Home » Best Dovetail Jig Review & Buying Guide [2020]

Best Dovetail Jig Review & Buying Guide [2020]

If you buy something through a link in our posts, we may get a small share of the sale.

If you are planning to work on a big woodworking project, chances are it’s going to require creating dovetail joints. These joints are mostly used in cabinetry and furniture to hold wood pieces together at right angles. Although you can create these joints using your hands, it is difficult to get it right. The joints need to be lined up correctly.

However, having the right jig will make it simple and fast to cut dovetail joints to the specifications you want. To help you make the correct decision while shopping for your jig, we have reviewed the best dovetail jigs on the market. We have also included a guide highlighting the important features you should check. 

Our Top Dovetail Jig Reviews

Brand
Best Overall
Porter-Cable 4216
Best for the Money
Keller Dovetail System
Best Cheap Pick
General Tools 861
Product
PORTER-CABLE Dovetail Jig with Mini Template Kit...
Keller Dovetail System 135-1500 Journeyman...
General Tools 861 Portable Aluminum Dovetail Jig,...
Included Components
Templates, two lock nuts, wrench, and instruction manual
Phenolic guide, standard dovetail bit, straight bit, ball-bearing template guides, and fully illustrated instructions
14-degree, 1/2 -inch dovetail router bit
Product Dimensions
22.2 x 11.8 x 10.4 inches
16.9 x 5.5 x 1.6 inches
12 x 3 x 3 inches
Rating
-
-
-
Best Overall
Brand
Porter-Cable 4216
Product
PORTER-CABLE Dovetail Jig with Mini Template Kit...
Included Components
Templates, two lock nuts, wrench, and instruction manual
Product Dimensions
22.2 x 11.8 x 10.4 inches
Rating
-
Best for the Money
Brand
Keller Dovetail System
Product
Keller Dovetail System 135-1500 Journeyman...
Included Components
Phenolic guide, standard dovetail bit, straight bit, ball-bearing template guides, and fully illustrated instructions
Product Dimensions
16.9 x 5.5 x 1.6 inches
Rating
-
Best Cheap Pick
Brand
General Tools 861
Product
General Tools 861 Portable Aluminum Dovetail Jig,...
Included Components
14-degree, 1/2 -inch dovetail router bit
Product Dimensions
12 x 3 x 3 inches
Rating
-

Best Overall Dovetail Jig: Porter-Cable 4216

PORTER-CABLE Dovetail Jig with Mini Template Kit...

The Porter-Cable 4216 dovetail jig is an excellent choice for woodworkers who need more precision. It is a bench-top mounted jig, which means you can clamp it to different surfaces for stability while cutting. The weight and size of this jig will also ensure you keep a straight edge. It is more rugged than other jigs you may find.

What sets this dovetail jig apart from its rivals are its three templates. These include half-blind, miniature, and through dovetails. The templates can be swapped out easily and quickly to add efficiency to the next project. You can also customize your approach according to your needs using the templates since different dovetail joints work for different pieces of wood.

Another incredible feature of the Porter-Cable dovetail jig is that you can cut different pieces of wood for your joints. Most jigs only work on wood pieces that measure less than an inch thick. However, this model will allow you to attach wood measuring up to 1-1/8 inches making it more versatile.

When it comes to thinness, this jig can cut wood as thin as a ¼ inch to enable you to work on any project regardless of the size. The jig also features four router bits with different depths that users appreciate. The bits make it easy to gauge the cutting depth without having to make time-consuming measurements.

Using this model is also easy since it comes pre-assembled. You can also clamp or bolt it directly to a workbench. The 12 inch wide jig is also ideal for most woodworking projects, such as creating household cabinets. Overall, the 4216 dovetail jig is built to last as it features heavy-duty design.

The jig will also ensure you cut accurate joints every time you are working on your projects. Additionally, you do not have to buy new equipment to complete your tasks since the model works with any router. Consider getting this model if you are looking for a jig that is consistent and reliable.

What We Like

  • Easy and quick set up of templates
  • Creates a variety of joints and cuts
  • Durable aluminum construction
  • Bench-mounted model for stability
  • Three templates included
  • Works with any router
  • Heavy-duty clamps

What We Don’t Like

  •  Installation may be complicated for beginners
  •  Expensive
PORTER-CABLE Dovetail Jig with Mini Template Kit...
  • Includes template 4211 for half-blind, rabbeted half-blind and sliding dovetails
  • Includes template 4213 for through dovetails and box joints
  • Includes template 4215 for miniature through and half-blind dovetails, and miniature box joints

Best Dovetail Jig for the Money: Keller Dovetail System

Keller Dovetail System 135-1500 Journeyman...

