Category: Tools & Workshop


How To: Drill a Clean Hole

It's easy to drill a hole through a board. But for both sides to come out looking clean, you've got to use this technique.

Here’s how to drill a hole when you need to see both sides of your work. Drill on the front side of the board until the tip of the drill bit pierces the back. If you go all the way through, the job will look like this. Now turn your work over to the back, set the drill bit in the pierced hole, and finish drilling from this side. You’ll end up with a smooth cut on both sides.

For more on woodworking, consider:

Drill Bits for Different Jobs
10 Ways to Use Your Cordless Drill/Driver
How To: Drill Straight 90º Holes (Without a Drill Press)


Bob Vila Radio: Types of Chisels

Chisels date back all the way back to the Ancient World. Today, there are hundreds of different types of this tool for cutting stone, wood, or metal.

Chisels are sharp-edged metal tools used to cut stone, wood, or metal, and they have a spectacularly long lineage. In fact, today’s chisel would probably be quite recognizable to an ancient Egyptian or Roman.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON TYPES OF CHISELS or read the text below:

Types of Chisels

Photo: fine-tools.com

Today, there are hundreds of types of chisels, each designed for a specific use. Very generally, chisels can be divided into two categories according to their handle style. In a tang chisel, the tang, or shank, of the blade runs completely through the handle; in a socket chisel, the handle fits into a socket in the metal blade. But handle style is just one of many variables, the most important being whether the chisel is intended for use on stone, metal, or wood. Chisels also come in different lengths, width, thickness, shape, and edge design, which makes for a confusing array of choices. It’s tough to know what to buy.

If I had to pick just one, I’d opt for a set of what’s called firmer chisels, which are all-purpose tools with flat blades, designed to be tapped by a mallet. They’re available in a range of widths and lengths.

Whatever type you choose, spring for good-quality chisels. They’ll maintain their edges longer, and a sharp chisel is not only more effective, but it’s much safer, too.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Quick Tip: Circular Saw Safety

Remember these circular saw safety tips the next time you undertake a woodworking project.

Here’s some important safety tips to remember when you’re using a circular saw. Remove jewelry and loose clothing first and always wear eye protection. Before you plug in, make sure your blade is tight and sharp and never tie back the blade guard. Steady your work and stand to one side. When the blade is at full speed, push the saw forward smoothly without forcing it. And of course you should never reach underneath.

For more on power tools, consider:

Workshop Safety
How To: Saw Safely
Bob Vila Radio: Tool Tip — Circular Saws


Quick Tip: Bench Dogs

Bench dogs perform the vital service of a holding a workpiece securely in place, so you can bring your full concentration to bear on the task at hand.

A bench dog is a great tool for any woodworker’s shop. Bench dogs are often used in pairs, with one pair set into a tail vice, the other into an opening in the bench top. The vice is tightened to hold the wood securely. That way, you can keep your mind on your plank. Though bench dogs are sometimes made of steel or iron, the woodworker’s choice is usually wood.

For more on workshops, consider:

Bench Furniture
The Basic Workbench
Planning Your Woodworking Shop


How To: Make a Wood Window Valance

To hide the hardware for your window treatments, imparting an elegant finishing detail in the process, why not make a valance in your woodworking shop?

A decorative wood valance adds charm to your house. You can make one yourself. Here’s how. Copy a pattern, or create your own using rigid cardboard, and carefully cut it out using a sharp utility knife. Then transfer the template onto a piece of clear, finished lumber, leaving a quarter-inch extra along the edge. Now cut out your design with a saber saw and smooth off the rough edges with a file and a sander.

For more on woodworking, consider:

Bob Vila’s 7 Essential Woodworking Tools
5 Easy Woodworking Projects for Beginners
10 Surprisingly Simple Woodworking Projects


How To: Use a Slotted Screwdriver

A few simple tips can help the average do-it-yourselfer to use a slotted screwdriver more effectively.

