30 Secret Tool Tips for DIYers
When it comes to DIY experience, nobody can match Family Handyman’s field editors. And here they’re sharing their best-kept secret tool tips with you!
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.
Slick Planer Bed
Be Kind to Your File
Rapid Rounded Corners
You don’t need a jigsaw or a band saw to create rounded corners. Just mark the curve, cut away the waste with a circular or miter saw, and then round off the curve with a belt or finishing sander.
Easy Compressor Drain
Bump and Shave with a Miter Saw
Drill Press Key Control
Backers Banish Blowout
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.
Watch these other brilliant handy hints in action:
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
This old trick could save you hundreds of dropped screws over your DIY lifetime. Grab a magnet and rub it along the shaft of a screwdriver a dozen times or so. Rub in one direction only, kind of like sharpening a knife. In about 10 seconds, you’ll have a magnetic screwdriver. Repeat as needed.
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
A 1-in. Belt Sander is a Versatile Sharpening Tool
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. Buy this belt sander now.
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