5 Household Items You Need in the Shop
Every home has a junk drawer. A little wooden box where small and seemingly insignificant items go to rest. But, what if I told you these items could once again find use in the world, and even more importantly, in your shop. Today, let’s dive into five everyday items that can find a place in your shop.
Brace yourself for controversy as we begin with plastic drinking straws. Despite their bad rap, these straws can be quite handy in a workshop setting.
These can cleanly and easily remove excess glue from inside a butt joint. This will ensure a neat finish and prevent you from having to come back and sand your inside corners.
Finishes can also benefit from these plastic drink aids. Whether you’re filling in cracks with epoxy or creating stain samples, plastic straws can allow you to dispense a minimal amount of product with very little waste or mess. Dipping the straw in your desired finish and placing a finger over the top will create a vacuum that allows you to remove small amounts of liquid. This can be particularly beneficial with Rubio, hard wax finishes.
The mighty straw not only dispenses finish, but it also transports it. Simply seal one end of the straw using a lighter to melt it, fill it with your finish using another straw, and then seal the other end using the same method as before. You now have a compact, fully sealed tube of finish ready to be used for on-site touch-ups, which can be quite the lifesaver! Note, this method will not work with flammable finishes….well at least not in a safe manner.
Doctors call them tongue depressors, ice cream peddlers call them popsicle sticks, woodworkers call them tools. These handy sticks will allow you to stir finishes and paint, while keeping them free from any potential contaminants. Moreover, these sticks can double as a makeshift spoon, helping you handle powder pigments neatly and efficiently while mixing.
Additionally, tongue depressors serve as fantastic shims. With their flat and uniform structure, they provide a reliable alternative to traditional shims. Whether you’re leveling items on an uneven floor or installing baseboard on an uneven wall these sticks offer precise and stable support.
Tongue depressors can also be used during clamping to prevent marring your workpiece. These can be especially useful when doing glue ups with bar clamps.
Box cutter blades are another essential item in the workshop, which can be used for numerous applications. They can be used like a card scraper to remove dried glue from surfaces. Also, they can be used to trim excess edge banding from plywood. Plus, these blades can be mounted in a vise for tasks like cutting rags or tape.
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BONUS: Drawer Liners & Wax Paper
You may find this first bonus at the bottom of your junk drawer, literally right at the bottom. . Drawer liners, used in drawers to prevent items from sliding around, can also serve as a non-slip surface for workpieces during operations like sanding or routing. This can be a cost effective alternative to bench cookies.
Our second bonus has a multitude of uses within the workshop. Wax paper is commonly used in shops during glue-ups, placed atop clamps to prevent glue from adhering to the metal surfaces.
This item works best during glue-ups of cutting boards or large panels. The squeeze out from the glue will land on the wax paper instead of the metal, keeping your clamps clean. Wax paper can also benefit those of you who enjoy wielding a paint brush Place wax paper on your opened paint can before resealing it to prevent the formation of an unpleasant film that sometimes appears in latex paint.
The cast iron surfaces of your machinery can also benefit from this useful paper. With a simple crumple and a wipe, you’ll be able to reap the same benefits as a shop wax for just a fraction of the price.
4. Rubber Bands
Rubber bands, or "gum bands" as we call them, are another useful item you likely have in your junk drawer. A practical application for rubber bands is to create a makeshift bandy clamp, which provides both vertical and horizontal pressure. By threading the band through the holes on a spring clamp, you apply multiple points of pressure for tasks like edge banding. Rubber bands also serve as a drip catch when painting, as well as a useful tool for miter glue-ups on small boxes where clamps might not be applicable or readily available. Lastly, a rubber band can be used to hold papers or shop plans in place, preventing them from flapping or sliding around as you work.
Keeping a deck of cards in your shop will be useful for more than just magic tricks and poker tournaments. . Playing cards can be used to benefit your woodworking projects in a variety of different ways. My buddy Brad Rodriguez at “Fix This Build That” did a fantastic video on a bunch of tips for using cards in the shop. A few of these are going to be repeats, but I also have some fresh ones.…
Cards can provide perfect spacing when installing inset drawer fronts and doors. In order to achieve this spacing, place a drawer front within its frame and stack playing cards to fill the top gap and side gap, ensuring it's seated at the bottom and one side. Remove the drawer front, count the cards, and divide them equally for each side to maintain symmetrical gaps. Affix the cards with tape or simply place them, ensuring a perfect alignment on all sides. Use double-sided tape on the back of the drawer fronts and secure them with clamps before screwing them back in. This will give you a perfectly spaced drawer front every time.
A deck of cards can also assist in achieving a flush cut on protruding dowels. Simply cut a small section of a card, place it around the dowel, and ride yourflush cut saw against the surface of the card. This technique prevents damage to your material, avoiding any unsightly saw marks around the dowel.
Lastly, chalk can be an indispensable item in your woodworking shop. It shows up well and is easily removable, which is especially useful with darker woods. White chalk is recommended as it tends to be visible on nearly every type of wood.
In your workshop, these household items can be utilized in unexpected yet helpful ways, which can aid you in all of your woodworking endeavors.
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