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Porter-Cable 4212 Dovetail Jig Review

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating
User Rating 4.5 Star Rating (2 Reviews)


Porter-Cable 4212 Dovetail Jig

Porter-Cable 4212 Dovetail Jig

(c) 2007 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

The Bottom Line

The Porter-Cable 4212 Dovetail Jig is a fixed-width dovetail system that can cut through dovetails, half blind dovetails, rabbeted half blind dovetails, box joints, sliding dovetails and more. The base and clamping system are excellent, but the adjustments can be tricky and the manual leaves a lot to be desired. However, once you figure out how to adjust the jig and set the depths, you should be able to achieve some very good results.

That being said, the versatility of the jig and the exceptional clamping system make this dovetail jig is a very good value for its middle-of-the-road price.
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  • Very sturdy, well-built aircraft aluminum base
  • Clamping system with sandpaper wood grabs work quite well
  • Versatile - cuts numerous styles of joints


  • Difficult to fine-tune, and must be fine-tuned each use
  • Manual is in need of improvement


  • The unit is very sturdy and strong, and the clamps securely hold the workpiece without marring the finish.
  • Adjustments should be made in tiny increments. Even a quarter-turn can turn a tight joint into an overly loose one.
  • When opening the box, be certain to remove all of the styrofoam, as the bits and guide bushings are beneath the packaging.
  • Be certain to fine-tune the jig each time you use it. Reliance on the previous session's settings could be disastrous.
  • The router bits for this unit are not standard sizes, so you'll likely have a tough time finding third-party replacements
  • The dovetail bit & straight-cutting bit require different collars, so when changing bits, don't forget to change the collar.

Guide Review - Porter-Cable 4212 Dovetail Jig Review

Watching the experts on TV use the Porter-Cable 4212, you'd be inclined to think that you could simply open the box, insert a workpiece & route flawless dovetails.

Not exactly.

While the 4212 does do a fine job on all of the dovetail styles mentioned above, it does take quite a bit of massaging to get there. And don't rely on the manual to a huge help with the job. Instead of walking one through the features and functions, including how & why the jig or depth guides should be adjusted in a specific manner, the subjects seem to be covered in a rather haphazard manner. For instance, I never did read at what depth to set the depth gauges for any particular thickness of stock. I figured it out through trial and error with a few test pieces. The pictures helped more than the text.

Aligning the jig & cutting the tails of my through dovetails seemed easy enough. Simply insert a backer, center the workpiece, adjust the offset guide (for repeatability), install the dovetail bit & collar on the router at the desired depth and cut the tails. Next, flip the template, change the workpiece, switch to the straight-cutting bit (and a different collar) and cut the tails. Now, test to see if the pins & tails fit.

In my case, they were quite tight. So, I adjusted the template what I thought was ever so slightly (1/4 turn on the adjustments) & re-cut the pins and tails. The resulting joint was so loose that it had to be discarded.

After trial and error, I was able to get the fit just right, but switching bits & collars took a long time. I then noticed that when I loosened the knobs that hold the template, I was also loosening the adjustment knobs behind the template. Unfortunately, this appears to be a design issue, preventing consistent repeatability.

As such, be certain to always run a test piece before cutting your project workpieces. Better safe than sorry!
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User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 5 out of 5
Porter Cable 4212 Dovetail Jig, Member Whozure

I also do not understand why so many people in the various woodworking forums complain about the supplied manual with this dovetail jig. I am a beginning woodworker with only 6-8 months experience and bought this jig on a whim then upgrading it to the 4216 jig. After setting it up and reading, or skimming over the directions I should say, in the supplied manual I was able to cut near perfect dovetails after one run through. The jig itself has almost enough printed and etched information on it to cut the dovetails without the manual. I also have the supplemental manual (PDF Online) that gives directions on how to cut various other styles of dovetails and box joints than just the common dovetail in both standard and mini sizes. It also is very easy to understand. I have 4 routers set up and dedicated just for the jig (2 Ridgid Trim for 1/2"" and under stock and two 2-1/4 HP Hitachi for 5/8"" and over stock) so I don't have to keep making bit changes or re-setting the height which may create mismatched joints for some.

8 out of 11 people found this helpful.

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