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by Steven D. Johnson
Racine, Wisconsin


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Bone-Headed Woodworking Tips


Click on any picture to see a larger version.

Just guessing here, but it is quite possible that every magazine, on-line publication, and website offers, or has offered, some gratuity in exchange for a good woodworking tip. This is wonderful. I have learned so much from the experiences of others, absorbed countless time- and money-saving tips, and had my creativity sparked so many times that the "tips" are often what I thumb, scroll, or click to first. But when you offer money, tools, or recognition in exchange for tips, there are bound to be some real bone-headed submissions from time to time. Some tips are just plain dumb... some are just plain dangerous.

In the plain dumb category are tips that are either so time-consuming or expensive to make that they just aren't worth it. Compounding the absurdity, some of these make-it-yourself tips have commercially available counterparts that are cheap. A perfect example is the recommendation to cut out little squares of wood, predrill a pilot hole, thread in a long screw, and then set these upside down and place pieces and parts on them while you are applying a finish. News flash... a set of 10 plastic Painter's Pyramids is less than $6.00. And try stacking and storing 10 blocks of wood with sharp screws sticking out... the Painter's Pyramids nest and stack for easy storage.

Don't get me wrong, I'm as frugal as the next guy... well, maybe not as frugal as the Sticks In The Mud guy... but pretty frugal. Still, when I saw a guy recommending a way to make your own foam brushes, I had to, well, brush that idea aside. A 24-pack of foam brushes is $9.00. That is just over 37¢ apiece. My shop time is too valuable to spend it making foam brushes. The cost of one fancy coffee drink will buy you a dozen or so foam brushes. Make them yourself? Really?

Figure 7 - Cutting notches in an
old credit card to make a glue
spreader... this is really hard…
and dumb!

Topping the bone-headed dumb tip list this month is the enterprising woodworker that figured out a way to cut tiny little notches in a (presumably) expired credit card and use it like a miniature notched trowel to spread glue on a wide flat surface. Really? How long would it take you to cut dozens of tiny notches in the edge of a credit card? And to what end? As soon as you put those two pieces of wood together and clamp it, the glue is going to spread out and all those pretty little grooves in the glue are going to disappear.

Most editors are pretty cautious and most are woodworkers, so while an occasional dumb tip gets past their desk, rarely does a really dangerous tip make it into a publication. But when one does, I shudder. Hands down, the most dangerous tip I have seen lately is a description of cutting a board thicker and wider than your miter saw can handle. The tip recommended making the cut as far through as possible, then lifting the board off the saw deck and into the spinning blade to finish the cut. Please, please, don't try that. Dumb and dangerous.

Through the years, I have seen a lot of folks get hurt in the shop and on the job site, and 9 times out of 10, it was when they were trying to do something beyond the capacity or capability of the tool. Crosscutting an eight foot piece of plywood on a portable table saw leaps to mind, as does cutting a 60-degree angle on a miter saw by holding the board "real tight," but with no edge against the fence... just plain dumb.

Have you tried out a tip that turned out to be dumb or dangerous or both? Let us know... we'll publish it!

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