20 Unusual Uses for Shop Tools





Introduction: 20 Unusual Uses for Shop Tools

About: My name is Troy. I'm a Mechatronics graduate studying Mechanical Engineering. I like to make things and spend time outdoors (especially SCUBA diving). I am a Community Manager for Instructables.

All shop tools were designed with a specific purpose, the table saw for cutting, the Shop-Vac for cleaning up. No matter what the tool is used for, whether it be cutting, shaping, grinding, or marking, every tool may have undiscovered abilities. These 20 unusual uses for your shop tools will help you unlock the unknown potential ready to be discovered in your shop. They should get the ball rolling and help you find your own unusual uses.

Step 1: Scribe a Circle With a Square

Every woodworker needs to draw a circle from time to time. Using a compass is usually the simplest and most accurate option, but what do you do when you don't have one? A nail in the center of a circle with a pencil works, but to get a more accurate circle you can hammer in two nails the diameter of your desired circle. Using a large framing square, keep both legs in contact with the nails while scribing the circle with the pencil in the corner of the square.

Step 2: Glue Deep Cracks With Shop-Vac

When you have a thin deep crack, it's almost impossible to cover the internal surface with glue. The best way to ensure a strong glue joint is to draw the glue in with a standard Shop-Vac. Turn the Shop-Vac on and slowly apply glue to the uncovered portion of the crack. Check the opposite side of the crack periodically. Once you start to see the glue seeping through the crack, clamp the crack shut.

Step 3: Driver Bit Scratch Awl

Misplaced your scratch awl? No problem. Take a old driver bit that you no longer user and insert it in your drill. Using a bench grinder, shape the bit to a point. Use your new awl in any standard driver holder.

Step 4: Miter Gauge Protractor

Need a large protractor or angle guide? If you are like most shops you probably have a few miter gauges sitting around from your table saw or band saw. Put those to good use by using them to mark out your angles.

Step 5: Quickly Sharpen Pencil With Sander

Why mess with a standard pencil sharpener when you have many tools that can take care of the same task. Turn on your disc or belt sander and slowly rotate your pencil until it's sharp.

Step 6: Lathe Drum Sander

A stationary drum sander is a helpful tool for smoothing and producing wood of uniform thickness. Drum sanders are also very expensive. Give this instructable a try to turn your lathe into a drum sander.

Step 7: Table Saw Disc Sander

Some workshops are tight on space. If you don't have the space necessary for a stand alone disc sander, this disc sander for your table saw can give you the same versatility at a fraction of the space.

Step 8: Drill Press Drum Sander

The drill press doesn't only need to be used for making holes. That same machine can function as a simple drum sander to help out with those tight interior curves. Check out this Drill Press Drum Sander by mikeasaurus to turn any drill press into a sander.

Step 9: Table Saw Jointer

If you don't have a jointer but like working with rough sawn lumber, you can make a simple sled to get straight line cuts every time. This instructable will take you through the steps to make a simple sled that will save you space and be built in no time.

Step 10: Use Bolt As a Tap

Every now and then a threaded hole is just the thing to finish that project. Don't have a tap? No problem. You can make a simple tap from a bolt by following this instructable.

Step 11: Router Planer

No room for a planer or need something bigger than 12 inches wide? Your router can easily be used to flatten rough or warped stock. Mikeasaurus wrote a simple instructable on how to use your Router as a Planer.

Step 12: Homemade Lathe for Drill Press

When looking at a drill press, functionally it operates the same as a lathe. If you have a small last minute project to turn, look no further than your drill press. Homemade Lathe for Drill Press written by Mikhandmaker. is a great space and money saver.

Step 13: Cut Circles on a Table Saw

When we think of table saws, we think of the central shop tool used to cut straight parallel lines. Counterintuitively this same tool can make easy work of circles. Take a look at How to Cut Perfect Circles with a Table Saw by KurtH3 for a quick and easy jig for cutting circles on the table saw.

Step 14: Leg Tip Rubber Mallet

Need a rubber mallet but don't have time to go to the store? No worries, you can use a spare table leg tip to prevent dents in your work. Leave it on a spare hammer for more concentrated force than a standard rubber mallet.

