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Dovetail machines

Family Man

This next year we are going to bring all woodworking back into our shop and cease outsourcing. Iíve got everything else pinned down but dovetail drawers still need some work. Does anyone have experience with the Grizzly dovetail machines? How much quicker are they then a jig? Iíve never seen a dovetail machine run and really donít know much. Any helpful info is much appreciated. Thank you

12/14/19       #2: Dovetail machines ...
MarkB Member

If I were looking to do anything in that realm the "G" word would never be on my list. You could get a 20X better machine on the machinery exchange here, IRS, 360, etc.. That would be a hook I would never want to hang my hat on if it were something I needed to rely on.

There have been a bunch of killers come up lately that would all put world of hurt on that comparison.

12/14/19       #3: Dovetail machines ...
Leo G Member

Well I bought the "G" machine and I am very pleased with it. I had an issue with one of the clamps when it arrived. The casing was milled out of square and tipped the board a bit. I told them, they sent me a new one and didn't even ask for the old one to be returned.

I setup the G0611X machine which was the toughest part, getting it perfect.

But now that it's setup it's very easy to make a drawer.

I do mostly Baltic Birch drawers so the bits don't last as long as if I was using maple. Makes a nice drawer pretty quick. I don't see any deficiencies in the way the machine was built.

It can do a 7 1/4" drawer in two passes. If you go taller than that it will take 4 passes and you'll have to do it like you would on a hand type router jig, one corner at a time.

I usually do my cutting with the rotation of the bit to keep the plywood from delaminating which can happen when the bit starts to dull. You can go against the rotation with solid wood even though I don't.

If you are doing a kitchen a week or more I'd opt for the auto machine which I don't think Grizzly has.

12/14/19       #4: Dovetail machines ...
Karl E Brogger  Member


I have the automatic Cantek version.

It's no faster than a jig and router at cutting parts, but while it's cutting you can clear parts from it, get the next ones ready. It removes a lot of potential for human error. Your fricking hands aren't still buzzing at dinner time.

I wouldn't bother with a manual one. Too much money with not enough return in my opinion. Same with anything Grizzly, way too expensive for what you get. It may be the same castings as the Cantek but they'll put in the cheapest switches, use the cheapest wire, cheapest motors, cheapest pneumatics. Cantek isn't exactly awesome stuff either, but it's a reasonable value for what you pay.

If you're really producing, the Mereen Johnson cnc one is the way to go.

12/14/19       #5: Dovetail machines ...
rich c.

The perfect response about Grizzly. "I'm very pleased with the Grizzly." "I only needed to get 2 machines to get a good one. When Grizzly first started the business, their customer response card always asked, "Based on the price, did the machine meet your expectations?" Even then the machines were definitely hit or miss, but since it was cheap, were you willing to do the machine repair and wait for replacements?

12/14/19       #6: Dovetail machines ...
Leo G Member

It's a clamp, easily replaceable and they sent it out rush. It's doubtful they could have know about the 0.015 difference in the milling. They took care of the small issue right away and it's been perfect since.

I think that says a lot about the company taking care of their customers.

The Cantek machine is $1000 more and for that kind of money I'll wait the 2 1/2 days for a new part. My machine wasn't even completely setup at that point. I was still tuning it in to the last thousandth.

12/14/19       #7: Dovetail machines ...
Ken Member

Just keeping asking and looking at brands but if there is any way you can get to Atlanta this year, go. Seeing equipment up close and personal is one of the ways to really get a feel for the machine and the dealers behind it. I went to AWFS this year and I'm still thinking about it and I hear Atlanta is multiples of Las Vegas.

12/15/19       #8: Dovetail machines ...
rich c.

Leo G. I must have misread. When you said they replace it, I thought IT was a new machine. But the idea of not knowing the casting was machined out of square is the point. Often the buyer is the quality control with Grizzly. Along with the machine troubleshooter and repairman. I know, they sent me a miserable bandsaw that was so far out of balance, nothing could stay on the table.

