29 March, 2014

What's currently on my bench?

I got to realizing I ended up starting several projects at once, and have too much on my bench to actually finish in decent time. I MUST get some of these items done just so I have room to work!.

So what is it you ask, that is on my bench?

Hose reel & ganged compressor project. The PVC / Rubber blend hose needs to go back to Harbor Freight, as does the 3/8 - 1/4" brass bushing. I will just grab a 25' 3/8" rubber hose instead. Also the check valves are on their way from Zoro Tools. Will keep everyone posted on how well that goes. The reel needs a mount board made up, and some carriage bolts, washers, and lock nuts, not to mention some 1/4" x 3" lag bolts and washers for mounting.

My planer flattening sled is ready, the hot glue gun is found, and the walnut stock has had the loose knots, bark inclusions, and cracks epoxy / walnut dust filled and ready to go. I need to flatten these on the sled, make them good and parallel, and the edge joint them... Might need to rig up a sled for that as I have one of these that has a severe natural edge and I am going for sort of a mission thing with these...  So the stock prep for the dog kennel is pending.

I have a commission from a good friend of mine from college, super easy. I am reproducing an oak false front for his girlfriend's vanity. 45 deg bevel on the face, and looks like a slight, maybe 10 deg bevel on the back. Should take me longer to do the setup than to actually do the work...

Miter Saw Stand drawers. I need to complete the build for the miter saw stand drawers, and move the stuff from the table saw / router accessory tote into those drawers as has always been the plan...

Lastly, although it is likely to happen first. Shop cleanup, again. My lovely bride has been cleaning the house, and tossing anything that looks tool or material ish from inside to the shop, anywhere she can put it. I need to change the direction the lock for that door goes! (Just kidding, I love her to death, but she has no sympathy for keeping my shop clean as she still sees it as a garage...)

Under pressure times two...A reely big issue for me.

As you have seen from my shop tour, I own 2 air compressors. Both Harbor Freight / Central Pnuematic units, and both are oil less units which makes them nice and quiet in the shop...

Now I own a Harbor Freight "Earthquake" 1/2" impact wrench, which is based off of the Ingersoll Rand 232 Thunder design. A decent enough impact wrench, but it calls for 6 CFM, and on my 29 gallon compressor at 5.9 CFM, I am wondering if it is air flow or a bad gun that is causing low power output from my impact gun...

To top it off, I picked up one of the 50 self retracting hose reels from Harbor Freight on sale. I see these all over the place, woodworkers, car guys you name it use them. They are well regarded, except there seems to be some disdain for the hose itself. Then again, I did not buy this for the hose, but rather the reel itself. With one of these I can keep the air hoses out of harms way, you know, not tripping me and killing me. Not to mention making it FAR easier to pay out hose and with sufficient length to get to where I want to go across the drive...

My actual reel, connected to the main feed hose 
and waiting to be installed. 
You can also see the Earthquake gun in the background.

Now I know I am just barely under the required CFM for my impact wrench with the 29 gallon compressor, and I am concerned that the reel will render it useless. FYI the Earthquake 1/2 in impact flows at 6CFM @ 90 PSI, the HF 29 gallon 250 PSI compressor flows at 5.9 CFM @ 90 PSI. It works for intermittent use, but needs some added oomph. Espeically since I am considering adding an air sander to my arsenal for things like wet sanding the car for paint prep. 

I have the HF 8 gallon 2HP 125 PSI compressor sitting under my dust collector, which can be put in tandem with the 29 gallon I think... That compressor develops 4.5CFM @ 90 PSI...

I am thinking, perhaps incorrectly, so help me out here guys... that I need to regulate the big compressor to 125 PSI, keep the 8 gallon wide open, and then connect the two to the whip tee. 

At the tee, I can add a separator / filter with regulator (already have one, and regulate it all down to 90PSI or whatever the need may be... (None of my pnuematic tools operate over 90PSI, and spraying is even lower, MUCH lower...

So the specs for the compressors are.

29 gallon compressor. Central Pnuematic Item#68127
CFM @ 90PSI = 5.9 
CFM @ 40PSI = 7.3

The 29 gallon is close to doing it all,
just not quite there!

8 gallon. Central Pnuematic Item#69667. (Actually the earlier model that is pretty much exactly this compressor, but it has a plastic handle instead of the steel hoop).
CFM @ 90PSI = 4.5
CFM @ 40PSI = 5.5

It's hard to see, but the little 8 gallon
compressor is down under that stand!

Theoretical combined totals. It is understood that the total CFM numbers should be somewhat lower due to losses in the plumbing.

Tank storage. 37 gallons.
CFM @ 90PSI = 10.4
CFM @ 40PSI = 12.8

To make the tandem connection I have a simple 1/4" NPT female brass tee fitting similar to http://www.summitracing.com/parts/var-92855/overview/ however the one I have is female on all outlets, and is quite old. I salvaged it when a shop I used to work at was bulldozed during a remodeling project. 

