Saturday, May 30, 2015

A little tablesaw upgrade - as simple as it gets

Great minds think alike. 

My buddy John just bought a SawStop tablesaw, and he mounted a router base underneath the table, so that he could use it as a router table. I've done this almost every saw that I've owned; it's a pretty smart way to save space in your shop. 

Who doesn't love that!?

Router tables have been one of the conundrums for me at the school - we definitely need good one, so I bought this beast of a router table recently. 

But there are couple of times that we need a second router, and I didn't want to waste the floor space, nor the money, purchasing a second one of these. So I decided to mount a router base on my table saw. The router and saw can share the fence, which is great.

I started by drilling a single hole in the table top, where I wanted locate the router bit on the top. 

Then I lined up the base and started drilling the three mounting holes. It didn't matter that hole was perfectly centered in the base; you'll see why later. 

 Here – two of the three holes are drilled and the base is attached. It's wise to do this slowly, so you get a perfectly aligned mounting holes. I use the Vix bit. 

After the three holes were drilled I tested the installation, by mounting the base underneath.

But then I flip things around and mounted a plunge router on top, using those three mounting holes that I drilled. My plan is to use the router to drill that hole in the top; it will be perfectly centered.

You know, I've done this to several saws before, and I've done it in a match harder method. This way was so simple, I did it in about 20 minutes!

 Here's a little video of me drilling the hole in the top. 

Now you can see why it wasn't imperative that that first hole was perfectly centered. All I needed to do was get the bearing to fit into it. 

And voilĂ  – check out this clean installation!

I have an extra router base, so I'll keep this permanently mounted under my saw. When I need to use this as a router table, I'll just pop a router into this base and be good to go.  

I wish all the chores in the shop were the simple! I'll have to ask John how he mounted his router. I suspect he did it in a similar fashion. 

Like I said– great minds think alike!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

The place where cars go to die

There’s an old superstition that I grew up with - if you try a new food, you'll add 7 years to your life. I'm not sure if it's an Italian thing, or just a way of my parents getting me to try something new. But it always worked!

Either way, I feel like doing something new is good for my brain. It stimulates me and puts me thinking from a different perspective.  Damn, I did something recently that was so foreign to me, I felt like I was on a different planet.  It combined everything that's great about this city: grittiness, teamwork, reality, economy, race relations.... it was all that and more...

I went to Pic-a-Part! 

If you've never visited one of these places, I'd have to say that it's an acquired taste. The best description I can think of would be that it's an automobile junkyard, where you dig through the rubble, to find what you need. Like scavengers, picking boney carcasses. Kind of like Survivor, only with car parts. 

By the way - ladies get in free. What a deal!  

Admission for guys? One dollar. How can you beat that?

There are rows of dead vehicles, stripped of everything vital. Need a bumper, or an engine thingie? 

This is the place for you!

 Denny and I visited Pic-a-Part this week, as I was in need of a part for my truck, and I didn't feel like spending $150 for it from the dealer. The lid fell off my center console, and let me tell you, driving without it was a PITA. I never realized how much I leaned on this lid!

Of course, I could't locate just the lid. So off we went.

Lesson #1 - bring tools! I wouldn't have known this, had Denny not told me. 

We brought the old lid with us, and before entering the yard, one of the employees marked our part with some red paint. 

Walking through the miles of aisles, I wondered what the stories were behind some of these vehicles.  

Who camouflaged this SUV with spray paint? 

Why did this Lexus end up here? And what was that maroon stain on the seat? Premature delivery? Car accident? Off in the distance, there was a rumble, 

and then I realized what was approaching, where we were digging through the rubble.

 It's not every day you see one truck hauling another truck ten feet in the air. To everyone there, it seemed as normal as a forklift moving a stack of water softener salt at Home Depot.  

I thought it was amazing in its simplicity - moving a dead vehicle to its resting spot. Seriously, there was a certain gritty grace to this place. 

Come in, find what you need, get out.  But with an oil and grease flavor smeared into it.  
We finally located the row of abandoned Toyota trucks, and Denny quickly found the part we needed.

Here's the organ donor... I can't help but think this place is a hidden gem in the world of auto repair, although you have to put some effort into it. 

I'm sure a rear window and tailgate for a Range Rover is pricey, but here is a set in almost perfect condition! 

Some of the vehicles had a story to tell, that's for sure. Who took the time to put "my proven 4x4 hunter, with 2.4 power" on the tailgate of this truck? 

This vehicle was particularly well stripped.

The employees set up an engine hoist around this car, so that someone could pull out the block. I kept thinking this place is a car morgue. 

You're stepping over parts, and grime, baked for years in the sun. The place where cars go to die.

 With our part in hand, we paid as we exited the lot - $5.50! Not a bad deal at all, although I had to seriously sterilize it when I got home.

In the parking lot, a fellow shopper was having trouble trying to remove a part from his car, and Denny lent a hand. Well, actually - the guy didn't know a screwdriver from a cresent wrench, so Denny hopped under the car to help. 

 Once we got back to the shop, with a little finagling - the part was installed. It's not a perfect match, but hey - it's a truck! The color match is actually closer than it looks in this photo. With a little bit of antibacterial cleaner and some elbow grease, this part looks better than the original lid! 

And I have a great story to tell over beers sometime....

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's not too often something really innovative comes along

It's not too often that something new and completely revolutionary slips into the woodworking world - let alone something that is really helpful to the average woodworker. 

Sure, there are lots of inventions and gadgets out there, but after they're tested over time, they tend to be a bust. In my head, biscuit jointers are a perfect example of this. When they first came out, everyone had to have one. Now most of them sit on a shelf. I know; I have these two that sit on a shelf!

If I had to name some of the better inventions in the last twenty years or so, I'd have to include the Festool Domino, and maybe the Kreg jig.  

So the question is - does this drawer dado blade works as promised?  I see two potential problems that could occur. 

One involves chipout, because whenever you're working with plywood, you have the potential for massive chipping, especially if that blade gets dull. 

Next - when you're cutting your drawer material, the height of this blade is critical - too high and you end up separating the parts of the drawer. Too low and your joint doesn't fold together. So if your saw doesn't have a solid height adjustment on it, you might screw up a lot of plywood, trying to get it dialed in correctly. 

But damn - this is really innovative and clever...I  hope a blade company contacts this fellow soon!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

This should be your first piece...

There are a zillion woodworking books out there, and almost as many monthly magazines. Add in all the websites, videos, blogs, message boards - they're all filling your brain with plans, ideas, techniques... you get the idea. It's easy to get excited. Or to become overwhelmed, misled, confused or worse yet...

filled with invincibility. 

Hell yes, I can spend $100 and make a dresser in a weekend!

No,  you probably can't. Not if you want to do a good job, and do it properly. As much as people want to brag about their weekend doghouse project, or their Kreg jig fireplace mantle, you have to learn to pick your battles and tackle the projects that inspire you. That force you to do things well. 

And use good materials. 

And that turn out well. 

Have you seen the movie - The Perks of Being a Wallflower? There is a terrific sub-plot that takes place in a high school woodshop class, where all of the students have to make a clock. 

 I nearly blew my drink out of my nose when I saw the scene where  all of the student clocks were revealed - some were obviously better made than others.

 And so it is with most woodworking projects - a lot of them start off with the best intentions, and with a lot of dollars thrown behind them, only to see them wilt under the lack of attention to detail, or the poor followthrough of technique. 

Sadly, workbenches often suffer that same fate. And I'm not pointing my finger at anyone's bench in particular, but more at myself. I've built my fair share of wobbly router tables, tables sleds that weren't quite square, and or jigs that just didn't work right. They were often under-engineered, or poorly designed from the start.  But I built them, enthused by magazine articles that boasted - YOU can build THIS in a weekend!, as if speed is the ultimate goal. 

How about quality over expedience? 

How about learning solid techniques? 

How about starting with something that can be slightly less than perfect, so you can work a few bugs out along the way?

Fine, then let's build a workbench. 

We'll start with 6/4 Steamed Euro Beech. 

Its grain can be outrageously gorgeous.

You'll learn more about mortise and tenon joinery than you thought possible!

and along the way, you'll do some interesting techniques, like routing massive profiles in wood, 

and wedging tenons.

Ever install a hanger bolt? Now's your chance!

You'll learn some nifty layout techniques, and you'll be able to customize it for your own preferred working height.

Best of all, it breaks down easily for transporting it home. 

We'll be adding a shelf underneath, and if you want a vice installed on it - bring one to class and we'll bolt it into place, and add some dog holes, to boot. 

Seriously - this is a great project for building up both your skills, and your confidence. There are just three spots left - and the class starts in about a week. 

Here's a link:  MAKE A GREAT BENCH!