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!



Most of the time we’re just making copious amounts of sawdust. I often wonder whether we own a furniture company or a sawdust factory. It not only gets everywhere but when it’s particularly dry in the woodshop it can also become static. If this happens, sawdust launches at you from absurd distances and bonds to your clothes/hair/face. Irritating, to say the least, but I have to respect the enthusiasm.

Machines such as the planer generate a vast amount of sawdust and apologize for nothing. ‘Planing’ shaves off layers of the wood making the grain smooth and even. I usually stand at the ‘out-feed’ end of this machine, which means I get showered with sawdust. After planing a simple redwood board my socks can become so packed with sawdust I leak wood shavings for days. Glamorous AND itchy.

We try to keep the woodshop as clean as possible and sweep the floor regularly. This is not just for health and safety reasons but also to keep the sawdust from interfering with our woodworking. If not monitored closely, it can actually mark soft woods after the planing process. If you stack the finished wood on top of each other, without brushing the excess sawdust off, little trapped shavings can make small imprints throughout the grain. Very annoying. Perhaps it’s a last cry for attention.

If we’re not brushing sawdust off the wood or our clothes, we’re vacuuming it off the floor and sweeping it off the machines. It just won’t leave. It’s been cut off and left for dead, and still hangs around for more. I think it somehow knows it belongs with the wood. Sawdust might be the rejected part of woodworking, but by George, it’s loyal.