The little green machine

So, about that green thing…

When I saw the chop saw station from NYW, I knew I wanted to make it. Only problem was, I didn’t own one. I had been using my dad’s Firestorm 10” saw, and it’s actually quite a good saw, from personal use and from reviews. It has it’s own stand, and a neat little table on the saw itself. The only problem was, it is impossible to make repeatable, accurate cuts on it because there’s no extendable fence or stop mechanism. It was quite an able saw, but I wanted my own, as any shop would.

I did a pretty good bit of research on it, and was fairly settled on picking up a 10” sliding miter saw from (again) Harbor Freight. A big sale, plus a big coupon made it pretty cheap. But when I decided to pull the trigger, they were out of stock, and when they got new stock sold it immediately. I was bummed. For a HF item, it had gotten pretty good reviews online. It was back to square one.

Hitachi C10FCE2 10-Inch Compound Miter Saw

Since I take my kids to Build and Grow at Lowe’s (highly recommended, BTW) every other week, I get a good opportunity to check out the tools in the store. I looked them over, and the ones at Home Depot, and it was between the low-end Ryobi 10” and the Skil. But once I looked at reviews, I opened my mind to the Hitachi. A name I had not previously associated with power tools, I came to find they have quite a good reputation. A very nice set of reviews on Amazon (remember that) convinced me that it would be the one.

I went to the store on a Saturday and picked it up after a Build and Grow. Checked it out when I got home and it was true as can be. I was very happy. Did a couple of cuts on it and was pleased.

Wake up the next morning and check the email on my phone. Lo and behold, the deal of the day was the very same saw I purchased at Lowe’s the day before. Now some people might be really upset at this, but I knew what to do and ordered it right away. The saw from Amazon came, I went to Lowe’s and got a refund. I ended up saving about $30, and was even happier than I could imagine.

And if you’ve read the immediately preceding post, you know that it has a happy home. Albeit a rather larger one than I thought, but still happy. The box I made is going to take up a bit more room, but not nearly as much as what I made the first time around. It’s gotten good use, but the little bag is worthless, as on many miter saws. Hooking to the vacuum may produce better results.

Miter Saw Station

I’m trying to get caught up as best I can, and trying to do it in as best of a chronological order as I can. Thankfully we are almost caught up to the present. Only a few more posts to go to achieve that.

After I got the router table into a useable state, the vise all sorted out and helpful, and the shed converted into the first recognizable bits of a workshop, I got a hankering to take on another project. Not satisfied with being in unfinished states with the pantry, router table, both girl’s projects, etc, etc, I was indeed looking to do something in another direction. I was watching New Yankee Workshop one Sunday and Norm was building a chop saw station.

The last season or two of the show was revisits of earlier projects, and indeed the chop saw station was first aired for the 1998 season, if I recall correctly. Since then, Norm built a whole wall of cabinetry and found a permanent home for his miter saw. But this one came first. The idea seemed simple – a sturdy top, with fold out support wings, easy to set up repeatable cuts, and removable legs to make the whole thing mobile. I thought it was perfect for a project.

Not being blessed with any amount of patience, I forewent ordering the plans and simply used the show as a guide. I listened and paid attention, and was able to work out enough to decide to do it.

*Here I must interject a sidebar. I have a very nice lumber yard that I’ve found and like to frequent. The only problem is trying to buy stuff from them. They keep bankers hours, at best, so sometimes you’re left out in the cold if you need something…or have three kids in tow and don’t want to figure out how to make the trip.*

I had to purchase my plywood at Lowe’s for the project, something I regretted almost immediately. I paid more for inferior plywood than if I had made the trip to the yard, unfortunately. And that realization was partly why after this project was started, I attempted to redesign the interior of the workshop yet again.

Over a few hours a few weekends ago, I got the lesser details built. Legs, top, top structure. That’s when I stopped. This thing was nice and high, a plus. I liked how the legs were removable. But this thing was friggin huge. And fairly heavy. After stowing it in the workshop, I knew it wouldn’t work long-term. It would be a nice addition to a shop 16×20 or so, but not for me and my cramped quarters. Right now, it’s doing duty as an assembly table until I decide if I’m going to keep it in another capacity or strip it down/throw it away.

Here’s a pic of it while it was in progress:

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So…back to the drawing board. I needed something smaller, and more portable. I found a nice design at PlansNow.com, and decided to become a Platinum member. If you’re interested in a couple of the plans, it really does make sense. Especially if you search for a discount code first.

