Avoid Ugly Hammer Marks
Nails are easier to drive if you take a full swing. But the downside is that if you miss the nailhead, you'll leave a deep 'elephant track' in the decking. Use a 1/4-in. plywood cushion to protect the deck boards in case you miss with a hammer. It allows you to concentrate on nailing without worrying about denting the deck boards. Simply start the nail. Then slip a small square of 1/4-in. plywood over the nail and swing away. Remove the plywood for the last blow.
Circle Gets the Square
Here's a magical way to trace arcs and circles for project parts. Tap two finish nails at the ends of a desired diameter, then rotate a framing square against the nails while holding a pencil in the square's corner. Spray the underside of the square with silicone or rub on some paraffin so it'll glide smoother. Then practice a little to get the feel of the three-point contact technique.
Clamping With a Caulk Gun
If you need a clamp that you can operate one-handed, and you don't have a commercial one around, use a caulk gun. It grabs only along the edge, but it may do the trick.
Customized Chuck Key
If you've ever scraped your fingers when tightening a drill chuck, you'll love this tip. First measure the diameter and length of the chuck key's handle and drill a matching hole in the end of a 4-in. x 3/4-in.-diameter wood dowel. Then hold the handle in a vise and tap the dowel onto the chuck with a hammer.
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.
Trim dowel plugs flush on fine furniture projects without scarring the adjacent surface. Apply a couple of layers of masking tape or a single layer of duct tape to a hacksaw blade with an untaped section between for sawing. While you're sawing, the tape elevates the blade a smidgen so it can't scratch the surrounding wood. After sawing, lightly sand the dowel to even it with the wood.
Last-Ditch Nail Pulling
If you're trying to pull a nail and the head breaks off, try gripping the nail tightly with a locking pliers, then pull against the pliers.
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.
Longer-Lasting Utility Blades
Most often, it's just the tip that gets dull on a utility knife. When it does, snap off the tip with pliers and you're in business again. Wear eye protection, because sometimes a little piece of the blade goes flying!
Mini Drywall Saw
A coarse jigsaw blade mounted in a scrap of wood makes a handy little drywall saw. It's easy to carry and is good for cutting around electrical boxes and other tight spots.
No-Dent Finish Nailing
If you're like me and sometimes hit the wood and not the nail when applying trim or molding, try this tip. With a thin-blade saw, saw a narrow kerf 1/4 in. into the end of a wood shim ($2 per pack at a home center). Press a finish nail into the slot, hold the shim against the molding and then drive in the nail. The soft wood shim lets you deliver a final firm blow to leave the nailhead nearly flush with the surface. Next, set the nail just below the surface with a nail set and apply wood filler.
PVC Sanding Files
Stick sandpaper to cutoff pieces of PVC water pipe with spray-on adhesive and you'll be able to sand concave curves to perfection. PVC pipe is labeled by inside diameter; here's an index for the outside diameter of useful pipe sizes.
- 1/2-in. i.d. = 7/8-in. o.d.
- 3/4-in. i.d. = 1-in. o.d.
- 1-in. i.d. = 1-1/4-in. o.d.
- 1-1/4-in. i.d. = 1-5/8-in. o.d.
- 1-1/2-in. i.d. = 1-7/8-in. o.d.
To apply sandpaper to the pipe, spray both the paper and the pipe with a generous layer of adhesive. Let both surfaces dry several minutes before joining them. Use two grits on each pipe—80-grit for sculpting a precise radius, and 100- or 120-grit for finish sanding. When the sandpaper's worn out, just pull it off, spray fresh adhesive on a new strip and go back to having fun.
Six-Point vs. 12-Point Sockets
If mechanics swear by six-point sockets, why are there 12-point sockets? A 12-point socket is fine for most lightweight repairs, but heavy wrenching calls for a six-point socket. A six-point socket is much less likely to slip off a stubborn fastener or round over the corners. Here's why: (1) Six-point sockets have thicker walls, so they're less likely to flex. (2) A six-point socket is designed to contact the head of a fastener well away from the corners so contact is made on the thickest part of the socket and the flattest part of the fastener. This dramatically reduces the likelihood of slippage and rounding over the corners. And (3), the edges of a socket are angled back a few degrees to allow the socket to slide easily over a fastener. The angle is less on a six-point socket than on its 12-point counterpart, again providing more contact area inside the socket.
One last point. Most high-quality sockets are chrome plated to prevent rusting and make cleanup easy. However, after years of use, the chrome finish can flake off. Don't use a socket if the chrome is peeling. The chrome will be as sharp as a razor blade. Any reputable tool company will replace a tool that has peeling chrome.
Socket Wrench Screwdriver
Sometimes there's just no way to make even a short screwdriver work in a tight place. Use a Phillips head screwdriver bit with a ratchet wrench. The hex shaft of most bits fits into the 1/4-in. socket.
Tabletop Chisel Storage
Here's a neat tabletop chisel storage idea that's a snap to build from scrap boards. It angles the handles toward you for easy reach.
Start with a 4-in.-wide board. Using your table saw, cut stopped slots to match the width and depth of each chisel (plus some wiggle room). Screw or glue on another board to create the pockets, then run the lower edge of the doubled board through a table saw with the blade set at 15 degrees. Now cut three triangular legs with 75-degree bottom corners and glue them to the pocket board. If you like, drill a few holes through the boards for pegboard hooks so the holder is easy to store on the wall.
Take a Nip Now and Then
Keep a pair of 'nippers' in your pouch whenever you're doing trim carpentry. When you pull trim from the wall, use them for pulling the nails through the back of the trim.
Wrench for Rounded Bolt Heads
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.