10 Ways Masking Tape Can Help a Woodworker from Lee Valley

I just had to post this as these tips are just brilliant. Many of you will know some of these tips but I bet you don’t know all of them.

#10 – Mark Your Pieces

Before I disassemble an antique piece for repairs, I do what most professional furniture restorers do: label the mating parts with tape. This way, I’ll never mix up any parts when I put everything back together.
Using tape to identify mating parts.

Using tape identifies the mating parts and ensures they are put together correctly.

#9 – Refresh Your Memory

After dry-fitting a complex project, I use tape to record the sequence of the assembly steps. In the actual glue-up, the joints will be assembled in the tested order without confusion – or panic.
Labelling the assembly order of each project piece.

After dry-fitting, the author labels the assembly order on each piece using tape.

#8 – Get Help with Hand-Cutting Fine Dovetails

When sawing dovetails, some woodworkers apply a strip of tape on the endgrain and use the peeled off areas to guide the sawing. Try it if you tend to struggle with seeing the knife lines.
Using tape to help cut dovetails.

Slice the tape and peel it off to reveal the cutlines for the saw.

#7 – See Things in High Contrast

On some surfaces, such as darker wood, pencil marks or lines are hard to see. I lay a piece of tape on the object as a writing surface, such as for marking a centerpoint.
Using tape to mark surfaces.

Use tape on surfaces where marks are not easily seen.

#6 – Gain a Third Hand

While we use tape as clamps for small joints, I also use it like a third hand to hold clamping strips or pads in position to cushion the clamps’ jaws.
Left: Using tape for a small clamping task. Right: Using tape to hold pads in position.

Left: Tape with greater strength and stretchiness is ideal for small clamping tasks.

Right: Tape holds the pads in position, which allows the author to handle the clamps with both hands.

#5 – Keep Projectiles under Control

When I chop small, thin pieces from a larger piece, I tape the cut-off portion to the bench to keep it from flying across the room. Similarly, when making plugs, you can lay a strip of tape on the plug face and bandsaw them off so they do not roll onto the floor.
Using tape to hold small pieces from flying away.

Tape holds the small piece to the bench as it is chopped off.

#4 – Get Tear-Free Cuts

If you have no zero-clearance inserts around for your table saw, save the day by putting a strip of tape straddling the cutline on the underside of a plywood sheet to make a clean edge.

Using tape to help produce a tear-free edge.

Run a piece of tape on the underside of the board covering the cutline to produce a tear-free edge.

#3 – Avoid Cross-Sanding Marks

When sanding frame panels, I do the stiles first. To avoid scratching, I cover them with tape before I sand the rails.

Using tape to prevent sanding scratches.

Covering the stile with tape helps prevent cross-member sanding scratches.

#2 – Avoid Glue Squeeze-Out

Before you apply glue, put a strip of tape over the joint to keep the adhesive off of the surface. If you choose to pre-finish a project, taping off the glue areas will keep unglued joints free of oil or stain.

Using tape to prevent glue squeeze-out on joint surfaces.

Tape keeps glue squeeze-out from marring the joint surfaces.

#1 – Prevent Your Saw from Marring the Surface

Tape and saws work well together. To prevent a saw from marring the surface when flush trimming, some woodworkers lay a strip of tape on the blade just above the teeth. Sometimes, I also put a piece of tape on a saw blade to mark the depth of cut.

Using tape to mark depth of cut.

Use tape on the saw blade to set the depth of cut. Slow down when the tape gets close to the work.

Masking tape is truly your best friend – that is, of course, until your favorite pet roams into the shop!

Text and photos by Charles Mak

Charles Mak, now in retirement, is an enthusiastic hobby woodworker, teacher, writer and tipster. He formerly worked part-time at his local Lee Valley Tools store.


By Joseph A. McGeough

Perhaps 1,000 years after humans learned about melting virgin copper, they found that still another stone, a brittle one directly useless for tools, would produce liquid copper if sufficiently heated while in contact with charcoal. This step was epoch making, for it was the discovery of smelting, or the separation of a metal from a chemical compound called ore. Smelting, as differentiated from melting, was the first metallurgical operation and is still the principal method of gaining metals from their ores. Copper was the first metal to be smelted; it was another 1,000 years before iron was reduced from its ores.

