Quick Tips – Thrifty Tips

Credit Card Glue Spreader

– BAD CREDIT? NO CREDIT? Take that useless card and notch the edges with pinking shears. Instant glue spreader!

Cornstarch Lube

– CORNSTARCH MAKES AN EXCELLENT LUBRICANT. Now and then, I shake a little onto the table and fence of my tablesaw, and voila! The heaviest, roughest boards glide smoothly across the surface. Baby powder works well, too.

Drill Bits for Pennies

– I’VE ALWAYS HADBAD LUCK WITH really small drill bits-if I don’t break them”, I lose them. I’ve stopped buying new ones, and now clip the heads off finish nail sand use the nails as bits. Smooth nails-not galvanized-work best. To improve its cutting ability, file or grind the end of the nail to a chisel point.

Paint-stick Files

– WHENYOU NEXT BUYPAINT, ask for a few free stirring sticks. Glue sandpaper to them and soon you’ll have a complete set of woodworking “files”. They’re very handy because you can make the files as coarse or fine as you need.

New Road for Old Drivers

– I USELOTS OF PHILLIPS-HEAD SHEETROCK SCREWS, which are made of hardened steel. They’re tough on bits. A worn-out bit can’t be renewed, so I reshape it to fit a slotted screw using a small diameter sanding drum. I place the bit in a magnetic holder and slide the holder into a wooden block that has a kerf cut in one end. Tightening a screw squeezes the ends of the block around the holder. Using the block, I can precisely position the bit in order to grind perfectly parallel sides.

Budget Spring Clamp

– THIS LIGHT-DUTY CLAMP IS IDEAL for small parts, and easy to make by the dozen. All you need are a couple of wood scraps, a rubber band, and a short piece of dowel rod. You can vary the pressure by changing the position of the dowel or the rubber band and how many times you wrap it.

Bar Clamp Holdfast

– A BARCLAMP MAKES AN EXCELLENT bench holdfast. Just grind the end of the clamp so the sliding jaw can be slipped off the bar. Drill holes in the bench at convenient intervals, push the bar through one of the holes, and reinstall the sliding jaw. You can put the handle above or below the bench-which ever is more convenient.


Corner Molding Vise Pads

– I’VE FOUND THAT SECTIONS of 1″ corner molding are ideal for padding the jaws of a machinist’s vise. You can buy adhesive-backed magnetic strips at a craft supply store to hold the pad sin place. Alternatively, you can just cut up refrigerator magnets and glue them onto the molding. When the pads get chewed up, it takes only a minute and a few cents to replace them.

Venetian Blind Trick

– WHEN GLUING PLASTIC LAMINATE to a substrate, lots of folks use sticks or dowels to support the laminate. Supports allow you to perfectly position the laminate, since it can’t be shifted once it contacts the glue. I use old mini-blinds, curved side down. Mini-blinds are easy to pull out and easy to clean.

Contoured Sanding Block

– TO SAND A LOTOF MOLDING, glue 80-gritsandpaper to several inches of the molding. Rub a block of Styrofoam on the sandpaper until the block conforms to the molding’s contour. Glue sandpaper to the block, then sand the molding. This method works best on large cove moldings; small rounds or hollows can lose their definition if sanded with a large block and coarse paper.

Cheap Spring Clamps

– TO MAKE DOZENS OF SPRING CLAMPS for pennies, saw 2″-3″dia. PVC pipe into rings an inch or so wide. Cut the rings open on the bandsaw. Angle each cut to give the clamp a little bite. These clamps provide about 8 lbs. of pressure when opened about an inch. They may not be as convenient as one-handed spring clamps, but since you’ll get more than a hundred from a 10′ length, at least the price is right.

Keep Your Tires Clean

– BANDSAW BLADES MAY NOT TRACK RIGHT if pitch and sawdust build upon the saw’s rubber tires. I’ve found that soft bristle brushes are ideal for keeping the tires clean. Using steel corner brackets, mount one near the upper wheel and one near the lower wheel. The brushes also remove static electricity, which can cause problems in very dry climates.

