Shop Hacks - Do things the easy way!

Thought I would just make a post about hacks in the shop. Why not learn from each other instead of doing things the hard way.

Feel free to share your own.

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Homemade pencil sander.

Materials list:
Shim stock
Small sanding belt
Dowel rid

Cut the angled shim stock to fit the belt’s width, and a little shorter than the length needed. Use a small piece of dowel rod that is slightly tapered as a tightener. Make several, mark the side with the grit and rotate the belt on the pencil as the sandpaper wears out.


Need to CNC both sides of something?
Don’t want to screw it down?
Worried about messing up the detail with hot glue?

Apply masking/painters tape to the side you want to mount down, apply hot glue on the top of the masking tape. And glue to waste board. Masking/painters tape has more give and won’t rip up your detailed CNC job.


Stop paint bleed through by sealing the edge of the painters/masking tape with the same color paint that is under the tape. After the paint dries, paint the new color.

If by chance you have small bleed through a, they can easily be covered by using a tooth pick dipped in paint.

When staining, use a gel stain to prevent bleeding.

I.e. When painting colored stripes on a black board. Tape off the stripes, seal the edges with black paint, once dry paint with the colored paints

In the pic below I am sealing the edges of tape with different color stripes underneath to prep for a new stripe.


Make a handy plywood carrier


I love shop hacks! Here is a simple one that I have done. It’s not CNC, but it does come in handy for working with stuff that comes off the CNC.

These are “bench dogs” that I have made from scraps. They hook over the edge of my workbench and hold work above the surface of the table so that I can cut, carve, paint, whatever I want to do that requires it to be elevated. I use them quite a bit, and have made a few different sizes to work with.


I have had my laptop set up on my workbench for a few months now because I haven’t figured out a better place to put it yet. It is a pain in the ass to move the laptop out of the way and onto another surface where I can still use it, still have it connected to the machine, and be able to get access to my tablesaw or use the full bench.

This folding lap table is a great little solution for the time being.

And I can even prop it up on the legs to get clearance underneath it to put smaller pieces through the table saw.

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Webcontrol on something small like a raspberry pi, then your laptop doesn’t need
to be wired to the machine, just in wifi range.

David Lang

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I’ll be honest, I’ve had a table saw kick back on me a few times which makes me slightly concerned for the safety of both you and your laptop in that final picture.

That is a good point. Don’t do as I do! I don’t tend to cut thicker than 3/4", and if I do bigger pieces, I absolutely take advantage of the table and move the laptop to the drum sander cabinet, where it can still reach the M2.

I do have kickback pawls which do help with kickback, but I don’t like the lines they leave in the wood.

It is most certainly advisable to be aware of the risks of what you are doing. Hacks are not always “safe”, and you need to think about things before you go ahead.

Cheers, and thanks!


You could also use a wall mount laptop swing arm attached to either the wall or the machine. Collapses out of the way when not in use and doesn’t use floor/bench space.

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It’s time to bump this back up. I’m sure you all have some hacks of your own to share, so let’s see them!

Maybe it’s just a part of getting older, or maybe it really is advancements in technology that allows for the writing on the labels of products to get smaller and smaller, and making them way too difficult to read.

I use some cheap 1.5x magnification reading glasses (hurray for the dollar store!) quite a bit when I am working on small items and fine details.

If you don’t have reading glasses, you can use one of my favorite hacks. Take a picture of the label with your phone, and then you can zoom in on the text to read it easily.

So I was using wood filler to clean up a piece that was already carved and sanded, and of course I had to sand the wood filler. I didn’t want to push the piece against my workbench while sanding because it will make even more marks to have to clean up. I have this great material that I use to line the drawers of my tool boxes, and I have a few scraps that I keep around for just such an occasion. The soft material is easy on the wood, and the holes allow the sawdust through so it is easy to clean up. One warning though, if you get stain on this stuff it will soak it up, and then it will wind up on the next piece you put on it. Oops.


I have seen this before, and actuall just picked up an 18" x 10’ roll the other day for about $6-7. I think I was at Marshalls believe it or not. It is just your typical shelf liner. Haven’t used it yet, but I will be in the near future!

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Yes, I guess I should have said don’t buy it at Home Depot or anything like that. Dollar Store or Princess Auto, it’s cheap!


Okay, here is one more.

Here’s a hack for one of the many one-use plastics that we use and throw away regularly. I use bread clips to hold the end of my rolls of tape. For those of you who know my pain when trying to find and peel the end of a roll of tape, especially clear packing tape where it takes me several minutes just to find the end, and then good luck peeling it up without tearing it… Bread clip!


Laying some acrylic resin in small areas? Use a syringe with a piece of heat shrink for a flexible tip. Or use a an plastic eyedropper.

The syringes last a few uses if you poke out the harden resin with an awl/pick. Eyedropper usually only once. Syringes have larger capacity where eyedroppers have less but are cheaper.

download (3)


I use a syringe all the time when doing epoxy inlays. A quick tip to be able to reuse them a lot is to keep some IPA (iso alcohol…not the beer stuff) handy and rinse the syringe out a few times before the epoxy cures. The higher the %, the better. The epoxies I have used have all stated to use IPA for clean up of any tools used in the application. the more you clean it out, the more you can use it.

Never thought about those small pipettes for the really small stuff though! Good tip!!


It’s cold outside (-42), so I have the wood stove going in my shop so that my furnace doesn’t have to run every 18 minutes.

I live in a dry climate and get nosebleeds from the lack of humidity, so I have a pot and a frying pan that I use to scoop snow and put it on the stove. It will steam off and puts some moisture in the air. I have been through three humidifiers because of crap in the water and dust clogs the machines, but a good old frying pan just works every time.

The other hack in this picture is a scented candle in a glass jar. The wick is burned out, but the remaining wax serves two purposes. If the wax (on a rack 5" above the stove top) is liquid, my fire is hot enough. When it starts to turn, it’s time to put another log on. It will also make a bit of a scent as a liquid, which doesn’t really make much of a difference in my shop, but it is nice at my thinking stool in front of the fire to smell a fresh sea breeze while hell freezes over just outside my shop door.


Where is that might I ask? Sounds gruesome the -42. Can’t imagine that being from Florida. Maybe that’s why my Miami Dolphins lost to the Kansas City Chiefs last week in the playoffs.
They said that was the coldest playoff game ever recorded. Those Southern boys just can’t take that kind of cold.Maybe in Carhartt’s but not in football uniforms.
Anyway your doing what I hope to do someday soon live in a tiny home but have a 10x 20 work shop.
Here’s to no nose bleeds. I used to get them myself when I lived in San Antonio, Texas about 25 years ago.

I am near Calgary, Alberta. Yes, -42 is gruesome! It wreaks a lot of havoc and causes all sorts of grief. My furnace froze up twice in the last few days and I have to go outside and clean out the intake pipe. A woodstove is very important here. It keeps us alive when the power goes out.

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