5 Indispensable Shop Hacks

Woodworking Workshop

We’ve gotten such a great response to the two recent tips posts I did, “6 ‘Now, Why Didn’t I Think of That?’ Shop Tips” and “5 Clever Tool Hacks,” that I decided to share some shop hacks from another YouTuber doing DIY project videos, Izzy Swan. In the video below, Izzy shares eight useful shop tips. Here are five of my faves in words and pictures.

Use a Nail to Drill a Pilot Hole

izzyTips_5This trick has been around for a while, and it’s a good one. If you need to sink a pilot hole for a screw, and you don’t have the right size bit, or you don’t want your nail to split your board, you can use a nail as the bit to create a pre-drilled/pilot hole. Simply snip the head off of the nail, chuck it into your drill, and drill as if it were a normal bit.

Clamp Glue-Ups with Wedges and Shims

izzyTips_3If you want to glue something up and don’t have suitable clamps for any reason, fasten two parallel pieces of scrap lumber down to a work surface so that they’re slightly wider than the work piece to be glued. Place your glue-up between these wedges. Now use shims between the wedges and the shims to hold the glued work piece firmly in place.

Add a Pinch of Salt to Your Glue to Prevent Travel

izzyTips_2When you want to laminate several pieces of wood, sometimes the multiple pieces and the coating of glue between the boards with cause them to travel as you apply clamping pressure. Izzy swears by sprinkling a few grains of table salt onto the glue first. I guess the idea here is that the salt crystals add some grit, some friction, to the join to help prevent sliding. I had never heard of this, but I looked it up and it is used among some woodworkers (others swear by a few grains of regular sand or sanding grit). Have Make: readers had any experience with this trick?

Drill a Perfect 90° Hole Without a Drill Press

izzyTips_1Cut a 90° angle into a piece of scrap stock. Place that 90° angle where you want your hole to go and hold the bit loosely against this angled notch while you drill. If you don’t have a band saw to cut a notch in the wood, you can easily improvise such a jig by taking two pieces of dimensional lumber with factory edges and hold them together so that one protrudes out from the other, creating a true 90° notch for accepting your bit. The resulting hole won’t be perfectly 90°, but it’ll be close.

Use a Ceramic Mug as a Sharpening Stone

izzyTips_4If you find yourself in need of sharpening a utility knife, pocket blade, or scissors and don’t have access to a sharpening stone, you can flip over a ceramic coffee mug and use the outer edge of the bottom (the non-glazed part) as an emergency sharpening stone.

For More Information

Subscribe to Izzy Swan’s Think Woodworks YouTube channel. And be sure to check out our post on his crazed bowl-turning table saw jig.

6 “Now, Why Didn’t I Think of That?” Shop Tips

5 Clever Tool Hacks

5 thoughts on “5 Indispensable Shop Hacks

  1. Charles Haase says:

    Work surface.

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    2. Gareth Branwyn says:

      Thanks for the catch, Charles. Fixed.

      1. Andrew Stanbarger says:

        Lay a piece of thin plastic or wax paper down under the pieces to be glued up, so you don’t glue them down to your work surface with any excess glue that squeezes out of the joint.

  2. Randy Stokes says:

    I’ve done the sand-in-the-glue-joint trick since the 80s. I worried about potential damage to tools. Never occurred to me to use salt. Great idea!

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. And he has a new best-of writing collection and “lazy man’s memoir,” called Borg Like Me.

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn