What’s It All About and a Stopped Dado!

When I went out to the shop this morning the thermometer told me that the inside and outside temperatures where equal — 91 degrees and it’s just 7:30am.  This morning, like every other one, began with breakfast, reading the newspaper, and checking emails and FaceBook.  A good friend of mine and fellow woodworker had this post on Jamie’s blog and it was a really good read.  Lupe has built some really fantastic pieces of furniture in her relatively short time as a woodworker.  What really got me thinking is how she embraces all of the new woodworking techniques to accomplish her work.  On the other hand, I pursue more traditional practices and consequently, spend a lot more time trying to accomplish what I do.  For example, if you read Jamie’s Blog you’ll see that she used a tool called the DowelMax.  This dowel jig allowed her to make an 8 drawer chest in a relatively short amount of time.  Walking into the shop and being hit by that temperature and then seeing a stack of 1/2″ Soft Maple waiting to be dovetailed for the 9 drawers got me thinking.  I do enjoy the process and challenge of hand tool woodworking, matter of fact the process of getting to the final project is probably more exciting to me than seeing it completed.  I’ve used the label of Hybrid Woodworker to define my techniques where I’ll use power tools to do the rough work but refine (or try to!) everything by utilizing traditional hand tools and methods.

To illustrate that, for the drawers I needed to surface close to 60 feet of 8+” wide Maple for the sides and back.  I’m more than happy to use the Powermatic planer rather than a hand plane to make those pieces a uniform 1/2″ thick.  Then the router table was much easier than a block plane to put a slight radius on the bottoms of each piece.

Today I decided it was time to do a practice dovetailed piece on the soft Maple and you know what? it’s not all that soft!  The drawers are three different heights, from 5 1/2″ to 8 1/4″ and the plan is to have the layout similar for each drawer.  Starting  from the center there will be two smallish tails (about 1/2″) then a 1/2″ space leading to another tail that will begin 1/4″ from the top and bottom of the board.  Still undecided on how to treat the backs of the drawers.  My first thought was to through dovetail them but after the practice session in 95+ degree heat I’m rethinking that one!  Maybe a machine cut sliding dovetail or maybe a pegged tongue and groove joint.  Any suggestions?

The Doghouse

The Doghouse

The center section of the Armoire has a bank of 3 small drawers that are about 5″ x 9″.  Don’t know why, but I have called this the Doghouse!  These drawers will not be full depth and hung on side mounted wooden slides.  Where the top of it meets the upright there is a long, stopped dado to position it.  This will probably also have a cleat and screws for reinforcement.  I could have pulled out the router to do this but I wanted the challenge of doing it by hand — just like I talked about at the beginning of the blog.  It may have taken a bit more time but the trade off of no noise, dust, and added heat of the tool was worth it.  Only tools needed were a marking knife, straightedge, chisels, and a Stanley #271 router plane.  I find more uses for this little plane, from dados to hinge mortises.  If you don’t have one I think it’s worth finding it to add to your tool kit.  Here’s how I went about this long, stopped dado — it’s about 18″ in length:

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What seemed to work best was to use the chisel for about 4″ and eyeball the depth as in slide #3.  Then the router plane brought it to the correct depth.  When the router plane became difficult to push I knew it was time to go back to the chisel, you can see that in slide #4.

Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day!  You probably recall the problems with the Veritas Small Plow Plane so will need to cut the drawer grooves with a dado head instead.  That’s another minor roadblock, I’m waiting for the throat plate for the SawStop so I can install the dado head!  It may be time to begin the finish procedure on the case, UPS tells me the throat plate is scheduled for delivery mid-week.  Relax man, it’s the process right?

Posted in Hand Cut Dovetails, Hand Planes, Hand Tool Woodworking, Johns Armoire, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments

Major Hurdle Passed Today

When I was a carpenter there was an expression that went something like this: “with every nail you drive, you’re driving yourself out of work”.  Well, that may be true but it sure is nice to see the progress you make based on the work you’ve done.  With that in mind I’m ecstatic to know that a major hurdle has been passed  for the Armoire, it is now assembled.  Such a great feeling to go from a drawing to seeing the actual piece take shape right before your eyes.

I knew going in that this would be a very complicated assembly process but based on the pegged mortise and tenon construction of the front and rear pieces I just couldn’t come up with any other way to go about it.  That meant there were 20 mortise and tenon joints that needed to go together at one time with a total of 7 panels in between them.  These had to be glued.  Add to that the 12 drawer runners with tenons at each end that also needed to placed into their proper mortise!  I doubt that I’m the only woodworker out there that gets stressed when it’s time to glue up and go through the process in their mind time and time again!  I arranged to have some help this morning, they arrived at 7:00 am and the temps were in the mid-80’s.  To make sure my mental plan would work I carefully labeled all of the parts and did a dry fit the day before by myself.  I figured that if I could manage it alone without glue then with the help it was a doable process!

Diane handed us clamps and a mallet when needed but also took a bunch of pictures I’ll share as a slide show:

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As you can see there was a lot to this process.  I used my favorite glue for this type of work, Old Brown Glue.  It has a long open time and is easy to clean up which is why I use it.  Once we had the top frame part way onto the tenons, we stood it up.  Now everyone of those drawer runners needed to be positioned.  As we got closer and things lined up it was time to start clamping them home.  The panels were a bit of a hassle but with the three of us coaxing it we succeeded. We hustled knowing the heat would cause the glue to gel so like they say “time is of the essence”.  Since there were three of us I bought two more bottles of glue.  With our time crunch, sharing one bottle between the three of us just didn’t seem like a good option!

