Archive for the Category ◊ Jigs and Fixtures ◊

Author:
• Wednesday, January 31st, 2018

tenon shoulder jig

This simple jig makes it easy to produce highly accurate tenon shoulders on the table saw. Admittedly, it is a nicety, not a necessity, but I have been delighted with the consistently excellent results from it.

The special feature is that both edges of the fence are used, in turn, to register the work piece. This allows you to work from a single reference edge of the rail. This is hand-tool style – you do not assume the two edges of the rail are exactly parallel. Yes, they probably are, close enough at least, but I like potential errors to cancel whenever I can. Setting up a jig like this means I only have to be dead on once – when I make the jig.

This means that the edges of the fence must be absolutely parallel to each other. They are, within a thou.

Also, a sled is a generally more accurate way to crosscut on the table saw because the work piece does move against any surface. Of course, the miter slot must be accurately parallel to the blade for this jig, or for any device that slides in the miter slot, to work well.

Making the jig

The overall dimensions of the jig are 21″ x 14″.

build a tenon shoulder jig

Trim the UHMW strip to a snug fit in the miter slot, and then attach it to the 3/4″ MDF base of the sled using screws entering through the top. Locate the runner so that there is a little bit of the base extending to the right beyond the blade. Then, trim the right edge of the sled by sliding the base in the miter slot. The other three edges of the base are not critical; cut them only for a neat appearance.

The fence is 3/4″ MDF, 2 1/2″ wide. Stable, quartersawn hardwood is probably a better choice of material because it is easier to trim straight and square, but I got lucky when ripping this piece of MDF so I used it. Using 1/4″-20 flat-head bolts through the bottom of the base, attach the fence square to the right edge of the base. T nuts make it easier to tune the angle now, or later if needed.

Neatly add PSA 220-grit sand paper to both working edges of the fence. The big knob in the middle helps in maneuvering the sled.

In use

A stop block is easily added to my VSC table saw fence. Mark the reference of edge of the rail. Adjust the blade height. Remember to readjust the blade height if you are making a tenon that is not centered on width of the rail.

Cut one shoulder . . .

cutting tenon shoulders

and then the other, using the same reference edge of the rail.

tenon shoulders on the table saw

You also can make the little “connecting” (edge) shoulders with this jig on the table saw. However, errors can creep in. When the rail is held on its long edge, it can register differently against the stop block than when it is held on its face. This will result in the end shoulder(s) not aligning with the face (main) shoulders. So, I often prefer to do these by hand, which is easy.

As always, there’s more than one good way to get the job done.

Author:
• Sunday, January 28th, 2018

tenon shoulder trimming jig

Tenon shoulders must meet stringent standards to produce a good joint – straight, at the correct angle to the length of the rail (usually 90°), accurately paired on both sides of the joint to meet the surface around the mortise, and in position to make the length of the rail fit the overall structure. Thus, whether produced by machine or by hand, you need a reliable method to tweak tenon shoulders. A shoulder plane has no equal for this task, but it needs a good work setup to make it function well.

This jig meets that need. In 2016, I wrote in detail about the jig that I had been using for many years. I usually use my Clifton 410 small shoulder plane or, for large work, the big Lie-Nielsen. For small work and other delicate adjustments, I like my little Japanese shoulder plane, used on the pull stroke.

To use both styles of planes, the jig should be reversible. Why didn’t I do this a long time ago? I removed the front cleat, and repositioned the bottom cleat, which fits in the tail vise, to the middle of the base.

tenon shoulder jig

Now I can use the jig for push-style shoulder planes:

tenon shoulder trimming

And, by rotating the jig 180° and using the other end of the fence, for pull-style shoulder planes:

Japanese shoulder plane

In either direction, the plane moves toward a hardwood backup piece that prevents spelching at the exit end of the work piece. This replaceable element is secured with deeply countersunk screws. The graphics on the top remind me of the presence and depth of the screw heads.

tenon shoulder trimming jig

After this revision, the jig is reduced in overall size to about 8 1/2″ x 12 1/2″, but that does not matter. It can accommodate even large work pieces by using a scrap of wood under the rail for outboard support. The toggle clamp, along with the self-clamping effect of always working toward the fence, keeps the work piece secure.

