Are you setting up a workshop, and in need of woodworking jigs? If so, you may be wondering whether you ought to buy your jigs or make them yourself. There are pros and cons to both options!
Making your own woodworking jig has several advantages. It is much cheaper than buying one, and it means that you can customize it to fit your needs. On the other hand, commercially-purchased jigs can work better, and you’ll have one immediately ready, rather than having to put time into building it.
As someone who has gone through the same decision-making process, I understand the challenges of choosing between buying and making your own woodworking jigs. Let me share the steps I took and how I ultimately handled the situation.
I will use this article to understand more about woodworking jigs, and whether it’s better to buy or make one. This should put you in a good position to decide.
Table of Contents
*Safety is your responsibility. Make sure you know what you’re doing and take all necessary safety precautions while working with power tools. Safety comes first!
Always be cautious and careful when using any power tool.
What Is a Jig in Woodworking?
A jig is a device that will hold the piece of wood in place and help guide the tool. It is created to ensure you can cut or shape the wood properly. It usually offers improved:
Some jigs may offer all three, while some might just make it safer or easier to cut the wood. Jigs are set on top of the piece of wood you’re working on and guide the tool as you use it. They can serve as a template to reduce the need for constant measuring, especially if you are making multiple identical parts. That’s where the jigs mainly excel.
If you are planning on making your own woodworking jigs, there are lots of plans for woodworking jigs available online, or you can make your own plans from scratch if you prefer.
These are some of the most common jigs you can have in the workshop:
- Crosscut sled: a crosscut sled is necessary if you use a table saw. It makes it much easier and safer to crosscut wider pieces of wood, as well as get the wood pieces ready for multiple joints such as finger joints, box joints, miter joints, and others.
Crosscut Sled for a Mini Table Saw: Mini table saw crosscut sled
- Straight edge guide: a straight edge guide is a jig that guides a tool along a straight edge, ensuring that cuts are clean, accurate, and straight. A straight-edge guide can be used with circular saws, jigsaws, or routers, and can be used together with a fence to make the cuts even more precise.
Circular Saw Guide: Circular Saw Straight Edge Guide
Jigsaw Guide: Simple Jigsaw Guide Rail
Router Guide: Router Straight Edge
- Router Dado Jig: a dado jig is a multipurpose device that not only lets you cut dados as the name implies but lets you cut rabbets and grooves as well. It can also be used as a straight-edge guide for making straight cuts. When used together with stop fences it can be used to cut mortises.
Router Dado Jig: Adjustable Router Dado Jig
Buying VS Making Your Own Woodworking Jigs
In most cases you can buy a woodworking jig designed for a specific purpose, or one that at least partially meets your requirements.
Buying a woodworking jig comes in handy, especially if the piece you are creating follows a particular shape or pattern or it would be too difficult to make it yourself. However, often you would come across a situation when you need a tool that is unique for your project, and in that case, you’ll generally need to make it, rather than buy it. Another important factor is the price. In most cases it is possible to make the jigs yourself and save money that can be used elsewhere.
It’s worth checking out your local hardware store to see if they have any jigs available that suit your needs and how much you would spend on them. Sometimes, you’ll have both options – to buy jigs or make them – but the decision process is not that simple so let’s look at this in more detail below so you can decide which would be best for you.
Pros And Cons of Buying a Woodworking Jig
Buying a readymade jig has several advantages, but also some drawbacks.
Probably the biggest advantage of buying a jig is that you immediately have the tool, and you don’t have to put time into creating it. This can help if you’re working on an urgent project and you don’t have time to mess around shaping a tool from scratch.
Some people find the process of making jigs fiddly and time-consuming, and prefer not to do it. If you’re in this situation, buying one will generally be preferable.
Having a few commonly-used jigs to hand before you start a project can be advantageous, too. For those just setting up a workshop with lots of ideas about what they want to make and limited time for making it, purchasing a few of the commonest jigs is certainly preferable.
There are quite a few drawbacks to buying jigs, unfortunately. The biggest one is probably the cost. Jigs aren’t as expensive as some power tools, but they can still be costly, especially if you need several of them. When they’re something you could just make yourself, the price may make them unappealing.
Additionally, you probably won’t be able to customize a jig you’ve purchased from a store. Since jigs are meant to guide your hands and make woodworking easier, you want to be able to adapt them to your exact needs. Many store-bought jigs are plastic and metal, and therefore can’t be altered to suit the individual using them.
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Pros And Cons of Making a Woodworking Jig
Homemade jigs are often higher quality than the jigs you might buy in a store. You can make them from whatever wood (material) you think will work best, including hardwood if necessary. You can also opt for cheap, disposable scraps of wood if you know the jig is going to be damaged by use. This flexibility makes them better suited to a wide range of projects.
- Making your own jig is also a great opportunity to practice your woodworking skills. It requires you to assess your current project and lets you build something to fit your needs. This is a valuable skill that will serve you well, especially if you need complicated jigs in the future.
- Homemade jigs can also be far more tailored to your particular project. If you want to buy a jig, you’ll be limited to the commonest kinds, rather than being able to fit it to your project. That often means sacrifices in terms of efficiency or accuracy. A homemade jig can be shaped to perfectly fit your needs and maximize your woodworking experience.
- Homemade jigs tend to be of better quality, too. You can use softwood where you don’t need durability, and hardwood where the tool needs to withstand pressure. You can make them as flimsy or as tough as the job requires, and they will perform better as a result.
- Another important factor is the ability to save money, especially when you’re first setting up your workshop. You will likely need quite a few jigs, and going out to buy these can be surprisingly costly. Making them yourself, especially if you have scrap wood lying around, can be very inexpensive.
Because there are lots of plans available online, it doesn’t have to take a very long time to build jigs, so this is definitely something you should consider.
Of course, the biggest drawback of building your own woodworking jigs is the time and material investment. If you don’t have access to materials and if you’re keen to get your workshop up and running fast, buying them may be a better option.
It can take time to make a jig, even if you are referring to online plans. If you’ve got to make ten different jigs before you can start working, that’s a significant time sink, even if you’re adept at working with wood.
Another factor is the complexity of the jig. Simple and easy jigs can be easily made by everyone, but that is not the case of a difficult jig where a lot of woodworking experience is needed. Building such a jig would be quite difficult for a beginner, regardless of the fact that the result would not be as expected.
Sometimes, buying a jig is preferable for this reason.
9 Must-Have DIY Woodworking Jigs for Your Workshop
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced woodworker these are the most common woodworking jigs you can make yourself and have a nice addition to your workshop.
- Circular Saw Straight Edge Guide
- Circular Saw Crosscut Jig
- Drill Press Stand
- Benchtop Router Table
- Router Dado Jig
- Router Circle Cutting Jig
- Right Angle Clamp
- Corner Clamp
- Ruler Marking Gauge
For more inspiration, check out this list of DIY woodworking jigs.
Overall, most woodworking beginners find making jigs worthwhile, because this is an opportunity to practice your woodworking skills and it saves you money. It was no different in my case. When I started with woodworking my budget was tight and spending the extra money on something I could have made myself did not seem desirable to me. Every single jig I created helped me in making the next one. I researched in detail what the most needed and simple workshop jigs are and started with those.
Yes, making your own jigs is time-consuming and it might prevent you from starting a project if you need a few of them. But the experience I gained and the money I saved won for me.
However, not all jigs can be made, and sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to make them. Common jigs that can be used with multiple power tools are an adept. Or if you’re working on an urgent project and you don’t have a particularly tight budget.
It’s worth learning to make your own jigs for later projects, though! Not only for the above reasons but also because it is fun 😉
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