Jigs and fixtures can greatly extend the functions of many shop tools. Here are a couple that I use regularly, and find useful.
But first – Power Tools are Dangerous! Many woodworkers accidentally cut off their fingers, put out their eyes, or worse. Modifying power tools makes them even more dangerous. These Jigs are almost certain to kill you and everyone you know. I do not recommend that you do as I do. For maximum safety you should never even get out of bed. Ever. If you do, you shall not hold me in any way responsible – if you don’t agree to this then you must move along now without reading any further or even looking at the pictures. In fact I strongly recommend that you go back to bed.
This belt sander jig is very useful for shaping wood, and plastic work pieces and even metal – but you should be very careful when shaping metal with power tools in a wood shop that you don’t start a fire. If you use a dust collection system, you should always disconnect it before shaping metal so that you don’t suck hot metal or sparks into a container of sawdust! Speaking of dust collection – if you plan to do much wood working you should get a real dust collection system or you will end up with a chronic cough from all the sawdust that ends up in your lungs.
You can see in this picture the general idea of how it works. The jig is built up out of two layers of plywood after first cutting the recess for the sander out of the top layer. The fence that I have clamped on in the first picture is for a special purpose, and I usually don’t use that. The strip that clamps into the vice is what makes it a “bench hook”
Bench hooks can really help you to make the most of your shop space. When you clamp it into a good vice it’s just like the tool is permanently attached to the table, but it only takes a minute to swap them out. I use bench hooks to mount the following tools:
- Bench grinder
- Pocket screw fixture
- Mechanics vice
- A section of I beam that I use for an anvil
- The belt sander that’s in the picture
You could use this same simple system for just about any bench mounted tool.
A table saw is probably the most useful woodworking shop tool.
Table saws always come with a miter gauge, and they are just about useless in my opinion. Maybe not useless, but extremely limited and hard to use. A crosscut sled like this one makes it possible for you to accurately cut 90 degree crosscuts from large or small pieces of wood. If you have a regular need for miter cuts you can easily adapt the design for that as well. It’s the next best thing to having an expensive sliding saw table. BTW, always use all of the safety guards and equipment that come with or are recommended for your power tools – even if it makes them unusable. Seriously, table saws are dangerous – always follow the safety rules and use all the safety gear – and even then you could still mangle yourself. Needless to say I shall not be held responsible even if what I am showing you is dangerous – which it is.
- I should have made the fences taller in the area of the blade – as you can see there is only about an inch of material holding the two parts together after making a maximum depth cut. However after several years of regular use it continues to hold together. I made my fences out of two layers of 1/2″ plywood glued laminated together – which is very strong, and stable and works quite well.
- I also should have made the section of the bottom where the saw cuts easily replaceable so that it could stay nice and tight and zero clearance for clean cuts.
- Make the runners (that slide in the miter slots on the saw table) out of hard wood so that they will stay accurate for a long time.
- An accurate fit between the miter slots, and the runners is very important and might take more than one try to get just right – if they are too loose the jig won’t be accurate, and if they are too tight they will bind.
- Once you get your runners dimensioned just right lay them in the miter slots with a spacer under them to make them sit slightly proud, then with the runners still in the slot attach the rest of the sled to them, carefully squaring the sled fence with the miter slots and the runners. Then raise your saw blade to cut through the sled bottom.
- Keep a nice coat of paste wax on the bottom of the sled to keep it working smooth and easy.
By clamping a stop (just a scrap of wood as in this picture) onto the cross cut sled fence you can very quickly cut many pieces exactly the same length. Once you build a crosscut sled you will find that you use it all the time.
By building this rolling stand I was able to incorporate three power tools into one very useful unit – a thickness planer on the left, a table saw in the center, and a router table on the right. The router table and the saw table extension over the planer also make it much easier and safer to saw large pieces of plywood on my small table saw. Notice the crosscut sled stored in it’s own cubby on the bottom, and the other associated accessories right were you need them. The gray pipe and duct tape on the planer is home brewed dust collection for a tool that didn’t come with any built in. It works good BTW.
Remember whenever you build shop furniture like this, that if you get everything the same height life will be much easier when working with big pieces. For example my main work bench in the background acts as the out feed table for the table saw – because it’s the same height.
About that small table saw – The main shortcoming of most inexpensive table saws is the fence. Look for one that is accurately square, and clamps very tightly in place, and has a good measuring system for repeatable results. Plan on spending some time getting any table saw properly set up. I have another much more expensive contractor saw now, but because of the way I have this one set up it’s the one I always use.
The router table insert is just a piece of plywood that sits in a recess. A good close fit and gravity is all that holds it in there. Being able to lift the router out like in the picture makes it much easier to adjust the depth of cut compared to squatting under the table. Incorporating the router table into the table saw serves several purposes – it makes double duty of the space, it allows you to use the table saw fence for the router table, and the rolling base allows you to easily deploy to another spot if you are working on long pieces and need extra clearance.