Shop Jigs: Buy or Make?

Shop Jigs: Buy or Make?

In last issue’s editorial, Rob wondered about when and how other woodworkers decide whether to buy a jig or make one. One reader seems to have seriously thought this through. – Editor

“Depends on several factors. 1. Urgency. Do I need it now? Make it now. 2. Frequency. If it is a one-time need, make it myself. 3. Cost vs. frequency. If it is something I will use a lot, and the cost and time to make it myself is comparable with buying it, then I might just buy it. 4. Do I have space to store it? This also is a factor in my analysis of ‘buy or make.’ 5. Accuracy/Precision. Is shop-made going to provide the needed accuracy and repeatability?” – Gordon Patnude

Here are some more perspectives on “buy or make.” – Editor

“I, too, have been bit by ‘the allure of the shiny new object’ in my shop. I have no holdback to making jigs and have several, but when I do buy one, I do so because it typically will perform better than one I could make in short order for the project at hand. (The Incra box joint jig comes to mind.) I have to add that I don’t buy the most inexpensive jigs when I buy. I buy for the quality. The ‘shiny new object’ is usually one of the perks.” – Tony Newman

“My decision point is whether I have the necessary scrap or cutoffs on hand.” – Jim Disbro

“It is the moment that drives my choice.  Most times, I know that what I need is probably not made, so I consult the web and then gin something up based on the ideas of others.  Other times, when I am still in the planning stage, I may flip through catalogs looking for the solution.  Price is also a deciding factor. Being born a Yankee, a high price on a piece of equipment will drive me towards the drawing board.” – Lee Ohmart

Meanwhile, several readers seem pretty committed to building their own jigs. – Editor

“I’m the guy that took just over two years to build my own thickness sander, then when I moved, gave it to a friend because I couldn’t move it. I think I prefer the challenge of doing it myself.” – Riley Grotts

“I am an architect, licensed in 1966. Since then, I have designed a wide variety of buildings, from regional malls to renovating a neighbor’s kitchen. So, developing a bunch of jigs for my shop was like ice cream on top of the cake. I doubt I will ever buy a jig.” – Richard Barron

“I do custom cabinetry and furniture. When I need a jig, I usually build it because it is for a custom piece and commercial jigs don’t work or I can’t find what I need in time. Need it now: better build it. The jig then gets hung on the wall for about a year and then it is repurposed or burned – if I have not used it since the original build.” – Bruce W. Campbell

“It was interesting that you bring up this particular subject. I previously leaned toward purchasing jigs for applications. However, I was able to take a class for a semester that was totally focused on jigs and fixtures. It rapidly expanded my horizons. I built (and used) in one semester, two crosscut sleds to accommodate straight and beveled cuts, a sacrificial fence, a ‘jointer’ jig for my router table, a bench hook, a shooting board for both straight and beveled joints, a drill press tablewith fence, an “L” fence for my table saw for bevels that require a square edge, and router jig for dadoes and sliding dovetails. It was a fun and interesting class that allowed me to come away with newfound confidence and a bunch of jigs. In the works: I’m designing a three-dimensional router template for routing inset brass cornier hardware.” – Ralph Lombardo

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