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Build a Simple Tenoning Jig for the Tablesaw
Tools and Materials
While building a small cherry cabinet recently, I decided to construct a simple door using bridle joints. Perhaps the easiest way to cut this common woodworking joint is at the tablesaw using a tenoning jig that rides atop a typical Biesemeyer-style rip fence. Fine Woodworking magazine featured plans for a wonderful shop-made jig several years ago, but since it was made of phenolic plywood, it was rather expensive to construct. After a bit of thought, I decided I could build a simplified version in about an hour. Follow along as I show you how to build a jig that yields square, smooth joinery, straight off the tablesaw.
A Note on Materials
My jig was built using a high-quality 3/4-in. plywood, a hardwood scrap, a few screws, and glue. The toggle clamps used on this jig are an invaluable addition to any jig-maker’s box of tricks. Manufactured by the De-Staco company, these clamps are able to hold workpieces down using vertical pressure, as opposed to two jaws being drawn towards one another. I’ve got a dusty box full of them, in various sizes and configurations.
How to Make
Gather Your Parts: Begin by cutting your parts to size from a high-quality 3/4-in. multi-ply plywood. I’ve added a few of the basic measurements used to build my tenoning jig, but some of these components need to be measured precisely to fit your particular Beisemeyer-style tablesaw rip fence.
Glue-Up: Begin by applying glue to the edges of the workpiece that will ride atop your tablesaw’s rip fence.
Clamp the Jig to the Rip Fence: Now, with the piece you just applied glue to set atop the rip fence, clamp the two side walls into place, making sure they are square to the tablesaw’s cutting surface.
Assemble the Jig with Screws: With the jig clamped into place, assemble the jig using countersunk screws. I used three screws on each side of the jig.
Keep it Square with a Triangle: To ensure your jig remains square to the saw table, you’ll want to cut out a right triangle that adds more support to the jig and provides you with a handhold. The length of this triangle’s narrow bottom represents the inside wall-to-wall measurement of the tenoning jig – ie: the width of your rip fence.
Check for Square: Use a square to ensure everything is properly aligned and glue and screw that triangular piece into place.
Attach a Hardwood Fence: Now screw on the fence that your workpieces will be held against. Here you can see that I’ve got the piece clamped into place with the aid of a square while I screw it securely to the jig.
Cut a Series of Zero-Clearance Inserts: To provide for zero-clearance cuts that will prevent blowout on the back end of your tenoning cuts, attach a small MDF block to the remaining empty space beneath the hardwood fence you attached in step 7. You’ll want to cut and pre drill several of these, as you’ll need to replace it often. This is essentially a sacrificial fence.
Sandpaper Keeps Workpieces from Slipping: Use a spray adhesive to attached a strip of sandpaper (180-grit in this case) to the portion of the jig that your workpieces will rest against. This will help ensure a non-slip surface during cuts.
Toggle Clamps Secure Workpieces: Attach two toggle clamps to your hardwood fence. These clamps will hold your workpiece in place when making tenon cuts.
Use Paste Wax for a Smoother Action: Apply paste wax to all the inside surfaces that will run against your tablesaw’s rip fence. This will ensure a silky smooth action when making cuts.
Test Drive Your Tenoning Jig: Now take your tenoning jig for a test drive. In practice, you’d make one cheek cut, then flip the board side-for-side to make the second, opposing cheek cut.
Jig Yields Smooth, Accurate Tenon Cheeks: The result: perfectly smooth and square tenon cheeks. Not half bad!