Drawer Runner Closeup

Drawer Runner Closeup

The glue will dry over-night before removing the clamps.  In the meantime, a 2×4 screwed to a furniture dolly will allow me to move it around.  The drawer sides and back will be dovetailed and made of soft Maple.  You can see that the Alder runners are slightly proud of the case members to give a uniform reveal.  Years ago I read a woodworking article that suggested sizing each drawer side prior to dovetailing them so now I’ll have the chance to try this.  As near as I can tell, the runners are pretty square.  If needed there is a bit of movement and I may pin them from the bottom.  Next up will be adding the enclosure for the three smaller, side hung drawers located in the top center section.  Still have a long way to go before this piece is upstairs but we’re making progress!

Posted in Johns Armoire | Tagged | 3 Comments

SawStop Sliding Table Jig and Other Shop Happenings

The heat is on here in Las Vegas, a bit earlier than expected but when I get to the shop at 7-8:00 am it’s already in the low 80’s and humidity around 2-3%.  I’ll work until there is too much sweat on the wood or tools or until I just can’t stand it anymore!

Let’s start with the SawStop as that’s been taking quite a bit of my time and thought process.  First of all, I can’t compliment their customer service enough, Jamie from WoodItIs has three of their saws in her school/studio and when I was doing my research she gave them high marks too.  For me it’s still a learning curve on how to best incorporate the slider into my work but I had an issue with the blade tilt so called them.  Diane says they’re probably tired of hearing from me but the technician I’ve been talking to the most (Trent) hasn’t given me that impression.

Mitered Box Jig for SawStop Sliding Table

Mitered Box Jig for SawStop Sliding Table

Once that was resolved I decided to see about making some sort of jig to cut the sides of mitered boxes that I have on the Etsy store.  Those and finger jointed ones are the only machine cut joinery I use, the other boxes are all  hand cut.  At left is what I came up with.  The complete sled at the top of the picture was my first attempt.  You can see, it’s not much different from what I used before the sliding table.  The main difference is that it’s attached to the slider rather than guided by the miter gauge slots of the saw.  Very time consuming to make and sorry to say, didn’t work too well!  It’s a process getting the slider perfectly adjusted for a 90 degree cut and by adding the complete sled/carriage to the arm, accuracy was lost, probably since there are so many pieces any error will be magnified.  That got me thinking, why would you need a complete sled anyway?  The main safety concern I have is leaving a piece trapped under the blade when it’s tilted at an angle so keeping that in mind I decided to try a simple extension that can be cut by the blade, attached to the sliding table arm, and safely carry both pieces past the blade.MiterSled-SawStop-WoodworksbyJohnIt’s a piece of 3/4″ MDF that has been doubled up for the last 9″ or so to add some rigidity.  I’ll show you how it functions in a slide show but I found that the slot on the slider is sized for M6-1.0 metric nuts.  For this I also used a M6-1.00 x 25mm button head cap screw and washer.  The first step was to locate the center of this hole which is 1-3/32″ from the bottom.  First up was using a 1/2″ forstner bit to cut a counterbore for the cap screw and washer, followed by a through hole made with a 1/4″ drill.  To locate this jig in the same position (more or less) each time I decided to use the rip fence.  After sliding the jig onto the slider arm, the fence is locked at 9-1/2″; the jig is then slid against it and tightened in place with an allen wrench.  It’s ever so slightly off of 90 degrees for this practice piece.  Here’s the process:

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One problem is that the stops don’t quite hit the table anymore.  A scrap piece clamped to it works but the best solution will probably be to have a block with a 45 degree cut to register it exactly.  Due to the left tilt the point of the cut is at the bottom which makes it a bit tricky to stop exactly — that’s a problem for later.  At this point I’m happy to see that this will work.  Next will be making a jig to cut finger joints, hopefully the SawStop brake designed for an 8″ dado will be my Father’s Day present this Sunday!

John’s Armoire

Sizing the Armoire Panels

Sizing the Armoire Panels

It may seem that the SawStop has been taking the majority of my work time but I’ve also been working on the panels for the Armoire.  You may recall that since these are about 16 1/2″ wide I choose to wait for the slider before I cut them to size.  I’m learning that the easiest way to set the slider 90 degrees to the blade is by using a 12″, plastic drafting square.  Once set, cutting these panels was a cinch.  After sizing them they were rabbeted using the router table I added to the SawStop in this blog.  Now it’s time to go to one of my favorite activities, hand planing those pieces.  Well, usually this is a favorite time but between the thinness of the panels (+/-  3/8″) and the changes in grain direction of the Mahogany there was some frustration.  Since the panels are thin and wide trying to flatten them was beyond my capability.  After watching Garret Hacks video again on how he sharpens and sets up his smooth plane I went for another sharpening session.  His goal is to camber the blade so the shavings produced are thicker at the center and taper off to almost nothing at the edges.  I think I accomplished that:

Pulling rather than pushing the plane!

Pulling rather than pushing the plane!

My techniques varied to get success, even sometimes pulling the plane rather than pushing it!  Also, by putting shavings under low areas it was easier to plane the entire surface.  Once I was satisfied with the results the finish process began.  Although I still have mixed feelings about the Tried and True Danish oil this piece will have one coat of that rubbed in very thinly followed by multiple coats of the three part, wet sanded finish I’ve been using most of my life.  EPA be darned, I like the smell of turpentine and as long as it’s only on the exterior surfaces the odors won’t be a problem.  Interior surfaces will be sealed/protected with shellac.  All panels have their first coat of oil plus 3 wet sanded coats of the topcoat.  Assembly time is getting closer every day!

