Tips & Tricks: Issue 38

Triangle marking system

I was in my shop trying to organize a jumble of cabinet parts, when a friend dropped by and showed me an old layout trick that has since saved me lots of time and confusion. After parts are cut to size, and before you lay out any joints, select the “show” face of each piece, orient it for best grain composition, and then organize the pieces on your bench in their desired relation to each other. Now it’s a simple matter of pressing the pieces together and striking a few lines across their faces to create a triangle as shown in the drawings. A glance at the markings immediately identifies the “show” face, the top, the bottom, and the left- and right-hand sides of each piece. To identify multiples, strike additional lines that extend across the mating pieces.

—Gary Goldthwaite, Indianapolis, Indiana

Ripping scrappy-edged stock

I typically mill my project stock from rough-sawn lumber slabs with “live” edges. To rip boards safely, I first have to establish one straight edge to feed against the rip fence. Although I’ve seen lots of jigs cobbled together with carrier boards and toggle clamps for this purpose, they strike me as over-engineered. Truth is, a simple 6"-wide straightedge panel of 1⁄4"-thick plywood or MDF does the job nicely. Here’s my approach:

Begin by marking the desired cutline with a wide lead carpenter’s pencil or a chalk line. Next, roughly align your straightedge panel parallel to the cutline, allowing minimal overhang on the opposite edge to stabilize the setup. Using 1" nails, tack the straightedge to the board near the edges, which will be cut away later. Leave the nailheads proud for easy removal. (For scrappy-edged thin materials, use double-faced tape or hot-melt glue instead of nails.) Measure from the outside edge of the straightedge to the cutline, set your rip fence to that measurement, and make the cut with the straightedge bearing against the fence.

—Paul Anthony, senior editor

Drilling the ends of long boards

I recently built a project that required drilling a couple of 1⁄4"-diameter holes 21⁄2" deep into the ends of several 6'-long boards. It was crucial that the holes were drilled square to the ends of the boards. I knew I couldn’t accurately drill freehand, and the boards were obviously too long for the drill press.

After some head scratching, I realized that the solution was to bore out a drill guide block on the drill press, then glue it to a backer block that would allow clamping the guide to the workpiece, as shown in the drawing. Making the guide block about 11⁄2" long allowed me to drill deep enough into the board to create good starter holes. After removing the jig, I drilled them to final depth. A doweling jig would also work, but the beauty of my setup is that, by aligning the edge of the jig with the edge of the board, the holes are self-registering.

—Guy Weiss, San Diego, California

Planing thin stock

I work a fair amount with thin solid wood panels. Unfortunately, the cutterhead on my planer won’t lower enough to cut stock thinner than about 1⁄4". My solution? I made a riser panel that spans the planer tables to raise the stock. For accuracy, I used 3⁄4"-thick MDF, gluing plastic laminate to both sides for stability and easy stock feeding. A stop strip screwed to the underside of the trailing end keeps the panel in place. The low-friction laminate and uninterrupted surface improve feeding enough that I leave the panel in place for general work.

Although most planer manuals advise against planing stock less than 1⁄4" thick, I find that if I’m careful, I can easily work stock down to 3⁄16", and sometimes even 1⁄8." For best success, use straight-grained wood, and take very light passes. If the stock is bowed at all, feed it with the concave surface against the riser to prevent the blades from catching against a lifted leading end.

—Art Chadman, Baldwin, New York

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