Shop-Made Edging Clamp

– EDGING CLAMPS AREVERY USEFUL, but they’re a bit pricey. I prefer to make my own. Face-glue two pieces-of 3/4″ plywood together and then bandsaw the “U” shape. Drill holes for the three 5/16″ T-nuts, and then make up the 5/16″ clamp screws using 5/16″ threaded rod, 5/16″ jam nuts, and plastic or rubber caps from the hardware store’s plumbing department.

Sawdust Catcher

– AFTER YEARS OF SWEEPING under my contractor’s saw, I finally devised a way to directly collect most of the sawdust in a large plastic trash bag. The bag is held by a 1/2″ MDF frame. I drilled holes in the frame for machine bolts, and corresponding holes in my saw’s base, then epoxied the bolts in the base’s holes. The bag wraps around the frame, which is attached to the base with wing nuts.

Spring Clamp for Miters

– SPRINGCLAMPS AREEASILY CONVERTED to miter clamps by adding swivel jaws. Remove the vinyl tips, then hacksaw a 1/2″ long slot down the center of the metal jaws. Use needle-nose vise-grips to fold down the two halves of each jaw, and then drill a hole for a small bolt or rivet. To make the swivel jaws, snap off two pieces, 3/4″ – 1″ long, from an old hacksaw blade. Drill holes through their centers and fasten them between your spring clamp’s folded tips. For extra holding power, double the blades at each tip. Make sure the teeth point towards the clamp’s mouth for maximum gripping power.

Recycle Old Gloves

– HERE’S A SIMPLE WAYTO PROTECT YOUR CHISELS from getting nicked and rusty while they’re rattling around in your toolbox. Just cut the fingers off some old leather work gloves. Poke holes with an awl at the open end and thread a draw-string through them. Slide the chisel’s blade into the finger, then close it tight with the drawstring. To keep the chisel rust-free, drizzle a little 3-in-1 oil into the finger. The oil will soak into the leather. Wipe the chisels with a clean cloth before use so the oil doesn’t get on the wood.

Bargain Screw Lube

– A TOILET BOWL FLOOR GASKET is an excellent lubricant for screws-it’s much more slippery than paraffin, soap, or all of the other materials I’ve tried. It’s very soft, so all you have to do to coat a screw is to push it into the ring. One gasket lasts for years. You’ll find them in hardware stores and home centers.

Make Your Own Foam Brushes

– YES, FOAM BRUSHES ARE CHEAP, but they can be even cheaper! A roll of foam rubber weather seal can make hundreds of disposable brushes for just pennies a piece. Cut off the length you want, peel the paper backing off the adhesive, and press the foam onto a wood tongue depressor or Popsicle stick.

Squaring a Square

– IF YOUR OLD CARPENTER’S SQUARE isn’t precisely square, don’t throw it away. You can adjust its angle using a hammer and a center punch. First, check to see which way it’s off. Lay the tongue along the edge of a board and draw a line against the blade. Then flip the square and repeat. If the lines coincide, your square is accurate. If they don’t, punch near the outside corner to reduce the angle; punch near the inside corner to increase it.

Auto Salvage Glue Spreader

TO SPREAD GLUE RAPIDLY and uniformly over a large area, use an old windshield wiper. You’ll find a lifetime supply at any auto salvage yard.

Junkyard Scroll Saw Easy Chair
– DRAWN BY ITS CHROME TRACTORSEAT, I rescued anold exercise machine from the dump and re-engineered it for scroll sawing. After completely disassembling the machine (and storing away the handlebars, pedals, gears and motor for future projects), I added a custom-made saw-support table and repositioned the seat. Both the table and seat adjust to suit the operator. To really trick out my new tool, I added a task light, a footrest, and a foot-operated power switch. Now scroll sawing is almost as fun as riding a Harley.

