Here’s another tool I wrote about earlier in the year. We mix a lot of shellac in our shop (among other things), and getting the flakes to dissolve quickly is always a challenge.
Enter the Intllab Magnetic Stirrer. This $30 gizmo dissolves flakes in short order with little effort on my part. I put the alcohol in a jar, dump in the flakes, drop in the magnetic stir bar and turn on the machine. Then I walk away and work on something else for a little while.
As several people have pointed out, another solution is to grind the flakes into a powder with a coffee bean grinder (which is about the same price as the magnetic stirrer). I’ve seen this done, and it works, too. But here’s the problem with that solution: It doesn’t use magnets, which are cool. (Also, I don’t own a bean grinder.)
I also use the magnetic stirrer for mixing milk paint powder and stirring the flatting paste into lacquer. (Try putting flatting paste in your coffee grinder.)
Is a magnetic stirrer essential to your workshop? No. But it’s a nice luxury and is great fun to play with.
I implored Chris to let me have this one day of the 2020 gift guide to share a favorite of mine: the long-blade model of the R. Murphy Hand Carving and Dental Lab Knife. I inherited this knife and other hand tools from my grandfather, and it’s the only tool of his that I use on an almost-daily basis when I’m at the bench.
It’s great for scooping out relief cuts on the backs of tails and making flat cuts at the baseline to remove that scoop of waste. I also use it for quickly cleaning out any lingering waste at the base of pin boards.
Sure, you can use a chisel for relief cuts, but it’s not quite as efficient or comfortable. I’ve found this narrow-knife blade, with its flat cutting edge and comfortable handle, the fastest and most satisfying tool for these relief cuts I make on almost every one of my projects (I cut a lot of dovetails).
In fact, I like it so much that I just ordered a backup. It’s available from a number of stores for about $20, but I went right to the source: R. Murphy.
I think my grandfather used this knife for chip carving – so if you’re into that (or dental lab work of some kind), it’s multi-purpose!
If you make furniture for people who have wood floors, I think you should adhere pads to the feet. Adhesive pads prevent the furniture from scratching the floor. The pads make less of a noise when the furniture is pushed forward or back. And they add a note of professionalism to your work. Customers notice.
Hardware store pads are terrible. The adhesive lasts about 20 minutes or two meals, whichever comes first. To get around this problem, I’d taken to adhering my pads with epoxy, which greatly improved their life.
Recently Tom Bonamici, the clothing designer at Lost Art Press, mentioned that he used the wool-blend furniture feet from Lee Valley Tools and that they were excellent. I have never encountered a pad that was acceptable, much less excellent. Challenge accepted.
I bought a bunch of the pads and have been using them on the furniture pieces that we abuse the most: our kitchen and dining room chairs. Our floor is old heart pine and is uneven and imperfect. And so these pads get a workout. After months of abuse, all the pads are intact.
These are the same price as the junk at the hardware store. You stick them on and forget them. Like life should be.
I bought my first Lufkin tape measure more than 20 years ago, and it’s still going strong. During those last 20 years, I have tried out many of the other expensive, gimmicky or innovative tapes that have come along.
And I keep going back to my Lufkin.
This year I noticed that all the plastic “chrome” was wearing off my Lufkin, and I worried what would happen if I lost it or it self-destructed. So I bought two backups. I couldn’t find them in the original plastic chrome, but I did find two identical ones in red/orange (Lufkin HV1312).
When they showed up, the seller had substituted a newer Lufkin, the PHV1312D. I was grumpy, but I’ve been using the new ones and they are fine.
Drama about product numbers aside, here’s why I like (both of) the Lufkins.
They aren’t too big. So many tape measures these days are like massive truck nuts. They pull your pants down, and they barely fit in your palm. I’d be OK with that if I needed to measure 50’. But for woodworking….
Standout. Who the fricking heck cares? Most metallic tapes are too concave, which allows you to play “who has the longest wiener game?” on the jobsite, but is terrible for real work. The sharply curved tapes are difficult to use. You have to roll the whole tape forward or back to make a half-decent mark on your work. No thanks. The Lufkins are designed for woodworking. The tape is 12’ long and is only a little concave.
Easy-to-read markings. The Lufkins were designed by someone who uses a tape. You don’t have a lot of silly marks (10ths of a foot?). And the graduations are different lengths (like the Starrett rule featured earlier in this series).
The lock is simple. Press the lock forward and it locks. Press it back and it unlocks.
Minimal stupidity. There are no bubble levels, magnets or places to write your grocery list on these tapes. They do one thing, and they do it well.
Price-wise, the Lufkins are hard to beat, about $16 to $18 at your local hardware store. If you hurry, you might find the old Lufkin HV1312 still in stock.
I wrote about Huck towels earlier this year, so I don’t have much to add to my plea here for the Anarchist’s Gift Guide. Perhaps you were under a rock in July 2020 and missed the blog entry. Perhaps you were all ragged up at that time.
In any case, these Huck towels are my favorite rags. And now I am even more excited about them because you can buy them in different colors through Arkwright Supply. If medium blue is too boring, get some in hot pink or hunter orange – you’ll never misplace your rag again.
If you want to dive deeper into the world of Huck towels, why not visit TowelReviewer.com and find out the pros and cons of some of the different brands? (I know it’s an affiliate site – I just wish I could buy a TowelReviewer.com thong or something.)