Perhaps you’re a woodworking pro and are on the hunt for the best shelf pin jig on the market? Or maybe you’re a DIY’er looking for a basic jig. Whatever your skill, in this article we’ll help you find the right jig for your skill, budget and pace of projects.
Back in the nineties when I first started building cabinets one of my least favorite jobs was installing shelf standards.
Why? Well, if you’ve nailed in shelf standards you might know how frustrating it can be. First you balance the shelf standard on a block and then tap in a tiny nail and try to keep the standard in straight.
It was a horrible job that even a good set of needle nosed pliers didn’t alleviate.
And that’s why I switched to shelf pins and found the shelf pin jig was a speedier and more accurate way of supporting shelfs.
In this article we’ll look at what jigs are on the market, key features, and how they can help you on your next project.
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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
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. Woodpecker SPT-COMBO Shelf Pin Template
The Woodpecker 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 Snappy 1/4″ drill*.
3. KREG KMA3200 Shelf Pin Jig
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
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
- Determine the lowest and highest positions of your shelving
- Mark off these locations with blue tape with an arrow indicating up (more later)
- Position the jig on the side piece
- Double check direction of the jig and side piece
- Verify the hole location is set far enough back to clear any shelving “lips”
- Drill the first set of holes using the appropriate sized self-centering drill bit
- 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?
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
First, there are a dizzying collection of shelf pins (and sizes).
While most pins are 1/4″ there are a variety of sizes from 3MM to 8MM, 5/16″ and more.
Not sure where to start? Stick with 1/4″ as that is often the self-centering bit included with jigs.
Popular Shelf Pins
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Hopefully this guide was useful in showing you the variety of shelf pin jigs, pins and drill bits needed to install shelving.
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