Thursday, October 25, 2012

Router table completed

I got my router table finished up today and with that complete, my garage workshop is one step closer to being as versatile as I want it to be.

I put on a cherry stain and then finished it with two coats of polyurethane. The instructions on the poly say to put on three coats, but I figured that this isn't fine furniture, and it's going to be covered in sawdust half the time anyway, so I decided to just leave the 3rd coat out.

My attempt to sequence the front panels so that it looks like a single board worked out pretty well, and I'd be more inclined to do it on future projects that have continuous fronts. With the cabinet open in the middle, it kind of defeats the effect, especially with the heavy grain of the oak plywood I used.

The top looks like it will work out great, and the split fence works well. I have to build a couple of featherboards for this that will fit into the t-track I made on the fence, but that can wait. I have scraps of wood that I can use for that.

If I were going to make any change -- yes, I know that I just finished this thing...it would be to get a different color laminate for the top. It's not that I don't like green, but I'd like a brighter color. I always have to remember that I got the green laminate because I wasn't about to spend $72 for a full sheet of laminate in a color I wanted. I'm sure that in a few years when I want to make an improved router table, I'll get it and build it the way that I really want.

I would love to make some frame and panel doors with this table. That was one of the main reasons I wanted to build this table. Aside from routing small parts safely, the fact that I can now cope and stick doors and make divided light glass doors and other things like that much more easily as long as I can get the right bits. I can also do mortise and tenon joinery too. I feel like there are many more possibilities for me now that I have this table built. Since I have some scrap plywood and MDF, I can actually make a tenoning jig for my table saw now, and that will really help me out. I haven't made enough jigs to really make my tools as powerful as they should be.

In terms of future projects, I have four things that are really in the "immediate" category:
  • Shoe storage for the porch.
  • A cabinet for my fishing stuff.
  • A dresser for Nadine's Kimono.
  • A new stand for my chop saw.
In terms of priority, I think the fishing storage would be first since if I can clean that up, that should open up some space in my garage and give me more working area. Considering my garage is around 20x20, I shouldn't feel so cramped working in here. I know giving my fishing stuff a home will definitely help.

The other three projects will come as I get things worked out. I think the chop saw station would be the second thing I could make. Since it seems my chop saw isn't totally square, I'd like to make some adjustments to it. Problem is that I have it bolted to the table I made. I don't want to unbolt it, adjust it, then put it right back on the table when it doesn't solve the issue of my table being stationary.

Since my room isn't quite done yet, I think that I can finish my other shop and garage projects first and finish up the room. I still need to grout the tiles, finish painting, and lay the floor. I think that I can take care of that in the upcoming week, and then I can finally move back in there. I've pretty much spent all of October living out in the living room of the house, and I really want my room back.

I have to look at kimono storage for ideas as to how to build Nadine's kimono dresser, but I think I can come up with something. I also have a few ideas to help Nadine's dad out with organizing the garage at her house, and I think it will involve building a few cabinets there too. I spent a while talking to her dad last weekend and he seemed pretty receptive to some of my ideas, so I hope that I'll be able to help him out and make him a few things that will let him get the garage organized.

I'm thinking I may want to do some woodworking projects for Christmas gifts, but that's a bit tough considering I've never done any small-scale projects before, and you can't exactly package up a set of base cabinets and drop them at someone's house...

Lots to think about, and lots to plan. I'm sure that I'll be able to get it done in time. Hopefully good time...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Router table update..

My router table is coming along now. I took the time to put together all the drawers for the cabinet. I have four bit storage drawers and a wrench drawer that fit in the upper section. I also made three larger drawers that will serve as jig and other fixture storage. I haven't made this many drawers before, so I really had to pay attention to workflow and making sure that my procedures for ripping, crosscutting, and grooving were all set up so I don't spend my whole life resetting my table saw for all the different cuts.

Small drawer parts. Ready to go.
Assembled and ready for glue.
The good news was that I figured out how to cut everything with a minimum of problems. The bad news is that I found out my chop saw is out of square...so I'll have to adjust that later. I probably won't need it for the rest of this project, so I can deal with it when my router table is done.

I managed to save myself some money and I got to use up this sheet of masonite I had bought to make the top for my workshop cabinets. I needed a backer for the bottom of my bit drawers, and since I didn't want to buy a sheet of 1/4" plywood, I just went to my scrap sheet of masonite and cut the drawer bottoms out of that.

After putting together the small drawers, I went to work on the larger drawers. I built those using locking rabbet joinery for the drawer fronts, just like my other cabinet. Having practiced making them before, this time the process was much faster and I experienced a lot less headache, except of course for the fact that I made two of the same side for one of my drawers, so I had to sacrifice a little more plywood than I originally wanted to. In time, I'm going to get better at that so I don't waste more wood.

I got all the drawer slides installed and I also learned in a hurry that trying to install drawer slides in a very small space sucks. I could ask for a right angle drill, but I think if I have to make smaller drawers like that, I'll make my own runners out of wood. I think it'll save me the hassle of trying to fit my hand and drill in a space that's almost too small to fit.

Everything fits. I guess I do know how to measure.
Larger drawers clamped up.


All the drawers are done. Now on to the top.
With all the drawers installed, I can start laying out for the top. I got my switch and t-slot bit in the mail today, so I can start working on that tomorrow. Fitting the router plate is giving me fits because I really don't want to mess that up. I have a lot of MDF to work with, but I want this right the first time. I have to design the fence and get that put together too, and so that will probably take me to the end of the week.

I'm obviously not Norm, so getting this done in 2 days would have been asking a bit too much of my skills. Like my workbench, I've been learning tons about how to do this, and I can definitely say this worked out better than my bench did, and there are a lot of procedures I've learned along the way that really makes life easier.

If all goes well, I can probably assemble the top tomorrow and with some luck/hope, I can get things worked up and laid out properly. I have to work on the fence too, so I might start that first because I think that may work out better and quicker than laying out the top.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Router Table

A router was something I picked up very quickly after my mom got me my table saw. I did some edge shaping, groove cutting, and mortising with it and have been getting by with a lot of just really basic handheld routing techniques. As I've been wanting to start cutting wood more again and I have future plans like building furniture for my bedroom renovation, I've been watching and studying plans. The more I looked into it, the more it seemed a router table was to be the next logical step.

I debated how to go about the router table. I have an extension wing that I built for my table saw, and it looked like that might work out with some modifications to the extension, but I decided I'd go a different route and build a standalone table. I do want to have a bit more closed storage, and the router table allows me to free up space in my main cabinet by giving me a dedicated space for my router bits, jigs, and stuff.

Looking for inspiration, I spent a lot of time on the Google looking for ideas. I also looked to Norm for ideas, and I watched a bit on YouTube. I watched Steve Ramsey's videos as well, and from all of that, I started laying out my design. It was based pretty heavily on the New Yankee Deluxe Router Station. I was able to get the plate and miter track on sale from Rockler, and got some plywood from Home Depot and got to work.

It's been a few months since I did anything related to woodworking, so I had to clean off my table saw and do all the maintenance and all that first. Thankfully the saw cleaned up quick and everything was still aligned well. I spent one afternoon earlier this week cutting all my 3/4 ply to rough sizes for the panels. Thursday I spent time cutting all my panels to exact size and doing a very careful layout to make sure I didn't screw anything up. With the layout done and checking against my sketch and plans, I figured that it was good to go, and I got to work yesterday (Friday) cutting dadoes and rabbets so I could assemble things.

My initial dry-fit was pretty good. I had to do some fine tuning to my panels since my plywood wasn't very consistent in thickness so some parts of the dadoes were a little loose while others were almost too tight. With some careful sanding, I got everything together dry and worked out my bit storage drawer layout. I put together my parts for that, got everything fitted in, then it was time for some assembly.

As I put everything together, the internal sub-assembly worked out fine. I held everything together with screws and glue, and did some initial toe-nailing with the brad nailer to get it together before I could set the screws. Needless to say, I learned that the toe nailing technique works well -- I should believe Norm when he says that. I only blew one brad through a side, but it was in the back where no one would really see it, and it was barely through enough so I just sanded it flush and it's basically invisible. I figured one blowout was a win. The last time I tried to toe-nail, it was a disaster and I hate removing brads.

Next it was on to the sides. I had one set of really tight dadoes, so I was ready to get that all together. Strangely, it went together pretty easily. I figured it must have been the glue helping to lubricate the assembly. I attached both sides with glue, toe-nailed brads, and a few clamps to keep everything together while I got the nails in. The nice part -- no mechanical fasteners showing on the outside.

I stood the cabinet up to look at it, and then it dawned on me why the assembly wasn't as difficult as it seemed -- I put in the internal sub-assembly backward! My initial plan was for the small storage drawers to be on the left side. The small pocket was on the right now. Apparently that tight part of the dado was sitting in a part that wasn't cut quite square enough, but with the assembly reversed, it went in without much drama. I figured that it didn't matter to me where those two smaller drawers would be, and I didn't want to have to try and tear everything apart. The good news was that my layout was accurate enough that I could get away with putting it together backward without messing up life.


I attached the back and got everything all put together. Checked it for square, and it was all good.

Here's some images:





With the carcase complete, I can work on cutting up some drawer stock. I have to think about the joinery, but if I can rough up the stock first, then I can make my decision as I go. I should probably practice more locking rabbet joinery, but I just loathe the setup for it. I think I messed around with my setup for a good hour today cutting samples so my dadoes would work out. Laying out drawers takes me even longer. I hope that my experience making my shop cabinets pays off and helps me shorten my working time.

I'm still trying to finish up my fence and tabletop design so I can get working on that. I have the MDF for it all ready to go and I just need to get everything laid out and I need a good way to rout the recess for the plate to fit in. I'm sure that I'll get everything figured out as I go.

I have to repaint my bedroom and install the new flooring too, so this may take me a little longer than I wanted it to, but I know that out of it, I'll get a nicely renovated bedroom along with a router table. Then after that, it's a matter of making new furniture.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New Home for the Clamps

I decided to tackle a relatively easy but rather important project to upgrade my garage workshop. While I am tight on space in the garage, my clamp storage left a great deal to be desired. I was hanging them on a 2x4 that I screwed to one of the roof rafters. It actually worked out pretty well until I built my cabinets. Once the cabinets were done, the clamps were actually in the way and I needed a better solution.

I looked up several clamp storage options, and I decided to go with the New Yankee Workshop option of having a mobile cart that's built using A-frames. I had a fair amount of plywood left over from building my outfeed table, so I used up that to build my clamp cart.

The construction details of it were pretty simple - lots of simple butt joints that are glued and screwed together. This project did provide me with justification to go and buy a pocket hole jig, and that works out great. While I am still working with learning more traditional joinery techniques, I know that the pocket holes can really save me up some time when I'm trying to build some other stuff where the joinery isn't so critical.

Assembling the cart was a little bit of a challenge since the finished cart is almost as tall as I am and my garage ceiling is a little low. I was able to get everything together without much incident, though. 

I put cleats on it to accommodate the clamps I have right now, and there's plenty of room for new clamps. I also drove a few screws into the side to hold my levels. I'm probably going to add in some center cross pieces that will help tie the center partitions together, and that will give me more hanging space. I want to find a place to hang my framing square too.

I'm thinking that with enough extra real estate and lots of room down on the bottom for more cleats, this should be able to hold all the clamps I'll be needing for any future projects. I even think there's going to be enough room somewhere for me to hang my tool belt so it doesn't have to lie on the floor.





I need to buy more clamps...
 With this, I'm pretty happy with where I'm at with my garage workshop so far. I'm going to have to do more organizing in my garage so I can gain some extra space. I foresee a run to the landfill to throw away a fair amount of stuff in the near future.

I also need to start organizing my cutoff bin. I have tons of plywood scraps...many of which I should probably just throw away since I probably won't use them for anything. I have to start thinking about upgrading my chop saw station and putting that on a mobile base with extensions. I realized I could stand to have a little more cabinet storage, so I'll have to take that into consideration when I design the piece.

I know there's a lot more work before I can say my garage workshop is truly properly equipped, but at least I know that I have enough space and good enough tools to build some decent furniture and stuff - it's just me learning the skills I need to make good woodworking projects.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

more shop things...

Now that my cabinets are basically finished, I started working on some other things for my garage workshop. The first thing I did was use up some scraps of plywood to build some storage organizers for my fasteners I use most often. I was planning on using one of the small drawers, but I realized I needed a place to put stuff like extra pencils and sandpaper and all that. I'd like to have more of an upper storage area, but that will have to wait for a little while so I can figure out how to do that.

how to use up scraps....

The next thing I started working on for the past few days is my outfeed table. When I was building my cabinets, I had a few moments when I probably could have killed myself because I was cutting wood that was too big for the saw to support. That lead to me doing some extremely creative things to keep my work supported.