As mined, raw ore is a nonchemical mixture of ore proper (heavy) and earthy matter, or gangue (light); the two may be largely separated by crushing the raw ore and washing away the lighter gangue. The ore proper is a chemical compound of oxides, sulphides, carbonates, hydrates, silicates, and small amounts of impurities such as arsenic and other elements. Smelting frees the metal from the various combinations with which it is bound into the compound form. A preparatory step is to heat the washed ore (roasting, or dressing) not only to dry it but also to burn off sulphides and organic matter. Early practice involved heating the ore in intimate contact with charcoal to provide the essential reducing atmosphere, producing a metallic sponge made up of metal and slag. For chemical as well as practical reasons, the iron of tools, wrought iron, continued to be worked out of the spongy mass until the Middle Ages.

Originally copper smelting was terminated at the spongy stage. Early smelters soon discovered that better results were obtained when the metallic sponge was left in the furnace and subjected to draft-induced high temperatures. The metal became liquid and seeped down to the hearth, as did the slag, which, being lighter than the metal, floated over it, permitting recovery of the copper.

At some time during the copper period, a new kind of “copper” happened to be made by smelting together two separate ores, one bearing copper, the other tin. The resulting metal was recognized as being far more useful than copper alone, and the short period of copper tools came to an end. The new metal, a copper–tin alloy of mostly copper, was bronze. It was produced in the fluid state at a temperature less than that needed for copper, could be formed economically by casting, and could be hammer-hardened more than copper. The tin noticeably increased the liquidity of the melt, checked the absorption of oxygen and other gases, and suppressed the formation of cuprous oxide, all features that facilitated the casting operation. A two-piece, or split, mould, impracticable for copper, worked very well with bronze. Furthermore, it was found that bronze expanded just a bit before solidifying and thus picked up the detail of a mould before it contracted in cooling.

The earliest bronzes were of uneven composition. Later, the tin content was controlled at about 10 percent, a little less for hammered goods, a little more for ornamental castings. The edges of hammered bronze tools of this composition were more than twice as hard as those obtained from copper.

The Bronze Age of tools and implements began about 3000 BCE. In the course of the following 2,000 years the much more abundant iron supplanted bronze for tools, but bronze continued to be used in the arts.

All of the early metals were expensive commodities in antiquity and were monopolized by kings, priests, and officials. Most metal was diverted to the manufacture of weapons for professional soldiers. Industrial use was severely limited. The metal chisel was used on rock for buildings of state or for fashioning furniture for the wealthy; the common people living in a mud or reed hut had no reason to own such a tool.

Generally speaking, moulds for copper and bronze were of baked clay, although soft rock was sometimes carved; metal moulds are known from about 1000 BCE. Sectional moulds of three and four pieces, permitting more complex castings, are known from about 2600 BCE. The earliest metal tools and implements were simply copies of existing rock models. It was only slowly that the plasticity of the new medium and especially the possibilities inherent in casting were appreciated. The rock dagger, for example, was necessarily short because of its extreme brittleness. With copper and then bronze, it became longer and was adapted to slashing as well as to stabbing. Casting allowed forms that were impossible to execute in flaked stone, such as deeply concave surfaces. Holes could be cast in, rather than worked out of, the solid.

Sometimes the process was reversed. There were, for example, pottery imitations of bronze vessels for the poorer classes, with such necessary adjustments as a heavier lip for the pottery jug. The lines of bronze daggers have been noted in rock daggers of a later date, despite the difficulty of imitating a metal object in stone. Bronze axe heads were copied in stone, even to the shaft hole, which was difficult to produce and impractical for a rock tool; it is possible that some of the rock replicas of bronze daggers and axes were used for ceremonial rather than utilitarian purposes.

