Frugal Woodworking

Woodworking Tips for Affordable Woodworking

Dovetail Razor Saw Review

It’s hard to believe you can get a new dovetail saw with great performance for under $10 but the little razor saw from Zona Tools is getting a great reputation.  Here is a great review of the Zona Razor Saw that compares it stroke by stroke with other dovetail saws.  Accurate and precise cuts with a micro kerf seem to be its strong points.

Thin Kerf Rip Blade for under $20

This review appears on Lumberjocks for a Freud  Diablo Demo Demon D0724DK 7-1/4″ 24T circular saw blade, but used in a table saw.  It is only a 7-1/4″ blade so it has a limited height, but the 1/16″ thin kerf and smooth cut seem to be perfect for ripping up to 1″ stock.  This blade sells for around $15 which is a fraction of what other thin kerf table saw blades typically cost.

You can read the review here and buy them on Amazon.

Freud Diablo Demo Demon as a rip blade

Freud Diablo Demo Demon as a table saw rip blade

Quick Clamp Restore

There is nothing worse and little more dangerous than a clamp that can’t be relied upon to do its job.  I have a pair of Craftsman Quick Clamps that I’ve had for almost 20 years.  Over time, they have lost their ability to clamp tightly.  The mechanism would just slip.  I believe the bar has become too polished and the clutch plates inside too smooth.  And no, the Craftsman Lifetime guarantee does not apply to clamps, somehow Sears does not consider them to be hand tools.

quick clamp repair

No longer able to hold securely, this quick clamp was in need of repair.

I just gave mine a new lease on life and it cost me nothing but a few minutes worth of time.  Here is what I did.  I opened the clamp as wide as it would go, then took a file and made a few passes  over the top and bottom surface of the bar.  I then closed the clamp and did this again to any area that was originally hidden by the clamp head.  You are trying to create just a little flat ridge on the top and bottom surface of the bar.

quick clamp repaired

With both the top and bottom of the bar filed, the clamp now holds tight.

After doing this with all of my clamps, they now hold tight and are able to be clamped down harder than they used to.  The roughing up with the file seems to give something for the clutch plates inside the clamp to grab onto.

Preserving the initial investment in your tools is a big step toward remaining a frugal woodworker.

DiggersList for Lumber and Tools

Frugal and Green often go hand in hand.  In an effort to reduce the amount of construction extras from going into landfills, offers free listings for home improvement and construction classifieds for homeowners, contractors and do-it-yourselfers.  Like CraigsList they are broken down by State and City.  So far there are only a few cities, but that is likely to grow.

There are separate categories for lumber and tools.

Unfortunately, the website does not currently offer RSS feeds so it makes it difficult to subscribe to a category or a search.

Sharpening Works and Won’t Break the Bank

This website has been around a long time.   It is a little tough to navigate, but it is worth digging through.  It has a wealth of sharpening wisdom based on actual measured results rather than folk-lore.  Aside from all the great information, there are tips and jigs which end up saving a lot of money and the recommendations for sharpening abrasives are very affordable.

I like his suggestion of using a Norton Crystolon Bench Stone for grinding the bevel.  They are fast, inexpensive and stable.  The 11-1/2″ length allows for longer , more effective strokes. His recommendation for using 3M Imperial sandpaper for final sharpening is good and cost effective.

No wining over wasted polyurethane

This is a brilliant tip for not wasting your investment in polyurethane by having to throw it away.  Don’t let it go bad and you won’t need to throw it away.   Store it in boxed wine system…. and you get to drink the wine too.

Sharpen your own planer and jointer blades

One way to avoid spending money on new planer or jointer blades is to keep using the ones you already have.  Unless they are severely damaged, they can be sharpened without too much effort.

Here is an example of a jig to make sharpening consistent and easy.  It requires only a block of wood and a table saw to make it.

Logs to Lumber with a Bandsaw

If you already have a bandsaw, it can be pretty easy to create a sled or jig to allow you to turn logs into dimensional lumber. This can be a great way to turn found wood into nearly free lumber.
Here are two simple approaches. The size of the log is limited by what you can safely lift and support on your bandsaw, and the resaw capacity of your bandsaw.
Here are a couple of easy to build jigs.

This first one is really simple, but it does rely on your bandsaw’s rip or resaw fence which may be too much to ask of the fence for large logs.

bandsaw sled

This next one is a little bit more complicated using a pipe clamp, but it requires only a miter slot on your bandsaw table.

Bandsaw mill sled

When milling logs, a good resaw blade is key to getting good results.  I’ve had excellent results from my Woodslicer blades, but if your logs are less dry, you may want to go with a blade designed for cutting green wood.

Handmade Marking Gauge

It is easy to save money in the workshop by making your own tools.  This is especially true when the tools are simple in design.  This simple marking gauge is worth checking out.
frugal handmade marking gauge

I think that upgrading the needle to a nail filed to a cutter blade shape then heat treated might be a good idea, but maybe this needle works well enough as it is.

Here is another example of a shopmade marking gauge

Craigslist Tool Hunting Tip

When looking for tools, your local can be a good source.  You don’t have as much of the risk as you might with eBay because you can see the tool before your purchase it, and you don’t have to pay for shipping either.

However, if you are in the market for a chisel, you might have to check craigslist for a week or more before a chisel appears in the tool section.   Thankfully, you don’t have to keep checking back day after day to look for one.  You can use an RSS reader to check the RSS feed for that site and when something matches that search shows up, it will show up in your RSS reader.

Here is an example:

craigslist search

Type into the search box what you are looking for.

Then do the search.

No Chisels available for sale today, but what about in an hour from now, or tomorrow, or next week?

In this case, there was nothing that matches my search right now. However, I don’t want to have to come back every day to do the search.  If I click the “RSS” button in the lower right corner, I will get the RSS feed for this search.  Now I can have my RSS reader, check that feed for me.

Google RSS reader

If you use the Google Toolbar, Google will automatically ask you if you want to add teh rss feed to your reader, or to your iGoogle homepage.

Add it to whichever one you use, then when the “chisel” for under $20 shows up on craigslist, it will show up in your reader.  You’ll be able to click on the listing and stand a good shot at getting to it first.

igoogle craigslist tool reader

Here is what my iGoogle page looks like when a "plane" appears for my plane search on Craigslist.

TIP: A search can be narrowed by price, so if you are looking for a table saw but don’t want to spend over $400, you can set a $400 maximum.  That minimum will carry into your RSS feed too, so you won’t be notified when somebody posts a $500 Bosch or a $3000 Sawstop.

TIP: Every category on Craigslist has its own RSS feed.  So if you are not looking for a specific tool, but like to keep an eye on what’s available, just go to the tools category and scroll to the bottom of the page and you will find an RSS link there too.  Add it to your reader and you can see what appears continuously.

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