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Stop Chucking Your Putty! Make a Smooger

January 08, 2019

Becoming a master carpenter is a series of small steps, not a giant leap; learning what a smooger is, why it matters, and how to make one are three of the steps

Checking in with Matt Jackson, of Next Level carpentry with a quick and dirty tip for prolonging the life of your many putties. Extending the life of your putty also prolongs the life of the cash in your wallet.

What a smooger is

"A smooger is a piece of tough, thin metal with a bend in it, and an interesting curved edge."

—Matt Jackson, master carpenter

Why a smooger is valuable in your bag of tricks

The job of a smooger is to help you reduce the amount of spackle, wood putty, and taping compound that you chuck because it dried out.

After use, trowel off the top of the putty so that it is smooth. This step alone will keep it from drying out and extend its life considerably. For water-based products, spritz a little water on the surface before snapping the lid back on. If it is a seldom-used product, give the surface a spritz of alcohol, to prevent any mold from forming.

How to make a smooger

Find some flat, thin, tough metal. Matt likes the band iron used for bundling lumber. Different containers can accommodate different widths of smooger, so when you see the good stuff in a dumpster, grab it.

Set the metal strip in a vice at about ten degrees from plumb. Bend and hammer the metal to form a short tab at about 60 degrees or so, which allows the smooger to reach into the small tub.

Cut slight curves on the sides of the metal tab, roughly matching the arc of the tub. Also, curve the smooging edge.

Flatten the tab with a hammer.

Grind, file, and sand the edge until it is smooth and bur-free.

When the tab is done, cut the handle to an appropriate length, then flatten, grind, file, and sand the end smooth.

Cut a hole in the handle so you can hang it up. Because band iron is tough on drill bits, Matt uses a Whitney punch to make the hole.

Pro Tip:

If you don't have a Whitney punch, you need one.

—Matt Jackson is a master carpenter, remodeler, SketchUp Wiz, YouTuber, and contributing editor to ProTradeCraft. He lives and works in Rapid City, South Dakota.

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