Thursday, April 7, 2016

Hand tools....

I'm admittedly a power tool person when it comes to woodworking. My skills with hand tools are very limited, however, I am really trying to learn more about using them properly. I have a set of basic chisels already and I have a couple of cheap hand planes. They're both Kobalt ones from Lowe's, and while I know all the hand tool "experts" out there will balk at that, I don't really care. I still need to learn how to tune the planes properly, but I can get paper-thin shavings from my No. 4 and it does do what I want to some extent, but I'm sure it can be better.

I have learned a few things from using hand tools:

  • I can't saw straight by hand to save my life.
  • The back saw that I got from Ace is not a precision tool.
  • Hand planing a board is a workout.
  • I need a proper bench for doing work with hand tools.
It's a workout, but I did manage to plane this face flat and square.
 I've been trying to do some work on my new assembly table that I built, but there's no vise on it. I have been surviving with it by doing some creative clamping and just trying my best with it. I am starting to design a bench that might work for me, but I can also try to get by with what I have if I finally get that vise for my storage bench I built a long time ago. I have to clean off the bench and see if there's enough room for me to work with.

I really need to organize all my tools and figure out where to put everything I have. I also need to clean up my garage some more and make some space so I can work on projects.

Another thing that I've had to really get better at now that I'm using more hand tools is sharpening. I used a combination of my table saw, planer, and my hand planes to make a couple of strops. I brought one into my house for use with my kitchen knives and one is going to stay out in the shop for my chisels and plane irons. It definitely took me longer to true up a face and square an edge with the plane than it did to dimension things out with the table saw.

Now I can strop my chisels and planes. Hopefully that means better cuts.
I'm very sure that I won't be going entirely the hand tool route any time soon. While I do have a much greater appreciation for them, I know that I do enjoy the convenience of my power tools. I'm going to really have to try to develop a "hybrid" style where I use a combination of hand tool techniques and power tool techniques to make good projects. I think it can be done. I just need to practice. A lot.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Assembly Table Finished

I finished the assembly table a few weeks back, but I never posted about it because I was busy with work and all that. I also didn't really take a lot of pictures because I was more interested in just getting it done.

I had bought my clamp fixtures for the second set of 5 foot clamps that I needed last July when I was working on the table. It took me a long time to get the pipes, and I somehow managed to score the two pieces of pipe for free. With all the pipe clamps I needed, I was able to assemble the frame for the table and get it all together.

I made the lower shelf out of the remnant of AC plywood that I had when I built the top. It was sitting outside in the elements so I had to work around some water-damaged parts. There was enough good wood to make the shelf, though.

Considering that I left the top out in the elements too, I'm surprised it was still as flat as it was. Sealing the bottom of the top with spar varnish was a very good idea. I topped it with Masonite, used some pine from a leftover board I had to edge it out, and got it all assembled, sanded, and slid over to its final resting place in my garage.

As a happy plus, I now have a place for my sander that isn't on the floor. The one downside is that the table doesn't have casters, but that was more by design. I wanted to have something that was solid to the ground so I could hammer on it and not have it slide around. It seems to work great. I already used the table to put together a picture frame and the slightly lower height and the pretty flat surface made putting everything together easy.

I like the design of this table and it was pretty cheap since it's basically a whole pile of 2x4s, which aren't that expensive, one sheet of plywood, and a sheet of Masonite that I still have a lot left from. I have more than enough of that leftover to make another table. I think I'm going to finally get my butt in gear and make that replacement miter saw bench. This design worked out pretty well for me, and I think the miter bench will go together in a very similar manner. I'll probably incorporate some drawers and storage on that bench since it's bigger and I might make that one mobile.

I really need to stop taking so long to finish my projects. Now that Nadine and I have been cleaning out the patio in the house and finally making some room, I have a chance to start putting in the furniture I want. I just have to design and build all of it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Small assembly table - ran out of clamps!!

I'd like to preface this blog with a small comment that getting sick sucks, especially when it's during your vacation and you technically have a lot of things you want to get done so that you can continue to improve on projects like the house, getting to the gym, and various other things like that. Anyway, now that that's out of the way, on with the show.

