As you progress in woodworking, some of the more tedious and difficult skills to learn are joinery with complicated joints like dovetails presenting some of the biggest hurdles. That is why I put together a list of the 7 best dovetail jig reviews as well as provide a helpful buyer’s guide to make your experience a smooth one.
Now before we jump into reviewing the best dovetail jigs, let me explain what you features you should consider to make the right purchase for your workshop.
Dovetail jig Type
- Fixed – This is the traditional type of dovetail jig that uses a template to guide your router as you make the cuts. While the fixed dovetail jig is not nearly as versatile on the surface, you can often switch out the templates to make different types of joints. It is also worth noting that fixed dovetail jigs are significantly easier to use than variable dovetail jigs.
- Variable – This is the newer type of dovetail jig and is often labeled as “infinitely variable” which is technically true. Essentially, a variable dovetail jig allows you to adjust the position of the different fingers to accommodate your own “template”. While this increases the variable dovetail jig’s versatility far more than a fixed model’s it also makes this type of jig pretty tricky to use.
Templates are the guides used by fixed dovetail jigs to guide your wood router as it cuts the workpiece to make the joint. Depending on how expensive and well-crafted the dovetail jig, you might have multiple templates available, allowing you to make a wider variety of different types of joints.
Beyond offering multiple templates, some brands also double-side the templates to further expand the number of different joints you can make. Keep in mind, some double-sided templates intend for you to cut the tails with one side and the pins with the other, so read the instructions to make sure you use the template properly.
This is one of the more important qualities to consider when choosing a dovetail jig as it ultimately limits the size of the workpiece you can use and impacts your ability to make blind joints. The most advertised capacity of a dovetail jig is the width and determines how wide the joining face of your workpiece can be.
However, the depth or thickness of the workpiece is often just as important, though few dovetail jigs allow you to cut depths beyond 1 ½”. While not universal, the gaps between the fingers of a template are often ½” wide, though variable dovetail jigs can drastically expand or shrink distance.
Depending on how often you use your dovetail jig, this is either an extremely important quality or just one that is nice to have at the high-end. For the most part, metals are the materials you should look for, though different metals work better for different parts of the dovetail jig.
When it comes to the base, aluminum is easily the most common material used as it is both sturdy and lightweight, reducing the total weight of the dovetail jig. The template and/or fingers, on the other hand, should always be made out of steel to extend its lifespan as long as possible.
For single-piece dovetail jigs, some companies will use aluminum for the body and fingers which is not inherently a bad option– just be more careful when handling it. If you are looking for an inexpensive dovetail jig, phenolic plastic is reasonably sturdy at first, but it will lose structural integrity the more you use it.
Given how precise a dovetail joint needs to be, the stability of a dovetail jig is fairly important, but it is not necessarily paramount when purchasing the jig. This is because you can always use your own clamps and base to secure the workpiece in place before cutting the wood– though this increases the time it takes to use the jig.
When it comes to dovetail jigs that have their own securing method, cam-lock clamps are by far the best as they are not only easy to use but keep the workpiece from shifting while being cut. Some brands use pressure knobs to keep the workpiece in place which can work, but they are not quite as stable and can mar the face of the wood.
Seven Best Dovetail Jigs: The Reviews
PORTER-CABLE 4216 Dovetail Jig
- 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
PORTER-CABLE may be known more for their power tools than hand tools, but the PORTER-CABLE 4216 Dovetail Jig is an impressive option nonetheless. Keep in mind that while PORTER-CABLE has an extensive history, it generally sits in the mid-tier market, but this dovetail jig is anything but average.
For starters, this is a fixed dovetail jig which makes it a bit easier to work with, but it does not fall into the trap of lacking versatility. The reason the PORTER-CABLE 4216 Dovetail Jig can remain so versatile is due to the inclusion of 3 different templates– more than any other fixed dovetail jig I reviewed.
With the 3 included templates, the PORTER-CABLE 4216 Dovetail Jig is able to produce 8 different types of joints including half-blind, rabbeted half-blind, sliding dovetails, through dovetails, box joints, miniature through, half-blind dovetails, and miniature box joints.
Even the variable dovetail jigs I reviewed cannot provide that kind of joint versatility, and while the miniature through and half-blind dovetails, and miniature box joints is a bit expensive, it is priced in the mid-range. Beyond the versatility, this dovetail jig also boasts one of the sturdier builds being made of aluminum and steel.
