View Full Version : Tricks of the trade

John Blazy
01-17-2003, 11:10 AM
Mr. Fleming's soabbox post and his replies forced me to start this thread on tricks of the trade. What a great idea!! We all love these little tricks we hear about, kindof instant gratification. I just bought a book on shop tricks and found quite a few new ones there too. But the greatest wealth of knowledge is yet to be written here . So lets hear a few.
I'll start with just a couple:

- Quick spring clamps that we all need more of - 3, 4, and six inch PVC solid core (not cellular) ripped on the table saw to put a kerf along the whole length (2-3ft). Then Chopsaw to 1", 1-1/2" up to 2-1/2" "C" clamps (wider, the more force) and you have a whole slew of deep throat clamps. Cut air hose and attach to jaw faces for non-marring. I have a few where I've put two screws through each jaw that are excellent for holding outside mitres together under pressure til the glue dries.

These are off the top of my head - no particular order:
- Use a dado chipper (1/4" pref.) for cove-making on T-saw rather than a blade - removes more material each pass

- Make your own chopsaw rack and install a self adhesive flat metal measuring tape zero'd to blade, - faster, cheaper and better than aftermarket racks with silly stop blocks and their offsets that only work when the stop block is in place.

- Lay a piece of polyester film over your wet epoxy/glass on scarf joints and clamp (either sides of joint). This pushes the glass into full submersion and feathers out the surface very well. When cured, the film peels right off, ready to scuff sand only.

- Buy a diamond disk hone for yer dremel - will sharpen (cheap, not Forrest) circ saw blades' inside faces beautifully if you are skilled enough, and save you the time & hassle of sending out to sharpen. Next time its sharpened professionally, the faces are reset, so accuracy isn't as important as you might think. Wish I'd known this earlier.

- When pouring out of a full can of solvent or five gallon pail where the spout is in the corner, tilt to pour with the spout on opposite side of the container yer pouring into - this prevents "Chugging" the air back in, and is mess-proof.

Lets hear s'more !!

Keith Wilson
01-17-2003, 11:22 AM
Cleaning up epoxy drips using a heat gun and scraper. Heat softens epoxy, and makes a really nasty job almost pleasant.

01-17-2003, 12:27 PM
Many finishes, including varnish, paint and shellac will keep better in collapsible poly containers made for dark room chemical.

Art Read
01-17-2003, 12:41 PM
PVC "C" clamps... Very handy for small spar making. Not sure where I first heard the idea. An article in WB about clamps for the boatshop perhaps? But they sure were a LOT cheaper than buying a few dozen store boughts! I'd originaly envisioned making up a bunch of homemade clamps with two pieces of wood and a pair of threaded rod/wingnut assemblies, but even that would have been pretty costly in the numbers required. (And would have been too slow with that epoxy curing as I struggled to get 'em on... ) The PVC worked great. Fast to put in place, and by "adjusting" the size of the kerf you can put 'em on a thicker piece of work and still have adequate pressure. (Still a good idea to back 'em up with regularly spaced bar or "C" clamps... They don't really have that much power, relatively speaking.)


Just wish I'd read this first... I didn't think to cut the openings until AFTER cutting 'em all out! One long cut instead of 40 or so little ones... redface.gif

[ 01-17-2003, 12:50 PM: Message edited by: Art Read ]

John Blazy
01-17-2003, 01:02 PM
Wow Art, you PVC (ABS) clamp junkie you! I thought I had too many. One way to give em higher clamp pressure, is to open one up and "sheathe" it around another one, doubling it. A little harder to open, but with 2X the pressure. Or use schedule 80 pipe.
It takes some practice, but PVC clamps can be mounted with one hand when neccessary. since this is a problem, I have often kicked around the idea of making a steel plier-like device that opens them up with one squeeze of the handles. Anyone out there want to take the challenge? Gotta get a round "tuit" first

Ron Williamson
01-17-2003, 01:04 PM
Doesn't it get a bit spooky with the pipe binding on the saw blade?
I tried it once,and "The Little Voice" told me to quit.

