A few weekends ago, I ended up proving a point to myself without really setting out to do it. I needed to make a couple of boxes, and I wanted a quick but elegant solution for joining the corners together.
As it turns out, I’ve been a little delinquent lately in getting my tool test tools returned to their proper owners. It’s been pretty busy here in the shop since Christmas, and those shipping tasks keep getting pushed further down my to-do list. So, I still have the Keller 1601 Pro Series Dovetail Jigs here from our December ’09 dovetail jig review. My bad, but actually, a good coincidence.
At the end of that article, I gave Keller our “Best Bet” tool award and made the following claim:“The sheer simplicity of this system makes dovetailing both accurate and fun. I’m confident that with these templates, I could lose the manual and still be cutting perfect dovetails in minutes.”
There was the gauntlet I unknowingly laid down for myself.
Fast forward to my recent weekend project. With workpieces at the ready, it occurred to me that the Keller system would be a good way to go for this little weekend project. But, the manual for the jig was in the house, and that’s about a football field away from my shop. It was cold and wet out, and I wasn’t walking all the way back to the house to fetch the manual. Time to test my own claim.
I set up the jigs—which as you’ll remember are just two plates of aluminum. One for the pins and the other for the tails. I chucked up the piloted straight and dovetail bits that come with the jigs. And, most importantly, I attempted to recall from memory how to use them. They’re simple, you see. I said that in print.
Turns out, these jigs are just as simple to use as I remember. I haven’t used them since last fall. According to my shop clock, in 27 minutes I went from pulling the jigs out of the box to completing the first of eight dovetail joints. By no special skill of my own, the “test” joint was a push fit on the first try. The other seven joints turned out just as good.
While, in reality, it took me more than “a few minutes” to knock out that first joint, I didn’t need the manual. That’s how well made and transparent these jigs really are to understand. Two plates, two router bits and a simple process are all it takes to make what can otherwise be a very tricky joint.
What a pleasure it is when a tool works this well.
If you are considering buying a dovetail jig this year, again I’ll say, these Keller jigs are a solid choice.
Catch you in the shop,
Chris Marshall, Field Editor