Since I did get sick, most woodworking came to a standstill. I didn't want to be outside breathing sawdust when I'm pretty sure I got a small bit of bronchitis from the cold I caught and I'm very sure sawdust is not a valid way to fix it. In any case, I'm feeling better today and decided that I'd do some assembly on this table. I think it won't take too much more to get it done since the rest of the woodworking on it will involve making braces, finishing the table top, building a shelf, then putting it all together and then sealing it with spar varnish.

I had the dry fit of the frame just sitting there in my garage for the past week or so, and it was holding together pretty much just fine. I was contemplating doweling the whole thing together or going full-blown old school and draw-boring the dowels so I wouldn't need clamps, but I figured I'd just glue it up, clamp it, and let it cook. This provides me with a small issue -- I actually don't have enough clamps to do this right.

When I made my first set of pipe clamps, I got two 5' lengths of black pipe. I wasn't foreseeing building anything that would require clamps that long, so I figured the pair would be enough. I didn't listen to the woodworking devil in my head telling me, "You idiot. You'll need at least 4 clamps of every size you have." This turns out to be a huge tactical error. When I built my 3' pipe clamps, I made four of them, and having 4 of them is a godsend. Along with the bar clamps I have, I can pretty much clamp anything that is shorter than 3 feet long. Anything bigger than that, and we start running into problems.

To tackle this problem, I decided today would be a good day to make sub-assemblies of the short sides of the table. Then when I get a couple more long clamps, I can tie the two sub assemblies together and then I'll be good to go.

Glue-up went solidly and there wasn't too much mess since I've learned that flooding a mortise and tenon joint doesn't do much for it other than just squeeze out glue everywhere that I'd have to clean up. I was fairly frugal with the glue, so most was cleaned up with a wet rag. The rest are on surfaces I plan to plane and sand, so that will go away quickly.

Now that I have these taken care of, I have to find some pipe clamp fixtures. I know the orange Borg sells the pipe I need, but for some stupid reason, they stopped selling Jorgensen clamps. They had Irwins for a little bit (which I completely passed on), and now they have Bessey clamps. I'm happy about the Besseys on one hand because they sell K-body Revo clamps there, and when I get the nerve (and money) to buy parallel clamps, that's probably what I'm getting, but I don't want their pipe clamp fixtures. I have the Jorgensen Pony fixtures, and I love them. They're indestructible and they clamp strongly. They're also cheap and (used to be) readily available. I think Ace still sells them, so I may have to pay a visit over there one day.

This table will probably sort itself out in the next couple of days, so there's not much to update on it. I will be glad when I have it done. Then I'll have another assembly area that's a little lower so I don't have to try to reach above my head to drive nails and screws and potentially destroy my fluorescent lighting in my garage.

Small steps...I'll get it done.



Sunday, July 5, 2015

Small Assembly Table, part 1

If there was anything I didn't like about my setup for woodworking right now aside from the obvious fact that my garage isn't quite clean and organized enough for me to have my tools in permanent spots, it's the fact that my table saw and outfeed table are my primary assembly areas. This isn't much of a problem when it comes to small parts. On bigger projects, though, I've had moments when the pieces were really close to the ceiling and smashing my fluorescent lights is not my idea of a good time.

I decided to build a small assembly table for things like making drawers and various other small parts. It can also double as a good finishing table. I have some space outside my garage that's covered with a tarp canopy, and I like working there since sometimes the sawdust in the garage gets a little out of hand, even with my dust separator and vacuum.

In an effort to try and keep the price of this thing down, I'm making this table out of 2x4s and a sheet of BC plywood and masonite. I had flirted with the idea of making a torsion box for the top, but I think I'll do that if I want to make a bigger assembly table later. It would cost me a lot more to do that since I'd probably burn a sheet of 3/4 plywood and a couple sheets of 1/4 plywood to do that, and the top would probably cost more than this table I'm making now.

To make the top, I doubled up the plywood and glued and screwed it together. To help keep this thing in decent shape outside, I'm finishing it with some spar urethane and I already finished the bottom side of the top. I'll finish the rest of it when the table is assembled.

