Sheet Goods Materials for Woodworking Jigs
Materials for Making Custom Tools for Your Wood Shop
© 2008 by Kelly Smith all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without authors written permission
A woodworking jig is just a homemade tool to make your project easier or safer. Face it, that new
power tool, say, a table saw or band saw is well equipped, but were creative folk, and theres
How many and how clever the jigs that a woodworker has devised and built is often a point of pride
in the crafting DIY community.
Jigs can be constructed using
metal and specialized hardware, and
plastics (polycarbonate, phenolic, Formica, etc.).
Lets look at different sheet goods materials that you can use to make your own jigs.
Hardwood: Oak, Maple, Poplar, Pecan, and More!
Hardwoods are the best woods for wood shop jigs because hardwood can take a beating and is
resistant to changes due to humidity. You are also very likely to have some choice chunks of oak or
rock maple in your scrap box from that last
butcher block counter top or other project recently completed.
Although hardwood may form the central part of the jig, many times the jig components
need to be
connected. This is where sheet goods come into play.
Plywood is all over the place nowadays so its taken for granted. What kicked it's popularity
into high gear?
Garage doors and loading dock doors. Imagine how clumsy these doors were to operate before plywood
burst on the scene!
What advantages does it offer you when it comes to building jigs? Because its made of alternating
plies, it tends to stay flat and stable over time, unlike particle board (don't get me started on
particle board and how its ruined so much furniture and kitchen and bathroom cabinets).
But not all plywood is the same. For jigs, I prefer Baltic birch. Why? Fewer internal voids and
more plies. Both of these factors add to its strength.
Hardboard is also known as high-density fiberboard and is an engineered wood
product. But unlike particle board, which uses wood chips in its
construction, its made with finely ground wood fibers and synthetic resins. Then its
under high pressure.
Tempered hardboard is also inexpensive. This is an important consideration for those jigs
that tend to get chewed up with use. You can crank out a batch of replacements and rebuild
your jig on the fly.
Since hardboard is manufactured in uniform thicknesses (1/8 - 1/4 inch), you can count on it
MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard)
MDF shares many advantageous characteristics with tempered hardboard: its inexpensive, stable, and
MDF is also available in thicker sizes. And its a heavy product. This makes it an ideal material
for jigs used where vibration is an issue, such as a lathe or a table saw. On the flip side, Its
weight might make it undesirable for larger woodworking jigs.
The Bottom Line on Sheet Goods
Wood shop jigs have a niche of their own in the DIY community. This is definitely a case of
a better mousetrap being built over and over again. Whether its a featherboard or a
dovetail cutting jig, someones done it before, just not as well as you have!
You will also want to read:
Pick up top quality jig components at Rockler Woodworking Hardware.