Tool Review: Veritas Dovetail Saw Guide


Lee Valley Tools sent out a new product release for a guide used for cutting dovetails. It’s not really a new guide, but a new angle for the guide. The reconfigured Veritas 14Ã?º Dovetail Guide (05T0205) has a 14Ã?º-angle cut instead of the 7Ã?º or 9Ã?º slope that’s associated with the oft-quoted dovetail ratios of 1:8 and 1:6. (For more on my thoughts about dovetail angles, click here or at the bottom of this entry.)

I’ve had occasion to use a 1:6 ratio guide, and although it was for a limited amount of time, I was very impressed with the way the guide held the saw in the correct position for woodworkers. So, I was interested in getting the new design into the shop to evaluate after a lengthier period of use.

The guide is made with an anodized aluminum body and has a 3/4″ rare earth magnet embedded at both ends of the jig. Those magnets grip your saw and hold it at the correct position, angled at 14Ã?º. Each end of the guide is covered with UHMW plastic to protect the jig, and your saw, as you make cuts. The guide and complete instructions come as one package, or you can purchase the guide, instructions and a saw as a second package.

Any saw without a back can be used with the guide and Lee Valley has the saw they recommend (click here to see the guide with that saw), but I had another idea. The Autumn 2007 Woodworking Magazine (issue #8) ran an article discussing flush-cut saws. In that article we listed Lee Valley’s kugihiki (60T06.20) as “highly recommended.” I used this flush-cut saw with the guide and found it worked great. I recommend purchasing the kugihiki and making the saw work double duty as both your dovetail guide saw and your flush-cut saw.

This guide does not automatically produce a dovetail joint. You need an understanding of dovetails at the outset. You’ll need to know the difference between “tails” and “pins” as well as have a certain understanding of layout and what’s the waste side of your layout lines (information provided in the included instructions). With that information at hand, this guide helps improve the quality and accuracy of your cuts.

I’m a “pins first” dovetailer, so naturally I began cutting the pins. This is the only experience I had with the guide earlier and I knew the jig worked great here. I started with a half pin on both ends of my board, then positioned and cut two full pins in between. Once the guide is clamped at a layout line, the saw snapped to the magnet and was held perfectly vertical as I made the 14Ã?º cut. The cut came out perfectly straight. Next, I chopped out the waste to finish my pins and used the pin board as a layout tool for the tails.

A sharp pencil provides tight, accurate lines and that’s exactly what I needed to position the guide. The clamp portion of the guide can be removed and repositioned to cut the tails of the joint, too (see the photo at right). I set the guide so my pencil lines were just covered , that forces you to cut on the waste side of your lines , and made the cuts that define the tails. Clean out the pin waste and the tails portion of the joint is complete. Slide the pins into the tails and the dovetail joint is made. This guide can also be used to cut half-blind dovetails.

To read more about dovetail angles, click here.

, Glen D. Huey

6 thoughts on “Tool Review: Veritas Dovetail Saw Guide

  1. John W Barrett

    Is this thing legal? I hate cutting dovetails so I practice a lot. So, when I saw Glen’s review I ordered one, figuring that I could sleazily return it if I didn’t like it. Well, I now have a lot more free shop time. This tool is so easy and so much (comparative) fun that I indulged in an orgy of cutting and gluing yesterday. I was supposed to be fixing my wife’s file cabinet but …

  2. Justin T.

    Rob,

    Yes, you do sound like a curmudgeon, but that’s okay. I’m only 24, and I look forward to being a curmudgeon myself in about 40 years 😉

    To respond to your concerns, no the jig does not help transfer pins to tails or tails to pins, whichever you do first (I usually cut the tails first, but only because I can pair two boards and cut them at once; like Glen, I find it easier to transfer the marks when cutting pins first). However, once the marks are transferred you set the guide on the lines and go to work. Getting the pins starting right couldn’t possible be simpler.

    I’m sure that with plenty of practice, I could be cutting perfect dovetails freehand in a matter of years. With the Veritas guide, I accomplished the feat in a matter of days.

    Justin

  3. Chris Friesen

    I’m no expert, but some people recommend tails-first because it’s an off-vertical cut and they find it harder to saw accurately to an off-vertical line.

    Going tails-first if you mess up and start the cut at the wrong angle on the tail it’s no big deal…just keep cutting straight and cut the pin to match.

    If you can cut to any line accurately it doesn’t really matter…but I have a day job and a family and don’t get enough hand-saw time in to stay in top form.

  4. Glen

    Hey Rob,

    The area you consider to be the most critical, the transfer of the tails to the pin board, is exactly why I teach cutting the pins first. Once those pins are created, the transfer to the tailboard is so much easier, especially if you work with narrow pins. The wider openings of the tail area allows accurate marking.

    Try it, but remember it will feel more difficult if you’re use to cutting tails first, due to your comfort level and habits. If I switch to tails first, I have a tough time until I’ve cut a few. Walk on the wild side, cut your pins first.

    Glen

  5. Rob Porcaro

    I’m going to sound like a curmudgeon now. I have not even tried the jig but I will not bother to, and here’s why.

    To my mind, the most critical tasks in cutting dovetails (I do tails first) are laying out the transfer of the tails to the pin board, and starting the cut just right for each pin. This jig doesn’t seem like it would help me with either of those tasks.

    One more tool I don’t have to buy. Just my opinion, with all due respect to a great company, Veritas/Lee Valley.

    And go ahead, ask me about honing guides.

    I’ve found that developing eye and hand sensitivity and, above all, practice without fear of making mistakes, are the routes to skill. Have fun.

  6. Justin T.

    I have the Veritas 1:6 dovetail guide, and it’s probably the handiest tool I own. I was cutting nearly perfect dovetails by the third time I used it. Works great on half-blinds, too. I agree with Glen’s advice to avoid the saw that Veritas offers with the guide as a package (it’s what I started off using), but I recommend a ryoba. I use the coarse rip-tooth side, which easily cuts through the stock in about 1/10 as many strokes as a cross-cutting dozuki.

Comments are closed.