Warning: A non-numeric value encountered in /var/www/html/wp-content/plugins/gp-premium/elements/class-block-elements.php on line 785

How to Use a Dovetail Jig: Detailed Guide

Photo of author
Written By John Gibbs




» Equipment » Dovetail jig » How to Use a Dovetail Jig: Detailed Guide
Deprecated: Function wp_get_loading_attr_default is deprecated since version 6.3.0! Use wp_get_loading_optimization_attributes() instead. in /var/www/html/wp-includes/functions.php on line 6085

A dovetail jig is a handy tool that can be used to create dovetail joints. This article will provide a detailed guide on how to use this tool. A guide will cover everything from setting up the jig to cutting the perfect dovetail joint. By the end of this article, you will be an expert at using and be able to create beautiful dovetail joints for all your woodworking projects.

What is a Dovetail Jig
A dovetail jig is a tool that is used to cut dovetails into the wood. Dovetails are a type of joinery that is commonly used in woodworking. They are created by cutting two pieces of wood at an angle so that they fit together snugly. Dovetails are very strong and can be used to create a variety of different types of joints.

What is a Dovetail Jig Used For?


A dovetail jig is a tool that combines the functions of a router and a template to create dovetail joints. It can be used for a variety of woodworking and carpentry projects, such as creating drawer fronts, door panels, and picture frames.

Dovetail jigs typically consist of a baseplate, which is mounted to the workpiece, and a template, which is used to guide the router. The router is attached to the baseplate and is used to cut the dovetail joints. The template is positioned on the workpiece and is used to guide the router bit as it cuts the dovetail joint.

Dovetail jigs are available in a variety of sizes and styles. Some dovetail jigs are adjustable, which allows the user to create different size dovetail joints. There are also a variety of router bits that can be used with a dovetail jig to create different types of dovetail joints.

12 Tips for Using a Dovetail Jig

There are a few things to keep in mind when using a dovetail jig. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your jig.

1. Paraffin Lube

When you’re using a dovetail jig for routing a dovetail joint, it’s important to be able to feel the router moving easily around the jig’s fingers. This way, you can tell which direction to push the router.

To eliminate drag and make the router move more smoothly, rub a piece of canning wax (paraffin) on top of the comb. You won’t need much wax, but it will make a big difference in the way the router moves.

2. Make Spares

You will make a wrong cut with your dovetails at least until you’ve mastered the process and markings. So, rather than stop production and try to manufacturer a few new boards just plan ahead and have 5-10% of your drawer sides as spares.

3. Setting up the Dovetail Jig for the First Cut

Assuming you have already built your dovetail jig, the next step is to set it up for use.


  1. Make sure that the drawer side locks are firm and will not slip under pressure from the router.
  2. Lock the top piece in place. Then, install the dovetail router bit into your palm router and set it to the height of your wood thickness.
  3. Lock a 3-4″ wide test piece into both the top and bottom of the jig and cut a test dovetail. Fit and adjust the pieces until they fit together perfectly.

4. Climb Cut First

There are a few different ways to cut a dovetail joint, but the most important thing is to make sure that the cuts are clean and precise. One way to do this is to make a shallow scoring pass with a router from right to left across the pin board.

This is called a climb cut, and it’s done in the direction of the bit’s rotation. The advantage of a climb cut is that it can help to prevent tearout on the inside of the joint. However, it’s important to take shallow cuts to avoid the router bit grabbing and pulling the router ahead suddenly. Once the scoring pass is complete, the rest of the dovetail can be cut from left to right in the normal direction.

5. Use the Dadoes for Guides

If you’re looking for an easy way to make drawers, using dadoes for guides is a great option. This method involves making a jig with dadoes on the outside, and then attaching the drawer fronts to the top of the jig. This way, you can simply follow a pattern and groove to create perfect drawers every time. Plus, once you have a working drawer, you’ll just need to remember the cycle in order to make more.

6. Make A Router Nest


If you’re constantly picking up and putting down your router with an exposed bit, it’s convenient to park the router on a safe platform. There are many ways to make a router nest, but the main idea is that once you’ve put the router down, the bit has no chance of catching anything. The hole in the center of the platform should be just big enough to fit the router snugly.

7. Add Bumpers

If you’re using a dovetail jig, it’s important to be aware of the position of your router at all times. Otherwise, you run the risk of accidentally damaging the jig – which can be a real pain, not to mention costly.

One way to help avoid this problem is to add bumpers to the jig. These blocks of material (usually wood) help to prevent the router from getting too close to the jig’s support brackets, which are often located in vulnerable positions.

