I am always on the lookout for a new or different tool or method, and the cheaper the better. Here are some items that I've found lately that worked out well.

My wife uses false finger nails, and part of the kit are these great little sanding boards; stiff foam with fine and finer grits. I guess around 220 and 300 maybe. Work great for sanding carved tops, neck angles, etc. Check with the wife, girlfriend, sister, etc.

Another item found at the big box store, is double-sided masking tape. I believe this was Duck brand, and it's incredibly cheap, and holds very well. I loosen it with the old standby, naptha dripped under the template. I was having trouble with the other stuff being very thin, but this is a little thicker and conforms to tiny irregularities. 

Last item is a cheapie nail file. I believe these are diamond coated, as they stay sharp a long time, but cost only about a buck or less. 

Thanks to Frank's site for the inspiration to look for new uses for old or free stuff. I'm always picking up old knives for other uses. Cheers.

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Parchment paper works too. 

Clear packing tape stuck on the caul works great too


Just curious: doesn't clamping waxed paper against the wood cause the wax to be ground into it and cause finishing problems?

I feel like this one belongs in a 'Tips & Tricks' thread, but Im sticking it here...

Last week I was cleaning up an oldish Union machinists tool chest with fine steel wool. Bout 2 minutes into an hours worth of rubbing with steel wool, I had already made a fine mess, but there was no way around the steel wool. Unfortunately Ive never been able to find brass wool around here, but I do have a small wad of magnets. So I wrapped a couple in tape and stuck em in my steel wool, and viola, much less mess to clean up after. About 90% of the shredded wool stayed on the pad. When it started to get 'worn out' I just pulled the pad of wool open to expose some fresh stuff. Not bad. Of course yesterday I was cleaning up a dirty fretboard and forgot all about it :P.

The machinist's chest might be a good candidate for blasting with walnut shells.

Probably would have been, got it cleaned up nice though. It had a lot of paint drips on it, some spray paint and lotsa random gunk. I managed to clean it up nicely without harming the original finish using a razor and a good rub down. Not sure what the original finish was but a bit of polymerized tung oil brought it back to life.

c-clamp 1.jpg

I put this one up on the ANZLF a while ago - but you might like it as a cheap and effective clamping tool.  I use it to clamp the back or soundboard to the sides, as shown below. 

It is a piece of 150mm PVC stormwater pipe, cut in slices about 30mm wide, and opened on one side. It makes a c-clamp with the right width to span the sides of a guitar, and with a good degree of spring-back to provide clamping force. You just need to put some padding on the ends. I bought a length of foam water-pipe insulation from the plumbing section at the local hardware store ($1.50 per metre) and attached it to the clamps with cable ties, or elastic bands when I ran out of those (the elastic bands are probably better).

c-clamp 2.jpg

One metre of pipe ($30 if you buy it new, but I had some lying around), 2 metres of foam ($3) made 30 clamps, which is enough to clamp the whole perimeter of a guitar.  I sliced them up with the bandsaw, so this whole lot took about 20 minutes to make up.

The guitar is sitting on a block of wood to lift it free of the benchtop. You can apply the clamps with one hand, in a matter of seconds. And I like the way that they give you plenty of clearance to wipe up glue squeeze-out (unlike a spool clamp). And the guitar can stay in the mold - the clamps wrap around.


Great idea on the pipe clamps! Any idea how much pressure they exert?

Good question Mark.  I hadn't bothered to measure pressure until you asked

The amount of clamping pressure depends on how thick you slice them.  As you can see in the picture I ended up with some a bit fatter than the others and the fat ones have more springback. 

Using a digital scale I measured this one as having 1.280 kg of pressure.  It is 35mm in width.  The other ones vary from 30mm width (about 1 kg pressure) to 45mm width (about 1.5 kg pressure).  For comparison one of my go-bar rods generates 1.730 kg.  So, they are not super-strong - but sufficient to do this sort of job. (For Americans - the last country on earth not to use the metric system - 1 kg = 2.3 lbs)

BTW - I will nominate my go-bar rods as another cheap tool.  I use bamboo canes which grow in my back yard.  You could probably find them in your local gardening supplies store sold as plant stakes, or wired together in cheap bamboo screens.  Put small rubber caps on each end and they are good to go - bar.  Get the white rubber caps; the black ones can leave marks on your job. 

Thanks Mark!

Yep...after spending 2 years in Germany in the early 70s and returning to the US, I was ready for the conversion to the metric system. President Carter had to choose his battles and it never happened.

Turns out I was wrong - Myanmar (Burma) and Liberia are also non-metric, so you are in good company!

Map of the world showing countries not officially adopting the metric system (source -

From a practical standpoint, I love like the metric system. However, as an American I'm a mile deep into the old standard, so I've no mental frame of reference for the size and distance of things with metric. If you say that Joe is 5'11" I have a perfect picture of Joe's height. Tell me the equivalent in metric and I haven't a clue.  Easy enough thing to change with time and steady implementation of something new, but those pesky comfort zones...

I've heard a joke made from time to time that goes like this "America - moving toward the metric system one inch at a time." ;-)

By the way, fantastic idea about the pipe clamps! I can see lots of applications for these things.


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