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Dec 03, 2018

How to Cut a Perfect Circle with a Jigsaw

A quality jigsaw is one of my favorite tools, and a seriously good DIY best buy. Armed with the right blade, you can cut all sorts of materials into nearly any two-dimensional shape you please. And most-importantly, do it safely. 

But it's flexibility as a creative tool is also its liability. Like a pencil, it can go in any direction, but in the hands of a human being, those directions will never be without the marks of our innate imperfection. Straight lines can be accomplished with a fence, but a perfect circle. You can't draw one by hand, so don't expect yourself to be able to jigsaw one either. 

At least, not without a little help.    

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Oct 19, 2018

11 Tools to Take Your Woodworking Projects from Hammer & Nails to Fit & Finished

Most of us get into woodworking from a practical point of view: we need to work on something around the house, so we head to the home center and get tools to break down dimensional lumber and bang it back together. So you upgrade from a circular saw to a compound miter saw, and maybe even get yourself a pocket hole jig so you can hide your hardware from sight. 

And then, as it inevitably happens, something changes in your point of view. You're now longer just doing "home improvement" or "building things"... you're now: a woodworker.   

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Oct 18, 2018

How to Drill, Saw, Plane, or Do Almost Anything Straighter

Stationary power tools are often the most full-proof way to do a job. They're anchored to the floor or bench, and come with flat tables and fence systems so you can guarantee your cuts, holes, and other bits of shaping are square and straight.

But, besides being expensive, they're not always the right tool for the job. So, instead we turn to handheld tools, both electric and manual, to get things done. And therein lies the rub - human beings are not machines. Try as we might, we often can't do something with our hands as straight or square as a large stationary tool. 

Besides using guides and other accuracy aids, there's a super simple and easy trick you can add to your mental toolbox to help guide the tool to do its best.    

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Oct 04, 2018

11 Surprisingly Good Finds You Should Buy at Harbor Freight (and 8 You Never Should)

There are a few adages with which I can start this post. "You get what you pay for." "Some things are too good to be true." Yes, it would be awesome if there were a store in every town that sold solid, dependable tools at bargain prices. When you're just getting started, a place to fully outfit your shop on the cheap would be an amazing gift. I get it. I've been there.

But anyone who knows about Harbor Freight also knows about the reputation of the products it stocks: namely, that the quality is rather unreliable. Today, as I was discussing this post with my friend and colleague, M.E., her immediate response was, "There was one in the same plaza as my old job, so whenever we needed anything, we got it there. And ultimately whatever we bought, broke five days later. That place is the Dollar Store of the home improvement world."

And that's the trick: Harbor Freight stocks items that are designed to be sold, not to be used. I'm not saying their business model is dishonest or nefarious. Nor am I a tool snob with an unlimited budget. I'm only interested in spending as much money as necessary to get the job done. I know what its like to have your aspirations be bigger than your budget. But buying things that don't work, no matter how much they cost, is not saving money. The majority of products there simply will not stand up to repeated use, nor give the you the results you're after. When it comes to their sell-line of "Quality Tools, Lowest Prices"... well, one of them is true. 

Except... 

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Sep 20, 2018

Everything You Need to Know Before You Build Your First Workbench

One of the great conundrums of woodworking is this simple fact: you need a workbench to build a workbench. 

In fact, in order to build a proper workholding system replete with vises, rock-solid joinery, and a sturdy wood top, you also need a complete shop full of power tools to mill the wood to size, a fleet of clamps to laminate the top, and tons of experience to know how to use all that stuff in the first place. And to build it from hard maple or other appropriate wood, it'll cost at least $700 for the lumber alone.

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Sep 17, 2018

How to: Use Your Table Saw as a Planer

Thickness planers are awesome. But I don't have one.

They're an expensive and specialized piece of equipment. A new one starts around $300, and the price just goes up from there. I'd like one, sure, but most of my woodworking projects don’t require it, so I haven’t made the investment yet. There are a few other tools I'm more interested in before I make the leap to a planer.

But there are times when I have a rough piece of wood that needs to be trimmed down to a consistent thikness or large course areas need to be smoothed out.  Instead of picking up my orbital sander and going to town for 45 minutes to thickness the piece of wood, I turned to my table saw.  While this trick is limited to wood with a width of approximately 6 inches, it can save you a ton of time for small projects. It's a really simple process. 