Ross Faneuf
01-17-2003, 01:16 PM
Some of the most 'exciting' moments I've had with power saws came cutting PVC. BE CAREFUL.

My hint on clamps; every 6 months of so, have a clamping crisis and buy 6-10 clamps to solve it. In 30 years or so you'll have almost enough clamps...

To really clean up an epoxy job, scrape off as much sqeezle as possible with whatever form of trowel or putty knife (or shaped-end stir stick) works best. Further clean up with shop paper towels and denatured alcohol. Also denatured alcohol does an acceptable job cleaning tools, while being safer and less expensive than acetone.

John Blazy
01-17-2003, 01:20 PM
Very good concern, Ron. I'm used to working with PVC, as much of my furniture was made out of it, and I routinely split PVC after veneering it, so I forgot the peril. The trick is to run it through fast, and as the end closes up, just yell at the saw and it will submit. It wants to intimidate you, but you must ignore that last screech, and push it through before burn. Here are a few ways to minimize the experience:
- raise the blade so it only cuts 1/8" more than needed

- For really safe cutting, raise the blade to cut within 1/32" or less of going through the pipe wall, then use a razor knife to open it up.

Matt Middleton
01-17-2003, 01:23 PM
Hey John, kinda like this?


Maybe you'd have to extend the pivot pin to help keep your PVC clamp in place, since they wouldn't have the "kink" like those above.

Matt Middleton

Art Read
01-17-2003, 01:31 PM
Cutting that stuff WAS pretty ugly. Not having a chop saw, I just used a bunch of passes with my "beater" skill saw on the top side of the clamped down pipe and then rolled it over to finish. Pretty "rough". Messy too. PVC (ABS?) "sawdust" ain't nice stuff. Tends to want to melt a bit, too...

01-17-2003, 01:46 PM
bandsaw works great for slicing the pvc pipe. You can roll the pipe through the blade, less heat, less kerf, less sawdust.

I'd probably choose the band saw for splitting rings too, instead of the long tablesaw kerf. Slower perhaps but no chance of kickback.

[ 01-17-2003, 03:42 PM: Message edited by: scepticus ]

David N.
01-17-2003, 03:03 PM
PVC , as file sheath's , all in a five gallon bucket , they never get laid down , or back-dragged .

01-17-2003, 03:46 PM
pvc, rubber hose, fingers of a leather glove...

all make pretty good chisel sheaths.

Dale R. Hamilton
01-17-2003, 04:35 PM
Best neat trick I've found- Hook up a Home Depot electric leaf blower (suction side) to the dust chute of your shop equipment. Run the nozzle of the leaf blower thru your shop wall outside- can either place garbage can to catch- or just blast it outside for the forrest creatures to salvage. Nothing to buy, nothing to empty, nothing to replace.

01-17-2003, 05:02 PM
One trick I like to hide nails in finish work is to use a sharp in chisel at a low angle and cut a shallow sliver about a inch long peel it back but don’t break it off. Then drive and set the nail under the sliver. Put in a drop of glue and press the sliver back into place and put a piece of tape on it until the glue dries .Take off the tape sand it and you will never see it. …………Phil

On Vacation
01-17-2003, 05:44 PM
"If you are willing to pay for it, then your opinion counts in the final planning of it." ;)

Memphis Mike
01-17-2003, 05:57 PM
Don't let wimmins in cuz they have
a tendency to organize things. :confused:

On Vacation
01-17-2003, 06:04 PM
Oh but Mike, that is very critical to ones survival in the shop. "You see honey, if you will get this mess organized, then I will get the boat done quicker. I also won't have to be hunting around for things. I have a really bad habit of going out and buying duplicate things because I can't find the spare I bought last time." Be able to share your learning with her, but don't dare let her find the glass from the kitchen that you took and left out in the shop, which just happened to end up with brushes soaking in them, though.!!

gary porter
01-17-2003, 06:32 PM
Yep, my wife just loves to vacuum the shop and thats fine by me.
Heres one for those plywood / stich & glue builders.
This is how I remove the wires. Just remove the soldering element
and use the screws to clamp in some #12 stranded wire.
It works best if you remove the wires relatively soon , like the next
day. Enjoy

