Frugal Woodworking

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Ear protection: Walker’s Razor vs Zohan

I went to use my over the ear, hearing protection the other day and noticed that the ear cushions had completely collapsed and were not replaceable. I decided it was time to upgrade to a “smart” variety. Mainly I did this because when I am blacksmithing with my son, it is hard to communicate. We also do a bit of of clay pigeon shooting, and it would be nice to be able to talk there too. With some online research I narrowed it down to two.

Walker's Razor hearing protection next to Zohan EMO54

They are very similar in style and price and come fairly well rated.

Here is what I found by buying one of each (paid full price) and comparing them side by side.

  • Weight : Nearly identical. No clear winner
  • Slim profile: Nearly identical. The Walker’s Razor Slim is just a tiny bit more slim.
  • Noise reduction: They both do a great job of clipping off the loud noises. The Walker’s are rated for -23dB noise reduction, and the Zohan -22dB. I tried them both while hitting my anvil the same way. I could not tell a difference between the two, at all.
  • Comfort: Getting the Zohan with the gel pads makes both products the same price (without the gel, the Zohan is cheaper than the Walker’s) The Zohan is MUCH more comfortable. I can wear them with glasses on and they still seal well and do not make the glasses ear pieces hurt. Zohan is the hands down winner on this win.
  • Ambient sound: They both have the ability to bring in and even amplify sounds from your surroundings. Background music, discussion, other non-loud noises. The Walker’s sound is more static filled and hissy. The real downside to the Walker’s Razor is that the sound is not stereo. Both ears get the same sound so you can’t detect where the sound is coming from. The Zohan’s shine in that you can hear the noise well AND you can tell where it is coming from. Whether you are in the shop or in the field, you need directional sound for better situational awareness. Zohan wins this one.
thickness of Walker's Razor compared to Zohan EMO54
The Zohan on the left and the Walker’s Razor are nearly the same thickness.

Auxiliary input: They both have aux jacks for plugging into music or maybe even a walkie talkie. The Zohan comes with a cable, the Walker’s do not. A plus for the Walker’s Razor is they they have a rubber plug to cover the jack while the Zohan does not. In reality I would never use the headset jack (most phones got rid of them years ago). I call this one a draw.

Side view of Zohan and Walker's Razor
Here you can see the microphone placement and volume switch.

Volume / on switch: They are nearly identical. They are in the same location and work the same way. The Walker’s is a little easier to find with your finger, than the Zohan, but the Zohan seem’s better protected. They both work smoothly. The one bonus to Zohan is that it shuts off automatically after 4 hours.

Power: They both use two AAA cells. (Walker’s comes with them, the Zohan does not). I do not know how they compare in terms of run time, though I have a guess. The Walker’s make a slight static noise all the time, that will likely run the batteries down faster than not making static.

Build Quality: It’s a draw. They both seem the same in terms of quality. Only a real torture test of several months would like surface a difference.

Final Verdict: I sent the Walker’s Razor Slim back and ordered another pair of Zohan. For me it cam down to two things.

  1. The increased comfort. The more comfortable they are, the more likely I am to use them. The Zohan with the Gel pads. was not just a little more comfortable, they were a lot more comfortable.
  2. Better situational awareness due to being able to hear where other sounds are coming from.

Best woodshop pencil

It is always a frugal win to celebrate when the best in class, is also the least expensive solution.

Here is a very strong review for the inexpensive PaperMate Sharpwriter mechanical pencil.

See the full review: Best woodworking pencil.

The underdog goes up against a fan favorite, and wins.


Rust removal eraser

I have a fair number of tools and live in coastal Florida. Rust is inevitable. Throwing out rusty tools is not frugal. When it comes to small spots of rust, I used to turn to 3M sanding sponges. They conform to the tool’s shape and do a decent job of removing rust quickly. The problem is, they don’t hold up well. They are spongy foam with an abrasive coating on the outside. Once the coating starts to fail, they are pretty much done.