Since I wanted to maintain some sense of "refinement" when it comes to this table, I decided that I was going to build it with mortise and tenon joinery for the frame. I made some 2x2 posts for the legs and then I made some other pieces that are 1x3 by cutting and planing some of the 2x4s. It's amazing how much easier things go together when you have stock that is more properly prepared, relatively flat, and square. Many 2x4s don't come that way stock.

These used to be 2x4s.
I cut the mortises in the legs (but didn't take a photo). I was going to use the drill press and drill out the mortises, but then I found that I do have a 1/2" spiral bit for my router. I then decided that I was going to cut the mortises on my router table. I learned really quick that may not have been the best idea. My spiral bit is made of high speed steel, not carbide (I wasn't into spending $90 for a spiral bit), so the cuts weren't the greatest. I'm definitely going to have to pick up some other bits for cutting mortises.

I was going to cut tenons today and build the frame, but someone was good enough to give me a cold, so I think I'm going to be laid up for a couple of days recovering and breathing pine sawdust probably isn't going to help me get better. I also have to get my truck fixed since I found that one of my brake lines is leaking and  having a truck that doesn't really stop isn't exactly my idea of safety. Luckily brake lines are cheap, so hopefully it won't cost me too much to get that fixed unless there's a bigger problem. I'm thinking it may be time to start looking into a new truck. I've had my truck for 12 years already and the truck is 21 years old total, so I have a feeling I may be due for a new one.

I'll hopefully get this thing done this week and then I'll have a better assembly table to work with. It's really frustrating to have to deal with this cold. I rarely get sick, but it seems that when I do, it's always serious. I need a couple days to get over it. I hate it.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Drill Press Table

I borrowed a drill press from Nadine's dad back when I made my router table. I've had it ever since and have put it to some good use when I built some of my other projects. It's really a versatile tool and I'm probably going to have to get one of my own in the future. In the meantime, however, there's always been a nagging problem with the drill press -- its tiny, barely usable stock table.

The tiny table on the drill press is made out of cast iron, which means it rusts instantaneously in the humidity and salt here in Hawaii. I try to keep it protected, but it's a losing battle. The table is also not even in thickness, so clamping things to the table is very difficult. My clamps always seem to find the ridges on the bottom and never get a good grip on things.

I always had the idea of building a bigger, more serviceable table for the drill press, and I finally had some time this afternoon to get working on it. I didn't draw up a plan for it, and I used basically the same procedure that Steve Ramsey used to make his drill press table. I started by measuring the stock table. With that measurement, I cut a 20"x10" piece of 3/4 plywood from a remnant piece from my wall cabinet. I covered it with a piece of 1/4" masonite as a work surface. I put some cleats on the bottom of the table so I could register it properly on the  stock table. That all went together without a hitch.

The table has replaceable inserts for the middle section that are sacrificial. I had a hell of a time trying to get that all worked out since I'm not really good at bevel cuts and I can't measure that stuff to save my life. I made about 4 inserts that sort of fit okay, but I think that should be good enough for now. It wasn't made any easier based on the fact that the piece of masonite I was using was far from flat, so accurate cuts weren't really a thing.

I used my router table to cut the T-slots for the fence and for any other hold-downs I might use on the table. I'm a little worried I might split the plywood if I crank down the bolts too much, but I'll just be careful about it and not sock them down too hard.

The fence was built from a couple pieces of 3/4 ply and I screwed up when I bought the hardware and got t-bolts that were too short. I decided that I'd cut the fence to accommodate the bolts, but still have decent height so I can use clamps and stop blocks and all that stuff. I used my spindle sander to sweeten up the shape of the fence and then drilled holes for the T-bolts.

I'm probably going to grab some smaller knobs for the fence since the only knobs I have right now are jig knobs from a kit I got from Rockler. They work, but I worry they might interfere with the operation of the press itself. It's a small design flaw, but I could always build a better fence later. I have some good ideas on how to fix it, but I'll work with what I built and see if it becomes a huge problem. Being that I spent a total of $5 getting all the hardware I needed to build this table and it's made from scrap wood and masonite, this project was basically free. I still have enough plywood to make a new, better fence if I feel like it, so there is still room for improvement. I could just make a second fence for other applications too. All it would do is improve the versatility of the table.

