Shop Tips & Tricks #1: Shop Tips

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Blog entry by GnarlyErik posted 12-03-2012 10:03 PM 8146 reads 33 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Shop Tips & Tricks series Part 2: Dividing a line or space into equal parts »

In the past, most old guys like me jealously protected their shortcuts and tricks to guard their job from competitors. I’ve seen many old fellows actually turn and place their bodies in front of their work to keep someone else from seeing how they did something, and they were not too bashful about doing so either. But, a lot of the old knowledge is disappearing now and some hard-learned things may disappear forever. I’ve learned a few tricks in my six decades of work related experience, and wish to pass a few tips along here, as I have time.

Tricks and shortcuts develop over time, depending on the trade. Some are to save time, make things easier, or more accurate. Some are time-tested and in general use, and others are peculiar to a particular shop or craft. I plan to present some I have used – and still do – hoping others may profit from them. Some you may already know, depending on your level of experience, and others may be new to you. In the end, my hope is overall, these little tips add to your knowledge and experience.

First, this one, which I call ‘Poor Man’s Scribe’, is simple and obvious. In many shops you use the same few settings to scribe lines in from the edge of your stock – say for a line of screws or nails, or to sand, tape, saw or chisel too. Of course most wood shop people will have a scribing tool with infinite settings which can be used. But, it is much handier to have a simple little jig, or ‘multi-tool’ for this purpose, which can often fit 75% or more of your scribe spacing needs. And, depending on how big you make it, will not ‘rock’ like a scribe tends to do.

The pictures explain this little tool, and it can be made to fit your four most commonly used scribe spacings. In my case it’s 1/4”, 3/8”, 1/2” and 3/4”, all labeled plainly. Put a hole in it for your finger and to hang it by, and PAINT IT RED (or other bright color) to keep it from getting lost in your bench clutter!

This will take mere minutes to make and save lots of time. Just some short thin battens, tacked/glued to a bit of ply. I have made some of these with bevels at the end to reach into corners, but they are then ‘handed’. Let your needs be your guide.

-- "Never let your dogma be run over by your karma!"

13 comments so far

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 3414 days

#1 posted 12-03-2012 10:16 PM

Thanks for your generosity in sharing trade secrets. I can see where these are being lost and there are fewer and fewer new craftsman to pass them on to. Like I said in a comment: You, Sir, are a one man learning center, and a fountain of knowledge. Look forward to your posts and I plan to save each one in my favorites.

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View idiotstick's profile


28 posts in 3814 days

#2 posted 12-03-2012 10:26 PM

Thanks for that, so obvious, why didn’t I think of making one of these!! It will be the first thing I make in the morning, and I think I will probably use it every day.

View patron's profile


13722 posts in 4463 days

#3 posted 12-03-2012 10:27 PM

great helper

here is what i came up with similar
but different too
mine is in 1/8” graduations
but can be made for special needs too

thanks for this post
i will keep my eyes open for the next

-- david - only thru kindness can this world be whole . If we don't succeed we run the risk of failure. Dan Quayle

View jap's profile


1251 posts in 3176 days

#4 posted 12-03-2012 10:29 PM

cool jig

-- Joel

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10880 posts in 4237 days

#5 posted 12-03-2012 10:45 PM

thanks for sharing the secrets :-)


View GnarlyErik's profile


357 posts in 3256 days

#6 posted 12-03-2012 10:47 PM

Very nice patron!

-- "Never let your dogma be run over by your karma!"

View Richard's profile


1944 posts in 3812 days

#7 posted 12-03-2012 11:59 PM

Now both of those arevery good ideas for common task in the shop.

View a1Jim's profile


118162 posts in 4699 days

#8 posted 12-04-2012 12:11 AM

View magicmark's profile


22 posts in 3169 days

#9 posted 12-04-2012 10:14 AM

Great ideas…that’s why I love this place! Thanks!

-- Mark ~ Dixon, Kentucky "We're gonna get through this!"

View JoeinGa's profile


7741 posts in 3129 days

#10 posted 12-04-2012 03:01 PM

How simply marvelous. As said already… Why didnt I think of that! Thanks for the tip!

-- Perform A Random Act Of Kindness Today ... Pay It Forward

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8565 posts in 3736 days

#11 posted 12-07-2012 03:03 AM

thanks ,learn something every day

-- Jesus Is Alright with me

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24 posts in 3168 days

#12 posted 12-07-2012 02:36 PM

Just found your blog here – As a new woodworker very excited to learn the hobby and try to teach my kids a little too, I am thankful for your willingness to share. As a kid, I spent a little (far too little) time with my dad when he built things – I was amazed at how many ingenious solutions he had to accomplish various tasks. I hate to admit it, I did not retain them. I totally agree, much of this type of knowledge is being lost.

I have marked you as a “Buddy” so as to see all of your posts.

Thanks again!


-- If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice...

View GnarlyErik's profile


357 posts in 3256 days

#13 posted 12-07-2012 02:41 PM

Thanks for all the kind words from everyone! I will try to continue to post things as I think of them and have time to write them up.

-- "Never let your dogma be run over by your karma!"

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