Creative & Cheap, That’s How To Fixture

Oh, I need to drill a bunch of holes, all the same, in 8 parts.  What a pain!  And, I need to cut these other 5 pieces all to match.  What a hassle to measure, mark, and cut each one! Is there a good way to make the job easier?  Maybe with a cheap fixture to really speed things up.

Well, I Might Need A Cheap Fixture!

Holding parts in place for repeat operations is not complex, especially when it’s just doing the same process over and over.  Hey, just make a quick cheap fixture so you only have to measure and mark the first one!

Clamps For An Easy Cheap FixtureFixtures (or Jigs as some people like to call them) can be pretty simple, and they don’t need to be pretty.  The image here shows a simple drill fixture. It’s a small chunk of metal to clamp on one jaw of the vise.  The vise is clamped to the drill press table, so that repeat drilling becomes a simple matter of switching parts.  And, you don’t have to measure again.

In this case, I had to drill the same hole in 12 parts.  Measure the first part carefully, then secure it in the vise on the drill press table.  Start drilling by moving the vise around on the table until the hole is in perfect position.  Next, stop everything and carefully clamp the vise to the table.  Use 2 clamps on the vise so it won’t wander.  (In this photo, they are the big silver ends, but you can’t see the whole clamp in the photo.)

Next, put the small piece of metal against the edge of the 1st part, and secure it to the vise jaw (like with the little orange c-clamp).  With the vise secure in place, and the new stop piece secure to the vise jaw, simply remove the 1st work piece and put in the next — holding it securely against the stop.  While holding the new work piece in place, simply close the vise.  No measuring or marking is necessary for the remaining 11 pieces.  Best of all, when the drilling is done, all the pieces are the same.  That’s what we wanted, right?

Quick To Make, Easy To Use

If I take a few minutes to set up the jig, it does all the measuring for me.  Sure, it takes a few minutes to make it, but mostly it’s quick in comparison to all the measuring, marking and fiddling to get all the holes right.  With a jig, the pieces all come out just like the first — so take some time and set the first piece up perfect.

Creative and Simple JigSince fixtures (or jigs) are a simple trick to make life easier, I use them all the time.  Jigs and fixtures work for drilling, sawing, grinding, welding, and for lots of other applications.

It pays to be creative, too.  Place an extension, or an extra stopping piece on the table, like in the second photo.  The angle block (white) is not usually for this kind of thing, but placed like this, it makes a perfect stop.  This one cheap fixture worked on all 4 corners of these crane bolt plates because they are all the same relative to the corner.  Even though the whole stack of plates were drilled at once, this fixture made it easy to just flip the stack and keep them all lined up.

Make A Cheap Fixture With Shop Scraps

As another example, the next photo shows a simple, cheap fixture for a chop saw.  This is all made from scrap material from the shop — a short bit of plywood, and some 2×4 short bits.

Cheap Fixture for Saw RepeatsScrew the saw to a board like this piece of plywood.  Mark the first piece carefully, then set it in perfect alignment on the saw.  Hold it secure.  (You can use a second person to help, or you can clamp it to the saw.)

The two additional pieces (2×4 wood chunks) screw together in an “L” shape.  That “L” then made it easy to screw to the plywood at the correct spot — with the tall “L” end just touching the end of the first piece to cut.  It is that simple.  Each piece to cut is now the same length just by pushing it up to the wood block, then cutting.  For this project, 160 pieces of PVC pipe are all the same length for an Eagle Scout Service Project.

Be Creative

Simple fixtures like those on this page will work for almost any type of cutting, drilling, welding, painting or sanding etc..  Just a quick way to make several pieces all the same.

Fixture for Cutting RepeatsThis example in a chop saw makes the fixture a visible alignment, rather than an actual hard stop.  Keep thinking, because there are a lot of ways to use these similar ideas.

Another method uses a first piece as the fixture for the second and more as in this example for drilling holes to match.

While the above emphasis is on fixtures for repeat operations, if the parts are big or if things are a bit wangly, a fixture to hold things in place for a single operation can also make a project turn out better.  A good example is for welding parts together, like a trailer frame.  Something like that requires many pieces all held at once — which it’s much easier with the right jig.

Yeah, it can be a hassle, but it’s worth the better end results.  Go for it.

By the way, I can’t say enough about the need for a variety of great clamps.  They help with all sorts of things, perhaps especially for creating a quick, cheap, effective, and temporary fixture.

Good luck making a cheap fixture for all your repeat and complex processes.

No one has share their thoughts...be the first!

No one has share their thoughts...be the first!

Leave a Comment

We Found These For You . . .