The jig is quick and easy to build, and I think you will find it helpful for this exacting task.

Author:
• Saturday, December 30th, 2017

curved cork sanding block

Customized shaped blocks are a must for properly sanding concave curves. They are a key player on the Tools for Curves team. Cork has the ideal flexibility and resiliency for backing the sandpaper.

Lately, I have been making the blocks entirely from cork. These work better and are easier to make than what I formerly used, which was shaped wooden blocks with a layer of cork added to the working surface. By the way, I have experimented with pink foam board insulation and found it difficult to shape reliably.

To make these all-cork blocks, you need thick stock. It is wonderfully easily to cut with a handsaw or bandsaw, and shape with a moderate-grain rasp. The curve does not always need to be a constant radius – simply draw it freehand and saw. Refine it with the rasp, ensuring that it is just a bit steeper than the steepest section of the work piece.

cork block

Make the thickness of the block to your liking based on how you want to grip the block. The block pictured at the top is about 1 1/2″ thick. You can try to size the block for optimal convenience in cutting the sandpaper from standard 9″x11″ sheets, and to minimize waste, but good function and feel in the hand are the more important factors for me.

Saw kerfs 3/4 -1″ long about 1/2″ from the top face of the block to house the ends of the sandpaper. Hand pressure will naturally keep the paper in place (see below) even in fine grits and more so in coarse grits. No wedges or clips are needed. The chamfers at the beginning of the slots toward the working face are important.

curved cork sanding block

To install the sandpaper:

Enter one end just a little into the slot, then bring the other end around the block and push it almost all the way into its slot. Working back the other way, snug the paper around the block and then push the original end as far as possible into its slot. Make a final tightening of the paper by pressing the paper it against one of the chamfers then use your fingertips to goose the paper even more into the slot.

cork sanding block

The simple design of these blocks along with this paper insertion procedure produce a tighter hold on the sandpaper against the surface of the block than any commercial curved block that I have used (none of which I like).

Finally, the light weight of an all-cork block is an asset not to be underestimated in the countless (ugh!) reciprocation of sanding work.

Find thick cork by searching online. Try “cork blocks” or “cork yoga blocks.” I suggest the Corkstore (Jelenik Cork Group), which currently sells a 9×5″x5″x3.5″ yoga block for $19.25, and 12″x8″x2″ block for $17.10. This is a nice fine grain cork that is easy to shape reliably. Dick’s Sporting Goods sells a 9″x4″x6″ block, so you might be able to find it locally.

Author:
• Friday, August 25th, 2017

mortise jig wedge clamps

In two earlier posts, I presented a router mortise jig. As writing is a good occasion to rethink matters, I have upgraded the clamping system on the jig. What’s more, this general design for a wedge clamp system can be applied to other shop jigs and fixtures to increase their holding range.

The mechanical advantage produced by the humble wedge is a wonderful earthly thing. I used larger blocks that rotate on an off-center pivot to accommodate a much greater range of workpiece width. The plywood base of the jig is also wider than the original to allow for this, and thicker at 3/4″ for greater strength. The blocks and wedges are 5/8″ thick.

Each block is 2 1/2″ square. The center of the pivot hole is 1/2″ from one edge, and 1″, 1 1/2″, and 2″ from the three other edges. Thus, there are four different rotational positions to create a large range of clamping width capacity.

Below, the block is in position to clamp the widest workpieces.

wedge clamps

The wedge is 8 ¼” long with a 1:7 slope. This produces slightly more than 1/2″ range of clamping width, which spans the difference from one block position to the next.

Below, the block is in position for the second-to-narrowest clamping capacity.

wedge clamps

A 1/4-20 x 1 1/2″ hex bolt, unthreaded in the 5/8″ nearest its head, enters from the bottom of the base with the head recessed in a counterbore. It is secured above the block with a nylon-insert lock nut, which is tightened to allow free but firm rotation of the block.

The wedge clamps work so well that they may obviate the need for the toggle clamps. The wedge system particularly makes the jig better for mortising frame members. Because these are narrower than leg blanks, they are best clamped in a pair to increase the seating width for the base of the router jig.

Author:
• Thursday, June 29th, 2017

router mortise jig

Now let’s work through the elements of the jig. The top photo again shows an overall view with a leg blank in place.

