Throughout woodworking history, from the ancient pyramids to the present day, when putting two boards together to joint a chest, a box or a drawer, the strongest and best looking joint has always been the dovetail.
Cutting dovetails by hand is an acquired skill. However practiced you are, they still take a lot of time and can be arduous if there’s lots to do. Dovetails sell a piece, but they tend to price themselves out of jobs that really need them.
We set ourselves the task of making a tool that makes dovetails of any kind, that would grace any project of the finest craftsmanship and that would be quick and easy for beginner or expert alike.
A whole new approach
As you can see, the WoodRat looks nothing like a dovetail jig and with good reason. Instead of having finger templates dictating where your dovetails go, you're free to position joints wherever you like across your board. There are no guidebushes as the router is firmly held on plates.
Dovetail jigs tend to make heavy weather of dovetails and the resulting joints look machine made, especially when using tungsten carbide tipped bits. Often they are cumbersome to use and not very accurate. The WoodRat is very different.
Versatile, SImple, Accurate
The unique feature of WoodRat’s dovetailing is the two holding positions on the Sliding Bar. One position under the router on the right for cutting and the other against a free space for positioning marks on the machine, on the left.
If you cut a socket in wood on the right, you can lock it in place over on the left and stencil, with a sharp pencil, a picture of that socket, which is the size and shape of the bit that cut it. That’s "the Mark" on the machine face.
You then have the Mark (the picture of the bit, on the left) and the actual Bit (on the right) fixed in the machine and the two fences holding work under the router (right) and in front of the Mark (left) tracking left and right, fixed and moving together.
You cut the sockets first with a dovetail cutter, running square to the machine face. Place the sockets where you need them, and the parallelogram will mark out your board with equal spacings when you need them.
You then use that cut board as a template for cutting the pins to fit the other board. You make your own templates as you go along. The marking process needs no more than a sharp pencil: the dovetail cutting is done with the machine in one hit, and as you are in control of how you cut, you can virtually eliminate breakout.
Dovetails Great and Small
The WoodRat copes with a huge range of scale, from 8mm to 50mm deep in boards up to 760mm (30") wide. It goes smaller, bigger and wider than any other dovetailer on the market.
Use any Dovetail Cutter
The Spiral Cams allow the router to cut forward at any angle, which means you can cut pins to fit a tail made with any dovetail cutter. We sell an extensive range of high-speed steel bits with the elegant 1in7 slope for classic looking joints as well as extra-fine 1in9 slope cutter for needle-pin draw front dovetails.
Lapped Dovetails For Drawers
We took great pains to ensure that the machine would make proper classic drawers, correct in every detail: so that the back pins are placed differently from the front pins the bottom pin placed above the groove of the drawer and the top one down a little so that the drawer sides can be chamfered to ease entry of drawer into frame.
When making dovetailed drawers, you can mark up the front sockets, cut them, somersault the marker board, mark it up (differently) and then cut the back tail sockets. You can keep the depth setting for the tails the same for the back as for the drawer front which will give a good deep socket to hold onto the back where the back board is light and thin.
The sides can be very thin too, so that the drawers are light but strong.
High end drawers with veneered fronts might need cocked beading to protect the veneered front, and a lock inset into the back of the drawer front could need an inlaid escutcheon. All this is well within the WoodRat’s capability.
A new life for Dovetails
We can promise a boost in productivity at the high end of the trade where dovetails are expected, but take time. Because they are costly to make, modern furniture uses dovetails sparingly, yet drawers can be an exciting part of any project and can sell a piece of furniture if well made, just as a machine-made drawer can badly let down an otherwise fine piece.
But the WoodRat is not just for the skilled craftsman. We can also give the beginner a shift up through the gears. There is nothing to fear and everything to gain from beginning with the WoodRat.