Henry talks – the jig shop

by ercol on October 23, 2012

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In his latest post, Henry, the great-grandson of ercol’s founder, talks about his experience in the jig shop:

After working around the machine and assembly shop’s for 5 months I had had enough experience of the factory to be allowed in the jig shop. The jig shop has two main jobs, it will make all the prototypes of the furniture being designed at the time and it will make all the jigs needed in the factory for the production of the furniture. The prototypes will be constructed from the technical drawings that the iig shop have been given by the drawing office; from the drawings and the measurements on them they will be able to make up the prototype in a few days. The parts they use to make it are normally all offcuts from production thus making the pieces are an effective way of using up our own waste.

Jigs are an essential part of the volume production of furniture in our factory. While the jig shop can make up each piece without jigs it is a very labour intensive and highly skilled job to do. The jigs that are made for the machine shop make it very easy to machine each part in the exact same way over large quantities and as quickly as the machine and the operator can work. The two main types for jigs are the positional jig for machining and the cramping/assembly jigs, for example these could be a jig so you cramp two parts of a leg in the right way each time or a jig to position a lamp table top with markers where the frame of the table should be affixed to the top. On average the jig shop will make 20 different jigs for every piece of furniture made in the factory so when a new range with 5 or 6 pieces is introduced into the factory they could be making over 100 different jigs.

When I was in the jig shop I worked on my apprentice piece, a wooden toolbox. It’s a long tradition that the apprentices in the factory always make their toolbox in their first year, and walking round the factory you can still see many of the toolboxes lurking under work benches close to their original maker 30 years down the line. Over a couple of weeks I made mine from the original technical drawing that has been used on every toolbox; it was great to make something from start to finish and make something I was proud of, so much so I’m a bit loathe to actually use it as toolbox! The only thing I didn’t do was to handcut the dovetail joints, in the interest of actually making it look nice I made sure they were cut by the dovetailing machine. I did though make a small occasional table in which I hand cut the dovetails using just a hammer and chisel, it was pretty tricky but nice to actually make something that would stand up!

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