Top 10 shop tips

By Canadian Home Workshop

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For the past decade, we’ve brought you tips from the most important workshops around: our readers’. Save time, money and a whole lot of hassle by revisiting our favourite Shop Tips.

1. Flush with ideas (February 2002)

For those woodworkers who can’t justify buying a jointer, Gregory Theriault of Grand Pre, N.S., has a solution that will cost you less than $50. Buy a piece of aluminum flat stock, about 1/2″-thick x 2 1/2″-wide by as long as you need. Drill some holes a few inches from each end and screw the aluminum to the board. The edge of the board should overhang the aluminum along its entire length. Joint a saw-ripped edge with one pass of a router spinning a 1″-long, bearing-guided, flush-trim bit.

2. Knock ’em down fasteners (April 2002)

Whether it’s for furniture you may need to take apart for storage or simply a need to assemble some 2x4s together temporarily, Chuck Winslow of Ashcroft, B.C., designed some knockdown fasteners. Drill a hole about 2″ from the end of a piece of wood using a 35mm bit, then drill a 1/4″ hole through the end of the wood to meet up with the 35mm hole and, finally, drill a corresponding hole in the piece of wood to be attached. Now, cut a length of 1″ steel pipe slightly shorter than the thickness of the wood and drill a 1/4″ hole centred in its side. To assemble the joint, slip the length of pipe into the 35mm hole, insert a bolt, then thread on a nut and tighten.

3. Milk carton magic (Summer 2005)

Skip the mess left behind when you drill into plaster to put up pictures, hooks or shelves. John Couto of Lorraine, Que., suggests using an empty box, such as a milk carton. Cut off the bottom and secure it a few inches below the spot you plan to drill using painter’s masking tape (to protect your wall’s surface). When you drill, the plaster residue falls in the box instead of all over the floor.

4. All rolled up (Winter 2006)

Wipe-on poly is a favourite finish for many workshoppers. To keep hands clean and provide a “smooth as silk” finish, Charles Mak in Calgary runs to his home office for a little help. First, he folds a soft, clean cloth in a couple of layers, then holds it together with a 3″ bulldog clip. Then, he pours a small amount of the finish into a dish, dips the cloth brush as if it were a regular foam brush, then applies an even coat of wipe-on poly while holding the handle of the clip. You also can fold and clip the cloth into different shapes to suit the job.

5. Hidden gem (April 2007)

After discovering that the local hardware store didn’t stock hidden deck fasteners, Warren Chernoff of Castlegar, B.C., made a homemade version. He ripped a 3″-wide strip of pressure-treated 1/2″-thick plywood and screwed it to the top of the joists, keeping one end flush and letting the other side overhang. Then, he screwed the deck boards, up from the bottom, to this plywood. This provides a great deck with no visible sign of mechanical fasteners.

6. Hip to be square (October 2007)

When Ross Dokis of Hanmer, Ont., found the average T-square wasn’t large enough for some jobs, such as cutting drywall or large sheets of plywood, he made his own out of a piece of 3/4″ x 4″ pine. Rip the board to 2″ wide, then cut the vertical piece to 40″ high and the horizontal section to 30″ long. Screw the two pieces together. Your large T-square is ready for the shop!

7. A flawless fill (September 2009)

Find it hard to decide whether to fill trim before finishing (which requires a lot of sanding) or to fill after finishing (which brings the risk of scratching the finish)? The solution that Steve Trutenko of Calgary came up with is simple: place some green painter’s tape over a piece of trim that has been finished, then attach it using a brad nailer. Before removing the green tape, smear filler into the small holes in the green tape that the brad created. Remove the green tape carefully—no sanding or touch-up required.

8. Store it right (November 2009)

All workshoppers know you shouldn’t store a plane resting its sole on a surface. Barry Homer of Pierrefonds, Que., shared his method for storing planes: he hangs his planes by their knobs and keeps their irons off the wall with well-placed springs.

9. The right angle (Winter 2011)

This classic tip comes from “1001 Tips for Woodworkers,” by Percy Blandford. One way to remove most of the glue in one pass is to use a drinking straw, which can get into the angle and scoop out the glue without spreading it.

10. Artful achievement (March 2011)

Tired of the tedious task of hanging picture frames, Robert Paradis of Orleans, Ont., got creative with a drywall screw and paint stir stick. Attach the drywall screw to the end of the paint stir stick, then hang your frame from the screw. Find the perfect place for the art, take off the frame and press on the fastener. Now, you know exactly where to drill for your fastener.


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