In Shop Blog, Techniques

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James HamiltonJames Hamilton, also known as Stumpy Nubs to his throng of online fans, is an advocate for constantly finding new and innovative ways to streamline workflow in the shop. Whenever a problem arises or something seems like it should be easier he frantically eats a donut and then sets his mind to finding a solution (at least that sounds like the process from the conversations we’ve had with him while editing his new book). Stumpy’s book, “The Homemade Workshop: Build Your Own Woodworking Machines & Jigs,” is an excellent companion to all of the great content you can find on his web site and offers 12 fantastic projects for improving your shop. He also includes some great general tips to keep in mind for improving the way your shop works and adding versatility and functionality. Here are a few excerpted tips to give you a taste of the kind of great ideas “The Homemade Workshop” has to offer.

You Need a Good Pilot
Never drive a screw without first drilling a pilot hole, especially in the edge of plywood! Not only will it prevent splitting, but it will prevent the screws from wandering as they make their way between the plies. Properly positioned pilot holes are also critical when installing T-tracks or drawer slides (which are used for many of the machines and fixtures you’ll find in “The Homemade Workshop”).

Alignment is Fundamental
Any homemade machine requires a high measure of precision. Always check your parts for proper alignment before securing them in place. Pilot holes are essential because a poorly driven screw will force your part out of alignment. And remember: Always take your time.

What’s on Your Plate?
Commercial router plates are usually aluminum, and often expensive. But you can make your own! All you need is a piece of material that’s about 1/2″ thick and very stiff. Acrylics are a great option. You can buy 1/2″ clear acrylic from glass sellers. Another option is Corian, the material they make solid-surface counter tops of. Some retailers sell cutting boards and pot trivets made from the stuff in just the right size. You can also check with countertop dealers and kitchen contractors for scrap pieces. Make yourself a cardboard pattern to ensure proper positioning.

They Aren’t Just for Sliding Your Drawers
I use ball-bearing drawer slides for all sorts of stuff around the shop. They’re smooth, durable and accurate enough to create sliding mechanisms for woodworking jigs. You’ll find them in a lot of home centers, cabinet suppliers and woodworking outlets. I like to keep a couple of sets of different lengths on hand because I’m always finding new uses for them!

Skate Bearings
A great place to get bearings for homemade machine projects is from old pairs of in-line skates. You can find them at yard sales and flea markets for a few bucks and one pair of skates will yield 16 bearings (two per wheel)! The size of the hole in the center may vary, but if you use flat-head machine screws, the taper beneath the head will center the bearing as you tighten it. You may have to cut through the wheel to get at the bearings inside. These bearings are useful for all sorts of projects so whenever you see a cheap pair of skates, grab them!

Homemade WorkshopFor other great ideas, as well as complete step-by-step instructions for a range of amazing homemade machines including a multi-function downdraft table, a benchtop jigsaw, a 24″ band saw, and many others, check out “The Homemade Workshop” by James Hamilton, available now at




Product Recommendations

Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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  • Revuaf

    I have been following Stump Nubs for years on youtube and have picked up a set of plans off his Blue Collar Woodworking site. When this book was announced on his web site I was one of the 200 to get a signed copy of the book. The book is
    1. A great read wth some of James since of humor scattered throughout it pages.
    2. James has done a really good job on the step by step instructions of how-to build the plans. James wrote it to the level of us Blue Collar guys.
    3. If you do not have a lot of cash to buy the wood working machines for your shop, Or just plan a simply do not want to pay the price of commercial made machines… so you can afford the electoral bill and wood for your projects… This is a great book for you…
    Beside… Stumpy Nubs and Mustache Mike are brother Michiganders… I had to support my home state wood works. Even if I do not know them…

    Thank you Stumpy Nubs for all your hard work… and all the Laughs in the book and on your videos.

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