Step 15: Use Nails As Painters Tripod

Almost every project requires a finish. Painters tripods are helpful, but you can use simple nails or screws to achieve the same effect. Larger head nails or screws (such as roofing nails will elevate your work the most.

Step 16: Extra Torque Screwdriver

Have a stubborn screw that just won't budge? Most screwdrivers feature a hex or square shaped shank for added torque. Use a box end or crescent wrench to keep from stripping those stuck screws.

Step 17: Threaded Inserts - Drill Press

The best way to insert threaded inserts into wood is not by following the directions on the packaging. If you have a drill press available, this process will give you guaranteed straight inserts every time.

Use a threaded rod or bolt with the head cut off that has the same threads as your insert. Attach your insert to the threaded rod and lock it in place with a nut. After you drill the pilot hole for your threaded insert, chuck it in your drill press. Apply light pressure on the drill press while rotating the chuck by hand. The exterior threads of the insert will grab hold in your wood. Continue to rotate until the insert is flush with the wood surface. Loosen the nut and rotate the chuck until the threaded rod is removed.

Step 18: Simple PVC Pipe Clamps

These simple clamps can save you in a pinch. If you don't have any spring clamps or are running short, you can take almost any larger size PVC pipe you have lying around to make clamps. Simply cut 1/2 to 1 inch rings off the end of the pipe and cut a slit in the ring. Use as many as needed to apply adequate pressure to your project.

Step 19: Remove Dent in Wood With Clothing Iron

Missing a nail while assembling your project doesn't need to spell disaster. Simply apply a few drops of water on the dent and apply a damp cloth to the surface. Apply medium heat using a standard home iron for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let sit for a couple minutes. If the dent is still visible, repeat the process over again. Lightly sand the surface to your desired finish.

Step 20: Cut Spiral on Table Saw

Cutting or carving a spiral is helpful for many projects. From a marble machine to crating flutes for gluing dowels, you can easily cut these complex shapes on your table saw by following Spiral Cut a Wooden Dowel Using a Table Saw by bradk3. This project will further expand the functions of your table saw.



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    18 Tips

    After applying glue, cover all exposed cracks, opened to atmosphere (not being used by the vacuum), with plastic wrap. This will prevent air from channelling and create a vacuum deeply, so that the glue will be drawn further into the deep cracks once the vacuum is removed.

    If you don't have a shop vac, you aren't out of luck. Apply a thick glob of wood glue to the crack and use a playing card to work the glue down into the crack. Once you have it as far down as the card will go, switch to some thin plastic, such as .001" acrylic plastic. Don't be afraid to flood the crack with glue. When you clamp the piece to close the crack, do it slowly, so the capillary action of the wood will pull the glue in. Finally, use a wet sponge to remove the excess glue before it begins to dry. This will actually cause the glue to go further into the crack.

    This will leave glue-interferring free graphite/ carbon on the sanding face and the next timber used on the disc. Instead use the side of the coarse side of the bench grinder which is used for metal anyway and does not matter. If you use the flats on the pencil as references, the sharpened faces are also flat which allows for more accurate marking out!

    There's an even simpler way. Clamp the crack with a C-clamp until it closes. Coat the ENTIRE crack, on all sides of the wood where it breaks out, with a puddle of glue. Release the clamp, and vacuum suction will draw the glue deep into the crack. Then reclamp just tight enough to close the clamp. If you overtighten, you will squeeze out too much glue, and it won't seal as well.

    No power vacuum required!

    While grinding the tip, do not hold it in the center of the grinding wheel or it will begin to wear a groove in the wheel. Move the tip horizontally, back and forth, across the wheel so that the wear on the wheel will be even across the entire surface.

    Not a vry good suggestion: about 99% of the miter gauges are quite inaccurate! An inexpensive Harbor Freight stainless protractor is better. The only time the miter gauge is useful, is when it can hold an angle and then it is used to transfer that angle WITHOUT Reading it in the scale, where the gross inaccuracy is! Amclaussen.

    You can also put glue into the crack by using a siringe, Using both means (the siringe plus the vacuum would be best.