01-17-2003, 08:54 PM
Great one Gary, new to me. How many wires can you heat before the gun gets too hot?

gary porter
01-17-2003, 09:00 PM
Norm, I've never noticed the gun getting hot at all. I've done maybe 30 or 40 straight away. The wires don't need to be all that hot if like I said you do it before the epoxy has cured for several days. I usually take them out the day after. I have switched to a larger size gun but thats just to speed it up a bit. On the smaller gun 140 watt, it takes a good 20 to 30 seconds and with the bigger one which I think is around 240 watt it takes at the most about 15 seconds.

John Blazy
01-22-2003, 02:21 AM
Just found the shop trick book again and distilled it down (from the "obvious" tricks) to a few + a couple of my own:
- CD's you can get in free junk mail make great squeegees, shims etc in the shop. They're made of Polycarbonate so they are a little tougher than you'd think.

- Use Hot melt glue as a clamp to hold build-up cleats in place til your urethane glue cures.

- now for one of the best tricks - tape miter wrap: Use clear strapping tape to tape plywood or solid wood edge mitres together (when flat, rolling the tape down hard with a rubber J-roller), flip over, fill with glue, wrap and connect the final miter with triangular wedges double-stick taped to the edges and clamp. Built many table bases etc. this way. Octagonal masts might also be done this way (?)

Ron Williamson
01-22-2003, 07:05 AM
Great tips John
I've been taping for years,but just yesterday one of the guys asked me how it was done.I couldn't believe that after being around for 11 years he hadn't seen me do it.
Here's a question
Do you know an easy way to edge-glue 1/4"plywood?
I have a cherry cabinet back that needs to be 6' wide and 5' tall.I glued it up yesterday but it was a PITA.

01-22-2003, 07:47 AM
Use Heavy monofilament for stitch and glue. You can "sew" up the panels and easily pull them together single handed.

You can put holes on the back side of PVC clamps and insert sticks or dowels to use as handles to open them.

John Blazy
01-22-2003, 09:38 AM
Excellent idea, Andrew! Never thought of mounting "handles" on each clamp. Matt Middleton's reply with that device is heading in that direction, but dowels would do the same job with less hassle.
Ron, I've biscuited 1/4" before successfully, but what would work better is a couple ideas here:
Add a long 1/8" thick x 2" scab to the back of the joint for added strength, gluing with urethane glue due to the fact that you have endgrain-to-endgrain (middle ply layers) and need the filling ability. If you want a strong joint (enough to handle) without the scab, use epoxy, but prewet both surfaces for 15 - 25 minutes before clamping. Use plastic film over the joint and add weights to keep it flush.

steve sparhawk
01-23-2003, 02:01 AM
I've been using plastic wireties for awhile. They can be left in and planed or sanded flush. And they pull up nicely too by hand. Cheap. Small ones for thin ply and BIG ones to handcuff , (subdue) the bigger stuff.

Clamps: I sawed up a bunch of oak and ash sticks about eight inches long by 3/8ths by 1-1/4" wide. I drilled a pilot hole for a #8 by 5" deck screw at one end of one and used a screw to push the ends of two sticks apart. I drilled a CLEARANCE hole through the other stick at about four inches down the stick, put a deck screw through it and threaded it into the other stick.(the one with the screw at the end) Acts like the old wooden Jorgensen two-screw clamps. They'll take quite a few cycles before the threads are no longer useful but CHEAP! And FAST!

I'll send a photo to Norm Messinger to post here for reference. http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid48/pa2d20e65f048f599af30088122450350/fcbd80f8.jpg

Also, you can move the middle screw out near the end for greater clamping pressure or lengthen the sticks for a DEEP THROAT clamp. I use the drill-driver to do quick adjustments. One could also use heftier dimensions and fatter screws for the BIG stuff. Happy clamping!

