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Forum topic by ToddTurner posted 01-01-2012 04:55 PM 1784 views 0 times favorited 18 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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144 posts in 3349 days

01-01-2012 04:55 PM

Topic tags/keywords: tool shop resource

Sometimes i find myself making shop tools or jigs and such to make the shop more functional-as the shop is a tool itself (or an addiction!!). Myself, i am a hobbiest. I have 4 kids and 2 jobs so shop time isnt as frequent as i would like. So, with that said, i try to just buy, if affordable, jigs tools, etc. That way i can focus more on projects. My question to you guys is-what is your view on buying vs making your own tooling in the shop?
I see some project posts here where guys post nothing but tools like benches, router tables, fences, etc etc. And no or few projects. I agree that some of the best tools youll ever had you will make yourself and im not saying storebought is any better. Im just striking up conversation betwix woodworkers. Hey show pics of your favorite and treasured shop made tooling.
Happy new year!

18 replies so far

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2876 days

#1 posted 01-01-2012 06:26 PM

Excellent post, ToddTurner. Very thoughtful and, I hope, useful.

(My other hope is that 2012 brings you more shop time.)

Here’s an argument for making your own stuff: For the sake of illustration I am thinking of a taper jig for table legs on the TS or a holder with an air nozzle for use in the drill press, that sort of scale.

1. It will grease the problem-solving gears in your head. It starts with conception, information gathering, material assessment and then you build it.

2. Let’s say it doesn’t work quite like you had imagined. Since you are 100% familiar with it and its materials, you can stop and remodel it or rebuild it. This is important mental process, in my view.

3. You can hang it on your wall as a trophy of your triumph over a challenge which you solved yourself.

4.—and this one is optional—You can choose to not write on it what it does, and then one day find it on your wall and wonder what the heck it’s for, even though it is tinged with a twinkle of familiarity. (the Geezer Factor in jig and fixture building.)

A good half of learning woodworking is not technique—it’s learning how the material acts. (I”m including everything here—wood, screws, glue, and on.) What happens when I do this to it? What happens if I do this right after I do that? What’s the balance here between strength and function (or beauty)?: These things are learned as you go, whether it’s your first dovetail box or a box for your restored pickup or a box for the kids’ pickup sticks or a new handle for your favorite file.

Writing a check for the latest (often plastic) gizmo doesn’t have quite the same benefits, in my view.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View ToddTurner's profile


144 posts in 3349 days

#2 posted 01-01-2012 07:02 PM

Perfect feedback Lee!!

View doncutlip's profile


2832 posts in 3582 days

#3 posted 01-01-2012 07:03 PM

I’ve spent the past year building up my shop. After years of working on sawhorses and limited space, I wanted a nice place to work. Plus I wanted to get organized so I wouldn’t have to walk around so much or search for tools. To your basic question, I prefer to buy jigs, at least for now. I want a good reference on which I can develop my skills. That being said, I’m not always pleased. I got a crosscut sled from Rockler because I liked the nice fence but in the end I’ll probably build my own sled. Lee is right about the problem solving aspects of jig building, it’s one of the reasons I do woodworking as a hobby, it sure exercises a different part of my brain than does my chosen profession, engineering. We make ‘jigs’ there too, but management is always pushing us to build value in our products, not our ‘jigs’ – and that makes sense in a business setting (although not always wise).

-- Don, Royersford, PA

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3094 days

#4 posted 01-01-2012 07:25 PM

Virtually all of my jigs begin as a quick and dirty, single use, thingy that usually gets tossed after it’s brief lifetime.

Sometimes, I find myself keeping one “just in case” – although there are a couple collecting dust in the corner that haven’t been needed for some years, now. They only get moved when I ave one of my cleaning frenzies. – lol

One jig that I bought with no regret, is my Rockler jig for drilling shelf pin holes. I made several over the years, but a large kitchen job with a tight schedule caused me to bite the bullet. One of my best moves, ever. Ii’s still going strong after three years. I would have needed to replaced my shop made jig at least twice by now.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3100 days

#5 posted 01-01-2012 10:23 PM

A big part of me wants to make every jig as well as my router table, drill press table, TS sled, etc.

However, the professional manufacturers have a real advantage over DIYs. They have various forms of mass production and they probably buy their materials at a bulk rate. To match their quality and their price I probably have to, effectively, work for pennies per hour.

A key point, for me, is I have a very long to-do list. I don’t sell anything, but I have committed to numerous projects for our home, family and church. Why spend my time on projects for the shop when I could spend time on projects on my to-do list.

Most recent example – - For a project I just started, I really need a table saw sled. I could build my own and I seriously considered it. I thought out the cost of materials and the amount of time it would take and I compared that to this rockler sled – -

I know I would need at least $50 in material (probably more) to make this at a compatible level of quality and I estimate at least 5 hours of labor (probably more). On a dollars and sense basis, I would be effectively working for less than minimum wage. More importantly, I would be taking time from the projects that I need to complete and that I would enjoy more.

I bought this sled from Rockler (when it was on sale for $89). It’s an excellent sled. I feel like I made the right decision on this one.

FYI – Not all manufactured items are high quality. They should be avoided.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Sylvain's profile


708 posts in 2525 days

#6 posted 01-01-2012 11:02 PM

Hi everybody,

You might find interesting to read :

This being said, when I started to look to wood working web site, I was first very excited by all those jig examples; everyone seemed to be more necessary/smart than the other; probably linked to why I had chosen engineering education 42 years ago.
Lee here above rightly explains the satisfaction of designing/constructing a jig.

