Design & DIY

Working on a project alone? You need to make a jig

illustration of a jig fashioned to help keep up tongue and groove panels while they're being installed Illustration by Taylor Kristan

I love a spontaneous jig. No, not the dance, but any device, creation, or invention—a thingamajig, in other words—that helps me do something again and again.

A jig is usually a couple of pieces of wood, fashioned to hold a workpiece in the right spot. Sometimes, I know I need a jig before the job begins, say for a repetitive task that requires precision. I’ve built jigs for making perfect, repeatable tenons in rails, cutting dados, and spacing deck balusters. But often it’s only that vague “there’s gotta be a better way” feeling that tells me I need one, especially when I’m working solo and need a third hand. Then it’s time to improvise.

My brother-in-law and I were making good progress installing tongue-and-groove boards on his cottage ceiling, until I had to leave. Unable to put up long lengths by himself, he fashioned some dead simple brackets to hold the pieces in place while he attached them. Brilliant, uncomplicated, and labour-saving (especially for me). Now that’s a satisfying jig.

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