$50 That Will Make Your Tiny House Look Like A Million Bucks

Looking back on my build I realized that there were a few things that just made a huge difference in the quality of my finish work.  I am total novice when it comes to finish wood working and before my tiny house I had never built anything, so I learned some secrets along the way that I wanted to share.  What I realized was, there was a few things that cost only a few bucks that really took my finish work to the next level in terms of perceived quality.  Here are a few:

tear out

Blue Painters Tape – $3.50

When you’re making cuts on nicer plywood like birchply or appleply you run the risk of tear-out, which is small tears in the veneer.  Veneer is very thin and right where you cut it, you often get tear out on veneer.  This leave a messy looking edge and reduces the quality of your work.  It can look bad enough that you need to trim over it to hide the seam.  If you instead buy a roll of painters tape and line the blade path you can reduce the tear out a good bit.  Stick it to your board and then make your cut!


A Scribe Tool – $15

I think this is just something that most carpenters take for granted as just common sense, but to a lay-person we would never know of it.  I just happened upon this technique when someone off handily mentioned it in a post and I started googling it.  I didn’t know it at the time, but what I found was a solution to a problem I had been trying to figure out and the universe seemed to conspire to show me the solution.  I really like this particular scribe tool, which is $15, but any normal compass can work.

How scribing works is when you’re having a piece of wood that is butting up against another surface and that surface isn’t perfectly flat, you drag the scribe along the surface of the uneven plane and the pencil transfers the profile to wood your butting up with.  With the exact profile drawn out, you then cut it to make a perfect fit.

round over bit router

A 1/8″ Round Over Bit w/ Bushing – $25

There is something about rounding over edges that just makes things look higher end and it’s so easy to do.  I also find rounding the edges of wood makes it more comfortable if you are making something that you’ll touch often: a handle, a ladder rung, or edges of furniture.  This does assume you have a router, but I feel that a router is a necessary tool for finishing any tiny house.

A round over bit does exactly what it sounds like: it takes an edge and rounds it, making the edge curved.  I like the look of a 1/8″ because it softens it just enough, but doesn’t take a lot of material away, it’s a subtle detail that you can only appreciate up close.  The key here is having a bit with a bushing, which is a small metal wheel that is attached to the router bit and allows you to roll the bit along an edge.  It’s important to note that router and bits come in two sizes:  1/4 inch and 1/2 inch; pro wood workers use 1/2″ but I’ve found a 1/4″ worked great and was cheaper.  I like this particular round over bit; with a bushing you place the bushing on the outside edge and it perfectly spaces the cutting head (assuming you’ve properly aligned it vertically; make sure to do a test piece).  This is great because as long as you keep your router plate flat, you can’t mess it up!  It also lets you move fast, you just set the bit, and you can drag it along very quickly.

align a table saw blade tiny house

Align Your Table Saw – Free

I don’t know why, but this never occurred to me when I first started using tools, but then need to be aligned.  I think the biggest offenders tend to be your table saw and your miter saw.  Out of the box, saws are only so accurate, but with a few minutes of tweaking, you can get your blade to a high degree of accuracy.

I’d suggest getting a high quality blade right off the bat and tossing the stock blade.  If you can also spring for a higher end fence, that can help a good bit.

Even a tiny fraction of an inch can add up when you’re ripping a piece of plywood over an 8 foot distance and it will just make your frustrated later when you go to fit things together.  Check out these videos below on how to align your table saw:


So I hope you find this useful, let me know your tips of taking your finish work to the next level in the comments!

  1. These are the best tips I’ve seen! Small ideas like this can make a huge difference. I wish I had known this sooner!

  2. Good tips for sure. Having a mitre saw sure makes a build easier too. Table saws are good but those mitre saws are fantastic when you’re cutting trim. I did mine old school with the hand saw and mitre box for years but my son got tired of that and got himself a mitre saw so I borrow his all the time.

  3. I have Dewalt DW175 miter saw. I have problem with cutting board 45 and 90 degree. Do you sharing tips? I want to décor crib for my daughter next week

  4. A carbide saw blade (even a cheap one) is a must. The difference in quality of work and ease of cutting is amazing. Cheaper too as it will last forever, almost.

  5. Excellent article with fabulous ideas! I live in a tiny home on wheels for over 5 years now and I love it!

  6. Worthwhile tips for amateurs like me.
    BTW – why is your house really small and your workshop 900 sq ft?

    Thanks for the info.

    • It’s a youtube video, the shop isn’t his.

    • Yeah it’s not my shop, it’s just a video to show you how.

      • It was Theodore Roosevelt (I think) who first said “speak softly, carry a big stick, and you will go far”.

        Borrowing his idiom and revamping it…your message for those downsizing and minimizing their life is: “Live Tiny, live lightly but carry a big workshop”?

        Whether it is “just a video show” or not the *apparent* message is still a little incongruous – that to live tiny you need access to a big workshop.

        Don’t get me wrong – the idea of a big workshop/man cave is very appealing. I live in a big house on 4 acres in the Australian bush. I have a garage that doubles as my workshop – it’s about the size of a “Tiny House”.

        In my case the size of the “workshop” matches the size of my workshopping abilities.

        I enjoyed your presentation and the tips and the rest of the info I found on your site and related sites/links.

        Perhaps there’s an idea germinating here for a show on how to set up a tiny workshop commensurate with the philosophy of tiny houses. A workshop well planned, well laid out and with just the right mix of essential workspaces and tools – all in 10 x 10 feet. There’s a challenge.

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