Best Dovetail Jigs – 2021 Round-up Review

| Last Updated: January 30, 2021

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The dovetail is the most recognized joint in woodworking. But just as much as it stands out when done to perfection, it definitely draws the attention when you do it wrong. Luckily, there’s a sure way to get perfect dovetail joints every time: using the best dovetail jig.

Want to find out how to choose it and how to use it to its fullest? Join us in this best dovetail jig buying guide.

​Snapshot​! Best ​Dovetail Jigs

​In a hurry? Here are our top picks​:

Best Overall
Best Cheap Dovetail Jig

Comparison Chart of the ​Best Dovetail Jigs


Our Rating


Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig

​Best Overall

WoodRiver Dovetail Jig


Woodstock D2796

Best Cheap Dovetail Jig

Timber Tuff TMW-56

Best Chainsaw Dovetail Jig

General Tools 861

Best Easy Sliding Dovetail Jig

Porter-Cable 4216 Dovetail Jig

Best Porter-Cable Dovetail Jig

What is Dovetail Jig and What is it Used For? 

Dovetail joints have been used since the time of Egyptians. For the most part, it was all a hard work of carving the wood with a mallet and a chisel. More recently, as cutting methods evolved, manually doing the cuts and trying to make them fit was still hard.

Nowadays, thanks to the dovetail jig, one will simply use a router bit to cut the pieces that will join together. The tool that guides the router is what we call a dovetail jig, and it makes a world of difference in easing your work and ensuring accuracy with your dovetail joints.

How Does a Dovetail Jig Work? 

The dovetail jig is nothing but a pattern you apply to the workpiece, so you’ll know exactly what to cut. And it gives you the instruments to keep the template securely in place and to adjust the size of the joint cuts to fit your needs.

Any woodworker might eventually need it, especially when handling projects that require super-strong joints. The dovetail jig saves a considerable amount of time, spares you from frustration, and it helps you create secure, accurate, and elegant joints.

What to Look For When Buying a Dovetail Jig 

The best dovetail jigs aren’t necessarily budget-friendly. And since you’re determined to make this investment, because you want and need a reliable dovetail jig, you’d better keep these criteria in mind:

What’s In The Box

While the dovetail jig is a template, you’ll soon find out that it needs some accessories. The more of these you’re getting in the box, the more profitable your investment will prove. The minimum you should look for is two templates – for through and half-blind joints – along with a router bit, a guide bushing, and a shank.

Variable Templates

Basic dovetail jigs only give you a fixed template with minimum adjustment options. While those are easy to set up and convenient for a beginner, you might want to consider a jig with a variable template. The latter has adjustable guide fingers that let you modify the width of the tails and the spacing between them, resulting in unique joints that give a hand-made impression.


If you plan on using it a lot but can’t tell the nature of your projects in advance, it’s best to pick one with a more generous capacity. Usually, dovetail jigs can hold workpieces of up to 12 inches. Consider your options and decide if you’re ok with this capacity or if you need something bigger.

Quick Take: Best ​Dovetail Jigs

Hoping to cut right to the chase? Below are the best ​dovetail jigs:

  1. ​Best Overall: Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig
  2. ​Runner-up: WoodRiver Dovetail Jig
  3. Best for the Money: Woodstock D2796

Benefits of Investing in a Quality Dovetail Jig 

By now, you should know the differences between the most generous offers and the ones with minimal features and utility. Investing in a quality dovetail jig is important for at least the following reasons:

You Get An All-In-One Tool

With more than one template at hand and all the other accessories required, the only thing that will set your limits in what you can achieve is your imagination. When the jig comes with templates, router bits and other miscellaneous, you can get to work on the spot.

You Can Skip The Marking

It’s a hassle to get the markings right when you manually cut workpieces for a dovetail joint. But with an adjustable jig that lets you set up the width of the tail and the depth of the joints, you will be able to adjust the template in a jiffy and start cutting without having to mark anything.

You Get Accurate Joints

Dovetail joints are notorious for their sturdiness, as they are interlocking, have a large gluing surface, look elegant, and will resist any attempt at pulling it apart. But if the work isn’t accurate, all these advantages will not be achievable. With a quality jig, you can avoid this.

Review of the Best Dovetail Jigs 

Knowing why you need it and what to look for won’t solve the biggest challenge, which is choosing the best dovetail jig. However, by taking a closer look at the following best-rated products that we carefully reviewed for you, you’ll be able to get a clear sense of the best offerings and even decide for one of them on the spot:

​Best Overall:
​Rockler Complete Dovetail Jig


  • Designed to allow perfect offset
  • Convenient, easy to use clamping bars
  • Has a depth gauge for half-blind joints
  • Features presets for standard stock thicknesses
  • Comes with a dedicated port for vac hose connection


  • Only for routers with 1/2-inch collet
  • 8mm collet reducer tends to get stuck

Our Review

By far the best choice you can make for such a jig is Rockler’s Complete Dovetail Jig. Easy to use, always ready to provide consistent and reliable cuts, it will help you make dovetail joints like no other. Just so you know, it works for either through or half-blind dovetails and can accommodate stock of up to 11 inches in width.

The unit comes with a depth gauge, already preset for half-blind cuts, and a one-piece stop helping with setting the offset as needed. Adding the clamping bars that are extremely comfortable and intuitive to use, you’ll enjoy the process through it all.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

This tool provides consistent results, which is extremely important when it comes to woodworking. What’s more, Rockler designed it to facilitate dust collection, and it can work with pretty much any shop vac hose. Getting rid of the dust while cutting is yet another precious benefit it provides.

​WoodRiver Dovetail Jig


  • Designed to route both sides at once
  • Includes a half-blind dovetail template
  • Accommodates a wide range of stock sizes
  • Provides intuitive, easy to follow instructions
  • Comes with a router bit and other accessories


  • Not designed with or for dust collecting
  • Through dovetail template must be purchased separately

Our Review

WoodRiver’s dovetail jig sized for 12-1/2-inch wood can make an almost just as good choice as our best overall selection. If a Rockler is out of your budget, you’ll want to give this runner up some thorough consideration, and won’t regret it. You’ll get the jig and a 1/2-inch x 14-degree router bit, a 7/16-inch template guide bushing and lock nut combo, plus a 1/4-inch shank.

The instructions on using all these are more than clear. You have the half-blind dovetail template in the box with the option to buy a through template separately. And the stock you can work on can have any thickness from 1/2 to 1 inch.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

If the RiverWood name doesn’t ring a bell to you, perhaps you’ll be happy to find that it falls under the Woodcraft umbrella. Coming from America’s leading supplier of power tools, it will win your confidence in an instant. Rest assured, it delivers as expected.

​Best Cheap Dovetail Jig:
Woodstock D2796


  • Easily cuts half-blind dovetails
  • Provides good value for the money
  • Comes with a sturdy aluminum template
  • Heavy enough to ensure stability during cutting
  • Simple but effective cam-action clamping mechanisms


  • Some occasional quality control issues reported
  • Guide bushing, router bit and shank sold separately

Our Review

Whether you rarely need to craft dovetail joints or don’t need a full package, a cheap model like this one from Woodstock will do it. For a more than reasonable price, you’ll get a nice jig specifically designed for half-blind cut on stock of 1/2- to 1-1/4-inch width and 12 inches length.

Note that you’ll only get the dovetail in the box, so it’s best if you already have router bits, guide bushings, and shanks of your own to keep the investment to a minimum. Otherwise, the system is as good as any other, featuring the classic cam clamps that let you secure the wood and work on it.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

For such an accessible dovetail jig, this tool is sturdy and built to last. It has a stamped steel construction that makes it not only strong, but also rigid and stable. And so, you can count on its durability in spite of the really small price tag.

