Woodworking for Mere Mortals https://woodworkingformeremortals.com Wed, 15 Aug 2018 08:43:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 Transforming Bifold Closet Doors into a Corner Cabinet https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/transforming-bifold-closet-doors-into-a-corner-cabinet/ https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/transforming-bifold-closet-doors-into-a-corner-cabinet/#respond Tue, 14 Aug 2018 18:12:41 +0000 https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/?p=19648 I recently replaced some bifold closet doors in my house and I didn’t want to throw out the originals. I am going to attempt to upcycle them into a corner cabinet that would be great for books or any other storage.

I am not sure exactly what these doors are made of, but I think I should be able to cut them in half without taking the hinges off.

Success! The rails were actual solid wood, a pleasant surprise! Next step is to power wash off the slatted part of the former doors which will be the base for the corner cabinet. You can set the slatted half of the doors aside for now.

Let’s focus on the solid half of the doors. Take the hinges off and then gently take off the edging. It should come apart fairly easily with a hammer and a little patience. Then separate the edges from each other. You should now have four separate pieces for each bottom half of the doors.

Next step is to determine how wide you want your corner cabinet to be! I set one of the solid boards on top of the the bifold slatted pieces and measured out the corner cuts I would have to make. A 90 degree angle is the easiest angle to have the doors at.

I then got to work cutting out all of the corners and shelves I would need!

I cut the corners off so they would lie flush when added in as shelves. I did six shelves and four end pieces. For the end pieces, I did not cut off the corners.

Then I sanded the corner pieces so they have a nice smooth finish. We now have awesome shelves for our corner cabinet.

Now, we need something to set the shelves on, so I cut the edges from the bottom half of the doors that we separated before to the proper lengths – the width of one of the slatted doors.

Rather than screw each of the individual pieces onto the slatted doors, I glued and clamped them together to make the corner I need. This is where setting everything at a right angle comes in VERY handy! Remember to spread the glue evenly on the wood for the strongest result.

After the glue dried, I screwed the corners together for a bit of added strength. Now it is time to install them on the slatted doors! I simply screwed them into the desired place.

I recommend measuring out where the shelves will go in order to make this project look as professional as possible.

Now it is time for some real fun. After you get all of the shelf bases screwed in, you can paint the doors. It is best to wait until you are done drilling to paint so you don’t mess up your paint job while building out the project.

Also, if you want to paint the shelves now is the time to do it! I chose a purple color for mine, but any color will do.

The final step is to screw the shelves in! I also did a one on the top and bottom both for stabilization and aesthetics.

Here is my final product! I hope you enjoy your corner cabinet.

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How Long Do You REALLY Need to Shake Spray Paint? https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/how-long-do-you-really-need-to-shake-spray-paint/ https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/how-long-do-you-really-need-to-shake-spray-paint/#respond Mon, 13 Aug 2018 19:17:20 +0000 https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/?p=19642 How often do you buy a product and the only instructions on it are to ‘shake well’? Spray paint is one of those products. Some brands do give a little more detail by saying ‘shake for 1-2 minutes’? Definitely helpful.

But, do you really need to shake the can that long? And what is the ideal length of time to shake a can of spray paint?

I did a quick experiment to determine how long you really need to shake a can of spray paint in order to get the best quality coverage with the least amount of shaking.

Here is the set up for our unscientifically scientific experiment to determine how long you REALLY need to shake a can of spray paint for.

First, I purchased three different types of spray paint that are the combination paint and primer in one. The three brands were Krylon, Rust-oleum, and Ace, all very common brands that you can find at your local hardware store. In order to avoid any possible shaking or mixing of the paint either in the hardware store or on the ride home, I let them sit undisturbed for 24 hours before conducting our experiment.

Next, it was time to prepare the wood. Three pieces of wood were prepared, one for each brand of paint we purchased. The wood was then divided into six sections with painters tape in equal intervals across the board. Each of these sections represent one of the durations of times shaken. Two screws were drilled into the back of each piece of wood, one on either side of the board to help stabilize them as we painted.

Third, I prepared the workspace. I clamped the fourth board to the workbench on which I will be painting. The screws on the back of each of the test boards will hook onto the fourth board so they all will sit the exact same while being painted. The board clamped to the workbench was set back six inches off the edge to make sure the distance of the paint can was the same for each test.

Now, I am ready to paint! Two coats of paint were used for each of the time increments. Due to the short time span between coats, the cans were not re-shaken for the second coat. The time increments we will use is: not shaken at all, 5 seconds, 10 seconds (total of 15 seconds shaken), 15 seconds (total of 30 seconds shaken), 30 seconds (total of 60 seconds shaken or 1 minute), and 60 seconds (total of 120 seconds or 2 minutes shaken).


Instead of walking you through every single time increment for each brand of paint, I made a chart to show you the time increment and quality of the applied paint after two coats for each of the brands.

My recommendation:

According to our unscientifically scientific experiment, 5 seconds appears to be plenty of time to get a quality coverage of paint for your project.

There was one surprise finding from the experiment. Though I personally tend to prefer Rust-oleum, the Ace brand actually had the most solid coverage with very few streaks.

I hope you enjoyed going on this spray paint adventure with me.

