My frugality sometimes gets the best of me. I’m too cheap to buy acid brushes to use for spreading glue, even though they only cost 15-25 cents apiece. Every now and then I get some, but I don’t want to take the time to clean them, and I feel guilty if I don’t. I don’t need a glue brush often. Most of the time I lay on a bead from the glue bottle and rub the two pieces of wood together. The other day I was putting together some mortise and tenon joints, and decided I should spread the glue before assembly.
My glue-brush alternate is often a sliver of scrap wood, but I didn’t happen to have the right size handy. What I did have was a box of bamboo skewers. I use them mostly to make ka-bob, but they can be handy around the shop. A buck and a half for a hundred of them is a pretty good deal, but you can find them at restaurant supply places in boxes of 1000 for less than $10. 1000 bamboo skewers will last awhile, even if you make kabob all the time.
The standard skewer works as well as a little stick, but while I was spreading glue in my second mortise, inspiration struck. I picked up my hammer and bashed the end of the skewer. That separates the fibers and spreads them out. The more you pound, the more brush-like it becomes. I turned it a few times as I pounded to even out the bashing.
Total time for this operation is about ten seconds. The result is a nice, stiff brush, small enough to reach into narrow places and just the right consistency for spreading glue evenly. It worked so well that I contemplated going into the bamboo glue brush business. If I could get the right people to jump on the band wagon, this could be the next big thing.
I continued to assemble the project and set my new glue brush aside. I didn’t bother to clean it, and because I bought the box of 1000 (my cost was less than a penny) I didn’t feel guilty about it. The next morning I had a dried out and useless brush, but so what. As I was on my way to throw it in the trash, inspiration struck again.
Only about 1/2″ on the end of the skewer was no good, I still had the rest of the skewer. So I picked up a chisel and cut off the end. If I don’t lose the skewer, I should be able to repeat the process of smash, glue and cut 15 or 20 times before it becomes to short to use. And if I do lose it, I still have hundreds of these kicking around.