I have several of the 1/4" brass pipe nipples as well from the air compressor accessory kits I have had over the years. (I buy the kit when I need a blowgun I don't really care about but I know will work...)

I have a 3/8" in line air filter with regulator Central Pnuematic Item #68232.

Uncounted number of male and female I/M quick connect fittings. Mostly Harbor Freight but some Milton and others who knows what. Verified leak free... The leakers get tossed or returned.

While I was at Harbor Freight I picked up an 8' 3/8" rubber hose with 1/4" NPT fittings as well as the 3' version of that hose. Sorry I couldn't find it on their website. 

I also picked up a 50' 3/8" PVC / Rubber blend air hose with 1/4" NPT fittings. I am not linking that one, I do NOT recommend that hose, it is going back as soon as I can get to Harbor Freight...

Lastly I need a stand alone pressure regulator mostly to verify the upstream regulators at the end of the hose. The Central Pnuematic 150PSI unit should do the trick.

The idea here is to..

Project #1. Using pipe thread tape on all male threads I will assemble. Nipple to tee. Tee to inlet of filter / regulator such that tee is vertical. Female quick connect to bottom port of tee. 8' whip to middle port of tee, and 3' whip to top port of tee. Attach to wall next to larger compressor, out of hte way of toolbox drawers. Set regulators to the same pressure. Attach male quick connect to ends of hoses, and attach hoses to compressors, and test. I have done this, and found a bit of a failure. When connected to the tee, the 8 gallon compressor / regulator appears to be getting some backwards pressure, and is bypassing air. I have ordered check valves for both compressor lines to prevent this from happening. It could potentially be a problem of the cheap regulator on the 8 gallon. The OE Harbor Freight regulator broke a few years ago, so I replaced it with a Husky regulator I got at Home Depot... I have never been thrilled with it...  I am considering also removing the ball valve from that line and going straight with the quick connect It is however nice to be able to shut that line off / isolate it if I want to.

The darker red hose goes to the 29 gallon
The lighter red hose goes to the 8 gallon
The lime green hose goes back to Harbor Freight!
I will be grabbing a 25' rubber hose instead.

Project #2. Install hose reel to ceiling braced on a wood mount board and that in turn lag bolted the the trusses, 16" O.C. See LCHIEN's install photo at the beginning of this article. I plan on copying his install method sort of. Mount board, check, bolts run through mount board prior to install, check, then it goes different. I am going to use carriage bolts, epoxied into place, and nuts will be run into the back 2. Mount the board to the ceiling trusses, studs, whatever they are called, and then I will push the slotted holes over those bolts, and let the mounting plate rest on that. Push the non slotted holes over the other two bolts, start the nuts and then run them home... 

Project #3. The 8 gallon was rigged a while back this way, but the OE 1/4" NPT petcock valve was removed from the bottom of the tank, a street elbow, a nipple long enough to get all the way out from under the tank, and a ball valve were added for easy to do, and easy to predict the behavior of tank draining. Copy that setup on the 29 gallon. I already have the spare ball valve. Just need the street elbow and a sufficiently long nipple. How long that is I am not sure at this point...

Mind you, I am trying to drive the following tools...

1/2" impact wrench. 6 CFM.
3/8" Air ratchet. 6 CFM.
Air Hammer 3 CFM
HVLP spray guns. 6 CFM
Siphon spray gun 1.5 CFM (I do NOT believe this number, this is MFG supplied, and appears VERY VERY wrong...)
Siphon spray gun 9 CFM @ 40 PSI.
Dual Action Sander 4 CFM.
Nailer / Stapler .5 CFM
Framing Nailer 3 CFM
Finish Nailer 1.5 CFM
Pin Nailer .2 CFM
1/4" die grinder 3 CFM

IF I can get this rig working according to the theory, and get the feeder hose situation squared away, this setup should serve me well for years to come. However I must admit, once these compressors die, I will likely swap them both out, and grab a 220V 60-80 gallon compressor, and run copper pipe up to the hose reel.

27 March, 2014

Reclaimed lumber and rustic furniture styles...

I have been participating in an interesting forum discussion on the subject of reclaimed solid wood furniture and rustic furniture syles. And a particular member brought up a valid point about the fickle winds of fashion. How he wondered with the current trend being somewhat bad for the lumber / forestry industries, if at some point there would be a pendulum swing in fashion back to manufactuers touting new harvest lumber furniture. Or by my own extension when will manufacturers start bragging about their all particleboard construction as a selling point? I really don't see the trend going away from reclaimed, or at least sustainable lumber.

