Category: Tools & Workshop

How To: Make Cabinet Doors

Even a beginning woodworker can easily make cabinet doors to bring a new look into a tired, old kitchen.

Here’s how to dress up an old kitchen with new cabinet doors. Use a fine-grade plywood, such as birch, for the new doors. Cut them to size on a table saw. Choose a three-eighths-inch panel molding and miter the four corners. Glue and with one-inch brads, nail the trim in place. Leave a one-and-a-half-inch reveal around the edge of the door. Just paint and mount to your old cabinet boxes. It’s an easy way to get a raised-panel look.

For more on kitchen cabinets, consider:

Kitchen Cabinets 101
Cabinet Doors Styles: What’s Yours?
5 Creative Alternatives to Kitchen Cabinetry

How To: Use Wood Plugs

By using wood plugs, you can conceal the fasteners that are holding together your carpentry project.

Give your carpentry work that professional look by concealing nails or screws with wooden plugs. Use a dowel bit to drill out plugs from a scrap of lumber. Dip each plug in carpenter’s glue. Tap the plug into place, then shear it off flush to the surface with a wood chisel. Sand it smooth and apply your finish.

For more on woodworking, consider:

5 Easy Woodworking Projects for Beginners
How To: Match End Grain with Side Grain
5 Ways to Get Perfect, Clean Cuts in Plywood

The Dremel Multi-Max: Who Let the Tool Designers Loose?

My window sash replacement project turned out to be an easy fix, thanks to the variable—and versatile—features of the new Dremel Multi-Max.

Dremel Multi Max Tool Review - Scraper

The Dremel Multi-Max fitted with the flexible scraper was useful when removing dried glazing compound around a broken windowpane. Photo: Joe Provey

Because of the popularity of the Dremel rotary tool, most people perceive the Dremel brand as a bastion of the arts-and-crafts set rather than of home improvement and fix-it-yourself enthusiasts. While their tools were ideal for carving and model making, their utility didn’t extend to bigger jobs. Well, someone let loose some very creative tool designers at the Dremel factory, and the results have added utility and versatility to a whole array of multipurpose tools. These new offerings range from models that resemble mini-circular, scroll, and saber saws to updates to the company’s iconic rotary tool.

Recently, I had an opportunity to put the Dremel MM20 Multi-Max oscillating power tool (available at The Home Depot) through its paces. While it doesn’t quite fit any of the traditional tool categories, it perfectly fits the Dremel brand of tools because it does so many things: it saws, scrapes, sands, slices, and more.

The fact that the tool is corded appeals to me because it keeps the tool weight low and eliminates frequent battery changing and charging for a tool that’s likely to be used continuously for long stretches. (Cordless models are, however, available.)

Dremel Multi Max Tool Review - Removing Paint

The scraper accessory was also able to remove multiple layers of old paint. Photo: Joe Provey

Attaching the accessories is easy too. Just remove the clamping screw with the supplied Allen wrench, position the accessory over the 10 lock pins at the desired angle, replace the clamping screw, and tighten. There is no shake, rattle, or roll with this system.

The on-off switch and speed adjustment are easily accessed, even as you are working. And you can buy an assist handle accessory that makes two-handed operation a little more comfortable.

The Dremel Multi-Max MM20 basic kit comes with several starter accessories, including a scraper, two blades, a triangular sanding pad, and a supply of various grit sanding sheets. Other accessories, such as the grout removal tool for regrouting tile, a knife tool for slicing through old carpeting, and the Multi-Flex attachment for scrolling and coping cuts, must be purchased separately.

My window sash repair project allowed me to try out several accessories. The first thing I learned is that it’s best to use a light touch and to let the OPMs (oscillations per minute) do the work. Most jobs are best done at high settings of 16,000 to 21,000 OPMs. Materials susceptible to chipping, such as laminates, are better cut at lower settings.

Dremel Multi Max Tool Review - Sander

The sanding attachment was able to reach easily into tight spaces and angles. Photo: Joe Provey

For a tool with a powerful 2.3 amp motor, control is exceptionally easy. Oscillating tools perform various functions using the back and forth movement of the accessory, not continuous movement in one direction, as do rotary tools. Unlike a circular saw, for example, there is no torque—nothing to make the tool jump in your hand. Furthermore, the “travel,” or the distance the tools move back and forth, is very limited with the Dremel Multi-Max, further reducing vibration. The blade accessories are unlikely to jam, even in tight quarters, as is common with a reciprocating saw.

The scraper accessory was able to remove multiple layers of old paint. (It also came in handy for removing vinyl tiles and stuck carpet padding.) It was less effective at handling paint that was already blistered; an old-fashioned hand scraper works more quickly. The flexible scraper also made fast work of removing dried glazing compound from around the broken windowpane.

Dremel Multi Max Tool Review - Feathering

The sanding attachment was handy for feathering old layers of paint on this window sash. Photo: Joe Provey

The sanding accessory, while obviously not suited to large areas, was perfect for this project, allowing me to get into rails easily. (I only wish I had owned a Dremel Multi-Max when I recently sanded the wood floor in my hallway. My conventional palm sander couldn’t handle inside corners, around thresholds, or flooring at the base of doorjambs. I had to resort to tedious hand sanding for that.)  The sander was also handy for feathering layers of old paint on the window sash to prep it for refinishing.

