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Jig Material Preference

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Forum topic by pete79 posted 1715 days ago 3672 views 2 times favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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pete79

154 posts in 1744 days


1715 days ago

I’m sure the answer really should be “it depends on what you’re making” but…..

In general what is the preference material for making jigs? I’ve seen people make them out of MDF, Ply, and various hardwoods. I’m not at a point where I can really justify spending the money on expensive hardwoods to make jigs, so I’m curious what everyone prefers out there? MDF vs. Ply vs. “inexpensive” hardwoods?

I have a long list of jigs to make, and I’d prefer to make them right the first time.

-- Life is a one lap race.


15 replies so far

View GFYS's profile

GFYS

711 posts in 2074 days


#1 posted 1715 days ago

I make jigs out of what I have.

View westside's profile

westside

77 posts in 1719 days


#2 posted 1715 days ago

That is a great question Pete. Being new to woodworking, I am going to keep an eye on this post. There are a lot of great woodworkers here who can give great advice I’m sure.

View drfixit's profile

drfixit

318 posts in 1747 days


#3 posted 1715 days ago

I made quite a few last year out of MDF, and now I am remakeing them. Very high humidity here durning the summer months and a lot of them have swelled up, so I am using plywood at a minimum. I bought a piece of UHMW plastic for my table saw fence, and have been using the left overs as much as I can. Depending on how much moisture you have to deal with mdf may do fine for you.

-- I GIVE UP!!!! I've cut this @!&*!% board 3 times.... its still too short!

View Cosmicsniper's profile

Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1762 days


#4 posted 1715 days ago

Baltic birch ply for some things, MDF for others. Sometimes straight hardwood boards, like for my TS cove cutting jig. Sometimes, hardboard – other times UHMW.

Not trying to be vague to annoy anybody, but Is usually depends on the type of jig and it usually comes down to what I have on hand.

I will say that it’s nice to have an array of hardware on hand, like t-slots, knobs, handles, carriage bolts, hold downs, etc.

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

View BlankMan's profile

BlankMan

1487 posts in 1957 days


#5 posted 1715 days ago

I too will make jigs out of what I have laying around but I do prefer MDF and will buy some for some of the jigs I make. I find it easy to work with for jigs and its smooth surface is a plus. I do not like the fine dust it produces when cutting it but that’s the price I pay.

I made the router sled below to lower my bench for my new RAS out of oak and MDF and actually had to buy the oak for it. This was a one time dedicated use item so using oak may not be everybody’s choice but I wanted its strength so it wouldn’t flex and I wanted the MDF for the base so the router would slide easily.

-- -Curt, Milwaukee, WI

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Cosmicsniper

2199 posts in 1762 days


#6 posted 1715 days ago

Oh, that’s nice, Curt!

-- jay, www.allaboutastro.com

View BlankMan's profile

BlankMan

1487 posts in 1957 days


#7 posted 1715 days ago

Thanks. It was the only way I could figure out how to cut down the bench and keep it level. Jig’s still sittin’ on the floor, may become firewood when it gets cold here. That’s kind of a shame but I can’t see any other use for it and trying to reclaim the wood would lead to awful small pieces and I’ve got enough of those.

-- -Curt, Milwaukee, WI

View papadan's profile

papadan

1118 posts in 1972 days


#8 posted 1715 days ago

It depends on what the jig is for. If I make one for a specific task that is only going to be used a little, I use MDF, if it is permanent like my crosscut sled, it is cabinet grade ply and hardwood.

-- Carpenter assembles with hands, Designer builds with brains, Artist creates with heart!

View BlankMan's profile

BlankMan

1487 posts in 1957 days


#9 posted 1715 days ago

That’s a good point Dan, I wouldn’t consider making a crosscut sled out of MDF, I used baltic birch and hard maple.

-- -Curt, Milwaukee, WI

View cstrang's profile

cstrang

1769 posts in 1772 days


#10 posted 1715 days ago

I use alot of MDF in my shop, I have never had any humidity problems with it like drfixit has, MDF is getting better and better and the water problem that once was is starting to trail off it seems. MDF is very durbale, I love it.

-- A hammer dangling from a wall will bang and sound like work when the wind blows the right way.

View Jeff8020's profile

Jeff8020

1 post in 1710 days


#11 posted 1710 days ago

You might consider making your jigs/fixtures out of 80/20 t-slot aluminum. 8020.net

View GMman's profile

GMman

3902 posts in 2301 days


#12 posted 1710 days ago

Anyting left over it can be a mixture, also it depends on the jig like what Dan said.

View PurpLev's profile

PurpLev

8476 posts in 2252 days


#13 posted 1710 days ago

it really does depend on what you’re making though. each material has certain characteristics which make it more suitable for certain jigs:

Masonite: darn cheap, easily machined, thin – good to surface surfaces, fences, and for templates
MDF: darn cheap,flat, even thickness, smooth faces – good for fences, or things that your parts need to slide by it.
BB Plywood: flat, stable
hardwoods: machineable, hard, continuous grain pattern (rigidity)
UHWM: naturally slick (good for runners, or fences) but is not naturally flat (easily gets out of flat/straight if not screwed to anything, also cannot be glued – has to be screwed)
Phenolic: naturally smooth, flat, rigid, stable.

it usually boils down to what scrap you have at hand, but if you are making something more planned out – just find the material that suits the purpose of the jig you’re building, and use that. sometimes more than 1 material for a jig.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View TexasJim's profile

TexasJim

86 posts in 1840 days


#14 posted 1709 days ago

Another it depends. If it’s a jig you are going to use a lot I would go with Baltic Birch ply and hardwood. For one time use, MDF or anything you have around. If you use MDF make sure you have good dust collection and a respirator would be a help, too. It makes awfully fine dust.

-- If the world was a logical place, men would be the ones who ride horses sidesaddle.

View Kent Shepherd's profile

Kent Shepherd

2697 posts in 1890 days


#15 posted 1709 days ago

I like Baltic Birch, Flame Maple and Bubinga. Yes it’s overkill, but it makes great looking jigs.
degoose likes Purple Heart

I don’t care for MDF on jigs unless it’s a one time thing, then it’s fine. It won’t hold screws well.
However, it does have it’s place.

Phenolic is great if you can afford it. Perfect for jigs you want to last forever.

-- She thought I hung the moon--now she just thinks I did it wrong

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