Frugal Woodworking

Woodworking Tips for Affordable Woodworking

Hardwax Shootout Winner – Odie’s Oil

I’ve been seeing a lot of maker sites featuring both Osmo Polyx and Rubio Monocoat finishes (hardwax oils).  They seem to go nicely with the live edge tables that are so popular today.  I imagine these companies are doing a good job reaching out to the makers because it seems like an effective effort.  I’ve also seen some examples of Odie’s Oil and and it looks like a similar product only with less marketing flair.  I was on the fence and was leaning toward Rubio, only because it seemed like more makers were featuring it.   Then I ran across this series of 4 videos by Blacktail Studio that test out hardwax finishes each of 4 different ways.

  1. appearance
  2. water damage
  3. coffee damage
  4. dye

Odie’s oil came out as the clear winner among the tests.  How does this relate to frugal woodworking?  These products are similarly priced, but spending money on the best one is where the smart money is.



14 hrs Standing Water

Coffee Stains



Super cheap and effective planing stop

screws for planing stops

We all struggle with various ways to hold wood effectively while we are planing.  There are dogs, toothed bench stops, and now there are screws…really cheap screws.  Seems like for a few bucks for some #14 screws you can modify them to make them very effective planing stops.

Check out the full article about screws as planing stops.


Rasp Alternative

Shawn Graham at has a great tip for making an inexpensive alternative to a rasp.  Good rasps are kind of pricey, but with a scrap of wood, some spray glue and a sandpaper he shows you how to make a simple yet effective shaping tool.


Shawn’s videos are wealth of information, both academic and practical.  His explanations are top notch.

Minimalist Dovetail Tool Kit

Rob Cosman is very experienced woodworker who also makes and sells some pretty expensive tools.  It was  a real treat to see where he demonstrates a technique of using minimal tools to make dovetails.  I enjoyed watching his clever technique and his proof that you don’t need expensive tools to get the job done.

Actual Tools

  • Hacksaw
  • Screwdriver filed sharp (chisel)
  • pencil
  • file or sandpaper (sharpener)

Makeshift Tools

  • Short section of 2″x4″ (mallet)
  • Broken scrap of hacksaw blade (marking knife and kerf spacer)
  • Drywall screw in wood scrap screw head filed sharp (marking gauge)
  • Business card folded at 90 degrees (saddle square)
  • Business card folded at an angle (dovetail marker)

Frugal Christmas Ornaments

Paul Sellers released a great video showing the making of some lovely Christmas tree ornaments. These are triple frugal:

  1. They are frugal in materials. Just 5 inches of wood scraps.
  2. They are frugal in tool use.  They only require a chisel, hand saw, drill and ruler/combination square.
  3. They are frugal in time.   He makes them in real time on camera and in less than 5 minutes he pops out 4 ornaments.

Make Small detail carving chisels

I really enjoyed this series from Patrick Sullivan. He shows step-by-step how to make some simple but very useful carving chisels. He has great explanations, supporting camera work and solid methods. Most importantly, he does it without expensive bells and whistles yet cuts no corners on quality. Very affordable.

Non Grain Raising Dye from Tea

This post speaks right to the heart of frugal woodworking. The woodworker addresses how to make a dye from tea and alcohol that is fast drying and will not raise the grain of your wood. Technically I guess it is both a stain and a dye since since the tannins in the tea will actually change the color of the wood, and the other colors in the tea act more like a stain. Either way it is a great idea.

Affordable Folding Saw Horse

This is a great video on making a set of foldable three legged saw horses. Three legged sawhorses are more stable on all surfaces than a 4 legged horse and the foldable nature of them makes them easy to store and easy to move. I love that Pask uses only commonly available hand tools to make them.

Edge Band clamps

Rockler has some very clever “Bandy Clamps” that use a sling of rubber banding to span the spring clamp ends which makes them useful for gluing on edge banding or edge trim.  They are very useful if you do a lot of that kind of work.  The problem is you need a lot of them and they are kind of pricey.

TabLeft Workshop did I nice video on how to make bunches of equivalent clamps using just inexpensive spring clamps and strips of bicycle inner tube.

