Table Saw Box Joint Jig

This is the third table saw box joint jig I’ve made. The first one was for a dado blade and was something simple and temporary. I don’t recall what I did with it or where it ended up. The second one was specific to my last table saw and when I gave that saw away all of the jigs specific to it went with it. For the third version I decided to build John Heisz’s ibuildit.ca ultimate box joint jig. I really liked John’s original version of this jig but never got around to making it. It wasn’t until he released the new and improved version that I put forth the plan to make another box joint jig.

There are several options out there for box joint jig designs but I chose this one based upon the simplicity of the design and the fact that the completed joints are restricted to multiples of 1/8”. I really like the restriction to 1/8” here as it allows me to use my standard, full kerf table saw blade for every setup. I don’t see the need to get over complicated with any other spacing. 1/8”, 1/4”, and 3/8” are probably all I’ll ever need to cut and if by chance I need to go wider I’ll have options as well.

I purchased the plans back in August when John published them but wasn’t able to get to building the jig until recently. What held me up the longest was finding the 1” threaded rod locally. I live in a relatively small city that doesn’t have a great hardware/woodworking selection. On top of that, after finally getting the threaded rod I somehow misplaced it in my pretty well organized shop and had to delay another week.

The jig doesn’t require much plywood at all. I made the first cut slightly oversized on a large panel with a circular saw. This allows me to bring the much more manageable size piece to the table saw to trim it down to the appropriate dimensions. The plywood I’m using is Purebond hardwood plywood from the Home Depot. I’ve been using it since making my miter saw station and have had great results with it. Plus it’s formaldehyde free and made in the USA which are both great.

box joint jig (1)

The plan is pretty well laid out to batch out all of the plywood pieces first. It’s pretty much a bunch of rectangles. Super easy.

box joint jig (2)

After all the ripping was done there were a few pieces that needed to be crosscut. I used my table saw sled for this as it’s easier to use as top block on this than on my miter saw station when small pieces are being cut.

box joint jig (3)

All of the screw holes are dimensioned out in the plans which makes the process much easier. And of course a drill press makes it pretty fast.

box joint jig (4)

Two handles are incorporated in the design which is really nice. These handles keep your hands in a fixed location while operating the jig which reduces the chance of accidentally doing something stupid with your hands and causing an accident. To cut the handles larger holes are cut to establish the start and stop points for a jigsaw to remove the interior material. As I’m writing this article it dawned on me that I never rounded over the edges of the handles with a router. Oh well. I suppose if it was that big of a deal I would have realized it when I was using it after it was done.

box joint jig (5)

The indexing of this jig comes from a 1” threaded rod with 8 threads per inch. The plans call for construction adhesive or epoxy to glue it in place but I had neither on hand. I also didn’t want to wait overnight for the construction adhesive to fully cure if I were to use it anyway. So I decided to give hot glue a try. This isn’t an ideal solution. You have to work crazy fast and use a lot of glue. I ended up using a LOT of glue as fast as I could and it worked. I really wouldn’t recommend this method though.

box joint jig (6)

No brad nails are required in the plan. I used a few here and there though to hold certain pieces in place while I secured them with screws.

box joint jig (7)

Assembly is pretty easy. Nothing complicated. Just butt joints, glue, and some screws.

box joint jig (8)

Some folded paper is needed to provide space for movement between a couple parts.

box joint jig (9)

Before you know it the indexing assembly is ready to be built. Again, the benefit of using hot glue for securing the threaded rod is that I was able to get this whole jig built in a few hours.

box joint jig (10)

All of the holes drilled previously lined up exactly where they needed to be. I had to drill through the holes into the second material on all of these though. The only screws I had on hand were much longer than called for in the plan but I was just trying to use what I had on hand and prevent splitting of the plywood.

box joint jig (11)

A vertical registration block is secured on the far right of the carriage. Just a bit of glue and two screws.

box joint jig (12)

The jig isn’t entirely plywood though. There are a couple parts that need to be cut out of clear hardwood. I used a block of hard maple that I salvaged from the trash. The majority of the parts are the same width and height so laying them out and ripping a strip off one side makes for a bit of consistency.

box joint jig (13)

Holding small parts at a drill press is an easy way to get busted knuckles from the bit catching in the wood and spinning around into your hands. It’s much easier to drill all of the holes in the small parts before cutting them out.

box joint jig (14)

With all of the pieces drawn to scale cutting them out on the bandsaw is pretty easy.

box joint jig (15)

Like I already said, I was using different hardware than what is noted in the plans in the effort of using what I had on hand and not going buying any more. As long as you know what the hardware needs to accomplish you can use whatever you see fit. The indexing pin is nothing more than a flat washer.

box joint jig (16)

A couple of the small hardwood pieces need to be glued together.

box joint jig (17)

Again, all of the previously drilled holes were perfectly placed to secure the hardwood pieces.

box joint jig (18)

The indexing system is so simple and so brilliant. After securing all the pieces in place I adjusted the cam stops to get a perfect 1/4” advancement.

box joint jig (19)

The jig runs in the table saw miter slots so a pair of runners were cut to fit. Then with the carriage in the starting location and the blade just barely touching the vertical reference block the fence can be locked down referencing off the right of the jig. All that’s left to do is glue it to the runners.

box joint jig (20)

I gave the glue a little bit to cure and carefully reinforced them from the bottom with a few screws. The beauty of this jig is that once it is properly placed in relation to the blade and secured to the runners no more jig setup will be needed. Just as long as you use a full kerf table saw blade you should get pretty consistent results. I tested it by making 1/8” joints and it was dead on with a perfect amount of space to allow the joint to close easily.

box joint jig (21)

To reduce any confusion and hopefully eliminate any accidental half spacing errors I used a colored marker to highlight every other thread.

box joint jig (22)

Final thoughts….I’m really, really pleased with this jig. It was easy to build, it’s accurate, allows for a perfect amount of spacing, and because it uses a regular table saw blade (a dado blade can be used if you want) the setup time and use are very convenient and fast. If you would like to build one of these you can purchase the plans here.

box joint jig (23) box joint jig (24) box joint jig (25)



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20 Comments

  1. Justin bonnell

    Excellent Jay, i purchased the same plans earlier this year, but also havent gotten around to making. Maybe you making it will give me thenkick in the rear that i need.

