Gazette Archive 3/13/99
by Jim Lunden
Available from: Stots
They blast it!! Their comments: "Tedious to copy template; slow to use". Their winner: the Porter-Cable Omnijig at $275 plus router bits plus optional extras out the wazoo.
Oh Oh! Another dubious investment? Well, I only have invested $39.95 for the template master and another $45 for the router bits.
With my Connecticut home held surely in the grip of a wicked ice storm, lets see how an intermediate woodworker with about two years of experience makes out with the SDTM.
SWMBO is a maniac picture taker. She must have about about 20 packages of developed pictures per year for the 15 years that we have had children. Her filing method is extremely simple - she simply puts them all in cabinet under our TV. That's it. They are just in there. I measure the packages and figure out that a 5 x 7 x 16 inch dovetailed box would help to organize the units.
I have left over 5/4 red oak stock from another project. I resaw these boards into 1/2" thick stock 5 inches wide. I clean up the stock with my jointer and thickness planer and I'm ready to rumble.
The SDTM comes with pretty clear instructions. You attach the plastic template to MDF with screws. Using your drill or drill press you make the initial holes. You then use your pattern cutting router bit to trace the shape of the template onto the MDF. OK - it was tedious but you only have to do this once.
You affix your new template onto a backing board of three glued up pieces of MDF. A few test cuts and you lock the template into place. You now have your very own dovetail jig.
Following the instructions, you first rout out the tails. You then turn the jig around, and change the cutter from the dovetail bit to the straight bit. It is easy to set the depth. Just put two sheets of paper under the router and you lock the bit into place. Next cut the pin pieces.
Because of the structure of the template it is necessary to turn off the router and let it come to a full stop before going to the next cut. I found that my old cheap Black & Decker has the feature of stopping faster than my new Porter-Cable 693. B&D thoughtfully uses really cheap bearings to help solve this problem.
I put the box together. A light tap with my deadblow hammer and the pieces fit together perfectly. Getting them apart was somewhat more difficult. A light coat of glue followed by squaring up with an engineer's square and clamping with my Bessey band clamps created a really decent box.
My investment of $85 for the router bits and SDTM produced a very nice dovetailed box. Two coats of shellac and a 1/4" oak plywood bottom rabbeted into the bottom finished the job. Both SWMBO and I were impressed.
It is now the next day and the ice is still there. I create some more half inch stock - enough for four more boxes. I check the time. I cut the tails and pins for all four boxes in two hours. Not bad.
It seems highly unfair to compare an inexpensive product aimed at the hobbyist with an expensive production system aimed at the professional woodworker. It would be more fair to compare the Stots product and an inexpensive band saw against the Omnijig.
If you want to get started with dovetails at a low price point the Stots Dovetail Template Master may be the lowest cost solution for you. It definitely delivers what it promises.
Editor's Note: the Stott's jig was reviewed several months ago by another member. For further comments, click here.