Padding Your Workbench
As an apprentice chef one of the first things you must learn is to keep your knives sharp and your work surface steady. This whole process has something to do with keeping all 10 fingers fully in tact for an entire career. A hardrock maple cutting board sliding around on a stainless sink top can result in an unwanted manicure for sure. An old cook’s trick is to dampen a towel, fold it to at least two thicknesses and place it between the cutting board and the sink top. No slipping or sliding means improved safety conditions.
With woodworkers a steady work surface is equally important. Out in the workshop we typically solve the problem of movement with a bench vice or clamps. However, there are times when clamps or a vice can get in the way. Unfortunately, when working with wood, a wet towel can literally damage the project. Instead, why not consider using a chunk of carpet pad. This choice will not only keep your work from slipping around on an otherwise smooth or slick workbench, but it will protect the project from damage as well. Rebound (rebond….check spelling) pad is our favorite, but rubber padding works well too.
Hold It Steady There Mate
When you’re all alone and need another pair of hands to help “steady” your project you may want to consider creating your own softwood bumper system. Bumpers are another great way to keep your work in place while you chisel, plane or sculpt. All it takes is a small piece of pine (a 6-inch long 1×2 works great) and a couple of dowels or short pieces of quarter-inch round-stock. We like pine for our bumpers because it’s soft and easy to work with, but practically any specie of wood will do.
Here’s what to do:
- Drill a pair of holes exactly four-inches on center into one of the long edges of the 1×2. The holes should be large enough for you to easily insert or remove the dowel stock. An extremely snug fit here will not be beneficial.
- Drill a row of holes into your worktop wherever you think it will be convenient to have the bumper(s) located. The row can be horizontal or vertical in relation to the length of the workbench and can be along the back, near the middle or at the front – you pick.
- Insert the dowels into the 1×2 and then into any pair of holes on your bench top. Your bumper system.
- Don’t want to use the top of your bench. That’s easy. All you have to do is use a small piece of plywood instead. Keep it from sliding on the workbench by placing it atop a chunk of carpet pad.
Polishing a piece of fine wood work can be laborious at best. It can also hurt your hand if you happen to be using steel wool as the polishing material. Here’s one you’ll really love. Cut a tennis ball in half and use the hollow area to hold your steel wool pad. The fuzzy outside surface of the ball is harmless and easy to hold on to. You really will be surprised how well the soft rubbery inside grips the steel wool. By the way, did you know that you can extend the life of sandpaper by cleaning it from time to time? An eraser works well at voiding pores of paint and putty build-up. A stiff bristle brush also works well.
Waste Not Want Not – With Sandpaper
You may find yourself spending more on sandpaper than you figured. Especially when working with soft woods or painted surfaces. Don’t throw that sandpaper away. Reuse it. All you have to do is plan ahead. The next time you visit the hardware store pick up a sandpaper cleaner. Who knew? That’s right there really is such a thing. It looks kind of like an eraser and actually is used much in the same fashion. Rub it onto your pulp filled pores and before you know it your sandpaper will become revived and ready for more polishing. By the way, keep in mind that the more that you use sandpaper the finer it becomes. So, don’t throw it away when it becomes to worn for heavy work. Keep it for tomorrows fine polishing.
Have you cleaned your safety glasses lately? There isn’t anything more devastating than an eye injury that could have been prevented. Heck, safety glasses are now available in designer styles and colors. And they are not only lighter in weight and better in appearance, but they work better. And, that’s all there is to it.
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