Woodglue Brushes

Silicon brush for woodworking glue

Silicon brush for woodworking glue

When glueing up projects I use the frugal method of using old credit cards, or hotel room cards as disposable glue spreaders. They work great for larger areas and edges. They don’t work so good on irregular surfaces or dovetails.
I was eyeing the fancy silicon glue brushes that are specifically for woodworking and laughed when I realized it looked like the one I use for my barbecue. The grilling brush has way too long a handle, but it occurred to me there are probably smaller varieties for the kitchen.
There are and they are considerably cheaper. I found a pair of glue brushes on Amazon for less than half the price of a singles dedicated glue brush. I tested them out on a recent gluing and they work well for spreading glue and getting it into dovetails and mortises. When you are done you can either run the brush underwater to clean it or wait until the glue dries the pluck it off the bristles with a few easy pulls. The glue comes right off the silicone bristles.
The bristles were a bit long so I trimmed off a 1/4″with a scissor.
For a frugal paint cup to dip the brush into, I use old plastic lids from peanut jars, pickle lids or similar. I put a rolled piece of painter tape under the lid to keep it from sliding around while I use it.

Super clamps for panel glue-ups

These clamps are awesome. They are simple to make and cost less than $10 for a pair. For panel or tabletop glue-ups they hold your boards together and they hold them flat. No store bought clamps can beat them for gluing panels or tables.

Parts list for a pair of 48″ clamps:

  • 1 2″x4″x8′ Cut it into 4′ lengths (or however long you need them). Rip them down the middle of the 4″ dimension.
  • 4 bolts that are roughly 6″ long and 3/8″ in diameter. They should have an un-threaded section no longer than the thickness of of the two pieces you ripped to make the two halves of the clamp. (~3 1/4 “)
  • 8 matching washers
  • 4 matching wing-nuts

Thanks to Sergio Acuña Padin for producing this video and sharing the idea.

Simple custom dados with circular saw

Matthias Wandel comes out with some amazing modifications for tools and techniques. This one however is incredibly simple and only requires a few scraps of wood and a pair of clamps to turn a simple circular saw into a custom width dado maker. You can spend a lot on special dado blades for table saws or router with a straight bit and some guides, but this method is simpler and the results are very close to the same. Very little is sacrificed by using this frugal dado making method.

Effective Marking Gauge for Under a Dollar

Paul Sellers brings this great video for how to make a marking gauge for under $1.  It is simple to make, yet brings a high degree of precision for marking dovetails and dado depths.

Tools needed:

  • saw
  • drill
  • screwdriver
  • sandpaper
  • file
  • chisel


  • 1 steel flat-head screw 1 to 2″ long. Preferably slotted, rather than Phillips or square drive.
  • 1 scrap of wood roughly the size of a can of tuna-fish.

Watch Paul show you how its done without spending money on fancier marking gauges, beading tool, or scratch stock.  The simplicity is awesome, and so is the realization that this can be fine tuned more than any of the expensive marking gauges available for purchase.

And here is a short follow-up video where Paul addresses even more that can be done with his simple beading tool.

Affordable Eye Protection

I have been using Fastcap Safety glasses with 2.0 bifocal lenses in the shop.  They have served me well and more than ever I need the bi-focal boost to see the close-up stuff better.  Recently the nose piece on the Fastcap split and became un-repairable (I think this is no longer an issue on the newer version.)   But when I checked Amazon I also found these Crews Bearcat glasses with 2.o bifocal for half the price (under $5) as long I as I included them with some other purchase.  They are made by MCR Safety. I decided to give it a shot.

It turns out, for me they work out pretty nicely.  The earpiece length is not adjustable like the Fastcaps are, but they happen to fit me.  I am happy with the clarity of the lenses and how the bifocal lined up for me.  I’ve been using them for a couple of weeks now without complaint.  According to the wrapper, they meet ANSI Z87 and are 99.9% UV Protective.  Crews is a US company, but the glasses are made in Taiwan


Tools Sources for the Tight Wallet

There is an art and a bit of luck to acquiring tools from garage sales, second-hand shops and e-Bay.  If that does not work for you and you are opposed to buying cheap knock-offs from Harbor Freight,  give Harry J. Epstein Company a try. They handle closeouts and blemished units from many companies and emphasize American Made whenever possible.

If all that fails, then it is often hard to beat Amazon especially for their product reviews.  Often part of being frugal is simply learning what you can about a product before you buy it. Of course it can be helpful to filter your Amazon tool search by ‘blem’ for blemished, or factory second tools or factory refurbished tools.