by Megan Fitzpatrick
If you’re struggling for cut perfection on your dovetails (or you’re just learning to cut this important joint), a magnetic dovetail guide from U.K.-based furniture maker and teacher David Barron is just the ticket.
These guides are made of sturdy anodized aluminum and feature recessed rare-earth magnets – covered by a slick low-friction membrane – on all four sides. Those pull the sawplate tight to the guide as you cut, so as to achieve the desired angle right off the saw.
Sandpaper on the backside helps to hold the guide in place as you cut.
I bought a 1:6, 9.5° guide to test, but there are four other options available: 1:4, 14°; 1:5, 11°; 1:7, 8° and 1:8, 7°.
In order to provide the bearing surface to guide your cut, this appliance stands 11⁄8″ above the workpiece – that means it reduces the usable blade depth of your saw by the same, and it won’t work with every saw (in fact, all of my Western dovetail saws are too narrow to use with this guide on thicker stock, and I had to use just the end of my pull saw for the last few strokes). Keep that in mind and choose your accompanying saw accordingly. You’ll need a usable sawplate depth of at absolute minimum 17⁄8″ for 3⁄4″-thick material, and with as little set as possible so the plate can ride flush to the guide as you cut.
In use, the guide is easy to hold in place with finger pressure, and the magnets hold the plate plenty tight to it.
I followed the included instructions, cutting all my slopes on the right side of the jig (I’m right-handed), flipping the board to cut the second half of the tails. I found the process a little unwieldy and slower than I’m used to, so it was rather like cutting dovetails for the first time – yet despite my discomfiture, I was able to produce perfect joints. The guide works as advertised.