Far more than just a tool for checking “square,” the combination square is a do-all shop tool. With its sliding ruler locked to the head, you can use it as a depth gauge, a marking gauge, a miter square, and a try square. Loosening the lock in the head releases the rule for use as a straightedge or ruler. In a pinch, you can employ the head as a small level, and a sharp awl tucked inside is always at the ready for marking. Thanks to these attributes, you can turn to a combo square to true up workpieces, lay out joints, and set up shop machines–all with a degree of precision that elevates its status over other tools.
I’m betting that the fellow who first said “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” was a woodworker. After more than three decades of woodworking, I’ve come to rely on dozens of different objects that were never intended for furnituremaking–including a few bits and pieces of salvaged items from the local dump–that I wouldn’t want to work without.
Wiping varnish is one of the most popular finishes available to the small shop woodworker, and for good reason. It’s easy to use, attractive, and versatile, allowing you to create any sort of build that you like. For example, you can wipe on a series of light coats, buffing off the excess between each one to create a thin “in the wood” look, which is fine for decorative items that won’t suffer abuse. On the other hand, you can build it up pretty much as thick as you like for tough, durable protection on tables, chairs, and other furniture that sees a lot of use.