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Everyday Items That I Wouldn't Be Without In My Shop

by Paul Burri
Santa Barbara, CA

Click on any picture to see a larger version.

My wife claims that I have at least two of every woodworking tool ever invented. That's not true; I have only one of some of them. Anyway, I have a lot of "tools" that I use regularly that perhaps some woodworkers would like to know about. They are ordinary household items that I have found to be very handy to a woodworker and they are so useful that I wouldn't be without. Here are some of them:


I prefer the round, double-ended ones. I use them for applying small amounts of glue to small, delicate projects or where it is important to get small amounts of glue placed in an exact spot. They also can be used to remove small amounts of glue squeeze-out before it dries.


Yes, the ordinary ones that you use to clean the wax out of your ears. I moisten them with water and use them to remove glue squeeze-out. I assume that most woodworkers know that it is important to remove squeeze-out before it dries so as to prevent it from causing finishing problems later on.

Rubber Bands

I use them all the time to clamp small objects together - especially the tricky, odd-shaped ones.

Surgical Tubing

Surgical tubing is rubber (perhaps plastic) tubing available from medical supply companies - such as CVS Pharmacy - that is very useful for clamping larger items such as when gluing chair legs or larger projects. You simply wrap it around the project and then tie it in a knot.

Waxed Paper

I always have a box of waxed paper in my shop. I use small pieces as a palette for glue or sometimes paint. I squeeze a few drops of glue onto my "palette" and then use a toothpick to apply the glue to the project. Waxed paper also isolates projects being glued from getting glued to my workbench. And I occasionally use it to mask projects being spray finished.

Brown Paper Bags

Yes, the kind you get from the grocery store. It's heavy-duty paper and I use it for many of my woodturning projects. I glue a piece of it between my work piece and a wooden lathe faceplate. It holds the work securely and yet it allows me to easily separate the pieces later. I simply sand or scrape off any excess paper left on the work piece. I also glue a piece of brown paper between work pieces that will need to be separated later. Same idea.

Modeling Clay

This stuff is great for holding small pieces together temporarily while the glue sets.

Coffee Stir Sticks

I bought a whole box of these several years ago from a restaurant supply house. I use them for stirring small cans of paint, for mixing stuff, and for protective pads under C-clamps. Occasionally I will "sharpen" one to a knife-edge on my sander and use it as a "soft scraper."

Acid Brushes

I'm not sure why they are called acid brushes but I've always heard them referred to this way. They are small bristle brushes about 1/4" wide on a round steel 4" long handle. Available from industrial supply houses and perhaps auto supply stores. I use them as throw-away paint brushes and to apply glue evenly over large surfaces.

Shim Stock

Shim stock comes in narrow strips of steel or brass and is used in various metal trades. It is probably available in auto supply stores. I use it to apply glue into the narrow cracks of projects that I am repairing. I don't use it that often but it's really useful when I need it. The shim stock that I have is about .005" thick but it comes in various thicknesses.

Silver Pencils

Silver pencils were used back in the day when blueprints were actually blue. They worked great for marking on those prints. Ordinary pencils don't show up well on steel and so they are also used by welders and others who work with steel. Silver pencils are available from art supply stores. Woodworkers will find them very useful for marking on dark woods like ebony, wenge, ziricote, etc.

Clamps Made from PVC Tubing

Take a few pieces of scrap PVC tubing about 3" or 4" in diameter. Saw it into 1" wide pieces. Then saw through one side. The residual springiness of the tubing will make it very useful as a "soft" clamp for small projects.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email Paul at

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