A Finish Carpenter’s Bag of Tricks: Part 2

In the past I used extra nails to hold miters closed while the glue set. Now I use these small but powerful miter clamps. They aid in preassembly and eliminate the need for extra face nails – which is a plus when you’re doing high-end work. You use the spreader tool to get the clamps open and then release them on to the outside of the mitered pieces. They are very stiff (that’s why they clamp so well) so be careful not to get your finger caught between the jaws.

I retired my traditional sanding block in favor of this sanding block from Festool. It’s the only sander they make that does not have dust collection, but it’s still a keeper. I like the quick change Velcro paper as well as the lipped design that allows it to fit into the small fillets and molding profiles we need to sand. You can use the Pocket Stick like a shoulder plane to sand into square inside corners. The proprietary replacement paper is pricey, but is high quality and lasts a long time.

Every finish carpenter needs several small pry bars. This one has been my go-to model for the last few years. It has zero flex and can get into small area – but also works for larger tasks. And it’s small enough to fit in a pocket.

I’m all for buying premade shims – and these are phenomenal! I use them to tighten up inside corners and other areas where standard shims won’t fit or would be wasted. Most of the time 0-1/8” of adjustment and these guys are perfect for that.

We don’t use a lot of staples, but we seem to always be removing them. When we do, we use this purpose-built tool because it’s much easier than prying staples out with a screwdriver. You can buy this tool online or anywhere that sells flooring supplies – it’s often used to remove carpet and underlayment staples.

I like these dust masks because they’re comfortable, portable, and do not fog my eye protection. Their fold-flat design allows me to tuck them into a pocket or pouch so they are always nearby.

When we trim rooms with high ceilings I’ll be on the scaffolding while my dad is at the cut station – which is frequently in a different room. I got tired of hollering dimensions and instructions back and forth between rooms so I bought a pair of 2-way radios (these happen to be Blackbox models – but any good brand would work). Now we each carry these radios on our belts. My Dad turns his up really loud so he can hear my requests while he’s at the cut station. The only problem is getting both parties to speak and respond with proper radio communication, these are not cell phones. “10-4”.

This is tool from Glen Drake Toolworks is the hammer I use when the chisels come out. It packs a punch but fits in the palm of my hand or in a pocket. It’s handy for installing locksets, hardware, or anything else where a regular hammer would be too much.

I used to plug in a power tool to see if the line was hot, but that was just silly. Now I use a Volt Snooper, a non-contact voltage detector that can be used to check outlets or wires we stumble across when opening up walls. You can stick the end of the device into a receptacle or clamp it around a wire. If the item is hot a light in the Volt Snooper will come on and it will emit a loud beep.

I dislike most chalk lines because they are bulky and spill chalk all over the place. The Chalk-Rite II is great. It produces a very thin line and has a geared reel that winds the quickly. The line passes through an O-ring seal so chalk doesn’t come spilling out with it. I like the low-profile housing and the little keeper that secures the hook. I keep a few of these around with different colors for corrective layout.

This is not your usual rasp or a tool I use every day. But when I need it, it’s great. I use it to clean out cuts, adjust cuts that do not intersect, and for anything else where I might use a wood rasp. It consists of 10 hardened steel blades (think double-sided hack saw blades) riveted together and attached to a handle. One side is fine and the other is coarse.

I carry my everyday tools in Pro-Pak bag. It’s pricey, but tough and reliable. The small size of this bag forces me to be organized even though I just throw tools in at the end of the day. The slim profile takes up little space in the back of my vehicle and the shoulder strap allows me to sling it so I can free up a hand, which means fewer trips when loading and unloading.

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