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12-minute dovetails

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Several photos together with caption

Start with the right jig

Over the years, we've used four jigs to cut through-dovetails on a router table. [See Sources, on last slide.] They all work essentially the same and come with everything you need, including bits. The Leigh and MLCS jigs use guide bushings to steer the bit between the template's guide fingers. But we prefer the jigs that use bearing-guided bits -- Katie Jig and Keller -- because they're easier to set up and change bits.

With all but the Katie Jig, which comes ready to use, you'll first need to mount the finger template onto a backer board and make a one-time calibration for tight-fitting joints. (Each jig's instructions explain how to do this.) The backer board not only secures the jig and registers your workpiece properly, but also provides support on the back side against grain tear-out.

Scribe a centerline on the top side of a finger in the middle of the jig, photo left, on both the pins and tails side. This will be used to center boards for symmetrical joints.

Now, rout the joints
Cut your project parts to size with square ends -- and a couple of extra pieces for testing setups. When cutting dovetails with these jigs, tailboards and pinboards don't have to be the same thickness, but opposing boards in a drawer or other box do need to be of equal thickness. Arrange the boards to form the project, with the best faces out. Mark the outer faces -- this proves critical when routing the pins -- as well as the joints with sequential numbers or letters so you can match them up after machining. Now you're ready to begin cutting as shown on the following slide, tails first.

Download PDF of photos

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