Malleable metal had several advantages over a brittle material, such as rock or bone or antler. It could be severely deformed without breaking and, if badly bent, could probably be returned to service after straightening. It was shock resistant and chip-proof, good qualities for use in the axe, adz, and chisel, and the edges could be kept keen by hammering or abrasion; its sharpness was, however, inferior to that of good stone. In particular, metal allowed the fashioning of many small items, articles of a size awkward to make of bone or horn, such as pins, fishhooks, and awls. Copper pins were stronger, tidier, and more attractive than the fish bones and thorns they replaced for securing clothing; even in the 3rd century BC there were shapes resembling the modern safety pin. Tweezers were invented, but whether for depilatory or surgical purpose is unknown; there are artefacts presumed to be scalpels. Plates, nails, and rivets also developed early.

The most common tools were awls and pointed instruments suitable only for wood and leather. Woodworking was facilitated by the invention of the toothed copper saw, made of smelted metal and cast to shape. Edged tools—the axe, adz, and chisel, at first similar to rock models—became predominant, and, although not nearly as sharp as the tools they replaced, they had the advantage of toughness and could easily be resharpened. In particular, the chisel made it possible to use cut rock for construction purposes, principally in temples and monuments. Abrasive sand under metal “saw blades” allowed rock to be cut neatly, just as the sand under tubes (made from rolled-up strips) that were turned provided a boring device for larger holes.


By Joseph A. McGeough

In casting, a liquid metal is poured into a cavity or a mould, where it takes the shape of the mould when it congeals; casting shapes the metal to essentially final form once a proper cavity has been prepared. Some touch-up work may be needed; for an edged copper tool, such as an axe or knife for example, hammering the cutting side gives a keen edge.

A great step forward was made with the discovery that gold, silver, and copper could be melted and cast with many advantages. Casting meant that the size of the tool was no longer dependent on the size of a chunk of available copper. Old tools could be added to a melt instead of being thrown out. This reuse of old metal accounts in part for the scarcity of virgin-copper implements.

To make the procedures of melting and casting possible, several innovations were required. Pottery making, already well established, provided the knowledge of heat-based processes. Clay vessels were essential to working with fluid metal, for, in all but the most primitive operations, it was necessary to convey the melt from furnace to mould. Aside from providing crucibles, pottery making taught how to restructure a fire with a deep bed of prepared charcoal to provide a heat superior to that of a simple campfire. Tongs of some sort had to be devised to carry the hot crucible; it is surmised that green branches were bent around the pot and replaced as needed.

A number of forms of moulds were developed. The most primitive was simply an impression of a rock tool in clay or sand to give a cavity of the desired form. A more durable mould resulted when the cavity was worked into stone. Cavities of uniform depth allowed flat but profiled pieces to be cast. For example, some axe blade castings were roughly T-shaped, the arms of the T being afterward bent around to clasp a handle of some sort, with the bottom of the T becoming the cutting edge. A one-piece mould, prepared for a dagger, could have a groove for most of the length of the cavity to provide a stiffening rib on one side. With experience, closed but longitudinally split and, hence, two-piece moulds were devised, each side having a groove down the middle to furnish a strengthening rib on both sides of the blade.

Split moulds for copper were not desirable because pure copper is a poor metal for casting. It contracts a good deal on cooling and has a tendency to absorb gases and thereby become porous, blistered, and weak. Also, molten copper exposed to atmospheric oxygen contains embrittling cuprous oxide.

Early History Of Tool Making

By Joseph A. McGeough

Metals and Smelting

The discovery that certain heavy “stones” did not respond to hammer blows by flaking or fracturing but were instead soft and remained intact as their shapes changed marked the end of the long Stone Age. Of the pure, or native, metals, gold and silver seem to have attracted attention at an early date, but both were too soft for tools. The first metals of value for toolmaking were natural copper and meteoric iron. Although they were scarce, they were tough and potentially versatile materials that were suited for new purposes, as well as many of the old. They also introduced a new problem, corrosion.


Copper occurs in native state in many parts of the world, sometimes in nuggets or lumps of convenient size. It is malleable; that is, it can be shaped by hammering while cold. This also hardens copper and allows it to carry a sharp edge, the hammered edge being capable of further improvement on an abrasive stone. After a certain amount of hammering (cold-working), copper becomes brittle, a condition that can be removed as often as necessary by heating the material and plunging it into cold water (quenching). The softening operation is known as annealing, and repeated annealing are necessary if much hammering is required for shaping.

