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Grab some candles that’ve seen the end of their use as a light source, and you can finish woodwork on a lathe beautifully and economically. Once the actual shaping is complete and you’ve sanded to your satisfaction, simply hold the candle stub to the wood and watch the shine grow. It may not be the highest quality finish, and it’s certainly not the most complicated, but the candle wax produces a warm glow that brings out the beauty of the wood — and it can be as cheap as free if someone in the house is forever burning candles.

Photo from Flickr member Paraflyer.

Lathe Finish Tips [Ask Dresdner]
Toolmonger Photo Pool [Flickr]

Ultrasonic Cleaner

In the past few years, the price of ultrasonic cleaning technology has dropped so low that a cleaner costs less than most power tools. Nowadays, you can buy an ultrasonic cleaner like the Sonic Wave CD-2800 for just $20 — and while it’s billed as a jewelery cleaner, you could just as easily clean small parts with it.  Just drop the parts in the one-pint stainless steel tank; the Sonic Wave’ll blast ’em for three minutes with 42kHz waves, then automatically shut off.

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Spark Plug Cleaner

While doing the yearly maintenance on your lawnmower like a good Toolmonger, you pull the spark plug and discover it’s covered in crud. While replacing the plug is a fine idea, you might save a little dough and a trip to the store by cleaning it and using it for another year. And though you could clean the plug with a little elbow grease, why do it the hard way when this cheap-ass pneumatic spark plug cleaner’ll do the job for you?

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Mini Cyclone Separator

Your shop-vac may not be the most efficient dust collector, but you can turn it into a two-stage dust-collection system with the Mini Cyclone Separator from Woodstock International. You’ll change the bag or clean the filter less often, because larger chips will drop out into the attached five-gallon bucket.

Woodstock molds their Mini Cyclone Separator from ABS. It sits on top of a standard five-gallon bucket, where it accepts two 2-1/2″ hoses. To empty the bucket, simply lift off the separator.

Look to pay anywhere from $17 to $24 for the Mini Cyclone Separator. You’ll have to supply your own five-gallon pail. If you have 2-1/4″ hoses, you can get a reducer for about $5.

Mini Cyclone Separator
[Woodstock International]
Street Pricing [Google Products]
Via Amazon(B0000223XZ) [What’s This?] [What’s This?]


With Harbor Freight’s micro die grinder, you can grind or sand in hard to reach places, carve something intricate, or just polish the scratches out of your iPod.  The 1/8″ collet will accept most Dremel bits for all sorts of jobs. It’s definitely worth grabbing one, even if you only use it a couple times a year to sand down the burs on your safety glasses.

The variable-speed micro grinder can spin up to 56,000 RPM, which is 20,000 RPM higher than your average Dremel. Rear exhaust keeps the air out of your work. The grinder set includes a 47″ air hose, inline oiler, brass coupler, and two collet wrenches. It all comes in a crappy nice plastic case, too.

If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a thousand times: keep your cheap-ass HF pneumatic tools oiled, and they’ll last you a long time.  Pick one up at Harbor Freight for $15.

Micro Die Grinder [Harbor Freight]


When you hear the name Winchester, it generally calls up images of lever-action rifles and ammunition, but if you run in certain circles it can also mean pocket knives. These may not be fancy affairs that’ll gain value with time, but an honest work knife like this pakka-handled Stockman will get you through the day.

You can find these knives for around $12 at almost any local sporting goods store, but don’t let the lack of budget-killing price tags put you off — we use this type of rig around the Toolmonger shop quite a bit. This solid work knife measures around 3-7/8” closed, which is more than big enough for daily tasks like cutting up boxes, rope, or wire.

Street Pricing [Google Products]


Around 17 or 18, the age when most kids trade in their model cars for real ones, they also put away their hobby knives in exchange for shiny mechanic’s tools. But if you ever want to rejoin the model crafting ranks, you can grab a full set of hobby knives for less than you’d pay for one of the old Revel models you used to put together with ’em.

Northern Tools sells this 35-piece set of hobby knives and blade attachments in a nice wooden box for $10. The set includes three different handles, two saw blades, six shaping blades, 17 cutting blades, three awl points, an edge trim guide, tweezers, a mini-planer, and a sanding block — you know, all that stuff you used to ignore when building models as a kid.

35-Piece Hobby Knife Kit [Northern Tools]
Street Pricing [Google Products]


If you’re new to pneumatic tools, you might assume that these tools are going to separate you from a bunch of your hard-earned green — but that’s not necessarily so. The 18-gauge Central Pneumatic is a fine example of an honest, hard-working nailer, and at $20, it won’t murder your budget.

Is this going to become a treasured family heirloom?  No.  But as long as you treat it with reasonable care, it’ll get the job done long enough for you to save up for a better rig a year down the road. In the meantime, for less than the cost of renting one, you can continue on your woodworking way.

Central Pneumatic Nailer [Harbor Freight]

Black & Decker AutoTape

If you’ve ever had to ask for an extra hand while using a tape measure, check out this deal: Black & Decker’s AutoTape for $10 — marked down from $20 — with FREE shipping from homedepot.com. The offer’s good though April 30.

Black & Decker AutoTape [Home Depot]

Helping Hands Welding Jig

What could be better then a set of vise-grips? How about two pairs of knockoff vise-grips as helping hands? This welding jig from Pittsburgh bolts to your workbench and allows you to clamp pieces in position with two 10″ locking pliers.

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