Woodworking is the fine art of building jigs. Even though we have Internet-connected toasters, thermostats, cars, and coffee makers, the Internet of Things hasn’t really appeared in the woodshop quite yet. That’s changing, though, and [Ben Brandt]’s Internet of Things box joint jig shows off exactly what cheap computers with a connection to the Internet can do. He’s fully automated the process of making box joints, all with the help of a stepper motor and a Raspberry Pi.
[Ben]’s electronic box joint jig is heavily inspired by [Matthias Wandel]’s fantastic screw advance box joint jig. [Matthias]’ build, which has become one of the ‘must build’ jigs in the modern woodshop, uses wooden gears to advance the carriage and stock across the kerf of a saw blade. It works fantastically, but to use this manual version correctly, you need to do a bit of math before hand, and in the worst-case scenario, cut another gear on the bandsaw.
[Ben]’s electronic box joint jig doesn’t use gears to move a piece of stock along a threaded rod. Stepper motors are cheap, after all, and with a Raspberry Pi, a stepper motor driver, a couple of limit switches, and a few LEDs, [Ben] built an Internet-enabled box joint jig that’s able to create perfect joints.
The build uses a Raspberry Pi 3 and Windows IoT Core to serve up a web page where different box joint profiles are stored. By lining the workpiece up with the blade and pressing start, this electronic box joint jig automatically advances the carriage to the next required cut. All [Ben] needs to do is watch the red and green LEDs and push the sled back and forth.
“By lining the work piece up with the blade and pressing start…” i dont want to be that guy, but whats the point? if you’re already there to line up the materials and press the start button why even IOT? do i also need to be the guy to point out the security issues w/ IOT attached powertools? its an excellent jig tho HAD please post some IOT projects that are useful unless you own some IOT stock shares you’re not fooling anyone who looks twice
All valid points. Thank you for voicing your concerns, I’ll try to address them in a future video (and here). If all I used it for was “normal” box joints, this setup would be overkill. The web interface gives you a lot more flexibility in the user interface than you would get with an LCD screen and hardware buttons. I tend to take the Steve Jobs viewpoint of hardware buttons. Programming in custom (variable widths) box joint profiles can be easier on a laptop or desktop, connected to the jig via wifi. A touch screen would be nice too, but that adds more complexity and cost to the hardware, and I don’t want to add too much hardware on top of the table saw and risk damaging a nice screen with dust/vibration/etc. I also don’t want to get too distracted by what’s happening on the screen in front of me, so I feel not having a GUI on the jig is a bit safer. As for being secure, admittedly it’s not very secure, but it all runs within my LAN, and it’s only running for minutes at a time when it’s attended. I usually run it on it’s own closed wifi network too. My home wifi signal is weak in the garage, so I bought a router at the thrift store for $5 and I use that with no outside internet connection. If the device had control of turning dangerous things on and off, and moving it through the blade, then security would certainly be a higher priority. I’d categorize this project as more “LAN of Things” than “Internet of Things.” Overall though, I love the concept of moving the UI off to a device that’s better suited for human interaction.
How does it know when a cut is complete? In other words, how do you keep from shifting the sled mid-cut?
I didn’t really point it out in the video, but I have a lever/switch that touches the table next to the control box. When the back edge of the jig moves off the table saw top, it trips the switch, letting the software know it’s safe to move.
Ben, firstly nice work! My current project is a ‘LAN-of-things’ 3 axis CNC router. The idea of moving the UI away from each individual piece of macinery or device and onto the one unified device with a decent screen makes sense. With the switch/es that notify it when you’ve made the saw pass, do they pick up the limits of both foward and reverse motion so it knows you’ve made a complete cut or could it advance the board if you’ve only made a half saw pass?
“if you’re already there to line up the materials and press the start button why even IOT” Ben’s using IoT to network the app on his phone to connect to the jointing jig on the saw. The app is essentially a 1-axis CNC controller. Since parallel ports disappeared from smartphones a few decades ago [/sarcasm] what better way to make the connection? Some narrow minded people may think IoT is only for being able to monitor and replenish kitty’s food dish from out on the beach.
Watch the Christmas lights twinkle, and push the sled back and forth. What! Did Rudolf and friends go on strike? I thought this was automated.
The operator can push it over the blade easy enough, so automation of that movement doesn’t accomplish much. It’s the precision positioning problem that the automation is solving. If this were high-volume production, it could be justified.
I was wondering the same thing. You could load it up with stock side by side and process four joints in your box and then flip them to do the other four. But having it go back and forth automatically. But this is not a CNC and as you say, maybe for high volume.
Correct me if I’m wrong but it looks like the first few passes you make will also be cutting out some of the frame of the jig as the saw is passing through. Hence the reinforcing vertical at the back end. Why didn’t you just cut all of that material out initially anyway ?
This is awesome, as a wood worker and a geek. I see potential for more than just box joints. I have a sled setup for my router table and cutting precision dovetails profiles would be awesome. I wouldn’t have to stick to profiles rigid jigs have. Good work!
Great work, Ben. It is a fine example of IoT technology. It works and does exactly what you want it to. I’m impressed. I’m a big fan of Mattias Wandel’s work too.
Really cool project! I agree with having the web interface it is a lot more flexible than a hardware interface and more cost effective. It would be really cool if there was a linear actuator attached to the sled to move it automatically and a stepper to control the blade angle to make some really cool joints.
The safety dangers of IoT are non-existent if the system simply hardwired the stepper motor wires through a Normally Open switch which prevented changes to be made while the sled was near the blade. Anyone ‘hacking’ into this device could only mess up the quality of the result or waste his time. No big deal.
I like the project, but probably will not see a ROI unless building lots of wood furniture. Pocket screws are good enough for 99% of things. Hell even Matthias has started using them.
Still one of the more unique and complete cross-disciplined projects I’ve seen on HaD in a while. Great work.
How did you power this? Also, would like more info on the limit switch for advancing the jig; I assume it assumes a max thickness of stock I might like to make my own with physical switches
Yep. I’ve decided that when I move, I’ll make a box joint jig, but using Arduino and physical switches. With the various switches I plan on using, I’m already up to a $150 BOM of just electronics. D: Using your phone as an interface was definitely a good way to go. Also after staring at your video a bit longer: the raspi is powered via USB, and the stepper a separate barrel connector. Whereas the placement of the limit switch that detects when it’s safe to advance the jig, I’m still having a hard time telling. (As in, where along the axis of the motion of the work piece into the blade is the switch?)
Ever since I first made box joints on a table saw I’ve been wanting to automate it. This approach seems great. I can’t help think that it’d be great to automate the actual sawing passing too though. I realize it’s not hard to just do that part manually, but I still think it’d be cool to just mount the stock and press go.
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With your intelligence I’m surprised you couldn’t make that jig grow the tree as well,3 5 it really is amazing how smart you are keep up the great hard work and I am very glad to be on the planet with someone like you
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