Frugal Woodworking

Woodworking Tips for Affordable Woodworking

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.

Practical Woodworking Guru

A practical woodworker uses what is efficient in both time, effort, and money.  I have really been enjoying the training videos offered by Paul Sellers.  He is not promoting the fanciest new tool and he promotes methods that give you the most impact for your effort and money.  Try out some of Paul Sellers videos and I guarantee he will pass on some practical knowledge that will save you time and money.

Inexpensive Versatile Wood File

A laminate file is not just for plastic anymore.  They have a lot of attractive features for woodworkers.

A laminate file is not just for plastic anymore. They have a lot of attractive features for woodworkers.

A wood file, or several of them in various sizes, is handy to use.  Often times a metal file that has grown too dull for metal work can still serve out a nice lifetime as a wood file.  In case you are looking to have a new file that works well in several situations, Robert Lang at Popular Woodworking has posted a nice article about using a common “plastic laminate file” as a wood file.  He is right on target from the frugal woodworking side of things.  The plastic laminate file is:

  • affordable
  • has a coarse side
  • has a fine side
  • 1 safe edge – so you can file up against an edge (like a tenon shoulder) without damaging the adjacent face
  • a molded  handle (as opposed to a tang that you have to purchase or make a handle for)
  • a hole for hanging
  • Of a length that is long enough to be effective.  (Use long strokes, just like when using a hand saw.)

None of the woodworking stores seem to carry them.  You can find laminate files at Amazon or Bob recommends looking in the big box stores back by where the sheets of laminate are held.

 

Chisel Protectors

Here are three approaches to chisel protectors that work:

  1. Free – Bottle caps sliced on edge. See it on LumberJocks
    PROS: variety of widths, visible tips
    CONS: not very pretty, cumbersome
  2. Custom width edge protectors made with blue painters tape and plasti-dip.  See it on Popular Woodworking  A variation on this is to use mold-able silicon like Sugru.
    PROS: variety of widths, color codeable, secure fitting
    CONS: 1 can of Plasti Dip is more than you need for just chisel guards
  3. Purchase the set of plastic ones
    PROS:  No shop time required, they look good
    CONS: You are stuck with the size and shapes in the set.
  4. Use an assortment of vinyl tubing cut to length
    PROS: secure, protective
    CONS: not pretty, can allow sharp tip to protrude from end of tube or item to enter the tube
Sources for the products:

Here is the video of making the Plasti Dip Chisel Guards

Kerfmaker from Scrap Wood

This idea is just too simple.  A custom kerfmaker for use on a tablesaw that costs next to nothing and takes only a minute to make.  The end result is a Kerfmaker that is every bit as accurate as the more expensive version.

Don’t get me wrong!  The original Kerfmaker from Bridge City Tools is quite brilliant, and would pay for itself in both accuracy and time savings if you made a living making furniture.  However for the hobbyist, it can seem a little pricey.   LumberJock Rance has a great approach to this that I will use when I need it.  My fear is I will not remember how, when I need it, so I am posting it here for easy access.

Disposable Kerf Maker

It uses only two things. :

  1. Two scraps of wood
  2. Two pieces of double sided tape

Estate Sales

Estate sales can be an affordable way to find used woodworking tools in your area. They are especially helpful if you are looking for older wood working tools. One site that I find helpful is EstateSales.net.  You can have the site notify you of new sales in your area, or you can search for specific items.   It would be more useful if the search or the regions had RSS feeds which are lacking at the moment.

estate sale woodworking tools

You never know what you'll find at an estate sale.

Parallel Clamps

This solution to making parallel clamps out of a few strips of wood and 2 screw per clamp is pretty impressive.  Amazingly simple, yet seem to be quite strong.

Thanks to the blog at theapprenticeandthejourneyman.com for putting together this video.

Inexpensive push blocks

Push blocks are a safety feature that are recommended on jointers, router tables, shapers and table saws.  They keep your hands away from danger and give you a solid hold on your workpiece.  This tip on Lumberjocks is a great one for using rubber grout floats as inexpensive push blocks.  For a few bucks a piece they are secure and consistent.

grout float push block

Fix for Wobbly Pegboard Pegs

Pegboards are a funny thing. Nearly every workshop has some. The problem is not so much the pegboard, as the pegs themselves. Sure the pegs are great because you can move them around, but that is part of the problem, they wobble side to side when you try to hang a tool on them. The retainer clips help keep them from falling off the board, but do nothing to keep the pegs from wobbling.