Fine Tuning Joinery & Dry Fit

Fine Tuning Joinery & Dry Fit

After fine tuning the fit of each of the mortise and tenon joints it’s time to plane each of the crosspieces for the framework.  There are ten for the unit which also means that there will be 20 mortise and tenon joints that need to be glued up and clamped at one time!  That doesn’t include the drawer webs which I’ve decided to simply insert loosely into their perspective mortises.  Six drawers with two runners each means another bunch of joints that need to be assembled at one time.  I haven’t seen this done before but the plan is to have some side to side play in the joinery for the drawer webs then square and pin them after the case is assembled.  It sounds good on paper but only time will tell.  I’ve mentioned the heat wave we’re going through right now and even with the use of Old Brown Glue the goal is to assemble the complete piece in less than 15 minutes — only time will tell!  Let me leave this subject and show you the wonderful effects a smooth plane has on a piece of lumber.  Photo’s barely show the sheen you accomplish this way as opposed to abrading the surface with sandpaper.

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Veritas Small Plow Plane Update

Veritas still won't hold

Veritas still won’t hold

Unfortunately, the replacement plane sent by Lee Valley had the same issues as the first one — the depth stop doesn’t hold.  I have a history of getting the lemons and have had problems with everything from clothes to tools to cars.  I contacted them and they will issue a full refund.  I asked them to check the tools and let me know what they find.  At our Sin City Woodworkers meeting this week one of the guys happened to have his small plow plane.  I checked out his depth stop and it held in some positions but in others you’re able to use light pressure from your thumbs and move it no matter how tightly you  crank the knob.  Perhaps a pair of pliers would insure it holding but that’s not an option.  I posted this concern on Lumberjocks and Derek Cohen from Australia sent this response showing how he has modified all of his Veritas planes knobs by filing a screwdriver slot in them.  It’s towards the bottom of the forum and although it looks fine it’s not something I feel like doing!

 

 

Posted in Hand Planes, Hand Tool Woodworking, Johns Armoire, Mortise and Tenon Joint, SawStop Sliding Table | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

SawStop Sliding Table or “Old Dog – New Tricks?”

Panoramic Shot of the Shop in Chaos!

Panoramic Shot of the Shop in Chaos!

This is a panoramic shot of what the shop looked like this morning.  As you can see, the car’s gone and things are strewn all over the place — need to organize!  But, I’m getting ahead of myself so let me back up to yesterday when I picked up the Sliding Table from Woodworkers Emporium and began the installation.

Great packing job

Great packing job

First of all, this thing’s heavy — 85 pounds but I was impressed by how well it was packed, no chance of damage during shipping.  The sides of the box have extra layers of corrugated cardboard and any dead space is fitted with blocks of cardboard.  This eliminates any movement and possible damage to the finish.  The only thing that wasn’t as impressive is the installation manual.  It wasn’t nearly as complete or well written/illustrated as the ones that came with the saw.  I called tech support a couple of times and they were very helpful, customer service is a big plus for this company.  One tech I talked with could see the confusion and said he would point it out to the writing department.  His suggestion was to use the on-line PDF instead.  I took his advice and it proved to be much better than the booklet.

Third Hand

Third Hand

One thing that was suggested was to be sure to have at least one other person support the  table during installation.  My wife is pretty strong but knowing it usually takes some time to get the bolts in place I didn’t want to ask her to juggle an 85 pound piece of aluminum while I fiddle around trying to hold the other end and thread a bolt through a hole!  No strong neighbors around either so a clamp and a 2 x 4 became my third hand with no problems.

Now it was time to assemble the remainder of the sliding section and that’s when I learned a thing or two.  First of all, once the sliding table is attached and the legs are adjusted for the required support it becomes somewhat difficult to move the unit around.  I realize now that this saw will need to be in a more permanent location than the old Jet.  I’m also realizing that my working methods will need to change a bit, that’s why my sub-title has to do with teaching us old dogs new tricks!  Here’s just a few:

  1. I’m used to reading a scale from the blade to the right side, with the slider it will read from the blade to the left side.  Very easy to set a stop for 11 1/2″ thinking that it’s 12 1/2″!
  2. As a rule, I would use the miter gauge to the right of the blade and use the fence with a spacer as a stop block.  This has now been reversed with the slider.
  3. The controls (power, blade elevation, blade tilt) are in different locations and I haven’t  gotten my muscle memory yet to quickly locate them.
  4. Using the slider means a different stance and position than what I’ve used for the past 50 years or so!
  5. The accuracy I’ll gain with the slider means less mobility but thinking back, the Jet pretty much stayed in the same position 85% of the time anyway.
Slider Installed; Day One

Slider Installed; Day One

So, at the end of the day the slider was assembled and had a few trial cuts done with it.  Now it’s time for a glass of wine and some relaxation — fat chance of that; this boy doesn’t relax well!  I know there are changes to be made to the shop layout and my work methods.  My wife (bless her heart) offered to let me have the two car side of the garage and she’d park the Mini in the single side.  Appreciate the offer but that may end up being even more work, besides I’m not up to learning too many new tricks!

Old School Sketch Up!

