Shop updates – Summer 2018

Since I moved into the new shop, it has really been about starting back on projects and also getting the little things done to get the shop finished. I took a couple afternoons one weekend and made a few adjustments that greatly increase usability.

First up is adding mobility to my drill press. I used four stem casters from Harbor Freight so that I could move the drill press around a bit better. Very useful upgrade, even if it isn’t the most stable thing. This comes from the casters not being double-locking, which I will address once I find a good sale on them from my usual source, Peachtree Woodworking.

Along with the mobility, I finally fixed the drill press table. I rounded the corners at the front, and more securely attached it to the factory table. This was something that was much needed as well.

Multiple years ago, I designed this router table as the final iteration. However, that doesn’t mean it is done. It still needs doors on the router cubby and lower portion. It also never got a miter slot, which I decided to address. I used the Festool OF1400 and a rail, and aligned the slot with the front edge of the plate. Going slowly, this worked great, and I inserted an Incra track to match the fence.

Another big upgrade I wanted to make was to allow the back of the Incra fence to slide under the miter saw. As it stood for awhile, it would make contact with the supports. So, I raised the router table up 3/4″ to better match the table saw, and also raised the miter saw up about 1″. Now, the fence can go all the way back so that I don’t have to do as much moving around for table saw cuts to clear. I then adjusted the miter saw back flush with the cabinets for proper support.

I also finally installed the wood rack upstairs and brought over all the wood on it.

That’s about it for this time out. Here are some fairly clean shop pics to round things out.


The Sysport Boom Arm

In my old shop (pictured above), the height of the ceiling rafters was seven feet. Inconvenient in all but one area – hanging my hose for the Festool CT Midi. I has able to screw in a beefy hose/ladder/etc hanger directly into the rafter and was able to keep my hose out of the way. Well, with eight foot ceilings and a mobile cart, these weren’t solutions anymore. So, I set out to craft a solution.

I debated having solutions that tied into the wall or ceiling, but with my space, cutting longer boards requires me to move the MFT around to get a better location. So, I needed a solution that was self-contained to the MFT and moved with it. I decided on PVC to begin with, attaching the vertical portion to the MFT rails with a T-bolt. Unfortunately, this setup proved to flimsy and bounced around too much for my liking. It would cost more, but I needed to go with a sturdier support.

I used 1/2″ pipe instead. A floor fitting would attach to the rear of the MFT sysport, but it did mean that I had to move the support to the right side of the saw rail. I used a 90 fitting from the floor mount to a 48″ long piece of pipe. Then another 90 degree fitting to a 36″ piece, and that was capped off. I’ll go back later and use thread lock to keep a couple of those fittings from moving, but I do want the top portion to be able to pivot about 180 degrees. I attached the sleeved hose to the pipe assembly at two points with the same heat shrink I used to cap the ends of the sleeve. I’ll come back later and attach the end a bit more securely, and put on a clip so that I can loop the end back out of the way.

This cost about $45, and only took about thirty minutes to put together how I want it, and I figure it needs about another 15 minutes or so of thread locking most of it, attaching the end securely, and attaching a clip. One of the best, and easiest additions to the shop I’ve ever done and I should have done both this and the sysport years ago.


One Two Steps

Earlier in the year I built a stage set, and it was very successful with some novel approaches to the problems we faced. One problem was that the stage itself changed a couple months before the play, and that had to be adjusted for.

The biggest issue was that there wasn’t a way to get up on the stage, it being a temporary setup that has now become permanent. So, I built a set of steps to get up from the front, while we were able to borrow two others. The were simple, two stringers with a total of three steps being 18″ high in total. I learned how to cut stringers, and all the math that comes with it. The stairs were liked and appreciated so much I was commissioned to build the one on the sides, as those had been returned to whence they came.

Again, these aren’t complicated things. 2×12 boards are used for the stringers, and 5/4″ pine with a bullnose for the steps. The stringers are on a 6/10.5 setting, and I used stair gauges to set. I was able to get a set of stringers from one 8 foot board, and three sets from each 8 foot board, so the total width is 32″ wide. I decided not to use toe kicks on the steps, since these are going on the side of the stage. I cut the stringers with a combination of the track saw and the jigsaw, going to the latter for the entire second set of stringers. I was getting some binding on the saw, so while the jigsaw heated up pretty good, it all worked out. I cut the steps on the MFT, being able to take advantage of it being on wheels for the first time to cut the longer board.

