Category Archives: Tools and Shop

Homemade Shooting Board

Non-Roubo Power-Strip

I’m not sure if Chris Schwarz would approve of this modification to my Roubo bench, but so far I like it.

I added a very non-Roubo power-strip onto the base shelf of my bench. Note the bright red color courtesy of Costco. I attached small pieces of plywood with Gorilla-brand black duct tape hinges over each outlet. These hinged covers keep saw dust out of each plug and easily drop into place when the outlet is unused. In this location on the bench, the power-strip does not seem to interfere with any clamping capabilities, etc. and allows me to rapidly plug and unplug powered hand tools when working on the bench.

Spontaneous Combustion Prevention

I added a garbage can to the shop that is designed to prevent the “spontaneous combustion” of rags that have wet finish on them, etc.

Now that my son, daughter and I are all doing projects in the shop, I’ve noticed that not everyone remembers  to lay out their drying rags in a safe manner to prevent a surprise fire after we all leave the shop….I’m hoping the the big red can in a prominent location helps matters.  $46 on Amazon.

Millers Falls plane back in service

I received a Millers Falls No. 8 (a number 3 in Stanley-ese) for Christmas from my parents.  My Dad found it while in a local antique store.

The plane (post-war, I think) was in excellent condition other than a little rust, and with very little work today I put it back into service.

I sharpened the blade, which appeared to have never been sharpened before and generally cleaned up the plane.  It is now as good as it was new, and likely a great deal sharper.

Craigslist Bonanza

I managed to score a big win from Craigslist this week.  I rarely check out Craigslist, but after this, I may do it more often.

I found a local guy that was selling off someone’s shop after they passed away as a favor to his daughter.

I managed to get an immaculate DeWalt DW788 scroll saw with stand (and 100+ blades), brand new Porter-Cable 690 router, a brand new Porter-Cable laminate trimmer and Porter-Cable finish sander for a price that I am embarrassed to list.


Making Holdfasts work from Joel’s Blog at “Tools for Working Wood”

I have had trouble making my bench holdfasts “hold fast” since I built my Roubo bench a couple of years ago.  They tend to slip and no longer grip tight.

After seeing the following blog post from Joel at Tools for Working Wood recently, I finally fixed the problem.

I get a fair number of emails about our holdfasts. People are worried that their bench is either too thick or too thin and they aren’t sure if they will work.

I have two benches. One is 1 7/8″ thick, the other is 3″ thick.The holdfasts work fine in both benches. With much thinner or much thicker benches you might have an issue but in the years selling holdfasts I think we have never had a case where they could not be made to work. Maybe once.

via Joel’s Blog at Tools for Working Wood.

I sanded the holdfast shafts as suggested, but what really fixed my holdfasts was counter-boring an oversize hole on the underside of my bench at a diameter wider than the 3/4″ dog holes and about 1″ deep.   Turns out the my over-built Roubo bench with the near 4″ thick top was too thick for the holdfasts to grip.  They work great again now.

Using the Langdon Miter Box

I used the newly restored Langdon #16 1/2 Miter box for the first time on a real project over the past few days, and I REALLY like it.

For rapidly cutting small trim pieces to accurate angles quickly and quietly with a minimum of setup, it is my new best friend.  It is faster to set up than my power chop-saw, and I have no fear of cutting off a finger in a moment of inattention.  Definitely a plus.

This will be a well-used tool, not just an antique curiosity in my shop.  Makes me want to restore a larger Millers Falls miter box also for larger pieces of trim.

Langdon Millers Falls #16 1/2 Miter Box Restoration

I just finished restoring an old Millers Falls Langdon #16 1/2 miter box.  Not sure of its age, but I am guessing  the nineteen teens or twenties?

I stripped the rust and grease and repainted and lubricated it.  I also added new oak sacrificial table tops.   The sacrificial wood table tops that I removed were some sort of fiber board that I assume was not original.  It was in very bad shape.  I forgot to take “before” photos as usual, so here are some “after” photos.

The miter box’s original saw was beyond repair, so I asked Lie-Nielsen to make me a new one.  They will now make replacement miter box saws to your specifications.  Only took about three weeks and the saw looks and cuts beautifully.   I asked them to make my saw with a 16″ blade length and 2 3/8″ high.  It is cut to 11 ppi crosscut.

An old Millers Falls catalog from the period says lists the original saw as only 2″ high, but I did not find that reference until after I had ordered the saw.   The 2 3/8″ high plate that I ordered seems to work fine, though.

Looks as good as new or better, with its new saw.  I think that it will see a lot of use in the shop.

Learning Google SketchUp for Woodworking

I had tried to learn to use Google SketchUp before to aid in design of woodworking projects.\

The program, on its face, is very easy to learn to use and really cool (and free).  Unfortunately, in my prior attempts to use it for “real” I have always been stopped by small details that I just could not get to work the way that I wanted, and I always reverted to pencil and paper.  The program is far more powerful than it looks, and there are a myriad of  tiny details and tricks that are hidden from the user.  This hidden power makes the program LOOK much simpler to use than it really is.   To do SketchUp right, it takes some practice.  But it’s worth it.

This year, prior to going to WIA last month, I became determined to learn SketchUp and fight may way through my hangups.  After all, I deal with technology all day and I ought to be able to learn to design using this program.