Among early toolmakers, nuggets of copper were hammered into sheets, divided into strips, and then separated into pieces to be worked into arrowheads, knives, awls, choppers, and the like. Copper was also shaped by beating pieces of the soft metal into appropriately shaped rock cavities (moulds).

Meteoric iron, widely distributed but not in heavy deposits, was a highly prized material more difficult to fabricate than the softer copper. Its celestial origin was recognized by the ancients: the ancient Egyptians called it black copper from heaven, and the Sumerians denoted it by two characters representing heaven and fire.

Like copper, iron hardens under the hammer and will then take a superior edge. Iron can be annealed, but the process is quite different from that of copper because, with iron, slow cooling from a high temperature is necessary. Meteoric iron is practically carbonless and, hence, cannot be hardened in the manner of steel; a high nickel content of about 8 percent makes it relatively corrosion resistant.

For early toolmakers, small meteorites were the most convenient sources of iron, but larger bodies were hacked at with copper and rock tools to yield tool-sized pieces for knives, spear points, arrow points, axe heads, and other implements. Meteoric iron was beaten into tools in much the same way as copper, although it could not be forced into a mould in the manner of the softer metal. Much rarer than copper, meteoric iron also was often used for jewellery, attested to by burial finds of necklaces of iron and gold beads, iron rings along with gold rings, and ornaments in sheet form.

Fixing an out of true chuck

Trying to drill a hole accurately with a wobbly bit is a pain in the backside. This pain I lived with for several months until I figured out what was wrong. When I bought this eggbeater, I never had such issues, but since I dismantled the chuck for cleaning several months back, I noticed the wobble started.

I will go through the steps I have taken to find a solution. You can also follow these steps when you’re next at flea markets before buying a hand drill. You don’t want lemons because these hand drills aren’t cheap anymore.

The first thing I checked was the bit. I laid it flat on my table and rolled it. There were no irregularities, for good measure I placed it in my drill press and it was fine. So, I crossed that off the list.

Open and close the jaws in the chuck and watch if the jaws open and close evenly together. If not, get a new chuck.

Next unscrew the chuck completely off the threaded shaft and inspect the shaft. Crank the drill and eyeball shaft carefully. Your eyes will pick up any irregularities if the shaft is bent. You’ don’t need any expensive gizmos for this.

Threaded shaft must run true and straight

Next pop out the jaws and inspect the flat milled back that holds the bit. This must be clean, undamaged, and milled perfectly flat. It is highly unlikely that it isn’t perfectly flat, so inspections by eye are close enough. There can’t be any dings.

By now I was frustrated and I mean really frustrated. I checked everything I could check, and they all passed with flying colours, but did I. There was one last thing I didn’t notice when I put the darn thing back together again. Since I don’t know the part name, the two pictures will give a better picture of what I’m referring too.

Incorrectly seated
Correctly seated

That’s right folks, that part that I’m pointing too was flipped the wrong way round. The bit rests in the cylindrical depression you see in the middle, which aids in keeping the bit centred (centered for the yanks) coupled with the jaws holding the bit in place. These two combined aid the drill bit from wobbling whilst drilling. Amazing, isn’t it? Something that’s so easy to miss can lead to months and months of frustration and hair loss.

Linseed Oil Paint

Why does paint fail today? Many professionals and home owners are analysing the massive amount of information available on the web and elsewhere. Paint companies are introducing new chemical paint products to find a solution to the immense problem of paint failure. The issue is made more complicated than is has to be. The problem is the paint and not the surface it is painted on. Petroleum paint is today replaced with Acrylic paints because of the elimination of solvents (VOC’s). Acrylic paint on an exterior of a house, especially an old house without an interior vapor barrier will suffer extensively. The paint will trap moisture on the inside of the walls making the wood rot from the inside as the paint starts failing. This is the hart of the problem. All these modern acrylic paints do NOT breathe enough. Any wood replacement products from hardy-planks (clapboard exterior siding made from a cement compound) to vinyl siding does NOT solve the maintenance nightmare; it simply shifts to a new material that still has to be maintained. What is interesting is that when you research material that was used 100 years ago, the word “paint failure” seldom comes up. Why? Paint 100 years ago before all the fancy chemically made paint products were introduced, Linseed Oil Paint was used. It did not have any of the problems. Linseed Oil Paint is clearly an excellent alternative that is long lasting, with very long history and contain zero chemicals.
History of Linseed Oil Paint

