The Traditional Tool Section of Lowe’s | Popular Woodworking Magazine
 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Chris Schwarz Woodworking Classes, Raw Materials, Woodworking Blogs

When I teach classes, I tell my students to buy their winding sticks in the “18th-century Tool Section” of their local home center.

They look puzzled until I pull out my winding sticks: two lengths of aluminum angle, one of which is painted black. Aluminum angle is cheap and makes a nice set of accurate winding sticks.

In fact, aluminum extrusions are so accurate that I also use them as straightedges in the shop. They are lightweight, as long as you need (mine are 36″) and are unaffected by humidity changes.

Today as I was teaching at “The Woodwright’s School,” we were rasping the ripping notch of the sawbenches we’re building. One of the students, Richard Ward, was cleaning his rasp with a curious-looking brush. It looked like it should have barbecue sauce on it.

I went to his bench to investigate. It was a little plastic brush with stiff plastic bristles and was just perfect for cleaning the teeth of rasps. Richard said it was a little thing he picked up at the home center. He thought it was supposed to be a brush for cleaning grout. The brand name is “Quickie.”

That reminded me of all the other things I get at the home center for traditional work. Some of it is what you would expect, such as boiled linseed oil and alcohol for finishing.

But some of the things I get there are like the Quickie brush and I use them for things not intended by the manufacturer.

For example, I use the 6d and 8d masonry nails for building these sawbenches. The nails are indeed cut nails, well-made and inexpensive (less than $6 for a pound). They are as hard as heck, so you probably won’t be able to clinch them. Roy Underhill today wondered aloud if the nails could be annealed to soften them.

I use copper pipe to make ferrules for my tool handles. And I’ve bought Allen keys and made them into cutters for my router planes. Dowels for drawbore pegs.

I’m sure there are other home-center materials there that would be handy to a traditional woodworker. If you know of any, post it in the comments below for all of us.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 12 comments
  • Neil

    Chris……tin snips to cut commercial veneer to length, deep root sheetrock screws for MDF, the package of plastic paint tray for spreading unibond 800 (real bargain), ploystyrene insulation sheets for mock-ups, needle nose vise grips as a stop block or extra hand, the sheet rock T-square for full size drawerings (takes a better beating in the shop than a commercial drawering T-square, more ridgid)

    Looks and reads, like you are having a wonderful time.

  • Full disclosure here: I have no items to add, but a stupid newbie question. Are the aluminum angles flat enough to check the sole of a plane?


  • Don Williams


    the list of things intended for one purpose but used for another is legion. I’m sorta famous at my local family owned hardware store, where I have been a patron for 26 years, for "misusing" all kinds of tools and supplies.

    For example those hardened cut nails. I buy the 20d nails and remake them into chasing tools and small metal sculpting chisels for when I am doing decorative metalwork.

    Or small brass round stock being forged into whatever shape I want for tips on my soldering iron, which I control with a fan rheostat so I can get any temperature i want for gluing, degluing, sculpting thermoplastic materials, etc.

    Or how about the filings from plexiglass which can be dissolved in acetone or toluene to make a magnificent archival solvent release adhesive.

    Or hose clamps for regluing fractured spindles.

    The list really does go on and on.

  • Eric R

    Dollar store scrubber/sponge combo’s in a ten pack, for spreading liquid finishes or glue and the scrubber side for rubbing off dried finish nibs.
    Dollar store baking pans suspended in slotted scrap wood guides as parts holders. Great use for wasted space.
    Thanks Chris.

  • Frank

    A brush for cleaning grout? what do you think we eat over here? 🙂
    We use such brushes for doing the dishes.(especially when the dishwasher is broken )

    A clean greeting from the Netherlands

  • I have found that a pipe cutter can be used nicely to create cut-off marks or tenon cutting guides on dowels.
    Builder’s paper in rolls make good workbench covering and to hold the roll just off the table (attached to the legs), 6"r x 3" sections of PVC pipe with 1/4 cut away to access the paper from.
    I have used an invertible plumber’s torch with adapter hose to hook up to a standard 20# propane tank to heat up 6" to 9" sections of galvanized steel pipe to do wet wood "steam" building. (process outlined in my blog
    Hmmm, mentally walking through the store is failing me at the moment, but I often get accent pieces of metal there too.


  • Mark Estes

    What do you mean by alluminum angle? Do you mean alluminum angle from a welding shop? If so, what gauge? Or are you refering to something like corner bead for drywall?

    By the way I am a woodworking teacher in Wyoming, and have your blog on my igoogle home page. I love it.

  • LizPf

    I thought that brush looked familiar … I have one in my shower!

    Do note that different Big Box stores can have a different selection … the Lowes near me is better than the Home Depot. And Monday I was at another Home Depot 30 miles away that had a terrible selection.

    Some of the actual tools are OK too … I have a throwaway flush cut saw that works quite well, and you can sometimes get good deals on clamps.

  • Badger

    Good to know I can buy the cut nails there, that’s a good tip.


  • Michael Blake

    Chris — Reading my first note, I noticed that I forgot one critical step… filling the hole with epoxy and inserting the tool, make sure the tool lines up the handle all around, let the glue dry… then apply finish.

  • Michael Blake

    Chris — The next time you need a ferrule for a tool handle go to the plumbing section of you local "home" store and look for brass "compression" nuts. They are hex-shaped, threaded inside, with a smaller hole in one end. They are sized by the diameter of the smaller hole. I make tool handles on a lathe and the first thing I turn is a tenon at the tail stock end that is 2 or 3 thousandths larger than the inside of the threaded section of the nut. Then I remove the piece from the lathe, screw on the nut w/epoxy inside, wipe off the excess glue, put it back on the lathe, tighten, and let the glue dry. Then I turn on the lathe and use a mill file to round the nut, drill the hole for the tool shank, turn and sand the rest of the handle. Remove it from lathe and apply your finish of choice. Takes a little longer that using copper tubing, but it’s worth it to me.

  • They can be annealed to soften them. I have done that in order to form them into small tools, which I then re-harden. Works fine.


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