They were assembled with 2″ Spax screws and everything was painted an Onyx black, the same paint that I used on the first set of steps. I used some cutoff 2×4 to support the last step and keep the assembly from rocking. It’s very stable, and could conceivably support 300 pounds or more.

Not a terribly complicated project, but a good skill builder, and very practical.  I will have to build something very similar when I build my deck.

E: I did figure out that some how I built one step an inch taller, which will have to be remedied by the track saw.

The MFT Sysport

Occasionally there are projects you wish you had done sooner. This is such a project, but I couldn’t do it in the confines of my old shop. Under my MFT was a huge pile of scrap that I couldn’t easily do something with, so I needed the MFT to remain on it’s own legs. In my new shop though, I didn’t have that restriction. On a whim Saturday morning, I set out designing this project.

An MFT Sysport is something that has been done many times over. I knew about what I wanted out of the project, and knew that existing designs would accomplish those goals. The main goal was to get the MFT more mobile so that I could pull the attic ladder down easier. I was dragging the MFT a bit out and toward the door to clear the swing of the ladder, and it wasn’t fun. The MFT being put on any sort of wheels would make that easier. Another goal was to create more storage space for systainers and anything else I needed.

As I was indeed cribbing established designs, that part of the process went quickly. I knew that I wanted side small storage closest to my workbench, so it was really about drawing up exactly what sizes the panels were and where they fit together. I stole the measurements as well, as this was to be my first entirely metric project.

The 3/4″ plywood was bought from Lowes, which frankly offered much better quality for a similar price to what my local lumbar yard is selling for. It’s ridiculous that shop grade ply is nearly $50 a sheet. I paid exactly $50 a sheet for much nicer looking top ply and few voids. I had all the pieces cut within an hour, even one piece too many for some reason. I decided that it would all come together in a hybrid of styles – the bottom sheet would attach to the vertical end piece, and two side end pieces with Dominos and that went easily enough. The spine was also done with Dominos, in field. This was my first successful implementation of non-edge mortise making with that. I then switched to screws to further attach the spine to the bottom, the end to the spine, and a couple of my inner vertical pieces to the side end pieces. I also then used pocket screws where necessary, and attached the top with more face screws. I’m being a bit lazy in my description here, but none of this is really complicated stuff.

I had used my LR32 system to give some drawer holes to the outside on 16mm spacing. Doubling up like this gives more options to hang the drawers. I only did the front holes because I was a bit lazy, plus they really aren’t needed in this application. Pick which front hole I want to put the drawer slide in, get it square to the front edge with a drawer slide tool, and just drill the back hole with a screw. On something that is better than shop furniture I’d do two full columns. I also made mistakes on getting everything set up somehow, and it must be how I attached the end stops. I can’t figure out exactly how, but I did it at least three times unfortunately. That also played a role in not doing a second column for each.

The CT Midi just barely fits in one of the spots for drawers, and I may need to drill some vent holes. But it fits. The MFTis just sitting on top for right now, I need to cut up some 1/2″ ply so that it has a cleat to sit in. Just four pieces to sit inside the MFT corners is fine. I bet glue would work, then a pin or two after it dries.

The pic up top shows my Trion mounted as an example, but I really have no idea what I’ll actually store here. My drills would be a very good choice. I will also have at least a couple regular drawers for stuff like pliers. Perhaps a drawer or two for MFT accessories, I have no idea. I spent $60 on four 5″ locking casters from Rockler, and about $7 to mount them with 5/16″ carriage bolts, washers and nuts. I may need to buy more short drawer slides, but I am converting my entire chaos wall from single to double systainer depth, so I’m not sure.

Really happy with this, it feels rock solid, it was simple to make (about six hours total build time), fairly inexpensive for the benefit, and greatly increases my storage capability. Everything I would want out of a shop project. Plus, it makes getting upstairs easy. And, when I have the ability to move it outside on a deck, I can free up assembly space inside or work with much bigger pieces. I could also eventually buy or make an extension so that in a new shop I have even more surface to work with.


Matthew’s Table – Overview

I’ve been promising a table for my son since approximately a year ago. Then I got sidetracked building my new shop. I eventually bought the material to build it late last year, and it has been sitting in the old shop waiting for the right time. Now that the set build for this year is complete (and I’ll be posting about that coming up), and is actually about to be struck, it’s finally time to get started.

Here is the render again.

It’s a simple design: approximately 20″ tall, wide, and deep. The legs are tapered to the skirt (I think that is what those rails are called), and I’ll have to go back and measure that in the render. The top will likely be plywood with a hardwood banding. It will go together with Dominos for expediency and accuracy, and the whole thing will be stained GF Java, and topped with Arm-R-Seal. There’s also going to be one hidden feature that I may or may not be able to share. That will depend on how public my son would like it to be.

