Photos by Rob Brown
Through dovetails are a traditional addition to any piece of furniture. When made properly, dovetail joints are very strong and look great. The hard part is cutting these joints accurately enough to look and function properly. If you’re an experienced craftsperson who has hand cut many through dovetail joints over the years, you’ll be able to do so quickly and effectively. If you’re not a trained professional, and don’t have hundreds of hours to spend on refining your skills, the result will likely look somewhat sloppy and joint strength will be reduced.
Dovetail jigs, like those from Leigh and many other manufacturers, are absolutely fantastic. Most quality dovetail jigs will have you building through or half-blind dovetails, variable spaced pins and tails, and a few other variations once you’re familiar with the ins and outs of the jig. But to gain that level of familiarity, you’ll have to put in some serious practice time. While Leigh’s TD330 will only machine through dovetails, it brings simplicity, accuracy and a cost-effective approach to making this time-honored joint.
Within 30 minutes of taking this jig out of the box (Leigh sent me a 1-1/2″ thick MDF beam to mount the jig to, so you will have to factor in a small amount of time to make one for yourself) I created my first through dovetail joint. Once I was set up, each additional joint added only a couple of minutes to the process. Now that I understand the simple process, setup time will be cut in half. That literally brought a smile to my face. I was sold. I’ve always shied away from dovetail jigs as I find them too complex, but this dovetail jig is too simple to ignore.
The TD330 will allow you to quickly and accurately create through dovetail joints with boards between 1/8″ and 13/16″ thick, and up to 12-7/8″ wide. I wish the jig could handle wider workpieces, but to be honest, most of my usage with this jig is taken care of. You can even join boards of differing thicknesses. There’s no way to vary the spacing of the dovetails, but it’s super easy to center the pins and tails on whatever width workpiece you’re dealing with. Some board widths are going to produce dovetails that aren’t visually spaced properly, though the joints will still be bombproof. This is the main downside of the jig, but far from a deal breaker. As long as you have a bit of flexibility to resize your drawer heights and carcass widths to work within the jig’s spacing, you won’t have any problems. For the ultimate in through dovetail construction, reach for Leigh’s larger and even more flexible jigs.
Although the jig is machined accurately, the real magic happens with Leigh’s e10 eBush guide bushing. This is what provides users with the ability to fine-tune joint fit and dial in on perfection with ease. The 1-3/8″ diameter guide bushing fits the vast majority of router base plates, as that’s the industry standard.
The TD330 can be used in a router table if the need arises. The quality carbide bits are long lasting and can be purchased separately down the road, if needed, though they will blast through a ton of joints before that’s necessary. There’s a five-year warranty on all Leigh jigs.
As I mentioned, I’ve always been a bit tentative when it came to dovetail jigs as they can be pretty complex, but suddenly I have a desire to make a seven-drawer dresser. Through dovetail joints will not only be featured heavily, they will be perfectly made, stronger than you can imagine and crafted with surprising ease.
Rob is a studio furniture maker and the editor at Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement.