Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Check out this cool dovetail joint!

It's springtime here and we've been fine-tuning the shop, buying some new equipment and rearranging a few things.  The Laguna bandsaw needed some upgraded roller guides,

 since the stock ceramic guides were worn, and frankly.... Laguna guides suck. 

WTF, Laguna?

Now that Denny and I added some Carter bandsaw guides to the saw, 

I think we need to attempt this joint! 

The Carter guides are awesome, BTW!

We also invested in a new router table, after having looked at dozens of them.We made a list of everything we wanted in a router table, and this unit had 90% of what that list had on it.

 The only thing that is missing is a cabinet below, for storing extra bits, wrenches and router plates. I would have really liked that in this unit, but it simply wasn't available. 

MLCS makes a vast array of router products - from tables to bits to jigs, and MUCH more,   but I have to say - their assembly instructions for this table nearly bought us to our knees. They might rank as the worst ever. 


And their customer service - damn... it'll be a while before I consider buying something from them again. If I had to score it - 

Products: 9.5
Manuals and support: -2
Customer service: 0

Again... WTF?

Still - the table is great, and is going to give us years of great service. 

Lest it sound like I'm always bitching about customer service, here is come good news  - I can always count on Bob, my contact at the Delta factory in South Carolina. He came through in a HUGE way this past week, and we added an amazing feature to our drill press. Here's a hint:

Stay tuned!

Friday, April 24, 2015

IKEA - love it or hate it?

Let's face it - you either love or hate IKEA furniture.

 Me? I'm in the "I love it" category.

 But for a couple of reasons that you might not expect. First, I have to admit I love the sleek simplicity of their designs. Give me minimalist decor with straight lines over highly decorated or curvey pieces any day. 

But the other reason I really like their work is that it tends to drive a fair number of customers my way. After seeing how rickety some of their furniture is - some customers have me build similar pieces, only using better woods, and stronger joinery. 

I've even been hired to assemble some of their furniture by people who just don't have the mechanical skills to do it on their own. So when I read that Ikea claims their new line of Regissor Furniture can be assembled in five minutes, I was a little skeptical. (BTW, IKEA just broke ground here in Las Vegas, and I am very excited about visiting their store once it opens!)

Watch this!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Drillnado - dust control for your drillpress

We generate a ton of sawdust and wood shavings at the shop. In fact, whenever possible, we donate it to people who can use it. Gardeners, animal rescue groups, worm farms  - 

there are plenty of happy earthworms around town, who live in our dust! Not to mention some animals at the local orchard who bed in our shavings. 

When Chris Buczek sent me a message, offering some drill press relief, I jumped at the offer. And voila! A few days later, a Drillnado arrived at the shop. 

And since we're getting ready to cut tons of plugs for the upcoming classes, we jumped at the chance to test it out. 

Some people get a little giddy at the thought of product testing. I won't mention any names.

The installation was pretty straight forward, easy to bolt in place, with basic tools that anyone would have in their shop. We have two drill presses at the shop - a Jet and an old donated Craftsman. Even with the extra bushings that were included in the kit - the Drillnado only fit one of them. That was a little frustrating, since it didn't fit the one wanted to install it on.

The existing depth stop rod and its attachment brackets had to be removed to install it. In all, it took maybe ten minutes to get everything in place. 

The parts are fairly solid and well made, although the external flange that will have to be drilled (so that the depth stop rod can be reinstalled) wasn't located in a good position for this. It forced us to angle the bracket in a direction that wasn't where we wanted it to be, causing the vacuum hose to sit in an odd position. Still - not a huge deal.

If it were just a bit taller and wider, it would be easier to drill it for the rod.

Once the main housing was bolted around the chuck, it was easy to snap the expandable  housing in place. This lower housing is flexible and expands in length, for the times you're using a longer drill bit in your press.

We had to fool around with the height of the housing, because the two pieces need to interact with each other at just the right height, to allow wood chips to flow into the vacuum tube. This took longer than anything, with about 15 minutes of tests, and a few calls to Chris. 

Here it is - installed and ready for testing. 

When using larger sized bits, you have to  trim the end of the expandable housing. We did that, and installed a 1" bit. 




After a little trial and error, we had it mostly set up for use, so later that week, we did a short demo of the device at a Sin City Woodworkers meeting held at the shop.  There were about 30 woodworkers in attendance, and frankly, our group had mixed feelings about the Drillnado. 

While everyone agreed it did an excellent job of collecting the dust while drilling, the biggest complaint about this device was that it obscured a clear view of the drill bit while drilling holes.  Some felt that if the expandable housing was clear, they might feel a little safer about drilling in the blind. But chances are - static electricity would build up inside the housing, collecting saw dust, so even if it was clear - it probably wouldn't matter. 

Let's face it - seeing the drill bit is pretty damn important.  

During our testing, we found that this device works well with smaller bits, but once we installed some larger diameter bits - some effectiveness was lost. 

Another woodworker opined that since the device was fairly inexpensive, he might be willing to buy it for the various times when he had a ton of drilling to do.  

My opinion? While I appreciate the fact that it does a good job of collecting dust, I think that its shortcomings wouldn't be worth the trouble to use it. I didn't like the fact that it only fit one of the drill presses, and really didn't like that I had to remove the depth stop rod assembly to attach it. I'd like something that could bolt on with minimal changes to my existing machine. In my mind, it's just as easy to have a shop vac handy, and clean up the mess as I go.

So in the end -  if you had a ton of drilling to do - the Drillnado would be a worthwhile purchase. (It costs around $40 plus shipping.)   Interested, or want to see their video? Here's a link. Many thanks to Chris for sending us this to test - it definitely has value in some woodshops that do a ton of drilling. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Quarter sawn lumber

You can call me a woodnerd, but I never get tired of watching lumber videos like this. 

A student emailed me the other day, asking about quarter sawn wood, and how it was different from plain sawn lumber. Here's the best explanation I've ever seen.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Which hobbies help an aging brain? (Let me help you out... Woodworking!)

As if you needed a better reason to get into woodworking... this article by Jessica Firger came out last week:

Which hobbies help an aging brain? 

A new study from researchers at the Mayo Clinic looked at the benefits of a number of activities in middle and old age and found that engaging in a creative hobby helped reduce the risk of dementia and preserve memory.
In addition to arts and crafts, the study, published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, also examined the longterm benefits of social activities such as book clubs, movies, concerts, time with friends and travel. Additionally, the study considered the brain-health benefits of computer pastimes such as surfing the Internet, playing video games and even online shopping.
All of them helped -- but artistic pursuits seemed to be most effective.
"There's enough data here to suggest that being socially, mentally active -- along with what we know from other research, physically active -- probably does influence whether you're going to get dementia down the line. And you can reduce your risk by being mentally and physically active," said Dr. James Leverenz, a neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic's Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, said in a video press release. 
The researchers surveyed 256 people with an average age of 87 about how they used their leisure time. At the start of the study none of the participants were found to have memory or thinking problem. In follow-up assessments approximately four years later, 121 people had developed mild cognitive impairment. 
The researchers found participants who engaged in artistic hobbies such as painting, drawing or sculpture in both middle and old age were 73 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment than those who didn't. Those who crafted -- doing things like pottery, woodworking, quilting or sewing -- were 45 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Are you a music lover? Are you free Tuesday, April 21?

One of the best parts about running a woodworking school is meeting amazing people. Seriously, I've met magicians and poker stars, politicians and brothel workers, and just about everyone in between that spectrum.

One of the more memorable people is Corey, who started out as a student, but has morphed into my website master and friend. Oh, and a table maker.

So when Corey invited me to an event at his house last year - I jumped at the opportunity. 

Corey and his better half, Stacy,  host small concerts at their home, and after attending one - I think it's a fabulous idea! They turn their living and dining rooms into a mini concert hall, and the shows are intimate and soulful. If you ever have an opportunity to attend, you should..... 


You DO have an opportunity!!! 

They're hosting the awesome group Vandaveer, and if you're not familiar with their music, take a look here.

Here's another one to hold you over until show time! 

I really hope you get the chance to attend one of their living room concerts - it's quite a different way to spend an evening in Las Vegas!

Monday, April 06, 2015

The Ridgid Conundrum

Ahhh... the Ridgid Conundrum.

  1. a confusing and difficult problem or question.
    "one of the most difficult conundrums for the experts"
    synonyms:problem, difficult question, difficultyquandarydilemma;
    "the conundrums facing policy-makers"

When people catch the woodworking bug, they inevitably want to buy a few tools and get a woodshop assembled in their garage. And they ask me for tool recommendations. 

Of course, it all depends on their budget and what they want to make, but for years, I've been recommending the Ridgid brand for someone's first tablesaw. It's affordable, pretty accurate, and best of all - their lifetime warranty is hard to beat.

But I've noticed a troubling pattern with Ridgid, and I actually wrote to them about it, in hopes of getting an answer. (Still no good response from them...) -  


It started when I bought this Spindle / Edge Sander combo tool. 

It took me nearly three months to register this tool, even though I did every single thing they asked me to do. In the end, I had to send every single bit of paperwork to them by snail mail, because they claimed I wasn't filling out their online registration form correctly. The kicker is that I had to send it via registered mail, which I now think they require as a deterrent. They figure after three months of screwing around with the registration process, you're either going to lose some important piece of paper that you should have saved (like the label from the original box, for example) or you're just going to give up out of sheer frustration. 

The sander eventually got registered, but I've encountered simpler paperwork clusterfucks applying for my passport or registering for a college class. The first time - I thought it was a fluke. 

Fast forward to this weekend, when I bought this Shop Vac. A nice product,to be sure. 

But when I went online to register for the lifetime warranty - again... I encountered a sea of paperwork. There were login problems; my original login password no longer worked. It took hours to get a new password, and then when I did - I couldn't register both tools on the name account; I had to set up a new registration for each tool.

There's something fishy about their registration process.... has anyone else encountered that?

What a joke... 

I'll go back to recommending other tools that are much more consumer friendly. 

Thursday, April 02, 2015

This is how you embrace a new technique!

Have you noticed I haven't been blogging as much as usual? That's because I'm in the middle of a tough teaching schedule, with little time to get much of anything done!

But I just had to throw these photos up here, because they're so cool! We just wrapped up two sessions of compound miters, and everyone really seemed to excel at their projects! 

There were a lot of happy lamp makers here, some with excellent use of color. It's funny; sometimes I'll talk about MilkPaint and the class will just yawn. This class really dove into painting, and their results were wonderful.

If one is good, then two are amazing... new walnut bedside lamps! 

Not everyone wanted to make a lamp... here's a very interesting clock with a crooked (on purpose!) lid. The color and feel of this piece is amazing; I wish you could feel it!

How about a personalized planter? 

If I told you this piece had a secret compartment, it really wouldn't be a secret anymore, right?  There are a couple more pieces that didn't get finished tonight, but trust me - they will be worth the wait!