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10 top shop tips

  • Exhaust hood

    A 14-inch fan connected to an old restaurant stove's exhaust hood by stovepipe sucks up fumes from welding and grinding and blows them outside. A light inside the hood illuminates the work area.

  • Hold down

    A 9-inch-long block of .25-inch plywood, Masonite, or paneling makes a hold-down for small pieces on a table saw. Its narrow width fits between the fence and the blade, and the 6.38-inch height keeps fingers above the blade.

  • Hose caps

    Hydraulic hoses can drip oil on the shop floor and make a mess. Cap the ends with pipe cap taking care to match thread sizes, of course. The floor stays clean, and the hose threads are protected from corrosion.

  • Hose reel

    With an extended mounting frame, a power-washing hose is protected from wear because it's brought out and away from the wall and other nearby obstructions.

  • Male connectors

    Assemble two male connectors back-to-back for filling a portable air storage tank without having to hold the fitting on the tank's fill valve. The manifold can be put together for filing two tanks at the same time.

  • Oil drainer

    Drain oil anywhere by hinging a 30-gallon plastic drum and adding a basket for the funnel and filter during an oil change. The casters let it roll. When finished, open the valve and lift the whole thing with forks to empty.

  • Parts washer

    Put a 1-gallon or 2 half-gallon water-filled containers in a large parts washer. Since water is heavier than solvent, it helps raise the reservoir level to reach the pump. Use fresh solvent more often since it takes less.

  • Sharpening guide

    Two hex nuts glued or spot-welded together make a quick and accurate angle gauge for sharpening drill bits. The top angle fits the groove exactly to give a correctly sharpened angle on your bit.

  • Shop bench

    One side of a spent cable reel cut in half makes the shelves of this bench; the other half is the headboard. The top shelf is covered in 10-gauge steel, and the bottom is made of .5-inch plywood. A light switch is in the back.

  • Torch stand

    Keep two hands free for working on metal by setting your torch in this stand. Iron stays hotter for straightening or shaping without the delay of turning off the torch and laying it down. Hold hot metal with locking-type pliers.

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