Basic construction:

The jig is built on a piece of plywood about 5″ wide and 39″ long. Screwed down along one edge is a double-width T track with the groove placed up at the outer edge. The wide T-track allows the sliding stops to be far enough away from the leg blank to make room for the router fence. (See previous post.)

Workpiece registration:

The side of the leg blank registers against the track, and the end registers against the moveable tab stop that you can see sticking out sideways from the track in the photo below. (It is dark wood – wenge – with a brass knob.)

router mortise jig

Clamping the workpiece:

Two toggle clamps are mounted on 1 7/8″ square x 5″ moveable blocks, which are secured in the track with T bolts. These clamps provide lots of holding power and can be positioned away from the routing action.

For use in addition to, or instead of, the toggle clamps, there is a wedge system, seen in the photo below. This consists of three 5/8″ square x 1″ blocks, distributed along the length of the plywood, that are bolted to the plywood but free to rotate. Wedges, 5/8″-thick x 8″-long with a 1:7 slope, secure the workpiece.

router mortise jig

Stops for limiting the length of the mortise/haunch:

These are 3/4″ x 2 1/2″ x 2 1/2″ blocks that position in the T track and lock down with T bolts and star knobs. You can see them at the sides of the photo below.

router mortise jig

At the right of the photo below, the router fence jig meets the stop to define the bottom of the mortise.

router mortise jig

At the left of the photo below, the router plate jig meets the stop to define the bottom of the haunch (the limit of the full-depth mortise).

router mortise jig

In the photo below, the left-side stop has been moved out of the way create the haunch all the way to the end of the leg. In practice, you would rout this first. Then you would move the left-side stop into place to define the top of the full-depth mortise, as seen just above. That location is “remembered” by the little maple stop with the brass knob.

router mortise jig

In summary:

  • Understood in its separate elements, the jig is not difficult to make.
  • In practice, the whole thing is very intuitive to set up from mortises marked out in the traditional manner on one leg only.
  • The mortising work moves along quickly.
  • The jig can handle most common leg blank sizes that you will use to prepare the joinery before cutting the shape of the leg.
  • It can also be used with rail and stile work but workpieces thinner than about 1 1/4″ will need to be paired with thicker wood to better support the router. The jig was designed mainly for mortising table legs.

[Skip this paragraph if you want; it will be apparent when you work with the jig. Depending on the circumstances and personal preferences, you can rout four corresponding mortises with the leg registered at one end of the jig, retain the router fence setting, and then reset the mortise jig to register the legs at the opposite end of the jig to make the other four mortises. Alternatively, you can retain the mortise jig settings and reset the router fence.]

Author:
• Thursday, June 29th, 2017

router mortise jig

Here is a very direct approach to mortising with a router that works especially well for mortising legs.

The system starts with an auxiliary router base plate that rests on top of the squared leg blank and has two adjustable fences that hug the sides of the blank to eliminate side play. I have been using the one shown here, made from acrylic, since I bought it from Woodhaven more than 25 years ago.

router mortise jig

Though it is no longer available from Woodhaven, it does not seem difficult to make a similar version from plywood, perhaps lining the fences with adhesive UHMW plastic. The base is about 10″ wide and 8″ deep. Each fence is an L-shaped construction. The long arm of the L has two slots, in which slide bolts that pierce the base and are tightened to fix the fence position. The short (1″) arm of the L rides along the side of the leg blank.

It probably would be good enough to substitute the L fence with just a flat piece of plywood, though the height of the fence is added insurance against tipping. Alternatively, you could slot the base and use simple hardwood strips for the fences. I trimmed the fences to ensure that no part of them extends beyond the base plate, so it is only the base plate that will meet the stops that define the mortise length, as you will see later.

The idea is nothing more than a double-sided router fence.

router mortise jig

So, that’s simple enough. Now we need two more elements. First, is a way to reliably register the workpiece in place, and then clamp it there. Second, we need stops to define the ends of the mortise (and a haunch, if required). To make the jig adjustable for different layouts, these stops must adjust independently from the workpiece-registration element and clamps.

