Jigs - Are they worth it?

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Dave M
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Jigs - Are they worth it?

Post by Dave M » Thu Mar 23, 2017 8:07 am

For me Yes and Yes.

My first build was a classical with essentially no jigs other than the Solera, and it came out sort of all right. It looked like a guitar, sounded like one, but was certainly not true to the original design and was pretty rough round the edges. (Obviously this would be true in general for a first build)

But today I was making back braces for my new build and was so chuffed that a year or so ago I created a couple of jigs. First a support for carrying the brace blank so as to use a bevel cutter in the router table to create the tapers of the upper part of the brace, and second the gripping device with curved template for producing the bottom curve to fit the doming of the back. (These happen to be to GG's design but other brands are available).

Anyway I was so pleased that the not inconsiderable effort that went into, particularly the second of these, has repaid itself. I have been able to shape these braces cleanly and accurately in a very short time compared to hand methods.

The other jigs pictured while less exciting are for drilling the bridge string holes and the classical tuner roller holes. Maybe not exciting but essential for accuracy.

So I guess what I'm saying is that even for someone like me who is unlikely to be making tens of guitars it really is worth putting a fair effort into jigs to both improve accuracy and to speed things up.

How do others consider this? Is it a bit of a slippery slope into 'factory production' (spit!)
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jig 2 small.jpg
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Dave

simso
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Re: Jigs - Are they worth it?

Post by simso » Thu Mar 23, 2017 1:27 pm

Jigs are a staple of the business, be that you make one or a hundred, jigs add consistency to your build.

Steve
Steve
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Do your own repairs - http://www.mirwa.com.au/How_to_Series.html

jeffhigh
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Re: Jigs - Are they worth it?

Post by jeffhigh » Fri Mar 24, 2017 7:30 am

Jigs and templates etc save you ruining the part you may have already put several hours work into.

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nkforster
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Re: Jigs - Are they worth it?

Post by nkforster » Fri Mar 24, 2017 6:41 pm

What is considered "craftsmanship" has changed greatly in the last few years. It's been a gradual change, but craftsmanship used to be "what a skilled person can do with a chisel or a plane". Now craftsmanship is "how much you can remove all signs of human contact with your materials". Our tastes in what craftsmanship looks like have been conditioned by the consumption of mass produced goods. In my first book, I wrote a whole chapter on it, talking about "the workmanship of risk" vs "the workmanship of certainty" as well as touching on subjects like wabi sabi, and the roughness of first class old English violin bows. It was after writing all this, I realised I was p******g in the wind. Customers want visual perfection and despite a few romantic ideas about handwork, they don't really care how it's achieved. As long as it is.

What it means is jigs have become a huge part of instrument making.

When I started woodwork professionally in the late 80s there were still around older craftsmen who thought you a bit of a sissy if you used a router. Or a jig for sharpening your chisel. "Router joiners" they called them. These old fellers were often shipyard trained and highly skilled with hand tools and larger machines. Amazing fellers really. And in their minds, "router joiners" weren't craftsmen, they were people who went to great lengths in order to avoid developing hand skills. And there is some truth in this.

It all depends on your motivation for making things. If you want to spend the time learning and developing hand skills, spend the time doing that. Make guitars, not jigs. If you want to make perfect looking guitars, to sell or show off with, spend the time making jigs, then make guitars. If you're somewhere between the two, then you'll find your own balance. So it all depends on your motivation and the financial pressures you might be under.

There is a Japanese chap on Youtube who makes Classical guitars, entirely by hand. And without jigs, beyond a shooting board. It's a joy to watch. I'll dig out a link if I can find him again. So, what we do know is, he's skilled and does lovely work, and I imagine he enjoys his time in the workshop very much. What we don't know is if he does this for a living. Or if he does, does he live in abject poverty? Is he already stinking rich so can take his time...Whatever the answer is, he's chosen to work in such a way that he could make very few instruments a year like this, even full time.

I'm making guitars for a living, so jigs are a big part of my working day. Customers don't notice things if they are right, but they are very quick to notice if things are not, so uniformity is vital. And after nearly 30 years, it's all woodwork to me, regardless of if it's jigged or not. But for you, if you're not doing this for a living, see which you enjoy most - the workmanship of risk, or the workmanship of certainty.

You may find you enjoy making jigs more than you enjoy making guitars. There are folk who do. Then great. I'm amazed at how polished and complex some people's jigs are. Mine look like junk. But my priority is making nice guitars, not nice jigs.