Old School Sketch Up

Old School Sketch Up

Over the years I’ve attempted to learn various computerized drafting programs and even though they’ve simplified considerably the time required to learn them just isn’t worth it to me.  I still use a left handed, Vemco drafting machine and know that changes to a clients project will require a bit of time on my part.  For this project though the back of a calendar, 36″ T-square, and large triangle is all that was needed.  The paper was taped onto the extension table and I found that using an easy scale of one inch equaling one foot was easy enough.  First up was drawing in the immovable items, door openings, and a support post.  Next, scale models of the movable items were cut from some light weight cardboard.  These were the SawStop, assembly tables, sawdust collector, and drill press.  Now I realize that my younger readers may think this is a lot of effort compared to simply (for them!) creating the shape on a computer and then dragging it around with your mouse but this is what I know.  After a few attempts this is the format I came up with:

Final Layout

Final Layout

Before settling on this arrangement these are the things I considered:

  1. First of all, I used to face north when using the saw, I will now face west.  This means  that the Mini will be behind me but it’s easy enough to pull out to the driveway.  Depending on where it’s parked I’ll have anywhere from 4-7 feet clearance — more than enough for most of my work.
  2. As you can see by the ruler, there is over 4′ of room between the furthest point of the sliding table and the work bench where I spend most of my time.  That point is movable and less than 4″ in width.
  3. There is just over 9′ from the blade to the miter saw cabinet which means I can easily rip sheet goods, the car will need to be moved but — no problem there!
  4. The drill press doesn’t see a lot of use so being tucked away in the corner is okay.
  5. The sawdust collector hose feeds through the assembly table and when the bandsaw or planer is used will be easily connected to them.  It’s location near the double garage door means it’ll still be easy to empty outside.
Assembly Table Lower Position

Assembly Table Lower Position

The only problem encountered was with the assembly table.  You can see here that the old Black & Decker bench mates needed to be lowered.  These have always functioned as an out feed table for the saw and line up when the saw was in the other position.  The way the garage floor is sloped (from the outer edges down to the center) means the table is about 1/2″ higher than the saw.  The assembly table is a torsion box design so can’t be modified.  I’ll either make a new set of them somewhere down the line or take the easier approach of making an out feed roller for ripping.  Time will tell on that one.  Here are two other pictures showing to illustrate how things are now:

The last thing accomplished was setting the slider so that it cut 90 degrees to the blade.  This required a number of trial and error passes which allowed me some time using the saw.  Some reviewers of the slider complained about the lack of detents locking the arm at preset angles.  SawStops rationale to this complaint is that in time, these detents begin to wear out as much as 2-3 degrees reducing the accuracy.  The scale is large and easy to read so time will tell.  I do agree with there thoughts on the wear factor based on my own experience with miter saws — time will tell.  Once set up accurately though it should remain.  The arm has a slot that accepts 10mm bolts so that jigs can be bolted to it.  Future plans include a box joint jig and a miter sled.  For ripping wide pieces with the rip fence I’ll either need to rotate the arm out of the way or else release it from the slider completely with two allen screws.  That seems to be the best option for keeping the 90 degrees intact.

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Now it’s time to start using this thing.  First up is to size the panels for the Armoire sides — good to get back to woodworking and see if this old dog is up to learning some new tricks!

 

 

Posted in SawStop Sliding Table | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Many of you probably remember the movie of the same name and as I reflected on my day that title just popped into my head — read more to find out why!

The Good:

Waiting for the sliding table to arrive for the SawStop has me in limbo.  All of the panels have been glued up for the sides of the Armoire and you may recall that I’m waiting for that table to properly cut those square; figure that will be a great first time use for it.  All of the panels have been roughly surfaced and are currently clamped to the assembly table to prevent cupping.  After all of that plane work it’s probably a good time to refresh their edges.  In a recent blog  I mentioned some of the things I’ve learned surfacing these rather large panels by hand.

Radiused Block and Jack Plane Blade

Radiused Block and Jack Plane Blade

Using a block plane on the joint was a good first step before tackling the entire surface with a block plane.  The blade on both of those planes has slight radius’s at the ends to prevent them from digging in.  This radius was formed on a 1″ belt sander and you do have to be quick and careful — doesn’t take much to accomplish it and I’d recommend doing it by hand instead.  Other than the corners, the remainder of the blade is kept square.

The smooth plane has the entire blade slightly radiused.  In the past this was accomplished by hand but I now use the Veritas camber roller for the Mk. II sharpening system.  To set a smooth plane up you watch and adjust until the shavings come out of the center of the throat.  I recently saw an article by Chris Schwarz where he used a feeler gauge (.008) to set the distance between the edge of the blade and chip breaker (he refers to as a back iron) so thought I’d give it a try.  Seems to work quite nicely as the shavings show.

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Sharpening is a process you need to learn if you’re going to work with wood.  Some like it and some see it as a “necessary evil”.  It’s part of what I teach my students and my advice is always the same: “investigate all of the methods available, experiment, and once you find one that you like and works for you stick with it”.  Here’s a little video that to me, makes the sharpening process all worth while;

A Sharp Tool is a Happy Tool!

The Bad:

Lee Valley Small Plow Plane

Lee Valley Small Plow Plane

There’s a long story about this that I’ll condense to keep it brief.  I’ve been wanting a plow plane for a long time and have been waiting for the rumored Lie-Nielsen version to come out.  I know that’s more than a rumor because I’m on the waiting list to be notified.  It may not be until late this year before that happens though.  In the mean time I’ve been trying to bid for one on Ebay but it is so frustrating!  More than once, I’ve been the top bidder at the end of an auction only to get the “You’ve been Outbid” message time and time again.  That has something to do with automatic bidding.  After losing out to a beautiful Stanley #50 with beading cutters and all I decided to give up and go for Veritas. Based on reviews by  Derek Cohen and Chris Schwarz  the purchase was made.  The only negative reviews I found about this plane is that the depth stop had a tendency to slip but since most of those reviews were several years old I reasoned that Veritas had long since solved that problem — Wrong!!  Here’s a video of the plane in action:

As you can see it handles and works wonderfully, only problem is it doesn’t stop when the  depth is set.  I can just imagine plowing all the way through a drawer side and ruining the complete job.  I contacted Lee Valley and they suggested cleaning the depth stop with turpentine and then sanding the post with 120 grit sandpaper.  That worked for two cuts. By this time I was so frustrated I called their customer service again and told them I planned to return the tool.  She checked with Veritas who said they would replace mine with one their own technicians would check the depth stop and expedite delivery to me via UPS.  Should be here early next week but I must admit to some apprehension.  I don’t mind messing around with a tool purchased on Ebay or at a garage sale, that’s to be expected in that instance.  Buying a brand new tool from a reputable company like Veritas should insure quality and a lifetime of service.  The minute this one gives me any problem at all it’ll be returned for a full refund.  I hate to be pessimistic about this but now I’m leery of it.  If anyone of you reading this have any experience with the small plow plane I’d like to hear about it — negative or positive alike.  Although I’m a huge fan of Lie-Nielsen tools I thought I should expand my horizons.  I’m guessing their version will be a bit pricier than Veritas and not sure I’ll have enough commissions to justify that!

The Ugly:

My mood after all of this occurred!  Unfortunately I have a history of having problems with purchased things.  If there are 1000 new tools in a warehouse and one of them has a flaw guess what; that’s the one that’ll be shipped to me.  Can’t wait to get the sliding table for the saw and the replacement plow plane so work can progress on the Armoire.

 

Posted in Hand Planes, Hand Tool Woodworking, Johns Armoire, Uncategorized, YouTubeVideo | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Shop Made Router Table on a SawStop

Having a somewhat limited size shop means that you need to  be creative in your space regarding tools and placements and even whether or not you need that tool or if something else can suffice.  That’s my feelings towards a dedicated router table. Knowing  that the majority of my work uses hand powered tools and I’d rather use a beading tool to scrape a bead than a router anyway!  I do use the router extensively for box making with the Lee Valley slot cutting bit though so it is a tool I use. JetRouterTableAs you know, I recently replaced my aging Jet cabinet saw with a SawStop with sliding table.  I needed a way to have a router table in my new set up.  At the left is how I made one to fit the Jet. What I did was to attach a Porter Cable base to a 1/4″ piece of plexiglas.  A recess was routed into the table board of the saw to insert the router.  The advantage to this is that the bit could be adjusted before dropping the router into the hole.  A disadvantage is that sawdust tends to work its way under the plexiglas which results in an uneven table to push your materials on, it also would interfere with the fence.  Then there’s the visual, I mean sure it’s a tool but that’s a rather unsightly looking hole.  Have you seen the shiny black finish of a SawStop?  I just couldn’t bring my self to cut a hole into that beautifully finished “tool”!

Here’s how I went about it for the SawStop.  The table itself has some reinforcements underneath so I made sure the router would clear those.  I also wanted to have ample room on the fence guide bars to use the fence as a guide when needed and attach the auxiliary fence I had made before.  The Porter Cable base mounts with 3 holes so masking tape was applied to the top, the base was positioned squarely, holes were center punched and then drilled out.  The screws are 10/24 and a hand countersink was used to set them flush with the top.

P/C Base Mounted under the SawStop

P/C Base Mounted under the SawStop

With the help of my friend who crawled under the table and guided the screws into the holes, the base was secured to the underside of the table board.  We made sure that the clamp to tighten the router is at the front of the saw.  That’s the end of the first step.

Dust Control & Making the Hole

Dust Control & Making the Hole

Next up was to get the hole started for the router bits.  Started out with a small, V-groove bit and slowly fed it through from the bottom.  I used progressively larger diameter bits to enlarge the hole until it is now 1 3/8″ in diameter.  This created lots of dust which was controlled to some extent by clamping the vacuum to the fence.

 

Here’s a few pictures of the finished process, the fence is one that was made many years ago that really works well.  It measures just under 5″ square and is made of MDF.  There is a hole at one end (2 1/4″) which fits my shopvac hose.  Inside there is a baffle and it’s pretty effective in taking the bulk of the sawdust from the work.  It’s reversible and held to the rip fence with some clamps from Rockler.  It can be adjusted easily by using the tablesaw rip fence as a guide when you use bits without a bearing.  With a bearing guide bit it eliminates the need for a starting pin.

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If you use this to create your own router table there are a few considerations.  Since the table board is about 3/4″ thick and the bottom of router bases is only 1/4″ or so that effects how deep of a cut you can make.  I’ve had problems both ways in the past.  Some bits are so long that with the 1/4″ plexiglas on the Jet it wasn’t possible to make a very shallow cut.  Others are so short you may not be able to get the full depth you want. Time will tell how this will work out for me.  That’s the nice thing about creating your own tools and set-ups — you’re the Boss!

 

 

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Learning by Doing — Things I Didn’t Know But Do Now!

How’s that for a blog title?, one of my favorite sayings is this: “the more I know, the more I realize what I don’t know” — does that make any sense?  That’s a saying that some credit to  Socrates.  That seems to be true for me more often than not.  For example, I didn’t realize how valuable the sliding table attachment would be to me.  For the Armoire there are 4 glued up panels for the sides that are about 17″ wide and 18″-30″ long.  Even the shop made sliding table for the Jet wouldn’t accommodate that width and you know how tricky it is trying to use just a miter gauge for a panel of that size.  Okay; patience is in order until  Woodworkers Emporium gives me a call saying the sliding table has arrived.

