A dovetail jig improves the accuracy, efficiency, and reliability of your cuts so that your dovetail jigs turn out the same each time. Although any woodworker can benefit from adding a dovetail jig to their toolbox, they’re particularly important for those that are manufacturing a series of the same products, such as cabinets or furniture. Our buyer’s guide explains what makes a quality dovetail jig. But, first, our top reviews break down the best dovetail jigs currently available.
Here’s how to find the best dovetail jig for your woodworking tool kit.
Top Picks: 5 Best Dovetail Jigs
Let’s start by taking a look at five of the best dovetail jigs on the market. Although there are dozens of options available, these are the models that stick out from the competition thanks to their accuracy, ease of use, and durability. Our favorite dovetail jigs are also versatile. They come with a variety of templates to help you cut dovetails and other common types of woodworking joints. No matter the specifics of your project, one of these quality tools is sure to match your individual needs and preferences.
Here are the five best dovetail jigs available now:
1. Porter-Cable 4216 Super Jig
The Porter-Cable 4216 Super Jig is one of the best dovetail jigs on the market. As its name implies, it truly is a “super jig” capable of cutting a wide variety of dovetail joints with precision. Like all Porter-Cable tools, this dovetail jig is all but indestructible. It’s solidly built thanks to its single-piece steel design. The single-piece construction also eliminates any tricky setup or installation.
This device is also notable for its versatility. It comes with several templates to make cutting a wide range of joints easy. Among these is a “mini template” to cut miniature dovetail joints. Best of all, this dovetail jig is incredibly easy to use. It has excellent cutting accuracy and a “no-measure” depth tool. The only real downside to this machine is that it’s not capable of cutting variable dovetails – only fixed joints.
What We Like:
- Accurate cutting
- No assembly required
- Intuitive to use
What We Don’t Like:
- Not capable of variable dovetails
2. Leigh Super 12” Dovetail Jig
The Leigh Super 12” Dovetail Jig might cost a pretty penny – but you’re sure to get your money’s worth (and even more). Created by a company that specializes in jigs alone, this Leigh dovetail jig is notable for its incredible versatility, overall ease of use, and long-term durability. Simply put, this dovetail jig is built to last. It’s not one of those models created with hobbyists in mind. Instead, it’s created for tried and true professionals that require a jib that will perform without fail on a daily basis.
This device accepts boards up to 12” wide, comes with three different router bits, and is capable of a wide range of adjustments to meet your needs. In fact, the adjustable fingers are the main highlight of this jig. They’re infinitely adjustable for the widest range of joint types, no matter the requirements of your project. To make things even easier, Leigh includes a pair of woodworking clamps to keep your project in place while you create the dovetail joints.
What We Like:
- Infinitely adjustable fingers
- Extremely durable
- Comes with woodworking clamps
What We Don’t Like:
3. Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig
This is a dovetail jig made simple. Instead of packing on extra features, it takes a more streamlined approach. You only get what you need to get the job done right. This minimalist design approach means that this dovetail jig is highly intuitive. It has a small learning curve so even beginners will be able to use it with ease.
Despite its beginner friendliness, this Rockler device performs well enough for even the most seasoned of experts to utilize it effectively. It’s accurate, reliable, and precise. Another notable highlight is the overall value. This dovetail jig strikes a good balance between cost and performance. The only downside to this jig is assembly. Unlike a one-piece jig, this model arrives in several pieces that you must assemble yourself.
What We Like:
- Simple to use
- Durable and long-lasting
- Accurate cuts
What We Don’t Like:
- Somewhat confusing assembly
4. Porter-Cable 4210 12” Dovetail Jig
Another excellent option from Porter-Cable, the Porter-Cable 4210 12” Dovetail Jig is a simple, straightforward jig. This device is among the most affordable jigs on the market but does nothing to sacrifice quality or performance, making it a great value purchase. It comes with numerous templates for a range of cuts, including sliding and half-blind joints.