3m sanding sponges, new vs used and worn.
A new 3M sanding block on the left. On the right, one that has seen some action has abrasive missing.
Sandflex abrasive block by rusty saw

I have had people recommend the Klingspor Sandflex blocks before, but I had not used them. I gave them a try about a year ago and am not looking back. Rather than being abrasive coated foam, they are abrasive impregnated rubber. They are more solid (less squishy) and the abrasive runs throughout.

Sandflext block next to 3m sanding sponge

Here you can see the Sandflex (left) alongside the 3M (right). The gray part of the 3M block does not contain abrasive, only the outer layer. The entire block of the Sandflex is abrasive. One thing to note, the grits are not comparable. The “fine” Sandflex is finer than the “fine” 3m block . The “medium” Sandflex is more similar to the “fine” 3M. The fine Sandflex gives a pretty shiny polish but I find the medium Sandflex does a better job at spot cleaning, then follow up with the fine.

rust on a saw
A section of rush on the spine of a backsaw.

Here is an example of some rust on the back of a backsaw.

metal saw with rust removed by a sandflex block
Rust has been removed with Sandflex block

After a bit of work with the medium and then fine Sandflex abrasive blocks. The metal on the spine of the saw is not rust free. I can do the same thing to the sawplate as well.

There are a lot of places to get the Sandflex blocks, TayTools often has them on sale (not a gift or sponsored, just affiliate link) so that is where I bought them. Will I stop buying the 3M sanding sponges? No I will still get them for use on wood, or tools that need a more flexible sponge to get into a tight spot. What I don’t use them for anymore is basic cleanup of a tool The Sandflexes are so much better suited.


Dovetail Kit for under $30

If you know someone that wants to get into making handmade dovetails, this is a list of tools that would allow them to cut great dovetails without spending a fortune.  Notice I didn’t say this was a beginner kit.  The tools in this kit are good enough that they could be used for years without complaints.

Workholding is an issue with dovetailing.  A very effective method of face vise clamping is to use a pair of hand screw clamps and a pair of F-clamps


Bad Blade Carver, So Good

Bad Blade Carver by Kwik Tool

For under $20 I am very impressed with the Bad Blade Carver by Kwik Tool.  Mounted in a 4.5″ grinder, it removes a ton of material quickly yet allows a fair amount of control.  The disk has only 6 teeth so the carver is mainly a solid disk with very few teeth to bite and create kick-back or dig-in. I found I had the best control when engaging the blade between 12 o’clock (top of the grinder) and 3 o’clock. When in that range it was not overly aggressive and left me in control.

This carving blade competes with

  • King Arthur’s Lancelot Chain carver  – The Bad Blade Carver is half the price and has pretty much identical capabilities.  Both leave very similar surfaces. The simpler design of the Bad Blade make it more reliable and less scary.
  • Arbortech Tuff Cut – Nearly identical in design to the Bad Blade Carver.  The Tuff Cut has only three teeth. Half the number of teeth means the Bad Blade wins for a smoother finish AND is 1/4 the price.
  • Arbortech Turbo Plane – The turbo plane is more than 7 times the cost of the Bad Blade Carver, however The turbo plane is kind of a more refined animal.  It probably isn’t fair to compare the two. The Turbo Plane leaves a better finish and can be used in a different way,  but for bulk removal and heavy shaping, I think the Bad Blade Carver wins. If you want the scalloped and smooth surface, then the Turbo Plane wins.
  • Kutzall Shaping Disc  – The Bad Blade Carver compares closest to the Kutzall coarse.  The Kutzall leaves a little better finish , but is a touch slower at bulk removal (that could be  pro or con) than the Bad Blade Carver.


Bad Blade Carver ready to woodwork

Before Bad Blade Carver. This is straight off the chainsaw.


Bad Blade Carver review

This is not fully sculpted yet, but you can see that the Bad Blade Carver has been very effective at sculpting, shaping, bark removal, and smoothing

I am super happy with the Bad Blad Carver.  It does what I need it to do (removing and shaping wood) and does it in a fairly safe and controllable way.  I choose it above the other four products I referenced above.


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.