You'll find your balance for sure.

Nigel
http://www.theluthierblog.com

Snappahead
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Re: Jigs - Are they worth it?

Post by Snappahead » Sat Mar 25, 2017 12:27 am

I am new to guitar building and am working on my first two simultaneously. Why am I building two for my first effort? ... well everything I read told me you make the most mistakes on your first build so I am risk managing the process to enhance my success rate by building two! And that sums up why jigs become part of the process in my mind. If I spent a lifetime learning a trade then I would have enough failures to become successful at an individual task. By making a jig I can improve the success rate and reduce the failure. As such I have enjoyed building a multitude of jigs all of which is part of the journey of learning as much as I can as I strive for the end product to be as good as it can be. Without jigs I would have to accept a less controlled outcome and variable quality.
Cheers. :gui

Snappahead
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Re: Jigs - Are they worth it?

Post by Snappahead » Sat Mar 25, 2017 12:30 am

I am new to guitar building and am working on my first two simultaneously. Why am I building two for my first effort? ... well everything I read told me you make the most mistakes on your first build so I am risk managing the process to enhance my success rate by building two! And that sums up why jigs become part of the process. If I spent a lifetime learning a trade then I would have enough failures to become successful at an individual task. By making a jig I can improve the success rate and reduce the failure. As such I have enjoyed building a multitude of jigs all of which is part of the journey of learning everything there is as I strive for the end product to be as good as it can be. Without jigs I would accept a less controlled outcome.

Craig Bumgarner
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Re: Jigs - Are they worth it?

Post by Craig Bumgarner » Sat Mar 25, 2017 1:07 am

Some jigs are very worthwhile, others no so much. I'm sure we all have a collection of jigs we once used, but no longer because somehow the task is better done without the jig. No way to know how it is going to fall out most of the time, so jigs get made and some are used, others are not. Patterns fall in the same category and I seem to be making more patterns than jigs these days.
Craig Bumgarner

Bumgarner Guitar Blog

Dave M
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Re: Jigs - Are they worth it?

Post by Dave M » Sat Mar 25, 2017 4:56 am

Thanks for the replies, particularly Nigel for your thoughtful input.

As you will have guessed I was being a little tongue in cheek but there are some interesting points. Those of us coming to this after careers sitting in offices tend to start out with poor manual skills, and while we can improve quite quickly with focussed effort, we are never going to match those who have spent years using tools. So aids of one sort of another are vital. Productivity is important too. We are not trying to produce a guitar a week, or a month, but we don't want to take too long to get to stringing up.

Having said that there are definitely times when you get part way through making a jig and suddenly realise that a few passes with a sharp chisel will do the job in a fraction of the time. So yes one looks for the balance, trying to produce better guitars but also to improve ones skills. And yes enjoy time in the workshop.
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jeffhigh
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Re: Jigs - Are they worth it?

Post by jeffhigh » Sat Mar 25, 2017 7:39 am

I guess I tend to make choices on specialized tooling or jigs based on criteria like

-does it improve accuracy-does accuracy matter?
-does it remove stress from the process?
-does it save my body from repetitive work

So for things like say headstock shaping where I can creep up on it gradually by hand with a plane or my big disc sander, I am happy to do it freehand, but drilling holes for three on a plate tuners, I rejoice in my Stewmac drilling template.

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lamanoditrento
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Re: Jigs - Are they worth it?

Post by lamanoditrento » Mon Mar 27, 2017 8:40 am

You can definitely over capitalise, I saw this guy in seeming abject poverty making a guitar-like instrument with with a machete

https://www.facebook.com/porteiradoviol ... 927482811/

Makes you think
Trent

Woodsy23
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Re: Jigs - Are they worth it?

Post by Woodsy23 » Sat Apr 01, 2017 12:14 pm

As my manual skills are pretty poor, I kind of get a kick out developing jigs (or modifying those invented by others) that give near perfect results when making parts that I would probably stuff up if I tried making entirely by hand. So I get a bit of joy rather than frustration.
Richard

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Clancy
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Re: Jigs - Are they worth it?

Post by Clancy » Sat Apr 01, 2017 1:15 pm

nkforster wrote:Mine look like junk.
My jigs look junkier than your jigs :D
image.jpeg
image.jpeg
Craig
I'm not the sharpest tool in my shed

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