One have to find his own balance between the satisfaction of designing jigs and doing other projects.
For personal/practical reasons I will try the hand tools route.

Hand tools have been developed for natural wood.
I am not sure hand tools are adequate/effective for plywood and MDF, has anybody tried?

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

View Manitario's profile


2630 posts in 2909 days

#7 posted 01-01-2012 11:07 PM

I’m trying to spend more time working through the list of projects I have to make for the house, eg. bookcase, coffee table etc. and just buy the jigs I need. Otherwise it is easier sometimes to forever be making jigs and shop stuff rather than the list of projects I have for the house. I don’t know why this is. I’m starting at least to use my jig making as an excuse to practice different ww skills.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


932 posts in 2381 days

#8 posted 01-01-2012 11:24 PM

I used to work with a guy who would spend all day building clever little jigs, to do things he could have done in seconds without…..

If you’re making 1,000 parts and need to do them quickly and precisely ok, make some clever ingenius little jig. If you need to cut something complicated, go ahead and make the jig. BUT if you’re cutting mitres. Use the right tool in the first place, don’t make a jig.

There are lots of reasons to build jigs, and there are some people who will go crazy with jigs, and just make a jig that really only wastes time to build. As a hobbyist I can see it could be enticing, but I would always think a finished project would feel more rewarding.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View Nighthawk's profile


556 posts in 2383 days

#9 posted 01-01-2012 11:55 PM

Depends on what you are wanting…how quickly you need it… are you willing to spend time vs money… Is your project you require the jig for professional job or a hobby, will the jig get used on other projects or just take up room in the shop.

My TS sled took about 3 hrs to build, and that was mainly waiting for glue to dry. My Drill press fence took about 2 hours. The Router jig took longer as we tried to make shift fit a vaccum cleaner head. That being said I will be buying a dove tail jig in the near future.

All my jigs were made out of scrap from the scrap bin that if that wood got burnt, thrown out, taken, other halve takes if for garden, It wood not bother me… As I said in one of my posts somewhere I don’t make my jigs to look pretty I just want them to be 100% functional, to meet my needs and requirements. If it is not 100% what I want then I can add to it, alter it, or rebuild it. So it is not cost me any money only time. I can’t do that to a bought one. In the past the jigs I have built have been used on many other projects so they are not awaste of time and over all saved time… even though for me this is all a hobby.

Now in saying that the bought jigs, you get what you pay for (obviously) and some are not as good as they claim so you do have to be careful there as well.

-- Rome wasn't built in a day... but I wasn't on that job? ...

View clieb91's profile


3520 posts in 3961 days

#10 posted 01-02-2012 01:54 AM

Todd, A good post and looks like some good responses. I still debate this on a regular basis with myself. I have a few of each. An example I have recently is that I built a vise to attach to my drill press fence for drilling pen blanks. I had a lot of fun and good mental exercise during the build. It worked well for a bit but just could not hold up. When I recently started making some pens in large bulk I broke done and bought a pen vise. It works great and is much easier to set up then mine was. I may go back to mine to see if I can get it to work better but for now I will go with the store bought one. Though after watching a recent video I am thinking about editing that one.


-- Chris L. "Don't Dream it, Be it."- (Purveyors of Portable Fun and Fidgets)

View madts's profile


1862 posts in 2366 days

#11 posted 01-02-2012 02:05 AM

In the old west when gold was found, the people who made the money were the guys who sold and bought items that the miners needed. It was not the hard working guys that dug up the gold.
With this in mind, make our own unless you do not have the time nor the money. Making our own is also a lot of fun.

Have a good new year.

-- Thor and Odin are still the greatest of Gods.

View mtenterprises's profile


933 posts in 2719 days

#12 posted 01-02-2012 02:06 AM

When I first started business and was reading everything I could about starting and running a business I ran across this statement “Don’t buy solutions.”. The idea was figure it out on your own, use what you have available and that’s where I place shop made tools and jigs. And sometimes it impresses the customers but then you DON”T tell them not to buy solutions you say “What can I make for you?”.

-- See pictures on Flickr - And visit my Facebook page -

View Gary's profile


9333 posts in 3459 days

#13 posted 01-02-2012 02:15 AM

I have only one jig that was bought. The reason is because when I find I want a jig for a certain job, I don’t want to wait for it to come. I can usually build one quicker than ordering and waiting for it to arrive. I can also make it the way it suits me best. However, because I like to work this way, I also have to keep stuff in the shop that will let me build the jig….

-- Gary, DeKalb Texas only 4 miles from the mill

View Gene Howe's profile

Gene Howe

10540 posts in 3454 days

#14 posted 01-02-2012 02:20 AM

We are brothers!

-- Gene 'The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.' G. K. Chesterton

View andrewr79's profile


36 posts in 2378 days

#15 posted 01-02-2012 04:16 AM

I’m one of these people who’s spent nearly a year of free moments getting my shop ready – restoring tools, building storage and benches. I don’t regret it, I learnt a lot through the process. I don’t really have that much need to build stuff for inside the house so projects for the shop keep me entertained.

-- Visit my blog @ to see what I've been up to

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