No matter your perspective on the politics of it, the environmental issue has stuck, and the propagation to new generations has been a success.  There are even those that don't follow in the footsteps of the environmental powers that still want to be wise with resource usage. So yeah I don't see THAT market going away any time soon. Especially if the end product is just as well made, beautiful, and durable as items made with fresh cut timber.

The style of a piece is yet another issue all together. Reclaimed does not necessarily have to be rustic, and rustic does not necessarily have to be reclaimed. The example in the OPs photo for example is what I would call primitive, not even rustic. To me, acronymns for rustic include "Country" "Farmhouse" or "Lodge", and within those acronymns style varies...

Country for example tends to be very basic shapes, with few cutesy ornamentations. Think of a pine hall rack / shelf with heart shaped openings in the stretcher on the back. That would be rustic. Lodge on the other hand would be say log based / natural edge furniture.

Reclaimed simply means claimed from one purpose, when it was done with that, and put to use elsewhere, You didn't go out and chop down a fresh tree to mill up for fresh lumber. Reclaimed could be trees that were cut 100+ years ago that went down a river as a log-barge and sank to the bottom on the trip, dug up, milled and put to use now. Or lumber pulled from taking an old barn, house, or other structure down... Or even as I have done more than a few times, dumpster diving for old Waterbed rails to mill back flat and parallel for new projects... You are re using something that was originally used or going elsewhere... The original owner gave up or lost their claim to the lumber...

There is a good wikipedia entry on reclaimed lumber, if you'd care to read it

The primitive style I think of stuff like what I make for the shop, mostly nail knocker type stuff. Lots of butt joints, and nails or screws, very little fine joinery, very little if any surface prep once the lumber is claimed. Think raw pallet wood separated and cut to length and then assembled... Nothing I would be all that proud of beyond function...  There is, and likely always will be a demand for that type of aesthetic. I bet if they could still be found easily, the old wooden cable spool coffee / dining room table would still be a fixture in college kid apartments the world over!

Now step up a level from the nail knocker type build, and start using pegged butt joints, and you start getting into pieces that have a chance of lasting, and having an aesthetic that is pleasing to more people... Move on to the rabbet and dado joinery and you step up again into more serious territory here. More material prep including finer ways to accent or preserve the imperfections including epoxy / turquoise or whatever filled cracks and knotholes, or dutchman patches and you are moving away from Andy Warhol type art, into say Salvador Dali... From popular, easily approachable and understandable themes to more esoteric and harder to understand touches...

I mean have you ever tried explaining the advantage of through dovetail joints to somebody that isn't a woodworker?

I tried once. My wife looked at me like I look at her when she talks about skin stuff...

I guess whatever floats your boat is what will work, fashion and source of material not withstanding, I believe there will likely always be a market for pretty much every style from the most primitive, to the most ornate.

Is it normal that my hand planes talk to me?

Okay maybe not audibly, but hopefully you know what I mean...

You see last night, I really wasn't much in the mood to get out to the shop. I have been working way too many double shifts, and pulled a few that were close to triples over the last few weeks, and I needed to rest.

But something was bothering me...

BT3Central member / moderator LCHIEN posted up a review of his "Handyman drill bit guide". Now let's face it. these are just promotional gimmicks given away via mail in an attempt to get folks that got on some hardware / woodworking supply store mailing lists to join up and pay dues / subscription fees whatever.... They are not really intended to be a high dollar expensive / valuable tool in the shop. But they ARE useful...

I have over the years received 2 of them in the mail that I am aware of. Possibly more that I ignored. And both of them were in my Wood Magazine design wall hanging tool cabinets, the one with the hand planes. Or were they?

That was the nagging question that got me thinking about it, and it wouldn't go away until I knew.

It's not like I left my router out in the rain, or my air compressor on the side of the freeway...

It is a free piece of plastic that comes in the mail with no real prompting.

So there I was laying in bed, trying to shut off my brain and just relax, chill out with my lovely wife and just, well... be. But then again, she was on the phone with one of her lady friends from college...

Where are they?

Shut UP brain!

Are you sure that you put them back?


Maybe they are over in the...

Okay fine, I'll go look...

So on went the slippers, and off to the shop I went. No real risk to toes because my shop is clean except for some drop cloths bunched up in the corner that need to be folded and put away, but I digress...

So out to the shop, turn the lights on, walk over to the cabinet and open the outer door... Yep, they are just hanging there as they should be...

And then it happened...

I opened the inner doors to the cabinet. I don't know why, but I did...

And I could just tell they wanted to come out and play...

So I picked up #4. and the warm wood of the tote felt ready to go....

Well one thing led to another, and a piece of walnut, that I had just mixed up a mess of epoxy with walnut dust in it earlier that evening, filled knot voids, and cracks, and let it cure... Well THAT hunk of walnut ended up in the vise....

