Frugal Woodworking

Woodworking Tips for Affordable Woodworking

Author Archive

Bow Saw Hardware Tip

Frame saws are usually pretty inexpensive to build.  The hardware is typically the most expensive.  I’ve seen people use eye-bolts with a slot cut down the middle to hold and  position the blade, but this very clever use by Sean Hellman makes that even easier.  He uses a large cotter pin to hold the blade and allow the blade to be turned when tension is released.

Split pin frame saw blade holder

Sean Hellman’s Frame Saw with split pins


Frugal Doesn’t Mean Screw Somebody Else

Steve Ramsey from has a great set of video clips with a high energy and often tongue-in-cheek approach to woodworking. His tips are valuable and enjoyable.

However, he has also taken offense to woodworking plan scams  that sell existing published woodworking plans illegally. It is tempting for a frugal woodworker to buy into some of these scams but I agree with Steve, bad behavior should not be rewarded, regardless of the financial savings for the buyer. If you are in need of plans, visit his list of legitimate woodworking plan sites.


Blotch Control

Using less expensive wood to build a project is usually thought of as fine as long as the project is not meant to be attractive.  Many woodworkers love to use Poplar because it is relatively inexpensive and machines well with hand or power tools.  The problem is when it comes to finishing, it is prone to blotching and its green tinted heartwood makes people avoid using it.    Thanks to Charles Neil Precolor conditioner (aka Blotch Control), that is no longer a problem.

For the purchase of a $13 can of his Blotch Control, you can save much more than $13 by using poplar for your projects, even the ones you want to look good.  This stuff goes on first, and makes it so you can use a stain or dye to get a nice even color on poplar (or any other woods).

Here is the video of Charles Neil demonstrating all the different aspects and the results

Even if you are not using something fancier than poplar, this is still a frugal investment because it will keep blotching of the wood from ruining the project for you.


Tool Restoration

The Norsewoodsmith has a ton of great information on restoring and tuning old tools.  A great way to stay frugal by buying used tools and tuning them up

Norse Tool Restoration Tips


Butcher Block Bench Top

Woodworking workbench guru, Christopher Schwarz, from Popular Woodworking gives his thumbs up approval to using relatively inexpensive butcher block boards to create a solid and stable bench top.  Check with your restaurant supply stores in your area (the ones that actually cater to restaurants, not the ones that cater to home cooks with the illusion of being for chefs).

Build a 3″ bench top in one hour


One of the basic ideas behind being a frugal woodworker is to protect your investment in the tools you already have.  Oil on tools, paste wax on table saw tops, and now, plastic bags over calculators.

I have a calculator I keep in the shop and to keep sawdust and grimy hands from shortening its life, I follow this tip and put a small zip loc bag over it.  I can use it through the bag, but grime can’t get in to foul up the works.

Bag your shop calculator.


Surface Vice

This is an inexpensive upgrade to your existing handscrew clamps that makes them a lot more valuable for less than a dollar’s worth of dowel.

Handscrew Dogs are awesome!

Handscrew dogs - a simple modification


Handsaw Techniques

Most woodworking can be done with handsaws.  If you build a lot of pieces of furniture, you might need an electric saw.  There is a myth that only power saws (table saws in particular) can give you precision.  However, many of the best pieces of furniture in the world, never touched a table saw.  It can be done with handsaws.

Handsaws range in price from a few dollars at a garage sale to hundreds of dollars for some of the fancier saws.  It is possible that some of the less expensive saws cut as well as the more expensive ones (a tropical hardwood handle doesn’t give the blade with teeth any magical properties).  Whether you’ve invested $10 or $300 in a handsaw, one of the best ways to make good on that investment is to become better at using it.  Watching the video in this post can do that … even if you have to watch the 1 minute long introduction.

Handsawing Technique Tips


Wooden Plane Challenge

The use of purcahse of old existing tools can save a lot of money, unless they are known collectors items.   Many people shy away from the old wooden hand planes and so they can often be found inexpensively.   If they are in useable shape (no giant cracks or breaks) they can be put back into service and be as effective as their modern iron counterparts.

Here is a great blog post  tracking the refurbishing and using some old wooden planes

Taking The Wooden Plane Challenge