19 Classic Handy Tool Tips and Tricks
After decades of collecting tool tips, our brains are so full that there isn’t room for much else. For this article, we sifted through those thousands of tips and selected a few that have been most useful on our own projects. Tuck them away in your memory and they’ll come in handy for you, too.
Hand Screws to the Rescue
When I started woodworking, I thought hand screw clamps were old-fashioned school-shop tools, not something any modern woodworker would use. Boy, was I wrong. Sure, fast-action metal clamps are better for most jobs, but for anything out of the ordinary, reach for a couple of hand screws. Why? First, the jaws can clamp tapered parts or parts that aren’t parallel. And second, because they’re made from wood, you can cut them, drill them and screw stuff to them.
Here’s just one example: This oval stool seat would be tough to clamp with standard clamps. But with hanger screws driven into a hand screw clamp, it’s easy. Drill a couple of holes into the seat, insert the hanger screws and squeeze the split seat together.
Ken Collier, Editor in Chief
Upright for Edge Work
Straight-Up Drill Guide
To bore a perfectly perpendicular hole, you need either a drill press or a couple of scraps of wood screwed together. The corner created by the scraps will steer the bit straight in every time. But if you’re looking for an excuse to buy a drill press, forget you ever saw this tip.
These handy home hints in the video below are tremendous to know, too.
Instant Saw Support
Cordless tools are the greatest advance in human history. Well, at least for some of us. But they’ve also brought charger chaos. We recommend herding all your chargers into one place and plugging them into a power strip. You’ll get organization, surge protection and an instant way to switch them all off after the batteries are charged.
Magnetize a Screwdriver
Two-Stage Speed Painting
Belt-Sander Stop Block
A belt sander is a great tool for sending boards flying across your shop. If you don’t want that to happen, clamp a stop block to your workbench. A block of the same thickness as your board will also prevent the sander from tipping down and tapering the end of your workpiece.
Clamp a Nail
Stop a Wandering Bit
Even the sharpest bit tends to skate across hard materials like tile, metal or glass, leaving loopy scratches behind. To steady a wandering bit, give it a softer place to start. Thin cardboard (the stuff cereal boxes are made from), taped firmly in place, works perfectly.
Extract a Stuck Plug
Struggling to pry the plug out of a hole saw might make you mutter, ‘Aw, screw it.’ And that is indeed the correct approach. Drive a long screw into the plug. When the screw hits the back of the hole saw, keep driving and the screw will magically pull out the plug. If the plug is really stubborn, you might have to add a second screw on the other side of the drill bit. Then alternate between the screws, turning one and then the other until the plug is out.
Is Your Level a Liar?
Once upon a time, a man built a house using a lying level, so his floors were not level and his walls were not plumb. And all of the interior work, from installing cabinets to hanging doors, was a real nightmare. If you want to live happily ever after, give your level a 60-second checkup. Set it on your workbench and slip a shim under the low end until the bubble is centered. Then flip the level around, positioning the other end on exactly the same point on the shim. If the bubble isn’t centered, the level is a horizontal liar. To check vertical accuracy, follow the same steps against a wall.
Final Paint-Prep Step
Belt Sanders Aren’t Just for Wood
Jeff Gorton, Associate Editor
Tool Case Surgery
A New Use for an Old Paintbrush
Essential Workbench Accessory
Reverse Circular Saw Blade for Clean Cuts
A standard saw blade chews up vinyl siding, leaving a chipped-and-ripped edge. For a clean cut, put the blade in backward.