A jig, according to Wikipedia, is “a type of custom-made tool used to control the location and/or motion of another tool”. It’s also a type of Irish dance. Very different.
A jig is created when you have to make an identical cut, or a specific cut that the machines can’t accommodate, so you build a sort of ‘extension’. As simple as this sounds, ‘Jig construction’ can consume you. It’s like an equation that you created, yet don’t know the answer to. Your days are filled with sleepless nights and 1am brainwaves. Holding onto your sanity is key.
Some jigs end up being more complicated than the actual machinery and can take days of blood, sweat and tears just to build. I’ve always felt a mild rivalry between ‘jig’ and ‘machine’. Essentially, the jig is saying to the machine “I’m here because you’re not specific enough”. On the other hand, the machine is saying “without me you’re useless.” Either way, they both have a job, and we love them equally.
I forget that the actual machines themselves are the first ‘jigs’. Before the table saw, we just drew a line in some wood and pulled out the ol’ hand saw. This sounds simpler but is actually far more difficult in the long run, not just for your arms, but for accuracy. In trying to make woodworking easier, we’ve actually managed to make it look a lot more complicated. (I say ‘we’ in the collective sense. I had little to no impact on the evolution of woodworking.) To add to this complication, we now build jigs to accommodate other jigs and so on. Exhausting. There are jigs on jigs on jigs, all trying to make something better, more efficient and unique.
But this is what it means to create something. These are the ups and downs of getting the right cut, angle or joint for the piece you’re building, and this has been going on for years. Despite the blood, sweat and tears, there is a great joy in building jigs! Figuring out different ways to create art, no matter what your medium is has always been magical.
Jig or no jig, when you create something from scratch it’s always worth doing a little dance!