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The Best Shelf Pin Jigs For Woodworking

Building cabinets or furniture eventually means building shelves. And when it comes to ensuring your shelves are both adjustable and level you’ll need a unique tool: a shelf pin jig. Learn what the best shelf pin jig is for your projects.

While shelf pins have replaced nail-on shelf standards, the process for building shelves still requires a bit of planning.

And a shelf pin jig to properly place holes in expensive wood.

But surprisingly there are many different designs of jigs to consider. Which is why we’ll take a look at jigs that are:

  • Easy to use for larger jogs
  • Budget friendly for occasional use
  • Extendable for longer shelving units
  • And of course durable for thousands of holes
JigProduct Desc.Shop
Best shelf pin jig- overallBEST OVERALL: Rockler Shelf Pin JigCHECK PRICE
Best shelf pin jig- valueBEST VALUE: Kreg Shelf Pin JigCHECK PRICE
Best shelf pin jig- budgetBUDGET PICK: MilesCraft 1316 CabinetMateCHECK PRICE
Best shelf pin jig- drill bitDRILL BIT: 5MM self centering drill bit for jigsCHECK PRICE

What is a Shelf Pin Jig?

A shelf pin jig is a special purpose template that allows a woodworker to drill a line of holes that the shelf pins will rest in. Coupled with a specialty drill bit the installer can quickly drill shelf pin holes to the proper depth, in a straight line, and at the same height from one side of the workpiece to the other.

Best Shelf Pin Jigs

1. EZ Align Premium Drill Jig

EZ Align Premium Shelf Pin Drilling Jig With 1/4'...

With dual row drilling this jig will speed through both sides of a shelf end in one pass. And, best of all, for an economical price.

Almost every shelf requires two rows of shelf pins. So why not have a jig that can do both at the same time?

The EZ Align team thought so and invented this dual row jig.  Key features:

  • Eliminate rocking shelves with single placement drilling
  • Easy to advance indexing system
  • Supports both 1/4″ and 5mm holes
  • Finally, as a bonus, this jig includes two quality self guided bits (one each of 1/4″ and 5mm).

2. Rockler Shelf Pin Template

Rockler Drill Jig for Straight Holes –...

The Rockler shelf pin template is a heavy duty jig built for long lines of cabinet pins in anything from cabinets to tall bookshelves. With a heavy duty Phenolic construction supporting both imperial and metric holes it will make quick work of your pin drilling.

The only downside? You’ll need to buy a guided bit like this 1/4-inch Snappy bit .

3. KREG KMA3200 Shelf Pin Jig

Kreg KMA3200 Shelf Pin Drilling Jig with 1/4 Inch...

From one of the market leaders in drill guides, this Kreg shelf pin jig is great for smaller projects with shorter lengths of pin runs. But, you can also connect multiple units together for longer runs.

With a hardened steel drill guide it will handle years of drilling with no worry about wearing down the plastic edges found on other jigs. But, this design also forces you to make sure you know your pin diameter when you purchase because each jig supports only 1/4″ or 5mm drill bits.

4. Milescraft 1316 CabinetMate Shelf Jig

Milescraft 1316 CabinetMate - Shelf Pin Drilling...

For smaller projects the Milescraft jig will work fine for drilling cabinet shelf pin holes. While it comes with a drill bit consider buying a higher quality bit as the reviews of the included bit are not high.

How to Drill Shelf Pin Holes

With a jig there isn’t a lot to consider other than a classic question of: do I drill the holes before I assemble the cabinet?

Personally, I like to drill first and avoid cramping myself (and a drill) into a finished cabinet. 

Steps to Drill Shelf Pins

  1. Determine the lowest and highest positions of your shelving
  2. Mark off these locations with blue tape with an arrow indicating up (more later)
  3. Position the jig on the side piece
  4. Double check direction of the jig and side piece
  5. Verify the hole location is set far enough back to clear any shelving “lips”
  6. Drill the first set of holes using the appropriate sized self-centering drill bit
  7. If additional holes are needed, slide the jig up the side and use the supplied indexing pin to lock the jig in place

As every jig is unique you’ll want to follow the included instructions.

How Do I Set Shelf Pin Spacing?

Measuring Cabinets Furniture

The best part of the jigs is it determines spacing of the shelf pin holes for you. 

However, you can customize a few things:

  • Bottom and Top Holes: I don’t always start with the lowest possible hole if I know the shelving won’t start at say 8″. So, adjust upwards (and down at the top) based on your shelving.
  • High Visibility: But for a project with high visibility to the inside of the cabinet you can also skip holes if you have a good feel for where the shelves will go.
  • Just One Hole: And of course, you can specifically target holes and drill exactly where you want

Summary

Hopefully this guide was useful in showing you the variety of shelf pin jigs, pins and drill bits needed to install shelving. 

Please make sure to subscribe for more guides to help your future woodworking projects!

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4 thoughts on “The Best Shelf Pin Jigs For Woodworking”

  1. Great article. Have you ever heard of a 3/16″ shelf pin jig? The cabinets in my house were custom made and the trim carpenter used 3/16″ shelf pins. I want to add a few holes here and there but I cant see anything other than 1/4″ and 5mm for jigs / self centering drill bits. Would love some insight… Again, thanks for this article!

  2. Hi Scott, appreciate the question. 3/16″ is a rare size in a shelf pin! I have only seen a 7/32″ shelf pin drill bit, and a more common 5mm bit is slightly smaller and closer to that 3/16″.

    You have a few options:
    1. Your best bet with a standard jig would be with a 5mm bit that is 0.2″ vs. the 0.1875″ of a 3/16″. The hole size will be similar to the eye, and if you can match the pins in 5mm you’ll know where they are as they won’t fit in the 3/16″ holes.
    2. Another option if you are drilling a number of holes would be to mark the hole center with a jig and bit, then use a brad point drill bit with a depth collar set to the right depth to finish the hole.
    3. Or, you can use the existing holes to mark your hole location centers, measure and use a brad point with a depth collar (skip the jig). Cheapest for just a few holes, just more time in layout.

    Best,
    Eric

  3. I’m looking for a simple jig to use to add hole to an existing cabinet. Am I able to attach the jig to existing holes to establish correct alignment?

    Thank you.

  4. Hi Trudy,

    Yes – shelf pin jigs have an “indexing pin” that inserts into the existing holes.

    Good luck!
    Eric T

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