12 Tips for Using a Dovetail Jig

When it comes to developing the craftsmanship of your woodworking project, using a dovetail jig could be your answer. By applying these jigs, you will be able to make strong and accurate dovetail joints for drawers, furniture, and boxes without having to use fasteners.

If you a woodworking shop, I would highly recommend you to get a dovetail jig. Using this tool in your work will increase their overall quality.

In this article, I will give you 12 tips for using a dovetail jig. By following these tips, your work will become a lot easier and top-notch in quality. So, no further ado, let’s get started.

What is a Dovetail Jig Used for?

The main purpose of a jig is to serve accuracy, repeatability, and interchangeability in the product under construction. Some people confuse a jig with a fixture. The job of a fixer is to hold to work in a fixed position. And jig is the device that manages both functions.

best dovetail jig helps you to make finger joints or dovetail when making furniture items or boxes. With this tool, you can bring your imagination into a reality. This tool has different forms, but it mainly holds the timber in a vertical position. Therefore, you can cut each dovetail joint using a router.

Most of the jig has a template with its base to give the joint a particular shape. For instance, when cutting small, medium, or large dovetails. Each of the templates applies a specific router bit in cutting the dovetails on one side and pins on the opposite side.

When the two pieces are joined together, they form a strong and durable dovetail. If you can follow the instruction properly, you are supposed to get a precise joint every time.

12 Tips for Using a Dovetail Jig

When using a dovetail jig, if you can manage to follow these 12 tips, we can almost guarantee that you are going to get a top-notch result. So, here are they.

1) Paraffin Lube

Your sense of feeling plays an essential role when routing a dovetail joint. The router needs to slide easily around the finger of the jig without any hesitation so that you will be able to decide in which direction the router needs to be pushed. To avoid drag, you can rub a piece of canning wax on the top of the comb. It won’t require much but, trust me, it will pay off.

2) Climb Cut First

To avoid any tear out inside your dovetail joint, follow this accordingly. First, route a shallow pass following right to the left and reaching all across the pinboard. You will move the router in the opposite direction than the user normally does, and this scoring pass is known as climb cut.

An issue you may get to deal with the climb cut is the bit could grab, abruptly pulling the router far away. It won’t happen if you take a very shallow cut. When you are done with the scoring pass, you need to route the remaining dovetail following left to right- first the opposite then, in a normal direction.

3) Making a Router Nest

Sometimes you will have to pick up and put down the router constantly with an exposed bit; it would be suitable to park your router on a safe platform. There are a couple of methods to make one but what matters here most is when you put down the router, the bit has no possibility of catching anything.

4) Adding Bumpers

I have seen many people ruining their bit by accidentally routing right into their dovetail jig. You will find some brackets that support your jigs comb; those are situated in a vulnerable position, so when you are not confident about the router’s position, you can deal with it by chewing right into them.

An effective solution here is adding blocks that stop the router from getting dangerously closer to the brackets. You can add bumpers to the comb on the jig. When dealing with models that have extra-long combs, you can clamp tall blocks to the workbench.

5) Making a Height Block

One of the most challenging parts of setting up a dovetail jig is setting the correct depth of cut in the bit. You will need a drill press to make the block. When you are done making the block and adjusted the screws store it with the jig as long as you don’t get a tight-fitting joint.

6) Adding an Extra Board

You would want your dovetail joint to have a neat and clean appearance, right? To ensure that, you can place an extra board in your jig after the part that accepts the sockets. This will prevent any tear-out to the end of the pinboard. You can make some backup boards when milling the remaining parts and ensure their thickness is equal to the socket board thickness.

7) Cushioning the Blow

When you knock apart an unglued dovetail joint, make the piece stand on a blanket, towel, or router mat. You won’t have to uphold the parts- when you strike the wood, the material will get compressed and enable the joint to open up slowly.

8) Register Using a Wide Board

In order to have control over the depth of a dovetail joint, you will need to comb in or out. And you must make sure the comb is paralleled to the front of the jig. If it’s a drawer you are making, you can use one of the drawer parts. But make sure you move it back and forth a couple of times to get the measurement of the comb’s setback.

9) Keeping Same Spacing

In every jig, you will find adjustable stops that are placed in the distance in the middle of the first pin and bottom edge of the workpiece. To route the right corner, there’s a stop on the right side and one on the left for the left side. You need to make sure that the stops are in the same position to match the spacing of both corners.

10) Scoring Vulnerable Corners

You wouldn’t appreciate seeing a tear-out on your well-made dovetail joint, would you? Some people try to back up the piece mounted upright in the jig but, it’s not enough, to be honest. The best way of dealing with it is to score the vulnerable area first before you start routing. A marking gauge can help you out.

11) Using a Depth Setting Gauge

If you can set the exact depth of the cutter and jig, you may cut a series of tails at the asking depth and save it as a set piece for any future project.

12) Making a Width Board

If you want to have a symmetrical joint with matching tails and pins at each side, you will have to trim the board to a convenient width. You can make it happen by taking a wide board and cut a series of tails in it. After that, you can also utilize it as a width gauging board.

Final Verdict

It’s a great idea to use a dovetail jig in your woodwork. You can use this tool in joining shelves to cabinet sides, horizontal partition to shelves, drawer fronts to sides, neck, and body in violin, and so on.

It allows you a strong, tight, and long-lasting fir in your woodwork. The best thing about it is you will require zero mechanical fasteners. I hope after getting to know the 12 tips for using a dovetail jig, you will now be able to do more brilliant woodwork. All the very best!

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