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Basic Shop Stool https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/basic-shop-stool/ https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/basic-shop-stool/#comments Fri, 25 May 2018 08:54:43 +0000 http://woodworking.formeremortals.net/?p=10505 I’ve made a number of stools over the years but I like this one because it is both easy to build and super strong. If you’ve never made lap joints, this is a great first project to practice them on!

I started by gluing up some boards on their edges to make a panel for the seat.

Next, I ripped some 2x4s down into 2×2 strips, then cut all the legs to length.

Then it was just a matter of taking careful measurements and using a stack of dado blades to cut notches in the legs.

Then I cut tenons on the ends of the cross braces.

With all of the pieces prepared, assembly is a piece of cake! The lap joints are self-squaring and keep everything nice and straight while gluing.

Finally, I cut the seat down to size, sanded it smooth, and glued it to the leg assembly.

Free plans


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Metric vs. Imperial: Should you use inches or millimeters for woodworking? https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/metric-vs-imperial-should-you-use-inches-or-millimeters-in-a-woodworking-shop/ https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/metric-vs-imperial-should-you-use-inches-or-millimeters-in-a-woodworking-shop/#comments Fri, 04 May 2018 08:29:57 +0000 https://woodworking.formeremortals.net/?p=10440 Reminder: if you’re thinking about getting started in a hobby that will last you a lifetime, check out my online course, The Weekend Woodworker and build your first project this weekend. Start by heading over to theweekendwoodworker.com to get my list of affordable woodworking tools and how you can set up a shop for under $1000.

Metric vs. Imperial: Does it really matter?

I want to make it clear that this is not about which system of measurement is “better”. Invariably, discussions about metric vs. imperial devolve into flame wars with zealots from each camp claiming superiority of measurement.

What I want to talk about are the real world advantages and disadvantages of working with each system in a woodworking shop.

I’ve lived in the U.S. my whole life and am accustomed to inches and feet, but converting to metric isn’t difficult and if everything suddenly switched to metric, we would all adapt and it honestly would make no difference to me and would hardly affect my daily life.

Americans like to embrace quirkiness

Let’s start with the obvious: The metric system is the standard worldwide, except for the United States and a couple other places. It’s important to note that just because something is widespread, it is not automatically better. Any Star Wars movie is widespread, easy to consume, and massively popular, but that doesn’t make it better than a small film like, say, last year’s Lady Bird. They both perform the same job of entertaining, just in different ways.

Conversely, just because the U.S. uses a quirky system of measurement shouldn’t make us the hipsters of the world clinging to our vinyl records and trying to convince ourselves about our superior sound quality. (Or our non-mainstream measurements in this case!)

When I was a kid in the 70s, there was a big effort for the U.S. to “go metric”. I think it was the same time this was happening in Canada and elsewhere, but I’m not completely sure. But for whatever reason, probably a lot of reasons, (probably mostly economics) the metric system never really caught on, but more significantly, it never caught on culturally here. Of course it is used exclusively in scientific applications and other important purposes in the U.S. but for the most part, we are perfectly content to go about our days using miles, gallons, tablespoons, inches, feet and even an occasional dash, pinch or a smidge. I’ll be honest though…I really have no idea how big an acre is.

Metric makes more sense when used in science.

And I think this is really important for non-Americans to understand: Imperial measurements in the U.S. are part of our culture. Most of us fully understand the metric system and agree how simple and logical a base ten system is, but we just love inches anyway! Ridiculing Americans as inferior or “out of touch with the times” for not using the metric system in our day to day lives is culturally disrespectful. It’s like disparaging someone who uses chopsticks because you grew up eating with a fork.

By the same token, most Americans would benefit from being more flexible with measurements and be willing to open up and adapt to metric when needed. Metric isn’t some Illuminati or communist conspiracy designed to tap our precious bodily fluids: it’s just a simplified method for assigning numerical values to things. We are all much better at counting by tens because most of us have ten fingers.

Don’t you think metric time measurement would be a lot simpler?

My advice is to learn how to think in the system you are unfamiliar with rather than always try to convert. In other words, begin to develop a mental picture of how long a meter is. For instance, I’ve been using kilometers so long for running that I can easily visualize one kilometer as the distance to the supermarket or 5K as the distance to the community college. I have a mental picture of running 21 kilometers and can assure you that my legs will ache just the same as 13.1 miles! You see, I have no need to convert these to miles to know how far I run. They say you become fluent in a second language when you stop translating everything and just start thinking in that language.

Since I’ve been designing my woodworking plans in both metric and imperial, I’ve become very accustomed to metric measurements and have no trouble thinking in metric, but I’ve also noticed the things that seem to work smoother in each system.

Pros and cons of metric and imperial measurements

When designing projects in Sketchup, metric measurements are a breeze and a vast improvement over inches and feet. They are faster and I make fewer errors.

For instance, what’s half of 438mm? Well, half of 400 is 200 and half of 38 is 19. So 219 millimeters. Pretty basic stuff.

On the other hand, , say I need to cut a 17 ¼” board in half. Quick, what’s half of 17 ¼? Did you get it? Well, it’s 8 and ⅝”. I’m willing to bet most of us would have to think for more than a few seconds.