I was originally going to build an outfeed table a while back, but I wanted to get on to building my cabinets first. This time I picked up a sheet of oak plywood mostly because it was the easiest piece to get at Home Depot and it seemed to be the flattest piece there. It didn't take me much time to cut the pieces I needed to size, and get everything worked out so it fit properly on my table saw.

Since I didn't feel like installing laminate on the top, I decided I'd use this as a chance to give me some practice at staining and finishing. I picked up some mahogany stain and a new can of polyurethane and got to work this afternoon.

after the first coat..
I could put on one more coat of polyurethane, but I'll save that for another day. I have a pretty busy weekend coming up, and so woodworking may have to be put on hold for a bit. I'm still going to have to make my new chop saw table and I'm still considering building a router table. I know that I can't build all that with the 2/3 sheet of plywood I have left, so I'll have to plan.

Just have to re-attach the legs and it's basically good to go.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Finally done...now on to other things...

Got the garage cabinets and worktop finished. I still have to install some T-track into the countertop to make a clamping hold-down, but I'm not in a rush with that right now. What's important is that I managed to hang doors, build drawer boxes and fronts, and I learned a LOT of valuable skills that will help me build things in the future.

 One thing I figured out really fast while doing this is that having good materials helps. Since I pretty much got all this wood from Home Depot, I'm not entirely sure of its quality, flatness, consistency, etc. I figured if I could make something good with that stuff, then anything I build in the future will only come out better as I take the time and spend the money for better stock.

I also learned a lot of valuable lessons about measuring and procedures. I'm sure that some of the problems would have been fixed if I had been smart about what I was doing in the first place, but considering I have zero prior woodworking experience, this project helped me learn a lot about how to set up my table saw, cut samples, make accurate rips and crosscuts, etc. All of these make for valuable skills when it comes time for me to build something that really counts.

I also learned that taking a 2 month break between making initial cuts on this and finishing it probably was a bad idea. That gave my first set of cabinet panels and stuff time to warp and cup and all that. Everything else was basically purchased and cut within a day or two after that.

These cabinets definitely aren't perfect. All the reveals aren't perfect and there are errors here and there that I know will remind me about the importance of doing stuff right. I learned a lot about how to measure for doors and drawer fronts. I know that any set of cabinets I make in the future will definitely turn out better because I know better about what I'm doing. Many of the things that I read about in my books that seemed utterly confusing are now extremely clear. Nothing like some learning by screwing up.

Overall, I'm happy with them, though. My tools have a home, I have a workbench that's functional and usable for my future projects, and I got to put my table saw through its paces to see how it would do. I'm definitely happy with it, and know I'll get good use out of it in the future.



The end is in sight

I'm one more day away from finishing my garage cabinets. I made a really stupid mistake the day before and cut panels for my right side drawer fronts without double-checking my measurements. Turns out the measurements I wrote down were the inside measurements of the opening, and I didn't add in the amount for the tongue that fits into the groove for the frame. So, now I have a couple of pieces that I'll have to re-cut and make something else out of. I do need some small upper storage for things like pencils, glue, and all that..so I'm not throwing those pieces away.

Added on the pulls for the drawers.
I got some drawer pulls and a straight cutting router bit from Lowe's this afternoon, and then got to work putting on the pulls. Had to drill some counter-bores in the drawer front to accommodate the fact that the front and the false front were wider than the length of the screw, but it was an easy fix.

I did the glue-up for the right side drawer fronts, and when I was checking the fit, I found out I must have either measured something wrong, or accounted for a space that wasn't there, so the drawer fronts finish out about 1/8" short compared to the doors. I figured it must have been a measuring mistake. I'll leave it how it is, and remember to measure out the doors and stuff better next time. This bench is supposed to be functional, so I can live with a small space at the bottom. If and when I decide to make a new bench, I'll fix it then.

Almost done..

Monday, April 2, 2012

Making progress

My garage cabinets are starting to really take shape now. I got another sheet of plywood the other day and started working on the small drawers and doors for the left side cabinet. I got to cutting the drawer sides yesterday and that was a pretty quick and easy process. It's amazing how much easier it was to do this time since I built the other drawers before. I tried to get to sizing bottom panels last night, but it got too late. I got to building them today.

Small Drawers done.
The small drawers went together much easier now that I understand a few things about my dado set and the procedures for putting the drawers together. First thing I should have realized is that my dado set is built undersized for modern plywood. That really helped, and it was basically set it and forget it from there.