12/15/19       #9: Dovetail machines ...
Leo G Member

The machine casting was find. The pneumatic clamp was milled uneven on the two flat areas. The clamp was replaced, the machine was in great condition.

So now I have a spare clamp that I can fix with a file. Probably take a half hour with a file or 10 minutes on a milling machine.

This was a mistake that I think would be really hard to find during a quick QC test. The clamp worked, the machine worked. It was only after many boxes being milled that I noticed a pattern to where a small error was happening. I could have lived with it but it was a new machine and with calipers I was able to locate what the real issue was. I don't fault them. I don't think without using the machine in it's full capacity that the problem would have been discovered. You can have your opinion about Grizzly. But I think you are mistaken about the overall quality of the machine.

I only have the one big Grizzly tool. I have a portable spindle sander that works great and know of another woodworker that has a widebelt and dust collector that all work perfect and have been for many years.

12/15/19       #10: Dovetail machines ...
Dustin orth

I just separated from a shop that had an Omec manual dovetailed very similar to the Grizzly. That type of setup being a manual tracer pin style is still hands above a router and jig. Your arent picking up a router 50 plus times to do a normal size job. They also eliminate about half of the possible human error just with not having the router in someone's hands. The pneumatic clamps are very necessary on this type of jig, probably one reason I liked it way better than the OmniJig we used for years. If memory serves, I think we cut drawer making time wise by at least 25% by moving to this type of setup. If I was the one running it, faster yet but employees were the typical ones. Personally all of the machines like this will take some fiddling to get dialed in unless you drop some serious money for a CNC version. I've had mixed opinions about Grizzly, owned a bunch of their stuff over the years, some good, some not. All of it but one was able to be brought into tolerance and work until it could be replaced with a larger industrial version I couldn't afford at the time. My 2 cents.

12/15/19       #11: Dovetail machines ...

I guess my question to you would be how many drawers are you planning on building every month?
If you are a small shop only doing a few projects every month than you could probably get away with a grizzly, I think like others mentioned you would be better off to try find a used Omec or Doddís manual dovetail machine.
If you are doing hundreds of drawer boxes every month then you really need to step up your game and get something automatic.
A jig and router is fine, but definitely more work than a manual machine, you can even go the route of cutting them by hand, but production is really slow.
Anyways good luck.

12/15/19       #12: Dovetail machines ...
Leo G Member

For the most part you will double your output over a hand router jig. You are able to put all 4 pcs in the jig at the same time making runs gets you a drawer.

But the rest of the time will be about the same, routing the slot, assembly and sanding won't be affected.

12/15/19       #13: Dovetail machines ...
Pat Gilbert

At the risk of committing heresy, do homeowners care if the drawers are dovetailed?

They definitely prefer soft close drawers, I'm skeptical that they even notice dovetails.

12/15/19       #14: Dovetail machines ...
Jim Herron

I've had a Brookman 15 spindle for the last 8 years.
Great machine. Built like a tank.
I do mostly Baltic birch with the occasional hardwood box and it does a good job.
Due to my volume I am upgrading to a Dodds se20 next week.

12/15/19       #15: Dovetail machines ...
Jim Herron

I think it depends on your market.
Entry level probably not so much, upper end stuff I believe the expectation is there for the dovetail.
I've tried selling Grass Zargen, Blum metabox and the Legrabox but always come back to the dovetail.

12/15/19       #16: Dovetail machines ...
Family Man

Gentlemen thank you for all your insights. Up until this last year I sold prefinished maple butt joint drawers, except on maybe one job a year. About half our work is the 500-750k range, a quarter in the 750-1 range and another quarter in the 1-8mil range. Up until about the 2 mil point they really arenít expected here. But this last year I outsourced mostly Baltic birch dovetails to the tune of 120 or so a month simply because I couldnít handle the volume. Our goal by the Q2 of 2020 is to have every aspect of woodworking back in house. I will probably end up going back to a butt joint prefinished drawer for the majority of our work.