    Instead of fabricating the metal disc, use an old cheap circular saw blade and grind the teeth off it.

    Don't forget the "Press" in "Drill Press". Very handy for pressing snug fitting things like dowels or retaining pins to precise depths in holes instead of using a hammer.

    stick a piece of PSA sandpaper to the base of other machines.

    6 Questions

    Does the graphite from the pencil come off on the next thing you sand? I suppose if it's something you're going to paint a dark color, then it won't matter.

    I've never noticed graphite showing up on future sanded pieces.

    How do you control the speed of your drillpress in tip #17?
    Mine is driven by belts for a set speed each, and just has 'on' or 'off'

    Don't turn the drill press on. All you need to do is turn the chuck by hand to screw in the threaded insert. As someone else has mentioned, you can loosen or remove the belts to turn the spindle easier.

    Where do I get a 'most screwdriver'? I have a hundred screwdrivers. Not a single one has a hex shank like shown. A few have a skinny square shank but it is too small for anything but vice grips.

    Maybe instead, just put some handsoap on the threads of the screw to help it penetrate easier.

    2 more answers

    As I said above, I don't use the shank, but drill a hole through the handle at a right angle to the shaft that will allow you to use a spare old screwdriver slipped into the whole to gain extra leverage. You can press down on the screwdriver head and press on the one thats pushged through the crosswise hole! I did it for all mine, and the plastic socket handles and hex-bits handles too. When you have arthritis, its a wonderful advantage!

    Harbor Freight Tools has them.
    8 Pc Bolstered Screwdriver Set (hex at end of handle). Mayhew Select 66306 Cats Paw Screwdriver Set, 10-Piece (Amazon) More Money Hex on Shank. See GRIP http://gripontools.net/product/grip-grand-rapids-industrial-63072-go-thru-hex-bolster-screwdriver-set-8-piece/

    However, adding a six-inch wrench for extra torque may simply help destroy a cheap Phillips Head screw quicker. It might serve for someone with a limp wrist to reach the torque required to set a screw in place,

    To release a 'frozen' Slotted or Phillips Head screw, the extra torque may prove more harmful than helpful. One of those hand-held Impact Drivers might be better as it keeps the bit into the screw head as the force is applied to the screw head. Usually, it just takes a little bit of turning to 'break' the screw (or bolt) free.

    If in metal (Machine Screw), WD-40 and similar products should be applied before attempting to free a frozen screw. Heat helps as well. Brute force applied to a frozen screw is as likely to destroy the screw head as release the screw - then, you'll need another tool!

    Do you know of a way to protect your shopvac from the glue? I try to keep all my tools clean and in good working order, but as I am sure you know, STUFF HAPPENS. If you have any tips here it would be greatly appreciated.

    To get better suction, you need a smaller hole. Get some scraps of tubing from a plastics shop that fit inside each other, and that will progressively narrow the opening. Glue then together, or for an adjustable one, use bolts in one side of each one as a locking set-screw. Another way, if you want really cheap, is a funnel from a dollar store.
    Need a disposable end? A toilet-paper or paper towel tube of matching diameter, and fasten with duct tape!

    1 more answer


    There are a couple of things I can thin of that might help.

    1. Using a piece of PVC on the end so the glue sticks to that instead.
    2. Using an old vacuum hose dedicated to this and other dirty tasks.
    3. Making a hoes liner from plastic sheeting and suck it into the hose prior to doing this task.

    There are probably a lot more things, these I just though of quickly.

    If I drill clearance hole for the threaded insert it won't grip in the wood surely?

    You are correct, the terminology used is incorrect. A CLEARANCE hole is just that, to allow clearance for the threads of a bolt to pass through. The correct term is PILOT HOLE which is approximately the diameter of the body of the insert. That diameter will be listed on the package so DO read the package directions. Not covered in this instructable, the correct installation method. Whether you use this method or not, if the insert has grooves on one end, those are not screwdriver slots, they are to assist with thread cutting and are to go in the hole first. The insert shown has a flange at the top so will go in only one way but many do not. I've read several 'ibles and seen other plans and instructions that tell you to use a screwdriver. Don't do it, period. Use the bolt and nut method as described here and you'll save yourself a lot of grief especially in hardwood.

