Cutting Jig Fixture

Chop Saw Station
The INTRA Jig Pro model. above left with optional 28-in. fence, right angle fixture and «top hloek. (Price a* tested: £239.80.) The optional micro-positioning feature, above right, prrnul* fem e adjustment within 0.(101 in.

Chris Taylor of Taylor Design Group started the positioning jig business in 1987 when he created the original plastic INCRA Jig ($39.95 without fence). This clever gadget used interlocking sawtooth racks to position a machine's fence in precise increments.

Recently, Taylor added a top-of-thc-line model to his stable that offers some worthwhile refinements. The INCRA Jig Pro (see photo) is made of anodized hand, then hold down a button with the otiler hand to disengage a quick release nut so you can slide the jig.

With the INCRA Jig, the carriage doesn't move quite as smoothly, but adjustments are a breeze. You simply pull up on a cam-clamp handle and the two sawtooth racks spring apart slightly to let you slide the fence. A downward flip of the handle engages the racks and locks the jig in place. With practice I found I could quickly position the carriage with one hand.

Accessories. There is a wide range of accessories available for each jig, from stop blocks to fences of varying length. A list of options and prices appears in the sidebars; however, I'll comment here on one accessory where there is a difference in operation. Both jigs offer right angle fixtures to which you can clamp a workpiece when making 90° cuts on the router table. The INCRA Jig's aluminum fixture hangs over the top of the fence, while the JoinTHCH fixture, made of polyethylene, has a dovetail runner aluminum and has a wider range of fence movement. The original jig was limited to 8-in. movement, while the new one is available with 12-in. ($79-95 without fence and accessories) or 16V in. ($89.95 without fence and accessories) range of motion.

All these jigs move in Hi-ln. increments. (Optional racks are available for VsAn. or 1mm.) You can also fine-tune adjustments within 0.001 in. with the optional INCRA Mike, micro-posi-

tliat fits in a slot on top of the fence.

I found the JoinTECH fixture was the more solid of the two in use. The dovetail kept the fixture square to the fence and the fixture moved smoothly when I fed stock into the bit. With the INCRA Jig fixture, I had to press down and in toward the fence to keep the work-piece square. Also, to make sure the fixture was sitting square when I clamped stock to it, I had to first apply a spring clamp to hold the fixture to the fence.

Another point on accessories: Though you can purchase either jig without a fence and mount it to an existing or shop-made fence, I'd recommend you buy the manufacturer's fence and accessories if you want to use the jig for intricate joinery.

Technical support. Both companies supply solid basic instruction manuals that will get you up and running. But if you want to use these jigs with your router table to make com-plex joints, you'll need to draw on the additional technical support available because operating them in this tioning feature ($49.95), which also fits tile original INCRA Jig.

Also introduced with the Pro Jig model is the optional Pro Fence System that includes an aluminum fence, an adjustable stop block that runs on sawtooth racks and a stop extender bar. With an 18-in. aluminum fence the svv tem costs $54.95; with a 28-in. aluminum fence it's $69.95.

Another option available is the INCRA right angle fixture ($29.95), which mounts on the Pro Fence for holding stock at 90° to the router table, such as when cutting dovetails.

INCRA Jigs come with basic instruc-tion manuals but one of INCRA's strong points is its very thorough optional instructional materials. There's a handbook with 17 templates ($18.95) for making complex dovetail and finger joints, the Master Template Library ($29.95), which comes with a detailed manual and 50 templates, and an excellent video ($19.95). Taylor Design Group Inc. Box 810262 Dallas, TX 75381 (214) 243-7943

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mode gets complicated. You have to be able to plan and visualize each pan of the joint and keep track of the many steps as you move the fence and stock to make cuts.

Thankfully, both companies have made intricate joinery easier by marketing "templates"— thin strips of plastic with colored lines on them that indicate the fence position for each cut on a number of complex dovetails and box joints. You just set a hairline cursor on a "template" line, rout that part of the joint, then move on to the next line of the same color.

The companies offer "template" collections as options. And you can get explanatory videos with both that show how to set up and operate the jigs. Overall though, I found INCRA Jig's instructional materials superior.

How Useful are They?

Actually putting the jigs to use proved easy after a few practice runs. I found I could cut simple through and half-blind dovetails and box joints with either jig. But I wouldn't call the process a "no-braincr." It takes time to learn how to interpret the "templates," especially for inlay joints. You also need to consider bit diameter and geometry since these can affect your joints. (The instruction manuals cover this in detail.)

And if you want to design joints that aren't represented by a "template," you'll have to juggle a host of variables such as stock thickness, dovetail bit diameter and flute angle, and the spacing of the cuts. INCRA Jig s optional handbook offers a whole chapter to help with this subject.

Do You Need One?

By now, you're probably asking yourself. "Should I buy one?" Well, if you like to work with great precision and don't mind focusing your complete attention on a process with lots of little steps, I'd say you'll love either of these jigs.

They're ideal if you want to make small- to medium-sized projects with delicate joinery. But if you're using wide or long stock and doing repetitive router work, or you want to make just one kind of dovetail joint, you'd probably be better off with a Irigh, Keller or Omni dovetail jig, where you can make all the cuts with a hand-held router.

Similarly, you wouldn't want to use a positioning jig on the tablesaw when cutting large, bulky stock because the fence Isn't built for such heavy work. ▲

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