The Dremel Multi-Max will not replace any of your portable power saws or even your hand tools. You’ll still want a circular saw, saber saw, and a set of scrapers, chisels, handsaws, etc.  The Multi-Max will, however, add to your problem-solving arsenal. It’s a tool that gives you the ability to handle the finishing touches on big jobs and to get you out of difficult jams on the small ones (among them: cutting back baseboard moldings; cutting drywall for installing electrical boxes and recessed light fixtures; removing caulk, grout, and glazing compounds; cutting copper and plastic piping; and removing carpet). It’s especially effective when making cuts in confined areas where a plunge cut or flush cut is your only option.


This post has been brought to you by The Home Depot. Its facts and opinions are those of

Quick Tip: Staple Guns

On many occasions, you can save time and energy by using a staple gun instead of a hammer and nail.

For a lot of jobs around the house, using a staple can be a lot faster and easier than banging tacks or nails. The most common staple gun is the hand-powered spring-loaded variety. Standard guns accept staples from 1/4 to 9/16 of an inch long. For a real time- and energy-saver, try a hammer stapler: The impact of the head with the surface releases the staple.

For more on tools, consider:

Quick Tip: Steel Wool
How Many Tools Does a Good Multi-Tool Need?
10 Tools for Your Apartment You Never Thought You’d Need

How To: Make Homemade Clamps

For woodworkers who busy with several projects at once, DIY wood clamps can very often come in handy.

Here’s an easy way to improvise when you’re running out of clamps around the woodworking shop. After spreading glue, set the work to be clamped on top of a scrap piece of plywood. Then, use scrap wood across the top of the work, spaced 12 inches apart. Using three-inch drywall screws, secure the straps to the bottom plywood. Remove them after the glued boards have dried overnight.

For more on woodworking, consider:

How To: Build a Sawhorse
5 Easy Woodworking Projects for Beginners
DIY Workbenches: 5 You Can Build in a Weekend

Quick Tip: Tool Belts

Well-organized and properly stocked tool belts enable do-it-yourselfers to save steps and waste no time working their on homes.

Sometimes it’s simple tricks that make home improvement easier and safer. Tool belts are always a good idea, especially when working on a ladder. Hanging tools can easily fall off and create a dangerous situation. Try marking your Phillips-head screwdrivers with a bright color, making it easier to pick the right one out of a crowded tool belt.

For more on tools, consider:

The Essential Toolbox
Top 5 Tool Buying Tips
DIY Workbenches: 5 You Can Build in a Weekend

How To: Install European Hinges

The great advantage of installing European hinges is that once positioned and properly secured, they are totally hidden from view.

To hang heavy cabinet doors and conceal the hardware, use mortise European-style hinges. Use a 35-millimeter drill bit and set your drill press to a half-inch depth. Place the holes a quarter inch from the door’s edge and when you set the depth, be careful not to drill through the door. Attach the hinge to the mortise. Then attach the door to the cabinet box. When the cabinets are installed, the hinges will be completely invisible.

For more on hardware, consider:

Style Your Kitchen with Cabinet Hardware
Hinge Styles: 10 Designs You Need to Know
Bit of Knowledge: Choosing the Right Drill Bit for the Job

Quick Tip: Steel Wool

Around the house, there are a variety of uses for steel wool, an abrasive that typically surpasses others in performance.

For tough jobs like removing rust or preparing surfaces for paint or varnish, there’s nothing like steel wool. It’s made of steel thread, loosely woven into small pads, and comes in various grades, from very coarse number three down through superfine four ought (0000). Four ought is probably the best abrasive you can use just before a final coat of varnish.

For more on tools, consider:

Varnishing Made Easy
Inexpensive Ideas and DIY Tips for Storing Sandpaper

How To: Make New Wood Look Old

Love the look of aged lumber? Good news! It's easy to distress wood for an interior design scheme with rustic or vintage industrial flair.

Here are some tips on how to distress wood, making new lumber look old. First, trim off machined edges with a hatchet. Then with a variety of scrapers, wood chisels, and awls, create the look of years of wear by giving imperfections to the wood face. By using these methods, you can add an antique finish to beams, doors, and woodwork.

For more on woodworking, consider:

11 Ways to Use Salvaged Wood in Your Home
5 Easy Woodworking Projects for Beginners
How To: Distress New Beams for a Century-Old Look

How To: Pull Nails

When you need to remove nails from woodwork for any reason, these tips can help you do so without causing damage to the hammer used for the task.

This wooden-handled hammer may look strong enough to pull any nail but because the grain of the wood is actually weaker in this direction, you could break the wooden handle. Here’s a couple of tips on pulling nails. Once you get the nail partly drawn, slip a piece of scrap wood under the head of the hammer for better leverage. Or try pulling the handle to the side for a better angle on the nail.

For more on hardware, consider:

Nail Guide
Nailing Techniques
Cut Nails: Hammering Home Authenticity