Quick Tips – Carpentry Tips

Here are some carpentry tips:

Rolling lift for a workbench

When I built my workbench, I didn’t skimp on materials. As a result, the bench weighs around 300 lb. Because my shop is small, I occasionally need to move the beast—not an easy task for one person.

To make life easier, I came up with this design for a rolling lift, which uses wood scraps, a small car jack (picked up for $10 at the scrap yard), four heavy-duty swivel casters, and six butt hinges.

The mechanism consists of two lift plates made from plywood and 2x6s, attached to the bench legs with hinges. Two casters are secured to the base of each lift plate. A 2×4 crossbar, attached to the lift plates with hinges, lifts the bench onto the casters when the car jack is opened. Closing the jack drops the bench onto its own legs. The mechanism is simple but effective.

Inexpensive substitute for a sharpening sink

Because I don’t have a sink in my shop, I used to use a squirt bottle to wet my waterstones during sharpening, but that was tedious and interrupted the sharpening flow. Now I use a simple drip system pulled together from castoff hardware.
A Tupperware water jug is placed on a shelf above the sharpening station. The water is siphon-fed from the reservoir through 1⁄4-in. internal diameter drip tubing. I have one 6-ft. hose with a 1-gal.-per-hour drip emitter and another with a 2-gal.-per-hour emitter; each hose has an inline valve. I select which hose to use based on how much water each stone in use needs.
To start the siphon initially, I sucked through the emitter until the water was flowing. To turn the flow on and off, I use the inline valve.
To avoid flooding the shop, I’d definitely not connect this sort of system to plumbing. Drip irrigation materials are available at most home centers or online.

Mark a roller stand for faster setups

I use my roller stand with several different tools with different table or outfeed heights. This requires me to adjust the stand frequently, with all the bending over, sighting, and readjusting that involves.

To speed up the process and save my back, I marked the extension shaft of the roller stand to indicate the correct height for different machines. Now all I have to do is adjust the extension to the right line, tighten the handle, and go to work.


Depth stop for a dovetail saw

I found it difficult to saw exactly to the baseline consistently when making dovetail pins and tails. But this extremely simple jig guarantees absolute accuracy. It consists of a thin strip of wood, the width of which is determined by subtracting the depth of the dovetail from the width of the backsaw blade. Clamp the strip to the saw so that it is parallel to the sawteeth, and cut away until the strip bottoms out on the edge of the board. The result will be perfect stops at the baseline from front to back.

Oversize lazy susan helps with finishing

In the past, when brushing or spraying pieces, I often managed to mar the finish by leaving fingerprints on the workpiece as I tried to maneuver it for access, or by inadvertently dragging an air hose across it.

At a flea market, I bought an old telephone operator’s chair, the kind that swivels and adjusts up and down. I offered $5 for it, took it home, removed the chair, and bolted a piece of 3⁄4-in.-thick plywood to the chair bracket. Bingo! In just 10 minutes, I had a large lazy susan that gives me access to an entire workpiece without having to touch areas I’ve already finished. This simple device allows me to turn the workpiece any way I want and adjust the height to any level. It isn’t beautiful, but it sure works great.

Quick way to find the end of the tape

If, like me, you have fought with a roll of clear packing tape trying to find the end, here is a simple solution. Stick a plastic bag tab, the kind used to close the bag on a loaf of bread, under the end of the tape.

Now when you need some tape, just grab the tab and pull off what you need from the roll. Cut the tape to length, then stick the tab back on the end of the roll. Press down firmly on the tape to lock the bag tab in place. Everything is set for the next time.

Quick Carpentry Tip

When adjusting a bandsaw or changing its blade, it is difficult to set up the lower blade guides when peering under the table, especially for those of us who wear bifocals. That’s why I remove the table, which gives me unobstructed access to both the guides. Just remember to square the table to the blade once you put it back on.

T-drawer keeps router bits organized

This little inverted-T drawer is handy for storing router bits or drill bits under the workbench. The drawer pulls out to full length to expose all the bits, and it tucks away in a jiffy. It uses only two pieces of wood: the vertical member is screwed to the lower horizontal member, which holds the bits. Mount the drawer to the underside of the benchtop with a full-extension ball-bearing

MDF winding sticks are reliable, accurate

Winding sticks are invaluable for helping to check the flatness of large boards, but they become useless if they warp as humidity levels change. So I avoided that problem by making a pair of winding sticks out of MDF and hardboard. These sticks will remain accurate despite varying humidity conditions.

The MDF strips, 3⁄4 in. thick by 1 and 1⁄ 2 in. wide by 2 ft. long, have 3⁄4-in.-deep grooves to fit the 1⁄4-in.-thick by 1 and 1⁄ 2-in.-wide hardboard strips. Before gluing up the winding sticks, I chamfered the top edges of the MDF supports. The chamfers will help deflect any bumps or dings and make handling the sticks more comfortable.

The hardboard strips are glued in the grooves. To make sure the sticks remain parallel to each other, I clamped them top edge to top edge, as shown above.
Finally, I lightly sanded all sharp edges and, using a permanent black marker, drew a fine line along the corner of the top edge of each hardboard strip to make it easier to read the sticks when at work.