Monday, January 23, 2012

Learning the Leigh Dovetail Jig

Last summer, I purchased the Leigh D4R Pro dovetail jig.  This is the 24-inch model with moveable fingers that will allow me to set any configuration I desire and approximate as closely as possible the spacing and appearance of hand cut dovetails.  I decided on the larger model so I could build large chests if I decide to do so.

The first step is to learn how to cut through dovetails.  This isn't hard--I cut my first one soon after assembling the jig.  I quickly learned several things,  First, tighten the screws on all unused fingers to secure them tightly to the jig.  I didn't the first time I used it.  The vibration from routing caused the loose screws to fall out, and I found myself hunting for them in a pile of sawdust on the floor beneath the jig.  Not fun.  The second lesson is that the router depth for the tail board must be set to exactly the thickness of the pin board.  Otherwise, the tails are likely to stand proud once they're cut.  This has been difficult for me.  The instructions call for marking the tail board with a pencil by holding the pin board to the tail board, then setting the router bit to the center of the pencil line.  I have not yet succeeded in getting the depth set correctly this way.  A friend suggested using a marking gauge to mark the depth, and I think this is a better procedure.  I'll try it next time.

My first project with the dovetail jig is to build a shelf for my hand planes.  It will feature through dovetails on the corners and sliding dovetails for the shelves and upright dividers.  All of this can be cut with the Leigh jig. 

I've decided to buy a second router, identical to the first, so I can leave them set up with the proper bits for cutting pins and tails.  The router I'm using, shown in the photo, is a Porter Cable 691, a D-handled router.  I find it easy to handle on the jig, better than a larger router.

While the jig is going to get a lot of use on various projects, the main thing is I'm having fun with it.  And that's what it's all about, isn't it?



  1. You're so cool! I don't suppose I’ve learn something like this before. So nice to find someone with some original ideas on this subject. Really thank you for starting this up. This website is one thing that is needed on the web, somebody with a little bit originality. Helpful job for bringing something new to the internet! porter cable dovetail jig

  2. Norm, just came across your blog today while searching for info about mounting a Veritas twin screw vise. You've got some really good info here thanks for your ideas.
    I've been using a Leigh D4R for a couple years now and love it. Keep up the great work!