Favorite Plastic Shop Gadgets

For the new woodworker setting up their shop, a trip to Rockler, Woodcraft, or their big box stores presents an onslaught of gizmos, gadgets, devices that "guarantee a perfect (insert woodworking task here) every time". I went through that phase, spent my money, and made it out (mostly) unscathed. Along the way I found a few that were worth it. 

I like to be surrounded by wood, metal, leather, fabric, and other natural materials in my shop. Non-plastic tools just look and feel better in my creative space. I have some plastic in my shop that I can't really do anything about; the handle on the fence of my table, the dust collection tubes, and my dead blow mallet is covered in plastic. The handle of my combo screwdriver is plastic (although I couldn't stand that, so I recently bought a combo screwdriver turning kit from Rockler and made a wooden handled one). While my plastic tool aversion might seem a little neurotic and silly, it's what I like. I've been known to retire a perfectly nice new plastic handled hack saw for a wood handled one from the 1920's I found in flea market. It took me an hour to de-rust off the vintage one, clean and oil the handle. And after all that, it works about the same as the new one. But I like it better.

After all that, I have a few plastic woodworking tools / gadgets that I will not part with. Despite their plastic-ness, these things are great at what they do and I wouldn't replace them if there were non-plastic equivalents.

(Disclaimer: I have received no endorsements for these reviews, and I have no contact with these companies. I paid full retail for them. I am posting links so you can check them out, but they're not affiliate links or anything.) 

So without further ado...


The FastCap GluBot, and it's little cousin, the BabeBot, are the best glue dispensers I've ever used. I've tried the manufacturer's bottles. I've tried the mustard-bottle-as-glue-bottle. I've tried the "store the glue bottle tip-side down in a holder" trick. Then I found these, and I was done looking. These containers are designed so that no matter how much, or little, glue is inside the reservoir, fresh glue is just a squeeze away. I use the big one for PVA glue, and the little one for liquid hide glue. The smaller BabeBot is easier to heat up in my high-tech pot-on-a-hotplate hot water bath (in order to get the Old Brown Glue up to working temperature of 100-140°F.) These things don't clog, and glue is always ready to go when I need it. During a glue up, there's already enough things to worry about without battling a clogged or doing the "I forgot to refill it so now I'll stand there holding it upside down and shake it a lot" dance.

Preppin' Weapon

Next we have the Preppin' Weapon from Time Saver Tools. Continuing in the tradition of cute names, It's a plastic sanding block. How good can it be? I'd used my own shop blocks, when they were just... blocks of wood with paper wrapped around them. I used those horrible 3M rubber blocks with the tack/nail grippers. I'd made my own fancier one with a cork bottom and wing-nut-clamp system. Then I saw these, and I gave one a try - I was hooked. These use a simple cam lever on both ends to secure a 1/4 sheet of paper (... wide, so they use 8 1/2" by 2 3/4" size pieces) over a soft rubber face. They hold the pieces very close to the ends, so it allows almost all of the paper to be used. I like that the 1/4 sheet shape makes for a nice long reference surface, and finger hold shape is very comfy. I ended up getting all 4 colors, and keep them set up with different grits. I also made a simple little jig with an old hacksaw blade to quickly tear the sheets to the right sizes. Now changing paper and doing lots of sanding is really nice and easy.

sandpaper fleet

paper sizing/cutting jig

The Grr-ripper

Finally, we have the Grr-ripper from Microjig which is well designed push block. It's purpose is to keep your hands safe while allowing you to exert a lot of control over a workpiece when using a tables or router table. I bought one of these when I first started out, and at $60, it seemed like a lot for a hunk of plastic. But after using it for a few months, I went and got a second one. The safety and control these brought me, especially as a new woodworker, were exceptional. It's now been years, and I love how I can adjust the feet to straddle the table saw's blade, while holding down both the work and the off cut. The added L shaped support foot lets the Grr-ripier remain balanced when working with a narrow piece, which is especially nice on a router table. These are so well designed, that's it's hard to find a situation where they don't work well. If I ever break or lose one, I'll get it again. But after years of use, and a few battle scars, these have held up and are well work the price tag.

dual Grr-rippers!

adjustable L foot, and center support

Despite their plastic nature, these items are welcome on my shop, and help me get work done efficiently. I know I could make alternatives. I've seen a few people do some great sanding block builds, and I've even seen a DIY wooden Grr-riper build or two. Show me a copper GluBot, and I'd be tempted. But the work required doesn't outweigh the relatively low cost and high value that these gizmos deliver. So they're here to stay.