For starters, the design looks pretty simple: it sits on a base with raised wings to support large work. But here’s where it gets clever – the sides come out, flip over, and extend the wings even further. Fences bolt on to make sure everything is accurate. This is it, I thought.

The design calls for a fair amount of hardwoods, but I had seen someone do the entire thing with plywood, so I went in that direction. I had a fair amount of the white birch ply left over and used it in good spirit. It’s a fairly straightforward build, I didn’t even bother to use glue up to a certain point. Just rabbet joints and screws.

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Except for a very important piece. Four of them, to be exact. They are risers to elevate the fence deck to the proper height, and there’s no way to attach them with simple screws. I had a choice to make – buy brackets, or buy a new tool. The brackets would have been fairly expensive, and I wouldn’t have gotten any other use out of them. I could have bought a new router bit, one that would have let me put biscuits (dried, compacted bits of wood that expand when glue is used. They fit into slots and connect two pieces). I had attempted this before, but the bit I already had was too narrow, and it burned the wood badly. I’m not sure a new bit would have done the trick.

So I went for option C – a completely new tool. I had wanted a biscuit joiner for a long time, and this seemed an appropriate time to pull the trigger. I stopped down at Harbor Freight, and for about the same amount of money that the brackets or a new bit would have cost, I got the joiner. I already had biscuits from my previous experiment.

In short, it works just like I needed to. I haven’t used it enough to decide how it might compare with more expensive units, but then again that might reinforce my decision – if I don’t use it a lot, no sense in wasting money. If I get into joinery that is repetitive, I may find myself upgrading at some point. But this will work fine for now.

Here’s the product page:

Plate Joiner

Back to the build. I glued up the new joints and proceeded on my way. The box was done, now to make the wings. They were a little more hit and miss, as I had to make some trims and adjustments to get them to fit in the case properly. Most notably, to clear the T-nuts in the case where the miter saw attaches. Making the holes for the handles was a bit of a cluster, to be quite honest. It really required a template, and I didn’t have one. I butchered one side, but it’s only a detriment to it’s form, not function.

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I made the fence out of ash and hardboard. I routed a dado into the ash after I had joined them together, and placed a piece of hardboard over it and cut a slot. This T-slot will hold the T-bolt that comprises the stop block.

Pictures of the fence being built:

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Beyond that, it was pretty much just measuring, assembly, and figuring out how the fences were going to be stored when not in use. I spent yesterday afternoon doing a bit of finishing work on it – flush trimming any overhanging pieces, some sanding, and putting the final two pieces of ash on to finish the trim. The only thing left to do as of right now is putting on that last piece of ash.

Some pics showing the basic final appearance:

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Next time: about that green thing on top of it.

Dust collection

(Please see an updated full review here – 5/9/2012)

After mounting the vise, I got interested a bit more in dust collection. At this point I was still rocking the nasty carpet, but I knew that I might go through filters prematurely. I don’t have room for a full-fledged dust collector in the shop, so I have to resort to a Shop-Vac. For my situation, it works well. But I still needed a way to help protect the filter.

I had done a little research into cyclones and dust separators that people had made in a DIY approach. I liked that idea, but then noticed that Rockler made a lid for a 5-gal bucket that did the same thing for a very reasonable price. I decided to take the plunge, as the lid was only a buck or two more than buying a new filter, and it wouldn’t wear down.

The device sits on top of the bucket and has two ports – an inlet and an outlet. Thus far, I’ve seen no signs that it makes a difference how you hook it up. You simply insert your hose from your vacuum into one side, and another hose into the other to your dust/dirt source. The combined setup has the effect of generating enough suction to pull items through the first hose into the bucket, but not enough to suck it back up into the hose to the vacuum. I’ve seen no loss of suction at all, and very, very little going into the shop vacuum itself. It’s a huge improvement, and I simply take the top off the bucket and empty it once in awhile. I’ve checked the Shop-Vac a few times and it’s not even worth emptying, there’s so little in there.

For those interested, I am using a 3.0HP 6-gallon Shop-Vac that I picked up from Lowe’s for over half of what is retail. It’s a fine machine, and I didn’t pass up the opportunity to pick up a spare at the same price as a hose itself. I think it will last me quite a long time, but it’s always nice to have spare parts.

One thing I would like to do in the future is get some more hose and mount to the wall where I will need it the most, for quick access and cleanliness. I can use the setup on the router table, with the router in hand-held mode, my table saw, and my miter saw.

Links:

Shop Vac 3HP at Lowe’s

Woodstock W2049 Mini 2-Stage Cyclone Separator

Pics:

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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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