Jiggery / Appliances

by | Apr 14, 2015 | 17 comments

I’ve never been a big jigger in my workshop. I’m stumped to find a value for anything more than my simple shooting board/ bench hook combo. And the odd stick.
I think the reason is because I’ve never been precious about my bench top and there’s no problem which can’t be solved with a few nails banged into it.

There are jigs which I know I could benefit from, a sticking board for mouldings is a smashing example. I’ve considered making one many times, but once I’ve pondered the best approach I’ve finished the mouldings and moved on to the next job.

If we stumble back in to the past even the small workshop found a place for all manner of jigs, many of which were so individual we can’t be certain what they were for. With a thorough knowledge of woodworking we can apply some practical thinking along with a light garnishing of speculation and may come up with a feasible answer, but whilst intriguing this would likely be of little relevance to our work today. Something we can be sure of is that little woodworking was done as a hobby, and so a good majority of jigs would be borne from a necessity to repeat. But do any of us want to batch hand work now?

When building workbenches I use simple machines mixed with my hand tools, and this is work which I do repeat. I have made the same model many times over and yet I barely have drawings, let alone templates or jigs. The word I might be looking for here is lazy, but I like to think I get my efficiency through technique and a good understanding of my processes. I consider the set up time for a jig and know that I could be on the way to having the job done.

Is a dovetail guide a jig?

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About Richard Maguire

About Richard Maguire

As a professional hand tool woodworker, Richard found hand tools to be the far more efficient solution for a one man workshop. Richard runs 'The English Woodworker' as an online resource and video education for those looking for a fuss free approach to building fine furniture by hand. Learn More About Richard & The English Woodworker.


  1. Ken Haygarth

    Shooting board, bench hook. Thats all I seem to need. Oh yeah and you little device for drilling straight holes.

    Cheers 😉

  2. Mitchell

    I have seen examples of Sticking Boards in, maybe, two or three online videos but I have never seen anything regarding how one is made. The little I have seen of them lead me to believe they are just the ticket for those who use moulding planes often.

    • George Vincent

      I use a sticking board much like that used by Matt Bickford author of “Molding in Practice”

  3. fred wheeler

    I like nothing better than a good jig around my workshop although I am not up to Riverdance standards 🙂

  4. fred wheeler

    Ooops. Silly me. You mean jigs not jigs!
    Same here – I don’t use jigs or make them either.
    Is a dovetail guide a jig you ask?
    If so could that apply to a square, table saw fence, mitre square etc?
    Interesting hearing your views on jigs. Like you I find by the time you made one you could have built the project. With limited space jigs also take up a lot of room if you keep them all.
    Keep up the good work.

  5. John

    As for jigs, I do believe that the very first planes were merely jigs to hold a chisel at a set angle. This was so the chisel could be used in the same manner that we use planes today.

    Full circle means we now have a specially made ‘chisel-plane’; although I’ve never seen one in use. 🙂

  6. Jeremy

    Squares are in the same boat, technically you could construct right angles whenever needed with your dividers; but squaring is such a repetitive, required task that it makes sense to have a dedicated jig. I don’t have many woodworking jigs, but in my professional life I find the same true of scripting/programming/automating, after doing a repetitive processing task more than a few times, there is no way I’m going to do it manually. It becomes more mentally interesting to build the “jig” I suspect the same is true in woodworking, if the jig is interesting to build and it automates a highly repetitive task, I’d make it, but if that task is still engaging to me, then I’m probably going to stick with the manual method unless I’m under a terrible time constraint and need accuracy for multiples with little thinking.

  7. Paul Chapman

    Apart from shooting boards and bench hooks, the only jigs I’ve made are adjustable trammels for cutting circles with the powered router.

  8. Kermit

    I think of jigs as something that holds the wood (metal, plastic, leather, cheese…). Anything that is movable and performs an operation is a tool, or maybe an appliance.

  9. David Nighswander

    To my way of thinking a jig can be a couple of boards nailed together to hold a part for assembly or to allow glue up. I use a lot of clamps and knocked together wooden frames. I seldom make the same thing twice so storing the assembly would be a waste. So my jigs are one off, project oriented constructs. I do most of my work single handed. Jigs allow me to build things where I’d need a third hand.

  10. DenverGeorge

    My basic problem with jigs is that they take time away from building something. I want to build furniture, not things to help me build furniture. About the only jigs I have are bench hooks and straight boards, which I use as saw guides. I even went so far as to buy my bench hooks when they were on sale; this is how much I dislike making jigs. I do have some templates for repetitive things for my router, but never for one off items.

    Are you going to publish plans for those three primitive chairs you had on the blog in Jan? I’d really like to try one or all three of them.

  11. Sylvain


    A square used solely is a verifiction tool. Used with a pencil it is a drawing/marking tool; when used to make a knife line, does it become a jig as the wood is already processed?
    what is the jig definition, a tool guide (or if the tool is fixed, a wood guide)?
    Is a plane body a jig? ( see the Paul Sellers “poor man’s router” with a chisel).
    The table of a table saw provides guidance in one direction.
    For old jigs, see the old catalog of “La forge royale”. (I have problems for doing cut and paste with the tablet, that’s why the link is above)

  12. Karl F. Newman

    hi; when making a jig there are multiple considerations: one is “can I make this joint or part faster with a jig, and another is can I make the part/joint faster than I can make the jig. when making 1 item it is usually faster to just rely on your skill and knowledge to “just do it”. but if you are making one now and one next week and maybe 100 during the year, a jig might not speed you up right now. but if it can save you a day’s worth of work over a period of months, maybe you should take the time to make a jig.

  13. Polly Becton

    Careful there with the language:


    Trickery or misrepresentation.
    (euphemistic) Sexual intercourse.

    jiggery-pokery (redirected from jiggery)
    jiggery-pokery (old-fashioned)
    secret activities that are not honest We suspect there’s been some financial jiggery-pokery going on in the accounts department.
    Cambridge Idioms Dictionary, 2nd ed. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2006.

    {Interestingly, the lone word “jiggery” does not seem to have any independent usage – until now, of course.}

  14. Michael Forster

    My main jigs are a v simple bench hook, a shooting board and a birdhouse jig for shooting mitred ends on thin timber for box linings (generally 3mm thick). I”m not quite sure how one would precision hand-plane those without some sort of jig. That about covers it for jigs – never used a saw guide for dovetails for example (nor a router, either).
    Just one thing though, Richard: if you don’t want us to be precious about our bench tops you shouldn’t make them such things of beauty! I too used to bang nails into mine with impunity but I can’t bring myself to do it with my Little John – I even use the ply boards that protected it in transit as a cover when gluing up or doing other messy work (and have been known to drape kitchen roll over the top of the vice for the same purpose! I thought the novelty might wear off but it’s been a year now . . .

  15. Alex

    Making jigs is a great way for the beginner to get started in woodworking. They don’t have to be wonderfully made but use a lot of basic skills.

  16. marc

    Enjoy your videos very much, thanks for the effort. Went to the Early American Industries Association (EAIA) annual meeting in Quebec city a few weeks ago, and watched a great demo by a young lady from Vermont who is a sashmaker. She used a sticking board and custom molding plane to make her sash components with repeatability. Very simple set up, and very effective. Her plane was very clever, as it cut the interior and exterior profiles at the same time.


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