Bench vise

I needed an extra set of hands in the workshop, and hand clamps can only do so much – I needed a bench vise or clamp. If you’ve ever shopped for these, you know their downfall. And if you haven’t, I’ll clue you in – they are expensive as all get out. A lot of things are in the woodworking world, and this is now exception. However, I was able to find a couple of alternatives.

Some of you may have heard about Harbor Freight. Some of you may know their penchant for cheap tools. Some might call them total crap. And indeed, some are. But there are a few gems that I and others have found that are not only worth the risk, but are just as good at a much better price. There’s quite a few items that I will take the chance on with them first, and spend more money later if I need to. Some stuff you just want to spend the money up front.

In order to save a bit of cash, I decided to try HF for the bench vise. I went with the 10” blue vise, but found that I would have to use screws to attach it to the bench. Not something I was real comfortable with, to be quite honest. I’m not even going to link to it because I don’t even want you to see it.

I ended up taking a chance on the 9” quick release vise from them instead.

Bench vise – (please note, as of sometime in 2011 this product is no longer available and the link has been removed – 5/9/2012)

This is a pretty substantial piece. It’s predrilled for bolts for attaching it to a table, and predrilled faces to add your own inserts. Upon further review, it looks like an exact copy of the Shop Fox vise, perhaps even made in the same factory in China. It has an extendable dog, and a level to quick release. It’s been a great addition thus far.

The faces aren’t perfect, but this isn’t intended to be a final resting place. Once I figure up a better mount (so as to not have the heads of the bolts above the table), I might flush trim the faces. As for now, a small chamfer on them will do nicely.

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I must remember to do a Harbor Freight Gems post one day…

Transforming…more than meets the eye

I meant this to be in the last post, but it ran long.

I wanted to go ahead and show the progress from early March to now. So much has changed, and so much more is to come. This is going to be light on words, heavy on pics. If you haven’t figured it out, the pics are clickable to expand.

First starting – some time in March

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It was a real mess. You can see the fairly recent (last six months before this was taken) tables, but that’s it. The first thing I had to do was clean up, and make some space for some clamps and my One+ collection.

The following set were taken a couple months ago (April-early May)

Right Front

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Right Rear

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Left Rear

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Left Front

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You can see a massive improvement. Note the future location of the router table between the work tables. Note the quite excellent 9″ vise from Harbor Freight.

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A couple of weeks ago I got a bug in me to redo almost everything. I really didn’t have enough space to work, and I knew that could be solved by getting rid of a few things, plus some better organization. They say it’s always darkest before the dawn…

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Hard to see in that picture, because it was almost dark after a long couple hours. Removed all the nasty carpet, and inspected the floor. It’ll work. Had about ten bags of trash to go to the curb the next night. I moved the work area from the right side of the shed to the back, something I’ve wanted to do for awhile. Built a shelf over the lawn mower for my golf equipment. Moved the junk mountain to two separate areas. Still in progress, but I’m sure you can see the improvement.

New right front

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New right rear

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New left front

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New right rear

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Hope over the next couple of days to bring everything up to the current situation, as well as get into some of those new major tool acquisitions I’m sure you can see.

I leave you with the pic I meant to put in the last post, detail of the new corners on the router table. Later.

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From shed to workshop…sort of

After the pantry came home, I had business to take care of. When I got my router, I made my first table fairly soon after. I glued up two 3/4″ sheets of MDF with Formica, added a couple of cleats and a plate, and started using my $20 table as a base. Not a permanent solution – too big, and I wanted my table space back. So, I started on a cabinet. Similar to the New Yankee Workshop one, but of my own measurements.

Started with the same 3/4″ white birch for pretty much everything, and a poplar face. Ash drawer fronts and a double 3/4″ phenolic ply top with ash banding do the work. I got a fantastic deal on a fence from Rockler, so I incorporated it along with their aluminum plate and T-track. A safety switch on front helps keep me safe.

It’s not the greatest, I must confess. Again, if I had started on it now, it would be much better. Well, I guess it’s actually much better than the pantry. The only real thing I dislike about it is the drawers. They are an extreme work in progress, until I figure out a solution. The table works exactly like it should, though, so no real complaints about functionality. Dust collection is a big plus, too.

The first attempt. Great functionality, huge in size. No dust collection.

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In progress

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Close up of the top

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No flex going to happen here

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Oops

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Revised that, plus changed the location of the safety switch

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Bit storage

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Hope you enjoyed my first shop project. Once I figure out the slides for the drawers, and get some plexiglass, I can consider this one done.

Impetus for getting the shed together

There’s one project that I did that really motivated me to get my space up to standards – the pantry.

