Bringing perfect dovetails into your woodworking arsenal is one of the top goals of most of the home woodworkers I know. Generally, there are two approaches to making them: using hand tools or a “clamp-in” style template jig and a router. This second approach has plenty of fans, and there are a number of popular router jig systems available on the market. Personally, I’ve had my struggles with some of them (readjusting bit depth, tweaking template offsets and making other adjustments to arrive at the right combination for a satisfactory joint).
There are, however, other styles of dovetail jigs available to use with your router and, as a frequent attendee of woodworking shows, I’ve seen most of them demonstrated. Watching someone who’s made hundreds of dovetails with their jig move effortlessly through the routine, I thought, isn’t the same as getting one of these units in the shop, setting it up and making some pins and tails with no help from the expert.
So, in the hopes of finding a better mousetrap, I pushed the usual jigs aside and tried out these six unique alternatives. I’m glad I did: there are some smart solutions here that make dovetailing easy and even fun! You’ll see that there’s a huge price spread, but I didn’t let that derail this test. Repeatability, accuracy and ease of use were my main concerns, regardless of price. Turns out, there’s a good jig for most any budget. Here are my impressions — and my favorite.
“Best Bet” Honors
Often, choosing a winner is an easy job, but not this time. There are several standout jigs here. General Tool’s Dovetailer is priced for anyone and works well. ChestMate is also a steal for its multipurpose capabilities. But my “Best Bet” goes to Keller. It’s a little more spendy, but the sheer simplicity of this system makes dovetailing both accurate and fun. I’m confident that with these templates, I could lose the manual and still be cutting perfect joints in minutes.