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.

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