Building an Inexpensive Finishing Jig for Small Items

Updated on November 13, 2017
This jig will hold multiple pieces like these hair sticks securely so that you can paint them one end at a time and have them dry before reversing them in the jig to do the second end.
This jig will hold multiple pieces like these hair sticks securely so that you can paint them one end at a time and have them dry before reversing them in the jig to do the second end.

Equipment & Supplies

  • box cutter
  • corrugated cardboard
  • rubber bands

Everything you need.
Everything you need.

Before You Begin

The items being finished with the jig in the photos vary from six to ten inches in length. If you intend to finish longer or heavier items you will need to increase the width of the cardboard strips to provide better support.

Also, the jig illustrated is made to finish eight pairs of hair sticks at a time. If you don't need that kind of capacity, don't make it that big. Make it fill your own needs.

Selecting Your Materials

A package of cheap rubber bands should be available at any store that carries even a moderate selection of office supplies. You might even have a package at home already like we did. They just need to be strong enough to wrap tightly around the cardboard strips.

Clean dry corrugated cardboard should be even easier to obtain. I get mine from the nearest fast food restaurant. They get supplies trucked in twice a week, most of it is in boxes that will be discarded as soon as they are empty. My potential supply of cardboard is effectively unlimited.

When selecting the cardboard you are going to use keep in mind that the corrugations need to run from side to side on your cardboard strips. Running them the length of the project might still work if you get the rubber bands really tight but the jig will be easier to make and use if they are oriented correctly.

Tip: I wrestled the first jig I made together without any outside help. Having a third hand (belonging to my wife) really made making the second one a lot easier.

Carefully cutting the cardboard into strips using the box cutter.
Carefully cutting the cardboard into strips using the box cutter.

Step One

With your box cutter, carefully cut two strips of cardboard. I cut mine about an inch and a quarter wide and as long as the box top I was cutting from.

In the video I just eyeballed them and they were close enough. I would recommend measuring and using a straightedge as a guide. If you are cutting flat on a table or other surface, keep in mind that the box cutter will cut through the cardboard and into whatever is underneath. Make sure you use something to protect your work surfaces. More cardboard is not a bad option. If cutting on your lap, you could cut into your pants or even your leg. That may sound like a stupid thing to do but it has happened.

Strips ready to be bound together.
Strips ready to be bound together.

Step Two

Take your two strips of cardboard and lay them one on top of the other. Take your first rubber band and wrap it tightly around the cardboard close to one of the ends of the strips (this is where that extra hand starts to make a big difference).

Getting a helping hand.
Getting a helping hand.
Spacing out the rubber bands using the second method.
Spacing out the rubber bands using the second method.

Step Three

There are two ways to proceed at this point. The first is to tightly wrap rubber bands around the cardboard with approximately a one-inch gap in between them. The other way is to use the item to be painted as a spacer each time you add another rubber band snugging them up as you go. The end result will be similar.

It is very important that the rubber bands be wound tight enough. If they are not the work will not be secure. Test it out before you use it. If your work slops around easily the rubber bands are not tight enough. Not easy to fix without starting all over again but at least you'll know what is wrong.

Turning the pieces around in the jig for painting the second end.
Turning the pieces around in the jig for painting the second end.

Finished And Ready For Use

At this point, your jig is ready to be loaded up, hung up and put to use.

To load the jig wedge one end of each piece to be painted between the rubber bands. You should be able to position the pieces so they are not touching each other. They should be held firmly enough so that they are not easily knocked out of position while you are applying the finish. Only put the finish on the end that is not held by the jig. Once the first end is dry, you can pull the pieces out and put them back in the other way around so that finish can be applied to that end as well. If multiple coats are needed, sand the pieces and repeat the process for each additional coat.

That's all there is to it. Simple to make and easy to use. We hang ours from an indoor clothesline while we are using them. The choice of where you suspend yours is up to you.

Watch the Author Build This Jig

After building the first jig like this, I felt that it might be useful to my viewers and readers. In the video, I quickly make a second jig demonstrating how it is done. While I'm confident that the jig can be constructed easily from the article here, I find it helpful to see someone else actually make one.


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    • Pico Triano profile imageAUTHOR


      2 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

      You can use spray paint. I use a brush because it is cheaper for me. I apply it while it is hanging on the clothesline. I keep my coats of paint very thin. At this point I haven't had any trouble with drips.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 

      2 years ago from Brazil

      That's a great idea. We are always looking for economical ways of solving a problem and virtually free works for me.

      Would you be spraying those with paint or using a brush? Are you painting while they are suspended from the clothesline or is there enough clearance when they are laying down?

      One other question, when you suspend them vertically are you not getting any dripping onto the one below?


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