A lesson in safety

Some times we make mistakes. We’re sloppy. Careless. In a rush. Or, sometimes we are just plain ignorant.

The latter happened to me today. I had used the router and a 1/2″ shank flush trim bit on the miter station yesterday. This bit is huge, and I’m not particularly a fan. But, it’s what I have to use.

I was trimming the last little bit on the station, I had the router in a horizontal position trimming the bottom of the station (I had it upside down). All of a sudden, the bit walked itself off of the collet, across the workpiece, and back behind the table. I couldn’t believe it. This thing was spinning at around 25k RPM, I could have been seriously hurt. Not luckily, I was using all the techniques I had learned to date and didn’t put myself in a bad position, and that’s the reason I wasn’t hurt.

No damage to the bit, just a gouge in the bottom of the workpiece, something I’ll take in exchange for closing up the shop with all my body parts intact and no blood on the floor.

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Damage done, but it’s not important. A safe day in the shop is always a good day. What did I learn today? Check for tightness more often, and always after a long period of not using it.

In depth on the table saw

Thought I’d do as promised and post a few pics.

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The left side, the sliding miter table (SMT).

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With the SMT off.

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SMT full range of motion.

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2.5″ dust port on the rear.

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The SMT stows over the port when not in use, something I’m going to have to remember to remove each time, or it makes a huge mess.

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The router table, which can be mounted virtually anywhere along the rails. It comes with a host of attachments, none of which I’ve even taken out of the box yet. You can see the miter slots built in, but those are for use only with the router. We’ll have to see about that…

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The miter bar, miter fence and rip fence all store on the left side of the saw underneath the wrench and blade storage.

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Full range of the router table. Can also be mounted on the other side of the blade.

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45 degree right tilt capability. Can also rip or crosscut a 4×4. Very nice.

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On it’s end, ready to be put away.

A little bit of Saturday fun

So, I had some free time this afternoon and was able to get in a little bit of work in. The glue had set well enough to flush trim the remaining ash piece I put on yesterday. The router was still set up from yesterday and so it was a very quick jump into action.

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Ready for action!

It was a fairly simple operation, with one caveat I’ll explain in a separate post. Once that was done, it was time for reassembly and a photo shoot!

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In those pictures, you can see the fruit of my labor yesterday getting the measuring tape on. So after that was done, it was time for a bit of cleaning from all those ash shavings. Got the place fairly tidy. At that time, I noticed I still had a fair amount of time, so I turned my attention to making a better stop block. With the tape measure on top of the fence, having the block on front only wasn’t going to work. It was simply a spare bit of plywood that I used as a temporary measure.

So, here we go…

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Measuring the fence. Hmm…3″ exactly? I got an idea…

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3″ exactly! This was an ash blank that I had lying around, 3/4″ thick, 3″ wide. Since I had just stowed the miter saw, I decided to use the circular saw and a guide. I should have just used the miter saw, but it worked out.

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That’s the old stop block. You can see it’s a simple hole in the piece, with a toilet bolt (or T-bolt) inserted with a five-star knob to tighten it up. The wide end on the bolt is what rides in the T-slot in the fence.

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The new block, ash-style. Hmm…still needs something.

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There we go. Mated a top piece to it, perfectly flush on the sides. I was going to use the plate joiner to attach them, but was leery of glue seeping into the hole for the bolt. Two wood screws sufficed, and I have some cherry hole plugs lying around that I’ll use to hide the screw heads whenever I’m in the shop next.

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And in it’s new temporary spot, on top of the metal shelves. I need to grab some rubber bumpers for it to sit on, but the thing is DONE. What a great addition to the shop, and I’m sure it will get a ton of use. The only thing I can see right now is figuring out a way I can hang it on the wall or sit it on it’s end to save a bit of room, but it’s just fine where it is for right now.

Finishing up the miter saw station

Well, almost.

I had to make a stop on the way home to pick up some shop casters (thinking about making the router table mobile), so I decided to also grab something that is going to be very helpful. It’s a set of right and left reading, self-stick measuring tape. It’s hard to describe, so a pic is going to take care of that.

Got in the shop late, and checked where I was: last time, I flush trimmed the box us pretty nice and glued on a strip of ash on the left side. Tonight, I flush trimmed that ash piece and made an absolute mess of the floor. I forgot how much shavings ash makes. Job done. I also corrected a minor issue of the fences not aligning up perfectly with the saw. A little bit of expansion in two mounting holes solved that problem as well.

