Tip 1: Make reusable sanding blocks
Foam sanding sponges are a great
invention. They excel at sanding
curved surfaces or drywall-taped
inside corners, but they're a bit expensive and
not practical for sanding large, flat surfaces.
Make your own reusable sanding
blocks for much less.
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 10 of the blocks. (Buy a
package of four 12-in. cork tiles at a
home center.) Stick 10 of
the blocks to the cork and cut the cork
flush with a utility knife. Then spray
adhesive on a sheet of sandpaper and
stick on six of the blocks cork side
down as shown. Cut the sandpaper
flush with the cork, and label the
When you wear out all six of a set of
sanding blocks, soften the adhesive
with a hair dryer, peel off the old sandpaper
and apply new.
Tip 2: Make repetitive cuts with a 1-in. crosscutting stop block
Here's an old tip that's worth repeating. 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. That's a good way to get a board kicked back right at you.
Ruptured organs and broken rib—or worse—are a very real possibility.
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.
Tip 3: Assemble a stair gauge/framing square cutting guide
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.
Tip 4: Eliminate stains from excess glue
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
Tip 5: Make layouts with a drafting square
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. They're very
accurate and you'll find yourself grabbing it nearly as often as you do the tape
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Tip 6: Clamp small stuff with hot glue
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 workpiece 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.