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DIY Tools for the Woodworker

Milwaukee grinder.

Even though you may be more likely to see these tools in the back of a pickup truck than in a woodworking shop, don’t be too quick to dismiss them. In our experience, these underappreciated products come in quite handy for specific woodworking tasks. 

Grind your troubles away

Besides smoothing welds and cutting rebar, an angle grinder accepts abrasive discs and wheels for grinding different materials. To shape contours in wood, such as a chair seat, equip your angle grinder with a tungsten-carbide grit disc, as shown above.

Shown: Milwaukee 
4½" angle grinder,
no. 6141-30,  $99,
milwaukeetool.com;
Kutzall shaping wheel, no. DW4120230, $55, 

kutzall.com

Workbench on the go

Sawing off the end of a dowel rod.
A V-shaped notch running the length of each jaw edge grips cylindrical workpieces, such as dowels, pipes, or metal rods.

A portable workbench provides additional worksurface or a temporary tool stand wherever you need one. Most have work-holding jaws and dogholes to provide  options as you cut, drill, or sand. The wide stance of the feet keeps the bench stable. And nearly all models fold down easily for storage or transport.

A V-shaped notch running the length of each jaw edge grips cylindrical workpieces, such as dowels, pipes, or metal rods.

Shown: Black & Decker
Workmate 225, $72,
blackanddecker.com

Drive fast and avoid the splits

Using a Makita on side of wooden box.
Powered by a small air compressor, a finish nailer comes in handy for assembling shop projects or jigs.

The brad nailer’s big brother, a finish nailer shoots larger and longer fasteners, ranging from 114 " to 212 " in length. Pneumatic nailers dominate the market, but battery-powered versions provide portability without the compressor noise or tail-dragging hose.

Use a finish nailer whenever you require more holding power than brads or pins can offer, such as when installing trim or building shop projects like shelving, carts, or jigs. The fast action of the nailer leads to less splitting of wood and no dimples from an errant hammer blow.

Shown: Makita
15-gauge finish nailer, no. AF635, $184,
makitatools.com

Getting out of a tight spot

Plugging tool blade into wooden box.
Equipped with a saw blade, a multitool can plunge-cut an opening in the middle of a panel.

An oscillating multi tool cuts or sands with  a rapid back-and-forth motion rather than spinning. Detachable heads allow you to use the multitool for sanding, grinding, sawing, scraping, or polishing, making it the Swiss Army knife of portable power tools.

Once you own an oscillating multitool, you’ll find all sorts of uses for it, from sanding in hard-to-reach places, like the corner of a cabinet or between chair slats and spindles, to cutting an opening inside a cabinet for wiring. 

Shown: DeWalt oscillating multitool,
no. DCS354D1, $139,
dewalt.com

Supersized layout tool

Essentially a T-square on steroids, this large aluminum square is used by drywall installers to lay out cuts. But it works just as well on plywood or other sheet goods, speeding up the layout process. Store it against the wall where it doesn’t take up much space. Some manufacturers offer adjustable squares so you can lay out angles.

Shown: Johnson drywall square,
no. JTS48, $16,
johnsonlevel.com

A good stud is hard to find

Stud finder on wall with shinning light.
Slide the stud finder along the wall surface until the display lights up, indicating the presence of a stud.

When you need to hang a cabinet or other heavy item on a wall, don’t turn the wall into Swiss cheese looking for a stud. Use a stud finder to locate studs for mounting screws, or torsion-box members behind a layer of plywood. It’s worth spending the extra money on a model that detects density changes within the wall. Some versions can also help you locate (and avoid) pipes and electrical wires.

Shown: Zircon StudSensor,
no. WM5, $20,
zircon.com

Milwaukee grinder.
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