Just WHO is buying all of these expensive woodworking jigs, fixtures, and tools?

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Forum topic by Planeman40 posted 06-17-2012 04:01 AM 7320 views 0 times favorited 83 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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1558 posts in 3970 days

06-17-2012 04:01 AM

I just came back from Woodcraft today and it has set me to wondering. Just WHO is buying all of these expensive woodworking jigs, fixtures, and tools? Over the years I have noticed the people in these woodworking specialty places (we have a number of them around here) seem to be hobbyists and not people making a living from woodworking. And the stuff in these stores is EXPENSIVE!

Now I’m not against buying good tools. I am against buying some jig or fixture I can easily make. I suppose this is the reason Stumpy Nubs is so popular around here and ShopNotes magazine seems to be doing a good business. I can understand someone who is making a living in woodworking buying this stuff as to him it makes economic sense to use his time on making money. But there seems to be a scad of hobbyists that will buy a jig for $75 or $120 or more when they could easily make the equivalent out of scrap lumber and some inexpensive hardware. The same holds for some tools like a wooden mallet or a carver’s mallet, or clamps like luthier’s clamps.

Anyway, I am curious. What are your thoughts?


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

83 replies so far

View Richard's profile


400 posts in 3900 days

#1 posted 06-17-2012 04:12 AM

I’ve wondered about that too. I think it may fall under the category of hobbyists thinking that the $150 thing-a-majig will magically make them better woodworkers.

-- "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." - Mark Twain

View David Kirtley's profile

David Kirtley

1286 posts in 4207 days

#2 posted 06-17-2012 04:29 AM

Never underestimate the power of marketing. Then the extension of the marketing that is long completely unbiased <nudge> endorsements by the personalities whether on video or magazines.

Nobody gets to make any money off of you if you make it yourself. Why on earth would they encourage that?

-- Woodworking shouldn't cost a fortune:

View Harry_Ch's profile


63 posts in 3885 days

#3 posted 06-17-2012 04:46 AM

Just like the guy that goes for the newest gadget, I consider them “Must Have”. They may use them once or twice, but does that really improve their skills? Hard to say for sure, but they do look pretty gathering dust and rust.

-- Deeds not Words.

View Jeremy Greiner's profile

Jeremy Greiner

568 posts in 3981 days

#4 posted 06-17-2012 05:01 AM

I will admit, I was guilty of that when I first got into woodworking .. got a fancy dovetail jig because I thought I had to have it. I think I’ve used it once.

-- Easy to use end grain cutting board designer:

View KenBry's profile


484 posts in 3656 days

#5 posted 06-17-2012 05:13 AM

Heck, the people in this forum have convinced me that i have to buy, powermatic, festool and lie nielson so why not get the best jigs too? ;-p

-- Ken, USAF MSgt, Ret.

View Loren's profile


11250 posts in 4857 days

#6 posted 06-17-2012 05:17 AM

You are correct. It is hobbiest buyers who make a majority of
jig sales viable. Many pros don’t mess around with stretching machine
capacity in a big way – they upgrade the machine and move forward.
The time saved on profitable jobs makes this approach more feasible
for pros.

Commercially made luthier clamps are a pretty good value and
making equal ones yourself is doable but a hassle. Most shop-made
copies will be adequate but inferior to Klemmsia clamps.

View Planeman40's profile


1558 posts in 3970 days

#7 posted 06-17-2012 05:42 AM

I never heard of a “Klemmsia clamp”. I had to do a search on it. Looking at one at Highland Hardware ( I can say mine are every bit as good, complete with a steel bar, steel pins in the wood to take the racking force, leather pads, and maple for wood – and curly maple at that! I made eight of them and they were easy to do. You guys take a look at that Klemmsia clamp. Don’t you think you could knock those out?


-- Always remember: It is a mathematical certainty that half the people in this country are below average in intelligence!

View rance's profile


4279 posts in 4369 days

#8 posted 06-17-2012 06:02 AM

I agree, and I work at one of these places as an instructor. I have to say I can teach a lot of things in woodworking, but I’ve not mastered the art of teaching someone how to design a piece.

