Top 10 Items You Didn't Know Were Great Woodworking Tools

When making a tool list, we never forget the classics – chisels and hand planes, table saws and routers. What we do tend to overlook are all those little things that make our time in the shop more productive and enjoyable. Some of those items you likely have around the house, but never considered taking them into the shop.

By Rob Brown
Photo by Rob Brown

1. Punctured bicycle inner tubes

These tubes are useless for getting you around town, but they can be wrapped around uneven edges or surfaces to apply pressure during some glue-ups. Your local bike shop will have dozens to give you.

2. String

Hanging items while spraying or brushing on a finish, hanging light stuff from ceiling, and keeping lengths of wood or dowels organized are all easy tasks involving string. I’m sure there are dozens of other uses around the shop.

3. Sand

If you’re into marquetry, sand is indispensible for adding shading to your work. Sand can also be added to finish to give the surface some serious grit. This is great for painted outdoor steps that can be slippery when wet.

4. Household iron

Applying edge tape, steaming out dents in wood and re-activating two semi-dried glued surfaces so they stick together (iron-on veneering) are all jobs this simple tool can handle with ease.

5. Old T-shirts

Indispensible for applying shellac/oil finishes (match colour of rag with colour of wood/finish), buffing waxed surfaces, using under clamping cauls to protect against marring a finished surface, as well as dusting sanded or finished surfaces. If you use old t-shirts to apply oil finishes, please dispose of them properly.

6. Carpet

Cut pieces of carpet to about 16″ x 24″, or the size of your work surface, and use them under finished or freshly sanded surfaces. They can also assist with sliding heavy objects and can be placed on your shop stool and sat on for long durations. Sitting in the shop for long periods of time shouldn’t be uncomfortable.

7. Popsicle sticks

Handy for mixing and spreading epoxy or adhesive, they can also be used as shims or small spacers. I’ve taped multiple popsicle sticks together for spacers of many thicknesses.

8. Plastic peanut butter jars

Perfect for airtight storage of small items like dowels or biscuits, as well as mixing and storing shellac. Plastic will not break when dropped like glass jars will.

9. Chalk

Use chalk for marking darker or rough-sawn woods. Chalk is also great for marking loose or pressedup veneer, as it’s easy to dust clean. If you often work with dark woods a white pencil crayon might also be of use to you.

10. Yogurt/plastic containers

Rather than recycle them, reuse these containers for mixing finishes, storing larger quantities of consumables, cleaning brushes (cut a hole in top of the lid so the handle can stick through) and mixing larger quantities of two-part adhesives. Mark the outside of the container for quick reference and if you have enough of them make a simple storage shelf to keep them organized.


What would you add to this list? Add your thoughts to the comments section at the end of the article.

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