Extra-hand Tools

"It will take too long to grow and extra hand."

So give in now and buy a few of these extra-hand tools for your woodworking shop.

We got a tool belt for Christmas a few years ago and first thought it was overkill for the type of work we do as beginning woodworkers. Then we started using it as one of our extra-hand tools and haven't looked back.

A tool belt is especially helpful where a lot of mobility is needed, such as a cabinet project being constructed outside your workshop. Having the tape measure, spring clamp, pencils, nails, hammer, and basic who-knows-what-all at the waist is something we no longer do without.

A word on tape measures. We have two exactly the same. One is kept in the tool belt and one is in the shop. You see, our shop is out back while we often assemble large projects up front in the garage. Scrambling back and forth between the two places in search of the tape measure struck us as a waste of time and source of frustration. If all our work was done in one location, we might get by with one. We make a point of measuring something and leaving the tape where we found it before switching locations.

Small clamps are great extra-hand tools. We use a quick release clamp anytime something needs to be held securely, albeit temporarily. For instance, we'll use one to hold a lamp or vacuum hose when needed. A spring clamp resides in the tool belt for immediate use. Even with other people on hand, a good quick clamp proves handy.

Keyless chucks on drills are fairly common these days, but the old fashioned kind still exist. Avoid them if you can. We change bits and drivers so fast now that we don’t even bother to look before moving. Older keyless chucks were trouble, but technology has gotten better and the new chucks are very reliable - so long as you don’t drop your drill smack on the chuck (which we hear from some “other shop” can be catastrophic to a drill).

A solid vice will solve a bunch of extra-hand problems for you. Ours finds use as a holder, squeezer, and alignment tool. Some of our pens are easier to assemble when squeezed in the vice as opposed to the pen press. And a vice is unbeatable for holding wood while cutting or planing with hand tools.

Table saw roller supports are great when dealing with a piece that's on the verge of being too big for one person to handle. When the piece is too big, get a second person. Otherwise, these roller supports work very well, fold up for storage/hiding, and are height adjustable for other shop uses.

Bungy chords get regular abuse at West Hills Wood. We use them primarily as hangers when spraying finish on most anything. They also find use when transporting long wood pieces home. Rope is better for heavier material, but the hooks and stretchiness is very handy with light loads. And they’re cheap enough that once beyond useable, they can be tossed with minor honors.

Jigs are devices designed to accomplish a given task with repeatable results every time. We don’t use many jigs at West Hills Wood, but can think of several that would make our lives easier. If we get around to it, we’ll post them here.

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