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Stock up on the screws you use

Sometimes, I  actually pay attention to my junk mail, especially when a mail-order supplier offered nearly free shipping on fasteners. The problem was, I’m never sure which ones to buy in boxes of a 1,000, 100, or a dozen. So one evening I sat down with all the WOOD magazine issues dating back a little more than the past two years and added up the types of fasteners used in our projects. And just so you don’t waste an hour of your own time doing the same thing before stocking up on fasteners, here’s what I found:

We used #8x1¼” and #8x1½” flathead wood screws at least twice as much as any other fastener (20+ projects). Both definitely go on my box-of-1,000 list. For the next size smaller carton (100?), I’m going to pick up #8x¾”, #8×2″ and #8×1″ flathead wood screws. (If you hang a lot of cabinets or other wall-mounted projects, throw in a box of #8×3″ flatheads.) And because I can’t always find good square-drive versions of these at the home center, I’ll add a box of #8x1¼” panhead screws. Feel like covering all your bases? Add boxes of these to your order: #8x2½”, #8x1¾”, #8x1½”, #6x½”, and #6x1¼” flathead wood screws. You won’t need many, but that’ll save you a drive to the hardware store.

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Shop Tips, Dust Collection, and KISS

I really hate to pass up an opportunity to gloat over what a fun job I have. So I won’t.

One of the funnest parts of my jobs is editing the Shop Tips column. Every issue, I get to call up a fellow woodworker and let them know that they’ve won a tool valued at more than (sometimes way more than) $300. There is just no way that can turn into a bad conversation. Believe me, I’ve never talked to a grumpy shop tip winner.

To rub it in some more: every couple of weeks, I get to sit down with a team of experts and pore through a fortnight’s worth of entries choosing tips from clever woodworkers who have come up with novel ways to make life easier in the shop.

And then there are the ones we don’t choose. Read more

Straightening grain patterns

When choosing the lumber for the 7″-wide raised panels in my TV stand, I found a board wide enough to allow me to cut them in one piece without any glue-ups. Except for one. Can you find the joint line in this panel?
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Planing *really* thin parts

The other night, I was working on a wall desk I’m making for my parents. After a long day at work and a Christmas concert at school, I finally got out into the shop and starting making the two drawers using lock-rabbet joints. Call it a miscalculation, inattention at the hour, or just plain stupidity, but the drawers ended up about 3/16” narrower than the Read more

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Maybe I’ve had too much coffee

One of the final loose ends in my shop reorganization was finding a place for the stereo. It’s three stacked components, an old garage-sale find, but it works and allows me to plug in my iPod. The only suitable spot I could find was on top of my wall cabinets. I can j-u-s-t reach the volume control, but not the power switch. So I decided I needed an on/off switch that was easier to reach. Hmmm, how to do this creatively without spending any money? Digging through my junk drawer produced a switch and timer salvaged from an old coffee maker (see, I knew I’d find a use for it), and a female replacement plug for an electrical cord. The scrap bin yielded some mahogany. After milling the lumber to size, cutting box joints, and mounting the electronics, here’s what I had. Read more

Sketchup makes you sleepy

I found time to sit at the computer Saturday and watch some of the excellent on-line video tutorials for Sketchup.  By 1:30p, I’d been at it a couple of hours, and I was getting a little bleary. My wife and daughter were gone, so I lay down on the couch for a 20-minute “power nap“… and woke up two hours later! Very unusual for me, as I seldom even nap. Anyway, I’m much better versed in Sketchup now (and better rested), so time allowing, I’ll begin designing my TV stand this week.


Rust? RUST?!? Aaaaiiiiiiieeeeeeeee!!

Last night, I had to crank out a dozen little 2x2” tabletop flag holders for my son’s Eagle Scout ceremony this weekend. Simple little things: just a square of ¾” thick oak-veneered MDF with a little chamfer around all four top edges and a hole in the middle for the little plastic flagpole. I’d promised my wife I’d do this last weekend, but never got around to Read more

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Dovetail jig tips

With just a few hours in the shop last weekend, I got a lot done. I needed to dial in the router bit depth before routing dovetails on the drawers for my shop cabinet. The jig’s template and stops were already positioned, so I loaded a couple of test pieces into the jig, and set the bit for what looked like a reasonable guess at the proper depth. You can probably imagine what the test joint looked like.

Well, you’d be wrong! It went together beautifully! I couldn’t believe it. Taking this as a good sign, I started routing drawer joints. I rout dovetails so infrequently I took note of some tips that I plan to file away with my jig for reference next time I get it out. Here they are:
➢     Lay out your drawer pieces and label the inside bottom edges. Use BL for Back Left, BR for Back Right, FR for Front Right, and FL for Front Left.

Labeled drawer parts

Labeled drawer parts

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5″ Downdraft Table

While working on a cross for my church’s fall festival auction yesterday, I made another batch of crosspieces that connect the inner cross frame to the outer. I bandsawed these pieces to 3/8” x 3/8” x 1-1/2” long. The carbide-toothed blade on my bandsaw left them a little rough (I knew it would, so I cut them a little oversize) so I had to sand each one of the 20 or so piece smooth. Ugh.

Whenever I’m faced with a dull task like that, I try to find a way to speed it up with a power tool. Read more

Shop Tip From Disney

You just never know when (or where) you’ll stumble across a great idea for your shop. While on vacation in Orlando a few weeks ago, my daughter bought a brass ring from a streetside vendor. (Actually, it was right outside the “Hoop-De-Doo Review” at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, but I digress…) Read more

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