Frugal Woodworking

Woodworking Tips for Affordable Woodworking

Category : Techniques

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.



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)


Simple custom dados with circular saw

Matthias Wandel comes out with some amazing modifications for tools and techniques. This one however is incredibly simple and only requires a few scraps of wood and a pair of clamps to turn a simple circular saw into a custom width dado maker. You can spend a lot on special dado blades for table saws or router with a straight bit and some guides, but this method is simpler and the results are very close to the same. Very little is sacrificed by using this frugal dado making method.


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.


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.

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