The second thing I learned about installing drawers today is that cam adjusting slides are a godsend. I wasn't perfect with installing the drawer members of the slides, so the boxes weren't perfect in the drawer opening -- with the cam adjust, that was fixed in a matter of seconds. I can only imagine the frustration I'd be going through if I had to do it with the slotted holes in the drawer slides and all that.

I still need to make drawer fronts and doors. I got the doors built today since I had some time and I had to wait for the glue on the drawers to set up. I had cut the rails and stiles the other day and had them all milled up and ready for panels. I made those from the plywood I bought the other day since I have about a half sheet left.

clamped up and set aside to "cook"
These flat panel doors aren't quite the design my mom wants for her new kitchen, but I figured I should practice the design elements of making frame and panel doors. They're lighter than a slab door, and I'm sure that they're just as strong. I'd like to make frame and panel doors with a cope and stick profile, but since I don't have a router table yet, that will have to wait. After these cabinets are done, I'm going to work on cleaning up the garage more and I'm going to redo my chop saw table to make it fit my workbench. That way I can use the bench top as an extension for my chop saw.

Even though my drawers and stuff aren't technically done, that doesn't mean that I can't use them already. One of my small drawers was going to be fastener storage, and all my screws and brads fit perfectly in there. The other one was going to be for driver, bit, and other miscellaneous storage. I think it'll work out very well for now. I'm thinking I'll need to re-purpose some things to make it all work just right if I start collecting router bits, but one of my big drawers on the right side is basically unused right now, so there's still some configuring I can do.
all the screws fit...
this is going to need some more work.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Getting there...

I haven't had much time to work on things recently with school starting up again and having some rod building projects to finish up, but I was able to put together some parts of the garage cabinets.

I managed to get my top for my cabinets built. It's not perfectly square, but only I'm going to notice that. I learned that masonite is not the easiest thing to cut on my saw due to its flexibility since it's only about 1/4" thick. After dealing with some pretty suspect cuts, I realized that I should have oversized it and then used a flush trimming bit on my router to make sure it's perfect. Considering the small mistakes I made on it, it still came out good and it'll definitely be a better work surface than my table saw table and I won't have to worry about getting glue on my saw table.

Cutting the plywood for the counter turned out to be a little bit of an adventure due to the fact that I don't have an outfeed table yet. This leads to bizarre setups with my scrap plywood and sawhorses so I don't kill myself when I run it through my saw. So...guess what my next project is going to be?

I also worked on the left side cabinet, which will feature two small drawers - I'm thinking fastener storage along with drill and router bit storage. I learned the hard way that I should have made the drawer divider before setting the cabinets together and all that. But I got it in with minimal stress and now I can work on building my small drawers. The lower section I'm closing off with a pair of doors, but I'm not sure if I should put in a pull-out to get the tools out more easily. I'll figure that out later.

It's getting there. At least it's more organized than it used to be.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Making Drawers



After figuring out where I screwed up, this is the top drawer all clamped up.

Making drawers for my cabinets turned out to be a bit of an adventure. After you watch enough shows on woodworking, you get this strange sense of being able to do it because the guy on TV makes it look really easy. I kind of forgot a few things:
  • I'm not Norm from the New Yankee Workshop.
  • Those TV shows have editors.
  • Experience comes from making mistakes.
So, armed with the false sense of confidence that I could actually do this with very little difficulty, I started to work on the drawers. There were a few pluses -- 1/2" plywood is much lighter and easier to handle than 3/4" plywood, and the cutting of the wood was relatively easy and fast since it's a lot of repetition.

Of course, that leads to the minuses. The first was the realization that undersized plywood screws with measurements. My new dado set comes with the 3/32" chipper to get the groove closer to the right size, but then came the setting up of my dado head so I could get the cuts right. That took a LONG time. I think I might have taken upwards of an hour getting the dado set up  and making tons of test cuts. Then I learned the hard way that a "slip fit" is looser than I thought it should be...when I broke one of my drawer sides during assembly. Thankfully, it was only on one drawer, so I made the appropriate adjustments for the other two drawer
It's always nice when the drawer doesn't give you any drama.
As luck would have it, I also learned that I need to be more precise when cutting my bottom panels. My first drawer was slightly off, so I kind of forced it all together. The second drawer, strangely enough, went together with no problems at all. The third drawer took me two days to build since I had to recut the bottom panel. Turns out it was 1/16" off.

