38 Simple Tool Tips, Hints and Tricks
You’ll never know if you need these tips until you do. These hints are the ones we use every day – they’re difference between a fun time in the shop and a frustrating one.
A 1-in. Belt Sander is a Versatile Sharpening Tool
Most carpenters know that a belt sander can produce a reasonably acceptable edge on a dull chisel. And knife-makers and professional sharpeners often use special belt grinders to shape and sharpen blades. You can get many of the benefits of a professional belt grinder for a fraction of the cost with a 1 x 30-in. benchtop belt sander. The one shown is the Grizzly 1-Inch Belt Sander, available from amazon.com for less than $100. Buy 180- and 240-grit belts and you’ll be set for serious knife sharpening. Plus, you can use the belt sander to grind other tools like axes and chisels, and to sand small woodworking projects.
For really dull knives, start with a 180-grit belt and finish with a 240-grit belt. Practice on an inexpensive knife until you get the feel of holding the knife at the correct angle as you move it across the belt. Try to maintain the angle that’s on your knife. This is usually about 20 degrees. For a razor-sharp edge, buy a leather belt along with honing compound and mount it on your sander for the final sharpening step.
Magnetic screwdriver bit holders sometimes leave the bit behind after you drive a screw. To make the bit stay put, wedge it tighter with a small scrap from a plastic bag.
Instant Tool Holder
Dave Says, “I used to put off sharpening because it was such a hassle. With this machine, sharpening is a quick task, not a project.”
New Uses for Old Glove Fingers
Lighted Screwdriver Hack
New Angles on Tool Sharpening
Here’s a better way to hold tools securely while you’re grinding them—and take the guesswork out of creating the right bevel angle. It’s a short piece of 2×4 with an angled end and a 1-1/4-in. hole for a clamp. Make one for chisels and plane blades, and a few more with different angles for wood-turning tools. Large labels with the tool’s name tell you which blocks are for which tools.
For a Delta grinder with a 6-in.-diameter wheel, a 5-1/2-in.-long piece of 2×4 aligns the tool to the wheel just right. For other grinders you may need to adjust this length. Note: The angle you cut on the block is not the same as the tool’s bevel angle. But let’s skip the math. To determine the block angle, turn off the grinder and hold the tool’s bevel flush against the wheel. The angle of the tool shaft to the workbench is the angle to cut on the 2×4.
Easy-Grip Tool Handles
Best All-Purpose Hammer
Whether you’re doing rough construction or fine finish work, the best all-around hammer is a smooth-faced 20-ounce with a straight claw. I use the claw to drive it under walls for lifting, to embed it in framing and even to do extremely crude chiseling. But best of all, it’s a better shape for pulling nails than the curved claw style.
A Superior Handsaw
When was the last time you used a handsaw? It was probably dull and hard to push, and chances are, you couldn’t follow a straight line to save your life. But saws are not all created equal. Irwin’s 15-in. Universal Handsaw is truly remarkable: It’s extremely sharp and easy to grip, and it cuts up to three times faster than other handsaws. The secret is in the teeth. They’re ground with three faces then hardened to stay sharp much longer than a conventional saw’s teeth. Irwin calls this a ‘universal’ saw because it performs equally well with the grain and across the grain. Keep it around to break down longer boards that don’t easily fit on your miter saw. And carry it with you to the lumberyard to cut down long lengths of wood so they fit in your car for the ride home. The teeth can’t be sharpened, but at this price, who cares?
Mini Putty Knife
Is your putty knife too wide to fit into that little can of wood filler? Snip a 6-in. segment from an old hacksaw blade, grind the snipped end to resemble a low-angled chisel and then wrap the blade with electrical tape for a makeshift handle. You’ll like how your homemade flexible knife spreads putty in a narrow path, minimizing cleanup. (And the built-in hanging hole is a nice feature.)
Mini Tools From Concrete Nails
Clamp Conduit for Easy Cutting
Large slip-joint pliers are all you need to hold conduit firmly in place while you cut it. Clamp the conduit to a workbench, sawhorse or even a wooden ladder step with pliers. Then mount a sharp, 32-tooth-per-inch hacksaw blade in your hacksaw frame and cut the conduit. After you make the cut, it’s important to remove any metal burrs from inside and outside the conduit. Insert the blade of a screwdriver into the conduit and swivel it around to flatten any burrs on the inside of the pipe. Twist the jaws of slip-joint pliers around the outside of the conduit to remove burrs there.
