Shelf pin hole jig - reviews and router solution - Router Forums
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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-11-2007, 04:54 PM Thread Starter
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Default Shelf pin hole jig - reviews and router solution

A month or two ago I asked on another forum how to drill 2500+ shelf pin holes (part of a large built-in bookshelf project). I ended up buying a few expensive jigs to see if they would be optimal (as well as trying the simple peg board method). I finally ended up building a shelf pin hole jig that was conceived over on the WWA and that turned out to be the best solution (by far!). This jig uses a router and is significantly faster than any other method I tried. Below are a few pictures of my jig and a slight enhancement to the plans (linked above) that some of you might find interesting. But before I get to that, I'll share some of my thought about the other jigs that I tried.

Festool LR32 system: Before I complain about this system, I should point out that I own a few Festool tools and have been very pleased with them (heck, I built the WWA jig with the Festool saw and DC!). However, the LR32 system is not built for drilling a large number of shelf pin holes. They do not sell a long LR32 rail so you'd need to realign for any large project. However, the system is optimized for other tasks (exact placement of holes) and drilling a smaller number of holes. Alignment over multiple parts is not an issue (there are multiple ways to index the rail to the workpiece, even without a multi-function table). Fortunately Festool has an excellent return policy and I had no problem returning the items after I tried them (LR32 guide rail, router, and hole drilling set).

PC or similar dovetail jig set up for pin holes: You basically use a router bushing guide and use the fingers in the dovetail jig to align each pin hole. This works very well until you have to reattach the jig to the workpiece every 2' or so.

Acrylic, metal, or other semi-permanent jig with fixed holes & depth stop on the drill bit: These work and are accurate. However, you need to use a drill and things become unpleasant after the first 100 holes or so. An excellent solution for small projects. Peg board works just as well except you wear out the holes after a few passes (and would need replacement). A router based system like Meg products would solve this issue except that you'd need to continually move the jig for large pieces. There are router-based jigs that use a similar method but they require lifting the router and putting it in each jig hole.

Veritas 32 system: This is a well made system (another LR32 system) but it is optimized for smaller workpieces. Like many other systems, the downfall is that you'd need to move the jig multiple times for large parts.

WWA shelf pin jig: This jig allows you to drill all the holes for a shelf in 1 pass w/o having to reset the jig or router. However, it needs to be the length of the tallest workpiece (ends need to fit over the workpiece). This can make it unwieldy for smaller projects (although you could easily make a few lengths of rails to accommodate different project sizes).

OK, now on to the pictures! For those unfamiliar with the jig, I'd recommend reading about it here.

This first picture is the rail right after I drilled the 3/4" holes in it. The next step is to saw right down the middle through all the holes.

Here's a shot of the tip block and guide bushing on the router. Dewalt nicely includes 2 threaded holes in their baseplate (6mm) so I didn't have to use the brass pin method outlined in the directions. I used a file and sandpaper to round all the edges... this will ensure that the tip block doesn't get caught up on an edge or corner.

Here's a shot of me routing the 'stop' holes in one of the rails (using the other rail as a guide). This allows you to put a pin in one of the holes to prevent the router from sliding any further down the jig. You may also notice the plunge bar. IMO this is a great addition for this jig because it allows you to quickly plunge and recover with one hand (while the other is steadying the tool). I got mine for use with my Woodrat but it works very well in this application. One thing to mention about the plunge bar is that it makes router bit insertion and removal a bit more painful.

Here's the final jig ready for action. I placed the side rails with 1/2" of overlap so I can put pins in 1/2 or thicker material. Not shown in the picture are small blocks under the back rail to use as an index point. I plan on having all my pin holes 1 3/8" from the edge. By screwing some small blocks under the back rail at my exact overlap distance I just need to have the workpiece against the blocks and side rail and I am guaranteed to have the correct alignment and distance from the edges. At that point I just need to slide the front rail forward to the correct distance and I'm ready to cut (this is a 1 time operation for each board width). When I am not using this monster I will break it down and store it flat. I had 14 8' panels that needed shelf pin holes and this jig made the work much easier and faster. I just set the jig once and then used the same settings on each board. I averaged under 2 seconds per hole (that's including clamping time for each board).

I hope that this jig helps someone on this board... it really saved me a lot of pain and aggravation!