As if that were not enough, the PORTER-CABLE 4216 Dovetail Jig also allows for an impressive capacity, able to accommodate wood between ¼” to 1 ⅛” and 12” wide. To put a bow on it, this dovetail jig also holds your workpiece securely in place thanks to sandpaper-backed locking bars and cam-lock clamps.
Keller Dovetail System 135-1500 Journeyman DoveTail Jig
- 15-inch precision-milled template
- Accepts wood from 1/8 to 3/4 inches thick
- Accepts unlimited widths and lengths
As the name might imply, Keller Dovetail System specializes exclusively in dovetail jigs and their accessories and has been doing so for almost 50 years. That said, specializing in a single type of product has its benefits and disadvantages with the Keller Dovetail System 135-1500 Journeyman DoveTail Jig coming out even in the wash.
It is worth noting that for its intended purpose, the Keller Dovetail System 135-1500 Journeyman DoveTail Jig is an excellent option. However, this dovetail jig is designed to be used by beginners who are just learning how to make dovetail joints and some of the design features demonstrate this fact.
The main issue with this dovetail jig is that it does not offer much more than the template which means you need to provide everything else. That said, this can also be a benefit, depending on your project, as it technically does not limit the capacity of your workpiece– though it places more work in your lap in the trade-off.
On top of that, the Keller Dovetail System 135-1500 Journeyman DoveTail Jig only provides a single template, so you do not have the luxury of learning multiple dovetail joints with it. On the other hand, this dovetail jig is easier to use than most of the competition– provided you have your own clamps.
Leigh Super 18″ Dovetail Jig
- Accepts boards up to 18"
- Includes 3 router bits
- Infinitely adjustable one-piece fingers
When it comes to dovetail jigs, few companies can compare in terms of craftsmanship and prestige with Leigh Tools, a brand founded with the express purpose of making dovetail jigs. While the company has since expanded into other joinery jigs, the Leigh Super 18″ Dovetail Jig shows the company has not lost track of its roots.
One thing to keep in mind, Leigh Tools is exquisitely aware of their own prowess and price their dovetail jigs accordingly, so it should not come as a surprise that the Leigh Super 18″ Dovetail Jig is an expensive option. On the other hand, this is the first variable dovetail jig that I reviewed.
The ability to determine the width of your dovetail joints may make this model a bit more complex to use but significantly increases its versatility. On top of that, the Leigh Super 18″ Dovetail Jig is one of the most precise dovetail jigs I encountered with high-quality machining that ensures everything measures as perfectly as possible.
You also do not have to worry about this dovetail jig while using it for multiple projects over years thanks to a solid construction of aluminum for the base and steel for the one-piece fingers. The Leigh Super 18″ Dovetail Jig also, as you might have guessed, accepts 18” boards, though they must be ½” thick.
Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig
Rockler may not specialize exclusively in dovetail jigs, but the company has been making high-end woodworking tools for close to 7 decades. It also does not hurt that Rockler offers expert advice for woodworking projects to further demonstrate their expertise on the subject.
That said, the Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig is the first model on my list that eschews the heavier and more expensive steel template for one made out of phenolic plastic. While phenolic plastic is more durable than the plastic you might be more familiar with, it still will not hold up as well as steel.
On the other hand, the Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig is still reasonably easy to use without having to sacrifice on performance out of the box. For one, this dovetail jig works well for a variety of different capacities ranging from 8” to 14” long and 11” wide as well as between ½” to 1 ⅛” thick.
Still, this dovetail jig also comes with a complete kit, and the base is made out of metal and employs cam-lock clamps to keep the workpiece securely in place. The main downside of the Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig is that it is somewhat expensive considering that it does not do more.
Leigh D4R Pro 24″ Dovetail Jig
- One piece aluminum extrusion base
- Easily produces handmade looking dovetail pins and tails
- Accepts boards up to 24" wide
Leigh makes another appearance on my list, but this time the company pulls out all of the stops to offer almost the same dovetail jig I reviewed prior with a more comprehensive kit. Thankfully, the Leigh D4R Pro 24″ Dovetail Jig sees a couple of improvements to go along with the company’s standard high-level of quality.
The biggest difference between this dovetail jig and Leigh Tool’s other model is that it can accommodate workpieces up to 24” wide, the largest width I reviewed that included a base. The Leigh D4R Pro 24″ Dovetail Jig also goosed the thickness capacities a bit, being able to go up to 1 ½” or down to ⅜”, depending on the dovetail joint.
