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How do you decide what material to use to make your jigs? I realize that in some cases only one material will work whereas there are no other materials that will. When there is a situation where there is more than one viable material option what goes into your choice of material decision making process?
Just curious.
 

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If its a one off, or a wham bammer, I'll use MDF...If its something I think I'll keep and get alot of use out of, I'll go with a good baltic birch..I've also done a few common angles in 1/4" plastic for inlays...
 
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baltic birch...
 

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Most of my jigs are for a one-of so what ever shop scraps I have, quite often mdf or particle board. For something that will be around for a while I use plywood.
 

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I'm with Charles, the vast majority of the things I make are 1.O.A.K. 90% of the jigs are 1/4" luan the rest are 1/4" hard board. I prefer the finish cut properties of luan over HB which seems to get fuzzy and for whatever reason I seem to have more difficulty tracking the pattern cutout on HB.
 

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Jim, it really depends on the project. I use 1/4" Masonite(tempered hardboard) for most of my templates. A production template needs to be built of sturdier material. I designed this rail system for one of the forum members so he could mass produce clock bodies. There are individual sleds that ride on the rails with different patterns cut in them. Each sled is designed to work with specific guide bushings and router bits. (There are more than the three sleds shown) The sleds are located in different positions using the key to lock them in place. After sled 1 has been used in each position sled 2 replaces it and so on. This greatly reduces bit changes and speeds the process.

I only designed this system, Ron did the layout and build; he did a great job! The last two photos show the finished product. The bench top shown is actually part of the jig; more materials here than a typical template but it is all the same idea.
 

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Here are a couple templates that Barb used for her leaning wine bottle holders. The hole template worked fine but the routing template(with the toggle clamp) flexed; this should of had 1/2" plywood for the bottom.(My bad)
 

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I mostly use Baltic Birch for anything permanent. For small jigs I will use cutoffs of Baltic Birch. Half inch MDF for templates for the most part, although 1/4 Masonite is a good choice too. I don't much like to use MDF because of the nasty dust it creates. I have used commercial grade ply for jigs, but it is so inconsistent I'd rather bite the bullet and use Baltic Birch, although its a 120 mile round trip to get it and I really don't have a place to store full size sheets. It is just so much better than anything else. One other thing I like is 1 inch thick pine from HD. I plow through the entire stack to find a piece that has a lot of knot free wood with decent grain and then cut off the few knots. The result is really nice pine that when jointed gives a really nice, straight edge when I need one for a jig.
 

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The substrate is the starting point. Lots of choices there.
Strength, availability, can you work it, resistance to temp/humidity changes, length of run, accepting fasteners, weight, slip/slide, can you drill & tap it, available flat and with constant thickness and so on. So it is job dependent.
Moreover, if precision is essential, then there can be few compromises. I use jig plate aluminum.
And one other criticality. Fine craftsmanship, whether metal, wood, or plastic, takes jigs & fixtures, stuff well made. Saws, sanders, planers, drills and shapers do their thing alright, but not without jigs and fixtures. Your keys to excellence in craftsmanship.
 

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I haven't built a lot of jigs so I can't be of much help other than to say I recently built a couple of table saw sleds using Baltic Birch
and loved it. I don't like that I have to go to the local hard wood store instead of the more convenient Home Depot and plus it is a bit
hard to cut down to size, it comes as a 60'x60' square. It is very nice plywood and I'll definitely be using it again but I don't have anywhere to store it.

I have used a lot of MDF but I agree with Tom, it makes a mess of dust.

Bryan
 

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What is the difference between different hardwood plywood? Maple, birch, or oak?

I just bought some birch, and was surprised one springy, 4" strips were. Though in the past I never cut such narrow strips.
 

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Baltic Birch, Masonite, MDF and scraps. I like how well Baltic Birch works--flat and stable. MDF adds a lot of stability when added to a base. Masonite and 1/2 or 3/4 MDF for templates.
 

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Most of what I make I use 1/2" plywood, including the masters/patterns/templates - whatever you want to call them. So any jigs are 1/2" plywood. I've always had satisfying results, so not apt to change. I use decent plywood, not the cheap stuff, but not the high end stuff either. Can't stand MDF, and no use for particle board, so it's plywood all the way. My saw stand, router table, tool stand, all plywood. Did I mention that I like plywood? Hehehe
 

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Most plywoods have good plys on the faces and the rest is something cheaper. For example, a local plywood mill would use good Douglas fir for the faces but might use lodgepole pine, spruce, balsam fir, or hemlock for the inner plies except for sub floor plywood where strength is important and then it would be D fir all the way through. Some red oak ply I've been working with lately looks like it might have spruce inner plys. Baltic birch ply though should be the same wood all the way through.
 

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Most of my jigs are Baltic Birch, but I tend to use whatever is in the scrap pile that will work OK. I did a job for the NC Science Museums a while back and ended up with a bunch of partial sheets of Baltic Birch of many different thicknesses. So ever since then, almost every jig and storage box has been made from Baltic Birch. I'm hoping they want me to do that again, because I'm beginning to run low on some thicknesses of Baltic Birch. I may actually have to buy some soon.

Charley
 

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Most of the time I use whatever is laying around. But I prefer mdf for a jig that will get a lot of use. To stabilize the edges, I "paint" them with a thin coat of a 50/50 mix of titebond/water.
 
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