Tips & Tricks: Issue 20

Keep hands free with drill press “lock”

I use sanding drums with my drill press to sand the full edge of a workpiece. However, while lowering the head and holding the feed handle steady, I found it difficult to sand edges with only one hand, especially for small pieces where both hands are needed to hold the work safely.

To free my hands, I figured out how to “lock” the chuck on the spindle once it’s set at the right location. I lower the chuck steadily until the sanding drum is in position. Then I insert a small block that is cut to fit between the depth stop lug and the chuck set ring and release the feed handle. The block keeps the chuck fixed, freeing both of my hands to work on the piece.

—Charles Mak, Calgary, Alberta

Check square corners with repurposed antenna

Measuring corner to diagonal corner is a common check for squareness in projects such as boxes and frames. Using an antenna from an old radio, I created a device to quickly check the diagonal dimensions of a project to ensure all 90° corners. 

My antenna extended from 7.5" to 30". One end had a flat screw mount while the other had a protective button. I removed the plastic button and found a brass end which I filed to a point for more precise checking. On the screw mount end I fashioned a small corner attachment that allows it to be placed inside a corner or outside of a corner. A single screw attaches it to the antenna.

To check dimensions, extend the antenna to the opposite corner to determine your diagonal length. The antenna will pivot in the fashioned attachment while the extended total length remains the same. This allows you to move to another corner, pivot the fixed length and check for uniformity.

I found antennae in several sizes for $4 and $5 at a local electronics store.

—Mark Thiel, Coral Springs, Fla.

Corral fasteners in a magnetic bowl

A magnetic mechanic’s bowl—available at any auto-parts store—is a woodworker’s spill-proof solution for screws, nails, or other ferrous hardware items. Even sideways or upside-down, the fasteners stay put until you need one. While the bowl’s strong grip solves one problem, it can create another, making it difficult to remove the leftover fasteners to return them to storage. But you can sidestep this inconvenience with a plastic container such as a baby food dish with a clear snap-on lid. Even with this insert, the magnetic attraction is still strong enough to prevent most spills.

—Anna Martin, St. Louis, Mo.

Sharpen anywhere with a portable station

Too often my workbench pulls duty for a variety of tasks, forcing me to find another shop location to sharpen my tools. I also teach woodworking classes, taking my hand tools on the road. For both reasons, I needed a portable solution for sharpening with waterstones. 

What I came up with is basic and compact, but it keeps my benchtop clean. It’s just a 7/16 x 12 x 18" polypropylene cutting board with a “juice groove” around the perimeter and two pieces of ¼ x ¼ x 9" UHMW (ultra high molecular weight) plastic attached with ten 6-32 x 5/8" stainless steel flat head machine screws (five screws/strip). The cutting board cost $7.95 at a local discount department store; UHMW plastic is available from specialty woodworking shops.

I drilled through holes, countersunk the underside of the cutting board, and drilled and tapped the UHMW. I spaced the UHMW bars about ¼" farther apart than my longest 8" stone. Actually, my 8" stones vary from 7¾" to 8¼", so for my station I placed the bars 8½" apart. I cut a bunch of cherry wedges of varying thicknesses so I can accommodate all of the stones I currently use. The wedges are placed opposing each other and are used to lock the stones in place. The “juice groove” around the perimeter keeps water off the bench, and the board easily cleans up when I’m done.

I set the whole apparatus on a piece of non-slip shelf liner (which comes in 12" wide rolls), and it really secures everything nicely. I can apply as much pressure as I want and nothing moves. The handle hole makes it easy to pull out from under my bench and can also be used to hang it on the wall.

—Craig Bentzley, Chalfont, Pa.

Banish pitch with sunscreen

We all know that we should wear sunscreen, but now we have one more reason. After playing in the shop with some lumber and getting pitch on my hands, my kids decided that they wanted to help. So I put their sunscreen on and sure enough, all the pitch came right off! I tried it on a blade, and I now have a cheap new way to clean my blades and hands.

—Brian Wachs, Redmond, Ore.

Turn up the heat on stubborn labels

Nearly everything you buy at a home center will have at least one label on it, including lumber, shelf boards, tools, and much more. Some labels remove cleanly but others will shred into bits. And you’ll find yourself doing a slow burn as you tediously scrape at the pieces.

Instead of raising your own temperature, turn up the heat on stubborn labels with a hair dryer or heat gun. The blast of heat will often make the label quickly surrender. If the hot air treatment fails, you can always resort to naphtha or mineral spirits on a cloth to dissolve the adhesive.

—Phillip Tucker, Tulsa, Okla.

Back to blog Back to issue