Below is an overall view. It is really simpler than it might look at first. Trust me, I hate complicated jigs – I’ll break down this one for you in upcoming posts.

router mortise jig

By the way, the plunge router is an Elu 3338, vintage about 1990 and still mortising strong. It is very similar to the current DeWalt DW625, though the Elu was made in Switzerland.

Author:
• Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Very Super Cool table saw fence

How cool is this table saw fence? The answer is in its name: Very Super Cool.

The Saw Stop cabinet saw that has been in my shop since 2005 is still a great machine but the Biesemeyer-style fence that came with it has never measured up in quality. The fence’s travel and locking mechanisms are very good but the fence face is simply not straight enough for the precision I demand and which the saw is otherwise fully capable of delivering.

The relatively flexible MDF-plastic laminate fence face is tightened against the painted metal fence body, which is not machined. This has frustrated my many attempts at shimming to create a true, flat fence.

True, the work piece bridges hollows to some extent but there are still inaccuracies and unpredictable effects at the beginning and end of the cut, depending on the length of the board. Bottom line, the results were wanting.

Enter the VerySuperCool fence. Its prime and great virtue is the incredibly flat and true one-piece, machined, aluminum extrusion fence, 40x80mm in section. Testing with my two-foot Starrett straightedge, both faces were flat everywhere within one thou. Amazingly, the faces are also parallel within one thou, which comes in handy for using the fence on either side of the blade, or for a jig that slides over the whole fence.

Very Super Cool aluminum extrusion

Now I can trust that when I ride a work piece with a nice straight edge against the fence, the cut edge will be just as nicely straight. What a relief.

The fence slides wonderfully smoothly and locks without creeping as the handle is tightened. The hairline cursor is easy to read accurately if you want to cut to an absolute dimension or repeat it.

The set up procedure is eminently logical. The maker walks you through the details with very understandable You Tube videos available via his website. The result is a fence parallel to the blade and square to the table that is adjusted to lock solidly.

The slots in the extrusion can be used with a variety of manufactured and shop-made add-ons, limited only by your ingenuity. Below is shown a simple end stop for cutoffs attached with bolts and T-nuts, using no clamps.

Very Super Cool T-nuts

The VerySuperCools Tools fence was developed and is made in the USA by Allan Little. The personal attention and service I experienced were just what one would expect from a small independent company like this one.

This review is unsolicited and uncompensated. I write this sort of review for two reasons. First, I want to present my experience with beneficial excellent products that may be unfamiliar to my fellow woodworkers. Second, I am in awe of the work of inventive entrepreneurs like Allan Little, Mark Harrell, Ken Rizza, Tico Vogt, Kevin Glen-Drake, and Bob Zajicek, all of whom make products I have reviewed on this blog. I want to support them and urge you also do so. They help make the world go around and America great.

Author:
• Tuesday, November 29th, 2016

woodworking jigs

The previous post reminds me to catalog the Wall of Boards in my shop, as this may be a helpful reference for readers.

The most essential is the shooting board on the lower right. I cannot imagine working without at least a basic shooting board. Of course, it is used for long grain as well as end grain shooting. Go to this post for a few tips on shooting.

shooting board

On the upper left is the least essential of the boards, but still quiet handy, the sanding shooting board, used with the Veritas Shooting Sander. It can save the day for small parts, thin pieces, and cantankerous wood.

shooting sander

Speaking of shooting boards, Tico Vogt’s Super Chute remains a staple in my shop. (It is stored on another wall.) I attached two cleats, shown in the second photo below, that allow it to be clamped in the tail vise of my workbench. This keeps the Super Chute super steady and allows me to put my weight behind the plane when needed.

Super Chute

Super Chute attachment

By the way, the incline does matter. The skew reduces resistance in the cut, despite the assertions of some, and this is especially helpful when working endgrain. The ramp also results in wider distribution of wear on the blade edge, saving some trips to the sharpening bench.

The jig for trimming tenon shoulders is on the upper right, and the planing stop board is on the lower left.

For those in the early stages of learning woodworking (and we’re all in some stage of learning), using jigs such as these will be an empowering step up in your work.