Our house was built in the early 70s, and then about 10 years ago expanded. Even so, the counter and cabinet space is sparse in our kitchen. My wife wanted some additional storage space, and I was itching for my first project, so I volunteered. The only way to gain experience is to do something, and I can’t tell you how much I learned by doing this project, unlike just reading. Because my space was still a disaster (see the next post), I had to do this project at my parents house, in their garage.

(Thank you very much for letting me take over that space for several weeks.)

The house is about three miles away, and with three kids, I didn’t get much opportunity to work on it each day. It was once or twice a week, if I was lucky. It took way longer that I thought, and it’s still in process (get used to that).

I went with 3/4″ white birch plywood for the case, and 1″ thick poplar for the face. The middle shelves are dadoed on the outside verticals, as is the middle vertical on the top and bottom pieces. The middle shelf is supported by L-brackets on the middle vertical (as doing a dado there would compromise the structural integrity), as is the toe kick to the bottom shelf. The back is a 1/4″ matching white birch, set into the case with a rabbet, glue and staples.

Case in unspecified condition, at the work site

Making the frame

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Final destination

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Since I took that pic a couple of months ago, as of today I’m 75% done banding the edges. I also need to fit the final two shelves, and of course make the doors. I had attempted to do the doors a while back, but sheer frustration had set in and we decided to cut losses and get it home.

It’s hard to describe all I learned during this project. I learned I needed a space of my own to do projects. I learned I need a better way to do dadoes. I learned my straight-edge sucks when used at full length. I learned I need to take my time a bit more. I learned I didn’t have the right tools, experience or knowledge to take on this project when I did. It’s not square. It’s not as good as I could do even today. But as long as the doors go on and it looks good, I’ll be happy with it.

I knew I had to transform the shed, and it would begin in earnest…

Previous projects

I really don’t ever consider a project to be done, but just various states of completeness. As such, you’ll see some stuff in this post that really aren’t done.

Gran Turismo/Forza wheel stand

(I’m keeping pics small until I figure out a better way to embed them)

Nothing too special, and I seriously need to redo it in anticipation of GT5 finally coming out in November. Hope I can find some cash and upgrade my wheel to a G27 ($$$).

A jewelry box

Made a DIY box joint jig for my router, and fleshed this out of red oak (her choice). It’s currently awaiting a felt lining and perhaps a new top…because it split right along the grain when I was doing final assembly. DOH!

More pictures to come when I figure out what Photobucket did with my pictures…

Backstory

So, everything has a beginning. My journey is no different. I guess it started Christmas of 08 when I bought my own first real tools – the Ryobi One+ 18v 4pc starter set. A set that I have still. Sure, I had gotten a few older hand me down tools like a drill, but they certainly had limitations – like a 1/2″ bit. So I took the plunge and bought it. The set has been a champ, with the only issue that the circular saw may or may not be perfectly square anymore.

I started with the reciprocating saw, circular saw, drill and flashlight. In the 18 months since, I’ve added:

  • spiral saw
  • fan
  • radio
  • corner sander
  • random orbit sander
  • jigsaw
  • angle grinder
  • weedeater/trimmer

I think there may be another one, but perhaps not. The One+ system is fantastic, and the Lithium batteries have made it 10x better. I’m thinking of completing the set, as far as I need to.

The workshop was also just a shed for a very long time. Institute of Collecting Junk, and it was giving out MJAs (Master of Junk Acquisition). I really thought I had some pictures from when we bought the house (December 08 – hence the tool acquisition), but you’ll just have to imagine. Plywood interior and exterior. Old, nasty carpet probably from the 70s. Logs and junk on the side. It was truly a junk storage point. And outside of making a couple of $20 tables, I hadn’t really put anything in there of any substance.

Fast forward to early this year. One house project I wanted to do was replace a slatted hall door with a solid faced one. To put the new hinges on, I really could have used a router. So, I bought one. A Craftsman 17543 dual-base. Ever since, it’s been an avalanche. I’ve gone from having a complete junk filled shed to what almost resembles a shop.

Welcome

To my family and friends, and possibly complete strangers. I hope to use this to chronicle my experiences getting started in woodworking, and various other projects.

My main staging area is, as you guessed, a 12×12 shed. Not the most ideal setting to create things, but you work with what life gives you. I also have a carport with an uneven floor, and a hill. Yes, a hill. As in, a not-at-all-level hill. Right in front of the shed. Sigh.

So you’ll hopefully see the transformation of this space into a usable area, and some of the stuff and ideas that come out of it. Keep in mind that I just started even cutting a couple of months ago, so what I make is going to be quite crude at first.

Hope you enjoy.

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