Having been born and raised in Ireland, I can honestly say that a good jig — musical or woodshop — always lightens my heart. And here’s one that any casework installer will like.
Rockler (rockler.com) just came out with a new, very-much-downsized table saw sled that sells for $75. Listed as item No. 55916, the miniature crosscutter is lightweight (5 lbs.), small (12” x 15-1/2”) and ideal for toting to the job site. It makes lots of small part operations safer, including cutting dowels, tenon stock and small moldings at a precise 90-degree angle, with little to no tear-out. The sled features zero-clearance support (you run it through the blade the first time out to establish that) and this reduces the chance of small pieces getting stuck between the blade and throat plate or falling through entirely. A small plastic ramp on one side of the kerf carries the dropoff piece away from the blade and the sled includes a miter track stop that limits forward travel so your hands aren’t exposed at the back. A rear-mounted blade guard is adjustable to fit most table saws and an aluminum T-track on the top of the fence lets you add a flip stop (not included) for repeatable cuts. There’s even a short T-track parallel to the blade that can accept an optional hold-down clamp.
Micro Fence (microfence.com) has recently started offering a jig (model the TP-PLJ) from True Position for installing hockey-puck lighting in cabinets. It lets woodworkers place the lights at precise locations in case tops, bottoms or even shelves and run the wiring to them invisibly.
Betterley Industries (betterleytools.com) offers the Twin-Trim router (right), which turns a laminate trimmer into a two-function tool. Make a pass to trim the edge and then turn the base 180 degrees and make a second pass that is 1/16” closer, so it trims extra close and also eases the top edge. The stepped base means that the woodworker doesn’t have to stop and change settings between passes.
Powermatic (powermatic.com) introduced a new tenoning jig a year or so ago that is easier to set up than most traditional versions — and is certainly easier to adjust and use than most other options out there. The jig, which retails for $300, can use the chisel from a shop’s hollow chisel mortiser to configure the setup, which eliminates the need to transfer measurements. It includes a precise micro-adjustment system that lets the woodworker add or shave extremely thin amounts of stock from cheeks for a perfect fit in the mortise. And it can be used with a low-profile riving knife without having to remove that safety device.
Versidex (versidex.com) has a new benchtop jig for anyone building with either biscuits, Lamello’s P-System or Festool’s Domino. It lets a woodworker position and cut pockets without measuring, and get perfect matchups every time. Called the Mini 25, it reduces what can be a somewhat confusing exercise in layout (especially for new hires) to a repeatable and relatively simple process. Floor models are also available.
Two brothers in New York, Ron and Keith Bow, have come up with an inspired little jig to handle kickback on a table saw. Based in part on traditional concepts, it adds new technology and materials to the traditional featherboard. With compressed foam fingers and unique geometry, cuts are smoother and there’s incredible kickback protection. The brothers claim that their FeatherPro products also reduce chatter, so the woodworker ends up with a better cut.
If you turn wood, Carter Products (carterproducts.com) has a new steady rest jig. Called the Carter MultiRest Work Support System, it is compatible with lathe swing sizes from mini up to 20” with no additional hardware required. The base of the MultiRest has independently adjustable spacer blocks that provide a secure fit on lathe beds with way sizes from 1” to 4.5” in width. Each roller wheel assembly can be positioned anywhere around the ring to adjust the center position for a wide range of lathe sizes and part diameters. The two-piece design allows the jig to be quickly opened for mounting parts, while leaving the base firmly attached to the lathe bed. And if you separate the larger ring, the remaining smaller one becomes a bowl rest, providing solid support behind the workpiece yet fully exposing the opposite side of the piece for exterior cutting operations. The jig is made from laser-cut steel and aircraft-grade aluminum components, with urethane wheels and the same high strength industrial sealed bearings used in Carter’s band saw guides. These wheels can be positioned anywhere around the ring and, unlike any other steady rest on the market, you can add more as needed.
JDL (jdltes.com) is a small, family-owned-and-operated company in Chicago. The owner is a longtime woodworker with a background in mechanical engineering. One of his products, the SH-2, is a coping jig that mounts on a shaper or router table to make precision cope- and crosscuts. The SH-2 installs quickly with a couple of supplied bolts (no miter slot required). The jig has simple adjustments for different thicknesses of wood and delivers tear-out-free results thanks to an additional side clamp that holds a sacrificial wooden stop that can have a coped edge. The SH-2 has a big brother (the SH-3) and JDL also offers a 45-degree miter plate (MP-1) that bolts to the jig.
Kreg Tool Co. (kregtool.com) has a new cabinet hardware installation jig featuring moveable, hardened-steel drill guides that lock in place to align with common hole-spacing measurements for cabinet knobs and pulls. This allows an installer to drill straight, accurately positioned holes. And a moveable edge guide with built-in measuring scales (in imperial and metric) ensures that the holes are positioned correctly without having to measure and mark every time. The Khi-pull jig sells for $24.99 without the 3/16” drill bit.
Every woodworker knows that to avoid kickback you shouldn’t use the table saw’s fence and miter gauge at the same time. But Micro Jig’s new Dado Stop gets around that safety hazard. The jig is part of the company’s Matchfit product line and its primary goal is to deliver perfectly fitted dadoes in small parts. It sets the shoulders of the dado using the actual part that has to drop into the groove, so there’s a perfect fit without measuring, or even making test cuts. But its best aspect is safety: it moves the fence a full 3 inches farther away from the blade so there’s plenty of room for parts to avoid being trapped.
No matter what jig you choose or use, it will work better with proper care. There are a number of ways to maintain slick surfaces. Back in the day, we used to micro-sand plastic laminate jigs, and even cast-iron surfaces, and then coat them with clear boot polish. It’s slick, doesn’t adhere to wood fibers, and is relatively inexpensive. Today products such as Slipit (slipit.com) have replaced the elbow-grease methods and deliver a much better surface. There’s a silicone-based version for metal and a silicone-free one for wood.
This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue.