Knock-Down Work Support

When cutting sheet goods or assembling a large project, an extra work surface sure comes in handy. Problem is, I just don't have enough room in my shop to keep an extra table as a permanent fixture.

Instead, I use a temporary work surface that I can take apart in seconds. The key to the quick knock down is a pair of metal joist hangers that I attach to each of my sawhorses, see photo. Joist hangers are available at most home centers.

The hangers act as "pockets" that hold a couple of 2x4 stretchers, as shown in the drawing below.
Fitting the ends of the stretchers down into the joist hangers creates a large, sturdy work support.

To keep the stretchers from accidentally slipping out, I use a locking pin in each hanger. The pin is simply a bolt that I pass through a hole in the joist hanger, see detail a. below. A nut on the end of each bolt holds it in place. To fit the stretcher over the bolt and nut, all you need to do is drill a pair of counterbores near the end of each stretcher.

Flattening Waterstones

It's hard to beat the fast-cutting action of a waterstone for sharpening chisels and other tools. The price you pay, however, is periodic maintenance. Sanding screens are a great way to flatten a waterstone. But what can you do when you're in a hurry and don't want to deal
with the mess of using a screen and water? 

Here's a quick, easy way to flatten a waterstone in a pinch. Find a cement block (or even a step) that's relatively flat. Then sprinkle water on the rough face of the block and scrub the stone back and forth a few times. You'll get a passable cutting edge in no time.

Dust Bag Hold-Up

Reattaching the bag on my dust collector is a job that takes three hands. It's nearly impossible to hold the bag around the flange of the collector while attaching the metal strap that holds it in place.

To make the job easier, I simply fished a piece of elastic waistband through the hem of the dust bag using a safety pin, like in Fig.1. (Elastic waistband can be purchased at most fabric supply stores.)

After gathering the hem of the bag around the elastic, I tied the ends of the waistband together, as in Fig.2.

You can see how easy it is to secure the strap around the bag in Fig.3.

Drill Press I-Beam

Drilling holes in small pieces can be difficult on a drill press. If you try to hold them with your hand, they want to spin when the bit breaks through the back side. To solve this problem, I made an auxiliary table to hold small pieces securely. The table is shaped like an I-beam, with top and bottom pieces that extend out as clamping platforms.

To build the table, start by cutting an identical top and bottom piece from plywood, as shown in the drawing below. A dado blade makes quick work of cutting a groove down the center of both pieces to fit a 2x4. Once that's complete, glue and clamp the pieces together.

Completing the table is just a matter of drilling holes in the top and bottom pieces. This way, you can secure the table to the drill press with carriage bolts and a couple wing nuts. Make sure you bolt it in at least two slots to prevent the table from twisting.

Note: When the top gets chewed up with use, just flip the table over and use the other side.

Drill Press Fence

In the past, I used to just clamp a board to my drill press table whenever I needed a fence. But trying to position the fence was awkward. So I came up with a fence design that is easier to use and incorporates a stop block.

One end of the fence is attached to a plywood base with a carriage bolt and a threaded knob. This allows you to swing the fence in or out. The “free” end of the fence is then secured to the base with a small clamp, see drawing.

The fence is made out of two pieces of 1½"- thick stock. But before gluing them together, I cut a groove and a rabbet along one edge of each piece, see detail ‘a.’ This creates a slot for the stop block and toilet bolt when the two halves of the fence are glued together.

The base is just a piece of ¾"-thick plywood that is mounted to the drill press table with carriage bolts, see detail ‘b.’

The stop block has a tongue that rides in the slot on the fence. To create the tongue, rabbets are cut along the top and bottom edges of the block. (To be safe, you'll want to start with an extra long blank.) Then a hole is drilled through the block to allow for a toilet bolt, washer, and wing nut.

Division Made Easy

Sometimes I need to draw lines on a workpiece that divide it into equal-size parts. To do that quickly and accurately, without a lot of mathematical calculations, I use a simple trick.

Let's say you want to divide a 2 ¾"-wide board into three equal parts. Start by hooking a tape measure over one edge of the board (anywhere along its length). Then angle the tape across the board until an increment that’s easily divisible by three aligns with the opposite edge of the board (3" in this case). Now mark your board at the 1" and 2" points along the tape. Your board is now divided into three equal parts.