​Best Chainsaw Dovetail Jig:
Timber Tuff TMW-56


  • Allows easy and fast setup
  • Comes at an affordable price
  • Resistant to wear and heavy use
  • Powder-coated to resist corrosion
  • Compact design for easy transport


  • Only 1-year limit warranty for parts
  • No user instructions in the package

Our Review

Timber Tuff strikes a great balance of quality and affordability with this lumber cutting guide. So, the TMW-56 makes a solid choice as a chainsaw dovetail jig, ready to help you gulp at 2 x 6 inches milled boards. And the fact that it still leaves your chainsaw available for other cuts too is something you’ll soon appreciate.

Made of heavy-duty steel with a durable powder-coat finish, it will certainly stand the test of time. If you’re interested, you can buy it as a pack with multiple pieces, or as a single tool pack – whatever will fit your needs best!

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

This chainsaw milling attachment makes a great choice for anyone who wants to cut his own lumber and make the most of it. It’s a super-simple yet extremely useful and practical jig. And once you get the grasp of it, you’ll want to leave it on and use it anytime you have the chance.

​Best Easy Sliding Dovetail Jig:
General Tools 861


  • Features a practical self-aligning design
  • Can cut either half-blind or through dovetail joints
  • Simple and compact, ready to use out of the box
  • Makes a good choice for novices and professionals
  • Portable and convenient to carry anywhere you need it


  • Setup may take some trial and error
  • Aluminum body tends to bend when tightened too much

Our Review

General Tools catches the eye with this easy sliding dovetail jig, an all-in-one woodworking tool that helps cut strong and precise joints the moment you take it out of the box. Apart from the 861 dovetail jig, the package includes a 1/2-inch, 14-degree router bit for dovetail cuts. You’re free to use it with both hand-held and table routers, whatever works for you.

Built to last, as a one-piece aluminum body, with built-in clamps for solidly securing the workpiece, it is adjustable and convenient to work with. For cabinet making or furniture building, this set of portable dovetail jig with router bit is highly versatile.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

The dovetail jig will work on any board width and is easily adjustable for creating joints as loose or as tight as you need. What’s more, it has a self-align design, meaning that both ends of the joint will align to perfection, every time you use it. 

​Best Porter-Cable Dovetail Jig:
Porter-Cable 4216 Dovetail Jig


  • Ensures high accuracy with every cut
  • Template is machined, aluminum-made
  • Designed with instruments that allow a quick setup
  • Comes with lots of useful templates in the package
  • Lets you set the depth of the cuts without measuring


  • Not ideal for shorter pieces
  • Not the most budget-friendly option

Our Review

Porter-Cable is one manufacturer that needs no introduction, and if you’re looking for their best dovetail jig, this mini template kit will stand out. In the package, you get not one but three different templates. Noticing how easy it is to align the templates and set the router bit depth, you’ll instantly fall for this particular jig.

To secure the workpiece, you have the classic cam-type clamps, only that they’re made of heavy-duty steel. The locking bars are sandpaper backed, and the entire system facilitates a firm grip. Easy to set up and to adjust, it still has a thorough user manual, just in case you’ll need extra guidance.

What Makes This Product Stand Out?

Out of the box, it is fully equipped with templates for cutting half-blind and rabbeted half-blind dovetails, sliding dovetails, through dovetails, miniature through dovetails, box joints and miniature box joints. It’s a tool that will suit a wide range of woodworking projects and really help you make your work look more professional without too much effort.

​Dovetail Tips, Tricks, and Hacks for Success

So, the dovetail jig makes your job easy. But what if there are things you can do to make working with the jig even easier? As always, there are some tips, tricks, and hacks that can help you enjoy the work more. Here are a few of them: 

Choose Its Position Wisely

With the jig being so simple to use, it’s often tempting to just place it on whatever workbench you have at hand. But for the best results and comfort during operation, you’d better take a little extra time to set it up in the perfect position. Put it somewhere at comfortable working height for you, and make sure it gives you a clear view of the cut. 

