Check out these great tips from our pro woodworkers for working faster, smarter and more efficiently in your shop.
Here's how to make your own reusable sanding blocks. Cut six blocks from scrap 3/4-in.plywood for each sandpaper grit you commonly use. Make them 2-1/2 in. x 4-3/4 in. Spray adhesive on both a square of cork tile and each block. Stick a block to the cork and cut the cork flush with a utility knife. Then spray adhesive on a sheet of sandpaper and stick it on each block cork side down as shown. Cut the sandpaper flush with the cork, and label each block.
When you're crosscutting on a table saw, set the cut length with a block clamped to the fence. Don't ever use the fence directly to avoid getting a board kicked back right at you. Instead, clamp a block of wood to the fence before the blade. Then the end of the board will be free of the fence during and after the cut. If you make a block that's exactly 1 in. thick, you can set the fence scale at 1 in. greater than the length you're after. No tricky fractions involved.
Stair gauges are usually used to lay out stair jacks. You clamp them to a carpenter's square to match the rise and run of a stair jack and then mark the notches. But if you put them both on the same tongue of a carpenter's square, the combination makes a great crosscut guide for circular saws.
Pick up a pair for less than $5 at any hardware store or home center. Clamp the square in place so it won't slide around while you're cutting. You wouldn't like that one bit.
To prevent stains caused by oozing glue along joints, clamp the pieces together without glue. Put tape on the joint, then cut along it with a sharp blade. Separate the pieces, apply the glue and clamp them together again. The glue will ooze onto the tape, not the wood. Peel off the tape before the glue dries.
When you need an accurate square in the 2- to 3-ft. range, your options are limited. Drywall squares are notoriously inaccurate and cumbersome. Carpenter squares involve that nagging hassle of having to hook them onto the edge of your workpiece. If you have a drafting square lying around, drag it out to the shop. Or, go to an art supply store and pick one up ($5 or more). They're very accurate and you'll find yourself grabbing it nearly as often as you do the tape measure.
When you have to cut, shape, file, sand or finish something small, reach for your hot glue gun and glue the piece to a pedestal stick. The hot glue will hold just about anything as well as or better than any clamp ever could—if using a clamp is even possible. When your project is complete, try to pop it loose with a putty knife, but don't use too much force—you might tear out the wood or break the piece.
You have two options for breaking the grip: cold and heat. First, try sticking the work piece into the freezer for an hour or so. Frozen glue will usually give way with very little force. If that doesn't work, try a hair dryer to soften the glue. Still stuck? Reach for the heat gun. But warm the piece slowly and from a distance to avoid scorching the wood or damaging the finish.
You've finally got your table saw on a mobile base so it's easy to pull out and put away on the weekend. Finish the job by finding a level spot on the floor that's also convenient for sawing boards without obstruction. Mark the wheel positions with bright-colored duct tape and now you can roll the saw to the same flat spot every time you saw.
Install the blade on a hacksaw so the teeth face forward. The saws are designed so the blade will cut when it's pushed (the forward stroke) rather than when pulled. Some blades have an arrow that shows the correct installation (the arrow points toward the handle). Install the blade so it's tight in the saw and won't bend. When you do a lot of cutting, the blade will heat up and expand, so be sure to tighten it if it starts to bend.