Strangely enough, the easiest part of all this work was mounting the drawers into the cabinet itself. I read through the instructions pretty carefully, and I got the drawers sized properly. Installing was a snap, and now I have some good drawers to put things in to keep stuff organized.

Next up on the list of things is to build the actual drawer fronts for the cabinet, make the top for the cabinet, and then work on the parts for the left cabinet. I'm thinking of making a pair of smaller drawers and then a larger pull-out for my bigger tools. This project is taking me a bit longer than I expected, but at least I'll have my tools organized, and I'll have a bench that I can assemble things on so I won't have to use my table saw as a table.
Yay...it all fits.
Got to use it for some storage...

Friday, March 16, 2012

Garage cabinet #2

I got my second cabinet carcase put together today. After learning that I cut my dadoes too deep, I'll have to keep notes for next time so that I don't make that mistake next time I make some other cabinets -- there is a mobile shop table I want to make, but I need to finish my base cabinets first.

After cutting parts yesterday, I realized I made a really stupid mistake and cut some of my stretchers before I did a good inventory of my parts. So, I ended up without a bottom stretcher for my cabinet. While I'm a bit irritated by that, I know that I have to buy some more 3/4" plywood anyway, so I can just make another stretcher with a scrap from that. The nice thing is that both of my cabinets are square, so my cutting skills have gotten better.

I went out to Home Depot tonight and got a couple more clamps so I'll be able to put together my drawers. I also picked up a beam level so I can level out my cabinets. I was originally going to use leveling feet for my cabinet, but I figured I'd do it the old fashioned way and use shims. I also figured that 12 shims cost $2...leveling feet cost a bit more than that, and I'm not going to need 12 shims to level out my cabinet, I hope. If I do, then my garage floor is definitely more uneven than I thought.

I've made my materials list to finish out the cabinets, so with some luck, I'll be able to get this done by the end of next week. Then I can work on organizing my garage and getting stuff cleaned up. Then I'll have at least something I can kind of call a workshop.

Cabinet #2...just have to build the internal parts.
I debated putting some kind of finish on these cabinets, but I decided against it since they're for the garage, and I'm not sure I want to go through the trouble. I'm still debating on the door design too, but I think that can be settled later.  I could make slab doors, but I know I can cut square panels, so I may decide to test my door making skills by making a frame and panel style door just for the hell of it.

Like always, I really wish there were more time in the day so I could actually get projects done...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Garage Cabinets...

I finally got a chance to work on my garage cabinets today. I had to do some maintenance on my table saw since I hadn't really used it for almost 2 months. The cast iron table was starting to rust a little, so I had to clean all that off and rewax the top. Luckily the rust was light and there wasn't any pitting. I'll have to start working on my woodworking stuff more often so that I don't run into those problems again.

I had bought a new dado set that I didn't get a chance to use until today, and I'm extremely happy with it. For the price I paid, it cuts nice straight sides and very flat bottoms. I spent a good amount of time cutting dadoes and rabbets in my cabinet sides. After that, I decided to make my bottom panels and stretchers. Since I've been attempting to clean my garage, my chop saw was out of commission, so I did everything with my table saw. This taught me a few things:

  • I injure myself more with stationary tools.
  • Wood really does expand and contract with humidity - my panel cutter needs some adjusting so it actually works again. Thankfully, that 30" right rip capacity on my saw came in very handy today.
  • Having the right tools for the job makes life way easier.
  • My table saw makes a nice table since I don't have my bench finished yet.
I'm getting a little better with the nail gun too. Only blew one brad through the side of the cabinet - luckily it was on the inside and no one's going to see that once I put the drawers in.

I also built a small dust separator back before I started teaching again which I finally got a good chance to use today and it worked beautifully. The separator holds most of the chips and dust, and very little of it made it into my actual bucket shop vac. I thought that was a definite plus -- less sweeping out the garage for me.

In general, I thought today was definitely a win in terms of me remembering how to build things and getting things to work out properly. Next thing on my list is the drawers for the cabinet I just made and to put together the other carcase for my second cabinet. 
Cabinet carcase finished. Now for drawers.

With some luck, maybe I can get this all done by the end of Spring Break...I'm not holding my breath on that, though. It seems that I always run out of time when I want to get things done. I only wish I could cut wood at 3 in the morning.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My first table saw mod..

I was cutting some wood on my table saw the other day when I noticed that my miter gauge wasn't staying locked down at 0. I thought that was a little odd, and while playing with it trying to fix it, I noticed that the threaded metal rod that locks down the knob was spinning out. That was a bit strange, if you ask me.

Working at it a little bit, I noticed a rather substantial design flaw in that the threaded metal rod was basically held in by a couple of little plastic ears in the knob. No threaded insert, no hard-fixed way of securing the rod into the knob. From a design standpoint, I thought that was a pretty major fail, especially since the knob needs to be socked down to lock the miter gauge.

I was contemplating going down to Home Depot to complain about this and ask for a replacement miter gauge (I've had the saw for 2 weeks...it's still very much under warranty). After thinking about it, I realized that would probably be stupid because the new miter gauge would still have the same kind of knob as my current miter gauge, so it may just be a matter of time before that one breaks too!

I went online after that to check to see how much a replacement knob would be, and $22 for a plastic and rubber knob seemed a bit steep. While I sat there looking at the price in disbelief, I had an idea. I have some dowels lying around, and I know that Home Depot sells hex bolts. So, the inner woodworker in me started formulating a plan.

I went down to Home Depot today with the threaded rod from my broken lock knob and figured out its size and thread pitch. Of course, being that this saw was made in China, it had metric threads. No problem...they still had what I was looking for. So, now armed with a $1.25 hex bolt, a new chisel, and a pile of design ideas in my head, I headed back home to do some work.

First thing I did was take a piece of dowel that I had lying around from a fishing reel storage project I never got started on and drilled a through-hole in it and cut it to size. Then I tried to mortise out a recess for the hex bolt head. This turned out to be a LOT harder than it should have been because I've never done this before, so cue the trial and error (mostly error).

After about 3 tries, a nick on my index finger, and cutting the back of my right ring finger wide open with the chisel, I finally made a round section that the bolt fit in properly. I super-glued my ring finger back together, which wasn't nearly as bad as the razor cut I gave myself when I was dismantling my ulua rod last month, and got back to work.

I epoxied the hex bolt into the dowel section and left that to cure. In the 2 hours or so I had to wait, I fashioned a knob out of some scrap plywood I had lying around from my cabinet making project for the garage. I had to hand-cut the knob with a saw, which was much safer than trying to cut the angles with the chop saw (don't ask me how I figured that out). The epoxy dried, and I glued up the assembly...

I tested out the new knob, and it locks down very well. Much better than the stock one, actually.

The knob is a little bigger than it should be, so I can't really clearly read the angle gauge easily, but considering I don't do a lot of mitering and the most common angles I'm going to be cutting are 0 and 45 and there are detents for those, that scale isn't going to be much use to me.

I should mention that I was planning on replacing this miter gauge eventually with a better one once I have some funds to speak of. There was a nice Incra miter gauge that I was thinking of...if anyone would like to get me a random gift that's woodworking related, I'd be most appreciative...

I don't think that rod is supposed to come out of the knob like that...
I guess the main thing is that my saw is once again back up to proper working specs and I know that I was able to make something woodworking related and make it functional too. I did have a thought that I'd stain it and finish the knob with polyurethane for durability, but I figured there's no harm in leaving it unfinished and very industrial looking. It is an accessory for my saw, after all.

I guess it is also worth noting I bought and set up a zero clearance insert for my blade, and I got my dust collection fitting for the bottom of the saw so I don't flood my garage with sawdust. There's still a decent amount of dust, but it's not nearly as bad as it was when I didn't have it hooked up to my shop vac.
The zero-clearance insert. I guess it's colored red for safety reasons.
I've cut up pretty much two whole sheets of plywood with this saw already and did a lot of cutting of 2x4's with it when I built another sawhorse the other day and it performs beautifully.

Now I just need to start working on my joinery and my toe-nailing technique with my brad nailer and I think I'll be ready to start making some actual woodworking projects instead of upgrades for my currently non-existent shop.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

My Table Saw

It's been a few days since I got my table saw, so I guess it's time I talk about it a little bit. Since I'm getting more into woodworking and it seems like cabinet building is going to be in my future, my mom got me a table saw for Christmas. I actually just got it recently, but no one's checking about that.

