Incra - I-Box (Rating: 5)

I've been woodworking, both professionally and as a hobbyist, since 1974. Over those years, my appreciation of the value of jigs has continued to increase. For example, using a circle cutting jig on my band saw allowed me to cut precision circles ranging from a couple inches to three feet in diameter.

Box joints, or finger joints, make for strong joints and can add aesthetic value to a project. Laying out multiple box joints, individually cutting them and getting good, tight joints that fit is a daunting task for even seasoned woodworkers. Often, we end up with a sloppy fit of some or all of the joints, or joints that will not come together at all.

Obviously, precision is critical for box joint projects. To that end, many of us build jigs, to allow us to make cuts that are both the exact same width and the exact same distance apart. Usually, such jigs are limited to a specific width of cut, requiring the exact, same set up each time its used. Too, if the jig is off mere thousandths of an inch to the blade, each successive cut will compound with the previous to produce pieces that will not join. In the end, you've wasted time and material.

It has become my habit to consider reviews of things I am considering buying. The more reviews, the easier it is to form a sound opinion of a product.

For the most part, everyone held the I-BOX in high esteem. The majority gave it five stars. Some gave it four, but many of those really had little or nothing negative to post. The three star and under ratings were few and sounded like they were inspired by good faith mistakes, shipping damages, preferences, or cockpit errors. I was hard pressed to attach importance to one star reviews. For example, that the miter slot bar did not fit a Shop Smith slot says more about the Shop Smith than the I-BOX, which defaults to the industry standard 3/8" deep by 3/4" wide miter slot.

My appreciation and knowledge of jigs, bolstered by the general consensus of the reviews, prompted me to buy it and, once again, I am not displeased by my reliance on the experiences and opinions of others.

Anxious to get working with this new tool, I started off making simple dentils. I was quickly impressed at the easy set up and how quickly I was able to work a four foot long board.

A "heads up" to those wishing to work material thicker than 3/4": I tried a box joint on one inch thick material. The IBOX accepted it fine, but I quickly learned the limitation of using a six inch dado blade. It would not raise enough to deal with material that thick. It did, however, work fine with 3/4" stock. This, of course, is not a limitation of the IBOX, but, rather, one on the dado blade, when tackling thicker stock.

Below are a few possible improvements to the INCRA IBOX. They would not affect function, but would improve ease of use:

1) Make the back guard lock downs taller, so we don't have to pretend to have dainty fingers. For example, many toilets come with long handled, disposable nut drivers for tightening the tank to the bowl. Something similar for the back side guard that extend slightly above the backing fence would make loosening and tightening them a breeze.

2) The front hold downs need to be replaced with larger ones. Since the locking bolts are a standard size, I used a couple knobs from my jig parts collection. It made loosening and tightening the front guard bolts much easier. I'd gladly have paid a buck more for this convenience.

3) I wrote a condensed version of the set-up sequence, sized it to fit flat, unused areas of the jig. I laminated it and glued it to the jig to help refresh my memory when I haven't used the jig for a while.

Though I believe this unit can be improved (e.g, the inventor posted a nice Plexi cover he made for demonstrating the I-BOX, which made checking material position easier), I still think it at the top of its game, right down to that the guards do a great job of containing chips and dust created during use. None the suggested improvement should, even remotely, be considered deal breakers.

To summarize, this jig makes woodworking fun by making it easier to produce reliable, accurate joints.