Testing a tip

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Forum topic by Betsy posted 03-11-2012 04:42 AM 2154 views 0 times favorited 23 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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3336 posts in 3317 days

03-11-2012 04:42 AM

First off you all know when you read in the various magazines the reader’s tips that you sometimes say, yeah, I suppose that’s pretty good, but can’t see myself using it, so you just glance over it. Then there are those tips that just make no sense at all and you wonder why did they print that? Then there are those tips that say hey “try me out.” This is one of those “hey try me out” tips.

As always, give credit where credit is due. Here is a shout out and congrats for getting your tip published in Fine Woodworking to Tom Carpenter of Vernon, British Columbia, Canada. Tom’s tip was published in the April 2012 (yeah I know – it’s not April yet) issue on page 16.

I wanted to try this tip because I’ve never really been satisfied with my different methods of holding up my work pieces.

Tom’s tip is to use golf ball markers to hold your project up off of the work surface while applying a finish. I had never heard of these little things, I’m not a golf watcher, so I’m not 100% sure what these things are used for in the game of golf. Tom’s markers are 1” wide by 1/2” tall. I could not find this size marker at my local sports store. My markers are 1” wide but only have a 1/4” spike. Regardless, these are the markers I’m going to use.

To test Tom’s method I decided to run a very scientific test. Okay, not “very” scientific – but a test nonetheless.

Here are the competitors.

I was disappointed in the markers I bought but only because they cheated me out of one marker. There were supposed to be 12 and there were only 11 and not only that, but they cheated me out of my favorite color – red! Geez the injustice of it. :-)

Here’s a little close up of the golf marker. You can see that the top of the “spike” is flat. Tom’s markers also have a rounded tip not a flat tip like mine. So that may make my test not completely accurate.

Next competitor is just some small finish nails hammered into some small plywood pieces. I’ve used these a lot over the years, but never with 100% satisfaction.

The nails, of course, are very hard. But they are also very flat on the top. So with that, they are actually very similar to the golf markers. You can see that I have two nails in every ply piece. That helps me not to have to balance my piece on one nail. I found that if I used only one nail in each piece that I have a hard time keeping things balanced. Not sure if I’m explaining that very well.

One problem I had with the nails is that I always have to be very careful when I pick my work piece up to pick it straight up in one quick motion. If I happen to slide or push the work piece a little one way or the other I would actually create a scratch in the work piece – and that my friends leads to a very unhappy camper.

Okay the final competitor in my very scientific test are the paint triangles that you can buy at Rocker, Woodcraft and I believe I’ve even seen them at one of the big box stores (but don’t hold me to that). You can see that mine have been well used.

The problem I’ve always have had with these little triangles are that they come to a very sharp point. The point in rounded, but it is still what I would call sharp. That sharp point actually makes a small pock mark in the work piece. And that, my friends, is why I want to try Tom’s tip.

If the golf markers will keep from scratching the work piece and not gouge or pock mark the piece, then they will win.

So how to test the tip. I decided that I would use three pieces of pine. All three pieces are the same width, length and thickness. I placed the various competitors at approximately the same location on each board (or at least I tried – I didn’t get out my calipers – that’s why this is not really a very scientific test – I use that term lightly.) Since most finishing projects are left to dry overnight I’ve marked the time I set the boards on the competitors (not sure why I did that – but thought it would give my test more gusto if I could say how long they sat under the boards).

One thought I have with the golf markers I found is that they are plastic and that may put them in the same category of the plastic triangles – but not really sure that thought will pan out. We’ll see.

I’ll post my “results” tomorrow. I know you are all already excited to see my results, but please try not to let the pending results make you lose any sleep.

One final note, I was not sure if this topic should be under “finishing” or “Jigs and Fixtures” I flipped a coin and Jigs and fixtures won.


-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

23 replies so far

View a1Jim's profile


115177 posts in 2998 days

#1 posted 03-11-2012 05:10 AM

I would guess the golf green markers are to close to be able to placed properly ,I know the nails work and the painters triangles work having used them before.

-- Custom furniture

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


17577 posts in 3097 days

#2 posted 03-11-2012 05:27 AM

I thought they just used a quarter to mark golf balls. Now I know ;-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View TCCcabinetmaker's profile


930 posts in 1776 days

#3 posted 03-11-2012 06:13 AM

when I can’t support it on the rack after spraying, I use a 1/4 inch piece of plywood with screws driven all the way through, the point is to have the smallest possible point to hold up a piece without leaving a mark.