Make sure that when you’re using a slotted screwdriver, you’re not doing it the hard way. Here’s how. Be sure you’re using the right size screwdriver. The head should be approximately the width of the screw head. The tip should fit snugly into the slot of the screw. If it’s narrower, you lose power. For more power, try a screwdriver with a larger handle. Pre-drilling pilot holes can save work, too.

For more on tools, consider:

The Essential Toolbox
Bob Vila Radio: Screwdrivers
How To: Use a Phillips-Head Screwdriver


How To: Snap a Chalk Line

Snap a chalk line the next time you need to mark a straight edge as part of a home improvement job.

Using a chalk line is a quick way to give yourself a straight line as a building guide. Here’s how. Find the endpoints of your line and drive a nail in at each point. Stretch the chalk-coated string tightly between the nails. Pull straight up from the middle and let the string snap. On rough framing and cement, you can use red chalk, but be sure you use only blue or white chalk on finished works, since they won’t bleed through paint.

For more on tools, consider:

The Plumb Bob
How To: Make a Story Pole
7 Essential Measuring Tools for Any Job


Bob Vila Radio: Wood Glue Types

There are a few different adhesives that can hold pieces of wood together— plain white glue, carpenter's glue, and formaldehyde glue. Familiarize yourself with their characteristics, and learn which home improvement projects require each type of glue.

There are several adhesives that can hold pieces of wood together without screws or nails. The cheapest and most commonly available is plain old white glue, similar to the Elmer’s we used in school. Officially called polyvinyl resin, white glue sets fairly quickly and becomes transparent when it hardens. It’s convenient for gluing dowels in place on those ready-to-assemble furniture pieces and for similar woodworking projects.

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Listen to BOB VILA ON WOOD GLUE TYPES or read the text below:

Wood Glue Types

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Next up the ladder is carpenter’s glue, or aliphatic resin glue. Carpenter’s glue is stronger than white glue, and sets faster. It also holds up better to sanding than white glue does. Any joining that uses either white glue or carpenter’s glue should be clamped together until the glue sets.

Neither white nor carpenter’s glue is suitable for outdoor use, or anywhere it will get wet. For those you’ll want formaldehyde glue, also called resorcinol. Formaldehyde glue is good for doors, windows, and moldings that might be exposed to water.

By the way, all three of these glues are different from construction adhesives, which don’t penetrate bare wood well and shouldn’t be used for joining wood pieces. One exception is installing molding or trim in tight spaces where you can’t use a clamp. Construction adhesive is sticky enough to hold wood trim without clamping.

Bob Vila Radio is a newly launched daily radio spot carried on more than 75 stations around the country (and growing). You can get your daily dose here, by listening to—or reading—Bob’s 60-second home improvement radio tip of the day.


Quick Tip: Pliers

Pliers are essential in any project that requires you to grip, position, tighten, loosen or cut certain metal elements.

Pliers are a relatively modern invention, and it’s hard to imagine what people did without them. There are a dozen or more kinds of pliers, and your toolbox should contain at least the big three: slip-joint pliers, lock-joint pliers, and diagonal pliers. Also handy are rib-joint, water-pumped, needle-nose, long-nose, locking and lineman’s pliers.

For more on tools, consider:

Unfastening Tools
The Essential Toolbox
Bob Vila Radio: Tool Tip—Pliers


Quick Tip: Jigsaws

Jigsaws, or saber saws, pack numerous functions into one easy-to-use tool, making it a perennial favorite among beginning do-it-yourselfers.

For a saw that can handle the curves, look for a good saber saw. Sometimes called a jigsaw, it has a small blade that cuts with an up-and-down motion. Look for a good-quality saber saw with a long stroke and about 3,000 strokes per minute. You can change blades to cut leather, linoleum, plaster, wall board, metal and hardwood up to an inch thick.

For more on power tools, consider:

Chain Saws 101
How To: Choose the Right Saw for the Job
The $20 Japanese Pull Saw: A DIYer’s Best Bang for the Buck