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'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...