The pegboard peg waggles.

The clip does nothing to prevent the side to side waggle of the peg.

Pegs that waggle are an annoying problem, but they are easily fixed with a bit of hotmelt glue and thin piece of wood.

pegboard peg fix

With a bit of hot glue holding the peg and the retainer clip to a small piece of wood, the peg is secure.

Simply hang the peg on the pegboard and slip a small strip of wood behind the clip, then press the clip in place. Now squeeze in a glob or two of hotglue to hold the peg to the clip and the wood. Then you are all set. The peg can still be moved to other parts of the pegboard without any trouble, but once it is there, it wobbles no more.

Better grips on clamp handles

Usually in the middle of a project I realize that my grip is not what it used to be.  Unfortunately I realize that right when I need it the most.  In the midst of a glue-up I sometimes discover that I can’t tighten the handles of my clamps down the way I used to, at least not without more discomfort in my hands.  Here are some tips I’ve found for improving clamp handles.

Clamp Handle Wrap Products

Make That Gimlet Cut

Rob at Heartwood has a great tip on improving the performance of relatively inexpensive gimlets.  It turns them from an ineffective tool, to a useful non-drill method of starting screws.

visit >> Improving Gimlets at Heartwood Blog

Detail Sander Toothbrush

This idea comes from Jimthecarver at Lumberjocks.  He uses self-adhesive sandpaper on old battery operated tooth brushes.

detail sander toothbrushSome of these toothbrushes have rotationally oscillating heads and some oscillate front to back.  Either way, they can be a useful tool for sanding in tight spaces.

This is a great example of re-using and re-purposing a tool.  When they get too scuzzy to be used on your teeth anymore, trim the bristles off with a knife or razor blade, then stick the sandpaper down to one of the moving parts.   To add a bit of control, it is best to epoxy a piece  shaped wood or plastic to one of the moving parts.  That way the sandpaper is fully supported.

Many of the toothbrushes have exchangeable heads so you can prepare a few different shapes that suit your detail sanding needs.

There are a couple of tutorials on making similar toothbrush detail sanders, this one using double sided tape and this one using sanding sponge.

Reconditioned Tools

I buy a lot of my power tools as reconditioned.  My experience has been positive.  In the case of reconditioned tools you are dealing with a tool that has been looked at and evaluated by a human at the company, which is more than can be said for the new tools which are packed by a robot.  The reconditioned tools usually carry the same warranty as the new tools so they are a safe investment of your woodworking dollars.

Amazon has great prices on reconditioned tools and in many cases they qualify for free shipping.  Bosch, Milwaukee, Ryobi and many others sell their reconditioned, CPO tools directly on Amazon.  Take a look at Amazon’s Reconditioned Tools.  You can save a lot of money and get some great performing tools.

Lifetime Guarantee Tools

Investing in tools that carry a lifetime warranty can be a good way to protect your investment and as a result, remain frugal.   The problem I have run into on occasion is that the brand name that carries the guarantee sometimes gets warn off or falls off the tool with use.  When this happens it becomes difficult to exchange it for a replacement tool if it breaks.

It becomes worthwhile to protect that label or other markings in order to protect your investment.

shellac over label

A couple of quick coats of shellac over the handle and label, protect the brand on the label and protect the warranty.

Here are some tips that I use to protect the branding of the tool in order to protect my investment:

  • Be proactive. Take a digital photo of the tool while it still has the branding on it.  Save it on your computer in a folder dedicated to your tools.  This also helps if you ever need to file an insurance claim.
  • If the brand name is printed or painted on a tool’s wooden handle, put a coat or two of polyurethane over it.  Use spar polyurethane if they are outdoor tools.  This will help keep the branding from getting warn off.  Shellac can be used for indoor tools if you prefer.
  • If the only branding is on a printed label, cover it with a few coats of poly or shellac.  You should spot test it first as the mineral spirits in the poly may damage the printing on some labels and the alcohol in shellac may damage others
  • If the branding is printed , but not etched, on a metal portion of the tool and is not on a functioning surface of the tool then a bit of boiled linseed oil can help protect it from wear and rust. (Don’t apply it too thick or it will become gummy.  Thin coats are better.)
  • If the name is etched into the metal, then just keep the area protected from rust.
  • A file folder in the workshop for receipts can also help.