quality dovetail saw and have some $'s left over. Doing this by hand does take some patience and practice but well worth the investment.
 

Bill Clemmons

Bill
Corporate Member
I made a jig for my router table to cut the tails (I do the pins by hand). The jig works fine. Only issue is the tear out on the back side of the work piece. I'm too cheap to buy an actual jig like the Leigh. :(
 

creasman

Board of Directors, Development Director
Jim
Staff member
Corporate Member
Only issue is the tear out on the back side of the work piece.
That was what I found most frustrating. You can use a backer board but you really need a fresh one if you make adjustments. The more expensive jigs probably solve this.
 

Rwe2156

DrBob
Senior User
Agree with learning by hand. Much more fulfilling & usually look better b/c you can do a narrower pin. If you only have a few to do, if you're somewhat proficient, you can have them done about as fast as the setup. That said, a lot of us do them by hand, but don't do them often. In those cases, I do a couple practice sessions to tune up the muscle memory.

You also learn how to saw, and how to sharpen and use a chisel - kinda fundamental for ww'ing.

I recently purchased a magnetic saw guide just for kicks. For a newbie looking for training wheels, this is a good option.

That said, I have used a hybrid method when I have a lot to do. That involves cutting the tails on the table saw using a rip blade I have ground to 7°. Tilt the blade to 7° and using a miter gauge and tall fence, I cut the tails very accurately and rapidly. Be sure you grind the bevel according to left or right tilt.

Then I do the pins by hand.

I gave away my router jig years ago. I just never liked all the fiddling to set up, and the dovetails looked, well, made by a machine, not a craftsman. I was considering one for my recent kitchen build, and was seriously looking at the clamp on Keller router jig.

That said, the average person wouldn't know the difference.
 

creasman

Board of Directors, Development Director
Jim
Staff member
Corporate Member
I do a couple practice sessions to tune up the muscle memory.
+1 for practicing. I start with the through dovetails on the back of the drawer to practice. Through dovetails are easier and being on the back of the drawer are less noticeable if you make a mistake. It only takes 1-2 drawers before you're back to form.
 

Henry W

HenryW
Senior User
Well I can say that I have only made dovetailed drawers once, and that to do so I used this Leigh Jig. I would state the category of DT jigs has a notorious reputation (in general) for a long learning curve, of being 'fiddly', and requiring multiple iterations of cut, test fit, cut more, test fit, rinse and repeat. This is a DT jig and does require some test fitting, but Leigh instructions are very clear on how to make modifications of the set up based on the test fit. The key element in their system that enables quickly honing in on a decent fit is their eccentric collar; with that collar the spacing is quickly set and away you go! I did have some issue (forgot the details) and called their customer service line - they were VERY helpful in quickly sorting out what I was doing wrong.

It is a quality product that I had no trouble using. I too liked that this was a table router jig - as I thought it might help eliminate (decrease) potential variations of handheld router use (larger area surfaces in contact).

I do not want to discourage the learning of hand-cut dovetails, but I can state that I was able to quickly produce the quality drawer boxes that I needed with this jig.

Is it overpriced? By comparison to cheap ones - yes it cost more. You have to decide if it is worth it. I think it is worth it, but I am (occasionally, not often) in the buy-once cry-once category; for this choice I was there and I don't regret it. I also bought mine 'used', which is to say that basically someone purchased but did not use it, then sold it.

Bottom line - your budget, your choice. I can say I think it is worth it.

Woodcraft carries it I think - but IIRC there is also a simpler and less capable LEIGH jig there that may be suit your needs. Can't recall the details honestly, but also a table mounted router jig. Check the full LEIGH lineup online perhaps?
 

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