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.


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Wall Hung Cabinet - progress

So the "next weekend" I was planning on turned into 10 months, but I finally got a chance to work on this project again. I used to wonder how it could take upwards of a year to get a project done, but now I get it. As I was teaching, I realized that I didn't have much time to get anything done outside of school and I would rather spend my weekends relaxing. Now that it's summer break, I'm making it my mission to get this thing done.

I picked up a couple of pine boards and got to work cutting out the trim pieces. I wanted solid wood on the trim so that I have something sufficiently strong to cut mortises in for the door hinges. I need practicing mortising hinges, so this project is going to test my skills on that. I cut some mortises for hinges when I built my outfeed table, but that was a long time ago and I need to make a new jig to cut the mortises.

My saw still works fine even though it's been sitting for almost a year. I have to clean up the top again since it's a little rusty. I really need to find a covering solution so that I can slow down the rust. I could just make more projects and that means I'd have to keep the saw clean and tuned regularly. I do have a bookshelf and some storage for my room to make, so that's coming up for me after I finish this tool cabinet.

Got the trim on. I still remember how to do this.
I still haven't made a thin-rip jig yet. This makes for some interesting situations when I want to make thin strips for covering plywood edges. Since I don't really have a good solution, I'm still resorting to cutting them on the right side of the blade. Luckily, my saw has a good riving knife/splitter, so it keeps the kerf very open as I pass the wood through the saw. I did have a close call with my push block today. It always serves as a good reminder as to why I use safety equipment when I'm using the saw. The blade chewed off a small corner of the push block. I know that's the point of using the push block, so I saw it as a good reminder that if I didn't use it, that could have been the corner of my thumb.
Better the push stick than my thumb.
I have to sand the joints all flush and then I need to build some drawers. I planed down some solid stock to make drawers, and I can probably build those tomorrow. That will give me a chance to play with my box joint jig. I haven't used that much since I built it, but I want to give it a shot.

Now that it's summer, I hope that I can make at least one more project. I can't really justify having good woodworking tools if I'm never doing any woodworking.