The Rockler Dovetail Jig - Beyond the Basics
If you're like most woodworkers, you've spent a lot of time picking out the best woodworking machinery, hand planes, chisels, scrapers, rasps, clamps and all manner of specialized jigs, tools and accessories that help make your work more accurate and go more smoothly.
The jig, in its basic form, is offered as the "Complete Dovetail Jig" – the operative word being "complete". It comes with everything you need to make the most popular types of dovetail joints. As long as you own a router and have a couple of pieces of wood, you can start making dovetails a few minutes after taking it out of the box.
But that's only the beginning. Also since the debut of the jig, the tool designers at Rockler have been hard at work developing add-ons and accessories that make the jig even more useful and versatile. Now, the Rockler Dovetail Jig is really a dovetail jig system: you can have it in it's basic form, and be satisfied with a very serviceable set-up for making the most common dovetail joints, or you can transform it, with the addition of new template guides and accessories, into a dovetail jig that will do just about anything you could ever want it to do easily, cleanly and efficiently.
We think it's a good approach. We're not knocking jigs that come standard dripping with bells and whistles. But they do tend to be a little spendy. Not everyone needs the ability to cut 24 inches of pins and tails, each pair cut to a custom size for added visual effect. And not everyone is comfortable shelling out big bucks for a tool that, in the end, they'll probably only use occasionally. With the Rockler jig, you can start making basic through and half blind dovetails affordably (especially right now) and later on, if you want, build your jig into highly versatile and comfortable-to-use system. To give you an idea of what we mean, here's one possible trajectory for a "building out" of the Rockler jig.
In most woodworking projects, measuring and marking linear dimensions is the first crucial step, and depending on the project, it can make for some exacting work. In projects that involve intricate joinery and small, close-fitting parts, measuring and marking errors as small as a few 100ths of an inch can turn up later as gaps in joints, misaligned parts and a host of other less-than-appealing results.
Start with the Complete Dovetail Jig package. You'll get the jig, a guide bushing that attaches to your router base plate and guides the router through the cut, the three router bits necessary to get started, and a collet adapter that fits 8mm diameter bits into a standard 1/2" router collet. (A note on the bits: they're are a non-standard size because an increase in shaft diameter from the usual 1/4" to 8mm significantly reduces vibration and chatter, which can in turn cause tear-out and affect the fit and finish of the joint.)
With the jig package, you'll also get two guide templates, which attach to the top of the jig and serve as a guide when you cut the joint. One template is used for both parts of a half blind dovetail, the type of joint where the pins and tails are only visible from one side of the joint. With this template, you'll be able to cut an entire half blind dovetail joint with one pass of the router. The jig comes equipped with a handy offset stop, which automatically positions the stock so that when you're done, the two parts of the joint line up flush with one another at each end. The joint you'll get is the very same one that currently holds together countless drawer boxes in high end commercial cabinetry.
The second template is used to cut "through" dovetail pins. A through dovetail joint is one where the tails project completely through the receiving piece of stock. Put another way, the pins and tails are visible from both sides of the joint. Through joints are considered more decorative, and are often used for boxes and chests where a distinctive look and a high level of craft are desired. Through dovetails are always cut one piece at a time. The Rockler jig simplifies the transition from the tail to pin cut with clearly marked settings and instruction on the jig and template for setting up the joint and adjusting the fit.
Dealing With the Dust
No matter what jig you use, you’re sure to notice one thing: cutting dovetails with a router is a dusty business. You're first couple of projects are sure to have you looking for a solution to the problem. You won't have far to look. The Rockler Dovetail Jig Dust Collector neatly and affordably solves the problem. The dovetail jig dust collector attaches in minutes to the Rockler jig, where it virtually eliminates the dusty mess router dovetailing usually produces.
Expanding Your Dovetailing Repertoire
With the dust under control and a little dovetailing experience under your belt, you might start looking for new and exciting uses for your jig. The evenly spaced pins and tails the basic jig produces are perfectly sound from a structural standpoint, but the ability to alter the look of the finished product would add visual interest and give you the chance to further expand your skills.
With any of the Distinctive Series Dovetail Templates for the Rockler jig, you'll be able to do just that – with the same ease as you've enjoyed when cutting standard dovetails. Available in two styles, distinctive series dovetail templates are made specifically for the Rockler Dovetail Jig. They set up in the same way as the standard templates, and give you three options for varying the look of your dovetail joints.
Distinctive Series Template Style A is designed to produce the classic wide pin and narrow tail joint typical of hand cut dovetails found on fine furniture. Template Style B allows you to cut dovetails of varied spacing for a one of a kind look. It's set up to work perfectly with stock widths commonly used in making drawers, but you can also get creative and create your own spacing patterns.
And here's still another dovetail template option. The Miniature Dovetail Template and Bit Set will allow you to make perfect dovetail joints with pins that are a mere 1/2" apart on center. Still using the same jig and the same basic set up procedure, you'll be able to make small, intricately joined decorative boxes out of 1/8" to 1/4" thick stock. As with the Distinctive Series Templates, the miniature kit comes with both pin and tail templates. It also includes a 1/4" dovetail bit, a 1/8" straight bit (each with a tiny 1/8" shaft) and a collet adapter to fit them to your router.
Pick and Choose
If you decided to "go for it" and bought everything mentioned above today, you'd still pay less than you would for any of a number of other dovetail jig packages. But it's good, also, to have the option to pick and choose just the components that you’ll find most useful, or to build up your collection slowly over time. Right now is an excellent time to get started.