I think the ones buying all these jigs are the ones that build strictly from plans. I have never stuck to any plans that I have ever bought. And I rarely buy a jig I could build.

-- Backer boards, stop blocks, build oversized, and never buy a hand plane--

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1537 posts in 3684 days

#9 posted 06-17-2012 06:03 AM

In some trades this is typical, the hobbyist keeps a lot of the companies in business. In photography the standard joke was that Hasselblads were mostly sold to doctors and lawyers than to professional photographers, they mostly used a workhorse like the Mamiyas. In the digital era, not even doctors or lawyers are willing to pony up $30,000 for a digital back.

Woodworking is no different, heck I am even willing to bet that most jigs are not even used in a professional shop. I only have two, a circle maker for the bandsaw and a taper jig. I am thinking of building a cross cut sled, but that is it. Ok, well I might even build a router jig like stumpy nubs build, there are some very good uses for a horizontal router.

As for tools I have to disagree with you, it is easier and cheaper to buy an “expensive” tool loke a LN plane that will work perfectly out of the box than to fight a cheap tool to make it work as it should and that you will have to discard after a few uses.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

View Jeremy Greiner's profile

Jeremy Greiner

568 posts in 3981 days

#10 posted 06-17-2012 06:11 AM

I’d love to see the Kelmmsia clamps you’ve made, those look neat I’d sure like to see how to make them.

-- Easy to use end grain cutting board designer:

View Loren's profile


11250 posts in 4857 days

#11 posted 06-17-2012 06:25 AM

Try the Klemmsias and be sure before making declarations. I have
made cam clamps from domestic hardwoods and they have not
held up the way the hornbeam ones do.

View Newage Neanderthal's profile

Newage Neanderthal

190 posts in 3759 days

#12 posted 06-17-2012 11:36 AM

Expensive is a subjective term, some will find a $500 Lie-Nielsen expensive, the guy that is waiting on his $11,000 Karl Holtey to be delvered doesn’t. I don’t think its a money question but a build vs buy question. To me it is, would i enjoy making it, do I have the time make it. My minutes are a whole more valuble to me than my dollars. But then again i only use hand tools and a bench hook is my only jig. I did buy thr mallet with the green coating, that green stuff is the bees knees if you hand chop mortises.

-- . @NANeanderthal on twitter

View helluvawreck's profile


32122 posts in 4075 days

#13 posted 06-17-2012 11:51 AM

I don’t know about you but I’m 62. I still have to work almost 50 hours a week and it sure doesn’t look like I’ll be retiring anytime soon. I only have the weekends to do my woodworking so my time is very valuable to me. At the plant I run the maintenance and engineering and work on the machinery. My time is valuable there and my pay is good. However, to me my weekend time is no less valuable to me. Yes, I enjoy what I’m doing and enjoy it but my time is still very valuable. If I spend several hours on a jig then that’s several hours I can’t spend on a project. There are tradeoffs that must be considered. There is no such a thing as a free lunch. Everything has a cost. Now I know how to make jigs because I’ve made plenty of them at work. There’s nothing wrong with woodworkers buying jigs if that’s what they think they have to do at any given time. After all some people love making jigs and working on their shops. I like making jigs too. However, there is a very big time constraint against many people and time is costly and precious.

helluvawreck aka Charles

-- helluvawreck aka Charles,

View Alexandre's profile


1417 posts in 3400 days

#14 posted 06-17-2012 12:09 PM

Remember the mere mortal video?
Of that guy using the rake as a dovetail jig?
I wish I could try that, but my rake’s pinny things (those 9 or 20 or something sharp thingies) are too short..

-- My terrible signature...

View AndyDuframe's profile


48 posts in 4799 days

#15 posted 06-17-2012 12:38 PM

Buying expensive hobby gadgets oddly makes you feel like you’ve become an expert at a craft that you’ve never really mastered (and probably never will for one reason or another). For a lot of people, that sense of satisfaction, that feeling of accomplishment that can be had just by plopping down a credit card is nearly priceless—which makes the “pro-consumer” market one of the most profitible in the world.


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