As is expected from a Leigh Tools dovetail jig, this model employs aluminum for the base and steel for the fingers to provide long-lasting durability. Also like other models from the company, the Leigh D4R Pro 24″ Dovetail Jig is a variable dovetail jig, making it a perfect option for experienced woodworkers.
Woodstock D2796 12-Inch Dovetail Jig
- Router requires a 7/16-Inch Guide Bushing and 1/2-Inch 14-Degree Dovetail Router Bit with 1/2-Inch shank (sold seperately)
- Comes with a 1/2-Inch aluminum template
- Simple to set up, this sturdy, well-made jig makes 1/2-Inch half-blind dovetail joints, the hallmark of quality drawer construction
Most woodworkers have probably heard of Woodstock International Inc. as the company owns many of the top-selling professional-grade woodworking woodshop tools. The Woodstock D2796 12-Inch Dovetail Jig is a prime example of this, though it also shows some of the money-saving designs used by this company.
That last bit is important as the Woodstock D2796 12-Inch Dovetail Jig is an inexpensive option, but you end up paying for it in terms of durability. This comes down to the fact that this is one of the few dovetail jigs I came across with a plastic base that is unlikely to last under years of regular use.
Thankfully, the template is made out of aluminum, though it is the only template that this dovetail jig provides and limits the joint versatility a bit. One thing that is surprising is that the Woodstock D2796 12-Inch Dovetail Jig is fairly stable thanks to cam-lock clamps, despite the plastic base.
Thankfully, this does not limit the capacity of this dovetail jig as it accepts workpieces up to 12” wide and between ½” to 1 ¼” inch thick. Much like other fixed dovetail jigs with a base, the Woodstock D2796 12-Inch Dovetail Jig is fairly easy to use– though the lack of additional templates is partly responsible.
General Tools 861 Dovetail Jig
- ADJUSTABLE DOVETAIL JIG: The 1-piece aluminum layout ensures both ends of the dovetail joint match up evenly, and the integrated clamping design accommodates any board width. Our machine is ideal for...
- JOINT BOX: Our set includes 1 dovetail joiner tool and a single 14-degree, 1/2" dovetail router bit for use with a hand table or table router. The user's manual gives beginners and professionals a...
- WOOD MARKER: Professionals and novices can make half-blind or through dovetail joints, including box joints. It has various applications like repairing, making it a handy and necessary tool to own...
General Tools may not be the most well-known brand on the market, but it has been around for almost a century and focuses on hand tools and their accessories. Even better, General Tools aims to provide a solid value with less expensive products that still perform fairly well.
While this approach works for a wide range of different products, dovetail jigs are arguably one of the categories where you need higher-end precision than most. This being the case, it is a bit disappointing that the General Tools 861 Dovetail Jig is not as well-machined as some of the competition.
On top of that, this dovetail jig is an all-in-one model that limits its versatility due to a lack of templates but also reduces its stability without a sturdy base and clamp system to rely on. That said, this can also be a blessing if you need to take your dovetail jig on the go with you to a job site as this is easily one of the more portable models I encountered.
Even better, you do not have to worry about the General Tools 861 Dovetail Jig failing anytime soon as the majority of it is made out of aluminum. It is also worth noting that its simplicity may limit its versatility, but this dovetail jig is one of the easiest models to use I found and perfect for beginners.
The best woodworking dovetail jig
In the end, the best dovetail jig comes in a variety of different configurations, but I have to tip my hat off to the PORTER-CABLE 4216 Dovetail Jig. While it is a bit expensive, it is not as egregious as some of the competition, and the only other downsides are that it is not the most portable or easiest to use.
However, PORTER-CABLE bucked the trend of their general design modus operandi and provided one of the most versatile options that I encountered. Granted, it does not present the same versatility as a variable dovetail jig, but with 3 different templates, it is the next best thing.
It is also worth remembering that the 3 different templates allow the PORTER-CABLE 4216 Dovetail Jig to produce an impressive 8 different types of joints. Keep in mind, while this is not the simplest dovetail jig, for that kind of versatility, only having to switch out a template is still reasonably easy to do.
As if that were not enough, this dovetail jig presents one of the best combinations of capacity and stability, so you do not have to worry about precision. To wrap it all up, the PORTER-CABLE 4216 Dovetail Jig also uses high-end, machined materials in aluminum and steel to ensure that it will not fail after years of use.