Before I knew what was going on, I had a board edge jointed with a #4 bench plane. Yeah I know, but it is straight, square, and dead flat so what if the #4 wasn't the right choice. It worked! I also had a huge pile of walnut shavings on the floor, and a big stupid smile on my face...

I'm leaving that pile of shavings for a few days. It looks nice right where it is...

24 March, 2014

A jointing sled for my 13" lunchbox planer.

Now I have read on any number of woodworking forums that you should buy an 8" jointer, and just bypass the 6" all together because your stock might be wider than your jointer bed... That's all well and good until you start of with say 8.5" wide stock. What do you do then?

I recently ran into that problem, and used the old jointing sled trick for the planer. It is so painfully simple that it should just be called a hunk of wood and a hot glue gun. Literally, a piece of plywood and a hot glue gun...

Shop tools and jigs just don't get any simpler than this!

So what I did here was took a piece of 3/4" cabinet grade plywood that I verified to be dead flat with a known good straight edge, and cut it to size. In this case 48" long which is the factory width of the plywood sheet, and as long as the stock I will be working with. I cut it 13" wide (okay 12-15/16" wide) to be able to be slid through my 13" Ryobi planer.

Wide piece of walnut on the sled waiting to be hot glued and
run through the planer.

The method of mounting a workpiece to the sled is simple, pick your direction to mount the wood to the sled, grain orientation / etc.. and the hot glue the board to the sled. Then run it through the planer until it is flat.

The idea for the planer sled came from http://www.thewoodwhisperer.com/videos/episode-6-the-jointers-jumpin/ and details can be seen in his video at the 11:10 time index mark.

For those that are even more space cramped in their shops, I would highly recommend this planer sled, and using it double duty as a jointing sled for the table saw as shown in the Wood Whisperer video.  I have seen the arguments ad nauseum about folks needing a jointer before a planer. And I will state it here clearly, and plainly. You don't necessarily NEED either. It is easier to get by without a jointer than it is a planer, but lacking either, or both is not an insurmountable hurdle. You just need to make some common sense jigs and get good at using them!

19 March, 2014

A moral dilema, I need to say I'm sorry but don't know how...

As a youth I was generally a pretty decent kid, but in some cases, particularly in my teens, I acted like a feminine cleansing product one might use on a Summers Eve if you know what I mean... One such case came back into my conscience recently...

There was a kid in school with us that was different than the other kids. Not going to say how, just different... Not in my group of friends and associates. Several of my friends, one in particular took particular joy at taunting them. I never really thought it wrong at the time, and shamefully I must admit, I took part in hurling the taunts and insults once the ball got rolling.

I can try to make excuses, I can say I didn't know better, that I was taught conflicting messages about people different than me by my parents, society, media whatever, but it would be shallow meaningless cover over inexcusable stupidity on my part. I followed along to be part of the cool kids crowd, and hurt someone that didn't deserve it. I know it, and she knows it.

And the worst part about it is, the "cool kids" really weren't all that cool when you boil it down. They really were the same as me in many ways, just small town nerds trying to cover up their own insecurity. Had I known then what I knew now, that if someone didn't like you for who you are, that's their loss not mine, I wouldn't have been that cleansing product...

Mind you the person I am now would never even consider doing, or condoning such a thing. I would actively speak out against such behavior, LOUDLY, no matter who the friend / relative / whatever is... And it is one of the things about who I was then that plainly and simply disgusts me. I wish so deeply and sincerely that I could wipe so many things from that period in my life completely out of history. I never imagined the harm I was doing, or allowing to take place. Now I am so very angry at who I was back then for not only allowing it to happen, but for my participation in it.

But that was then, and this is now right? Literally decades have passed, and until very recently I haven't given at least that portion of that period of my life a second thought. So why on earth would this come up now?

It would seem I am not forgotten, at least on Facebook that is... The target of mine and my friends stupidity has recently had the class, dignity and grace to friend me on Facebook.

I need to address this issue with them. I need to seek forgiveness and make things right. I know I do, but I haven't the slightest idea how to do this without opening up old hurts that should have been left long ago in the past.

So how do I let someone know that I am so terribly sorry for what the boy I was then did, and that the man I am now, is as disgusted as they should be at the boy I was then? How do I make this right? How can I take the hurtful memories of decades past and turn them into a foundation of forgiveness in someone else' heart?

18 March, 2014

Simple box for cheap BiMetal hole saws.

Okay long story short, over the years I have had several sets of hole saws stolen one way or another. Admittedly most of them were stolen when I worked professionally as a mechanic, however one set, an older Vermont American set I picked up / pieced together when I worked in the hardware stores in college grew feet and walked off when I had a roomate. Actually a LOT of mine, and at the time my girlfriends (Now my wife) stuff grew feet and walked off. The roomate blamed his girlfriends daughter, but refused to take any steps to stem the tide of the theft, and therefore, I ended the roomate relationship, and moved on with my life, got married yadda yadda yadda...

