Friday, October 16, 2009

Being resourceful in the shop

My shop made tenoning jig.

Part of my new effort towards woodworking is improving the process in which I make furniture. While constructing the massive bookcase last summer, I learned the importance of efficiently processing wood. The wrong methods lead to a lot more work and time as well as mistakes. Case in point: I thought I could cut a full size sheet of plywood on my table saw. I learned it is better to move the saw through the plywood. I ended up cutting the plywood to size with my circular saw and a straightedge. Simple enough, but I did not even have a good way to cut such a large sheet of plywood. My sawhorses were too small. So, this one step showed me several things that I need to correct before I attempt a large project again.

This week, I had a difficult step to work through. With my coffee table project, I recently needed to cut a 3/8 inch slot in the end of the boards that will make up the center of the table top. There are a couple of different ways to go about this. I could put a slot cutting bit in my router and make the cut. Or, I could cut the slots on the table saw. I decided to use the table saw mainly because I think this is a safer way to go. But, I didn’t have a tenoning jig for my saw.

So the first thing I did was to look online and see what is available. The jig below was the least expensive at $89.00 (click here for a video of this jig in action).

I may get one of these some day, but not now.

The jig offered by Jet, my table saw manufacturer was as high as $174.00. I really did not need to spend this kind of money right now. But, I tried to justify this purchase in my mind. I even planned to drive to Woodcraft in Pelham to see what they had in stock.

Finally I decided against this purchase. I thought about using my router to cut the slot, but the router is just not the right tool for this. I once saw Norm Abram make a jig for his saw to cut raised panels. I decided to make my own jig, taking the basic idea of Norm’s jig and adapting it for my own use. The completed jig, shown above and below, was made from the scrap oak plywood (shown in this post) and with it, I was able to make the needed cuts and I did not spend a dime on it.

Works great.

This jig uses the bulky rip fence of my saw as a guide. I simply move the fence towards or away from the saw blade to fine tune the cut (top photo). The green jig shown above (middle photo) uses the miter gauge track as a guide, so a different way of doing the same thing. The jig is too long, so I will likely cut away part of it, but it worked very well.

Since very few pieces of wood remain flat and straight, I will likely have to purchase a tenoning jig at some point in the future. I would like to purchase a Jet since my table saw is made by them. I like the idea of keeping the accessories for my saw from the same manufacturer. I was pleased to be able to make this jig from scrap wood at no cost to me - very resourceful.

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