Every woodworker wants his or her time in their shop to be efficient and productive. Some of the most important tools in the shop are the jigs used to help make your work cleaner and easier. Jigs are physical versions of workshop shortcuts, tips and workarounds that can actually make a job fast and fun, although they won’t necessarily give you the precision and skills you might not yet have.

There are plenty of manufactured woodworking jigs available on the market, but why go through the expense when you can make your own? Handmade jigs are just as useful as manufactured ones and a clever woodworker can use the materials on hand to create any number of them. Here are a few ideas and tips on making your own jigs.

Tips on Handmade Jigs

Good hand-crafted jigs aren’t meant to be micro-adjustable or universal unless you have the time and skill needed to create them. Besides, they sometimes don’t work as well as those that are quick, simply designed and easy to craft. Unless you’re a master craftsman, you probably won’t have the need for specialized jigs.

• Make jigs from materials you already have in your shop.
• Get the job done, but don’t get too involved. Build it quickly, fasten the parts together with some screws, nails or staples or even hot-melt glue.
• If it takes longer to make the jig than it would to finish the job without it, don’t bother unless it’s something you’ll be doing on a regular basis.
• Don’t make a jig you may need in the future for some unplanned project. Do make it when you have a task right on your worktable.
• Use a nominal number of pieces and fashion it in a simple design. And unless you’re creating a gift or work of art, why bother applying a finish?

4 Common Jig Ideas

Most long-time woodworkers have several types of jigs they use on a regular basis. There are limitless templates available online, in magazines or on video to help you create new jigs for your own shop.

Circle-cutting jig: Creating tabletops and arches can become involved and time consuming. This jig is simply designed and easily made. It allows your router to follow a guide consisting of a simple wooden brace that holds two 36-inch steel rods that pivot on a central pin.

Featherboard jig: While this jig is easily available from woodworking suppliers, it can be manufactured in your own shop in less than 10 minutes. This jig is made by cutting a 30-degree bevel on one end of a piece of 3/4-inch stock and cutting thin fingers into the beveled edge.

Router jig: Dovetailing is a common task in a woodworker’s shop, especially when making mitered boxes. This jig is simply constructed using 1/2-inch plywood and features a beveled edge, two square notches and a groove cut into the inside face of the beveled edge. The groove holds a 1/4-inch hardboard table to support your router’s base as you cut.

Table saw box guide: When crafting picture frames, it’s necessary to stand boards on end to machine them. The box measures 5-1/2 inches deep and 8-inches square and is fastened to two (optional) foot-long runners.

Among many other things, woodworking jigs ensure that your cuts are straight and your edges are cleanly squared or beveled. Of course, when you realize you’re in the middle of a task that’s repetitious, you’ll start thinking of ways to make life easier and that’s where jigs ideas are born. It’s worth the time and effort to make them yourself because you'll be able to use them repeatedly for years. When’s the best time to start making your own jigs? Right now.