This is going to be an interesting project as it may determine if I need to substantially fix my jointer or buy a new one. The fence is a bit twisted, as far as I can tell. It might be something I have to invest in, but I’m actually hoping I can hold off to see if I can fit an 8″ jointer in a new shop when we buy a new house.

The Stacked Clamp Rack

A project absolutely vital to my new shop is a new clamp rack. The one I have now takes up way too much room along the wall in the old shop, and I can’t duplicate that. I have a space in my new shop next to the door that is approximately three feet wide, and would be a perfect spot.

Here is the current clamp rack, which has the clamps oriented in a single depth and a long distance across the wall.

Here is the plan for the new rack, which turns the clamps sideways, separates the clamp faces, and stacks them for saving space.

I’ll be able to store more clamps in three feet of space than I could in just under six, although they will stick out from the wall a bit more. Because of this, the construction needs to be stout.

I started by seeing if I had enough scrap to get this done. I have quite a bit of smaller pieces, but only two big pieces, one of which is being used on my wood rack. The big pieces don’t always match the construction of the little pieces, either being different grades of plywood or different ply. I wanted this project to not just be thrown together with mismatched materials if I could help it, probably being something I would have up on my wall for years to come.

I had a big piece of ply behind my band saw where the old shop is rotting, so it had some water damage, but I could get the piece I needed out of it. I used the table saw to rip it to 13″, and the MFT and Festool TS55 to cross cut it to 33″. This was the first time I had used these tools in the new shop, and made sure they were set up properly. The cuts were dead bang on both measurements, which made me very happy. I cut all the parts to size using these two tools.

With all the square parts cut, I moved on to the angled relief cuts on the ends and supports. I really just picked the middle of the parts on the render to cut the corner, so I had to give it a bit more thought in real life. I went with a six inch base for the triangle in both directions, and simply connected the points to make the hypotenuse. I set up my miter saw to 45 and made the cut on the line for all five supports and the two ends.

To give a little bit easier time inserting the clamps into the rack, I marked out a quarter circle on each of the supports and sanded to the line with the Ridgid oscillating spindle sander. With the dust extractor, I was able to capture much more dust than I have in the past. I simply set the sander up on the router table and did the task there. It was surprisingly hassle-free. I did get a little carried away and sanded a corner where I shouldn’t have, but that’s okay, and is on the far end where I won’t see it clearly.

I decided for simple screw and butt joint construction here, even though it’s going to be carrying quite a bit of weight. I used plenty of screws on all the weight-bearing loads, and nice long screws into the studs.

The old clamp racks were five feet long combined on the wall, and could hold 30 parallel clamps. This one is less than three feet long, and can handle 30-35 clamps, and fits in much better in the flow of this shop. This is a project that was crucial to the space I made available in the shop, and should serve me well. If for some reason I need to build another one, it would be a simple and cheap process. I’m very happy with this, and it was a good way to break in the new shop and test how everything is going to work.

Guitar Hangers

Recently, I decided I wanted to take up guitar again. I bought my first guitar, a 1995 Fender Squier Series Strat, and never really got the hang of it. I added an acoustic a few years ago, but still nothing. A Guitar Center opened up near me, and it really rekindled my desire. I have wanted a Les Paul for many years, and found what I would consider the deal of the century a little bit ago, used. A 2015 Epiphone LP Traditional Pro for about 70% off.

I mention these things because I no longer had room to safely store the guitars. I had a flimsy hard case for the Strat, and a soft gig bag for the dreadnought. Nothing for the LP. After wearing down the wife for a bit, I got permission to hang them on the wall. I could have just bought hangers, but what’s the fun in that? A video from Jon Peters gave me the inspiration, and I bought some rustic walnut to give it a shot.

It’s a fairly simple project all told. Cut up the walnut to size, put a little divot where the head of the guitar will sit, cut at about 15° to give the outside some shape, mark and drill some holes, put it together. Fill the screw holes, finish. This makes it way simpler than it really is, but you get the idea. Some progress pics (I did remember this time):

These were the two prototypes. As you can see, the head rest divots were not done very well. I was able to salvage the better two and combine for the acoustic hanger. This one ended up being shorter and a little wider than the rest. With modified dimensions, and an eye to making better head divots, I went on to make three more. I had much better control at the spindle sander this time.