Dividing a Circle

Here's a quick way to divide any size circle into equal parts, without using complicated math. A standard circular saw blade does the calculations for you.

First divide the number of teeth on the saw blade by the number of parts you want to divide the circle into. To make this work, you'll have to pick a number that is an even multiple of the number of teeth on your blade. For example, a 24- tooth blade can be used to divide a circle into 3, 4, 6, 8, or 12 sections.

I wanted my circle divided into six equal parts. I placed the blade on top of my workpiece, making sure the center hole of the blade was aligned with the center of my pattern. Then I counted off groups of six teeth all the way around the blade, making a mark at each interval.

Next I simply removed the blade and drew connecting lines between the marks, leaving my circle divided into six perfectly equal parts.

Disc Flattener

Sanding discs tend to curl up when not in use. I find this a real hassle when trying to place a PSA (pressure sensitive adhesive) or hook and loop disc on my sander, especially if I don’t get it on straight the first time. So I came up with a small shop jig that helps keep them flat.

First cut two pieces of wood (6" x 6") and clamp them together. Then using one of the discs as a template, trace two holes opposite from one another. Finally drill 5/16"-dia. holes.

In the base, glue in 3"-long dowels to reach through a stack of discs and into the cap. I oversized the holes in the cap to make sure it fit over the dowels. The weight of the cap keeps the discs flat. Depending on the number of discs, you may need to add extra weight to make sure they stay flat.

Box Fan Filter

I've seen plenty of box fans converted to shop air filters. Most use duct tape or clamps to hold the filter steady. But I've always thought there must be better way to attach the filter that would make it easier to clean or replace the filter when needed.

While shopping at the local home center, I came across some vinyl siding J-channel. (Its normal use is for trimming around doors and windows.) I thought this might be a much better solution for mounting furnace filters to box fans.

The advantage to this design is that it firmly holds a 20" x 20" furnace filter, yet it allows for easy and quick removal of the filter for cleaning or replacement.

Start by removing the plastic grill.Then attach the channel to the grill, using some narrow wood backing strips to screw into. I did this to three edges of the inlet side of the fan, like you see in the top photo. Finally, replace the grill back on the fan.

Band Saw Shelf

When working with small pieces at my band saw, there wasn't a handy place to set them aside. So I mounted a plywood shelf to the arm of the saw.

To provide clearance for the lower door of the saw, I located the shelf up above the arm with a spacer block. To attach the spacer block, I drilled and tapped the cast iron arm to accept a pair of machine screws (see detail).

With the spacer block in place, all that's left to do is to attach the shelf to the block with screws.

Wedged Sanding Block

Here’s a handy sanding block that uses a belt from my portable belt sander. I tighten the belt on the sanding block by tapping in a simple wood wedge, see photo. 

The sanding block is easy to  make — especially since the wedge is cut from the block. The only tricky part is knowing how long a block to start with. 

To find out, slip scraps of wood inside the belt and slide them toward the ends, see Fig. 1. Then measure the inside length of the  belt and add 3/16" for the saw kerfs. After cutting the block to length, just round over the ends to match the curve of the belt. Then cut the wedge on a bandsaw.

Small Parts Clamp

Sometimes I need to grind or sand small bolts, screws, or wood parts for a project. I've tried to use a pair of locking pliers to hold the pieces, but these tend to mar the surface of the part I am working on.

To solve this problem, I made a small-parts clamp out of wood. The soft jaws hold objects firmly without marring them. And since it's made out of wood, it doesn't transfer heat the way metal jaws would.

Here's how it works. A small hardwood wedge fits into the back end of the clamp.
This allows the front jaws of the clamp to “bite” down on the object that is being held. The further the wedge is pushed in, the tighter the grip. A bolt and wing nut hold everything together.

To make the clamp, all you need is a short length of dowel, a scrap of hardwood for the wedge, a bolt and wing nut, and a few washers. Start by drilling the hole for your bolt through the center of the uncut dowel. Then round off one end of the dowel with a disk or  belt sander for the front jaws of the clamp. After cutting the dowel length-wise on a band saw, place the washers between the jaws to act as spacers.