Fast forward to today. Still a bit leery of buying expensive hole saws for fear they will either wear prematurely and need to be replaced at a fairly steep cost, or grow feet and walk off. So I tend to buy cheap hole saws / setc...

I tried the Harbor Freight "Drill Master" high speed steel hole saw sets and was NOT impressed with them. However last year they introduced something new. Another house brand they call "Warrior" and they make a reasonable copy, while not perfect, to the Milwaulkee, Bosch, and Vermont American hole saws.

I said REASONABLE, not PERFECT. I do expect these to wear out earlier than the others, but with the use I put them through, who cares? Just buy another full set for what one saw of the other brands cost!

Now I do tend to cut LARGE diameter holes, and the standard 14 pc set doesn't go high enough, so on top of the regular set, I added the Large size hole saw set, which really is just the cups in 3", 4" and 4.25" which is perfect for making a hole to route 4" PVC dust collection ducting!

Checking them out in store, even assembling a couple and chucking them in a demonstrator drill press and spinning by hand to see if I can see any out of round, I found nothing to be concerned with, so I brought home both the 14 pc, and the large size set. Unfortunately the large cup set lacks the blow molded storage case of the 14PC set, and those saws are SHARP! So I had to build a box to house them in.

Out came the scrap plywood, and some small hinges I had laying around. I had to go to Home Depot to get a catch to keep the lid closed...

Simple screw construction made for fast assembly, and since this is just a shop storage fixture, looks aren't super important. Honestly, I messed up and had to redo one of the parts as I did not drill my pilot holes deep enough and ended up splitting the plywood.

Due to the size of the hinges used, I had to space my hinges out. I guess I could have mounted them differently, but I didn't really want to, I digress though. I mounted the back of the lid UP so that the screws for the hinge could get a solid purchase, to even things up I added a "foot" of tempered hardboard to the front of the lid. It also helps keep the lid from banging shut. The gap at the sides and the back were left open. I am not trying to seal these off from the elements, just trying to keep them, and people things around them protected from impacts with those teeth, and keep them organized!

With the box made, both hole saw sets can be neatly stored.

The internal dimensions of the box are 4.5x4.5x2.75
Just enough space for the cups to clear the lid.

The threaded piece from the original packaging was attached to
the base to thread the cups on to. Holds them solidly.

Some old utility hinges that have been floating around a drawer 
were attached. They needed a bit more space than the 3/4" stock
could provide, I nudged the lid up, and attached a foot at the 
front of the lid to keep it level!

A simple hook and staple type catch was bought at Home Depot
to keep the lid closed. Works great!

17 March, 2014

Mission style dog kennel design coming together...

As I had started on stock preparation, I probably should mention the design, while not finalized, is coming together nicely. I haven't figured the door out yet. I need to take a look at what is available in the way of hinges. I am wanting some black iron rustic hinges, preferably ones that I can separate so I can open the door and remove it if so desired.

I will be adding a Memory Foam pet bed to the inside of this kennel to make it as comfortable as possible for our dog. I may have to find a different dog bed, or change the dimensions of this by 2" both ways to make this one from Amazon fit.

Remember the concept here is to provide bedding / crate for the dog that will be comfortable / comforting to him, and will fit into the decor of the house, while keeping him in the area where most of the family activity is.

The materials being prepped are walnut that was sourced from a Craigslist seller, the lumber was stormfall from Hurricane Ike. And the secondary wood / slats is Pecan which was sourced from Clarks Hardwoods in Houston.

16 March, 2014

Shop made walnut star knob for benchtop jointer.

So in beginning to prep stock for the mission dog kennel / end table, I pulled the jointer over onto the bench, and went to square up / adjust the fence when one of the push paddle handle things on the fence in / out control decided that plastic wasn't an optimum choice of materials for this function, and fell to pieces...

Now my jointer, a Sunhill SM-150B is out of production, well not exactly, but it is a rebranded Geetech 6" benchtop jointer, and parts aren't super easy to come by, not to mention that I needed my jointer working NOW now in 6 days to whenever whomever I can get parts from ships and I receive it... So what to do?

Knowing a bit about how these are made, and the space involved at full extension / compression I knew I had room for a 2" star knob. However the thread I needed to deal with is a 6MM fine thread, not something I had handy in my star knob collection, so what to do?

Make one!

Step #1. Select a piece of scrap wood, any would do, but I had some Walnut sap wood that was just sitting around, daring me to so SOMETHING with it.

Step #2. Select the wrong size drill bit for the bolt head, and forget to set the travel stop on the drill press and drill all the way through it, ruining the first blank.