    Wondering if this will work with a hair dryer set on cool.


    I never have used a sander to sharpen a pencil since I don't have a belt or disc sander, but I have used a bench grinder to sharpen pencils and soap stone. I have used a metal lathe to drill holes in glass blocks. It would turn slower than the drill presses (didn't have the mills at the time) by chucking the bit in the lathe chuck and using a push block on the tail stock.

    5 replies

    I've used a regular hand drill to drill on its lowest speed to drill holes in glass. The only thing you need to do is drill under water, and at the lowest speed. You don't find a metal lathe in any workshop, you usually do find a hand drill or electric screw driver, that's why I'm saying.

    You will find a metal lathe in my workshop, as well as a lot of other people's.

    I'm still convinced that in DYI-ers' workshops a hand drill is more common than a metal lathe.

    I have used a hand drill to drill glass too, but the lathe spins slower and is much more rigid/exact/repeatable

    What a waste. I always keep some dollar-store nail files (ladies department) about for sanding, and use that to get the tip back. They are good for many other things too!

    Did you know that you can buy these in various sizes with perfectly fitting sanding sleeves in a variety of grits.

    Hasn’t Sears been selling these attachments for years?

    I received a spare flex-drive with one of my Dremels and you know, they do not sell spare drive inserts (the piece you put in the chuck to drive the flex-cable) Then I thought, its just a square end on a shaft, and so I carefully ground down a damaged drill bit to put a square end on it (like a Robertson screwdriver head) Works like a charm! (helped a lot to have another one to use as a model...

    Use a stainless steel bolt as they are much harder than normal steel. I use a cut off wheel to make the cuts on the bolt so the edges are sharp and taper the tip on a grinder. Works great.

    1 reply

    From my experience in the oilfields of the Gulf of Mexico, stainless steel is much softer than standard steel, but I only use 316ss. Grade 5 or Grade 8 bolts work great for a tap. Just keep in mind to occasionally back out the bolt and then continue to make you tap. Clean out the debris as needed and lubricate metal when tapping it to prevent the cutting edge from getting damaged. Remember to use the proper drill bit size for the pilot hole before tapping anything(typically it is 1/32" smaller).

    Using longer bolts in the threaded inserts also allows you to handle freshly painted surfaces as well as using them as standoffs to set your piece down to cure/dry as well as keep the applied finish out of the threads

    I've tried the clamps made of PVC tube rings. They're extremely weak. Either you use many-many-many of them to clamp a single small piece, or you use them on jobs where you don't need much pressure. White or yellow carpenter's glue, for example, needs more pressure than these clamps can delivery. On a job where I used a silicone-like adhesive, and only needed to keep the pieces in place until the glue cured, they were quite useful - I needed many times more clamps than I have F and C clamps.

    2 replies

    It also depends on the thickness of the piece being clamped. Obviously a thicker piece of wood will require the 'jaws' to be opened further giving more force.

    FlorinJ, Have you tried smaller diameter or thicker walled tubes? They would exert more clamping force, if you can get them over your projects. Another thought is to file a couple of small notches into the top and bottom of the clamps to add rubber bands for added pressure.

    Drawing the circle with a framing square is very clever. Of course, the fact that drawing two lines between two points on the diameter that intersect on the circle always results in a right angle is taught in every high school geometry class, but is never associated with a practical use. Practical tricks like this would make geometry and math instruction much more interesting and approachable to school kids. Carpenters must know all these tricks--do most college graduates? I doubt it.

    I can imagine the work that went into compiling this list - it's great! Thank you.

    Did you know you can also find the center of a circle with a speed square? I still haven't used this tip in an I'ble, but I made a video on it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G6sE5DpVpuc (looks like embedding doesn't work?)

    BTW I made the tap from a bolt with 2 cutoff wheels in a Dremel and it works really well, even for hardwood!

    Speed square center finder4.jpg
    1 reply

    I made another tap from a bolt (1/2"!) for an upcoming project, and I think it's possible even with only a hacksaw!

    I have used the iron trick on my hardwood floors ;)