Ernie, I have a question regarding dovetail jigs. I don’t have one but will be purchasing one fairly soon. I recently read the article in FW (dec 06) on various jigs. Having no experience with these jigs I am curious if you can cut both pins and tails at the same time. Seems to me I have seen that being done somewhere. Is that a standard feature or is it unique to some manufactures, or I am dreaming? Thanks.
The original designs for dovetail jigs cut pins and tails at the same time. Jigs utilizing this scheme still abound and the most well known one is the Omni Jig sold by Porter Cable. The basis of this type of jig is that the pin board sits horizontally with the outside face down (against the jig) and the tail board sitting vertically with its outside face away from the operator (against the jig). The tail board is touching the pin board but is offset to the left by the spacing of the tails. A comb sits above this arrangement allowing the cutter to flirt in and out of the two pieces creating a matching set of dovetails. The scheme works beautifully and requires very little setup. The downside is that the resulting dovetails, although quite strong, are very boring because the resulting pins and tails are of equal size and spacing. Such jigs are good for kitchen cabinet drawers which are lip face and employ slides which often cover the edges. The other limitation is that they cut half-blind dovetails only making them of limited value for those doing period furniture.
A second scheme (that has several variations) employs a comb with fingers that are adjustable. Half-blind and through dovetails of various spacing can be obtained but pins and tails have to be cut separately. The most notable of this type of jig is the Leigh. A third scheme by David Keller employs a fixed comb, but of attractive spacing, that cuts through dovetails in two separate operations.
In my opinion, the most versatile jig is the Leigh witch will cut half-blind or through dovetails of any spacing. It does; however, have a very steep learning curve and one drawer for period furniture (half blind dovetails in the front with through dovetails on a ½” narrower spacing at the rear) are about a quick to cut by hand.
Unless you have the need to turn out lots of drawers, I would explore the hand cutting option thoroughly before buying a jig. A good jig that cuts both through and half-blind dovetails on any spacing is going to be between $750 and a grand when you throw in the router. Through dovetails require changing from a dovetail bit to a straight bit when you go from tails to pins and so a second route becomes very handy. The price goes up. If you just want to make kitchen drawers the Omni is a bullet proof jig. Good luck.
With best regards,
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