The Most Valuable Hardware Installation Tool

At any given moment during a project, it is possible to find many tools scattered about the workbench.  Here I am cutting hinge mortises and installing brass butt hinges on a door.  Can you guess which is the most valuable tool in this picture?

Mortising Butt Hinges

No surprisingly it is not the errant Golden Retriever paw behind me, and fortunately it is the cheapest tool on the bench.

Brass hardwareYears ago I bought a 200 pack of these little plastic cups to use for mixing and applying epoxy.  There is rarely a project that comes off my bench where I don’t end up using one of these cups.  In this case it is the perfect receptacle for holding all the tiny brass screws and hinges for the doors on this clock I am building.  As a project draws to a close, the anticipation rises and it is natural that I start to rush a little.  I have to constantly remind myself to slow down and to use the same attention and care I use during the joinery phase.  So it is with the desire to finish that tiny screws and hinges get knocked off the bench into the shaving strewn floor never to be seen again.

Generally I use my hinges to layout out the mortise on the project so I’m constantly picking them up and putting them down.  I then need to check the fit and tweak the mortise for a snug install so I shuffle the hinges around again.  Then while I’m drilling the holes and threading the screws in, I’m constantly reaching for the tiny screws.  All this movement can quickly get things knocked to the floor or placed in a far corner of the shop where it disappears.

When it comes time to install hardware on your next project, take a minute and drop all of it into a jar, cup, Tupperware, or whatever.  Be vigilant and drop the screws and hinges back into the cup each time you test the fit of a mortise, drill, or pre-thread the screws.  That way no matter what happens to interrupt you in the process, you always know where your hardware is.

…Just don’t knock the cup off the bench.


8 Responses to “The Most Valuable Hardware Installation Tool”

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  1. Joe says:

    so now the RWW is going to herald the “red solo cup” also ? not just for parties, but the shop.

  2. Ron Harper says:

    Yes. I learned that lesson a Long time ago. I actually use a small glass jar that came with dill pickle slices in it.
    Yes, I know glass and all.. but I have had it for a while.

  3. John johnston says:

    Better than tippy cups are Altoid Tins.

  4. Mitch Wilson says:

    My vote is for small cat food tins. They come with plastic lids that are reusable. Snap on the lid and you can fling the can across the shop. These are also great for putting your wood glues into. With the lid kept on, the glue will stay usable a long time. Or for keeping some single species sawdust for when you need a little for a minor repair.

  5. Todd says:


    I use old laundry detergent cups for the same thing!

    So when are you going to start selling Hand tool School embossed cups?

    How do you like the new Veritas chisels? Hope you are going to have a review of them.

  6. Chris Griggs says:

    I save the little cups that sauces and dressing come in when I get take out. The Mexican restaurant puts hot sauce in them and the Vietnamese restaurant across the street put peanut sauce in them. Needless to say, I accumulate them rather quickly and they are great for all sorts of things…. small parts, glues, a small amount of finish, etc…. plus as long as I keep eating spring roles my supply is endless…

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