Is Your Dovetail Jig Confusing?

Small woodshops that only occasionally haul out the dovetail jig to make a few drawers almost all report the same experience. They spend more time re-learning how the jig works and then setting it up than they do actually milling the joinery. It can be very frustrating, but there’s a way around that. Settle on a drawer style, set up the jig, set up a router and never make another adjustment. For example, in the WoodEzine workshop we have a simple MLCS half-blind dovetail jig on the shelf (our retail store sells them, so it’s nice to know how they work).  It’s set up for ½” drawer sides and ¾” drawer fronts and backs. We also have a router with a 14-degree dovetail bit permanently chucked in it and the bit/base is set at the right height. We never make any adjustments. All of our drawers are built the same way, and we’ll change a project slightly to accommodate a design rather than tear down the set-up for our standard drawers. If we need to do something a little unusual, we’ll usually cut those dovetails by hand. The Hitachi-Metabo fixed base 2-1/4 HP router (model M12VCM, we’ve seen it on Amazon for as low as $99) is our shop workhorse and we have several of them on hand, so dedicating one to this task isn’t a problem. Plan on spending a couple of hours setting up the jig (there’s a YouTube video for the MLCS jig), and then running some test parts. Be sure that your test stock is EXACTLY ½” and ¾” thick, so you establish a standard to which you can always adhere. If possible, set up two drawer sides in the jig at the same time so the long clamp doesn’t flex. Of course, some woodworkers will want to experiment with rabbeted or through dovetails and different stock thicknesses, so this system is just for those of us who want to simply repeat the task without having to re-learn, test and set up the whole system every time.