Tablesaw Dovetail Jig

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This article is from Issue 75 of Woodcraft Magazine.

No paring necessary. This sled-type jig enables you to make angled tail cuts precisely.

Achieve the look of hand-cut joinery with a machine-made start

Dovetail joinery is an important feature on many of my projects. I like the look of hand-cut dovetails, but the time required to make them is a luxury I often can’t afford. With the dovetail jig shown here, I can duplicate the proportions of hand-cut dovetails with some time-saving help from my tablesaw. 

I always cut the tails first, then use my tail board to lay out the pins. This jig gets the joinery off to a good start, enabling me to make perfect tail cuts. I usually remove the waste between tails using my scrollsaw to cut just outside the base line. Then I pare to the line with a chisel. 

You’ll notice that the jig’s fence includes a T-track with an adjustable stop. If the layout happens to be symmetrical, I set the stop and simply flip the tail board to make my matched cuts. The stop also comes in handy when identical tail boards need to be cut.

Consider a custom-ground blade. To make the most of your dovetail jig, a ripping blade can be ground to leave a flat-bottomed kerf when tilted to make tail cuts with your jig (see Buyer’s Guide, p. 66).

A sled that slides on two runners

My jig has many of the characteristics found on tablesaw crosscut sleds: a pair of runners that slide in the top grooves, a fence set at 90° to the cut line, and a T-track that holds an adjustable stop. To make your own version of this jig, you can stick close to the dimensions given in the drawing, or opt for a broader base and fence to handle larger projects. You’ll have to decide on a tail angle and stick with it, because changing the tilt of the blade will create a wide opening in the base that complicates cut alignment.

Order of Work

  • Cut parts to finished size. Make sure runners slide smoothly in table grooves, but without slop. 
  • Groove main fence for T-track and install the track. 
  • Align base over runners and tack base to runners. If base slides smoothly across table, screw runners to base.
  • Screw front fence to base. With saw blade tilted to planned tail cut angle, cut through base from front to back.
  • Fasten main fence to base with only two screws, using a square to set the fence square to the cutline. Make test cuts and fi ne-tune main fence position if necessary.
  • When main fence position is square to cutline, attach fence permanently with at least four screws.


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