The Keller Dovetail System features a simple design. It has a template for the router with a little frame around it. This means you will have to look for a set of robust clamps to secure the jig to a workbench every time you use it. However, with the correct equipment, you can make it stable.

Even though the jig measures 15 inches long, one advantage of this design is that the model is not limited to the set width. Instead, you can move the jig down the length of different wood pieces while cutting additional pins. The thickness is limited from 3/8 inch to ¾ inch pins and is not customizable.

The design is also durable because there are no parts to break or warp. Additionally, the comb is constructed from a laminate instead of a metal that can be easily damaged by the router. The Keller dovetail jig is a stock-mounted model. This means assembly is required as well as pieces of wood stock for it to work.

Unlike bench-mounted jigs that clamp to the workbench or table directly, you will first have to attach this jig to wood pieces before you start working. Stock-mounted jigs are easy to store and lightweight because they don’t have a lot of components.

Therefore, if you are a hobbyist and don’t work on a lot of dovetail joints, you may consider getting this jig. To get the most out of this model, it has two sides to enable you to cut square or rounded edges. You can also combine different jigs to increase the length, which makes this jig more versatile.

Although the unit is 15 inches long, you can combine two of them and double or even triple the size when it’s necessary. Additionally, you do not have to worry about ending up with the wrong size of the joint at the seams since it’s designed that way.

What We Like

  • Lightweight and compact design
  • Included router bit for convenience
  • 15 inches precision template
  • Can cut different joints
  • Easy and fast setup
  • Stock-mounted dovetail jig

What We Don’t Like

  • Some users don’t like the quality of the router bit
  • Lacks in versatility
  • A bit expensive
Keller Dovetail System 135-1500 Journeyman...
  • 15-inch precision-milled template
  • Accepts wood from 1/8 to 3/4 inches thick
  • Accepts unlimited widths and lengths

Best Budget Dovetail Jig: General Tools 861

General Tools 861 Portable Aluminum Dovetail Jig,...

If you are looking for a dovetail jig that is equipped with a single side, the General Tools 861 model may be an ideal choice. It will allow you to cut efficiently and quickly. However, it can be difficult to ensure you are cutting your wood pieces correctly so that everything fits together.

Although this jig is built with aluminum, it’s not constructed with heavy-duty materials. If you put a lot of pressure on it while using the clamps, it can make a gap between the wood and the jig. Due to this, check your position before you start cutting. This shouldn’t be an issue if you are creating dovetail joints from softer woods.

One incredible feature of the General Tools dovetail jig is that its self-aligning. Thus, you don’t need to worry about making a mistake or getting the wrong cuts while you are working. However, you won’t experience any issues creating high-quality dovetail jigs if you follow the outline of your router.

This jig will also offer you multiple cutting options so you can make different joints. Another advantage of the material and size of this model is that it’s more compact and lightweight compared to other bench-top models. This makes carrying it to different job projects and storing it a breeze when not in use.

For those people on a budget, the 861 dovetail jig is a quality alternative to the expensive Porter-Cable jig. It is a great value model that is both reliable and versatile. Although it doesn’t have the quality feel of the expensive jigs on this list, it gets the job done.

The only major issue with this model is that some of its parts are plastic, which can be prone to wear if used for heavy applications. The jig is suitable for people who intend to use it occasionally or beginners who aren’t willing to pay for the expensive jigs.

What We Like

  • Self-aligning mechanism for precision
  • Heavy-duty clamps for stability
  • Included router bit for convenience
  • Creates a variety of dovetail joints
  • Durable aluminum construction
  • Works with most routers
  • Easy to use

What We Don’t Like

  • Sometimes the two sides don’t line up well
  • Some joints may not be perfect for this jig
Sale
General Tools 861 Portable Aluminum Dovetail Jig,...
  • WOODWORKING MADE EASY- All-in-one 861 Dovetail Jig produces strong, precise dovetail joints right...
  • SELF ALIGNING DESIGN- Ensures that both ends of the dovetail joint match up evenly every time
  • ADJUSTABLE- Can accommodate boards of any width and easily adjusts the dovetail interference to...

Best Lightweight Dovetail Jig: Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig

Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig

The Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig is another customizable option, just like the Porter-Cable model. However, it’s not equipped with many templates. This makes it an excellent choice for woodworkers or hobbyists who only create specific joints.

If you are looking for versatility, this model won’t offer you the customization that some jigs on this list provide. One advantage of this jig is that it will make it easy for you to hold your pieces of wood in place. Additionally, you don’t need to look for extra clamps to keep it stable because the wood can be clamped directly into the system.

The Rockler jig can also work with most wood pieces. It has a width selection that ranges between a ½ inch and ¾ inch. However, this range isn’t as wide as it is in other jigs. Another remarkable feature of this model you may appreciate is the three router bits it features.

