Material for Making Jigs and Tools ????

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Forum topic by JohnnyQ posted 04-26-2011 10:56 PM 1577 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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14 posts in 3138 days

04-26-2011 10:56 PM

What materials are you folks using to make jigs, fixtures and other tools? I have used mdf but I am concerned with moisture (humidity) causing to tools I make to swell and loose their dimensional accuracy. Am I worrying about nothing? I spoke to some of the machinists here at work. For their nonmetal jigs and fixtures they use phenolic boards or richlite. Both of these are $$$$$ and tough to get. I thought about HDF but this looks like it is tough to get as well (3/4 thk).

4 replies so far

View GregD's profile


788 posts in 3134 days

#1 posted 04-26-2011 11:34 PM

It doesn’t take much mosture to make particle board and MDF go bad.

I have a mortising jig for my router out of MDF, and I put polyurathane on it before using it. I am using melamine for some things (fences) and edge-band that (iron on tape). The melamine provides a slick, somewhat durable, low-cost surface. The edge banding not only seals the edges but also keeps me from getting cut on the sharp edge of the melamine surface. These materials are not very rigid, even at 3/4” thickness, so I typically build up a box-like structure to provide rigidity.

I prefer plywood since it is more rigid, not so heavy, tougher, and lighter. However, it isn’t always as flat as I would like so in those cases I still need to build up a box-like structure to keep it straight and flat.

Rockler had a sale on 3/4” phenolic-coated baltic birch plywood that is very flat, and has tough, slick surfaces so I got a piece of that. Very nice stuff. I was thinking of using it as the base of a large but simple cross cut sled but it is a bit smaller than what I was planning. Instead I’m going to go with edge-banded melamine – since it is floppy it will generally conform to the flat table saw top.

-- Greg D.

View Jamie Speirs's profile

Jamie Speirs

4168 posts in 2854 days

#2 posted 04-26-2011 11:45 PM

Perspex is my favorite I will recycle old sign boards.
Failing that plywood, but I’m not a very precise
Some days I just don’t use a tape or rule :) I’ve patterns
for most things I make even if only used once.
The great thing about perspex also is that it is clear.


-- Who is the happiest of men? He who values the merits of others, and in their pleasure takes joy, even as though 'twere his own. --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

View Tedstor's profile


1643 posts in 2630 days

#3 posted 04-26-2011 11:58 PM

I typically just use MDF, plywood, or whatever I can find at the restore.
I have a couple boxes of leftover laminate “hardwood” flooring that I commonly use for auxillary fences.

View traupmann's profile


124 posts in 2785 days

#4 posted 04-27-2011 12:03 AM

For a jig or a tool that I want for the long term, I use apple ply or baltic birch. The are very stable over time. With a coat of polyurethane they last accurately a long time. Often you can buy hunks of offal at the big box hardware store for little. Our Rockler store sell 1/4 sheets at a reasonable price too.

-- chas -- looking for Serta sponsorship to go Pro...

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