One of the best sources of woodworking knowledge is from other woodworkers who’ve discovered a better way of doing something: the venerable “shop tip.”
All woodworkers love shop tips, which is why all the hobbyist magazines have a shop tips or a shop tricks column or department of some kind – Woodshop News even had one many years back. And if you’re like me, when you read these columns you swear you’re going to remember every one of them and use them all the time.
Well, sometimes you remember them; usually you don’t. But every once in a while you come across one that works so well that you not only remember to use it often, but you even remember when you first came across it. That’s the case for an incredibly simple tip I learned from Bob Flexner, a staple of Woodshop News magazine’s “Finishing” department for years.
Bob’s tip was to use a piece of ordinary brown paper, the kind from a grocery bag, as a final abrasive for finished projects. No idea what a brown paper bag correlates to in terms of “grit” – probably something up to 4,000 or more – but it functions the same way. The tip works wonderfully at removing those pesky dust nibs from the last coat of varnish and generally smoothing things out. I use it all the time, and not just for varnish but also to burnish oil finishes for a bit more sheen.
I’ve probably read thousands of shop tips over the years – and used hundreds – but this is the one tip I can point to having used permanently and forever since the day I first read it.