You should be ready to start working as soon as this model is out of the box, especially if your woodshop has a compatible router. To use it, clamp it to the workbench or table then adjust the depth.  

The double-sided templates will give you more versatility when creating your joints. Swapping them out is a breeze. The templates are heavy-duty to allow you to work efficiently. They can hold up after many cuts and make consistent cuts every time.

Overall, this jig is a great option if you are looking for a model that is simple to use. It also has a measuring guide to help you know if you are making the correct adjustments for each piece of wood.

What We Like

  • Side clamp for holding wood pieces in place
  • Durable steel and aluminum construction
  • Included three router bits
  • Bench-top jig for stability
  • Provided two jig templates
  • Depth measurement dial

What We Don’t Like

  • Doesn’t work with some routers
  • Some components are not durable

Best Adjustable Dovetail Jig: Leigh Super

Leigh Super 12 in Dovetail Jig

One thing about jigs is that they are crafted for a specific cut. In most scenarios, you can either create rounded or square edges that enable you to create a wide range of joints. However, what makes the Leigh Super dovetail jig stand out is that it is fully adjustable.

You can also move further or closer to all the fingers included in the jig. This means you can make all types of joints without the need to swap out multiple templates. The adjustability of this model will allow you to get as precise as you can without sacrificing quality.

Additionally, the durability of the fingers and clamps will ensure you get consistent cuts without the need to re-adjust anything between wood pieces. Stability won’t be an issue while cutting since this is another bench-top model.

Another notable feature worth mentioning is that you can get the Leigh jig in different widths. This will allow you to customize your cutting experience. It ensures you are always ready for your next piece of wood, regardless of how long or wide it is.

Although this jig can’t be combined back to back, the multiple sizes will give you a choice over which jig will be the most suitable for your woodshop. The model also comes with a variety of accessories for making different types of dovetail joints.

Three carbide router tips come with the package to allow you to switch easily between the three styles by flipping over the fingers. The jig also arrives with an instructional DVD to educate you on how to use the model.

Overall, this is a customizable and reliable jig. However, you need to have some experience in creating dovetail joints. We don’t recommend this jig for beginner woodworkers because you may have challenges setting all the fingers correctly.

What We Like

  • Robust steel and aluminum construction
  • Bench-mounted model for stability
  • Compact and lightweight jig
  • Adjustable finger for versatility
  • Multiple widths  available

What We Don’t Like

  • Doesn’t come with accessories
  • Expensive
Leigh Super 12 in Dovetail Jig
  • Accepts boards up to 12"
  • Includes 3 router bits
  • Infinitely adjustable one-piece fingers

Dovetail Jig Features and Considerations

When the right jig is combined with a router, it makes the job easier and much faster. However, you need to consider the intended use of the tool you want to buy before making the purchase. Here are the important factors to consider when looking for the best dovetail jig:

Type of Joint

There are many types of dovetail joints. Some jigs can only create one type, while others can create different types. Here are the most popular joints.

Full Dovetail Joint

This type of joint is common among professionals who want a joint with improved quality. However, it doesn’t lack in other aspects. It has an attractive aesthetic design and is very stable. Both parts of the joint tend to be visible in this case.

Sliding Joint

This is the simplest joint you can make. It is commonly used to make furniture such as cupboards and drawers. It’s also common among woodworkers because it has a simple design. The design allows the tongue of the joint to connect with a groove that slides effortlessly into another groove.

Half-Blind Joint

This is another joint that is created because of aesthetic purposes. However, you can only see one part of the joint making it more preferable for people who care a lot about their appearance. The half-blind joint is commonly used for making drawers.

Half-blind dovetail fitting on a wood
Photo credit: Sam Wilson on Flickr / CC BY-SA

Miniature Joint

This joint is rarely used and is difficult to spot. The tongues and grooves in these types of joints are very small. This makes it difficult to notice that it’s a joint, especially when you connect them with each other. This type is suitable for constructions and for people who don’t want a visible joint.

Type of Dovetail Jig

The projects you intend to work on will determine the type of jig you choose. Here are the three types of dovetail jigs you will come across while shopping.

Bench-Mounted Template Jig

This is the most popular dovetail jig found on the market. They come in templates that you can connect to the jig body. The body has two clamping systems, one being horizontal and the other vertical. Both clamping systems can be used to perform different tasks.

The templates are similar to the stock-mounted ones since they are made from aluminum or phenolic. However, cheaper models are made of plastic.

Stock-Mounted Through Templates

This is one of the most basic types because it doesn’t come with a clamping system. However, you can clamp the templates to your materials directly to make equal spacing through dovetails. If you choose to buy them, you will realize they are sold in pairs.