Last edited by Greg_R; 12-11-2007 at 04:57 PM.
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-12-2007, 12:20 AM
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Looked like it was just what you needed. Looks very handy.

thanks for the post,
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-12-2007, 07:58 PM
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What a super post! As soon as the Christmas presents are complete I'm about to drill/route shelf pins for kitchen cabinets. I too liked WWA jig. But the longer I think about it the more I don't want to drill long lines of holes - it looks so 'factory made' instead of custom. So I can't decide whether to copy their jig and just use a few holes vs making one that will handle 4-5 holes and spend more time setting up. Thx for the post and pics.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-12-2007, 10:13 PM
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As a rule you will not be drilling holes in 8' long boards. A good length for a hole jig would be about 24". This should fit into most any cabinet you are likely to build and can be indexed for greater lengths. Bob and Rick's method as well as Norm's on the NYW is to drill your holes for a guide bushing for rapid alignment and a quick plunge. This guarantees your holes will have perfect placement.

Greg, your jig idea sure was a time saver for your project. Keep up the good work.

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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-13-2007, 03:35 PM Thread Starter
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Berry, I agree w.r.t the 'factory' look. One thing that will help (visually) is to start and stop the holes well short of the top and bottom edges (I used about 7"-8"). In the jig you can place a pin that will prevent the router from traveling any further (helps that you don't have to pay attention to an end point as you are rolling along).

Having said that, for your application I would build a custom jig for the project (if you just want a few well-placed holes). Cut a hole the o.d. size of your guide bushing in each location that you'll want a hole. Create a side and back rail piece so you now have a known corner that all the holes will be indexed from. Now you just need to put each piece flush into this corner and route your holes. Note that it is very important to keep track of front / back and left/right for each piece (so any jig errors are canceled out). I use a sharpie and label the edge of each plywood part. If the holes are in different locations (say top vs bottom cabinets) you could color code the jig holes to keep track of things. I did not like the guide bushing hole method because I had to lift my router for each hole. If you are doing 100s of holes, this is not a major issue. With thousands it is not pleasant :-).

Mike, you are correct. IMO, the LR32 systems I talked about above would be ideal for most smaller projects. You could also build a shorter length rail than I did and it would work very well for smaller projects.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-13-2007, 03:37 PM Thread Starter
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Oh yes... I thought I was done with the holes but now I have to stain every single one of them since it's walnut ply. The dark face wood has too much contrast with the birch interior wood. I'm going to finish all the panels and then use a stain + q-tips (and wipe off the excess before it stains the face of the wood).
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-28-2007, 06:57 PM
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Greg, I read your posting and all the links because I am about to purchase a Festool router and the MFT table. Primarily to make Dado cuts. But then the thought struck me that I'll be building a lot of cabinets when my new shop is complete. How will I handle the creation of shelves.

You say that a weak spot in the Festool LR32 system is the length of the guiderail. I learned from my Festool dealer that they sell a 96 inch drilled guiderail specifically for shelf pin hole boring. Did you take that equipment into account when you stated the Festool isn't for a large number of holes?

Or did you mean something else? I could sure save some money if I used only the WWW jig mentioned in your post.

Gary Curtis
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 12-30-2007, 06:18 PM Thread Starter
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Gary, the 96" LR32 seems to be a new product because they didn't have an 8' LR32 rail when I started making my jig. The LR32 system is for a lot more than drilling shelf pin holes. If you haven't check out yet, do so... there are a lot of excellent tips and tricks related to LR32 on that site. If all you need to do is drill a LOT of shelf pin holes, I think the WWA jig is the best bet. If you want more of a cabinet making system that can also do shelf pin holes, investigate LR32 systems. The plunge bar + router is faster than the Festool shelf pin system. Frankly, I'd rather get a Festool Domino and use templates & the WWA jig then buy a full fledged Festool LR32 system. IMO, the 1st option has a lot more flexibility.

Keep in mind that I am a hobbiest so maybe there are some production pluses to going with LR32.
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-09-2009, 09:48 PM
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I've used a MEGPRODUCTS line boring jig for about 13 years. Works great. Several versions available, depending upon budget, etc.

If I had to do it overagain, I would simply build one. But at the time, I was under the gun to finish closets.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 08-12-2009, 12:48 PM
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I got a signmaker who has a CNC router to do mine. The picture only shows the bottom end. It is about 5' long. The pin holes for setting the distance from the edge are only just visible.

As they also cut me a big and small router compass out of the same sheet there was some scrap and I got them to make up some over centre clamps out of it. Getting it all done out of one sheet as a single job was quite economical.
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