Shelf Pin Hole Jig

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Forum topic by Kelly posted 02-18-2015 06:16 PM 3495 views 0 times favorited 4 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View Kelly's profile


2039 posts in 2966 days

02-18-2015 06:16 PM

Topic tags/keywords: shelves shelf pin jig pin hole jig pin jig tip

As those who have dealt with it know, keeping all four sets of shelf pin holes at the same height as their counterparts is critical, and can be difficult, without a jig.

You can buy some nice jigs downtown. You can also use temper board for what, essentially, is a disposable jig, because the holes quickly enlarge with use.

Some of the commercial jigs use sleeves to avoid enlargement of the holes. Another option is, use a self centering bit, which is used to drill holes for door hinge screws and such on a jig with pin holes enlarged to accept the self centering bit.

The bits on self centering bits are not exposed, until they are centered in the hinge screw or another hole, and you push down. As such, they do not have any moving parts in contact with hardware. This makes them ideal for jig use, because they will not cause wear on the jig.

Inexpensive sets [of three] of these bits can be purchased at Harbor Freight.

For the actual jig, you can use anything you want. I prefer 1/4” acrylic, both because I had some laying around and because it makes it a bit easier to see what is going on.

Once I cut my strip to width (I chose 1-1/2”), I marked each hole position (I chose 1” center to center). Next, I drilled a pilot hole of about 1/8” inch. After that, I enlarged the holes to the size of the self centering bit.

With the bit in hand, the jig is now ready to use. However, I wanted to be sure all holes would line up with other sets of holes, and that spacing would remain the same, if I had to make long runs.

To insure this, I grabbed a screw the same size as the holes I would be drilling. It would fit, sloppily, through the jig hole, but snugly into any hole I drilled. To get it to also fit the jig holes, I just wrapped some duct tape around it, until it fit well. When done, I had an indexing pin.

After positioning the jig and drilling my first hole, I inserted the “indexing pin” (which looks, suspiciously like that screw with duct tape on it) into that hole, then drilled the remaining holes in that run.

Of course, I just repeated the process for each corner and, if needed, center back supports.

Once done drilling all the holes, I chased them with a bit the same size as the pins I would be using.

Because the self-centering bit drill fairly large holes, chasing the bits, to enlarge them, was simple. It required no real pressure, so there was little, if any danger of pushing through the cabinet side (generally, the bit pulls itself in and stops at the bottom).

4 replies so far

View AlaskaGuy's profile


4201 posts in 2331 days

#1 posted 02-18-2015 08:34 PM

After 40 some years of woodworking and trying many different shelf pin jig I use a home made jig very similar to the one in this video. It works very well and makes the cleanest chip free holes of any jig I have ever use.

I also prefer to do all the work I can before the cabinet is assembled. I also drill for hinges and sometime drawer slides also. Easier to work on when flat. No flipping assembled cabinet around to work on them.

-- Alaskan's for Global warming!

View Ghidrah's profile


667 posts in 1244 days

#2 posted 02-18-2015 10:26 PM

I made 4 pairs of shelf jigs over the last 20 yrs out of 1/4” luan and have been using the last pair since 09. The 1st couple pairs wore out fast because I was using them “A LOT” and more importantly treating them like rented red headed step mules.

-- I meant to do that!

View Redoak49's profile


3277 posts in 2010 days

#3 posted 02-19-2015 03:11 PM

I used the “WWA Shelf Pin Jig” which uses a plunge router and guide. I have used it to build many Euro style cabinets with thousands of holes.

I used a 5 mm bit and could accurately make 20 holes a minute. The router bit l eaves a cleaner hole than a drill bit.

View Kelly's profile


2039 posts in 2966 days

#4 posted 02-19-2015 04:25 PM

The router type shelf pin hole jigs seem unsurpassed for quality of hole (splintering/chipping). This is due to the high speed [and using a sharp bit]. A dull bit can tear or chip a hole too.

If you don’t have a router, your router doesn’t plunge, you don’t have the right template guide, or have to add holes to an existing cabinet, the drill jig may be the best bet. Even then, an angle drill may be required for tight spaces.

The centering bit can be faster, but the little speed gain isn’t usually an issue, if the project will be used for decades. Worrying over a minute or two would seem penny wise and pound foolish.

If you go the drill route, remember, the bit in the self-centering bit sets can be replaced. You may be able to replace the stock bit with a brad point for clean cuts. However, you may need to shorten it so it cuts to the same depth as the original bit [and doesn’t blow out the other side of your cabinet].

Usually, using sharp metal bits at high speed will give pretty good results. As such, rather than using a cordless drill, like in the pictures, switching to a corded drill can give better results, since they usually run at higher speeds.

The higher speed of corded drills is the reason Kregg recommends using them, instead of cordless, for drilling pocket holes. You get cleaner cuts and the bits stay sharp longer. The same applies in other wood drilling operations.

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