One pair usually has a dovetail bit that creates the tails. The matching template has a straight part that creates the pins. This ensures both sets of dovetail jigs join together. The advantage of these types of jigs is that they are of high-quality, making them durable. You will also have excellent equipment to work with because the stock width has no limits.

Variable Guide Finger Jigs

The wider tails and narrower pins of these types of jigs will allow you to achieve a closer look. Alternatively, you can choose to make a large variety of spacing and work on wood pieces with a wide range of width. These jigs are not commonly used because of their versatility and high-quality tends to make them expensive.

Additionally, they require professional experience and are complex to use. However, they create a variety of tasks and are extremely handy. When using finger jigs, you will have to create numerous test cuts and adjustments. To avoid any confusion, you may also have to re-learn this strategy if you are familiar with using only one type of dovetail jig.

One-Step vs. Two-Step Dovetail Jig

A dovetail has two parts, “pins” and “tails,” which interlock to create a joint. Although each has a different shape, a jig should allow you to cut both.

One Step Jig

With one-step jigs, you will clamp the boards to a stationary jig instead of clamping the dovetail jig to the board. This clamps the two boards simultaneously. One is horizontal and one is vertical. Once aligned and clamped, the pins and tails of the dovetail are cut at the same time.

It’s important to note that different templates allow different spacing and different sizes of dovetails. For instance, most jigs will allow you to cut “half-blind” and “through” dovetails, which are the two most common types.

Others will allow you to cut box joints and decorative types. This type of jig is mostly recommended for beginner woodworkers because it’s much faster. The only major issue is that the jig width limits the board size. However, different sizes of models are offered.

Most models are 12 inches, which is enough for most woodworkers. However, there are also 18 inch models. More advanced models of these types of jigs have individual “fingers” instead of a comb. Rather than being spaced evenly, like on fixed jigs, you can set them wherever you like on the board. This will give you the limitless potential for creating highly decorative dovetails.

Two-Step Jig

This type of dovetail jig features a simple toothed guide called a comb while the two sides of the comb have a different shape. The first wood pieces you intend to join are usually held in a vise before clamping the jig to it. To form the pins or tails, you will have to use an angled router cutter.

You will have to hold the other wood pieces similarly with the dovetail jig turned around, then clamped to make the second part of the joint. The good thing about this jig is that there is no limit to the board width you can join. You only need to keep repositioning the dovetail jig.

The major issue is the many steps that are involved since things can go wrong if you are not careful. It’s worth mentioning that accurate positioning and secure clamping is very critical. The joint won’t work if there is an error in alignment. This type of jig only allows one dovetail size. So, you will have to look for a different jig if you want other sizes.

Stack of box joints on a woodworking space
Photo credit: Mitch Barrie on Flickr / CC BY-SA

Dovetail vs. Finger Joints

Dovetail Joints

These types of joints have an angled side and can only be joined together using one way. They also come apart in one direction when they are assembled. For instance, if you attach a drawer front using a dovetail, it will be very secure. No amount of pulling can make it come undone. There won’t be a need for nails or glue if the joint is cut well.

Finger Joints

These joints are also known as combo or box joints. They are easier to cut compared to the dovetail joints and have straight sides. However, they can come apart easily since the two wood pieces slide easily together. You will either need glue or nails to keep them together.

Clamps

If you are using the comb-type jig, you will have to look for your own clamps. You should look for a model that is easy to use with one hand. The jigs that clamp the pieces of wood hold the board securely due to the abrasive on the gripping surface. However, ensure they have levers that are large and easy to operate in one movement.

Templates

Most templates are constructed from aluminum. However, the cheaper combs are sometimes built with phenolic resin, which is robust and sturdy. It’s important to handle both with a lot of care because repairing templates is difficult. Any slight damage will make the router cutter unable to make the joint properly.

Design

The main body of dovetail jig is usually made of steel, either powder coated or painted with the former being more durable. While shopping for your model, ensure there is a provision to either clamp or screw it to your workbench for maximum stability.

Board Thickness

It’s also important to check the thickness of the wood pieces the dovetail jig can accommodate. Most of the time, this is usually around ¼ inch as minimum and 1-inch or more as the maximum.

Intended Use

To get an idea of what you intend to use your dovetail jig for, ask yourself what types of joints you plan to make and how often you plan to use the jig.  Also, find out the number of joints you will be making daily.

There is no need to buy an expensive model if you don’t intend to make a big number of joints. However, it will be worth the cost if you plan to produce many joints each day because the jig will not overheat when used a lot.

Wrap Up

A dovetail jig is a useful tool that will help you join two wood pieces easily and quickly. It will also allow you to create different types of joints to bring out different finishes or to suit different projects. Pick any model from our list if you are looking for the best dovetail jig. The models we have reviewed are of high-quality and will offer you great value for your money.