I'm calling this a win and I enjoy having the larger work surface for the drill press. 200 square inches is way better than the 40 or so that the stock table has. I actually used the table to help drill the holes on the fence and the extra width made the drilling very good. The sacrificial insert stopped any blowout on the exit side of the hole, so the cuts are much cleaner.

As always, my workbench is a mess and I need to get that organized. I still need to make a chisel/driver holding fixture for my wall cabinet. I have some good ideas on how to do that now that I have some extra poplar to work with. I'm sure those fixtures will work better than the pine I used on the other fixtures I already have in there. Once I clean up my "shop" again, I can get back to work on some better projects.


Thursday, June 25, 2015

A thin-rip jig

I use a lot of plywood on my projects because I don't have unlimited cash and hardwoods aren't exactly cheap. This leaves a lot of exposed edges that I have to deal with. There are times when I can use a face frame, but sometimes I like to work with the 3/4" width. I've been using 3/4 x 3/4 strips of solid wood on some of my projects like my chest of drawers and the tool cabinet I just finished up, but there are times when I'd want to use a thinner trim strip.

It's a well-known woodworking principle that cutting thin strips on the table saw using the rip fence can be a recipe for disaster. Since the thin strip can get stuck between the fence and the blade, binding and kickback becomes a real possibility. I also don't have the means to really push the stock through the blade since I don't have a push stick that has a sacrificial part that can get chewed up by the blade.

There are some thin-rip jigs available out there for sale. This allows you to set the strip to cut to be on the left side of the blade, where it can't get stuck since it'll fall away from the blade. This also puts the thick part of the stock to the right of the blade where I can use a push stick to control the work. It's much safer all around. I just didn't want to have to shell out the money for one.

When I mounted up my wall cabinet, I lost the space for my sandpaper storage. I never really cared much for my sandpaper storage since it was bulky and it didn't really suit my needs well. I took the thing apart and I had some nice pieces of plywood left over that I can use to make small jigs. It turns out I could make the jig from one of these pieces. I used plans that I found from a Shopnotes magazine, and got to work.

It didn't take long for me to size up the pieces I needed and I just followed the plans. I did have to make a slight modification to the standard plan because I didn't have a jig knob with a long enough threaded stud. I used a threaded insert instead of a T-nut, but that was the only change I had to make and it still seems to work fine.

I still have to test it out with actual cuts, but I think it'll work out just fine. I would have liked to have cut the adjustment slot a little cleaner, but I don't have a router bit in that size and I wanted to try to use the drill press to cut the slot and clean things up with a chisel. I really need to work on sharpening up my chisels so they cut better. I should actually probably just buy better chisels, but I'm not much of a hand tool guy and the chisels I have seem to work okay for what I do with them. I just need to find a way to keep them from rusting so quickly. I'm thinking about getting some Zerust capsules to throw in my tool cabinet and see if that helps.

I have some room cleared out in my garage now and so I think I'm ready to start building a couple of projects for my room that I never got to last summer. I have to finish Sketchup plans for those, but hopefully I can get it all worked out and then start building soon. I want to use some better hardwoods for my next project, so I need to check prices on that too.


Sunday, June 21, 2015

Tool cabinet done...

I got the drawers together and my box joint jig still works pretty well. It took a lot of samples, but I was able to dial in the settings to get some pretty decent looking box joints. I'm really considering getting a box joint blade set since the dado set I have leave those typical "bat-wings" that can really make box joints look pretty lame, especially on the 1/4" joints since it's only the two outside blades and those scoring marks are very noticeable.

I also learned that I still need to figure out how to make stopped cuts when I use my router table. I also need to remember that pine is a very soft wood and if I try to cut too close to the end of a thin piece, it's very easy to get a blow out. I had some major problems when I was cutting the groove for the bottoms of my drawers. I broke just about every finger on the pieces that were supposed to have the blind cuts. I'm going to just chalk this up to inexperience. I've never cut box joints for keeps before and I'm sure that if I were going to do this again, I'd use a harder wood that can handle it.


