Tips & Tricks: Issue 98

Walker workstation

I had been pondering making a portable, lightweight workstation when my neighbor asked if I had any use for an unneeded walker. I laughed and told him no—not yet, anyway. But then I realized that it would make a great base for my purposes. I easily knifed off the molded plastic handles, and used inexpensive conduit fasteners to attach wood panels to the upper and lower bars. In less than an hour, I had created a small, stable, lightweight workstation that—with the push of a button on each leg—easily adjusts in height from 32" to 40" in 1" increments. It’s a great help in the shop or when working on home projects, providing a work surface with staging below for tools and supplies. A new walker can cost as little as $25, and they are often available at thrift stores for a fraction of that.

—Jim Kelly, Trappe, Pennsylvania

Tape rule shims

Like any dusty packrat, I hang on to all manner of scraps, including sections of self-adhesive measuring tape left over from jig-building. I find that this stuff makes great shim material because it’s thin, durable, and self-sticking. It’s easily cut into appropriately-sized lengths for shimming fences and jig parts. It can also be cut into very small pieces if necessary. For example, I have affixed tiny pieces of it along the underside edges of recessed machine table inserts to bring them flush to the table top. Whenever I need to shim something just a bit, it’s one of the first things that comes to mind. 

—Barton Grimsley, Houston, Texas

Banjo holder for a chuck

Sometimes when I’m adding carved or burned details to my turned bowls, I find it easier to hold the work upright. To facilitate this, I’ve found that I can use my lathe’s banjo as a sort of bracket to hold work that’s still secured to a chuck or faceplate. To create the set-up, first cut the head off a large bolt whose threads match those on your lathe spindle, and install a nut to serve as a shoulder. Now, when you want to hold work-in-process horizontally, just unscrew the chuck or faceplate from your headstock spindle, thread it onto the headless bolt, adjust the nut against the chuck, and slip the assembly into the banjo hole. (If your spindle diameter doesn’t match your banjo hole, buy an adaptor that will connect two appropriately sized bolts.) As an added benefit, I find that switching out different-sized chuck jaws is much more easily done when the chuck is held horizontally. 

—Jeff Peters, Redgranite, Wisconsin

Keyhole slot routing jig

Routed keyhole slots provide a great way to hang everything from picture frames and plaques to small cabinets. Plunging the keyhole bit into the work, and then moving it forward about 3⁄8" creates a keyhole-shaped slot that accepts the head of a screw. Here’s a simple jig to help with the job. It’s nothing more than a small panel of 1⁄4"-thick plywood or hardboard with a frame of fences attached to guide the router. The panel “wings” allow clamping the jig to a cabinet. For smaller workpieces, attach the panel with double-faced tape or hot-melt glue. 

—Paul Anthony, senior editor

Drawer planing platform

When planing drawers to fit their openings, it’s important that the surface being planed remains flat during the process. If a drawer side flexes under the pressure of the tool, you won’t be able to plane it evenly. My solution is to use a 3/4"-thick MDF planing platform that I slot to accommodate drawers of different sizes. I cantilever the slotted section off the edge of the bench as shown, and clamp the platform in place. Fine sandpaper adhered to the section under the clamps helps keep the panel from shifting in use. n

—Mark Schuman, St. Paul, Minnesota

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