-- The mark of a good carpenter is not how few mistakes he makes, but rather how well he fixes them.

View lew's profile


11264 posts in 3176 days

#4 posted 03-11-2012 02:29 PM

Cool, Betsy!

I’ve used nails and home made painters triangles before but never the golf thingys. Looking forward to the results.

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

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Jim Finn

2390 posts in 2343 days

#5 posted 03-11-2012 03:00 PM

I do what TCCcabinetmaker does.

-- "You may have your PHD but I have my GED and my DD 214"

View Betsy's profile


3336 posts in 3317 days

#6 posted 03-12-2012 12:18 AM

Well my less than scientific results are in. The plastic triangles lose. I couldn’t get my camera to get a picture worth showing, but of the three types of supports the plastic triangles were the only ones that pocked marked the pine wood.

I do think that just a 1/4” spike on the golf markers are too low to be useful. The Nails I’ve used a lot, but like I said in my first post, they can scratch the finish if you don’t pull the wood off straight up in one easy motion.

TCC and Jim – I’d be interested to know if you snip off the end of your screws before placing your material on top. I would think the sharp point of most screws would mar the finish.

So no major breakthroughs here. :-)

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2271 days

#7 posted 03-12-2012 12:45 AM

I use 1 1/4” staples, two driven through per piece of 1.5×1.5×1/2 or 5/8 manmade sheet goods.

The points are sharp, and that’s good. The bigger the tip of the object, the bigger the scar.

The ball markers are cool. I’d be inclined to dress the tips to a sharper point with a file and hot melt them to a small piece of 1/2” stock to raise them up.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Betsy's profile


3336 posts in 3317 days

#8 posted 03-12-2012 01:02 AM

I would not have thought of using staples, that’s an interesting idea.

Isn’t the exchange of ideas wonderful!

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Trapshter's profile


64 posts in 1815 days

#9 posted 03-12-2012 01:10 AM

Like TCC I run screws through the board . But I add wall Mollys smll ones. They are nice and round at the ends and never leave a mark

-- Smile and wave boys just smile and wave

View Elizabeth's profile


814 posts in 2564 days

#10 posted 03-12-2012 01:54 AM

I’ve never used any of these items because I don’t have much experience with finishing, but if I were to make some I might try those bobby pins that have tiny round plastic caps on the end. Cut the pin in half, drive one end into a board like your nails. The caps may solve the scratching problem that the nails are giving you…

Come to think of it, I don’t have much experience with bobby pins either, but I am pretty sure that they still make them with caps on the ends…

View Betsy's profile


3336 posts in 3317 days

#11 posted 03-14-2012 12:37 AM

They do still make those! Not a bad idea. :-)

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Grandpa's profile


3256 posts in 2096 days

#12 posted 03-14-2012 01:24 AM

I use screws driven through from the back then I have the small point to sit the project on. This leaves a very small place to deal with.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2271 days

#13 posted 03-14-2012 02:05 PM

The bobby pin tips might respond to the solvent in lacquer; not sure.

Here’s a subfamily of my large litter of staples in blocks:

It might be good to discuss the value of a sharp point over a dull one when we’re using these on something that is finished all sides. Though I’m not convinced there would be a great deal of difference, the dull end would create a crater-like impression (micro to macro) while a sharp point would create a much smaller impression if you’re turning the object over and placing green finish on the holders.




-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Betsy's profile


3336 posts in 3317 days

#14 posted 03-15-2012 02:52 AM

Lee. I am wondering how sharp is too sharp? I would never have thought of screws or staples because of the sharpness. In my mind that seems like it would cause more, not less damage. But it seems that the proof is in the pudding and sharp does work.

Just goes to show, a simple question can lead to knew ideas and a new way of doing things.

Thanks for all the responses.

-- "Our past judges our present." JFK - 1962; American Heritage Magazine

View Frizz's profile


10 posts in 2194 days

#15 posted 03-15-2012 05:04 PM

Part of the problem with marks left by the sharp point of nails or screws may be from not using enough of them to give sufficient support. As others have suggested above, I have used a “porcupine” board that has nails driven right thru so my project rests on the points and find that it works great. However, the nails are spaced about an inch apart. I found that resting work on the head of the nails left a mark on the surface finish. I realize the spacing I use would be out of the question for larger projects but it could always be adjusted to suit. Just a thought….

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