Punky Mahogany

Punky Mahogany

Next thing is the differences with wood even the same species.  That’s something I’ve always known but in this case it was quite dramatic.  In a previous blog (Shop Happenings) I talked about getting a piece of Mahogany locally for the top drawer stretcher and side panel.  My main concern was the coloration of wood matching the Genuine Mahogany purchased at Woodworkers Source in Phoenix.  I noticed the replacement wood was strange to plane, the shavings were very thin yet they wouldn’t clear and they’d get stuck to the bottom of the plane preventing good cuts.  Same thing when it came to cutting out the mortises.  If you look at the picture notice that the wood doesn’t  cut cleanly at all, rather it seems to shred.  I told my wife that cutting a mortise in a Jicama would probably get cleaner results!

That same piece of Mahogany is used for the side of the 3 small drawers compartment.  Again, the softness and punkiness of the wood was a challenge.  The first step was to laminate three sections together to yield the needed width.  After scraping off the glue and planing it flat a dado was needed to set the support in.  For this operation I used the tablesaw to establish the outer limits then chisel and router plane to finish.  Yet another thing I didn’t know is that the router plane had a micro knick in it that showed in this soft, punky wood.

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Flattening the Panel

Flattening the Panel

One last thing so this doesn’t get too lengthy and bore you!  The panels for the sides needed to be planed by hand and at about 7/16″ in thickness for starters there was quite a bit of flex.  This created a problem flattening them due to that movement.  When putting pressure down with the plane at the center the sides would raise up.  By the way, my arms were just long enough to plane this length!

Supporting a thin panel for flattening

Supporting a thin panel for flattening

The solution was a technique used on a power jointer that I’m amazed was in my memory bank.  I recalled that you could put a handful of sawdust under a low spot as you ran the board over the blades so I thought may be this would work for hand flattening too — it did!  I honestly can’t remember the last time I used a power jointer but it had to be when teaching at a high school in the very early 90’s!

Putting all of this together, measuring, and assembling took some doing.  Thank goodness for clamps to act as a third hand during the process and then gluing up the mortise & tenon portion squarely was a chore!  I started the dovetails into the tops of the legs and then used blocks to elevate a clamp to get it square — hope it works.

 

 

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New SawStop — Now what do you do?

John's Armoire Plan

John’s Armoire Plan

Why hand work of course!  The armoire project is just waiting to get out of the bathtub and back under construction.  You may recall the post where I assembled the front and rear frames.  Now that the excitement and set up of the new tablesaw is over (at least until the sliding table arrives!) it’s time to go back to the Armoire.  After glue up I noticed that I forgot to mortise out for one of the drawers.  It’s the lowest one on the left side, the mortises should have been cut on the dovetailed rail that spans the bottom of the piece.

The first step was to cut the rabbet on the drawer runner.  You know it’s a good practice to make an extra part and usually you don’t need it — this time that practice came in handy.  There are a total of  twelve runners required which I machined out during this blog.   To make just one it’s easier to do it with hand tools only beginning with the rabbet used to locate the drawer side guide.  I used the spare piece for my guide. Thought I’d try making a little video of this process, ended up doing it in two parts so here’s the first one:

Since watching someone planing is not the most exciting thing in the world, the rabbet is finished up (almost) in this second part:

Now it’s time to cut the pieces to size and add the tenons at each end.  I had thought of going to the SawStop but since hand work is really enjoyable I decided to use that approach instead.  You always hear that most of these processes can be done by hand in less time that it takes to set up power equipment.  Just for fun, I checked and it took me about 6 minutes to cut a mortise from start to finish.  I couldn’t fit a mortise gauge in between the  members of the frame so used the hollow mortise chisel for that once the lines were scribed to locate it.  The only dedicated mortise chisel I own is a 1/4″ and these are 3/8″ but it worked out okay.  Here’s the process:

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I found that the hollow chisel mortiser bit locked into the scribed lines that outlined the mortise.  I use the same technique as Peter Follensbee to cut mortises; start at the center and gradually work to the outer edges at an angle first then vertical as you reach the ends.

Next up is doing the tenons to match, again a pretty straight forward operation.  The wood I’m using is Alder and it cuts quite nicely.  Just a note on the pictures, I use the Black Diamond headlamp to help me see what I’m doing and it changes the coloration of the photos.

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The final step to making these drawer runners was to add the side guide, this is accomplished with glue and some brads.  My goal is to have the side guide and bottom runner end up being a strong  32nd. of an inch proud of the frame.  This will establish the reveal around each drawer.  I’ve had success with this on a single drawer so anxious to see how this will end up for this project.  I believe I can fine tune the reveal by using a rabbet block plane if needed.

SawStop with guard in place

SawStop with guard in place

Couldn’t let the day go without firing up the SawStop!  Decided to go OSHA approved and use the blade guard.  On the positive side of it, hooking up the vacuum virtually eliminated all of the sawdust, the negative is I feel as if the guard is blocking my vision and the way I’m comfortable guiding a piece through the saw.  I can see the advantage of using it if there is a lot of ripping to be done and the pieces are wide enough to handle next to the fence.  Other than that, I don’t like the feeling of having that piece disappear as it goes under the guard and not see it until it re-appears on the other side — feel as if I’ve lost control!  Does the phrase “teaching an old dog new tricks” have some validity here!

