When I fly somewhere to teach, I usually have a luggage limit of about 50 pounds. Amongst my heaps of lacy underwear, I pack the tools I cannot live without – about 12 pounds worth.
That means when I land at my destination, I usually need to make some tools to get through my classes – not every school or student has the same work habits as I do. Here are three of my favorite improvised tools.
Pinch Sticks. The easiest way to check a carcase for square is to use pinch sticks. These are two sticks with pointed ends that you can use to compare diagonal dimensions in a cabinet, for example.
There are commercial versions, of course, but scraps and blue tape do a great job. The blue tape “sleeves” are easy to make. First I wrap the tape around the sticks with the adhesive face out. Then I wrap a piece of tape around the sticks with the adhesive side in. This makes a tidy sleeve that allows the sticks to adjust.
Winding Sticks. I’ve always made winding sticks from scraps I find at woodworking schools. But during the summer, a student who was a Brooklyn firefighter made them better by putting blue tape on the ends of one of the sticks. Brilliant!
Scratch Beader. When I can’t bring a beading plane (or I forget to pack it) I make a scratch beader with a chunk of wood and a screw. I drive the screw into the block and touch it to a grinder to make a flat cutting surface. The beader works like a scraper (adjust the angle of attack with pliers). After cutting the quirk, I finish the bead by rounding over the corner (also called the arris) of the board.
Now I just need to figure out how to improvise a car, an IPA and a good night’s sleep and I’ll have travel licked.
— Christopher Schwarz
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