I sanded to 120 and used Arm-R-Seal. I sanded again to 220 and then again to 320 with successive coats. The tall fence on the router table made a great spot to let them dry, and you can see some of the contrasting color in the plugs.

Yeah, almost all of that is Ikea. But when you need a home office up in short order, your job isn’t going to wait around for you to build custom stuff. When I move into a new house, I can start to think about what I really want it to look like and out of what. The guitar hangers are just a first step. I’ve also got one to grow on, or I may cut it in half for my kids ukes.

Thanks for checking this simple project out.

All the Workshop’s a Stage

Stage building. I don’t have that much experience and I don’t like doing much of it. But, once or twice a year my skills are put to the test. This year was a bit different, because there wasn’t too much of a scene…um, scene for me to build, but structure. My wife would do everything with painting to make the play come alive, but I would need to make the (literal) building blocks to make it happen.

First up were some 18″ cubes that would serve as props and bases. There were a few already made with the stage company for me to take advantage of, so I measured and duplicated their measurements and construction. They were made of 7/16″ OSB, with 2×2″ pine as corner supports. The trick was, at the outset, how to quickly and easily make all the pieces the same size.

Enter the DIY Festool Parallel Guides. I was thinking of buying, but decided to make my own. This was an excellent idea, and I achieved good results on my test pieces. Indeed, this project was the genesis of that tool construction. With the testing a success, I went and bought seven sheets of OSB, plus four sheets of 3/8″ hardboard for the other aspect. A handful of 2×2″ boards were bought a few days later, they not needing a trailer to bring home.

For each of the OSB sheets, I did the following: I crosscut a fresh square edge off one end, then used the parallel guides, marked at 18″ on the first sheet, to crosscut at exactly 18″. There might have been some variance between the boards, but if there was it was very slight. Millimeter or so. They all felt the same.

So I had 35 18″x48″ sections which I then took to the MFT. I again trimmed one edge perpendicular, flipped it over, then cut twice at 18″. It took awhile, but that created 70 18″ square pieces of MDF. Now, only 14 of these would stay a true 18″ square. These were the tops. All of the rest of the pieces were then cut along one side 7/16″ short. This would allow the top to sit on the sides and keep the 18″ height. Then, half of those (28) were cut 7/8″ on the adjacent side. What this allowed is for two of the sides to tuck into two of the others, again keeping the cube 18″ in all dimensions.

With the OSB all cut, it was time to cut the 2×2 into 17-9/16″ sections. I needed 56 of those. Those 2×2 pieces were air nailed to the face edges of the shortest dimension boards. Then the longer side pieces were nailed to the attached 2x2s, and then the tops went on. For anything that didn’t turn out absolutely square with the top piece, I used my handheld router to trim it flush.

All in all, the cubes turned out fine. Not perfect, but perfectly usable. They were painted by my wife for use in the play in nice bright colors. I got plenty of splinters, and they held my weight just fine.

The other aspect of the stage play I had to construct was a big ‘X’ that some panels would hang between. The company had some 8’x4′ flats, made out of more 2×2 and hardboard. I doubled these together, made a top and bottom plate for them to attach to, and thus the ‘X’ can stand up and be wheeled around. I then used the parallel guides again to rip cut 18″ sections in the hardboard we bought to span the negative space. I made up some saddles to attach the panels by sitting on top of the connected flats. Hard to explain, but it worked. Again, the parallel guides worked brilliantly, since I don’t have a long enough rail to rip cut all at once.

The only thing I have left to do is to make a fake fridge that opens, and I’ll use some hardboard and 2×2 that are left over.


SO…I wrote this a week ago and just now got around to posting this with the pictures. The fake fridge worked well, as did everything else. The play was a success, and the entire thing only took about 30 minutes to take down. For my first set construction, I think it went pretty well, and I look forward to what will come next.

Updated MFT clamp rack

Normally I just put stuff like this into the Bench Shavings posts, but I thought I’d go ahead and highlight.

This was my first attempt. The clamp holes on the bottom were an afterthought, as was the addition of the two Rockler knobs for the Kreg clamps to the right.

So, I went to Rockler, bought a 20mm bit (because the stops in particular were very loose with a 3/4″ bit), and had another go. The result is above, but one more time for direct comparison and explanation.

I used the Incra Rules to get me nice consistent spacing for everything, and drilled eight 20mm holes for the stops and clamps. I have room to store double of both, because I know at some point I’ll at least buy more stops, and it might make sense just to get another whole set. I also grouped the clamps and stops together for better use of the space.