Using decimeters would be handy

Now in actual usage in the shop, here’s an advantage I see with the imperial system. It has a medium unit called a foot. This is so useful for breaking down measurements into something more tangible. It’s easy for most Americans to wrap our brains around my 6 foot 1 inch height. Or that my shop is 17’ 5” wide. But if I told you that my shop is 209” wide, most Americans would give me a blank look and not be able to really picture how small my space is. The number is too large and needs to be reduced. By having feet, we express a smallish number, then zero it in to just 1 to 12 smaller units, inches.

We even have a bigger unit, the yard, but most of us only use that when it relates to football fields, which themselves have become units of measurements.

In metric, we start with a tiny unit, the millimeter, which is close to a 32nd of an inch. For woodworking purposes, I usually only work to 1/16” tolerances, so the millimeter offers an even greater “standard” of precision.

Then we put ten of those together and move up to the centimeter, the next size chunk. Let’s consider this the mental subdivision similar to the inch unit (even though an inch is about 2.5 cm.)

Then what happens? Metric jumps all the way to the meter or 100 cm. We’ve completely skipped a middle measurement like the foot to help mentally break things up.

But the weird thing is that there IS such a measurement, the decimeter! I have no idea why the decimeter isn’t used, at least for casual spacial awareness.

I’ve learned that metric woodworking plans should be in millimeters only, to remove the decimal point and any potential confusion. My european friends tell me that centimeters are mostly used for clothing measurements and a few other applications. This makes a lot of sense and moving forward I am going to make sure all my metric plans are in millimeters only.

Dealing with big numbers

This leaves us with some big numbers that (at least my brain) has difficulty processing. Somehow a 5 and a half foot long desk is an elegant way to relate a measurement. A 1676 mm desk is accurate and useful, but somehow less graceful and one I would have trouble committing to memory without writing it down.
Which of these measurements is easier to remember without jotting down:

Wouldn’t it make more sense, spatially, to have a 16.7 decimeter desk in your office? Or better yet, a 16 and three quarter decimeter desktop? Fractions don’t have to be exclusive to imperial measurements. A half a decimeter sounds very practical. At the same time, there is no reason you can’t break down inches into tenths.

My proposed decimal inch scale

In fact, this could be very helpful, especially in woodworking where extremely tiny tolerances aren’t usually necessary. I propose a hybrid tape measure that uses inches and feet, but breaks the inches into tenths. It would make basic shop arithmetic and division much easier. I could quickly cut a 17.2” board into two 8.6” boards.

This is a metric/imperial tape measure:

Like almost all American tapes, It has inch designations and foot designations every twelve inches. So when I pull it out, no matter how long it is, I can quickly take a measurement and spout out, 2’ 9” or whatever for basic communication, but the inches continue the entire length of the tape, so for technical purposes, if my building plans call for 33”, I don’t have to use feet scale at all.

One other thing that is handy, especially for those of us who need glasses to see up close, the half, quarter, eighth, and sixteenth inch divisions use different lengths of lines. This makes them a little easier to read rather than if there were 16 lines all the same length.

In a shop situation, I find myself spending a bit more thinking when using the metric side. Every ten centimeters is marked in red. Remove the zero and these are decimeters, but since nobody is supposed to use decimeters, they indicate centimeters, which also aren’t used in woodworking, but strangely, we need them when using a tape measure otherwise there wouldn’t be enough room for all the millimeter numbers.

So if I need to cut a board 838mm, I need to pull the tape to the red 80 cm mark, then go to the 3 cm mark then count out 8mm. I think it would be handy of there were a 2mm measurement, so I would propose a quintimeter or pentameter, dividing each centimeter into fifths. This would be accurate enough for most woodworking projects and easier to dial in while actually building a project.

My proposed quintimeter ruler.

Metric isn’t simpler for every situation

Again, the metric system is universal and much more logical and intuitive, easier to design with, and vastly superior when it comes to adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing and should be the only system used for tech and scientific applications. But I feel that in the shop and in day to day conversational measurements, imperial has the edge. But that might just be for those of us who are more visually oriented.

Having two systems can require a little more work…I know that making two sets of plans for my projects is always a minor hassle. And sometimes we have to get redundant with our tools, but that’s mostly just with wrenches. Buying lumber can be a pain, especially when plywood is sold in metric thicknesses and a ¾” board is not actually ¾”. Having two systems of measurement can cause communication errors that might crop up between the two. But this is mostly hyperbolic.

These problems aren’t really that big a deal in the scope of things. For the most part the two systems seem to coexist in harmony and maybe having both adds a little spice to the world. If you need to convert a measurement, it literally takes a second. Making a small effort to understand and learn both systems can go a long way to keep everybody friendly with each other and make us all smarter in the process.


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Sturdiest Stacking Sawhorses Ever https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/sturdiest-stacking-sawhorses-ever/ https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/sturdiest-stacking-sawhorses-ever/#comments Fri, 20 Apr 2018 08:50:55 +0000 https://woodworking.formeremortals.net/?p=10371

Hey if you haven’t done so yet, join the thousands of people who have already built my Basic Mobile Workbench! Download free plans and watch a bonus video of the first steps!


Stacking Sawhorses. You just need seven 2×4’s.

There are about one million different ways to make a sawhorse. I’ve designed and built about four types myself! But each time I build a pair and start using them, I discover things that need improvement.

Here’s why I like this design: it’s simple to build, but elegant. It’s sturdy, but fairly lightweight. The only lumber needed to build the pair are seven 2×4’s. And best of all, they stack easily.

A single sawhorse provides support for cutting boards. You can clamp the work piece to the top for even more support.

For a bigger work surface, drop a plywood board across two sawhorses.

Sawhorses have also become very popular in office and live/work spaces as cool inexpensive makeshift desks. In this case, I suggest building the stacking sawhorses and take the time to sand them down nice and smooth and either paint, stain, or finish them. A double thickness of ¾” plywood will be perfect for a desktop and I would screw it onto the sawhorses.

Building the stacking sawhorses

First, cut out all eight legs. Four will have 22.5° bevels on each end, and four will have 22.5° bevels on one end and 45° bevels on the opposite ends.

Arrange the legs so that one 45° bevel meets up with the face side on the other board. Make sure all the angles are facing the correct way.

Use glue and 2-1/2″ screws to connect the legs.

Align the legs by setting the cross braces on the ground and squaring up the top piece.

Screw the top and cross braces in place.

With the sawhorse tipped on its side, line up a board, draw a line where it meets with the front braces, and cut it out.

Screw these end braces into place, driving the screws into the legs.


Stacking Sawhorse Plans

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Circular Saw Basics https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/circular-saw-basics/ https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/circular-saw-basics/#comments Fri, 23 Mar 2018 08:54:29 +0000 https://woodworking.formeremortals.net/?p=10278 A circular saw is one of the most useful hand held power tools to own and I think every shop should have one. Plus it’s a great tool for making woodworking projects if you don’t have a tablesaw or have a limited space. Since it’s a portable tool, you can build projects anywhere…in your driveway or patio, or even balcony. Here are some circular saw basics to get you started.

Cutting plywood freehand.

A circular saw is similar to a tablesaw, but instead of feeding lumber through the saw, you pass the saw through a stationary board. Unlike a tablesaw though, it is safe to make freehand cuts with a circular saw, although you will get straighter cuts if you use a fence or guide.

What I recommend for Weekend Woodworkers

My Ridgid 15 amp saw is a great deal at only $99. It has a sturdy magnesium base and cuts accurately. Setting the bevel is simple. If that seems a bit expensive, my Ryobi 14 amp saw comes in at half the price. It cuts well, but feels flimsier. If I need to make a lot of accurate cuts, the Ridgid will do a better job, but for occasional DIY stuff around the house, or if you just need a saw from roughly breaking down sheets of plywood, the Ryobi is a good choice.

Parts of a Circular Saw

A circular saw has two handles to help you control the saw with both hands. The rear handle has the trigger that you’ll hold throughout the cut. Some saws have a safety button that you need to press first, to prevent accidental starts.

Two handles on a circular saw help you control it’s movement.

Typically, the blade is to the right of the motor, but if you are a leftie, you can also buy left handed saws that will help keep the blade to the side of your body. But some right handers actually prefer having the blade on the left where it’s easier to see.

The baseplate of the saw rests flat against the surface of the wood and keeps the blade running at a consistent angle to the wood, usually 90 degrees.

Some saws have aluminum baseplates which are lighter weight and less expensive, but if you plan to use the saw more than just occasionally, you will get better results with a steel or magnesium base. 

This Ridgid saw has a magnesium alloy base plate.

The base tilts for making bevel cuts. This saw has a gauge to set the angle you want and positive stops at 45 degrees and 90 degrees.

Tilting the baseplate for beveled cuts.

You can adjust the saw up and down to make deeper or shallower cuts.

Adjusting the depth of cut.

All saws have a blade guard. It retracts automatically when you start cutting. Sometimes you might need to manually retract it using this lever. You might use this for making plunge cuts. Sometimes I have to retract it just a bit to get it started when cutting really thin material or beveled cuts. But for the most part, just let it do its job!

Retracting the blade guard.


Circular saws come in a variety of sizes for various purposes. The most common size is a 7 ¼” saw, meaning it uses 7 ¼” blades. And this is the size I recommend for woodworking and other DIY projects around the house.

You can get battery operated saws or corded ones. I have never used the rechargable kind, but I have heard they work really well. If you don’t have a lot of lumber to cut, it’s probably a lot easier than messing with an extension cord, but corded saws are less expensive.



A new circular saw will most likely come equipped with a combination or all-purpose blade. This one has 24 teeth and I use it for almost everything. Usually it’s all you will need. If you are experiencing splintering or rough edges when crosscutting or cutting plywood, a finer tooth crosscut or plywood blade up to 140 teeth may give you better results.

Blades with lots of teeth will help you get cleaner cuts in plywood

Every saw will have its own unique system for changing blades, but they are all similar. Just check with your owner’s manual. Of course, unplug the saw first. This Ridgid saw has a hex key that stores in the handle so you don’t have to hunt down a wrench when you want to change the blade, although you can use a wrench if you want. The saw will have some sort of button or lever to lock the spindle in place. Press it down and hold it in place while you loosen the nut or bolt.

One important note: some saws have reverse threads! (It’s really frustrating trying to loosen a nut only to realize you were tightening it the whole time!) Remove the bolt and the flange or washer and drop the blade into place, making sure you have it facing the right way. There will be arrows reminding you of the direction of the spin…the blade spins counterclockwise and cuts on the upstroke. Another reminder is that it’s usually safe to assume the blade manufacturers will want their logo to show, facing out.

To change a blade of a circular saw, remove the nut and flange or washer.

Look for arrows on a new blade to remind you of the direction the saw will spin.


Secure the Wood

To get good cuts and to prevent injury, it’s important that the wood you are cutting is held securely in place. A sawhorse or a pair of sawhorses is handy for this, especially when cutting boards or small pieces of plywood. Just clamp the workpiece in place. It’s best to not clamp down the offcut piece because the two halves might collapse in on eachother when you get to the end. This can cause the saw to bind and even kick back. While a kickback on a circular saw isn’t a dangerous as kickback on a tablesaw, it can be very jarring and can cause the saw to lunge toward your body. If your saw does bind or kick back, release the trigger and adjust the wood so it’s not pinching.

It’s best to only clamp one side of the workpiece. If both halves are clamped, the wood can bind.

But the problem with not supporting the offcut piece is that it’s weight can cause the wood to break and splinter as you get toward the end. And trying to support the offcut with your other hand is awkward and not the best solution.

Clamping one side down is better, but the offcut piece can get damaged without any support.

Instead, I prefer to cut most pieces on the ground, on top of a piece of styrofoam insulation. This method provides offcut support giving you a cleaner cut and eliminates kickback. For larger pieces, you don’t usually need to clamp the wood down.

Styrofoam building insulation makes a great cutting surface.

Making Cuts

Like a table saw, a circular saw can only make straight cuts. I recommend also owning a jigsaw for making curved cuts. Be sure to check out my jigsaw basics video for lots more.

First, set the depth of your cut by adjusting the blade along the edge of your board. Set it so that it’s just barely deeper than the thickness of the wood and lock it down. There will usually be a scale that indicates the ideal setting for whatever thickness of wood you are cutting.

Set the blade to cut just slightly deeper than the thickness of the board.


The easiest method for making cuts is to freehand it. In other words, draw a line where you want to cut and follow along. This is handy for rough construction projects and framing where the cuts aren’t critical. Sometimes I use freehand cuts breakdown plywood into smaller, more manageable sized pieces that I can square and clean up on my tablesaw.

To make a cut, set the front of the baseplate flat against the wood’s surface. The base has two notches that tell you where exactly the blade will cut. One is for regular 90 degree cuts and the other is for bevels.

These notches show you where your blade with cut, either for straight cuts or beveled cuts.

Make sure you are wearing eye and hearing protection. And it’s not a bad idea to wear a dust mask.

Squeeze the trigger and start feeding the saw into the wood after the blade is spinning. Position your body to the side, not directly behind the saw. Follow the line using that notch for reference. You can also look at the blade from the side.

With the baseplate flat against the wood, squeeze the trigger and feed the saw into the wood.

To get straighter, more accurate cuts, you will need to set up a guide of some sort for your baseplate to ride along. You can use anything for a straight edge including the factory cut edge of a piece of plywood or even clamp a level to your workpiece. There are a lot of store bought options here as well as homemade jigs. I will cover all of these in an upcoming video.

Using a cutting guide to get straighter cuts.

For narrow ripcuts, you can use a guide like this one that rides along the edge of the plywood.

Using an edge guide to make long cuts.

For getting accurate crosscuts on boards such as 2x4s, the simplest method is to use a speed square like this one. Hook this cleat to the edge of your board and run your saw’s baseplate alongside.

Using a speed square to make accurate crosscuts.

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The Frame That Drips Blood! https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/frame-drips-blood/ https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/frame-drips-blood/#comments Fri, 16 Mar 2018 10:03:18 +0000 https://woodworking.formeremortals.net/?p=10237 Last year I got the chance to meet someone I’ve wanted to meet since I was a kid, Tom Savini. He’s a pioneer in special effects makeup an a legend in the horror community. I’ve saved all my issues of Fangoria Magazine over the years and asked Tom to sign this one from 1984 where he talks about his work on Friday the 13th, The Final Chapter.

I’ve made a lot of themed picture frames over the years and this is one of my favorites, plus I finally found a use for one of my wooden Jason machetes I made a few years ago. Not only that, this frame inspired me to build a new personal blog, My Movie Morgue devoted to movies I love. Check it out!

Making the frame was super simple: just two basic frames with the same outer dimensions, but the rear frame has narrower pieces. When these are sandwiched together, they create a rabbet for the artwork to drop into.

I clamped one frame to my workbench and routed out a slot for my wooden machete to hack into and a slot along the bottom for the blood to drip.

Using a template, I used my jigsaw to cut out the dripping blood in 1/8″ plywood. And sanded it smooth.

After gluing the fram together and staining it, I hacked up the edge to make it look like Jason wasn’t a fan of this frame!

I cut out a matte for the artwork in a piece of foam core board, spray painted it black and taped the magazine into place.

Finally, I cut out a piece of acrylic (Plexiglass) and mounted everything in the frame.

People always ask me about this point driver. If you make a lot of frames, this thing is super handy!

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Can You Sharpen Disposable Razors? https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/can-you-sharpen-disposable-razors/ https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/can-you-sharpen-disposable-razors/#comments Fri, 16 Feb 2018 09:00:16 +0000 https://woodworking.formeremortals.net/?p=10138 So Can You Sharpen Disposable Razors?

I recently learned that you can actually extend the life of disposable razors. Basically it’s kind of like those leather strops that were once commonly seen in cartoons. (At least that’s the only place I’ve ever seen them in use.) For disposable razors, denim works better than leather by removing whiskers and hard water deposits caught between the blades and honing the cutting edges.

So I decided to make this snazzy walnut and maple box for my new sharpening system. Even if you have no interest in sharpening razors, I want to show you how I make boxes like this with perfectly fitting lids. It’s a great technique I’ve used for years for boxes of any size or shape.

Rout the sides all at once

First I cut one strip of wood that will be enough for all four sides when cut apart. It’s really helpful to make extras for running tests.

Next, rout a shallow rabbet on two edges of the strip. These will form ledges that the top and bottom panels will drop into. Then rout out a groove. This is where the lid will separate from the base. All of these cuts will be on the inside of the box.

Now you can separate the four sides. I used my miter sled to get perfect miter joints, but you can also use a miter saw or miter gauge on your tablesaw if they produce accurate results.

I resawed and cut out the top and bottom panels.

Glue the box together

I used wood glue to assemble all four sides and the top and bottom panels at the same time, clamping them together with rubber bands. Important: Make sure you mark which side is the lid (the top) and which side is the bottom of the box!

Run tests

To separate the lid from the base, adjust your router table fence so that an outside groove will overlap the inside groove you created earlier. Adjust the bit’s height so that it is a hair shallower than the first groove. If you cut too deep here, the lid will fit too loose. Run a test piece so you can make these adjustments before cutting into your box.

When the two halves are separated they will nest into each other. (The lid is on the right.)

Separate the lid from the box

When you are confident with your setup, rout out three sides of the box, keeping the top, or lid side facing toward you.

Before cutting out the fourth side, tape the box together so that it won’t bind into the router bit or fly away if the two halves separate.

My box was still held together with a paper thin connection of wood. I separated the halves using a knife.

To complete the box, I routed a tiny chamfer around the lid. This creates a little groove between the two halves and makes the box a little easier to pull apart.

For the “sharpening stone” I wrapped a piece of scrap denim around a block of plywood and stapled it into place.

How to sharpen your razors

To use the sharpener, simple stroke the blades away from you, over the denim a few times. (Opposite of the direction you shave.) It seems to work best to use it right before you shave, rather than after, when the blades are wet.


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How to drive a screw (and not split the wood!) https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/how-to-drive-a-screw-and-not-split-the-wood/ https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/how-to-drive-a-screw-and-not-split-the-wood/#comments Thu, 25 Jan 2018 10:41:17 +0000 https://woodworking.formeremortals.net/?p=10094 You can drive a screw with or without drilling a pilot hole first. It depends a lot on the type of screw you use and the project you are building. There is nothing wrong with drilling a pilot hole every single time though if you aren’t sure.

For shop projects and larger construction projects made from 2x4s, I don’t bother drilling pilot holes. You can just drive the screws right into the lumber. It’s fast and efficient. You’ll have even better results with self-tapping screws.

For rough construction, you can usually just power screws into place without drilling a hole.

However, for finer woodworking projects, you risk splitting the wood without first drilling holes, especially near the end of a board.

When driving screws, drill a pilot hole to prevent the wood from splitting.

Drilling a pilot hole allows the threads of the screws to cut into the walls of the hole rather than forcing the wood fibers apart. This creates a stronger connection. Plus, a pilot hole will help the screw to drive in straight.

To drill a pilot hole, select a drill bit that’s the same diameter or slightly less than the shank of the screw you are going to use. Use your drill to bore into the wood about as deep as the length of your screw. Press the side of the drill bit against your finger to keep it from wandering and slowly squeeze the trigger to get it started. You don’t need to press a lot of weight into the drill, just let the bit do its job. Be careful not to blast through the other side! Keep the bit spinning as you back it out.

How to select the correct drill bit size.

If you want the head of the screw to be flush with the face of the wood, use a flathead screw…one with a flat top and beveled sides on the head.

A flathead screw

Use a countersink bit or a countersink to add a beveled recess in the surface of the wood that the head of the screw will fit into. This will give your project a professional appearance.

Use a countersink bit to create a tapered seat for the head of a wood screw.

A countersink.

Perfect fit! Clean and professional looking,

I like to use an impact driver to drive screws in place. A drill will also work, or, if you like twisting stuff by hand, you can use a regular old screwdriver. Set the point of the screw into the hole, holding it as perpendicular as you can with your fingertips and slowly pull the trigger to twist it in. If you have a tiny screw or big fingers, you can use needlenose pliers to hold the screw while you get it started. The biggest mistake you can make that causes the driver to slip out of the head is not keeping it aligned with the screw. Make sure you don’t tip the driver one. Just twist the screw in and stop when it’s is fully seated.

Using needlenose pliers to hold a screw while driving it into place.

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Types of screws and when to use them https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/types-screws-use-woodworking-basics/ https://woodworkingformeremortals.com/types-screws-use-woodworking-basics/#comments Tue, 23 Jan 2018 10:43:09 +0000 https://woodworking.formeremortals.net/?p=10051 Types of screws (and when to use them!)

If you’ve ever been to the fasteners section of a hardware store of home center you know how intimidating this experience can be. You may only need a few screws, but what kind should you get? There a bazillion different kinds of screws and there is no way I can cover them all, so I’ll will give you an overview of the most common types of screws and what you will need for woodworking.

The choices of screws can be overwhelming!

What types of screws should you use in your projects?

For woodworking you can narrow it down to just a few choices. Here are my bottom line recommendations; the best screws for woodworkers.

  1. I highly recommend using premium or multi-purpose screws, such as Spax, GRK or Hillman.
  2. Get flat headed screws, the ones with the tapered heads for countersinking.
  3. If you can, use square or star drives. They work better and will save you a lot of frustration.
  4. The most common screws I use and like to keep on hand at all times in my shop are #8 1-¼” star head screws. 

These are the most commonly used wood screws in my shop.

Why use screws?

I want to point out that I don’t really use a lot of screws in woodworking. Usually I use wood glue, which is stronger and leaves no visible fasteners. The downsides to glue are that you have to wait for it to dry and once you’ve assembled something, you can’t take it apart.

I often use screws for shop projects and jigs. With these, I’m not concerned about the appearance as much and love the time-savings screws give me.

Using screws to quickly assemble a spline jig.

Screws are also used to hold things together where expansion and contraction of the wood can be an issue. A common use is to attach a tabletop to a base. The screws will be set into a slot, allowing the wood to move as humidity changes.

Using screws to attach a table top.

For some projects that are sort of in the middle ground between making an heirloom dresser and a workbench, I like to use pocket screws. They are great for making cabinets and other casework. They make assembling these types of projects, say a bedframe, much easier and quicker. And of course, you want to position the pocket holes on the undersides or back of projects where they won’t be visible. Learn the basics of pocket hole joinery.

Platform bed made using pocket screws.

What’s the difference between a screw and a bolt?

There is no agreement on this, but personally, I view a bolt as a fastener that goes all the way through two material with a nut attached, while a screw pulls two pieces together and only the head of the fastener is visible. But I can think of plenty of exceptions such a machine screws. 

Inserting a bolt through two boards.

Are Nails Used in Woodworking?

There is a common misconception among non-woodworkers that we use a lot of nails. Nothing could be further from the truth. In the ten years of projects on this channel, I don’t think I have ever used nails in a project, other than for decorative purposes. Sometimes I use brads for holding boards together while glue dries, but never as a sole means of assembly.

Nails are a pain to hammer in, can bend, and you can easily mar the surface of your project with the hammer head. Not only that, but they don’t hold nearly as well as screws and can work themselves loose.

Parts of a Screw

A screw is made up of 4 components:

  1. The tip
  2. The shank
  3. The threads
  4. The head

The Tip

Screws used in woodworking will have a pointed tip to help guide the screw into a precise location. Self-drilling screws have a split point that cuts into the wood like a drill bit. Other screws, such as machine screws have no point.

Self-drilling (self tapping) screw tip.


A machine screw (on the right) doesn’t have a pointed tip.

The Shank and the Threads

The treads of a screw wrap around the shank. Together, this is the part that drives into the material. The threaded part of some screws stops before it gets to the head, while other screws are fully threaded.

Screw threads

Shanks and threads come in different sizes. The diameter is indicated by a number. The most common wood screws are number 6, 8, and 10, the larger the number the bigger the thickness.  I almost always use #8 diameter screws. Longer screws are usually #10s.

Common wood screw diameters.

In the U.S. threads are sometimes indicated in threads per inch, usually 24 or 32 tpi. These are important to know with machine screws or bolts where you need to get a nut to match. Sometimes wood screws come in coarse or fine threads. Use fine threads for hardwoods and coarse threads for softwoods and plywood.

So when you are reading a box, the first number will tell you the screw diameter. This will sometimes be followed by the threads-per-inch, then then length of the screw.

How to read a box of screws.

The Head

There are two components of a screw head. It’s head shape and It’s drive type. Read on to learn about these.

Types of Drives

There are lots and lots of different types of drives, but thankfully, there are just a few common ones you need to know.

Slotted: What is a Flathead Screw?

Slotted screws are the original method for driving a screw. Like the name implies, it’s just a slot that a flathead screwdriver turns. For this reason, these types of screws are commonly called flathead screws way more often than slotted screws.

Flathead screws require a lot of patience to use and are very difficult to drive with a drill or impact driver. It’s weird how common they still are, still readily available at hardware stores. Basically they suck and I would never recommend them for woodworking with one exception: if you want to make a period piece of furniture with historic accuracy. Other than that, avoid slotted screws whenever possible.

What is a “flathead” screw


When Phillips screws came out in the 1930s, they were a vast improvement over slotted screws. A Phillips head driver will stay in place a lot better, but they still have an annoying tendency to cam-out, or slip when driving the last bit into wood. This can ruin the head and also ruins the driver.I have heard that they were designed to do this in order to prevent over tightening, but I’m not sure if that’s true.

A Phillips drive screw.

They come in different sizes so always make sure your driver matches and fits well. I really wish Phillips screws would become obsolete, but they are still extremely common in the U.S. the vast majority of screws sold at hardware stores are still Phillips.

Square (Robertson) Drives

Square drives are a huge improvement! They are also called Robertson screws and are most common in Canada. They are definitely harder to find in the U.S. Their square shape greatly reduces, almost eliminating cam-out and driver slipping. Here in the U.S. you will mostly find these in pocket screws.

Driving a square drive screw

Star (Torx) Drive

Star drive screws are becoming more and more common in the U.S. and are my absolute favorite type of drive. The star shape virtually eliminates cam-out and the driver almost never slips out. Plus they can accommodate a lot of torque. Usually they are sold on premium quality screws that won’t snap if tightened too much. And when you buy a box, it usually comes with the driver tip you need.

A star drive screw fully seated in wood.

Head Shapes

Like the drive types, there are all kinds of head shapes. Luckily, there are really only two that common in woodworking.


This is where the terminology can get a little confusing. It’s easy to confuse a screw with a flad head, and a slotted screw that we often call flathead screws. For woodworking a flathead screw is the most common kind of screw to use. It has a beveled head that seats neatly into the wood, making it flush with the surface

A flathead wood screw

You can just power the screw into the wood to make it flush, but you will get better and cleaner results if you use a countersink bit to drill a pilot hole, or use a countersink to cut the bevels after you drill a pilot hole.

Using a countersink bit.
A flathead screw fits neatly into a countersunk hole.

Panhead of Rounded

Panhead or roundheads can have shallow or deep domes. They sit on top of the wood and aren’t used much for woodworking. You will need to use these when attaching some other material to wood…something that you can’t countersink, say metal or plastic.

Using a pan head screw to attach acrylic to wood.

Types of Screws

Standard Wood Screws

Wood screws are widely available in all home centers and hardware stores and are designed to join two pieces of wood together. They are threaded part of the way and then have a smooth shank at the top. This helps hold the screws in place. They are relatively inexpensive and come an all kinds of diameters and head shapes. You will usually want to use the ones with the tapered heads. Unfortunately, in the U.S., most woodscrews are still only available with Phillips heads instead of star or square drives.

Standard wood screw

Drywall Screws

A lot of woodworkers use drywall screws, mostly for shop projects and jigs. They are inexpensive, usually cheaper than wood screws and easy to find just about anywhere. They have thinner shanks than wood screws, usually about equal to a #6 screw and threads that run the entire length of the screw. Because of their thinness they are really brittle. Especially ff you are drilling into hardwood, they are really prone to snapping, but I’ve had this frustrating experience with using them for 2x4s too. Like wood screws, in the U.S. the heads are almost always Phillips. Also, the heads have a bugle shape to reduce tearing the paper on drywall. They don’t match the beveled shape of a countersink. In general, I don’t recommend using drywall screws for woodworking projects.  

Drywall screw

What’s the difference between a drywall screw and a wood screw?

Drywall Screw vs. Wood Screw

Multi-purpose (production) screws

Production or Multi-purpose screws are my absolute favorite types of screws. Common brands include Spax or GRK. These screws are made with hardened steel and are incredibly strong. I don’t think I’ve ever had any break. They have self-drilling points that eliminate the need for a pilot hole, but I would still pre-drill for critical pieces. Especially near the ends of boards to prevent splitting.

Multi-purpose screw

The best part is that they come in star or square drives so your driver stays in place and won’t slip out like with Phillips. Plus, when you buy a box, it comes with a driver bit. There is really only a single drawback to using these: they are expensive. Maybe twice as much as regular wood screws.  And while my Mere Mortals philosophy is always to be frugal, this is one instance where I believe it’s worth spending the extra money. The amount of time and frustration these types of screws save is enormous.

If you’ve never used multi-purpose or Spax screws, just get one box and try them out. I guarantee, you will wonder why you didn’t try them sooner!

Other Types of Screws

Deck Screws

If you are building outdoor projects, use deck screws. They are made of hardened steel and have a corrosion resistant coating.

Deck screw

Stainless Steel Screw

For even better corrosion resistance, especially on boats and  in salty marine environments, you can use stainless steel screws. While they offer the best protection from the weather, they are not as strong as deck screws and are very expensive.

Pocket Screw

Pocket screws are self drilling and have a wide head that grabs the flat shoulder made by drilling pocket holes. If you use regular wood screws with pocket holes, they may drive all the way through, or possibly split the wood. I use the Kreg pocket screws, but you might be able to substitute pan head screws. The Kreg screws have a square drive which makes them really easy to seat. Watch my pocket hole basics video to learn a lot more about pocket hole joinery.  

A pocket screw seated in a pocket hole

Machine Screws

Machine screws have no points and are intended to use in holes that are already tapped or with a nut. They are threaded along the entire shaft  are sold in threads per inch. When you buy them, make sure the nuts’ threads match. You may occasionally need machine screws to fasten a couple boards together, but they aren’t common in woodworking.

A machine screw with a matching nut.

Sheet Metal Screw

Usually, sheet metal screws are tiny with a sharp point intended for piercing and driving into sheet metal. Think of heating ducts for instance. They usually have pan heads and will probably work as a wood screw if you need a substitute.

A sheet metal screw is similar to a wood screw but has a pan head.

And there’s a basic look at the various types of screws. While there are a lot of choices available, there are only a few different types of screws a woodworker will ever need. Know what kind you need for your project  before going to the hardware store or home center. Just buy what you need. I don’t recommend stocking up on anything other than #8 1-¼” screws. I always like to have these on hand.


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