Sanding Table Window Shade

I’ve found that when sanding smaller pieces, the vacuum on my sanding table doesn’t create enough suction to pull the dust through the holes in the table. To solve this problem, I mounted a retracting window shade to one end of my sanding table, see below.

Pulling the shade over the part of the table I’m not using reduces the surface area and increases suction.The suction from the table holds the shade in place. When I’m finished, I just retract the shade.

Sanding Pad

Here’s a clever way to fold a quarter sheet (or half sheet) of sandpaper into a pad that eliminates the usual grit-to-grit contact. What’s nice about this pad is the unexposed surfaces won’t wear as you sand with the outer surface. The pad also works great when sanding a project on the lathe. With four layers of insulation, my fingers don’t get as hot.

To fold the pad, first make a single cut to the center of the sheet. Then follow the steps shown below. To expose a new surface, simply refold the pad.

Sanding Jig for Circles

When I need a circular workpiece for a project, I don't try to get it perfect the first time. Instead, I start by cutting the workpiece to rough shape. Then to make quick work of sanding the edges smooth (and getting the disk perfectly round), I use a simple sanding jig and a disk sander, as shown in the photo at right.   

Jig: Basically, the jig consists of three parts: an MDF base, an adjustable hardwood runner, and a pivot pin made from a dowel (Figure 1). The runner slides in a groove cut in the base. This way, you can adjust the position of the pivot pin for different size disks. The work-piece fits over the pivot pin that's glued into a hole in the runner.

Note: The pivot pin can be any size you need. I have a set of runners with different size pivot pins. But depending on the dowels you use, you may find the fit a little loose. A quick way to solve this problem is to wrap the pivot pin with masking tape until you get a snug fit.

Setup: Using the sanding jig couldn't be much simpler. Start by clamping the base of the jig 1/16" from the face of the disk sander and just to the left of the center, as shown in Figure 1.

Sand Disk: Then just fit the workpiece over the pivot pin and slide the runner forward until the edge contacts the workpiece. At this point, all that's left to do is clamp the runner in place and sand the disk by rotating it clockwise (Figure 2).

Sanding Disc Guard

I have a combination belt/disc sander, and more than once I've nearly caught my sleeve in the rotating disc while trying to sand something on the belt. To prevent this from ever happening, I came up with an idea for a slip-on guard to cover the disc while I'm using the belt.

First I cut an arch shape that goes around the perimeter of the disc from a section of 2x6 (You’ll have to size this piece to fit your sander.) Then I attached a couple of small cleats to each end of the arch. One cleat rests on the disc sander plat-form to position the guard at the right height. The other extends down the side of the platform to keep the guard in place.

Next, I made a cover to hide the disc. I placed the completed arch assembly on a piece of hardboard and traced the profile down to the platform cleats. Then I cut out the cover on a band saw and glued it to the framework. Finally, I sanded the edges of the cover flush with the frame.

Now whenever I use the belt system on my sander, I simply drop the disc guard in place. When using the disc sander, I hang the guard on a nearby wall.

Flip-Up Non-Skid Mat

Whenever I'm sanding small pieces or using a hand-held router at my bench, I like to use a non-skid mat. The problem is that I can never seem to find my mat when I need it.

Here's a simple solution that keeps the mat within easy reach at all times. Simply attach it to the back edge of your bench with a thin hardwood cleat and a few woodscrews, see drawing.

When you need the mat, just flip it up on the benchtop. And when you're done, it's no trouble to flip the mat back down out of the way, letting dust and chips fall to the floor.

Dust Hood

A sanding table with a dust collector works great for keeping a shop clean while finishing a project. But with smaller pieces of wood, a lot of dust still floats up into the air, escaping the dust collector ports in my table.

To solve this problem, I use a plastic window well cover that I purchased at a home center. The hood-like cover traps all the dust in one area, which allows the dust collector to better remove it from your table. When I’m finished sanding, I store the dust hood under my bench out of the way.