8. Make A Height Block

There are a few different ways to make a height block, but using a piece of scrap wood is the most common. Simply measure the depth of your dovetail bit, and then mark that measurement on the scrap wood. Cut the scrap wood to size, and then use it to set the depth of your bit. This method is quick, easy, and ensures that your bit is set to the correct depth.

9. Add An Extra Board

When you’re routing a dovetail joint, you want to avoid any tear out on the end of the pinboard. To help prevent this, you can use an extra board in the jig, next to the part that will receive the sockets.


Make sure the backup board is exactly the same thickness as the socket boards so that it provides an even surface. You can use all four corners of the backup board, then cut off its ends and reuse it as needed.

10. Cushion the Blow

When you’re taking apart an unglued dovetail joint, it’s important to be careful so you don’t damage the wood. A great way to protect the wood is to stand the pieces on a towel, blanket or router mat. The material will compress when you strike the wood, allowing the joint to slowly open up. This trick prevents damage to the wood and the joint, and makes the job a lot easier.

11. Register with a Wide Board

In order to control the depth of a dovetail joint, you need to move the comb in or out. The comb must be perfectly parallel to the front of the jig in order to create an accurate joint. With a drawer, you would use one of the drawer parts and move it back and forth to measure the comb’s setback on both sides of the jig.

An alternate and easier method is to clamp a 12″ wide piece of MDF in the jig. Position the comb so it’s approximately in the correct position according to the jig’s manual. Use a combination square to check both sides. Remove the MDF and clamp two scrap boards in the left side of the jig.

12. Same Spacing, Left and Right

Most dovetail jigs have adjustable stops that control the distance between the first pin and the bottom edge of the workpiece. These stops are usually located on the left and right sides of the jig, allowing for the routing of “left” and “right” corners respectively.


It is important that the stops be positioned in the same relative location to the comb’s fingers in order to ensure that the spacing on both corners matches. An easy way to set the stops is to first make a test joint on the left side of the jig and adjust the left stop accordingly. Then, trace around the fingers of the comb onto the board.

Next, remove the board from the jig and flip it over so that the opposite side is facing out. Clamp the board into the right side of the jig, making sure that the tracings from the previous step line up with the comb’s fingers. Finally, butt the right stop up against the board.

Related Posts

How to Avoid Splintering with a Dovetail Jig

We all know how frustrating it is when we’re working on a project and end up with splinters. It seems like no matter how careful we are, they always seem to find a way to ruin our work. By running the router backward with light pressure, you can knock the edges off of the wood, which will help to prevent splinters.

Another tip is to make a shallow pass across the inside of the drawer and at the top edge. This will also help to prevent any unwanted splinters.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need a dovetail jig?

If accuracy and precision are important, then a dovetail jig is a good investment. They can be expensive, but they’re worth it for serious woodworkers. However, if the project is small and doesn’t require perfect joints, then a dovetail jig might not be necessary.

What is the best dovetail jig to buy?


If you’re looking for a simple, low-cost jig that will get the job done, the Porter-Cable 4212 is a good choice. It’s easy to use and produces clean, precise joints. If you want a more sophisticated jig that’s still reasonably priced, take a look at the Leigh D4R Pro. It has more features and capabilities than the Porter-Cable, but it’s still easy to use.

What angle is a dovetail drawer joint?

A dovetail drawer joint is an angled joint that is used to connect two pieces of wood at a corner. This type of joint is very strong and is often used in cabinetry and furniture construction. Dovetail drawer joints are cut at a precise angle so that the two pieces of wood fit together snugly. When done correctly, this type of joint is virtually invisible from the outside of the piece.


In this article, we’ve provided a detailed guide on how to use a dovetail jig, including what to look for when purchasing one and how to set it up for use. We hope you found this article helpful. If you have any questions or comments, please let us know. Thank you for reading!


  • Dovetail Jig – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dovetail_joint
  • Cut – (Joint carpentry) – https://www.britannica.com/technology/joint-carpentry
  • Furniture construction (Furniture Construction Information) – https://www.bissellwoodworking.com/furniture-construction-details.htm


About John Gibbs

Hello everyone! My name is John Gibbs. I am 60 years old and have been in the family construction business all my adult life. Construction is not only my profession but also my passion. I know everything about building and repair materials, tools, advanced methods, techniques, and approaches. I will share the same knowledge with you in my articles.

Leave a Comment

Solve : *
44 ⁄ 22 =