Inside the Leigh Dovetail Jig Manual
Its well-illustrated, industry-leading truth
Text & photos by Tom Hintz
Posted - 12-17-2008
The Leigh Dovetail Jigs have been highly respected and outright lusted after by woodworkers for many years. Their high-end quality and versatility are surpassed only by their ability to create perfect dovetail joints over and over again. Even more remarkable for many users is how easy the Leigh Dovetail Jig is to use. A large factor is the instruction manual Leigh supplies with their dovetail jigs. I have long touted the Leigh Dovetail Jig manual as the finest there is in woodworking. I suspect that it would hold the same stature in many other fields as well. Nonetheless, it does have a small but vocal group of detractors.
Under the Covers
The 168-page Leigh Dovetail Jig instruction manual is full of high-quality illustrations that make using this jig much easier. More importantly, the illustrations are printed in a large enough scale that normal eyes can clearly see the details without magnification. Because Leigh uses so many illustrations and presents them in a useable scale, the page count goes up. When combined with the sheer quality of the writing, high-quality paper, high-end printing processes and the quality of the graphics, the cost of producing the Leigh manual goes up dramatically. That additional cost is an automatic deal breaker for so many manufacturers who opt for manuals (or sheets) that are as small and "cost-effective" (for them) as they can slide by their legal advisors.
Leigh chose to make their manual whatever size was needed to present remarkably clear step-by-step instructions for the various joints the Leigh Dovetail Jig is capable of making. They also include a full Hints & Tips section that presents easy to follow solutions for common dovetail-related problems that more often come from using a spinning cutter than their jig. Things like how to move the router through the jig to reduce tearout are clearly illustrated and explained. Leigh obviously spent a lot of time thinking about and then producing this manual to best help their customers.
There will always be some people who simply do not like a product regardless of how well it is made or even because of how well it is made. The Leigh Dovetail Jig and its instruction manual are not immune. I recently saw an Internet forum discussion about dovetail jigs in which the Leigh instruction manual was called "incomprehensibly complicated". Another poster called the Leigh illustrations "schematics", suggesting this manual would benefit only those who enjoy reading schematics. It should also be noted that very often comments like this spring forth from people who do not own Leigh Dovetail Jig, perhaps because they were able to "divine" it's lack of worthiness in their world. One of the freedoms enjoyed by Internet forum posters is being able to blast whatever product using whatever exaggeration or hysteria best supports their point of view. It is up to the readers to filter through the noise to find the information they need or at least applies to the discussion.
We have to realize that among us will be a few people who never do get the hang of using a dovetail jig, as can be said about any woodworking tool. No product or design will satisfy everyone or there would only be one manufacturer of each type of tool. There are also some that believe all dovetail jigs should cost $39.99 yet all should function equally well and be made with the same engineering and materials. The real world must be a frustrating place for them.
I think it is also important to remember a percentage of any population, woodworking included may never quite get the hang of using toilet paper, Yo-Yo's or hammers. It would seem plausible that using a dovetail jig, even a great one, might be frustrating for them as well.
The Leigh Dovetail Jig instruction manual is the best written, best illustrated I have ever seen. For everyone but the aforementioned toilet paper and Yo-Yo deficient group the Leigh Dovetail Jig manual is complete, user-friendly and anything but complicated. Most of the folks living in a level universe will appreciate how the Leigh Dovetail Jig instruction manual shows them how to make perfect joints and how to deal with the occasional problems that might arise. I am not foolish enough to believe that the Leigh Dovetail Jig instruction manual is absolutely perfect but I am convinced it is closer to that unattainable goal than anyone else's - and by a considerable margin.
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