Paint failure was unknown 100 years ago. Paint used before the 1920’s contained primarily pigment, boiled linseed oil. Lead was later extensively used until it was found to be causing serious illnesses. Lead has been replaced since 1978 in the USA and since the 1940 in Europe. The paint did not build up on the outside of the wood surface and the linseed oil allowed any moisture in the wood to easily escape. This eliminated any chance of paint failure (paint flaking & peeling). Linseed Oil Paint preserved the wood very well. We can see proof of this in several hundred year old buildings in Europe and in the United States. Problems with paint were not common during the 1800’s and early 1900’s. The paint job lasted much longer than it does today.

The introduction of modern paint. In the 1940’s after the 2nd world war, the paint manufacturing industry moved away from the old tried and true methods of making linseed oil paint and began heavily promoting chemical, petroleum and solvent based paints. These new paint products were very inexpensive to manufacture but did not hold up well, making it necessary to repaint every few years. This was a perfect product for the paint industry, but not for the customer.
When the introduction of the new petroleum paint products began to be marketed in the early 1900’s, the arguments for the new type of oil paint were mostly:
Drying time was claimed to be shorter. – Today, drying time is about the same for linseed oil paint as well as Petroleum based oil paint. You can paint every 24 hours.
Bright new colours. Very bright colours are not easily achievable with Linseed Oil Paint, but the Linseed Oil Paint colours are significantly longer lasting. Linseed Oil Paint can last 50 to 100 years with minimal maintenance. Maintain with the Purified Organic Boiled Linseed Oil and the Linseed Oil Wax. The last coat will work as the sacrificial coat.
New high gloss surface. A high gloss can be achieved with Linseed Oil Paint by adding just a small amount of Linseed Oil Varnish (also a completely natural product) to the Linseed Oil Paint or by applying a Linseed Oil Varnish as a top coat.

Modern paint. A major difference in modern paints is the change in binder from the used of natural boiled linseed oil to alkyd oil which is generally derived from soybean and safflower oil. Use of synthetic resins, such as acrylics and epoxies, has become prevalent in paint manufacture in the last 30 years of so. Acrylic resin emulsions in latex paints, with water thinners, have also become common.

Today we know the detrimental effects of exposure to chemicals and solvents. So why use them in paint if they are completely unnecessary? With the awareness of the danger of petroleum products in the environment, we are entering a new period for the painting industry. Legislation has been drafted to eliminate petroleum based oil paint from the market and to ban solvents in paint.

Other environmental hazards. Mildecides and fungicides were prevalent and popular until their environmental hazards were seen to outweigh their benefits. New formulations which retard the growth of the mildew and fungi are being used. Lead was eliminated after 1978 in North America and in the 1940’s in Europe. Most recently, volatile organic solvents in oil paint and thinners have been categorized as environmentally hazardous.

Returning to linseed oil. The oil pressing industry vanished back in the early sixties and today. Farm pressing of the flax seeds are mainly done in the northern Europe, Saskatchewan Canada and in north and south Dakota in the United States. The Canadian producers export most of the flax seeds. Small local producers manufacture linseed oil and to a large extent bottle it for use in outdoor wood preservation.

A safe paint is available again. Through the rediscovery of ancient wisdom, there is finally an alternative to modern paint hazards and failure.  Linseed Oil Wax, Linseed Oil Soap and Linseed Oil Varnish are completely compatible chemistry, making solvents unnecessary in any step of the painting process. These are the best and safest materials available to preserve our wood structures for future generations.