I’m happy to report, that after taking Bob Lang’s SketchUp seminar at WIA, and then practicing at home using Bob’s SketchUp DVDs, I’m now successfully using SketchUp to design furniture.  I love the program.  It is very useful.

For those of you wanting to learn to use SketchUp for furniture making, I highly recommend buying Bob Lang’s two DVDs. Bob makes clear the small “details” that turned SketchUp from frustrating to highly useful.  Bob generated many “ah-ha” moments that solved my prior problems.  Additionally, I bought the book  Google SketchUp: The Missing Manual by Chris Grover.  Between Bob’s DVDs and the Grover book, I have been making rapid progress at learning SketchUp at last.

I will post the small SketchUp tips that have made a difference for me as I come across them.

First tip, you need to learn to use the keyboard shortcuts.  I did not do this until now.  I am not sure that you can use SketchUp effectively without the keyboard shortcuts, particularly for the camera and view tools.

Suggested Improvements for SawStop Contractor Saw

I love my newish SawStop contractor saw, but there are a couple of things that I would improve.  They are very minor though.

1.    The dust collection is OK, but not as good as it was on my old Dewalt hybrid table saw.  A lot of dust is ejected out from around the blade, even with the zero-clearance insert and a good 4" dust collection system attached.

2.    The clear plastic blade guard is very thin, and can be accidentally pushed sideways into the blade if given light lateral pressure at its toe end.  It just scrapes the blade, and does not get cut, but it should not be able to be pushed so easily into the blade in my opinion. Since the guard is plastic, it does not trigger the safety system.

3.    When done for the day, I have repeatedly forgotten to turn off the power switch that powers up the blade safety system…this probably doesn't matter much other than lost energy usage, but it seems like the system ought to "fall-asleep" automatically if the saw is not used for a period of time.

Again, these are minor and I would buy the saw again in an instant.

Dewalt 733 Planer RIP

The new belt for the planer came on Friday  and I installed it into the machine (see photo in previous post).  The good news is that the belt was easy to install. The bad news is that it lasted for under five minutes.

I ran about 3 passes through the planer and I noticed that it was making odd noises as I went.  After a couple of minutes, the new belt shredded and the machine sounded like it was going to fly apart.

After removing the cover again, and looking closer at the lower belt pulley, I noticed that the shaft for the pulley was bent.  Apparently this is why both the first and second belts blew…the real root of the problem.

It appears that this repair would take replacement of the entire blade assembly…cost prohibitive on a ten year old machine.  So, it looks like I am in the market for a replacement. 

Normally I would celebrate the need to buy a new tool, but somehow lunchbox planers are just not that exciting.  They do what they need to do, and that is about all.

Dewalt Planer Belt Replacement

My 10 year old Dewalt DW733 thickness planer decided to consume it’s motor belt this weekend.

I was thicknessing some cherry stock for a sideboard that I am building when the planer began to make a loud clunking noise.   A few minutes later it spit chunks of  partially melted beige rubber out at me and stopped cutting.

The side cover of the planer was easily removed, and I can find nothing wrong other than the disintegrated belt.  I ordered a new one from Dewalt ($27), and hopefully that will fix the machine when it comes in.

Until then, the project will have to go on hold.

Photo above is the unit with the side off and new belt installed.

Colorful Wrenches

This weekend I used my box-end wrenches on a project in the yard, and as usual I put them away in a big pile in my "wrench drawer".  After thinking about it, I wrapped each wrench handle with a small piece of colored electrical tape…red for SAE and blue for metric.

Now,  at least I can quickly tell English from metric wrenches in the pile in the drawer.

TS-Aligner, Jr. added to the shop

To help with the calibration of my new SawStop, I invested in a table saw alignment tool.

After doing a lot of internet and magazine research, I purchased a TS-Aligner, Jr.  from Ed Bennett via his website.  Ed makes these tools himself, and the fit, finish and accuracy is excellent.  The included instructions and DVD are also very good.  It is a bit pricey, but for the quality of the tool, I think that it was worth it.  The TS-Aligner also seems to be more versatile than many other similar products (you can use it to align a lot more than table saws), and it also has some unique features that I think work better than other methods.

It was easy to learn to use, and my saw is now calibrated much more accurately than I would have been able to achieve without it.

Calibration and alignment of woodworking tools is a lot like sharpening for me.  I did not realize how important either of these skills was when I began woodworking, but after time and experience, I've learned that they are necessary evils if you want to be successful.

SawStop Contractor’s Saw

My shop is once again “open for business”.

After months and months of house renovation, and other delays and distractions, the workshop is once again clean and organized enough to actually work on projects other than home improvement work.  I can’t wait!

The biggest change to the shop during this long dry-spell was the addition of a new SawStop Contractors saw, fully fitted out with extra cast iron wings, 36″ fence, mobile base, etc to convert it into a hybrid-like saw.   I got this saw as combination birthday/father’s day gift and it has taken me another month to get it assembled and calibrated (just an available time issue, it was easy to assemble and calibrate).   I will post more on the SawStop as I begin to use it in earnest, but so far I love it.  Fit and finish is top-notch.  I like the power and nice clean cuts.

I will miss my old Dewalt 746 hybrid table saw (soon to be for sale on Craig’s List).  It was a great saw that I would not have replaced for any saw except for a SawStop.  The Dewalt did everything that I asked of it, but I did not want to teach my 9-year-old son to use a table saw on anything but a SawStop…so that Dewalt needed to be retired.