Quick Tips – Methods of Work

Knock-down workbench holds two tool chest

For many years my woodworking shop was located in an unheated garage in Michigan. This arrangement worked fine until winter cold forced me to move my entire shop inside the house. To make the annual move easier, I built this knock-down workbench.

The bench consists of six parts: two tool chests (with drawers and built-in carrying handles), two leg sets, a stretcher that connects the legs, and the top. Inside the leg sets are pockets for the stretcher and the two tool chests. The underside of the top has pockets that fit the legs on one end and wedge blocks on the other end. When the top is pushed down, the wedge blocks lock it in place.

To break down the bench, just remove the top, slide the tool chests up and out of their pockets, then loosen the bolts that attach the stretcher to the legs. It’s all clone in minutes. The bench is quite efficient and sturdy. I use it to store my large collection of hand tools – all 65O lb. of them.

Build better sanding blocks

One day I was thinking about the interminable sanding process—the scratch-scratch-scratching on up through the grits … 120, 150, 220—and how I could make it a little more enjoyable. The idea that popped into my head was this supercharged, pimped-out sanding block—what I call a sanding plane—and in less than an hour I had built one.

Since then I’ve built several more, each adapted to a specific function. You can make a sanding plane with a thick hardwood sole for smoothing flat surfaces; you can use a thinner sole to make a plane that has some flex for smoothing large curved surfaces, like a coopered door; and you can make sanding planes to smooth various molding profiles (a convex version is shown).

o make a flat plane, start with a heavy piece of straight-grain hardwood, milled to about 2 and 1⁄4 in. thick.

Cut it to length (the plane shown is about 16 in. long, but you can make them any length) and then joint the bottom and one side. Now rip the block to width, which depends on your selection of sandpaper. This plane uses a length of 3-in.-wide abrasive cloth from a sanding belt, so it’s 3 in. wide.

I also like to use premium B-weight sandpaper that is 4 and 1⁄ 2 in. wide and comes in 30-ft. rolls (Lee Valley is one supplier). Handles help control the long plane; you can make your own, or salvage them, as I did. To load the sanding plane, slip the paper in the front slot, wrap it around the sole, and then thread it under the cleat and screw it in place.

To make a molding sanding plane, cut a blank to about 9 in. long (the thickness will depend on the profile to be smoothed). Rout the profile on one edge and round over the edges on the opposite side. Cut the slot, add a cleat, and start sanding.

Modular workbench increases capacity

When I began planning a workbench, I knew I wanted a big one—an 8-footer. But during the construction of the bench, I decided to make it in two sections, one 6 ft. and one 2 ft., to gain flexibility.

Now with the two modules together, I have my 8-ft. bench. But I can make the bench longer, if necessary, simply by pulling apart the modules. I also can take advantage of the gap between modules, clamping a workpiece to the top of both benches for crosscutting and eliminating the need for sawhorses or support stands. I can rearrange the modules to make it easier to support workpieces of different shapes.

Nonslip fence for a biscuit joiner

The biscuit joiner is invaluable for making joints in a snap. However, the tool tends to shift as the blade enters the cut. To hold the joiner steady, manufacturers install pins in the fence, but the pins don’t always work when a workpiece is narrow, hard, or slippery.
To improve the grip of the fence, I added a layer of fine-grit adhesive-backed sandpaper. This simple addition is like adding snow tires to your car.

Quick Tip
If you use an oil- or waterstone for sharpening, here are a few tips that help suspend the sharpening shavings in the slurry, speeding and improving the sharpening process. First, use filtered or distilled water. Second, mix a small amount of dishwashing detergent into the water. Finally, use high-detergent power-steering fluid for the oil.

Pipe-clamp spacers ease panel glue-ups

These simple pipe-clamp spacers, made from 3⁄4-in. plywood scraps, elevate a glued-up panel away from the pipes, leaving enough room to wipe glue squeeze-out from the pipes and preventing unsightly pipe stains on the workpiece. The spacers also allow the pipe clamps to sit upright on a table, making panel glue-ups a breeze.

Place the blocks between the clamp head and tail, making sure you use enough spacers to support all of the boards being glued.

Holder keeps power cords tangle-free

I became tired of looking at and trying to work with the tangle of electric cords that I use both in my shop and outside for other projects. So I made a simple cord-winding rack that keeps both ends of the cord accessible and can be carried conveniently to and from the work locations. The rack is also easy to hang from its handhold.

It took about 30 minutes to make the 3⁄4-in.-thick plywood rack shown here, which can hold up to 100 ft. of heavy-duty cable. Delighted with the results, I promptly made two more.

Quick Tip
When I built my router table, I laminated two thicknesses of MDF, then encased it in white kitchen-counter laminate. I didn’t particularly plan for white, but the stuff was cheap at the time. Since then, I’ve found that the white surface makes a great place to jot notes or arrows to remind myself to run a board through a certain way (face down, for example) or to raise the bit 1⁄ 16 in. for the next pass. I use a regular pencil to write on the board and a damp rag to erase.