We gave the 16-in. Akeda dovetail jig our Editor's Choice award last year because it was precise and easy to use. Akeda has recently introduced a 24-in. model, suitable for a blanket chest or other large casework, using the same clever system of snap-in, indexed guide fingers. The Akeda DC16 and BC24 jigs excel at creating variable-spaced half-blind or through dovetails. (Variable-spaced dovetails generally have wide tails and narrow pins, following the tradition of hand-cut work.) The guide fingers may be positioned anywhere along the jig in 1/8-in. increments. These jigs offer five different dovetail angles, from 7 degrees to 20 degrees, for 1/4-in. to 3/4-in.-thick stock. (A new 6-degree bit and pin guide for 1 in. stock will be available sometime this year.) Why all the choices? Akeda suggests that dovetails with a wide angle look best in thin stock, and are stronger, while dovetails with a narrow angle are best used for thick stock. These angles are produced by using five matched sets of guide fingers and dovetail bits. Using the Akeda is very simple. You don't have to adjust the jig or do a lot of trial-and-error cutting to get the joint to fit right. The key to this simplicity is a set of dovetail bits and Porter-Cable-style guide bushings manufactured by Akeda. Standard bits and bushings won't work. The basic jigs do not come with any bits, however; they're available in various sets to suit your needs. Akeda bits have 8 mm shanks, which produce less vibration than bits with smaller 1/4-in. shanks. You'll need a reducer, available from Akeda, to use them in a 1/2-in. collet. The dust collection port, which works very well, is a $30 accessory.
Akeda, www.akeda.com, (877) 387-6544, Akeda BC24 Blanket Chest Jig, $440; BC24 Jig, 7 pc. Bit Set and Dust Collector Kit, $499.