I guess everyone has their favorite shop hacks. Whether it saves time, space or just makes a tricky task easier there are thousands of little tricks out there that make life in the shop a little more enjoyable. Here are three of my favorites.
Step 1: 1 - Drying Rack
Cabinetry, furniture, bookcases and built ins are all projects that can clog up a workshop. They take up a lot of space especially in the finishing stage when everything is spread out drying and nothing else can be done for fear of dust getting into the finish. A vertical drying rack is one way I have found to make the process more manageable and, in some cases, cut out a second round of finishing.
More often than not, these projects involve a dado slot whether it be done by a table saw or router. When the project involves a number of small to medium size pieces that will have to be finished individually like shelves or drawer bottoms, I will take advantage of that dado setup and run a series of repetitive dados in some scrap wood. (Fig. 1.1) When these boards are securely attached to an unused wall, side of a workbench, or something stable, it becomes a great drying rack. Just slip one edge of the material you finished into the dado you cut and let gravity hold it out of the way. (Fig. 1.2)
Step 2: 2 - Instant Handle
I have a tendency to keep a number of those inexpensive foam brushes on hand. Since they are cheap, they are great for when I want a throw away brush. They work for paint, polyurethane and even glue. When I have used them, I wrap them in a plastic bag and separate the wooden handle from the foam brush. (Fig 2.1) Having a few of those wooden handles around can be very handy. They are soft wood, but they are convenient and already have a centered hole cut in one end.
A few of the uses I have employed include file handles, hooks, pushing rivets into stubborn material, inserting a nail to make a marking tool, and extension for a hex wrench. (Figs 2.2 & 2.3) I am sure there are countless other uses I haven’t stumbled on yet.
Step 3: 3 - Center Marking Jig
When I have to use screws or drill for through dowels in a project, I like them to be centered, but more importantly, lined up consistently. If there are more than 2, I prefer not to have to measure and mark with a speed square. Typically, I am going to have to put in 20 or more screws in a project by the time it is all said and done so I want a faster and more accurate method.
This little center marking jig is very easy to make. Just take a scrap piece of lumber at least 3/4" thick and mark the distance from the edge you want your screw holes. Drill a 5/32” hole through the scrap wood you just marked which is a slightly smaller diameter than a 12 penny nail. (Fig. 3.1) Then with some glue and a few small nails, I attach a rail to the side of the scrap block.
The next step is to cut a 12 penny nail just longer than the thickness of your scrap lumber. (Fig. 3.2) Next, cut off the ends of a plastic screw anchor with a utility knife so it is shorter than the length of the nail and place it around the shaft of the nail. (Figs. 3.3 & 3.4)
The plastic screw anchor is a sacrificial piece to space the nail centered in the chuck of a drill below the nail head. By spinning the nail against a file or piece of sandpaper, I can put a blunt point on the end of the cut off nail. (Figs. 3.5 & 3.6)
Place the nail in the hole in the scrap lumber with the point protruding out the side you marked. That side will be precisely the spot you marked in case the drill wondered or your angle wasn’t dead straight. (Fig. 3.7) You can put marks on the edge of the guide for the spacing you want between your screw holes.
Just tap the end of the nail to make a divot in the wood marking you drill hole. (Figs. 3.8 & 3.9) One added advantage to the speed is that the divot serves to keep the tip of your drill bit from wondering when you start to drill the hole. It is especially effective with brad point or taper drill bits.
Rod Gunter is the Executive Director at Gunter Building Solutions and has over 20 years of experience in the homebuilding and cabinetry industries. Rod has been responsible for building over 200 homes above the $500,000 price point. Rod has trained large groups including all the major home centers on selling skills, construction techniques and sustainable natural wood products. Rod resides with his family in Holly Springs, North Carolina. Gunter Building Solutions owns WoodAirGrille.com which produces wood return air filter grilles and wood return air vents.