Other highlights include quick depth settings, an easy to use overall design, and minimal setup or installation. Durable machine aluminum ensures this model will last for years to come. Do note, however, that this Porter-Cable jig is created with beginners in mind. It’s not designed for the rigors of a full woodshop. Instead, it’s created with simple use in mind for minor projects. On this same note, this jig isn’t nearly as versatile as many of the other jigs on our list.
What We Like:
- Easy to use
- Numerous settings
What We Don’t Like:
- Not very versatile
5. General Tools 861 Dovetail Jig
The General Tools 861 Dovetail Jig is our favorite budget-friendly model. It clocks in at well under the price of the other jigs on this list (even the likewise affordable Porter-Cable 4210). Yet despite the affordable price, this General Tools dovetail jig doesn’t sacrifice quality or performance in the slightest. It cuts with accuracy, efficiency, and precision every time that you need to use it.
Among the features that enables the overall cutting quality is the self-aligning design which will keep your joints cut straight as an arrow. The one-piece aluminum design is another key feature. This woodworking tool is manufactured to last for the long haul.
Despite the many benefits of this jig, it’s important to note that it’s for beginners only. It’s not created with the rigors of daily use in mind. It’s best for those that only occasionally plan to use a dovetail jig for projects that are few and far between.
What We Like:
- Cheap price
- Durable construction
- Cutting accuracy and precision
What We Don’t Like:
- Won’t stand up to professional use
Buy the Right Dovetail Jig – Buyers Guide
Perform a quick search for dovetail jigs online and you’ll notice dozens of options are available. Although our top recommendations outlined above will set you in the right direction, many people prefer to have a better understanding of their tools before pulling the trigger.
Today, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about buying and using a dovetail jig for your woodworking projects. We’ll hone in on the advantages and disadvantages of dovetail jigs, the two main types, and finish with the most important factors you need to keep in mind during the buying process.
Here’s what you need to know to buy the best dovetail jig for you.
Dovetail Jig Benefits
Using a dovetail jig has numerous benefits. Chief among these is how easy making a dovetail joint becomes. The goal of a dovetail jig is to make the process of creating dovetail joints a seamless, almost effortless process. The jig accomplishes this by serving as a pattern for each joint.
If you plan to make the same joint multiple times, a jig is all but indispensable. Sure, you can make a DIY dovetail joint. But a DIY version takes a lot of time, as well as experience and skill, to build. It will also likely be less secure and less accurate than a real dovetail jig. A dovetail jig will also make the finished product look that much more professional.
Start Woodworking states that using a dovetail jig to create dovetail joints is almost an automatic process that produces the highest quality finished work.
Dovetail Jig Negatives
There are few, if any, real negatives to using a dovetail jig. Perhaps the only disadvantage worth mentioning is the cost. A quality dovetail joint will set you back at least $100. Professionals and serious hobbyists shouldn’t balk at this cost. If you make dovetail joints, or any other type of joint, on a regular basis, the initial cost will quickly justify itself.
The exception is those that only need to ever make a handful of dovetail joints. In this scenario, you might be better off building a DIY version – or, better yet, borrowing or renting a jig from someone else.
According to Popular Woodworking Magazine, a jig is hugely beneficial for its simplicity and versatility as a woodworking tool.
Who Needs a Dovetail Jig?
Almost any woodworker can benefit from owning a dovetail jig. These woodworking tools make creating solid, precise, and good-looking joints much easier. In fact, a jig is pivotal to anyone creating a large number of dovetail joints at a time.
For this reason, Tools Today states that jigs very popular for manufacturing, such as someone who is building several copies of the same furniture model at one time. That said, even casual woodworkers can benefit from adding a dovetail jig to their toolbox for situations that do call for extreme accuracy and precision.
Dovetail Jig Buying Guide
Don’t buy a dovetail jig before you know what to look for.
Knowing the most important factors that impact a dovetail jigs performance and quality will help you buy the model that best suits your individual woodworking needs.
Here are the most important factors to look in mind:
- Ease of Use – Most dovetail jigs are simple to use, but it’s important to find one highly rated for ease of use if you’re unfamiliar with this woodworking tool.