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SawStop Assembly — Professional Cabinet Saw Model

I’ll start out by saying how impressed I am with the packaging and directions that came with the saw.  I’ve already mentioned how Woodworker’s Emporium here in Las Vegas provided free delivery, free installation of the optional mobile base, and cut the rails for me at no cost so I can mount the sliding table when it arrives.  I know I’ve mentioned it before but they are just another reason I prefer to shop locally and from “mom & pop” types of businesses whenever I can.  So, on to the SawStop!

I’ve already mentioned how impressed I was with the packaging, now let’s talk about the instructions, check this out:

The manuals are full color, printed on thick, glossy paper, and spiral bound so you can lay it open flat.  The hardware is packed in a blister pack and is identified by the size and type of fastener plus the step number of the written instructions.  They have all of the needed information on setup and trouble shooting plus parts breakdowns of all the components.  Also included is an assortment of allen wrenches used for the assembly.  There is a separate, 33 page manual for the fence system and table extension.  Oh yeah, almost forgot the another manual for the mobile base, not glossy but good none the less!

I took my time and got top end of the saw assembled yesterday and left it ready for this morning.  I had one slight panic moment when attaching the dust port to the saw, I realized that I left my connector on the Jet and it’s now long gone — luckily I thought I had an extra one hidden in a cabinet and I was right!  It’s the FazLok system that allows me to connect the dust collection hose from one machine to another without the hassle of clamps.  Glad I remembered that spare, hate to have to order just one!

Today found me ready to assemble the rest of the saw.  It went pretty well but there were a few “no duh” moments!  As complete as the directions are, they can become overwhelming.  In addition to the manual there were a couple of large, fold out, laminated cards to enhance the process.  My first “no duh” moment came with using them.  In the manual the difference between the contractor style and cabinet saw is pretty clear.

Read the Fine Print!

Read the Fine Print!

However, the cards; not so much. If you look closely, the two cards look pretty identical except one says Contractor the other Cabinet.  I was reading the manual for the Cabinet style and didn’t realize I had the contractor card at the saw.  Nothing made sense, holes and bolts that seemed clear in the manual didn’t correspond to the card I had at the saw. I called their customer support to help clear the air.  While I’m on hold I discovered my error but hate to admit it — it took me a while.  Let’s blame that on senioritis shall we?  Customer support answered promptly (another plus for SawStop) and I sheepishly explained the purpose of my call.  He told me that it’s a pretty common call they get and they need to figure out how to remedy that.  My remedy was to throw the cards away and simply use the manual, it’s easier to read anyway.

The other “no duh” moment came when I was putting the rails and  T-Glide fence system together.  There is a cursor to on either side of the fence and the directions say  you use the right one when the fence is on the right side of the blade and the left one when the fence is on left side of the blade.  It finally dawned on me that since my rail had been cut to accommodate the future sliding table I can no longer use that left side cursor since the scale has been cut off of the rail.  Am I getting rummy?

Aligned, waxed, and ready for work -- almost!

Aligned, waxed, and ready for work — almost!

After the rails were attached loosely it was time to align the entire assembly.  Once that was accomplished a coat of wax was given to everything except for the cabinet itself, that would be overkill even for me!  I do usually wax the top of my machines a couple times a year and am careful to never place cups or sweaty hands on them.  While the wax was drying I gathered up all of the packing material, glad tomorrow is our recycle day because that would be a lot of stuff to keep around! Also have some extra nuts, bolts, washers, etc. so will keep them in a baggie.  I’ll probably need some of the hardware to install the sliding table.  Now it’s time to check this saw out.

Height is identical to Jet

Height is identical to Jet

The first thing that has been pointed out from my Facebook post is that the saw seems to be much smaller than my old one.  Well, not having a left extension wing and reducing the out feed table to 36″ rather than the 52″ of the Jet does make a difference.  The top is 27″ deep compared to the Jets’ 29″.  It also appeared to be lower but I’m going to say that the black color is the reason for that illusion!  You know how they say black is a slimming color.  You can see in this picture that my out feed/assembly table is the same height as the saw which proves both the Jet and the SawStop are the same height.

The guard is a beautiful piece of work but after 50 years of using table saws, usually without one I’m not sure I’ll use it very often.  Maybe when doing a lot of ripping to help contain some of the sawdust — it just seems to be in the way!  Many years ago I wrote a blog about this subject and showed how I modified the Jet guard/splitter assembly to allow me to have the safety of a splitter without the hassle of the guard.  Basically by cutting a part of that guard assembly to make a “fin” that projected up about 1/2″ I had a fixed splitter without the hassle of the guard. The problem with that was that I still had to physically remove that modified splitter to make dados and grooves.  Most saw manufacturers are now incorporating a riving knife which raises and lowers with the blade.  That’s what I’ll be using the most on the SawStop.

In the 70’s, as a carpenter we’d just cram a 16 penny nail into the kerf as we ripped boards with our Skilsaw but I’m sure OSHA would frown on that practice!

Difference in blade washer/flange thickness

Difference in blade washer/flange thickness

Another feature I really like is the thickness of the washer securing the blade to the arbor.  An issue I had with my Jet is that this washer deformed in time which created a slight wobble in the blade, you can see the difference in this picture.  I ordered a couple of the Jet washers and that’s on the top of the table.

Delta Tenon Jig

Delta Tenon Jig

 

 

The last of the concerns I could think of was whether or not my old Delta tenoning jig could be used on the SawStop.  At first glance it seems as if there is ample clearance between it and the blade.  I recall modifying it to fit the Jet so I’m sure I can do that again if needed.

