2. Cutting Time Comparison
Once the dovetail jig is setup and figured out, all future dovetails are extremely fast to cut. For the keepsake chests I was able to cut sixteen through-dovetail joints in less than an hour, which turns out to be about 64 dovetails.
It was amazingly quick. And I found that once I understood the jig, it only took a few minutes to change the size and angle of the dovetail bit for another project.
The basic summary of the jig’s dovetail cutting process goes like this: I clamp the test tail board in the jig. This board should be the same width and thickness as the boards you’ll be using for your boxes or chests.
I space the fingers out to the orientation that I like:
Then I tighten the fingers in place. I loosen some brackets, flip the finger assembly over to the tail side, and adjust the scale to the proper setting for tails.
Then I add the desired dovetail-shaped router bit to my router and adjust the depth of my router bit to the baseline on the board:
I fire up my router, and route out the spaces between the tails:
Then I put the test pin board in the clamp. Again, it must be the same width and thickness as the actual boards you’ll be using.
I flip the finger assembly over again to the pin side:
I replace the dovetail router bit with the corresponding straight bit, and then I adjust its depth to the same baseline measurement as on the first tail board.
Then I route out the pins:
I test the fit, and if it’s too tight, I’ll adjust the finger assembly a bit, and then run the router through the pins again to trim them.
Once I’ve got a fit that I like, I take note of the settings on the scale:
Then I can run the pin boards through, and then the tail boards using the same process that I just showed.
Once I have the settings dialed in, cutting dovetail joints on a large stack of boards takes very little time.
This is the wonderful thing about using a dovetail jig like this.
Of course this is a simplified summary of the use of this jig, so make sure you carefully read the user manual to learn how to use it safely.
The dovetail cutting time with hand tools would have taken much, much longer than it did with the dovetail jig.
Even if I was gang cutting the dovetails it would probably take me a full day, if not more.
Some people are faster than me, but I’m pretty proficient with hand tools. I’ll be sharing my in-depth hand-cut dovetail tutorial in my next video & blog post, so make sure you subscribe to my newsletter (here) so you’ll be notified when it’s released.
A quick summary of the process for dovetailing a box goes something like this: first I scribe all ends of the boards with a marking gauge:
Then I use dividers to divide the dovetails:
I’ve also got a short video on this cool trick, which you can watch here. Next I use a combination square to carry the lines along the top:
I then use a bevel gauge to draw the dovetail angles on the face of the board:
Next I use a dovetail saw to cut right next to the lines, in the waste area:
I follow that with the coping saw to cut out the waste:
I use a chisel to make a notch on each side of the board, and a crosscut saw to cut off the half-pins:
I then use a chisel and mallet to chop down to the baseline, and another chisel to clean up the tails, and make sure I’m up to the lines:
Now the tail board is finished. Then I set the tail board onto the pin board and trace the pattern with a marking knife:
I then use a chisel to deepen these lines:
And I use a combination square to carry the marks down the face of the pin board:
Again, I use a dovetail saw to cut along the lines:
I use a coping saw to remove the waste:
I use a chisel and mallet to chop down to the baseline:
And I use another chisel to clean up the cuts:
Finally I can test fit the joint:
About half the time I have to do some more adjusting with a chisel, especially if I wasn’t careful enough when sawing:
But finally the through dovetail joint fits together:
Wow, can you imagine doing this 4 times per box multiplied by 4 keepsake chests?
RESULTS: So in the cutting time category the dovetail jig is the clear winner. The initial learning and setup time is all pretty much done up front over a day or two, and then it’s very fast anytime you want to cut dovetails.