Common Jigs

It doesn’t take very long until you’ve discovered that your power tools and hand tools really aren’t enough. You want to make some dovetail joints for some drawers. You want to use dowels to attach some pieces, or you’ve gotten excited about mortise and tenon joints. For everything you do it seems some little adapter is needed.

But fear not because you can make most of them yourself. And if you take your time and make the right then you won’t have to re-make them in the future.

The Table Saw Sled

One of the most common jigs is the table saw sled. It’s basically a box that lets you move a board through the saw with greater ease than just sliding it across the table. But putting it on a sled you’ve removed the risk of it shifting — and with that the risk of wasting a nice piece of wood.

The critical thing about a sled is getting the rear of it aligned to exactly 90 degrees to the saw blade.  There are plenty of videos on YouTube about this, and William Ng has the best with the 5-cut method.  I added a comment to the video on how to simplify the math so that you don’t get frustrated with the calculations. It’s not that they’re hard but I chose to make them simple so that you can do it in your head.  Really, that simple.

Making Miter Cuts

There are multiple ways of making your miters. The particular miter you make has a lot to do with it.  If you are cutting crown molding you’ll find that your compound miter saw has marks on it that serve as pre-sets for making the cuts. The only adjustment you need to make is to check your corner. That’s because it is not uncommon to have a corner be something other than 90 degrees. But at least you can cut a test piece or two so you can make it fit. This is something you will want to look up in books or online.

If you’re doing picture frames you might want to the miters on your power saw. There are two other methods available. One is to make a table saw sled that is set for 45 degrees. Or, you can bet the close (cut a hair long) and make a “shooting board” for finalizing the miters. This shooting board will let you run a plane across the end grain of the wood and make that perfect miter.  It’s a nifty jig that I’ve observed online but haven’t had occasion to need yet.

There is also a miter knife. It’s a sort of guillotine for miters. Quite useful for volume work or for when you need perfection in one quick stroke.

Dovetail Jig

This is something  you buy instead of build. It’s a rather simple mechanism. A set of slots for the router bit to pass through and some clamps for the boards lets you slide your router and quickly cut the slots and keys. With just a little practice you can be making dresser and desk drawers with beautiful corners. And they don’t take up much space, either.


Most of the jigs you buy or build won’t take up a lot of space. It’s when you make other jigs that are needed but get infrequent use that the space might start to add up. Even so, it’s consider how you organize and plan in advance a space for storing jigs lets the clutter hurt your workflow.