Dirt-Simple Router Jigs

<b>Keep it square.</b> The key to this jig is to keep the edges perfectly square with the catch rail that is attached to the bottom face of the jig. Glue and brads are the joining force.

Keep it square. The key to this jig is to keep the edges perfectly square with the catch rail that is attached to the bottom face of the jig. Glue and brads are the joining force.

I’m a power-tool woodworker. Sure I use hand tools for some parts of furniture building, specifically when cutting dovetails. But I doubt you’ll ever catch me with a Bridge City Tool Works VP-60, Veritas router plane or a Lie-Nielsen shoulder plane if I’m trying to complete a project quickly. It’s just not my thing. The jobs completed with those tools, I accomplish with my router and a router jig.

The next time you venture into your shop to work on a project, take a survey of what’s stacked around your shop. I’ll bet you have the material to create a boatload of simple, useful jigs that, when combined with your router, will increase your woodworking abilities. The routing techniques shown in this article are a combination of the correct router bits along with dirt-simple jigs made from leftover pieces from other projects, such as scraps and plywood.

A Square-platform Jig
We all know you can guide your router by placing the router’s base against an edge to make a straight cut, but who wants to calculate the offset of the base each time you go to use it or struggle with clamping requirements? If you use my favorite router jig along with a pattern bit, you have a setup that is a multi-tasker and is as easy as can be to position for accuracy.

That jig I call a square-platform jig. To make the jig, start with two pieces of plywood cut to the same size. Attach the two with glue and a few brads (keep the brads away from the edges), then add a third piece to the front edge to act as a lip – similar to a bench hook – and the jig is ready for work. The key is to keep the edges of the jig straight and square with that third piece, which I call a catch rail.

This jig is best when used for cutting dados for shelves or for creating a dovetailed socket for drawer dividers. Due to its usefulness, I have more than a few of these jigs in my shop made in different sizes and thicknesses for different techniques and for use with different router bits, but my favorite setup is a 1″-thick jig (two pieces of 1/2″ plywood). This thickness is perfect for working with a 3/4″-diameter, top-mount bearing router bit with a 1″ cutting length.

<b>One-pass dado.</b> The correct router bit along with this jig provides a simple and quick method for cutting dados that are through, or simply stop before reaching the end of the workpiece to create a stopped dado.

One-pass dado. The correct router bit along with this jig provides a simple and quick method for cutting dados that are through, or simply stop before reaching the end of the workpiece to create a stopped dado.

The greatest thing about this jig is the ease of clamping. No longer is it necessary to use more than a single clamp. One clamp holds the jig to the workpiece and does not allow any movement of the jig. When a clamp is positioned at the lower left-hand corner of the jig as shown in the photo below, the jig cannot move away from the workpiece due to the clamp. And the jig cannot slip to the left because the front piece acts as a catch. As long as the clamp is secure, no amount of force will allow a shift in the jig. This makes it easy to clamp and quick to adjust from one work area to the next.

To use this jig, do any layout work, then slide the jig into position, always aligning the jig to the left of the work area because the normal operation of a router pushes the tool to the left (if the jig were set to the right of the work area, it would be a struggle to hold the router firmly against the jig in use). Next, add a clamp keeping a clear path for your router base and allow the pattern-bit bearing to ride along the edge of the jig. With this setup, wherever the jig is, the router bit follows.

Use the Same Jig for Dados

<b>Designed to fit.</b> The equal width of the bushing and the widest portion of the dovetail bit is what makes this setup work. The dovetail bit cuts exactly to the outside edge of the bushing. As the bushing travels the edge of the jig, the dovetail slot is perfectly aligned.

Designed to fit. The equal width of the bushing and the widest portion of the dovetail bit is what makes this setup work. The dovetail bit cuts exactly to the outside edge of the bushing. As the bushing travels the edge of the jig, the dovetail slot is perfectly aligned.I began using this jig due to the ghastly dado bottoms produced by my older dado stack. My stack had exterior blades that were slightly higher than the chippers and this caused an unwelcome profile at the bottom of the dado. When bookcase shelves were routed through, that shape showed – and it wasn’t pretty.Because most bookcase units I built were 12" or less in depth, I made my first platform jig 16" long. At that length, the jig stretched across the entire width of the sides and created a dado in a single pass.To make the cut, allow the router base to sit on top of the jig while the bearing rolls against the jig’s edge. Use a pattern-routing bit that is 3/4" in diameter and the resulting cut is exactly 3/4" wide with a bottom that’s flat. There is no ghastly profile to try and hide. Cut one dado or 100 dados and the results are the same – predictable and accurate.Perfect Sliding DovetailsNo bearing is no problem. Design this simple jig to have the base plate rub the fence as the cut is made. Make one for each router bit.Having so much success creating dados with this jig, I wondered what other operations I could make easier by using this setup. One area that came to mind was drawer dividers. Most chests I build use sliding dovetails for joining dividers to the case sides. How could I adapt this jig?What I discovered was that I had to change the router setup, not the jig. I typically use a 3/4" dovetail bit when cutting the socket for my dividers, but I didn’t have a bearing to ride against the jig. I had tried bearings on dovetail bits, but I wasn’t satisfied with the results. So I turned to a 3/4" outside-diameter bushing. You might think it’s impossible to use a 3/4"-diameter dovetail router bit with a 3/4" outside-diameter bushing, but if the bit extends below the bushing (aim for at least a 1/2"-deep socket into the case sides), everything works perfectly. Again, simply align the jig with your layout marks, add a clamp, then cut the dovetail socket into your workpiece. Cut into the case side to the width of your divider and you’re golden. This creates a perfect sliding-dovetail socket, and it’s a simple move from a completed socket to the next socket area. Additionally, remember to use the same router bit to create the male part of the joint. The second half of this operation is completed at a router table. No guesswork needed. Once built, the jig is a snap to align with layout lines; hit the mark every time.

If you’re wondering about hogging out the waste with a straight bit prior to cutting with a dovetail bit, I seldom, if ever, take the time to work this way. My router bits are sharp and able to make this cut without difficulty. If this extra step is important to you, I would mount a 3/4″ bearing on a 1/2″ straight bit so I was always registering off the jig.

How about housed dovetail sockets? The beauty of this jig is that you simply make a first pass with the 3/4″ pattern bit to make the shallow dado. Then follow up with the dovetail bit in a second router, as shown in the opening photo of this article. The entire operation is completed with one clamping setup.

 Also, here’s a tip: Create the dovetail slots while your case sides are wider than the final dimension by 1/8″. Once the joinery is complete, trim the extra material from the edges to leave a clean front edge.

Are you wondering why I suggested you keep the brads located away from the edges of the jig? When you nick the jig’s edge – and you will ding it with your router bit spinning – you can simply take a pass at the jointer to straighten the jig’s edge.

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About Glen D. Huey

Glen Huey is a former managing editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine, a period furniture maker and author of numerous woodworking books, videos and magazine articles.

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