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Sep 14, 2018

7 Common Mistakes to Avoid Whenever You Use a Random-Orbit Sander

Random orbit sander mistakes - common errors and solutions

The random orbit sander is one of the first tools any maker or DIYer should own. In fact, I can't think of another powered tool that I use more, on nearly every project involving wood. The design is simple, and right there in the name - they move, in a random circular pattern, to sand wood.

A huge improvement over its predecessor, the pad or orbit sander, these guys use special shaped sandpaper disc to get your project smooth fast and with minimum swirl marks. Well, at least faster than sanding by hand, and with much less energy. But with great power comes great...opportunity to mess things up. These wondertools work, but there are

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Aug 17, 2018

How to Enlarge a Hole in Wood without Ruining Your Project

how to enlarge a hole

To the non-DIYer, dedicating an entire blog post to this process may seem like overkill. But anyone who wields their cordless drill on the regular can attest: the issue of making an existing hole larger comes up all. the. time. Whether repairing something around the house, replacing a part or piece of hardware, or just because you didn't quite get it right the first time, any maker, woodworker, or generally handy person knows how frequently one needs to enlarge a hole, and how surprisingly difficult it can be to pull off. 

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Jul 30, 2018

How to Drill Better, Cleaner Pocket Holes

Pocket hole joinery has a lot going for it. An affordable jig makes the process fool-proof, it comes together in less than a few minutes, and the joint itself is super strong.

The Kreg jig itself does most of the work, but a little knowhow makes the pocket hole clean and precise. This is especially important if the pocket hole will be visible, plugged, or filled.

Ready to make nice, sharp pocket holes? Let's go!    

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Mar 28, 2018

How to: Make a Wooden Hand Screw Rack & Organizer

I have tried almost every solution to keep track of my hand screws. I've hung them on pegboard hooks. I've stashed them in wall-hung cubbies. I've stacked them on shelves. I've put them in designated plastic totes. All of which have resulted in: I hardly ever use my hand screws. 

Which is a shame, because they're extremely versatile. They have a deep reach, and their wooden jaws are handy when you don't want to nick a blade or bit on something metal. So, last weekend, in my ever-continuing attempts to get my shop truly organized, I decided to build a wall-mounted hand screw organizer that would allow me to keep things in place and bring the clamps to the project when I need them.    

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Feb 20, 2018

The 16 Tools I Use Most Often in My Workshop

Miter Saw

Does the tool make the man, or does the man make the tool?  Like most things in life, the answer is somewhere in the middle.  You need to know how to properly operate and care for your tools, but the right tool/jig can make or break your project. 

Of course, I'm just an active hobbyist, and my tools reflect that, BUT every single one has a time and place to be used, and we've formed a deep bond over the years. Some are used a lot more frequently than others, and so here is a list of most used tools that I have in my shop...which my wife lovingly refers to as “just the garage."

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Nov 28, 2017

How to Prevent Tearout and Splintering When Cutting Plywood, Once and For All

Plywood is awesome. It's affordable, easy to work, and, when used properly, looks great. 

Plywood also brings its share of headaches, specifically, tearout: the rough, jagged edges that result from cutting through the thin veneers. It's frustrating, and it looks absolutely terrible. Any woodworker who's ever used it can speak its woes, which can ruin an otherwise high-quality project.

But my friends, it doesn't have to be that way. Whether you're building a simple shop project or a full fleet of custom kitchen cabinets, you, too, can virtually eliminate tearout.

Let's make some crosscuts.       

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Oct 31, 2017

How to Drill Straight and Square Holes without a Drill Press

Sure, every once in a while, you choose to intentionally drill a hole at a specific angle. Perhaps your compound joinery demands it, or you're going for a stylish, contemporary look on a project.

But most of the holes we drill — I'd hazard to say a good 99% of them — are intended to be drilled straight on, perfectly perpendicular to the surface. You can do this precisely with a drill press, but many makers don't have one, and they require specific set up and work that's small enough to be placed on the table. 

So that leaves the cordless drill. A tool that, when balanced on the tip of a drill bit, can be easily canted and slanted off square in every single direction, especially when you're putting force behind it. 

But! The task is not impossible. Yes, DIYers, you can drill a perfect 90° hole with a cordless drill. Here's how it's done.    

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Sep 28, 2017

How to: Make a Simple Wooden Smartphone Speaker

Happy Monday, ManMakers! Today, I'm super excited to share an exclusive project with you. It's an excerpt from the new book Build Stuff with Wood, which is all about making cool woodworking projects with the most basic of tools.

