Sunday, January 13, 2019

The top tools of the year!


It's time for our list of the top three tools that we used last year... and will get a TON of usage in the future.

No doubt, we make a ton of boxes at the shop.  At least a few hundred a year... everyone loves boxes! 


But my old Jorgensen band clamps were feeling their age...  the straps were wearing out and the ratchets were tired. I can't complain; over the years, they've clamped thousands of boxes. 

Luckily, Jorgensen stepped in to help us out, sending dozens of new clamps to test.  


This new design has an integrated wrench, so there isn't a need to go searching for one when it's time to tighten it.


 Brilliant!  These have been a much needed - AND IMPROVED - addition to the shop, and makes it one of the top new products of 2018, in my book.   

Here's a link to check them out, but Amazon has been out of them for a bit... add them to your wish list. Trust me on this. 




The next top rated tools of 2018 aren't necessarily new products, but frankly - two of the most useful items we have in the shop. Bar none.





Seriously, if you don't have these in your shop, you might be doing sloppy work.

The iGaging Angle Cube and its counterpart - the iGaging digital protractor are without a doubt - game changers for your woodworking. Being off just a half degree on your saw cut can throw a whole project off. And there's no need to be inaccurate anymore. Not only do these get used on a daily basis, they get used hourly, double-checking all of the tools in the shop.  

If you want to up your game in the woodshop, accuracy is #1. 

Buy these. 

And finally - 

This is truly a game changer in my world - the most amazing laser engraver on the planet- the Glowforge. Glowforge started as an idea and a Kickstarter campaign, so early investors had an opportunity to buy one at a discount, and receive future discounts on materials and products. It took a while to receive mine (and I'm still waiting for the filter that will mount under it, which will make indoor usage completely simple) but this machine is simply mind blowing.


Where do I start?

If you want to engrave something, this machine will do it. You can use their materials (called Proofgrade materials) so that all of the guesswork is taken away; just drop a sheet inside the bed of the machine, upload your design and press a button. 

When your box is delivered, you'll be printing within an hour. The set-up is easy, but one thing of note - you MUST have an internet connection to run this. 

There are two things you'll cut right away, to see if you're doing it right. You'll have this ruler in no time, 


and this Gift of Good Measure keychain, which every Glowforge owner has made numerous times. (Everybody wants one!) 


This Good Measure keychain gave me a great idea when I was approached about making some knitting guides for a local knit shop. 


Once you've purchase a Glowforge, you'll have access to tons of shared designs, like these Marvel coasters, 



and puzzles, 



sports memorabilia, and more. 



Here are a couple of simple engravings I've done for friends -  cutting boards for music lovers, 


and this Man Cave sign.  Here were a couple of designs, 


and the final product. 


A customer requested that I add a little bit of artwork to the back of a rocking chair I was building - we decided on this clipart, 




here's the back rail of the chair. 


Here's an urn for an art teacher, designed to resemble a box of crayons.



This was one of her favorite sayings.


How easy is it to use? 

I took this clipart, imported it, and...


printed 1000 divot repair tools.  Took about 3 minutes each.


One of my favorites...




This was my entry into the Christmas Ornament contest - a sweet little star for my tree. 


Any limitations? Honestly, I think your only limitation is your imagination - if you can dream up something, you can probably cut it on this machine. 


Here's another great piece - a hanging lamp... I've gotten some great comments about this one, and when the lamp is turned on, the wood glows. It's awesome!


I'm working on some fun recipe boxes, with this artwork lasered on the top... 



Interested?  Here's a link to read more...  


I'm not sure there's a better phrase than "game changer" for this machine.  If you're making custom artwork, you need this tool. 

That wraps up my favorite three tools for last year - I've used them so many times, they're like old friends.  

Looking to up your game?... you know what you need to do....

Sunday, January 06, 2019

2018 - Year of the Dog... 2019 - Year of the Pig!


Well, it's officially 2019, and according to the Chinese calendar, it's the Year of the Pig. 



I'll need to do a little reading to understand how that will affect everything in the woodshop this coming year, but according to The Chinese Zodiak.org - here's what to expect:

According to the chinese astrology , 2019 is a great year to make money, and a good year to invest! 2019 is going to be full of joy, a year of friendship and love for all the zodiac signs; an auspicious year because the Pig attracts success in all the spheres of life.

Did you know that 2018 was the Year of the Dog?  

That made me think of the dogs of 2018 - the products I bought or used that were worthless. I have a few... here are the top three.

These Flexilla Blow Guns  were particularly frustrating. 






Lest you think I'm just down on Flexzilla, know that I LOVE these Flexzilla air hoses






- they coil effortlessly, so I figured their blow guns would be great, too.  

