Jig lovers special
How do we build jigs in the Wood Shop? Follow along as we show our secrets.
Choose your material and components wisely
When you build a jig, you expect it to help you do something more quickly, more easily, more accurately, more safely, or exactly the same time after time. These components and materials will help the next jig you build meet those challenges. Unless noted, you can buy the parts and materials from all of the Sources below.
Lee Valley, 800-871-8158, leevalley.com; Rockler, 800-279-4441, rockler.com; Woodcraft, 800-225-1153, woodcraft.com.
The Magswitch, a permanent magnet you can turn on and off, quickly and tenaciously fastens a fence, guide, hold-down, or other jig to a steel or iron tool table. The device contains two powerful rare-earth magnets. Twisting a knob rotates one of them so the poles align to turn the magnetic attraction on. Twist the knob the other way, and the poles cancel each other, effectively turning the magnet off. Several configurations of the Magswitch are available, including the MagJig, designed specifically for attaching shop jigs, as shown.
Strong and mighty rare-earth magnets
Small rare-earth magnets have so much pull that disengaging a jig attached with them may be difficult. Putting in fewer or smaller magnets will alleviate that, but might make the jig more prone to being pushed sideways. Use these permanent magnets for light-duty attachment, such as holding a setting jig or measuring device while you set up a tool. You can usually buy them in bags for around $1 apiece or less.
T-track and hold-downs
T-track offers so much versatility, you should make it your first choice for adjustable hold-downs and movable jig parts. Most track accepts T-nuts or T-bolts, but some track accepts standard 1/4"-20 hex bolts and nuts. You can surface-mount the track, set it into a groove or dado (either 1/2" or 3/8" deep x 3/4" wide), or butt surfaces up against either side.
Hold-downs make great anchors
An inexpensive (around $10) hold-down clamp anchors a workpiece to a jig or locks movable jig parts to a T-slot. Just slip the clamp's bolt into the track, slide the piece to be held under it, and tighten down.
Jig lovers special
An expansion bar secures a jig, such as a feather board, into a miter channel. Turning the knob draws the screw up into the hole, expanding the bar's width slightly so it grips the sides of the miter slot.
Toggle clamps provide quick, positive clamping. Though more complex and more expensive, they often work in situations where T-track hold-downs prove impractical. Install vertical clamps to hold a workpiece against the surface where the clamp is mounted, whether vertical, horizontal, or any angle between.
Clamps great at a drill press
Horizontal clamps press a workpiece sideways against a fence, such as on a drill-press jig, or a stop. Some toggle clamps slide into T-tracks. The clamps come in several sizes and cost about $20 each.
Measuring tapes that stay in place
To simplify positioning a workpiece precisely on a jig or setting an adjustable stop, apply a self-adhesive measuring tape directly to the jig. Made of steel, heavy paper, or plastic, these tapes have a PSA (pressure-sensitive adhesive) backing, and are available in either left- or right-reading versions with English or metric scales. To allow easy centering, as well as accurate measurements in both directions from a point, such as a drill-press chuck or mortising bit, apply left- and right-reading tapes so they meet at the reference point.
Parts slide more freely on a low-friction surface of ultra-high-molecular-weight (UHMW) polyethylene. You can buy it as solid stock or self-adhesive tape, often called slick strips or slippery tape. When a jig guide slides in a miter-gauge slot or T-track, make the guide from UHMW for smooth movement. For a fence, such as a resawing jig, put a larger piece or several strips on the face. Thin UHMW tape is a quick and less-expensive way to make a slick-sliding surface. The tape is ideal for disposable or limited-use jigs, too. Solid stock generally costs around $30, depending on size; rolls of tape sell for $10 - $20 each.
When you need a jig surface that resists slipping and sliding, high-friction tape fits the bill. It's similar to the pads that keep cell phones from sliding off car dashboards. The tape's adhesive backing makes it easy to attach to jig faces. Apply it to the fence of a sliding cutoff table, for instance, so the workpiece won't creep. Or, use it to make a nonskid back on a straightedge guide for a router or circular saw.
Sandpaper keep jigs in place
Another quick way to slip-proof a jig surface is to apply strips of self-adhesive sandpaper. Sold in rolls, the sandpaper has a PSA (pressure-sensitive adhesive) backing that sticks to any smooth, clean surface.
Create a custom handle
For positive control, attach a dedicated jig handle. It's ideal for sleds and other cutting jigs that need to be pushed firmly and safely.
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