The book is written by Asa Christiana, the former editor of Fine Woodworking magazine, and, I'm proud to say, a close friend of mine and all-around good guy. It features a variety of everyday objects you can make armed only with a cordless drill, a circular saw, and a jigsaw, plus a small palm router on one or two. There's a section on setting up a workspace, building a basic tool kit, and how to get great furniture-quality results from construction-grade tools. (Plus, a nice section on shop safety featuring a few photos of yours truly.)  Plus, the intro is written by Nick Offerman, so...enough said!

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Sep 08, 2017

How to Make a Rustic Phone Charging Stand from a Slab of Hardwood

DIY Wood slab phone charger dock

Sponsored by the DIYZ® app

I love the idea of combining modern technology with natural textures. I keep my tablet in a case made from an old linen-covered notebook, and my sleek and shiny DSLR in a worn brown leather bag. So, I wanted to make a simple place to house my smartphone, while warming it up a bit. I went with the most natural thing I could think of: a big slab of forest tree. 

I like this design for a DIY wooden smartphone charging station because it fits the charging cable nicely, but it isn't stuck in place, so you can remove and use it elsewhere without the stand.

Enough talk! Let's make one!       

DIYZ® is THE

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Aug 23, 2017

Shop Update: Rehabbing & Fixing Up My New 8" Delta Jointer

For the last couple of years, I've been mostly set on woodworking tools. I've been collecting my large, stationary machines for nearly ten years now, and although I do plan to upgrade a few of them, I've been able to accomplish most of what I've set out to do with a little creativity and patience.

The one standard machine that's been missing from my shop is: the jointer. I knew I didn't want to buy a tiny benchtop machine, or even a too-small 6" model. I told myself I'd wait until I was in my "forever" shop, then get the machine I wanted; one I could use for the rest of my life.

Once we bought our house last year, I started a Craigslist alert, and painfully watched every listing from ubiqituous Harbor Freight tools to overpriced secondhand things from people who have no idea that what things are actually worth.

Over the last eighteen months, only a few 8" models even came up for sale. The woodworking community in my town snatched them up as soon as they were listed, and so I waited. And waited.

And then - enter this Delta DJ20. Built in the 80s when machines were machines. Complete with parallelogram beds, dead flat and coplaner tables, and an awesome fence, this was being offered at less than the price than the new Grizzly it's based on, plus no shipping, no assembly or degreasing, and it came with a mobile base.

I made my offer, went to check it out, and - boom! - I'm now the owner of a vintage 8" Delta jointer.    

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Aug 15, 2017

Shop Skills: How to Care For Your Cast Iron Table Tops

If you're like me, the cast iron in your shop sits atop the most prized tools you have. Those tops are solid, durable, stay dead flat, and make working wood just a bit easier. But to keep them at their best takes a bit of routine work, fending off rust and staining doesn't take much but make sure you do it. Here's how.  

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Feb 21, 2017

A Simple Woodworking Storage Project You Can Build This Weekend

I have a million e-mails. It's not actually a million, but it makes my soul feel that way. I know this feeling. It happens when I've been staring too long at a screen, clicking reply until I lose track of time and space and what name I'm supposed to sign in the sendoff. (It's Chris. My name is Chris.) The only way to fix it? Get away from the computer, turn on some music, and build something.

So let's go out to the shop and build a box that will never, ever have e-mails in it. Here's a simple woodworking project that can get you back to working with your hands, but isn't too fussy or complicated. And the cool part — it uses just a few basic tools and single board. When it's done, you'll have a stylish, versatile, stacking storage solution that will come in handy in any room in your house. 

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Sep 15, 2016

Make This: 5 Shop Tools You Can Build From Scratch

created at: 09/12/2016There are some very impressive makers out there. not only can they craft amazing projects for the home and shop, but they even go a step further an make their own power tools. Take a look at five impressive projects from start to finish.   

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Feb 09, 2016

Woodworking Faux Pas: 6 Things You Should Never Do When Tackling a New Project

When you're just getting started in the world of building things, you'll find it can be rather hard to develop the "best practices" to help guide you down the right path. You're busy trying to figure out what the difference between a bevel and a miter is, but what you really need is someone to say "do this, not that."

created at: 10/06/2014It wasn't until I took a few classes and befriended some woodworkers that i really started to learn how to not do dumb things. Here's a list of six things I wish I would have learned before I wasted money and time on early projects.   

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