Dovetails with a Leigh R9 jig

Ahhh, dovetails. How can you go wrong with such a classic joint?

Oh, wait, never mind… My efforts to hand cut them have met with disaster, ridicule and – at last count – no fewer than 14 petition drives to get me to quit woodworking entirely.

So, when I need that tried-and-true joint in my work, I turn to the router and a jig. As I had written Monday, I’m a project kind of woodworker… not a process guy. I do pay close attention to how I woodwork, but I’m not about to take weeks during a project to hand-cut dovetails when I can blast ’em out on a jig.

For years, my go-to jig has been my Keller Journeyman. I love the heck out of it – and have abused the heck out of it as well. I’ve lifted the router out of the cut too many times, tearing up the phenolic body terribly.

My Kehoe jig is awesome, giving me great dovetail splines. Sometimes, though, they do look a little out of place on a more traditional piece, so I need another option.

That’s when David Venditto of Infinity Cutting Tools asked me if I wanted to try the new Leigh R9 jig. Always game for a challenge, I took him up on the offer. And, I have to say I was thoroughly impressed.

The jig comes flat packed with everything you need to get it working, except for the wood needed to create a beam for the jig to ride on. Accuracy when building this beam is critical. My beam has a piece of construction 2 x 6 southern yellow pine backing and an MDF two-part face. The bottom part is a permanent fixture to the piece, while the top part of the fence is a sacrificial fence for the router bit to ride into, preventing tear out.

The hardware with the kit is top-notch. It even comes with a pair of clamps you can use to secure your workpiece in place as you rout. The plate that guides the router is made of a heavy-duty aluminum etched with the necessary markings on top. It took a little time studying the manual to get an idea of what everything was used for, but, once I read up on it, things when smoothly.

Instead of a router bearing, the jig uses an eccentric guide bushing that allows you to really fine-tune the fit of your pins and tails. Those adjustments are in the order of thousandths of an inch… critical measurements when it comes to cutting this tightly-fitting joints.

Not only does the jig allow you to cut dovetails, it also comes completely equipped to cut box joints as well. All of the proper bits are included. Very handy stuff.

The manual is really where this baby shines. Leigh has spent a lot of time carefully laying out a well-written, fully-illustrated guide that will show you step-by-step how to assemble and cut with the jig. Believe me, if an ‘accuracy challenged’ guy like me can work with it, anyone can!

While I have always shied away from very expensive dovetailing jigs (some of Leigh’s offerings can really stretch the woodworking budget a lot farther than it can go), the R9 is a solid offering from Leigh that is available at a reasonable price point. And, given the cost of quality dovetail saws and chisels these days, you might just find it more economical to cut your dovetails this way instead of the old school method.


6 thoughts on “Dovetails with a Leigh R9 jig”

  1. My old Keller jig is suffering the same wear & tear as yours.
    That Leigh R9 might be something to look in to.
    Being able to cut box joints as well is pretty cool.

  2. More than 15 years ago, I beat up my first router jig the same way as you, except it was pretty cheap; no heavy duty plastic (the store I bought it from starts with an “S”). I have been wanting a new one, I’ll give the R9 a look see.

  3. Tom,
    My experience with this jig was mixed. You can see my review of it on Lumberjocks. As a beginner with dovetailing, I found a pretty steep learning curve with this jig. It ended up to give me acceptable results, but due to it`s fixed spacing nature, I found a better solution using a router table and manualy marking off the dovetail layout I needed. My 2 cents.

  4. The R9 kit does not allow you to cut box joints as you claim. You have to buy an accessory kit to do that.

  5. What I want to know is what thickness of material can it cope with. I tried to buy a Keller on-line, but I couldn’t get the website to realise I live in UK; so assume Keller doesn’t serve the UK!

    Will the Leigh cut dovetails in 1 inch thick material straight out of the box, or do I have to buy cutters on top of the basics included with the package?

    Thanks my friend

    John W

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