Frugal Woodworking

Woodworking Tips for Affordable Woodworking

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  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 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.

Tips for Energy Efficient Woodshop

Electrical energy costs money, so when we put it to work in our shop it costs money.  It is inevitable.  The question becomes how can we minimize the cost of electricity in our shops.  Here is a list from a forum plus a few of my own thoughts on it.

  1. Don’t use a power tool when a hand tool will do it faster.  Or just don’t use power tools.
  2. sharp tools – results in less work (work from an energy standpoint, work done = energy used)
  3. thin kerf blades – results in less work needing to be done
  4. turn tools off when done. (that tip  is obvious)
  5. let tools cool – a hot electric motor wastes more energy than a cool one
  6. clean sawdust from motor casings – sawdust acts like a blanket and keeps the heat in and prevents air from getting through, resulting in a hotter motor.
  7. 220V as opposed to 110V causes less loss due to heat (wasted energy). Theoretically, yes 220V x 8A is the same power rating as 110V x 16A but when it comes to heat loss in a wire, Energy is related to the square of the current, so keeping current low results in less loss.  Energy Loss in a wire = I²Rt  A motor is lots of long wire, so this can be significant.
  8. Use corded tools rather than battery powered. The batteries waste more energy in use due to the lower voltage, they waste energy in chemical heat, and they waste it on the charging end too. The only gain is if you can charge them at someone else’s shop.
  9. When you must use extension cords, use the largest gauge you can and shortest cord to reduce energy losses in the wire.
  10. When wiring the shop, larger gauge wire (lower number) is more efficient and less dangerous than the thinner stuff. Sadly with the recent rise in the price of copper it makes people more likely to use thinner gauges.
  11. If you have older buzzing, humming, slow to start shop lighting, replace them with electronic ballast T-8 fixtures and bulbs.  More efficient and easier on the eyes and instant on.  Due to the electronic ballast, the bulbs last longer too.

Wisdom and Humor at Flea Markets

I ran across this shared on a forum.  It cracked me up and taught me a lot at the same time.

This collection of tips for dealing with your significant other and sellers at a flea market when buying old tools contains a lot of wisdom.  It also is pretty tongue-in-cheek funny.

Repeat after me, I am not a collector, I am not a collector, I am not a collector  LOL

Survival Tips For the Beginner Galoot Including A Primer On Flea Market Tactics

Bench Brush – snow no more

For those in the snowbelt, a snow brush for the car is a necessity.  Mostly I find that the brush and scraper combination lasts for maybe two seasons at best.  After a few years the scraper ends up dull or chipped and is no longer good for scraping ice off your car windows.  The brush portion however is usually in pretty good shape.

Rather than throw that beat up snow brush in the landfill, re-purpose it for the workshop.    The stiff bristles and the length of the brush make it perfect for cleaning off a workbench or table saw.  Just use a hack saw to cut the scraper portion off the end.

Bench brush for the workshop

This old snow brush witht he scraper cut of makes a great bench brush

The bristles are often fairly stiff so I find that the narrow rof of bristles is great for cleaning the debris out of my rasps.

great brush for cleaning a rasp

Clean the sawdust out of the teeth of the rasp

Another reason I like re-using these old snow brushes in the workshop is that they are usually flat so you can hot glue a neodymium magnet to the side and stick it to the side of your table saw, drill press, band saw, miter saw or other large power tools that need a good sweeping.