The fit was quite good on the joints, and getting the final assembly of the drawers was a bit of a challenge. Once I had gotten the glue on there, the joints were definitely snug. I had to close all the joints with clamps. I squared up all the drawers and let them dry.

This project also gave me a free chance to play with my spindle sander I got for my birthday last year. It was perfect for cleaning up the joints since I cut the fingers long on purpose. The drawers fit the spaces well and now I have small parts storage in the cabinet.

Putting the door on also gave me another fun challenge in that I wanted to mortise the hinges in. I was thinking about freehanding it with my router, but since I really don't trust myself, I built a jig. Cutting the mortise actually was easy and I was able to hang the door with a minimum of problems.

The only thing I had to do after I got all that done was to hang it on the wall. I decided to make french cleats to hang it. I've seen Norm and Steve Ramsey do this enough to know it's easy and reliable. Of course, I do have a track record of doing dumb things. I also have a track record of destroying tape measures.

I must have gone through 3 tape measures in the past 3 years. I broke the leaf spring inside one of my tape measures so it wouldn't retract. Needless to say that made it basically useless to me. I lost another tape measure after that, so I got my 3rd tape measure after that. Just as an aside -- why is it that all tape measures now don't have 32nds of an inch standard? Only certain brands have 32nds and some brands only have 32nds on certain models of tape measure, like on the 16' but not on the 25'. I find that to be really frustrating. In any case, I was trying to measure for my bevel cut and I didn't wait for the blade to stop spinning on my table saw. I got the tape a little too close to the blade and it basically ate the tape measure.

The irony of the picture is that the tape broke pretty much at the point I was trying to measure. The really heartbreaking thing is that the tape measure took a couple of the carbide teeth off the blade. I could have the blade repaired, but I decided not to take the chance. I figured that buying a new blade would be easier, and Marples blades are quite affordable.

I picked up a new tape measure too while I was at it. I wanted to try a Fastcap tape measure. I'm really happy with their Glu-bot and I thought their tape measures looked interesting. I picked up a ProCarpenter tape with a Righty/Lefty scale on it. It's really interesting since it has numbers that can be read right-side from either edge of the tape. I like that since I'm used to reading the tape upside down, and I'm pretty sure that's contributed to at least one or two mis-cuts. The tape measure also has a nice note-writing area and a pencil sharpener. It seems to be thought out very well. Hopefully I won't kill it any time soon.

After all that drama, I got the cabinet hung on the wall and started putting a few fixtures into it. Since I don't have a lot of tools, there isn't much in there yet. I still have to hang my chisels and screwdrivers in it. I also need to hang my saws too.  I like the fact that I can get my tools into some kind of case and keep it out of the open air in the garage where things tend to rust instantaneously.

I now need to clean up the garage and get everything organized again. I had to put together one other quick project. When I was vacuuming the garage, the lid on my dust separator broke. Considering that I hobbled together my dust separator, the fact it even lasted this long was amazing. I had some scrap MDF and 1/4" plywood lying around, so I got to building a proper separator lid and baffle.

This gave me a chance to make a new jig for my router -- a circle cutter. My brother's router has a circle cutting jig, but it doesn't fit on my router since my sub-base mounting screws are too short. I decided to just make a jig out of Masonite. It was easy enough to cut the jig and it was really crude as far as circle jigs go, but it worked. I cut out my lid and baffle and got everything put together in a day. I reused most of the parts from the old separator lid, and when I tested it, I figured out having the proper design makes it work extremely well. The separator in its old form was maybe about 60% effective. The filter on my vac would still clog up and the separator would only catch the larger bits of sawdust. The separator with the new lid and baffle keeps almost everything out of the vac.


I need to spend some time now to clean and organize my garage. I do have to get on to some room projects like a bookshelf which is really overdue already, and I need to build some additional storage for the room. Then Nadine and I can finally ditch a lot of the plastic bins we keep our things in. I'm considering building a platform bed at some point in the future, but not until I really clear some room in my garage. I foresee some trips to the landfill to clean out some extra room.