Tips & Tricks: Issue 19

Give a jig base a magnetic personality

Ever wish you could find a way to hold your work in place on a cast-iron drill-press table without messing with cumbersome clamps that forever get in the way? 

Recently during one of our pen turning classes at the Mobile, Ala., Woodcraft store we developed a fast and handy jig to hold the pen makers’ center-drilling vise in place using two Magswitch Mag Jigs. We first attached the vise to a piece of ¾" MDF. Then we added two 30mm Mag Jigs to the MDF, one on each side of the vise (note: the illustration has been modified for clarity). The one-piece jig becomes magnetic with the turn of the Mag Jig knob and holds the vise in place during the machining process. With the drilling complete, we turn the knob the other direction to switch off the magnets, freeing the jig to easily remove from the drill press. No more klutzy clamps!  Could be this idea will work with other jigs and cast-iron tools. 

—Dan Domzalski, Woodcraft of Mobile

Making a strong case for the level

Installing cabinets requires a quality level, but the tool can lose its accuracy when dropped or banged around on its way to the jobsite. You can find a case manufactured for a 4' level, but there’s nothing for a 2-footer. And finding a case for a pricey 6' level? Forget about it!

Fortunately, you can make a strong case for your level quickly and inexpensively from common PVC plumbing pipe and fittings. You’ll find heavy-duty Schedule 40 pipe and components at your local hardware store or home center. Solvent-weld a cap to one end of a 3"-diameter pipe, and push a block of foam to the bottom to cushion the tool. Cut the pipe to length (it’s easy with your miter saw), and solvent-weld a female adapter in place. A screw cap completes the case. For quick and easy storage, drill through the cap to add an eye bolt with a couple of washers and nuts. A foam block at the top of the case completes the cushioning. Don’t screw the cap on tightly until the solvent odor completely dissipates.

Another tip: if you don’t like the printing on your pipe, remove it with a rag dampened with lacquer thinner.  

—John Appleton, Spokane, Wash.

Hooks tame wild hoses

Hoses for a dust collector or shop vacuum can be unruly beasts, defying your best efforts to tame them. You lean them against a wall, but they quickly slither away, ending up underfoot. It’s more than an annoyance—it’s a real safety hazard.

Conquer the problem by draping each hose over a storage hook mounted high on the wall or screwed into a ceiling joist. You’ll find hooks in several sizes at your home center. A bike hook will handle vacuum hoses, and a jumbo ladder hook is big enough to handle several hoses. Hooks with a foam surface help prevent the hose from sliding. 

—Glenn Varney, St. Louis, Mo.

Air force at the ready

Air-driven fasteners can save a lot of time in the shop, but it can be annoying to set up your compressor to drive a few brads or staples. And lugging a compressor around your house to install moldings can involve so much heavy lifting that you haven’t saved any energy at all.

Buy a portable air tank, though, and you’ll always have compressed air right at hand. Most air tanks don’t include a regulator valve, but you can easily add one so you can dial in the right setting for a variety of tools. That way, for example, you can fill the tank with air at 100 psi but reduce it to 50 psi for your brad nailer. Adding quick-connect fittings makes it even easier to use your new air source.

Caution: Don’t attempt to charge the tank above the rated psi capacity stated on its label. 

—Marvin Callahan, Allentown, Pa.

A three-ring solution to manual labor

Even if you’re the type of woodworker who brags about never reading tool manuals, you’ll need to refer to one someday. But where do you keep the manuals so that finding one doesn’t involve days of tedious searching?

Go to an office supply store, buy a three-ring binder, clear plastic page inserts, and a set of dividers. Use the dividers to keep the instructions for your accessories grouped with the appropriate tool. For example, one section will include your table saw, its stand, rip fence, and so on.

To keep track of information that can be useful for warranty purposes, staple the original purchase receipt to the manual.

—Deborah Lawrence, Madison, Wis.

Chalk talk for dark lumber

Pencil lines barely show up on dark wood species and tempered hardboard, which can lead to mistakes when you’re breaking lumber into manageable pieces for your projects. And putting tape onto pieces so you can write down joint-matching information is a real time waster.

Avoid these problems by using chalk instead of a pencil. In fact, you can choose from several types of chalk to suit the level of accuracy required. For bold marks, reach for a jumbo piece of sidewalk chalk, which is available in several colors. For joint identification and notes, downsize to regular blackboard chalk, which also comes in several shades so you can color-code project components. Use a light touch with both of these types, and you’ll be able to erase lines with a soft cloth. For the finest lines, switch to tailor’s chalk. You can buy all these types of chalk at a hobby center.

—Andrew Allen, Tucson, Ariz.

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