Shop Tips

Everyone come running because I am giving shop tips today!

What?  No one.  Okay, everyone come running because you’ll get two bucks!

look out

Maybe these shop tips are things you already knew, but there’s still value in reading them, because even if you know 90% of this stuff, it’s the 10% that you didn’t know that might make you a better woodworker.


Those long aluminum rulers are great, but they will leave marks on things like drywall and painted surfaces.  So cover the back of them with some masking tape.  It makes for a smooth surface that won’t leave marks.  Do not put tape on the front side, though, because then you won’t be able to read the numbers.

sanding pad

Sanding pads are expensive, so get the most out of them.  Even when they’re spent, there’s usually enough grit left on them that you can sand some things by hand.  I folded this one up and used it to sand inside the corner that the sander could not reach.


If you use dowels to plug holes, you probably know that it’s easiest when they’re tapered a little bit, that way they fit  into the hole.  Want a tool that does this for you ?  Try a pencil sharpener.  You can get a little hand held one for about $1 and it will very neatly taper your dowel plugs.

Phone Stand

You don’t need a fancy pants phone dock.  Two J-hooks on your pegboard will do the trick nicely.  I drilled a hole for the charger.  In my shop, the phone controls the music and it takes all these lovely pictures you’re looking at, so it’s nice when it’s in easy reach.

chisel plane

You’re going to own tools that you don’t have a use for except for very rarely.  This is okay.  When the circumstance comes up that you need it, you’ll be happy you have it.

duck tape

If you want to protect something with duck tape, but don’t want to risk ruining the finish with its strong adhesive, you can put down some masking tape and then put duck tape on that.  It will pull off the floor easily and won’t damage anything, and you can protect the floor’s finish from the edge of the sander.


Don’t throw away your sponge brush until you’ve checked for drips.  Saturate the end grain with as much polyurethane as it will absorb.  You’ll never regret pre-drilling your nail holes, whereas you’ll always regret splitting your wood if you didn’t pre-drill.


If you’re fortunate enough to have a nice view, be sure to orient your shop so that you get to enjoy that view while you work.

stir stick

I’ve used the same stir stick for polyurethane for like 15 years now.  I now know what over a hundred layers of polyurethane look like.  I also know the consequences of adding layers of polyurethane without sanding in between coats:  nothing.  It makes no difference if you don’t sand.  It’s just a little lumpy, that’s all.


A bug zapper for your shop may be the best tool you buy all year.

big bucks

As promised, here’s two bucks.


The Pirate Crate & Box Company

Storage Boxes

I’m really enjoying making these boxes out of scrap plywood!  These are all storage/organizer boxes for places like under the kitchen sink and some small tool boxes for in the shop.  I’m feeling a lot less disorganized now.  Anyway, I’m enjoying making these so much that this may be what I (eventually) do for a living!

Small Tool Boxes

I’ll call it The Pirate Box & Crate Company, and I’ll make boxes for organization, for storage, and custom boxes of whatever size someone would need.  We invest so much into plastic boxes and storage containers, and all that plastic either sits in a landfill or floats around in the sea and washes up on a beach somewhere.  I think it’s a good idea to get back to some basic wooden boxes like this.  They’re easy to make, and would be fairly quick once the process is streamlined.

Hammock Box

Here’s a chest I made for our hammock, when it’s not in use.

Clamped Box

And here I am assembling more boxes.  These things are a cinch to make!  This box will replace a cardboard shoe box that housed odd and specialty drill bits and replacement blades, and has been falling apart rapidly for years.  It barely holds together anymore.  This box here will last decades.

Sides of Boxes

And it’s all made out of scrap plywood and some 1x2s that I had laying around.

Box with Lids

I designed the lids to these guys from the traditional Japanese toolbox, with a lid that slides into place.  You can make them so the lid locks into place with a tapered piece of wood, but I didn’t see the need.  Both boxes are going to be for things I access regularly, and they won’t really need to travel anywhere, so I can leave the lids loose on top of them.

Top of Box

I’m enjoying this process more than I probably should be.  These things are quick and fun to build.

Glove Box

To the right is my old box of gardening gloves.  To the left is the new glove box.  How awesome is that?

Box Material

And I have got LOTS of scrap plywood left over to make more boxes.  Going to make some bigger ones next.  This is so fun!  And yes, I totally get that my non-woodworker readers out there completely don’t understand any of this.

Not a box

Not a box, but a toothpick holder.  Before this, I kept my shop toothpicks in a box made out of duct tape.

Also not a box

The low tide today was 3 feet below sea level.  It was surreal just to go down there and walk around on ground that is underwater for the vast majority of the year.  All manner of birds and critters were about, enjoying the newly exposed seafood menu.