Step #3. Select another piece of scrap wood, yes more walnut sap wood, and take THAT to the drill press, select the proper diameter drill bit, in this case 5/16" for the bolt head to pull into and create the pocket for, and set the depth stop so that the bolt head cannot pass more than 1/4" into the work piece.

Step #4. Align the work piece to the drill bit, allowing sufficient room for the 2" hole saw, and camp the work piece down.

Step #5. Drill the hole for the bolt head, and remove the 5/16" drill bit.

Step #6. Chuck up the 2" hole saw, and set the speed setting on the drill press for as close as you can get to the recommended speed.

Step #7. Cut the disk with the hole saw, advancing and backing out the clear dust / debris from the kerf as you go until you have freed the disk.

Step #8. Remove the disk from the hole saw, gloves help with this as the hole saw will likely be REALLY hot.

Step #9. Chuck up the bolt, and the washer / nut into the disk, making sure the bolt head is on the side with the larger hole, tighten the bolt until the head cuts its own way all the way into the disk.

Step #10. Mark 6 equally distant points on the outside diameter of the disk,

Step #11. Using the second from smallest size sanding spindle on my Ridgid spindle sander, sand at each marked point inward 1/4" creating a dimple for fingers.

Step #12. Chuck the assembly using the bolt as the axle, into the drill press, and sand the outer edges, as well as chamfer the corners, and sand the top and bottom surfaces until smooth.

Step #13 Unchuck the assembly from the drill press.

Step #14. Tack down the entire assembly.

Step #15. Apply liberal coat of favorite finish. I chose Tung Oil for this knob. Applied in 2 coats and hand buffed between.

Step #16. Apply liberal coat of clear finish. I chose brush on lacquer basically because I had it on hand, and it was easier to get to the can of lacquer than the can of urethane... 2 coats did the trick, on all surfaces, then let dry...

Step #17. Install the knob and use it for what you made it for...

With the tung oil and lacquer finish it looks great, works great and feels good in the hand. If you look carefully you can see where I had some grain that didn't cooperate and blew out on a corner on me, but I am just going to call that character and leave it be...

14 March, 2014

Drill Master #96264 Portable Pocket Hole Jig out of the box review.

I started out woodworking on a small scale in the late 90s when I attempted to make a table, using nothing more than a circular saw, a drill, a couple of drilling jigs including a doweling jig, and a General pocket screw jig, and of course a pack of sandpaper. I got the table done although it more or less stank, but I learned, and worked my next project, and then the next one, and... well you get the idea.

Over the following years, I have come to learn a lot more about joinery, and the tools that help us make those joints. And I knew what I wanted in a pocket hole jig, and while the old General jig WAS reliable, and workable, it lacked some finesse that I was wanting. To get that finesse I was looking for a couple of pretty major features that the General jig was lacking.

  1. Adjustability, particularly on depth / angle. The General jig, if used in stock less than 1" would put the screw through the mating piece if using a 1.5" long screw which is the most common size I use. Shorter screws are no problem.
  2. Quick clamping / release for fast changeout of the work pieces. I wanted something to allow me to rapidly change pieces so that I can rapidly go from piece A, to B, to C, and so on... No manually screwing / unscrewing the clamp, I wanted to throw a lever. So a toggle clamp was a must.
  3. Reasonable simplicity of construction. I have seen pocket hole jigs that look like an engineer had fun designing it, but didn't take into consideration the more complex a system is, the more opportunities for failure there are.

So after looking around, and seeing what was on the market, I had my choices narrowed down to 2 jigs, although there are others similar out there, the 2 I was looking at were the big stand outs.

#1. The Kreg K4 Pocket Hole Ssytem.
#2. The Drill Master #96264 Portable Pocket Hole Jig

I had long ago chosen the Drill Master over the Kreg after seeing one of each in person and after several years of drooling over this particular jig, and losing the ability to resist the draw of the 25% off coupon from Harbor Freight, I finally broke down and bought one of these jigs. I feel I got a bargain buying it at the current sale price of $64.99 minus the coupon I was out the door for $48.75 + tax.

Once I got the jig home an un-boxed it, I took a quick inventory of the contents of the box. Inside I found.

  1. The main jig assembly itself.
  2. A secondary "portable" jig base. 
  3. A 3/8" step drill bit in a protective plastic tube.
  4. A bag with the stop collar for the step drill bit, hex keys for the step bit, and presumably for fasteners on the jig, and fasteners to hold the jig to your bench or fixture.
  5. 4 bags of various length what appear at a leisurely glance to be self drilling phillips head screws. Who uses phillips head screws in pockets? Square drive is pretty much the standard these days.
  6. The Assembly and Operations guide.
Overview of the package and contents on the bench.

One item that was conspicuously missing was a square drive driver bit that comes typically with other pocket hole jigs. Like I mentioned above, who uses phillips screws with pocket holes? The standard screws such as the ones from Kreg use a square drive.