I then carefully measured on each fence with the stop block from the blade. From the very edge of the carbide, to be precise. And indeed, that’s more precise. I peeled the backing off of the tape, and now I have an accurate reading from the blade on each side, so I don’t need to get out my tape measure for most cuts. I think the limit on either fence is 25-30″ (I don’t exactly remember), but setting up the stop block on the right side technically increases the cut capacity. If I need to make a 4′ cut on a 6′ board, I just measure out 2′ on the right side. Now, I may have made a minor mistake by not factoring in the kerf of the blade (thickness of cut), but if I write it on the fence I should be okay. It’s under 1/8″ as it is, so not a huge deal.

After I did all that, I glued on the last remaining piece, the ash strip on the right side. I’ll let that dry overnight and trim it up tomorrow. With that, it will be completely done minus any protection I want to give it. Could it be, the first completed project in the workshop? Maybe I’ll promise to add some slick tape or paste wax at some point to keep it incomplete. Actually accomplishing something would be weird.

Sorry, but no pics tonight. It was nearly 9pm when I got out of there and my lighting situation isn’t the best. I’ll get some taken tomorrow, though.

Time in the shop today: ~75 minutes

The table saw

Ever since I made my first attempt at making the doors for my pantry, I knew I wanted a table saw. Who doesn’t? But I knew this would be a major purchase, so I started to slowly do my research. Being probably the most expensive addition to most workshops, it’s not something to be rushed into.

So, I looked. And looked. And looked some more. I had intended to get the table saw before the miter saw, but circumstances changed. I asked as many people as I could with the knowledge, and was getting quite frustrated in the prospect of spending upwards of $700 to get a decent unit. If woodworking was going to be that expensive, it wasn’t going to be a hobby I could get into at this point.

I’d say I was looking for a couple of months fairly seriously. Saw a few things on Craigslist, but nothing for me to go jump on or even call. Wasn’t real impressed with the offerings at the stores, save for a Porter Cable unit at Lowe’s. You see, most cheap table saws these days use a non-standard miter slot, making it hard to use standardized accessories. That, along with decreased safety features and cheaper tops helps them keep the cost down.

Toward the end of May, I had my attention called to a deal for a Sears unit for a really good price, but it was a weird unit. It didn’t have any of the features I was told to look for, so I dismissed it. I was prepared to purchase the Porter Cable unit at some point near in the future. Plus, I couldn’t get the Sears one down to what others were getting it for. The Porter Cable at $299 had most of the features I was looking for, at a price I could afford. Decent top, full-width miter slots, mobile base (an essential for my tight confines). The insert wasn’t standard, though. I thought about it.

Come Memorial Day, and I wasn’t really entertaining getting the saw anytime soon. The issues I had with the circular saw wouldn’t be anything horrible for a while further. But Matt was asleep and the girls were playing, so I perused the web. Turns out, the deal was back again, and I could get it at a better price than a week ago. In that week, I did research on the saw and found out it had a well respected lineage, at least from a few die-hard defenders.

It’s predecessors were the Ryobi BT3000 and BT3100. Now, normally, Ryobi doesn’t have the name recognition from most woodworkers. It’s viewed as a hobby brand, one that doesn’t stand up to the bigger names like Dewalt, Ridgid or the old Deltas. However, since I have had quite the good experience with the One+ series of tools, I didn’t think badly of this at all.

Introducing, my new Craftsman 21829!

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The Ryobi BTS10 I was borrowing isn’t a bad saw at all. But after trying to cut an entire sheet of ply on that thing on a hill, I knew I needed something that could handle a bit more. It won’t handle that, but that was stupid of me for trying to attempt. Hopefully my first and last user error on a saw.

A bit about the saw: instead of miter slots, it has a sliding miter table. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse at this point, but miter slots could always be added later. And there’s enough users of every generation so far to provide alternatives to anything needing to ride in the slot. It also has an accessory table that I could mount my router to. Since I’m in the process of building my full table, I don’t think I’ll make much use of this. But it would be perfect if I needed to bring it to someone else’s house, certainly. It has a very accurate rip fence, once I got the adjustable bits all squared away. It has a dust collection port, the capability to run a dado stack (something I really wanted, and I’ll explain more about it another time), and the cheapo blade cut fabulous straight out of the box.

But the best thing is the base. It’s more or less a table top saw, but it’s mounted on a folding, wheeled base for easy portability. What’s more, it folds up vertically, so it takes up a minimal amount of room in the workshop.

I made an attempt making a zero clearance insert for it, but it was easier and cheaper just to order some. When they get here I’ll be sure to take lots of pictures about them. I’ll also take more pictures of the saw, because I swore I thought I had more.

That’s the last major addition I’ve made, so I guess that pretty much brings us up to date. From here on out we get down to updates as I get into the workshop. Unfortunately, that’s only about twice a week on average. I’ll try to keep it entertaining, though.

Thanks for looking.

Craftsman 21828/21829

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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