Deadbolt Bench Stop
– FOR A QUICKANDSIMPLE BENCH STOP, I mounted a sliding bolt taken from an old door to the end of my work-bench. In the locked position, the bolt stays put; in the unlocked position, it’s completely out of the way.

Steamer for Small Parts
– TO STEAM SMALL PIECES OF WOOD, I made a ply-wood cover for my electric kettle with a 2-1/2″ hole drilled in the center. A piece of perforated rubber shelf liner over the hole creates a gasket around the PVC pipe, keeps the parts from falling through, and allows steam to flow into the pipe. Tie a length of string to the end of the parts you’re steaming so you don’t burn your fingers trying to get them out of the pipe. Also, be careful not to let the water level get too low or you’ll ruin the kettle’s heating element.

Low-Tech Alignment Tool
– THIS SIMPLE JIG enables you to quickly and accurately align your saw’s blade with a miter slot. Perfect alignment helps prevents kickback and burned cuts. You can also use the jig to align your fence with a miter slot. First, make a 12″ long runner that fits snug in the slot. Position a block of wood on the runner1/2″ away from the blade and glue or fasten the block to the runner.

Screw a round-head brass screw into the end of the block facing the blade. To check your blade, unplug the saw and color one tooth with a marker. Rotate the blade so this tooth sits just above the front of the throat plate. Back out the screw until it just touches the tooth. Rotate the blade so the marked tooth sits at the back of the throat plate and check the distance between the screw and the tooth. If the screw just touches the blade, alignment is correct. If not, you’ll need to loosen and adjust the saw’s top or trunnions.

No Mortising Attachment, No Problem
– HERE’S A CHEAP, TIME-HONORED WAY to clear the waste out of mortises after drilling. Buy a plastic handled chisel (they’re only about five bucks) and twist off the handle with a pipe wrench, exposing the chisel’s tang. Unplug your drill press, and tighten the chisel’s tang into the chuck. Line up your part and start paring the mortise. Don’t try to take all the waste at one time. This design is similar to very old mortising machines, before hollow chisels with a bit inside were used.

Plane Blade Chisel
– WHENI NEEDED A VERY WIDE CHISEL for accurately paring some dovetails, I just removed the blade from a plane and added a handle to it. This massive chisel proved to be so easy to control that I use it for many other jobs, too. Make the handle from 1/2″ thick stock. Round the sides and top edge and chamfer the bottom edge of each piece. Fasten the two halves with 1″ long 1/4-20 machine screws and square nuts. Chop square recesses for the nuts so they sit flush with the surface.

Clamp Hangers
– CLAMPS HUNGON THE WALL are space hogs. I’m always on the lookout for more efficient storage schemes in my all-too-small shop. At the hardware store the other day, I came upon these storage hooks for ladders and a light came on.

The store clerk thought I was a little deranged when I plopped a dozen or so hooks on the counter. “Gotta lotta ladders to store?” he asked. “Yup,” I replied. I knew what I was doing. For about a dollar a piece, I had instant overhead clamp storage. Few things in life are this simple. My hooks freed up enough wall space to hang a cabinet for my portable power tools.

Sharpen Your Bits
– INSTEAD OF REPLACING a dull carbide router bit, re-sharpen it. All you’ll need is a good commercial resin cleaner and a couple of diamond paddles. Before sharpening, inspect the edge.

If it’s rounded over or lightly nicked, take the bit to a pro. Most bits can be professionally sharpened for under $10.

To sharpen the bit yourself, first clean it to remove the pitch and resin build-up. Next, hone the bit with diamond paddles lubricated with water. Use a medium (325 grit) paddle for a somewhat dull bit and a fine (600 grit) paddle for final honing and routine touch-up. Lap the flat face of the bit (not the profile). Four to six passes should do it.