Author: Greg Hodges

Jigs, what are they? Where can I buy one? How much do they cost? These by far are some of the most frequent questions raised by callmakers who are just beginning to turn their own calls. In fact, Custom Calls Online receives more emails on this topic than anything else related to callmaking. Therefore, Dennis and myself along with input from Jeromy Chin will try to explain this critical tool and how it is used by callmakers.

Exactly what is a jig and how is it used. Well the purpose of a jig is very simple. It is used as a guide for cutting the tone board (i.e. stopper) on a duck call. The jig actual holds the turned stopper in place and allows you to cut the outline of the tone board with a band saw, basically allowing you to duplicate its shape repetitively on the stopper blank. This ultimately allows for minimal adjustment to the wood during the tuning process. You can start your cut from the end of the tone board or at the opposite end where the cork and reed is housed. There is no set rule on where to start cutting. Once the stopper has been rough cut, use a file to smooth out the radius. If the jig has been built correctly and properly hardened, both the cutting and the filing process should have no effect on the jig, but more about that later. Remember, each callmaker has his own style as to how he will utilize this device, so figure out which way is best for you and stick with one repetitive process. By doing this you will become proficient in your cutting technique and reduce the number of stoppers that you have to discard.

So where can I find a jig? Well you won’t find a jig in your local hardware store. In most cases jigs are custom made from local machine shops that specialize in custom tool and die parts. So what does that mean, it means be prepared to spend some money if you want a quality built jig. But, there are several necessary steps you must complete before you order a custom built jig. You must first have a stopper prototype. Unfortunately this is where the controversy begins. Far to often callmakers new to the scene make the grave mistake of duplicating another callmakers stopper. Every callmaker should start by coming up with a design they like by trial and error. It takes time to develop a call that sounds good, has great range and is original in design, but it is worth the wait to have that feeling of accomplishment. Once you have completed this process you are ready to find someone to make a jig that matches your stopper. You can find a listing of companies on our supplies and materials page. Companies such as these can build you a jig by the two following methods. First, by sending them the stopper. Second is by sending them a design with the appropriate dimensions. Jeremy Chinn from Lagrue Custom Duck Calls has supplied an excellent example of a jig design for callmakers to go by. Click on image for larger view.

If you are not familiar with jigs here are some pointers you should remember before you spend the money to have one built. The jig if built properly should last a lifetime. First find out what type of steel the jig will be made of. If you’re not a tool and die maker by trade ask for A-2 or D-2 tool steel. This type steel can be hardened in a furnace after the jig is been built. The hardening process will help withstand the wear and tear from over cuts on the band saw and the continuous wear from a file. Remember, by not having the jig hardened you can severely modify the jigs radius as you file on the tone board. This will ultimately change the sound of your call. Most jigs are produced from a square of steel ranging from 1.50” to 2.00” in size. The length of the steel will center around the calls design and size. Note: refer back to Jeremey Chinn’s diagram. Lastly, keep your jig in a safe place and treat it just like you would your other tools. To clean your jig, occasionally rub it down with alcohol or lacquer thinner to remove wood and oil residue from building up on it.

Finally do some homework before you make your purchase. Ask the machine shop or tool and die maker if they have ever made a duck call jig before. Most machinists will not understand how important the jigs tone board radius is. So explain what you will be using this tool for. Also, look for a machinist who has possibly made one before. In regard to the cost of jigs be prepared to spend some money. Jigs can range from $200.00 to $1000.00 depending on what the machinist charges per hour.

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