10 Ways Masking Tape Can Help a Woodworker
Some shop supplies, such as pencils, ear plugs and measuring tapes, are placed in every corner of my shop for quick access. Masking tape is among them, too. You should be familiar with using tape as a depth stop for drilling. Here are 10 other ways I use tape in the shop.
#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 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.
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.
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.
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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.