I even ordered two of them! 

After I unwrapped them and hooked them up the various hoses around the shop, the seal on one instantly failed, perpetually leaking air. Yes, Flexzilla replaced it almost immediately, but the replacement isn't much better, leaking with reckless abandon. 

What's even worse - admittedly, these guns get a lot of use, but the hook on the top of both of them broke off in the first week or two. We hang these on pegs around the shop, so this is beyond irksome. 


My solution was to buy two blowguns from Snap-On and put these two in a drawer, for emergencies. What a shame... my opinion? Don't waste your money on these. 

My next Dog of the Year are these Bessey clamps. Admittedly - these are actually a few years old, but Bessey sent me some bar clamp fixtures to test, and we put them through the wringer. If any tool manufacturer wants a true test of their  product, they should send them our way.  

We give everything a good workout at my shop!



After adding the pipe to these, we put them in rotation, only to experience failure after failure - cracks in the metal, 


as well as another weird thing... these clamps tended to shear off the threads of the pipe. Not just once, but over and over!


It would start innocently, by pulling out of parallel from the front pad. 


By the time we realized what was happening, there were probably a dozen clamps that had broken, by ripping off the threaded end.


 We have a cart full of pipe with broken threads, 


which is a reminder to me every time I walk past it  - don't waste your money on Bessey clamps. 



I've reached out to the people at Bessey who sent these to me, to no avail. Never heard back from anyone. So on one hand, I'm thrilled to be a part of their testing team, but on the other hand - we're frustrated. WTF, Bessey?

My final dog of 2018 is Powermatic, which bills itself as "The Gold Standard" of tools. 


Last Spring, my Delta 6x48 sander died, and since I needed it for a class that very night, I called local supplier and bought the Powermatic equivalent, sight unseen. If I'd have had a bit more time, I would have checked out the options before choosing this one. 

Where do I start... from the plastic parts that randomly broke, 


to the (almost instantly) flaking paint,


 to the fact that the sanding area on this machine was much smaller than its Delta counterpart... well - this sander was a dud. I take full blame for this one, as I didn't perform my due diligence, but I did learn one thing - Powermatic isn't all that, in my book. 

Anyone else have anything they want to nominate for the 2018 year of the Dog?



Coming up next... the best products that I used 2018. Stay tuned!






Sunday, December 30, 2018

Last Sunday of the year...


Sunday mornings are for sipping coffee, and lounging around in my pajamas! It's so easy to get sucked into watching vintage videos on woodworking - here are two of my favorites. 


Thanks for this one, Jim C!









Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Hope your holiday is warm and merry...

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Here's the latest scoop...


We've been making some ridiculously cool cutting boards in our Advanced Cutting Board class. Just in time for Christmas, BTW... but the funny thing is - when they make their boards, most of the students say they want to keep them, instead of give them away. I don't blame them, we've done some amazing pieces this session.

 Our end grain board on steroids is always a big hit, but we upped our game and made something really unique last week. 

To be frank, I'm a little tired of end grain cutting boards. In fact - I was just discussing that with someone this past weekend. She's made a gazillion boards for people, and told me that people always request end grain boards from her. Those take more work than a standard flat grained board, and most end grain board you see are... well... just boring. 

I wish I had a dollar for every one of these I've seen.... yawn....  




So when I was looking to add a new board as a class project, I remembered this scooping technique that a student and I tried a few years ago.  It involved making a jig for spinning a wood blank over the blade, to create a very nice bowl in wood. 

The jig is pretty simple - make a "bridge" that spans the blade, from the end of the left table, to the fence. It has to be tall enough for the wood blank to fit under it.


  After the bridge is made, we drilled a hole directly over the center of the blade. This is where the wood will spin. 


Here's the piece of wood I wanted to scoop, so I did some calculating to find the center of the scooped area, and then transferred the mark to the back side of the wood.



 I drilled a hole on that back side, and then determined how deep I could scoop into the wood.


 I figured about halfway was good, I raised the blade to that height. Then I lowered it back down, counting the number of revolutions on the elevation wheel of the saw. In this case, it was five revolutions. 



With the blade below the table, I used a drill bit and secured the wood blank into the jig. That will allow the wood to safely spin over the blade, without kickback. 



This works best with two people, one spinning the wood, and another raising the blade. But in a pinch, I've done it myself, so it's totally possible.  

After spinning to bowl and raising the blade five revolutions, here's the result - a very nice scooped bowl into your wood. 


I purchased some thick walnut live edge lumber from Andrew at Reclaimed Secrets, and our charcuterie boards are sweet! 


Can't wait to see these sanded and oiled!