Friday, February 26, 2010

Dining table that turns into a fort

When I was a child, I used to build elaborate tents in the family living room. I would create my own little "fort" by draping blankets over the various tables in the room. It was even better when my sister or cousins joined in - the more, the merrier!

That's why I love this table - I just wish I knew more about it.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Music in the woodshop

Sorry that there hasn't been much activity here, but I've had an incredibly busy schedule at the woodworking school lately. Luckily, things are back to normal once again. Well, as normal as things ever are around a woodshop...

Which brings me to the latest thing running around my head - music in the woodshop. Here's a confession - I really love rap music. And I think it gets a bad... well, rap, for being nonsensical and angry. Sure, much of it is. But there is a ton of interesting rap out there that deserves your attention.

Like this one.

Last week, I had music playing in the woodshop and students arriving for their last Basic Woodworking session. One student walked in a started complaining about the music playing in the shop. "I hate rap!" What a shame. She's missing some great music.

This is a current favorite. If you're offended by salty language, here's a censored version. Try to look past the lyrics and listen to what he's saying. You have an open mind, don't you?

Who's on your iPod?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Final Adjustments to the Radial Arm Saw

Getting this radial arm saw cleaned, adjusted and back in good working order wasn't an overnight project. It took the better part of a couple of days, but it was well worth it. Once the new table was installed and leveled, most of the work left involves truing up the blade in relationship to the table and fence.

You've heard me gush about the Wixey cube and the digital protractor, and once again, these two devices make set-up very simple. Set the Wixey on the table, and zero it out.

Then flip it onto the blade, and check your angle.

If I was using a regular framing square, I wouldn't have gotten nearly the accuracy that I'm getting with this. I'm telling you, it's the best $25 you'll spend for your woodshop ever.

Then I used the protractor to adjust the blade square to the fence.

Last, I checked to see if the blade was had any heel in it. That's when the yoke of the saw is slightly twisted on it's carriage. Yes, you can still get a square cut from a heeled blade, but it will give you a wider kerf, as the blade is cutting through your wood at a slight angle. Mine needed a slight adjustment, which was simple.

All that is left is to add a thin, sacrificial table on top of this new one. If I'm lucky, I'll never have to replace this table again. I fully intend on keeping it free of any kerfs.

Just a little too porn for you...

There is some excellent information available, should you decide to tear your saw apart and fine tune it. If you Google "
Radial Arm Saw Tool Tune-up" you should come across some helpful documents.

Good luck!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

SawStop demo with a real finger

My buddy, Bob, sent this to me. It gets interesting right around the three- minute mark.

Wow. Please don't do this at home, it is whack!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Fine Tuning your Radial Arm Saw (Part three)

After all the cleaning and adjustments to the column, this next steps are fairly simple.

With the top of the saw is stripped clean, I adjusted the bolts under the table, to level them up. There are three sets of these bolts - front,

middle and rear of the table.

All three sets have to be dead on, in order to have a perfectly flat top. It's very simple to level them up. A straightedge spanning across the top makes this very easy, and the bolts, once adjusted, lock the top in place.

After I cut the new Baltic Birch top, I put it on the top, and marked the mounting holes from underneath.

Once drilled, everything goes together smoothly.
I double checked the top for flatness, after it was screwed down into place.

There are three stiffeners that mount under the table, to ensure the top stays flat.

These were a little more trouble to install, requiring a good deal of drilling and alignment. Putting on the new top took half a day, but considering that the old top had a huge dip in the center, this new top was worth every bit of the effort.

One thing that I read in the book suggested that an additional, sacrificial top be placed on top of this permanent top. That way, the blade could be raised and only would only through the top table. If you never cut into the bottom one, you never have to replace it. That's a great idea!

FInally, it was time to test the table height, to make sure that it was set at the same height from front to back, and side to side. It's not that critical when cutting through a board, but if I was cutting dados, and the table wasn't accurately adjusted, the dado would be inconsistent from one end to the other.

Start by pointing the blade arbor completely perpendicular with the top.

With the Wixey digital cube, it's easy . Zero out the cube,

then attach it to the arbor and set it to 90˚. Nice.

Push the saw all the way back in place, and then lower the saw until the arbor just touches the table. (Of course, I forgot to photograph the last part of this test, but it's simple.)

Then pull the saw forward. If it's the same height off the table, you're good. Swing the saw 45˚ to the left and check it the same way, both in front, and in the back. Then swing it right and check it. The arbor should sit just on top of the table, evenly at all six locations. This means you've got accurate depth adjustment to your saw, and it's important. If you didn't, cuts like dados would be deeper on one side of your but than the other. It's less important with cuts that go all the way through your board.

Luckily, mine was perfect.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Fine tuning your Radial Arm Saw (Part two)

The radial arm saw puts out a significant amount of sawdust, unless it's hooked into a dust collector. Mine has never had that luxury, so dust has infiltrated most of the various components of the saw.

The next step was a big one - cleaning the rollers and track on which the saw travels. They were a mess. First I pulled off the front plate on the overhead arm, and peeked inside.

It was filthy,

but before I could really clean anything, I had to pull the whole saw out of the track. Not an easy feat, as the motor is very heavy. So I pulled up a cart to the front of the saw, and lowered the motor until it just rested on the cart.

Then I slowly wheeled the cart (and the motor) out of the carriage. Here are the bearings, which were really dirty.

My rag went from this

to this.

After the cleaning, the track looked like this.

I wheeled the cart right back up to the overhead arm, and slid the bearings back in place. After making sure everything moved smoothly, I put the front plate back in place.

The locking handle needed an adjustment, too.

When locked down, the knob on the end of it hit the body, keeping it from fully locking in place. This adjustment required loosening the set screw, and pulling off the handle, putting it into a different position so the knob wasn't in the way. This simple procedure took forever, as I couldn't loosen that big bolt in the center of the handle.

A call to Delta saved the day. The nut doesn't come off! So I grabbed the biggest screwdriver in the shop and pried the handle off.

Next step? Replacing the table.

Fine tuning your Radial Arm Saw (Part one)

Way back when (1994, to be precise), my 14" radial arm saw was new and clean. It cut straight and square, and the overhead arm didn't wobble. The table was flat as as could be, and life was good.

That was then, this is now.

So I decided to take it apart, and tune it up, using this book by Jon Eakes.

I didn't realize this book had an affiliation with Lee Valley Tools, but once I saw that, I was somewhat relieved. They know their stuff.

The book lays out some basic procedures for getting a radial arm saw back into shape, and if you follow the directions step by step, it's really not too difficult. The biggest problem I ran into is that the book is that he focuses on three specific saws - none of which were my brand. So some of the precise tool adjustments the author discusses don't apply to my machine. Still, I only called Delta's tech support line twice. Anyone with some reasonable mechanical skill can whip their saw into shape.

Start by cleaning the saw. You can see that the column on mine is filthy and somewhat oxidized.

I not only wiped it down with ammonia, but raised and lowered the column several times to get all the grunge off of it. A light spritz with WD-40 (the only place this is recommended) was the final coat on the column.

The first big adjustment is eliminating the column play. On my saw, it's accomplished by loosening several locking nuts and set screws, and then adjusting the two big bolts on the back of the column. It's not easy.

Too much tightening and you can't raise or lower the saw that easily. An adjustment that's too loose will allow sloppiness and side-to-side movement, which is a no-no. It's a fine line on this adjustment, and it took a good hour of screwing around until I got it just right.

Next up... more cleaning and a new table.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Cleaning up glued joints with a chisel

Part of a woodworker's life is about gluing wood together. There isn't much way around it, it stabilizes a joint, and bonds wood together.

You've probably heard that if you glue to pieces of wood together, and then try to break them apart, the wood will probably break anywhere BUT the glue joint. A glued joint is actually stronger than the wood itself.

But glue can also make life miserable if you're sloppy with it.
I have a very good friend who completely freaks out when gluing wood together, knowing how many possibilities there are for disasters. Why not take a little care in the beginning, so that you don't spend hours later, cleaning dried glue?

There are two areas of thought regarding glue clean-up. One is to clean up any squeeze-out with a damp rag, before it has dried. The other is to wait until the glue has set up a bit, and then cut it away with a chisel. Both methods work, but there are pros and cons to them.

I don't like wiping glue away with a damp rag. First, if you have the rag too damp, it can actually add water to the glue joint, and can possibly weaken the glue bond. Also, wiping it away forces glue into the pores of the wood. When it comes time to finish your piece, you might find a few surprises - areas that won't accept the oil you apply, or light spots in a sprayed surface finish.

Finally, my third reason for not liking the damp rag method is that it causes the wood grain to raise, thus forcing you to go back and do some additional sanding in the areas around the joint. All in all - there aren't a lot of good reasons to wipe away glue with a damp rag, unless you're gluing something very complex and you can't keep up with the glue dripping everywhere.

My preferred method is to wait until the glue sets up a bit, and then pare it away with a sharp chisel. It's hard to say how long you have to wait - but the glue should definitely be skinned over and about the consistency of toothpaste. Soft, but not drippy.

The downside to this method is that it takes some skill, and a little time. And there are some situations where you simply can't reach the joint with your chisel, to clean it. But this works most of the time, at least for me.

One last thing - I don't always use a chisel. Sometimes, if there is a very small bit of glue that has to be removed, I'll just slice it away with an X-Acto knife. Two simple cuts, and the residue just slices off very nicely.

So I'm working on a piece where I glued a couple of these "H" shaped parts. Using the Festool Domino joiner really makes things simple.

After the glue has set up a bit, you can see that there is some squeeze-out in the corners that needs to be cleaned.

The best way to get rid of it to to cut the glue from both sides - first putting your chisel on one side of the joint, and slicing the glue off.

Then flip your chisel around and cut it from the other side. Two cuts, that's usually all you need.

You want to cut from both sides, meeting in the middle. Keep your chisel flat on the wood as much as you can. That way you won't cut into the wood, and damage that 90˚ corner.

This method will get rid of most of the glue. Make sure your chisel is sharp!
To get rid of the little bit of glue residue that's left, gently scrape it away with your chisel.

Just a light scrape across the wood will usually leave you with a very clean joint. Now isn't that easier than letting the glue harden and then having to work a lot harder to cut away all that squeeze-out?

Here's another joint being cleaned. Cut from one side.

Then from the other side.

And you'll wind up with this.