This story covers purchased and custom-made accessories for your workshop.
Power tools alone can do only so much -- their accessories expand their capabilities and simplify specific tasks. That's especially true for portable power tools -- match them with well-chosen accessories and they'll do many of the same tasks as stationary power tools. While you can buy many accessories at home centers, woodworking supply stores, or through mail-order, you can also make many of them yourself.
Home-built accessories that hold or guide a tool to perform specific jobs quickly or accurately are called jigs. See the example at the bottom of the opposite page.
One of the handiest accessories you can build is a reliable straightedge. Using the one shown at right, you'll be able to accurately rip large sheets of plywood with a portable circular saw. Make another straightedge to serve as a guide for cutting dadoes, grooves, and rabbets with your router. With straightedges like these, you can quickly saw or rout precise cuts.
Glue and clamp a 2-inch-wide piece of 1/2-inch-thick stock to one edge of an equally long piece of 1/4-inch plywood that's about 6 inches wider than your saw or router base. Both pieces should be a few inches longer than the longest cut you will make for your projects.
When the glue has dried, run the circular saw or the router with a straight-cutting bit along the 1/2-inch fence to rip the 1/4-inch plywood to width. Using this jig guarantees a straight, accurate cut as long as you use the same blade or bit. Write the name of the tool and blade or bit on the jig.
To use the straightedge for crosscutting or ripping stock, draw your cut line with a fine lead pencil. Place the straightedge on top of the good portion of the material and carefully align the edge opposite the fence with the cut line. Secure the straightedge with clamps tightened on top of the fence and the bottom of the piece to be cut (and not impeding the tool's path). Run the saw or router against the fence to make the cut.