I then drilled some 5/16″ holes (I think) for the knobs to fit their stems in. I drilled eight of those, once again for expansion capacity. Then it was 1/2″ holes at the bottom for the clamps to sit in. Plenty of room for expansion there, four extra spots. The quick clamps are completely awesome, and worth the price difference above the manual ones.

That’s basically it, but it’s nice to have all this completely at the ready. I reused the angled ply off the old mount, but it’s completely the wrong angle for the much longer orientation. Will have to make some new ones at around 5°. But speaking of being at the ready, I moved my wrenches/snips off the wall right there and put it at a better reach than the old ones were. Now I don’t have to lift the track up to get by and get them on the other side of the MFT.

Yet another small project that organizes and gives me small pleasure in the shop.

DIY Festool Parallel Guides

I love my Festool TS55 track saw and rail system. I also love my Festool MFT for crosscutting. Both, however, have their limitations when it comes to repeat-ability on large items. The MFT has a woeful crosscut ability with the rail installed, and even without is still limited – no full sheet crosscutting here.

To solve that, Festool has available a parallel guide system. Unfortunately it is beset with issues from those who own it, and it is terribly expensive. Third parties like Seneca Woodworking and Precision, and even Woodpeckers have come up with their own solutions. I needed a solution relatively quickly, and I didn’t want to spend the $100 plus on one of their systems, plus supply my own track. I decided to design something myself, use that same track, and if it didn’t work out I would then go with a commercial solution.

I got my main inspiration from a user on the Festool forum, and I’ll link directly to the thread at the bottom of this entry. I did see some room for improvement, and while not all of my ideas bore fruit, they were still worthwhile.

I headed to Woodcraft and picked up everything but the two bags of bolts to the right:

Two 24″ sections of Incra T-Track Plus – $14.99 ea

One Incra 1/4″-20 Build-It System bag – $12.50

One Festool rail connector (482107) – $18.00

I decided early on to go with MDF, being dimensionally true and stable. I also figured out that I could use M6 bolts, so I went with what I call thumb screws. The ones in the picture are 20mm, but what you really need is more like maybe 25mm.

I had a piece of 1/2″ MDF on hand that I tried to use, and glued everything up separately after fitting the T-track. At this point I wasn’t worried about the stops, just the attachment to the rails. I then did my best guess at getting the Festool rail connector to where it needed to be, drilled holes, cut the connector in half with my miter saw, and mocked it up with the Build-It kit.

It wasn’t bad, but I knew I could do better. Since I was out of MDF the right size, I bought a project panel (2’x4′) from the Depot and started again. This time, instead of cutting small parts and gluing them around the track, I went with a full glue up of two pieces. Then I could use the table saw and remove the material for both the rail connector and the T-track.

I had a third glue-up that was similar that I turned into the stops. The Incra T-track plus is exactly 1/2″ high, and I went with 3/8″ deep dado for the rail connector. I think in actuality it should be more like 1/4″ deep, but I’m sure there will be a third revision to this that will correct it.

I used drill bits that just fit those M6 bolts, so they threaded in to the MDF just like the rail connector. I did the same for the 1/4″ bolts that attach the guides to the T-track. I don’t know why I did this, but it seemed to make sense and worked.

As I said, I made the stops the exact same way as the connector part, thinking that a wide base would be better for getting a true measurement. I used slick tape to line where the T-track touched the stop, so I could get a good connection there and still slide easily. That worked well.

The width of the stops however did not. When I did my test cuts, I was out by about 1/16″ over two feet.

Now, there could have been a few factors here, but I chose to improve the stops. I cut them a lot narrower, and added screws where it would contact the piece.

This gives me pretty good adjustability for getting good contact with the workpiece. My method for these, for now, is to make sure I have a clean edge on the piece I am cutting. Then I mark the width I need, line the Festool rail up with my marks, then adjust the stops and screw heads to where everything is snug like it needs to be. I then verified my test cut.

There’s only the slightest bit of difference, and this is over 16″ wide. At least for the upcoming project this will be completely acceptable, but I won’t stop striving for excellence. To that fact, I decided to freestyle some softening of the edges and corners on the connectors and hung them on the wall.

Yeah, I’ll make a version three at some point. I’ll be a bit more exact on my hole placement, etc. But I think this is a fully functional setup at this point and I’ll be using it very soon…like maybe tomorrow.

Including the 1/4 sheet MDF I had to buy for version two, I’m all in for right at $75 for the entire lot, including going back and buying additional M6-25 bolts. Since I have plenty of that MDF left, a third version will not cost me a cent if I decide to revise.



Link to my motivation: