Shop Tip of the Year Candidates
Need a lift? Make and mount one to your tablesaw
Heaving heavy sheet goods onto your tablesaw might be the most physically demanding task in woodworking. Here's a solution: Add this simple, removable lift to your tablesaw and easily swing even full sheets of plywood or MDF onto the saw table without damaging the stock—or your back. To make it, fit a 12"-long hardwood insert to your tablesaw's fence tube. Then, attach the 3⁄4 "-plywood A-frame so that it just touches the shop floor.
To use the lift, place one edge of the sheet onto the A-frame and slide it until it's centered. Lifting with your legs, swing the A-frame up until the top edge of the sheet rests on the saw table. Nudge the sheet off the frame and onto your tablesaw.
—Dan Martin, Galena, Ohio
Stick on a stop for consistent crosscuts
For a down-and-dirty way to get accurate, repeatable crosscuts on your tablesaw, use a large round magnet (no. 444003, $6.20, (888) 878-1887). Line up the first cut with the blade, place the magnet at the end of the workpiece, and make the cut. For each subsequent cut, slide the workpiece over until the end rests against the magnet (being careful not to jar the magnet), and cut again.
—Bob Milko, Mentor, Ohio
Shop-made light box = poor man's copier
Without a photocopier at home, I found myself going to the office supply store regularly to make copies of woodworking patterns. To avoid this inconvenience, I made a simple light box for tracing patterns by hand.
To make your own, install a porcelain or plastic light socket in a clear plastic shoebox. Top the box with two 12×15" acrylic sheets secured by pieces of rabbeted scrapwood.
To use the box, slide the pattern between the sheets of acrylic, lay a blank piece of paper directly above the pattern on the top piece of acrylic, turn the light on, and trace.
—Maurice Farrier, Raleigh, North Carolina
Projects wear your mark with iron-on tee-shirt labels
After building a wedding gift for friends, I wanted to mark the couple's names and the date of their big day on it. I found that iron-on transfer paper—the kind used to print tee shirts and available at many office supply stores—provided a professional look for just pennies.
To make it work, first design your "imprint" using your computer's word-processing software. (You'll need to reverse or "mirror" the text so it reads correctly when ironed on to your workpiece). Then, print the label on the transfer paper and iron it onto a smooth, discreet place on your project.
—Robert Sawdey, Rockton, Illinois
Punch your way to better dust collection
Palm-sander manufacturers often include a plastic punch plate for making dust-collection holes in replacement sandpaper. But the jagged holes mine produced didn't allow for much air to move through. To improve dust collection, I made a simple jig for punching perfectly round holes.
First, make a base and template from 3⁄4 " plywood the same width as your palm sander's pad. Crosscut the template to the same length as the sander's pad. Add 1" quarter-round molding to both edges of the base to hold the template in place during use. Now transfer the hole locations from the factory punch plate (or a sheet of sandpaper with holes already punched) to the template. Drill through the template at each marked location.
To make the punch, chuck a 1⁄8 ×2" electrical nipple into your drill press, and sharpen one end using a file. Screw on a 1⁄8 " flat lamp finial (found at home centers) to the unsharpened end. Slip a piece (or pieces) of sandpaper between the template and base, insert the punch in a hole, strike it with a hammer, and repeat for the other holes.
—Alan Hoffman, North Hills, New York
Jig works like extra hands for mitered piece assembly
When building an octagonal frame for an outdoor ring-toss game, I struggled to hold the mitered pieces together during assembly. So I came up with this simple holding jig.
I made the jig to join two segments at one end and a pair of two-segment assemblies at the other. After building the base from MDF and 2×4s, I held two segments together as they would be when assembled—with an end against one of the outer stops—and marked the opposite end of the assembly on the base. Then, I attached one inner stop on that line. After repeating the process for a four-segment assembly at the opposite end, the jig was complete. Now, when I go to assemble the workpieces, they're fully contained, making assembly much easier.
—Robert Frost, O'Fallon, Illinois
No-rock, easy-roll planer outfeed conveyer
My benchtop planer used to snipe until I came up with this inexpensive outfeed support that rests on my benchtop. After moving my planer (on its stand) beside my workbench, I measured the height difference between the planer's outfeed table and the workbench and used that dimension to determine the approximate height of the conveyer frame.
I built the frame from 3⁄4 " stock and installed simple "rollers" made from 1" PVC tubing with end caps drilled for 1⁄4 " steel-rod axles. I inserted the rods through holes drilled in the frame and capped the exposed rod ends with push nuts. Finally, six levelers, made from carriage bolts, star knobs, and threaded inserts, help fine-tune the rollers to align them with the planer's outfeed table. When not in use, the conveyer stores vertically to save space.
—Don Riley, Marietta, Ohio