- Purpose – What type of joints do you plan to make? Just dovetail joints or other joints as well? Some dovetail jigs just create dovetail joints while others are fully adjustable to create other joint types.
- Frequency – If you plan to use a jig on a daily basis, you need a high-end model rather than a budget model intended for occasional use.
- Construction – Steel and aluminum are among the strongest and lightest materials that will hold up to extensive wear and tear.
- Size – Most jigs are adjustable to a variety of sizes, but it’s important to ensure yours can accommodate the width of the board you plan to use.
- Budget – Although most dovetail jigs are relatively inexpensive, there is still a wide price range from budget to top-end models.
- Brand – The best tool brands typically create better quality jigs and often offer warranties on their products.
Mr. Dabrudda has an excellent video guide on how to use a dovetail jig.
Best Dovetail Jig Brands
Like any type of woodworking tool, certain dovetail jig models are better than others. While these differences largely relate to the model itself, the brand behind the product is also of utmost importance. Simply put, some manufacturers are far superior to others.
Here are a few of the most reputable brands for dovetail jigs:
Porter-Cable has been a top name in the world of tools since 1906. From the very beginning, they’ve been dedicated to the performance and quality of all of their tools and accessories. This same dedication remains to this day. Although dovetail jigs are a small part of their extensive product line, they’re built with the same attention to detail that Porter-Cable is known for.
Leigh Jigs is perhaps the world’s most well-known jig-specific company. This reputable brand has produced a wide range of jigs, including dovetail, mortise and tenon, and box joint, for over 35 years. Not only are they known for their quality tools and state-of-the-art manufacturing process, but also their outstanding 5-year warranty on most products.
Rockler Woodworking strives to be your go-to woodworking source. The company manufactures an extensive line of woodworking tools and supplies, including top-quality dovetail jigs. Since 1954, Rockler has remained committed to utilizing the most current woodworking technologies to create the most innovative tools possible.
General Tools is another big name in the world of woodworking. From their inception, they’ve placed specific emphasis on crafting high-performing yet affordable hand tools for hobbyists and professionals alike. In addition to their dovetail joints, General Tools offers over 1,000 other tools for woodworkers of all stripes.
Although they’re a lesser known tool manufacturer, Wolfcraft is another reputable brand to keep in mind. They manufacturer a wide range of tools, including dovetail jigs, with a focus on pushing the boundaries of innovativeness. The German brand is most popular outside of North America, although their products still do well in the United States and Canada as well.
Here are answers to a few of the most frequently asked questions about dovetail jigs:
Q: What type of dovetail jig do I need?
A: The type of dovetail jig you need largely depends on the type of joints – and the quantity – you want to make. Some models make only one type of joint while others are much more versatile.
Q: What size dovetail jig do I need?
A: Most dovetail jigs are adjustable to accommodate different sized boards, although most max out at a certain point (often 12”). Match your model to the size of boards you plan to work with.
Q: Why use a dovetail joint?
A: A dovetail joint is the strongest of all woodworking joints. It also looks attractive, has a large gluing area, and is incredibly durable.
Q: How long will my dovetail joint last?
A: The best dovetail joints will last a lifetime with proper care.
Q: How do I care for, maintain, and store a dovetail jig?
A: Basic dovetail joint maintenance involves cleaning the tool after each use. You should store the tool in a location where it won’t be banged around or otherwise damaged.
You can’t go wrong with any of our five favorite dovetail jigs. In addition to these five top models, there are a number of other models that will work well for certain people. That said, any dovetail jig from Porter-Cable is tough to beat. The Porter-Cable 4216 Super Jig, in particular, is an accurate and versatile jig that’s sure to last for years on end.
Prefer something a bit more compact? The Porter-Cable 4210 12” Dovetail Jig is an affordable yet effective runner-up option.
A dovetail jig is sure to be a welcome addition to your woodworking toolkit no matter your experience level. Which dovetail jig will you purchase? Let us know in the comments.