Article
Good Trailer Design Article Updates
The most popular pages on Synthesis about Trailer Design now have a fresh revision.  May, 2017.  They include more content, more pictures, and a mobile friendly web design.

Read The Article

Article
Solution! for Air Tools
A simple Solutions! reader submission for easy access and organization of his common Air Tools.  Simple enough to build in an hour, and great enough to keep  . . .  forever.  Try this.

Read The Article

Product
6x16 Tandem Axle Trailer Plans

Build a great tandem axle, heavy duty utility trailer from these 6x14 trailer plans.  Blueprints are fully engineered for 12,000 lb. total capacity.  The trailer you build will be tough and ready to work.

Product
6x16 Utility Trailer Plans

Get your 6x16 Utility Trailer Plans here, then build your own 7000 lb. capacity tandem axle workhorse.  These plans include all the details and instructions.  Build it, and make it better than you can buy it.

Article
Makeshift DIY Truck and Trailer
The coolest thing I saw last week was this guy with a very creative DIY approach to a pack trailer — and, of course, his tow vehicle!

Read The Article

Article
DIY Steel Cutting Options
So, you need to cut steel for a DIY project (like a crane or trailer).  Easy, Right?  What’s the best, easiest, cheapest, fastest way of cutting steel?  There must be dozens of ways, so, the better question might be

Read The Article

Article
Storage Tip With Trailer Tongue Hinge
Need to store your trailer in a smaller space?  Consider adding a trailer tongue hinge like these.  It’s helpful, for sure, but has some definite things to consider.

Read The Article

Article
Plans Download Screen
This is a Frequent Question about Downloading, and Saving the Plans after placing an order.  Please don’t worry, We’re here to help!  If you are not yet able to complete the plans download after your purchase, definitely, please read this.

Read The Article

Article
How Much Can I Tow?
There are 3 main factors with how much you can tow.  While it all seems simple, digging in makes it a little less clear.  Yes, it’s easy to look at the simple rating numbers, 

Read The Article

Article
Walking Beam Trailer Suspension With Twin Torsion Axles
Plans are now available for the Twin Torsion Axle Walking Beam Trailer Suspension.  This was introduced on a build early in 2018, with posts about the trailer including a video of the suspension in action.

Read The Article

Product
4 x 8 2000 lb. Torsion Axle Trailer Plans

For a great trailer in the 4 x 8, 2000 lbs size, these plans are a good place to start.  Lots of options bring great function making these Torsion Axle Trailer Plans right for many situations.

Product
Canoe Trailer Plans

Specialty trailer for carrying up to12 full size canoes or kayaks.  Designed originally for a Boy Scout Canoe Base, so it includes easy on/off, and options for on-board life jacket and paddle storage.

Article
Example aluminum trailers
This question comes up often — because there are not many good plans for aluminum trailers out there.  We have great trailer plans, but none for aluminum.  Why?  As one of our Frequently Asked Questions, this one deserves a good…

Read The Article

Product
Heavy Duty Gantry Crane Plans

The big one, actually the big many.  These Gantry Crane Plans include Engineering graphs to choose the beam and legs from 2000 lbs - 6000 lbs lifting capacity.  Free Standing, Large or Small, Wide or Narrow. Build to fit your…

Article
Overslung or Underslung Trailer Springs
Because you asked . . . What are the advantages of Overslung – or – Underslung trailer springs?  Let’s discuss it.  The concepts are pretty easy to see with some good graphics.

Read The Article

Product
6 x 16 Trailer Plans

Sixteen feet length at 6 tons capacity is a good size for hauling heavy things -- from multiple ATV’s to UTV’s to large loads of building materials or landscaping products.  Fully engineered to take it all.

Article
Cool Air Chuck Tool
Ever find something that wasn’t really a big deal, but you got pretty excited about it anyway?  Me too.  Found this fun tire inflation air chuck kind of by accident

Read The Article

Article
What Bolts for DIY?
Bolts are an amazingly simple yet complex fastening method.  They’re used everywhere so mostly we take them for granted, but why are there so many different kinds?  And what bolts should I use?

Read The Article

Article
Welding Trailer Spring Brackets
There is some disagreement in trailer building about how to weld-on trailer spring brackets (also known as spring hangers).   Some of you have sent questions about which techniques are best, especially

Read The Article

Article
Finishing or Trailer Frame Painting
(And finishing other DIY Projects.) Now you’ve invested all that time and effort into building an awesome trailer, how should you finish it?   Of course we don’t want it to rust.  And, we want it to last. 

Read The Article

Leave a Comment