It can be very frustrating to be working on a project, enjoying an afternoon in the shop, only to find that you’ve run out of something and have to make a special trip to the hardware store.
So I’ve assembled this list of 5 shop essentials you don’t want to be without. Things you don’t think about when you are buying supplies for a project, but you will probably reach for during the build. I’m not talking about essential tools, but rather things I frequently use that run out and need to be restocked.
1. Wood glue
This may seem obvious, but for some reason it always seems like there is more in the bottom of a bottle than I imagine. The worse thing is that rather than making a special run to the hardware store, you may try to just not use as much glue as you need or spread it too thin, and that can compromise the strength of your connections. This used to happen to me until I wised up and started buying Titebond II by the gallon. Running out of glue is something I rarely worry about now. A gallon will last me about over a year and it’s cheaper in the long run.
I use a glubot for applying glue and just replenish it when it runs low. When I finally reach the end of my gallon container, I add glue to my shopping list. I still have plenty of glue to work with, without having to make a special trip.
2. Sanding discs
I use my random orbit sander a lot and I seem to have this weird hang-up about throwing away used sanding discs. I guess it’s because there’s no clear way to tell when they are used up…except when you find that sanding is taking a lot more effort than it should. Or maybe I like to save them for “emergencies” in case I have no fresh sandpaper. This just leads to more frustrating sanding sessions and a drawer filled with unusable sandpaper.
So I’ve started making a point of stocking up. My new rule of thumb is to add sanding discs to my shopping list whenever I open my last packet. So basically, I try to have two packets on hand at all time…one I’m working out of and one that is unopened. Then, when I open that last packet, I throw away all the old discs. At least that’s what I’m trying.
Like glue, I could probably save money by buying in bulk, but I haven’t reached that stage in my woodworking evolution yet. I think I fear I will drown in hundreds of half-used sanding discs!
I keep three grits on hand at all times, 60, 120, and 220. Mostly, I use 120 grit paper and I rarely have a need for any other grits besides those three.
It’s not a bad idea to stock up on sheet sandpaper too. For these, I like to also include 320 grit paper which is useful for sanding coats of finish.
3. 1¼” screws
Sure, there are often times when I need screws of different lengths, but these are usually project specific and I buy them when I am rounding up project materials. But 1¼” screws are something I use all the time, for all kinds of unplanned purposes, maybe making a jig or just holding glued boards together.
The reason I find this size so handy is that I use so much ¾” thick lumber. 1¼” screws are perfect for joining two boards together without going all the way through. I always keep an extra box on hand and when I open it, I add a new one to my shopping list.
I have pretty much switched to using only star drive screws. They are more expensive than other wood screws, but work so much better that it’s one luxury I really treat myself to.
Speaking of screws, if you are a fan of pocket hole joinery, stock up on 1¼” pocket screws too. If you mostly use pine lumber like I do, make sure you get the coarse threads, not the fine thread type.
4. Masking Tape
It’s really crazy how much of this blue painters’ tape I go through. I use it for masking when painting and finishing, for making plywood crosscuts chip free. I use it as a clamp for holding small projects together when gluing them together. I even use them to mark my floor so I know where to stand in certain videos! And that only touches on all the uses I find.
I find that 1” tape is the best all-around size to get. You can usually find multi-packs of these. Get them, and keep extras on hand.
5. Disposable Latex Gloves
As soon as I discovered these big boxes of latex gloves, I wondered why I waited so long. I really hate getting finish, paint and other stuff on my hands. Plus, keeping your hands clean during the finishing process will help prevent transferring dirt and other debris to your surface. Not to mention all the time it will save you trying to clean off your hands with mineral spirits or other harsh chemical.
I also like to use them when changing oil in my truck or any other car-related stuff. I used to think dirty, greasy hands were some kind of badge of manly honor, but really it’s just annoying and gross.