After removing it from the box I noted a couple of things that I thought odd. The first was, I bought this at Harbor Freight Tools. The store, and all its contents known to be preserved in copious amounts of that funky, smelly shipping grease. This thing however was perfectly clean, no coatings of any sort anywhere near any of the ocmponents. That is a nice change from the shipping goo that I typically have to spend hours removing from new tools from HF and, well anywhere selling Chinese tools... 

The fit and finish of this unit is first rate all the way through, and while I expected some rough cast, or poorly machined billet aluminum pieces, this is all smooth, well cast, and well machined finish. seams line up with prescision, threads are free from burrs and move smoothly. What plastics are on this are well made from reasonable quality materials. The step bit appears to be the same exact unit that is with my old General pocket hole jig. 

The toggle clamp is pretty typical of Harbor Freight toggle clamps in that it is made of thinner stock than some other toggles, however this particular unit is substantially thicker than the toggles you get at HF just from their bins, it operates smoothly, and the adjustable foot has a considerable amount of throw to it.
Toggle clamp foot fully retracted.

Toggle clamp foot extended.

Looking at the main part of the jig, it is a fixture with an adjuster bar holding 2 guide blocks, and a threaded knob that tightens / loosens the adjuster bar. A clearly marked gauge on the front allows you to determine your hole center position of the guide blocks thus determining exactly where the holes are going to go, each guide block can be moved left / right along the adjuster bar. The guide blocks feature a pair of different angled drill guide inserts, the inserts at the steeper angle are for use in thicker stock, the inserts at a shallower angle are for thinner stock. It's actually pretty straight forward. The inserts are made from hardened steel and should contribute a great deal to the longevity of this jig.
Clearly marked adjustment rule, and well machined guides.

Adjustment of the guide blocks along the adjuster bar is pretty simple, loosen the knob, push / pull the block into position, and then tighten the knob. Getting the position dead on takes a bit of fiddling, but doesn't take long and once locked down won't move. 

I have yet to take dimensions of the jig yet, I can tell you it is BIG. You can get an idea for the size of it when you realize the adjuster scale on the front ends 2" from the center on each side. If I had to guess I would say it is probably around 6" tall, and 12" long, I WILL be measuring this item VERY soon as I want to make a stand / case for this jig, and other pocket hole accessories such as the step bit, screws, and a pre-existing square drive bit I have. This is not the most space efficient item in my shop. Not the worst either... 

I had been considering this, or a Kreg K4 Master System, and I am very glad I got this one instead. The Kreg has a couple of advantages over this jig, but a couple of distinct disadvantages.

Advantages of the Kreg over the Drill Master Jig.
  1. Front "foot" area making clamping to a bench top much easier. This is a glaring design ommission of the drill master jig. However the Drill master can be mounted to a simple piece of plywood that can in turn be clamped to a bench, problem solved.
  2. Dust collection port. This is a nice to have, but not must have item. Drilling operations don't typically produce the fine, get into your tissues and won't come out dangerous dust. So the dust port is really more for ease of housekeeping. It is a NICE feature to have, but not an absolute MUST have. Again, a clamping rig for a shop vac or DC hose right in front of this jig can do the same job admirably. Problem solved again.
Disadvantages of the Kreg over the Drill Master Jig.
  1. Primary assembly is made of injection molded plastic. This makes the jig much cheaper to manufacture, but also much more prone to breakage if you drop your jig on the concrete floor of your shop, or simply break down of the material if the jig is stored in a non climate controlled shop. This is a HUGE problem. For me this was the primary deciding factor, but not the only one, that swayed me away from Kreg.
  2. Lack of fine adjustment in hole spacing, and no variable angles for the drilling guides. You get what Kreg wants to give you in this regard. You have no way to control / left right spacing of your holes unless you physically move your stock, and the mechanism for making a different angle to accomodate for different thickness work pieces is a set screw in the guide block / plastic housing that allows the guide block to go up and down, it doesn't really vary the angle so much as vary when the screw hole starts in the piece. That isn't itself a bad idea, just securing it in plastic I felt was poor construction. This was another huge hit to the Kreg when it came time to decide on the purchase. 
  3. Cost. Simply put, the Kreg is expensive, ESPECIALLY since it is made with so much plastic. Materials, labor, amortizing R&D and tooling investments for a plastic based product should have resulted in a radically less expensive tool than a mostly metal piece. Kreg simply fails to compete on the price point. I checked the price for the Kreg K4 at both Amazon, and Home Depot, and it is selling for $99.97 + tax. The Drill Master as I mentioned above, came in at $48.75 + tax. 
Initial testing:
To test the jig, I mounted it to a simple plywood mount board that I clamped to my bench, and then I took a sample of 3/4" cabinet grade Aracuo plywood, a sample of 2x4 Southern Yellow Pine, a sample of 3/4 walnut, and drilled pocket holes in each, using the appropriate guide for each material thickness. The material was then machined similarly using the General jig. The results can be seen in the photos below.