Foam Ball Tool Storage
Try this tip for extracting screws with stripped heads. Mount a cut-off wheel in a Dremel rotary tool and grind the wheel against a piece of scrap metal to reduce the circumference. Make it small enough to cut into the screwhead without slicing into the wood surrounding the screw. Now grind a slot in the screwhead at an angle to the original slot, insert your screwdriver and gingerly unscrew that battered fastener.
Electrical Tools with Onboard Voltage Tester
Tool manufacturer Gardner Bender solves the problem of lost testers by incorporating a tester right into the handles of its wire stripper and screwdriver—tools you’re bound to have on hand whenever you’re doing electrical work. Simply press the button and move the tool handle near the wires to test before touching. Or, slide the tester off the tool handle to use it as a freestanding unit.
Find the GST-70M Circuit Alert Voltage sensing stripper and SDT-10 screwdriver at home centers and online.
PVC Tool Pockets
Holster your screwdrivers, chisels, files and other hand tools in 3-in.-long pieces of 1/2- and 3/4-in. PVC pipe. Cut away the upper open section with a hacksaw or band saw, drill a hole, screw the piece on a board, and drop in the tools. If you’re using a band saw, slice off the cutaway section from a long length before cutting off the 3-in. holster.
Portable Tool Kit
Foam Ball Hand Protector
Foolproof Chisel and Plane Sharpening
Use spray adhesive to attach half sheets of silicone carbide sandpaper to the glass. Cover one side with 220- and 320-grit paper and the other side with 400- and 600-grit. The sharpening angle is determined by how far you extend the blade before clamping it to the guide. Dimensions on the side of the guide show where to set chisels and planes to maintain 25- and 30-degree angles.
Clamp the blade in the guide and roll it back and forth on the coarsest paper until the edge is uniformly shiny. It should take only 15 or 20 seconds. Repeat this process for each progressively finer grit.
Perfect Junk Drawer Driver
Ratcheting screwdrivers make driving and removing screws by hand a breeze, and many come with an assortment of bits that store inside the handle for just about any type of screw head. Keep it in your kitchen junk drawer and you’ll always know where it is.
Make contour sanders for convex and concave surfaces with short pieces of PVC pipe cut lengthwise. (It cuts easily with a handsaw, saber saw or band saw.) If you like, leave a section of the pipe uncut for a handle. Apply adhesive-backed sandpaper to the inner and outer diameters, or spray photo-mount adhesive on the pipe and apply regular sandpaper. You can match the PVC’s inner and outer diameters to rounded or curved surfaces and edges so when you sand the contour, you’ll preserve its original shape. Make a few PVC sanders in various diameters and you’ll find yourself using them for all kinds of filing, sculpting and intricate fitting jobs.
Notched-Jaw Hand-Screw Vise
Hand screws are ideal for holding cylindrical workpieces if you saw notches in the opposing jaws with your handsaw (one small notch for thin pipe or dowels and a second, larger one for big stuff). Now pieces won’t slip or revolve as you carve, sand or saw. And don’t worry; your notched hand screw will still work fine for regular clamping jobs.
Rosin Paper Workbench Cover
How to Magnetize a Screwdriver
There’s no better way to clamp wood edging strips to plywood shelves than with pieces of masking tape. Just apply your glue to the back of the strip and secure it with pieces of tape every 3 in. or so. Always cut your edging an inch longer to save the hassle of trying to align the ends perfectly. The excess length is easy to trim off later with a fine-tooth handsaw.
Socket Wrench Screwdriver
Kitty Litter Pouch for Tool Protection
Two Sizes of Brad Nails in One Gun
Caulk Gun Clamp
A rubber chair leg cap instantly converts a hammer into a rubber mallet. And if you want to drive a nail without denting the surrounding wood, cut a hole in the rubber cap. Pound until the rubber strikes wood, then finish driving the nail with a nail set. A 1-1/8-in. rubber cap fits tightly over most hammers and costs about $1 at home centers and hardware stores.
Vise-Grips to Pull Nails
Customized Chuck Key
The advantages? Besides no longer scraping your fingers on the gears, you’ll have increased leverage with less effort and a much more comfortable grip when tightening the chuck. Plus: Never lose your chuck key again!
When you need to extend the reach of your cordless screwdriver, just pull the shaft out of a four-way screwdriver and clamp it in the chuck.
Wrench for Rounded Bolts
Loosen bolts with worn, rounded heads with a pipe wrench! The pipe wrench jaws dig in and grab the head so you can remove the bolt. Check out these other clever new uses for your tools.