December 14, 2022

Leigh dovetail jig d4 vs d4r | Detailed Comparison

Choosing between Leigh dovetail jig d4 vs d4r may be a bit tough. They share looks and performance characteristics. You should know that the Leigh dovetail jig d4r is an “improved” or newer version of the Leigh Dovetail jig d4. Newer and “improved” doesn’t always mean better. Does it still have all the features that you may have loved in the previous version? Matching features to your needs is the best way to decide. To separate the two, note the differences in design, accessories, and the vacuum system. This article will take you through both dovetail jigs and help you pick one that matches your needs. 

Leigh dovetail jig d4

The Leigh is not just a dovetail jig but features a platform with two adjustable height arms to hold the templates, two clamp bars operated with cams, and the template. The template will cut through and half-blind dovetails up to 24″ wide and also do sliding dovetails and box joints.

It makes use of adjustable width and spacing template fingers. Dovetail jigs have fixed spacing and pin size, meaning the stock is in multiple sizes of a base unit to look right. Its manual is known for its clarity and quality. It is spiral bound, it will lay flat on your workbench.

If any template fingers become damaged, they can be replaced individually. The Leigh runs with eight-degree cutters for TD joints, cutters are available in ¼” and ½” shank sizes depending upon the diameter (Strandhardware.co,za).8mm shank cutters are better than the ¼” shank bits because they are stronger. 

The D4 jig version has adjustable side stops that work when adjusted correctly. Not all woodworkers use boards with truly square edges to set the side stops up. Few jigs can come even close to the flexibility or joint quality that the system will produce. It takes a box or two to get the hang of using the jig but once done is easy to use.

Pros

  • Adjustability 
  • Value for money
  • Flexibility 
  • Effective
  • Ease of use

Cons

  • It takes effort to wrestle the router around to cut all the pins.

Leigh dovetail jig d4r

The Leigh D4R Dovetail Jig d4r has gained popularity without compromising quality or ease of use. It features a high-quality one-piece aluminum extrusion, CNC machined on the top and front faces for precise alignment. 

The surfaces have to square to each other, contributing to the overall accuracy of the Leigh D4R Dovetail Jig. The ends of this body have cast caps that include provisions for bolting the jig to a board. That makes clamping the Leigh D4R Dovetail Jig to a solid work surface quick and easy. They have nuts and bolts for securing the jig to the board.

There is a noticeable improvement in machining the side stops into the high-quality aluminum jig body. Front stops (left) and the stepped upper stops (right) make working with the D4R easier and more accurate as they eliminate the one-user error that caused some problems.

 Also, the top side stops on the Leigh D4R Dovetail Jig are undercut, making them compatible with rabbeted drawer fronts and square-edged stock. The offset between the top and front mounting positions is built in and is always correct.

The new Leigh D4R Dovetail Jig body makes it possible to route through dovetails in material up to 1-1/4″-thick, as thin as 3/8″ or even 1/8″-thick. The setup for working with thin material under 3/8″-thick. The Leigh D4R Kit has the bits and guide bushing needed to get started.

Pros

  • Compatibility
  • High quality
  • Ease of use 
  • Precision
  • Unique design

Cons

  • Aligning the upper and lower guide is a bit difficult

Favorite Features

Leigh dovetail jig d4

Dust collection system

The Leigh dust collection accessory does not come with the jig. It collects the chips and has to fit just any router made. Avoid chips when using the machine. Using this collector makes the experience cleaner and more enjoyable.

Scale

The scale is aligned to a line on both ends of the template to the desired setting.  This scale allows you to adjust the joint based on the stock used.  If using softwood like pine, the best setting may be in one place but for hardwood like a maple in another.  Even using the same cutter, there is a noticeable difference in fit when using this feature.

Clamping bars

The glass-filled nylon levers apply and relieve the clamping pressure on the bars. These handles screw up and down on bolts to accommodate multiple stock thicknesses. Flipping the handles 90 degrees relieves the clamping pressure. Each of the levers interacts with a stepped washer at its base providing fine thickness adjustment that can help position the handles. The clamping system is effective, tool-free, and easy to use.

Guide fingers

Guide fingers make it easy to get a half pin at the sides of the joint. The guide fingers are locked individually with an internal cam with the square drive hand wrench. The same guide finger layout cuts the pin and tails, the setup is done once, and the joint fits. The finger assembly changes from pins to tails mode.

Leigh dovetail jig d4r

Bits

The Leigh D4R Dovetail Jig itself features a #80-8, 1/2”, 8° dovetail bit, a #120-8, 1/2”, 14° dovetail bit and a #140-8, 5/16” straight bit, with 8mm shanks. These bits allow making through dovetails in materials from 1/2″ to 13/16″-thick. Leigh has bits available to cut through dovetails in wood up to 1-1/4″-thick and half-blind dovetails in wood up to 1/12″-thick. 

Clamping Bars

The clamping bar system operates by tool-free levers (left) that make securing the workpiece simple and quick. The handles sit on stepped washers (right), making it easy to fine-tune the handle position if it is in the way. 

The workpieces are secured against the textured surfaces on the jig body with extruded aluminum bars actuated by tool-free clamping levers. The machine-textured surfaces on the jig body reduce the chances of slippage. The clamping bars are spring-loaded to move outwards when the clamping pressure is relaxed.

Guide Fingers

The guide fingers (left) are a key on the Leigh D4R Dovetail Jig. Put them wherever it gives this jig wide-ranging versatility. A simple cam lock (right) is operated with the included hand wrench.

The Leigh D4R Dovetail Jig uses adjustable fingers rather than a fixed template. The fingers can be placed anywhere on their mounting bars to create any dovetail pattern you like. The only limiting factor is the width of the wood being used. 

The Leigh D4R Dovetail Jig guide fingers are made from a soft zinc alloy that gives up before an expensive router bit. The fingers can be purchased separately.

Plastic strips

The plastic strips make routing sliding dovetails or wide-spread pin and tail patterns easy. Leigh includes three plastic strips. One fits into the ends of the guide fingers to form a guide for routing sliding dovetails, and the other two are materials for making bridges between fingers. The bridges help with wider dovetail patterns where the fingers are far enough apart to allow the guide bushing to slip between them and cause an error.

Vacuum system

The vacuum system keeps the work area clean. The dust system is easy to install and provides additional support for the router.

What could be better

Leigh dovetail jig d4 

  • Using the router around to cut all the pins could have been easier.

Leigh dovetail jig d4r

  • Aligning the upper and lower guide could have been easier.

Similar Features

  • Both use guiding fingers.
  • They are compatible with the vacuum cleaner.

Key Differences

  • The D4R makes it easier to manufacture than the d4.
  • The D4r features new lever clamps and glass-filled clamp bars, which the D4 does not have. 
  • The side stops on the D4 were attached pieces. These are now machined into the base extrusion and are no longer separate parts on the D4r.
  • Leigh offers a D4 upgrade kit to the d4r. It replaces the clamp bars, and knob handles with the new lever handles and glass-filled clamp bars.
  • The d4r has a new vacuum attachment, which the d4 does not have.

The verdict

In summation, Leigh dovetail jigs d4 and d4r are similar tools with the same function and design. For a better vacuum system, you may need the d4r version. If adjustability matters more, the d4 version may be your pick. I assume you have your best pick. 

David D. Hughes
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