 

Checking blade run-out

Checking blade run-out

After adjusting the fence and the indicator it was finally time to make some cuts and I’m liking how it works!  The sawdust collection is more efficient due to the placement of the hose and collector right by the blade.  Most other saws simply allow the sawdust to fall into the bottom of the cabinet and be sucked out of the bottom.  A friend of mine asked about the blade run out so that was checked with a dial indicator and showed about .001 difference between the front and back of the blade.  The blade that came with the saw is acceptable but doesn’t compare in the quality of cut I get with my Tenryu Gold Medal series blades.  I’ll keep it for rough cutting and construction type projects.

SawStop with Sliding Table

SawStop with Sliding Table

All in all, as far and as much as I’ve done with this tool I’m impressed.  The final evaluation will come when I get that sliding table and put it through the paces.  It may be a challenge to reconfigure the shop to accommodate that but what’s life without challenges!

 

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Tablesaw Conundrum

What's Missing?

So what’s missing?

Not a good time for a quiz but my shop certainly looks a bit different now — seems much larger without my Jet cabinet saw with the 52″ out feed table!  This is the first time I’ve been without a tablesaw since my first Craftsman, 10″ tablesaw purchased back in 1977 as a graduation present to myself.  That is when I earned my teaching credential from San Francisco State and began my career of teaching.  The Craftsman was a quality piece of cast iron equipment, if you’re old enough to recall those days that was probably one of the main brands for homeowners to buy.  I used that saw until replacing it with the Jet in April of 2000.  Since I tend to keep receipts and owners manuals those dates and prices I mention are valid.  That Craftsman followed me to Las Vegas and Boulder City and was used to build my house there plus countless furniture pieces for myself and others that sparked my passion as a custom furniture maker.

Jet sold in 2 Days on Craigslit

Jet sold in 2 Days on Craigslist

Since I was becoming more involved with building furniture and projects for others, it was time to upgrade the contractor style Craftsman with a more powerful, cabinet style of saw.  I don’t recall the price of that saw but do remember that after listing it on Craigslist it sold within a day’s time.  I had two people at the house and another on the phone which resulted in a bidding war.  I sold it for what I paid back in 1977.  This was in 2000 and that price was under $500.00.  Enter the Jet Cabinetsaw, 3 hp, 220 volt, and 52″ table.  This picture is from the listing and it went to a young man that was very excited to take it home.  Since I rarely use sheet goods the long table served more time as an assembly table than it did to support wood being cut.  Besides, with a shop made sliding table long pieces were manageable.  Some of its accuracy has diminished over the years, bearings and belts have been replaced, and I thought it was time to purchase my last tablesaw.  Comparing the initial purchase price of the Jet back in 2000 with what I sold it for now (15 years later) showed me that it cost about $45.00 a year to own that tool — not a bad return if I do say so myself!

SawStop with Sliding Table

SawStop with Sliding Table

So, now what do I do?  This was more of a dilemma than I thought it would be. Some of me said that this was the time to really go back to all hand tool woodworking; something I truly enjoy but wasn’t quite ready to commit to.  As you know I consider myself a “hybrid woodworker”, one that uses the power tools much as the craftsman of old used their apprentices.  Let them do the heavy grunt work of roughly dimensioning the material and I’ll concentrate on the hand cut joinery and planed surfaces.  That decision being made, next was which saw to buy.  I considered the Powermatic brand, one that was used in all of my school woodshops and a proven workhorse.  Reviews on it weren’t all favorable and it was generally priced higher than the SawStop.  If you’re familiar with the SawStop, it’s been popularized as the Hot Dog Saw because of the safety feature where the blade automatically stops and retracts the minute it senses flesh:   http://www.sawstop.com/why-sawstop/the-technology

Admittedly, I had some negative feelings about this saw due to the way the inventor of it tried to have legislation passed that would require every saw to have this technology.  That just didn’t set well with me, I saw it as greed on his part which offset the obvious safety features this tool has.  Although I’ve been working with table saws for over 50 years and can still count to ten on my fingers — all it takes is one mishap to lose one or more of them!  I guess I’ve mellowed in my initial feelings about his attempts to legislate safety and after research discovered that this is a quality tool with nothing but positive reviews on the internet.  They recently introduced a sliding table which I’ve seen at Woodworkers Emporium and decided to go ahead with purchasing this machine.  I chose their Professional 3hp, 220volt model with a 36″ table but added the sliding table to it.  The saw will be delivered Monday but the slider is on backorder for 2-3 weeks.  As a service, Woodworkers will cut the rails to the needed length to accommodate the slider, install the mobile base, and deliver free to my shop.  I do prefer to  support local businesses rather than internet.  They’ve always been good to me, not only in sales but also by referring clients and students to me and arranging any warranty work when needed.

So, now I wait until Monday morning to have the saw delivered. They will install the mobile base and also cut the rails to the needed lengths for the sliding table.  That won’t be here for 2-3 weeks and I’m really looking forward to getting used to that feature.  If you’re unfamiliar with a sliding table, traditionally they are huge and take up an enormous amount of floor space.  SawStops version is compact and very smooth, they have one set up at Woodworkers Emporium that I’ve handled.  Here is a video about it:

Very anxious to see how this will all fit into my limited shop space and I’m sure I’ll need to do some reconfiguring.  The saw’s mobile base will make that easier, all of my tools are mobile which is a “must have” when your space is limited.  My hope is that with the dedicated sliding table I’ll be able to achieve more accuracy with mitered and bevel cuts and also with finger joint jigs.  Yes, I’ll need to re-make that but it’s time — they’ve served me well over the years and have been tweaked many, many times so it’s probably past time to remake them.

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