I was reading my email the other day and got a Rockler add promoting there line of gigs. As I went to work that day I just couldn’t find a place in my processes for these expensive and specialty gigs. Now I am not speaking out about Rockler. They are a business, and as a businessman I would try to convince the woodworking world at large that a joint not cut on a piece of white melomine with blue anodized hardware is a joint improperly cut. I however figured out why there is no room in my shop for these fancy fixtures. As I started examining my pile-o-gigs in the corner I noticed that there isn’t a single one of them that hasn’t been modified less that a half dozen times. In fact, most of them are unrecognizable as anything but a piece of modern art. No one would even know how to use these gigs. I didn’t even remember what I used some of them for (probably the reason for all the modifications). I realized that dew to my constant evolution of work I need a gig that can change with my work.
Design plays a big role in what I do. The design dictates the construction. Therefore even a gig for as ordinary a task as cutting a tenon needs the potential to be modified. At that point the second thing I noticed about my gigs made since to me. My second observation was that they were all very simple. Very few have built in clamps and hold downs. Most are made to accommodate C claps or small bar clamps. Most are bigger than what I need so I have room to change or add to it. Most are screwed together without glue so it can be taken apart if, heaven forbid, it wasn’t right the first time.
My point to this? I started recalling the hundreds of different operations that I have committed in the past with this set to 10-15 gigs. Its my belief that the difference between an artist and a craftsman can be seen in this simple distinction. What I need in my shop is equal to the requirements the design in my head needs. The thing is though, I believe that it works the opposite way too. Those static, fancy, pricy, gigs limit you to settling at the level of craftsman. It keeps you from being able to stretching you vocabulary of different cuts and jointery. And if you didn’t build the jig, you sure won’t be able to change it. Don’t let Rockler design you projects.