Many woodworkers still think of dovetail joinery as a painstaking craft that takes years of practice to master. That's a little surprising, when specially designed tools and jigs that speed up and greatly simplify the process have been around for years. Even now, innovations in jig design continue at Rockler Woodworking and Hardware, most recently with the new Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig package, a set-up we think makes churning out air-tight dovetail joints as easy as it gets.
Making a Good Tool Better -
The Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig
It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes even a time-tested jig gets a few tweaks and comes out significantly better - we think the Rockler Dovetail Jig is a perfect example. Not long ago the tool designers at Rockler put their heads together and came up with a number of common sense improvements that turned a solid, reliable jig into a tool that makes dovetail joinery just about as easy and trouble-free as it's ever going to get.
And while they were at it, the Design Team brought doubled the jig's usefulness. A new through dovetail template turns the Rockler half-blind dovetail jig into a first-rate through dovetail jig in a matter of minutes. Now you can make decorative through dovetail joints and durable, professional-quality half-blind dovetail joints with the same jig.
What Makes a Dovetail Jig Better?
There's no shortage of dovetail jigs on the market, and it's not always easy to pick out the best one for your needs. To help make your decision a little easier, we'll take a look at some of the features that can make the difference between a jig that isn't bad, and one that makes dovetail joinery the trouble-free experience it ought to be.
A Few Things to Look for in a Dovetail Jig
Reliability - does the jig keep stock where it needs to be?
If there's one thing that can wreck an afternoon in the workshop, it's having to chuck a few expensive pieces of wood into the scrap bin because your jig let them slip in the middle of a cut. Dovetail jig components that hold stock in place during the cut need to be sturdy and reliable. The Rockler Dovetail Jig's clamping bars and mechanisms are built to consistently apply the right force to every part you cut, whether the tool is brand new, or it's been used many, many times. But just to make sure your stock will stay put to the end of every cut, the tool designers at Rockler added a non-slip abrasive surface to the inside face of both clamping bars.
Adjustment features - does the jig make adjustments easy?
A good dovetail joint is one where the parts fit together in perfect alignment and there's no "slop" between the pins and tails. One advantage to using a router and jig to cut dovetail joints is that it makes it easy to cut perfect joints every time. But that doesn't happen until the jig is set up correctly. The new Rockler jig design includes unique one-piece side stops that give you the correct offset for the pins and tails of the joint automatically. You don't have to think about how the parts you cut will align when you put the joint together - the side stops take care of that. The Through Dovetail Template allows you to use the same time-saving side stops for through dovetails, and the template is embossed with clear instructions that make setting up to do pins and tails, and adjusting the tightness of your joints an easy, guesswork-free operation.
Easy to use - are the jig's lockdowns and adjustment knobs well placed and easy to use?
Nothing seems to eat up more shop time than fiddling with difficult or hard to access tool adjustments. When they redesigned Rockler Dovetail Jig, the Rockler Design Team went a long way to make the jig easy to use. They made the entire body of the tool longer to make room for larger, easier to grip adjustment knobs. And they kept the adjustment knobs far enough apart that they don't feel crowded and hard to get your fingers on.
They made sure that routine adjustments, like setting the innovative one-piece side stops for different stock widths, would be a quick, trouble-free operation without any time-consuming tool disassembly or hard to get-at lockdown screws. And you still won't need any special tools to set up your Rockler jig. Most of the tightening and adjusting you'll need to do on the Rockler Dovetail Jig can be done by hand, and for the few adjustments that can't, all you'll need is a screwdriver. To top it off, there's a handy reference guide right on the side of the jig, so you won't have to hunt for the instructions when setting up for the most common cuts.
Ready to use - does the jig come with everything you need to get started?
The last thing you want to do after you unbox your brand new dovetail jig is to go hunting for equipment that should have been included. The Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig package comes with exactly the right equipment to make half-blind and through dovetail joints including:
- Two durable phenolic templates
- Three 8mm shank carbide-tipped router bits (1/2" x 14" dovetail, 1/2" x 8" dovetail, 5/16" straight)
- 1/2" to 8mm collet adapter (NOTE: the specially designed 8mm shank bits are 25% larger than 1/4" bits and greatly reduce vibration and chatter)
- 7/16" guide bushing fits most routers
- Detailed eight-page instruction booklet
- Quick reference guide for standard joints
More Dovetail Options
Once you see how easy it is to make tight, solid half-blind and through dovetails with the templates included with the Complete Dovetail Jig, you may find yourself wishing for ways to expand your dovetailing horizons. With the Rockler jig, branching out is not a problem. We offer four optional dovetail templates, each designed to quickly install on rockler jig. The Distinctive Series Styles A, B and C are designed to create a hand-crafted look with the speed of router-cut dovetails. And with the Rockler Miniature Dovetail Template, you'll be able to cut precise dovetails measuring a tiny 1/4" across in stock down to 1/8" thick.
Half-Blind Dovetails (template included with jig)
Through Dovetails (included)
Distinctive Series Dovetails - Style C (optional)
Best of all, the entire Rockler Dovetail Jig collection will not only give you tremendous versatility, and reliable, attractive joinery; it will do it for less than you could easily spend on a jig alone.