Category: Jigs and Fixtures  | Comments off
Author:
• Monday, November 14th, 2016

lumber rack

This upgrade of the main lumber storage rack in my shop has worked out well. Manufactured by Slacan Industries, based in Canada, it is designed to hold underground cable but is sold to woodworkers by Woodcraft and Lee Valley as a lumber rack.

The formed-steel brackets, U-shaped in cross section, are available in 10″, 14″, and 18″ lengths. They freely insert at 1 1/2″ intervals into the rolled-steel channel wall straps, which come in 55″ and 24″ lengths.

The versatility of this rack is the main reason I chose it. The movable brackets of different lengths make it easy to adjust the rack as storage needs change. It is now easy to create room to store wood by category or to make a pile with spacers between boards.

This thing is mega beefy – all parts are made from 3/16″-thick steel. Fuhgeddaboudit: a single 18″ bracket is rated by Slacan to support a 300-pound load applied one inch from the outer end!

What you cannot forget about is properly installing the rack. I consulted a structural engineer to make sure the wall studs could safely hold the anticipated load of lumber in the way I would set up the rack.

lumber rack

I have limited room in my small shop so there are two 55″ straps spaced 16″ apart on studs, plus a 24″ strap for the upper two or three levels that are more heavily loaded. I attached the straps to the studs with Simpson StrongTie 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ structural screws (#SDS25312), using 1/8″-thick x 1 1/2″-diameter washers to bridge the large bracket-insertion cutouts; there are no dedicated mounting holes in the 55″ straps (and those on the 24″ straps are large).

lumber rack parts

The galvanized finish on the straps and brackets is rough. I used a bastard-cut mill file to quickly ease the top surfaces of the brackets and their connection tabs.

I bought the rack from Woodcraft on sale as a set, which had a few more parts than I needed but was still cheaper than buying individual parts. With more storage capacity, I now have to resist buying beautiful wood that I don’t need (yet).

Author:
• Sunday, September 18th, 2016

jig for trimming tenon shoulders

This simple jig gives greater control for trimming tenon shoulders and eliminates breakout of end grain at the back edge of the rail as the plane exits. I have been using it in my shop for many years.

A tenon shoulder is correctively trimmed with a shoulder plane used on its side and registered against the cheek and the shoulder of the tenon itself. The correction usually involves just a few critical strokes of the plane.

trimming tenon shoulders

The jig easily installs in the tail vise, clamps the rail quickly and firmly, provides the essential support at the back edge to eliminate spelching, and allows planing without obstruction. Two earlier steps in forming the tenon, sawing the shoulder and trimming the tenon cheek, can also be done on this jig by simply clamping the rail so the shoulder line is positioned a bit beyond the backstop.

The jig is easily made from 3/4″ MDF. The base is 15″ wide x 9″ deep. The main portion of the backstop is 13″ x 2 1/2″, laterally centered on the base and attached with glue and screws.

A 500-pound capacity, 6 1/2″-long toggle clamp with a large retrofit foot pad is screwed to the midpoint of the backstop. The depth and outward projection of the pad are adjusted according to the thickness and width, respectively, of the work piece rail. Other types of quick-set clamps could also be used.

tenon jig

Key features are the hardwood caps on the backstop. These are 2 1/2″ in the long grain direction and 1/2″ wide, and simply screwed to the ends of the MDF. Countersink, or better, counterbore, the screws deeply enough to keep them out of the path of the plane blade. Note that I have marked a line at the depth of the screw heads and drawn pictures of the screws in red as reminders of their presence. I would hate to run a plane blade into them.

By the way, I am right-handed and never use the left side of the jig but it is useful for lefthanders at classes and demonstrations.

tenon shoulder

For securing the jig in the workbench, a 1 1/2″-wide strip of MDF is glued and screwed to the front of the base where it will butt against the front of the bench. Further, a 4 1/4″ x 1 3/8″ x 3/4″ plywood cleat is glued and screwed to the base and front stop. The cleat fits into the tail vise, which is then tightened to secure the jig.

tenon jig cleat

To trim a tenon shoulder, align it with, or very near, the edge of the hardwood backstop cap. Plane the shoulder and continue the stroke through the cap as needed. Of course, the cap gets slowly depleted over time, as shown here, but it is easily replaced.

jig detail

I think you will find this jig increases your comfort and control in the precision job of trimming tenon shoulders.