Avoid The Drag

With the jig mounted and the workpiece clamped, you’ll have to start pushing the router to slide along the template markings. Make this process even easier by adding just a little bit of paraffin – canning wax – on top of the comb. 

Work With A Centering Cone

A centering cone is a small accessory you can use to make sure that the bit will sit precisely at the center of the bushing. When you ignore this aspect, and the bit isn’t well centered, you risk getting inconsistent cuts. And you might blame it on the jig when it’s actually the bit. So, make sure you set it up right, with a centering cone. 

Work With Climb Cuts

A climb cut is a shallow cut that you make with the router from right to left, which is the opposite direction than what you normally do. With this climb cut in place, you can then proceed to the actual cutting from left to right, considerably reducing the risks of tear inside the joint.

How to Set Up and Use a Dovetail Jig 

Cutting dovetail joints is straightforward, once you set up the jig. But how exactly are you supposed to do that? Let us show you the process step by step.

  • Place the tail piece with its front part facing the jig and bring it to the position where it almost touches the fingers of the template.

  • Grab the pin piece and place it on the jig, using it as a spacer to determine the depth of the cuts for the tail piece.
    • At this stage, it is best that you add a second pin piece to the jig, on the opposite side, just to balance the setting.

  • Lock down the two pin pieces with the clamps and drop down the template.

  • Then you can slide up the tail piece until it touches the fingers of the template.

  • Lock down the tail piece with the clamp.

  • Put the dovetail bit on your router, making sure you set it up in the right position to match the depth of the joint cut.

  • Proceed to cut the tail piece.

  • Take out the workpieces and reverse them, placing two tail pieces where you first had the pin pieces.

  • Take out the template, flip it, and put it back.

  • Swap the bit you first used to a straight bit, for cutting the pin pieces.

  • After adjusting the straight bit to the optimal length for your project, start the cutting by plunging the bit on the left-hand side of the pin whole you’re cutting.

  • Gradually move to the right, and continuing with a back-and-forth movement until you eat up all the material.

  • With a tail and a pin piece cut, you can set up your dovetail joint.

If the cuts are too narrow or too wide and you either can’t match the pieces or are too loosened, you must reposition the template, moving it backward or forward.

If you see that the tails or the pins are recessed or proud, you’ll have to adjust the depth of the router bit, checking the instructions from the user manual.

But with a little bit of practice, things should turn out just fine. To get an even more detailed perspective of the steps you need to follow, watch this video:

Types of Dovetail Joints

While a dovetail joint is supposed to be a finger-like interlocking joint, there’s more than one way to do it. Among the most popular types of dovetail joints, you have the through, the half-blind, and the secret mitered dovetail. Here’s what each one implies:

Through Dovetail

This is the simplest, most common method of setting up a dovetail. The finger-like interlocking method used with this type of dovetail joint will lead to a joint whose details can be easily seen from all directions. Any way you look at the joint, you’ll be able to see its pins and tails from all sides. It’s quite often used with joining corners for cabinets, boxes, frames, and other objects.

Half-Blind Dovetail

The half-blind dovetail is a bit more subtle, as its tails are actually housed in sockets. The board from the front of the furniture piece will feature these sockets where the tails will snug in. And so, the joint will not be visible when you look at the furniture piece from its front. Fastening drawer fronts and drawer sides are common applications of half-blind dovetail joints.

Secret Mitered Dovetail

Just like the name suggests, this is the most complex and difficult to set type of dovetail joint. That’s because it makes use of the features that give a dovetail the strength it is popular for. But it also keeps the joint completely hidden. Whether you look at it from the inside or outside, the dovetails will be invisible. This type of internal joint is preferred for the fanciest cabinets.


Dovetails are often considered a sign of distinguished craftsmanship. They are particularly sturdy, and they require no hardware fasteners, which make them a special type of joint. To master the art of shaping such joints, a dovetail jig is a must-have. And with this buying guide at your disposal, nothing will stop you from picking the best jig you can find!

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