  2. Tony

    Thanks for sharing! I’m looking to build a box joint jig. Again, that.KS for sharing your build of another’s plan. Its a reminder that we don’t reinvent the world and its acceptable to use what’s already out there. THANKS!

  3. Edison Norman

    Nice build Jay! I’m trying to wait for my new table saw before I start making jigs. I definitely can’t wait though, I have so much I’m ready to do. There’s a few plans of yours is would like to purchase just waiting though. Thanks for sharing your build!

  4. Gary Carpenter

    Never mind. It’s only 4 inches, not 4 feet long. I did see a six foot long stainless steel 1″ x 8 tpi SS rod for $22, Prime eligible, earlier in my searching

  5. Gary Carpenter

    Annnnnd I’m wrong about that one, too. 6″ not 6′. I need glasses a little less rose colored. Oops.

  6. Mitchell Podraza

    In your latest Interesting Stuff from around the Wed series, which I look forward to weekly, you had a link to Ed Stiles’s box joint jig. Ed’s looked like a nice jig. Was wondering why you chose the John Heisz’s design and how you thought the two compared. Thanks for all your various posts, you have a talent !

    1. Jay Bates

      I bought the plans for John’s version back in August. I like the simplicity of the 1/8″ spacing only and that your hands never move from the handles, Just use your thumbs to advance it.

  7. Andrew Grover

    I made this one last week, without the same success. Since there is no way to fine tune spacing, you are very dependent upon your blade kerf. My combo blade was a hair too narrow, my ripping blade a hair too large, so I couldn’t get joints dialed in for 1/8″ joints. Also the advance mechanism and wooden spring were a little wonky. Also had a lot of troubles getting the carriage loose enough to move smoothly without binding, without it getting too sloppy.

    I have plans to make adjustments to make it all work better for me, but I ended up going back to a plain old simple old fashioned box joint jig for the christmas presents I was making.

      1. Andrew Grover

        I actually did find that it worked pretty well with my 1/4″ dedicated dado set (I have one of those 1/4″ and 3/8″ dado dual blade sets), but I was already taking it apart to re-work the advance mechanism and fix the return spring that broke, so haven’t put it back together to try dialing it in any better. I am sure that with 1/4″ or larger joints where you can use a dado stack and adjust the kerf with shims, this jig will work great. Just with 1/8″ joints there is no room for adjusting it if the blade kerf isn’t perfect.

        Also, I plan on reworking the “locking” mechanism with a about an inch of the 1″ all thread instead of the washer. To me the single washer engaging the teeth didn’t feel all that solid. Might have been because I made my locking bar a little too flexy.

        To make a long story short, I think it is a great jig overall for 1/4″ and larger joints. Probably great for 1/8″ joints if you happen to have a perfect blade to use it with. I think the advance mechanism is a great idea, but it does seem to be a little finicky, at least it did for me.

        I was in a hurry to get this working, so when it didn’t work great out of the chute, I got frustrated. Plan to get back to it after the holiday gift making season is over.

  8. Uncle Vic

    Hi Jay,
    Another great video. I love your videos dude.
    As for this particular box joint jig, it’s o.k., but looks awkward to use. And I going to imagine that as time goes by, I think the pointed piece that rides in the thread of the rod will wear down allowing for inaccurate spacing of the cuts. Yesterday though… I watched the video of Ed Stiles’ box joint jig, which you posted on your weekly “Interesting stuff from around the web #110 Dec. 19, 2015.”
    I really liked that design a lot, particularly how the threaded rod incorporates the crank on the end and a cam lock on the opposite end. This is really the cats meow of box joint jigs !!!

    Thanks again for your videos and your time Jay.
    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    1. Jay Bates

      This one is crazy easy to use. Just keep your hands on the handle and use your thumbs to advance and lock. It’s really simple and because your hands never move from the position it’s pretty fast.

  9. Lefebvre Mark Sr.

    Off subject. I have the saw you have. Have been wrestling with what size to make a X cut sled. Yours looks perfect. I looked through your shop projects but didn’t see it. Can you point me to it or give me rough dimensions. Anything you would do differently on sled?

    Great vid on box jig. Love your animation.

  10. Hedware

    You are rather good with making videos as well as being very good with wood. Thanks for your sharing.

  11. Tony

    Hey Jay, what’s lenght of threaded rod is needed. I want to start collecting pieces, but don’t want to buy the plans yet. Also, can the small pieces be done without a band saw? I have a jig saw but no band saw.

  12. Rick

    Hi Jay,

    One question…..Does the blade have to cut exactly 1/8″ kerfs? I’ve never had a blade cut larger kerfs but have a Diablo blade that cuts a slightly smaller one at .120″

    I like your highlighting of the threads….good idea.

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