Aluminum Medical Clipboards
While we are on the subject of clipboards (see yesterday’s post), please check out the ones made for hospitals and the military. They are typically aluminum, and they work via a giant piano hinge that is connected to the cover of the clipboard (the cover protects the pages from fluid spills and prying eyes).
Open the cover. Press it back. The hinge opens. Let go of the cover, and the hinge grabs your papers. Perfect.
These clipboards often have other expensive details. They might have Velcro tabs that hold them closed. They might have nice slots where you can slide in a label. And they have rubber-wrapped posts that allow you to hang them from a hospital bed.
You can find these sorts of clipboards all day long on eBay or from other sellers. Buy them used, and you will pay less than $10 and end up with a clipboard that could survive a nuclear winter.
This concludes the clipboard section of the gift guide.
I own more clipboards than bench planes. They manage every project I work on, from new chair designs to glue recipes. I appreciate the way they help me manage things in a chronological manner (and I can quickly change the chronology if necessary).
I dislike the shiny pot-metal-and-hardboard clipboards from office supply stores. They are lowest common denominator products.
So I was curious to see the offerings from Puebco. They have two clipboards that are better than the junk from Staples. They both have unusual mechanisms, which might appeal to you (or not). I love them both.
The Screw Clipboard ($36) is an India-made clipboard that works like no other I’ve seen. You put your papers under the circular screw and turn the brass dial to fasten them. It’s simple. The clipboard holds as firmly as you like, and it’s nicely made.
The other, the A4 Puebco clipboard, is ingenious. It’s made from recycled aluminum and cardboard. The hinge is the interesting part. It looks like a giant binder clip. But to open it you rotate the lever on top of the hinge up. Then you press the lever down to open the hinge. It becomes second nature after only one time.
I can never have too many clipboards. These get used every day.
Puebco Tape Dispensers
I have no love for sand-filled plastic tape dispensers. Please, give me cast iron and simplicity and mass.
Puebco delivers. This Japanese company designs ingenious products using recycled materials and hand labor from developing nations. Sometimes they hit a home run. Sometimes not. But the cast-iron Puebco tape dispenser is a huge winner.
It is two pieces: a wheel for the tape. Plus a base to hold it down to the bench. It holds 3″-diameter tape rolls with tape that is up to 3/4″ wide. It is the perfect blue tape dispenser.
There is very little else to say about it that the photos do not convey. It is heavy. It is available in three colors. It will change your taping life. Yes, it’s $58. But I can’t find another new one that I like better for less money.
Mr. Pen Circle Templates
I draw arcs all day long. You might be a fancy “irregular curve” person, but I am as cheap as a segment of a circle. Arcs are the foundation of the decoration of vernacular furniture. You might think peasants were channeling their squid god when they drew that shape on the chair’s hand, but really, it was just a segment of a circle, joined to a straight line.
If you want to explore arcs – the basic building block of furniture curvature, then you cannot do this for any less than the Mr. Pen Circle Templates. They are $8 for everything you need.
When I ordered mine (from Amazon, for shame), I was disappointed when they arrived. They were insanely thin and flimsy. How, I wondered, would these ever stand up to workshop use?
The answer: beautifully. The thin plastic material bends over curved surfaces and is just thick enough to catch the lead of your pencil. They are just translucent enough to be able to see the shape behind the template. And they are as flexible as hell. They are perfect.
I have the two-piece set hanging on a screw behind my bench, and I use them almost every day. They describe and mark circles in sizes from “mouse butt” up to 3-1/2″. In other words, perfect for furniture work.
These are indispensable to my work. And just $8.
Miller Dowels Mini-X
When things go wrong in the shop, one of the crutches I lean on are Miller Dowels Mini-X thingies. These are stepped and ribbed dowels that you install with a super-insanely-good stepped drill bit. How to use them: First drill a hole with the bit to reinforce a questionable joint. Then tap in a Mini-X dowel with some glue.
They fit so well that the world seems like a brighter place.
I’ve long used Miller Dowels for a variety of off-label applications, especially knockdown joinery. But as I delved deeper into chairs, I have found that the Mini-X dowels are the perfect repair tool. They can go almost anywhere. The fit is perfect. And they can be easily flushed to look like nothing ever happened.
If you are Miller-curious, buy the Mini-X Dowel Joinery Kit for $35. It includes the drill bit (the most important part) and 100 birch dowels. Put the kit somewhere safe but visible. The next time something goes circling around the toilet bowl, remember this kit. It might save the day.