Cove Sanding Block

The best sanding block is one that matches the shape to be sanded. So recently when I had to sand some cove molding, I made some custom sanding blocks from 1½"- thick foam insulation. You can use a hand saw or a band saw to cut the shape. Here's how I made the blocks.

1. Trace profile
First butt the foam block against the molding and trace the profile.

2. Rough cut profile
Use a band saw (or hand saw and file) to cut the profile to rough shape.

3. Sand profile
Smooth the profile by rubbing it across a piece of sandpaper stuck to the workpiece.

Belt Sander Face Extension

When sanding the edge of a wide workpiece on my stationary belt sander, too often I wind up with an edge that’s either rounded or out of square. To keep the stock square to the sanding belt, I attached a fence to the side of my sander. It’s just an L-shaped piece of plywood that’s screwed to a couple of support arms.

To attach the fence to my belt sander, I drilled and tapped some holes on the back side of the sander and then bolted the arms in place. Note: You may have to use shims to position the fence at a 90° angle to the sanding belt. Now to get a square edge, I just hold my workpiece against the fence as I run it over the sander. 

Squaring Gauge

If you're used to checking square on a cabinet by comparing the length of the diagonals, you know it can be difficult to get the end of a tape measure over the corners of the project once the clamps are in place. You could place the tape inside the corners, but this makes it hard to get an accurate reading.

I solved this problem by making an adjustable squaring gauge, as shown in the photo above.
The gauge is simply an adjustable length of wood that I can use to compare the inside diagonals of a cabinet. By sliding the pieces together or apart, I can adjust the length to fit a variety of different projects. An L-shaped hook at each end fits precisely into the corners, and a small cam device allows me to lock-in my first diagonal measurement.

The gauge consists of upper and lower extension strips that are held together with a sliding dovetail joint. (I used a 14° dovetail bit to rout the groove and then used the same bit to sneak up on the size of the matching tongue.) The cam is an irregular-shaped piece of hardwood (see pattern) that fits in a slot in the upper extension. Simply raise the cam when you need to lock the gauge in place. 

Spindle Sander Jointer

I don’t have a jointer in my shop, so I came up with a way to use my oscillating spindle sander for jointing edges. I just made a simple “jointing” fence. The fence is nothing more than a straight board with a U-shaped cut out to fit around the drum of my oscillating spindle sander.

To create an offset between the front and back of the fence, I shaved about 1/32" off the “infeed” side of the fence, see detail below. (The deeper the cut, the slower you’ll have to feed the work-piece.)

To use the fence, simply clamp it to the top of the sander so the drum is flush with the “outfeed” edge of the fence. Then feed the board along the fence past the sanding drum.

Splined Miter Joint

When I'm making picture frames, I like to "beef up" the mitered corners of the frame with a spline. As you can see in the photo, using a contrasting wood provides an opportunity to highlight the joint. Or you can make it nearly invisible by using the same type of wood. Either way, the spline adds a lot of glue surface that really strengthens the joint.

JIG - To cut the kerf for the spline, I use a shop-made jig that straddles the rip fence on the table saw, as shown in the drawing below.

Screwing two supports to the face of the jig at a 45° angle to the blade forms a “cradle” that holds the glued-up frame securely in place. All you need to do to cut the kerf is set the frame in place and make a pass across the saw blade. (I use a rip blade to cut a flat-bottomed kerf.)

ASSEMBLY - Once the kerf is cut, you can glue in the spline. After gluing and clamping the joint (see detail), remove the excess material with a handsaw and then sand the spline flush.

Slip-On Clamp Blocks

When edge gluing boards, I use scrap blocks to distribute the clamping pressure and avoid marring the edges. But sometimes the blocks shift out of position or fall to the floor before I get the clamps tightened. To solve this problem, I made a number of U-shaped clamp blocks that slip over the edge and stay right where I put them.

The secret is a piece of self-adhesive weatherstrip (see inset) attached to the top and bottom of the “jaws” of each block. When you slip the block over the edge of the workpiece, it compresses the weatherstrip and creates the needed grip.

Making the clamp blocks is easy. Especially if you start by gluing up a couple long pieces of hardboard to a piece of ¾"-thick stock. After attaching the weather stripping, all you need to do is cut the individual blocks to length.