After hearing the replies here I think for the time being and the 25% of jobs I will stick with the jig and router. I think for 30 drawers a month on average itís probably not worth the real estate on the shop floor.

12/15/19       #17: Dovetail machines ...
Leo G Member

It was worth it to me and I'm small potatoes. I'd hate to go back to a hand router.

12/15/19       #18: Dovetail machines ...
Dustin orth

Once I had my dovetailer dialed in and my groove shaper setup, I find I could make dovetail drawers faster than most other types, it also became a selling point that we made our own high quality drawers in house. If you can find one of the big machines for a good price, even if it needs some work, would be worth looking into.

12/16/19       #19: Dovetail machines ...
Leo G Member

Hardest part of most drawers is assembly. You need clamps. I try never to pin a drawer together, just below my quality level.

With the dovetail drawer and the right setup you bang them together with a little glue and they hold themselves together, no clamps required.

12/16/19       #20: Dovetail machines ...
Karl E Brogger  Member


Why nail or clamp a dovetail drawer?

If the dovetailing goes well, you just assemble it. We have to pound ours together, but we do it with an air hammer so it's pretty low stress. Noisy as hell, and it drives the other guys batty when everything else is semi quiet in the shop, but they go together nice and tight.

A drawer clamp would be nice for squaring though.

12/16/19       #21: Dovetail machines ...
Leo G Member

Wasn't talking about dovetailed drawers. Other styles need clamps or pins.

12/17/19       #22: Dovetail machines ...
jonathan mahnken

Im with Pat on this one you guys. If your market is residential and you are using soft close undermounts theres absolutely no need for overkill dovetail construction. with soft close undermounts the drawer takes no impact and the load is carried by the guides. Weve been in business for 32 years and offer a lifetime guarantee and I cant recall getting a call back on a drawer falling apart. I think its merely a matter of perceived quality in regards to the dovetail joint in drawers.

12/17/19       #23: Dovetail machines ...
Mark Member


Perception is everything. It is a great selling point that sets you apart from the others.


12/17/19       #24: Dovetail machines ...
Kip  Member


Iíve had the exact experience as you Jonathan.
Iíve had my Grizzly dovetail machine for about 10 years and only made one set of drawers( that set more than paid for the machine) but in the last year, I have made 6 sets and the ability to make my own has secured a lot of profit for me. I agree that it is overkill, but if theyíll pay for it, why not give the customer what they want? Otherwise you could say, ďwho needs a Cadalac when a Pinto will get you where you want to go?Ē

I actually prefer making them because it is faster and more accurate for me, especially at installation time when I know the boxes are dead in, square.

12/30/19       #25: Dovetail machines ...

How many Baltic birch drawers do you get before you need a new bit?

12/30/19       #26: Dovetail machines ...
Leo G Member

I can't really base it on drawers because I do a lot of tall drawers. So I based it on pins. I can get between 1200-1500 pins cut before it gets pretty nasty. I'd say around to 900-1000 pins and the bit is still cutting pretty well.

Figure 4 pins per standard corner so 16 per drawer (4.365" tall drawer)

12/30/19       #27: Dovetail machines ...

Do you use the Grizzly bit or a different brand?

12/30/19       #28: Dovetail machines ...
Leo G Member

Omec A23 750 single flute dovetail bit

1/1/20       #29: Dovetail machines ...

Iíve been making solid dovetail drawers out of maple for sometime but have decided to try the Baltic birch on the current kitchen I am doing. I use pre finish maple ply for cabinet interiors. Iím trying to get the birch similar in color, it has more yellow in it. Just wondering what you use.

1/1/20       #30: Dovetail machines ...
Leo G Member

Just using the Baltic Birch that Atlantic Plywood sells. Have no idea what the brand is.

It is a bit more yellow than the white maple interiors. I don't worry about it to much, it's not that far off. I use MLC Krystal to finish mine. If you use a finish with more of an amber color I'm sure it will show more yellow in the finished product. I know MLC MagnaMax would have more of an amber tone than the Krystal would.

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