“The old Man and The Dovetail”


As time has passed I have resigned myself to the fact that I am indeed not moving the way I once was able to.


My back, shoulders, knees, hips, all are beginning to whisper into my ear that I am growing older and should rethink how I go about using my body during the course of a normal day.


My hands especially have been a problem. They began giving my issues in my 30’s, and will, from time to time, really make doing fine detailed work difficult. Hand cutting joinery has become especially vexing. While I am certainly still able to do the work, I find that operations like cutting multiple drawers  worth of dovetails are sure to cause soreness and regret the next day.

Thus, I have decided to lay aside my foolish pride. I surrender to the passage of time. I am now in the prime of life, but I have also grown wise enough to begin thinking about my longevity. Longevity both in the big picture, watch what you eat, stop drinking, settle down, get exercise sense of the word, but also longevity in the , “I want to be working wood late into my golden years sense of the word too.”

So then, in keeping with my desire to preserve my hands ability to work wood, I have decided that the addition of a simple dovetail jig to my arsenal is required.

I have used many variations on the dovetail jig theme. All left me reaching for a scribe, a back saw, and a chisel. The joints, while functional and accurate, were soulless and drab. Just no fun at all.

Recently, while doing my normal, maniacal, researching of a proposed too I want to buy, I ran across this:




This little honey is the Prazi 3900  “Chestmate” dovetail jig. It is simple. It makes clean, very accurate, high quality through dovetails. (among other features I will discuss later in this post)

While there are any number of high quality dovetail jigs available, they are aimed mostly at drawer building. Making multiple drawers fast and accurately. They are also really, really expensive. Despite  their cost, they are highly regarded, and are a key tool to have if you do a lot of drawers.

It is true that I do build pieces that will require drawers.However, I do not do large scale “kitchen size” projects from The Tiny Shop, and I hope not to have to. if I were to take on a large scale project that required many drawers, the smart thing to do is to farm out the drawer building to a local craftsman who specializes in drawers and cabinet doors. They can do it faster, with more efficiency and for a cost lower than I can if I did them myself.

So why would I need a dovetail jig you ask?

Simple, I like to join my casework together with dovetails(usually). It is a heroically strong joint, and through dovetails lend a little spice to the visual effect of the piece when left exposed.

I settled on this particular jig for a number of reasons.

First, due to it’s clever design, it can be used to produce variably spaced dovetail pins and tails. This feature allows for even more visual dialogue at the corners of the piece.

Second, it is not limited by its design to only the width of body like other dovetail jigs. The largest I have seen prior to finding the Chestmate, was Leigh’s  24″ and porter Cable’s similar dovetail jig, the Omnijig.

Both allow for fabulous joints, but I often want to cut the dovetails in boards that can exceed that width limitation.

So, I have found a suitable jig that can help me cut variably spaced through dovetails. It can be used to cut dovetails for drawers as well, though not specifically for production level volume. This is fine with me. If the day comes that I find myself in need of a jig that can do dovetails at production volume levels, I will need to rethink my business model.

In addition to dovetails, this little jig also makes finger joints, and much to my delight, I can also configure the jig to cut mortises.

This last one is HUGE.

Because I am avoiding any unnecessary marital friction, I am trying my very hardest NOT to go on impromptu shopping sprees. Those who know me well know that i am prone to buying tooling because….well….because I GOTTA HAVE IT!!!

Having this particular jig will allow for me to avoid buying a dedicated mortiser….for now.

I can use this jig and my router to cut needed mortises. It is a wonderful compromise……for now.


2 thoughts on ““The old Man and The Dovetail”

  1. Christine McBride

    How does the Prazi 3900 “Chestmate” dovetail jig compare in price to dovetail jigs aimed mostly at drawer building?


    1. madcapwoodwright Post author

      It’s a fraction of the cost of a Leigh jig or Omni jig,(the two most widely used.)
      $159 vs. $500+)
      Add to that that I got it heavily discounted, and it was a no brainer.
      Just need to start using it now. it has a bit of a learning curve to be efficient, but still easier than those other two.



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