[ 01-23-2003, 02:53 PM: Message edited by: steve sparhawk ]

01-23-2003, 02:22 AM
Offer to name yer next boat after yer wife. That way she'll encourage you to work on her :D

John Blazy
01-23-2003, 03:18 PM
Steve, that clamp idea blows me away! The picture shows how simple it is. I will make a bunch when I get back to the shop. The coolest part is power opening/closing with the driver. I did the same idea on my router table, using the drill to raise and lower my plunge router by making a 1/4" hexagonal stub sticking out of the raising screw. Will have to post the picture I guess.

01-23-2003, 03:44 PM
If building in plywood with the intention of fiberglass sheathing the hull, consider fiberglassing the the plywood sheets before cutting the panels. The sheathing will still saw easily, will prevent the edges from chipping, will protect brightwork surfaces, and provide strenght to the edges for holding screws or wire for stitch and glue.

Bob Perkins
01-23-2003, 04:49 PM
I have a few based on the project I'm in the middle of:

1) Masonite - less than $10/4x8 sheet. Makes great templates.
2) Router with laminate trim bit - use to duplicate parts, make templates with masonite, etc.
3) Good double stick tape - olds together everything I'm duplicating w/router.

I got tired of always looking for epoxy mixing sticks - got a box of 1000 popsicle sticks for $2.50.

Peter Malcolm Jardine
01-23-2003, 07:29 PM
Box of tongue depressors from a medical supply house. Syringes of size from a farm supply store. They carry the big needles too. Marine hose from a hydraulic supply house. Cheaper.

Wiley Baggins
01-23-2003, 09:00 PM
Since I never see this mentioned anywhere (too obvious?); PVC pipe makes great battens for lofting.

Paul Scheuer
01-23-2003, 10:36 PM
I saw Steve's clamps. My first thought was, "how'd he get my clamps". I made about 20 sets using 1/2 inch bolts and wing nuts in oak sticks. I was clamping a rectangular mast at the time. Since then I've found dozens of uses for them. Mine have three holes so I can screw both ends to clamp in the center, or use the center hole to make a pincher.

Jamie Hascall
01-23-2003, 11:48 PM
Ron, For clamping thin ply or other stock for edge gluing, you might be able to use a method I used for dulcimer tops and backs. You'll need a piece of ply bigger than the width you're gluing, or a wood floor you can pound nails into. Place two lines of nails just a hair closer than the combined width of the two panels you're gluing. You should be able to make the panels tent up an inch or two when you set them in place. Then put some glue on the edge and put some weight on the panels so the go all the way to the floor. The joint needs to be true but it should give you a pretty good bit of pressure. If it needs to really be strong you'll probably need some further cross joint reinforcement. A line of waxed paper down the length will keep it all from sticking to the floor or whatever you use for weight.

Speaking of gluing, use pieces of plexiglass as clamping cauls on top of a glue joint to help align the surfaces. You can see through them to make sure the joint has come together well and they'll come right off when everything is cured. The sheet polyester suggestion earlier reminded me of that one.


[ 01-23-2003, 11:51 PM: Message edited by: Jamie Hascall ]

John Blazy
02-26-2003, 02:54 PM
I thought I'd post a couple more tricks. The split ring variation on the PVC clamps work great on clamping two pcs of angle braces on a T-joint at the same time. http://www.imagestation.com/picture/sraid52/pf0ab42b9dac1bd17d6df4865d7a75a9c/fc9a8544.jpg
The next trick is for anyone with high cielings and needs more shop space that the boat takes up. Real quick raising and lowering, then safety strapping. Pulleys are hidden in this pic, but are logical to understand. I will likely screw on side-riggers for suspending boat on its side for working on the prop shaft/skeg/rudder assembly, accessing inside and out.

The last but not least trick today that I forgot to mention earlier, and has many many uses, are binder clips. Get the big ones at office supply houses that open up almost 3/4" and have a ton of uses for less than a buck apiece.

02-26-2003, 03:41 PM
for gluing up box spars: Wrap a flat water hose around the spar in a spiral. Fill with water. This puts equal pressure the whole length of the glue up.