by Chuck Bender
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Every woodworker eventually runs into problems that just cannot be easily solved using hand tools or power tools with the stock accessories. That’s when jigs and fixtures such as shooting boards and table saw sleds bridge the gap.
But these are only a couple of the endless possibilities. I know woodworkers who build jigs for nearly every conceivable step of a project. While I don’t usually go that far, I have been known to create jigs to overcome the problems of repeatability in hand work and the limitations of a machine.
Jigs make difficult tasks easier, repetitive tasks more accurate and speed up tasks that might otherwise be drawn-out and time-consuming. Jigs save our fingers, hands and other body parts from injury and stop us from wrecking a special piece of wood. Essentially, jigs are essential.
The basic premise of good jigs and fixtures is simple: They hold the work or the tool to allow you to accurately perform an operation that would otherwise be difficult, dangerous or impossible. To me the best jigs are the simplest.
One task I do regularly (I hope you do, too) is sharpen. For my bench planes, chisels and spokeshaves, I like a hollow grind. This gives me the sharpest tool possible while making freehand honing an easy task.
For my plane and spokeshave irons I use a jig I like to call a sharpening stick – I said I like simple jigs the best and you can’t get much simpler than a stick – but this is no ordinary stick. This stick has an angle cut on each end.
Blog: Learn more about routers and how they have changed woodworking for the better.
Video: Watch Chuck Bender use his sharpening stick.
In Our Store: Build a jig to make accurate dados to fit any thickness material, without spending a fortune.
To Buy: A collection of the 55 best jigs that you’ll ever need when working in the shop.
From November 2013 issue #207
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