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Keller Dovetail System (Model 1601)

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Keller Dovetail System

Keller Dovetail System

(c) 2006 Chris Baylor licensed to About.com, Inc.

The Bottom Line

Invented and introduced to the market in 1976, the Keller Dovetail System was state of the art, and to craftsmen of the time, probably the woodworking tools' equivalent of the best thing since sliced bread.

That first Keller jig of over thirty years ago is remarkably similar to the product available today. Unfortunately, many other dovetail systems now on the market are much more versatile, and frankly, a better value for the money. However, the ability to cut dovetails in stock of unlimited widths does make this jig worth keeping around. For most woodworking projects, though, it wouldn't be my first choice.


  • Simplicity
  • Can cut dovetails in unlimited widths and lengths of stock
  • Can be used to cut angled dovetails, curved dovetails, box joints & more


  • Cannot cut sliding or blind dovetails
  • Requires a bench vise to hold stock for cutting dovetails


  • The two templates, once properly tuned to their backer blocks, will produce perfectly mating dovetails every time.
  • Adjustable width tails can be cut by simply moving the jig along the board as necessary, then cutting that tail.
  • After the tails are cut, move the tail jig to the pin board and scribe a mark. Then align the pin template to this mark.
  • For repeated dovetails on multiple joints, simply clamp stop blocks onto the backer boards for reference.
  • Be sure to watch the ten-minute DVD, as it provides a perspective that is difficult to obtain from the owner's manual.
  • The Keller jig does not limit the width of the stock to be dovetailed, making it perfect for long dovetailed edges.
  • A previous review of this jig noted that the router bits are purchased separately. This is incorrect; the bits are included.

Guide Review - Keller Dovetail System (Model 1601)

For this review, we tested the Model 1601 Pro Series Dovetail System, a 16-inch wide model. (Keller offers a 24-inch and 36-inch model as well.) The Pro units are made out of precision machined aircraft aluminum alloy, whereas the less-expensive Journeyman models use a phenolic plate. The Pro series includes a 20-year limited warranty, which supports the feeling that the aluminum model is worth the extra cost.

The unit comes with an Owner's Manual, the two jigs (one for tails and the other for pins), mounting screws and a ten-minute DVD. The specialty router bits required for use with the system are included.

I found the Owner's manual to be quite confusing, as it didn't tell me which set of bits I needed to use, nor the steps required for attaching each template to it's own wooden backer block. It would help if the manual were re-written to give the actual steps for setting up the jig before the steps for cutting dovetails. The DVD was a bit more informative and chronological.

You'll need a bench vise to hold the stock for cutting the dovetails. The tail template (with it's backer block) will be clamped to the piece of stock in the vise. You can clamp the tail template anywhere along the stock you like, and proceed to cut the tails.

Cutting the pins is a bit more complicated the first time you use the system. The pin template is attached to the backer block by four screws, which reside in elongated holes. As such, the template will need to be adjusted to ensure it is at the proper location on the block. The only way to determine this is to cut some test pins and see how they fit into the tails, then adjust the template's position on the backer block via these elongated screw holes. The good news is that once you've positioned the pin template in the right spot to match the tail template, you'll never need to adjust it again.
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