Putting together the saw took me a while, partly because there were a lot of pieces and also because the saw weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 266 pounds. It took me the better part of a day to get everything put together. Spent a LOT of time adjusting the blade and stuff so that everything would be straight and I wouldn't kill myself running wood through it.

The saw is very nice - cast iron table, belt driven, and it runs nice and smooth. To prevent myself from hurting myself too much (read: so Nadine doesn't kill me for working unsafely), I keep the guards installed whenever I can unless the cuts can't be done with the guards in place. I've seen enough pictures of table saw accidents online to know what this kind of machine can do and I've already donated my extra finger to science.

One of the things that people seem to talk about when it comes to table saws is the "nickel test", where you balance a nickel on the table and fire the saw up to see if it vibrates too much. Being that I wanted to see if this was for real, I tried it...

You're supposed to run a piece of wood through the saw, but I didn't have any wood to cut....and in case you're wondering, yes, the saw was running when I took the picture.

I decided to test the saw out with some scraps from Chibi's scratching post, and everything cut nice and square. The miter gauge was accurate and I got the rip fence aligned up all right, so it was ready to go.

The next thing I decided to start doing was building some jigs for it so I can make other stuff. The first thing I needed was a panel cutting sled. Obviously I'm not going to be trying to push a 24" x 48" piece of plywood past the blade freehand, so I built a jig. That was easy enough until I noticed it wasn't cutting square. This was a little confusing because my framing square said it was...

So, after doing a quick test of my square, I found out it wasn't! I must have dropped it or banged it on something, which meant instead of the legs being 90 degrees, it was 89.98-something...or whatever the hell it was. All I know is that it wasn't 90 degrees. After doing some research online, I was able to fix it with the king of precision tools - a hammer.

After reworking the panel cutter, I tried it again and now it cuts square. I was pretty peeved about that, so I'm just glad it's all good now.

I still have to build my sacrificial fence for the rip fence so I can cut rabbets and other skinny stuff, and I need to build the outfeed table so I can cut full sheets of plywood without them falling all over the place. I have enough wood to build a tenoning jig too, but I'm probably going to have to go and get another two sheets of plywood so I can build a cabinet and the rest of my accessories.

The saw doesn't match the rest of my tools because it's orange, but who the hell cares about that? Between my black and red Craftsman tools and my green Hitachi chop saw and brad nailer, none of my tools match anyway.

Now if Amazon would hurry up and send my router, I'd be a lot happier...

Friday, January 6, 2012

Adventures in Woodworking

My grandfather was a carpenter. I remember when I was small, I used to look around in his garage and see lots of lumber and nails and old stuff that he used to use when he was working. I never asked him to teach me how to build anything, and for some reason I'm thinking that was probably a stupid mistake.

I've always had a fascination with woodworking. I remember watching things like the New Yankee Workshop and This Old House with my grandparents and being very interested in it, even though I didn't have a clue as to what was going on. I didn't understand the techniques at all.

Fast forward to Christmas 2010, and I really wanted to build something to help me out with fishing. I fish at Maalaea Harbor from time to time, and I was often frustrated with not having a place to set up my fishing rods. At the time, my fiancee's sister was seeing someone who was also really into fishing, and he had this cool thing made out of 2x4's to put sand spikes in. Thinking that was a great idea, I was also fortunate enough to receive some cordless tools (a small skil saw, drill, sawzall, etc.), and with those rudimentary tools, I was able to fashion a frame for 4 poles for the back of my truck. Of course, they started doing all sorts of work down at Maalaea Harbor, so my rack is still sitting there waiting to be used.

Over the course of the past year, I was talking with my mom and she mentioned that we should start working on the house a bit more. I knew right then and there I wouldn't be able to build anything she wanted with what I had, so I told her that I'd like to have some better tools. The first thing I would have definitely needed was a table saw. So, my Christmas present this past year was a new table saw!

I spent pretty much all day today setting it up. I took a small break to grab some soda, but in all it must have taken me about 6 hours total. There were some blade alignment issues and the rip fence was a little off, so that was the bulk of the time I spent. I got it all put together, and then I gave it a few test cuts.

A few things I noticed - this saw is quiet. Even without earplugs, it's quiet. I could easily carry on a conversation with someone while it was running. It also cuts very well with the stock blade, which surprises me. After some toying around with the fence and miter gauge, I got it to cut very square and true.

I'm now looking forward to using this to build some furniture for the house...