General screwed to a simple test fixture quick clamped to the bench.

Drill Master jig screwed to a simple test 
fixture quick clamped to the bench.

Drill Master on the left, General on the right. Hard to tell from
the lousy Cell Phone photo, but in Walnut the Drill Master hole
is much cleaner.

Drill Master on the left, General on the right.
The tear out was caused by me pulling the fuzz
away from the hole. Both make LOTS of fuzz in plywood.

Drill Master on the left, General on the right.
The Drill Master left a cleaner hole.

So in the grand scheme of things, I chose the Drill Master, certainly not for the name, as there are plenty of folks out there that carry a deep disdain for anything Harbor Freight, but because it was the superior tool for the job, and the fact that it came in at just under half the price of the Kreg jig didn't hurt either. No doubt you have heard of the Harbor Freight Gems list, this item goes way beyond a gem, it is truly a diamond, and not in the rough!

12 March, 2014

A dog kennel is her command...

Our home decor, being in a 1980s, coastal Texas home, tends to be somewhat southwestern / rustic. And I have been given a commission by my wife to build a fitting dog kennel that will blend into the home decor.

Now I have been looking around, and doing some measuring, and taking into consideration the overall size of hte dog, and size of available dog bedding, space needed etc... and I am coming up with a design.

Our dog is a lab / beagle mix breed, about 50lbs, mid size dog.... After reviewing the kennel we have for him, the bed we have for him, and standards from both the ASPCA, and the AKC, I decided to design the kennel around interior volume and work out.

I went into sketchup, and made a box, 24" wide x 24" high x 32" deep. I then laid out 1.5x 1.5 uprights 28" tall. Cut in mortises 1/2" up and 1/2" in from the corners, 1" long and 1/4" wide 1/2" deep.

Spreaders, across the front and back are 24" wide,2" high and of 3/4" stock. Tenones are 1" x 1/4 and 1/2" long centered on the ends. Sides are the same but 32" long. Bottom spreaders have a curve with a rise of 1/2", and a 1/2 H x 3/8" D rabbet to accept the bottom panel which will be simply cut to size and stained plywood. Upper spreaders have a 1/4x1/4" slot 1/4" down from the top edge to accept the top clips.

I am still working on deciding the size and spacing of the slats, and design the door.

I am considering making contrasting pyramid buttons as an added Greene and Greene style touch, but haven't finalized the idea yet.

The top will be simply a breadboard type top, made from the best / widest matching stock I can source.

I am considering deviating somewhat significantly from the norm from Mission style though since most of it I have seen is either oak, pine, or most commonly maple. I want to do mine with contrasting woods, primarily Walnut with Pecan for the accent, most likely the slats door catch, and pyramid buttons.

Time to start sifting through the lumber rack, and start prepping stock! I don't have to have anything but, but I really ought to get my stock S4S at this time!

10 March, 2014

Some more minor shop organization, and an updated tour...

I didn't get much shop time this weekend, I was dealing with the issues of an elderly family member, and planting my wife's Valentines Day gift finally... She said she wanted roses after all!

What shop time I did spend was spent on the subject of my last post, moving the deep freeze into the shop in order to make good on a deal I made with my lovely bride to get power into the shop.

I did manage to eke out some shop time, albeint not much, and got a couple more actually fairly important organization projects done.

So I figured I would run through the updates, and present this in the form of an updated shop tour, so buckle up, here we go again!

Walking in the door, on the back side of the door you can see the 2 fresh coats of gloss white paint on both the door, and door trim, 30 years worth of grime, and wear took its toll on the first paint job, not to mention the horrid color, now it is bright and clean, and like before houses my safety (some of), comfort and control equipment. Specifically I have a thermometer mounted to the door, along with the remote for the air conditioner, the ambient air cleaner, a large Sams Club first aid kit, and a fire extinguisher.

In the spirit of Safety First, 
first aid and fire extinguisher are right ON the entry door!

Immediately to your right as you walk in, I repurposed the cross bar from one of the parts of the original clamp rack, mounted it up high, and screwed some cup hooks that I opened up a bit to pass through the handles and put it into service as a storage rack for brooms and dust pans. I was pretty desperate to find decent storage for that stuff so this, simple as it is, is a real God send... I should mention this wall is the one wall in the shop without any power outlet of any sort, and it is also the remaining wall without insulation. Part of my plan for the somewhat near future is to patch holes in this wall, cut the access ports for blowing insulation in, and insulating this space. This should tighten up the shop enough to make the space quite comfortable year round to work in...

Too simple to work this well.
Brooms and dust pans nestled out of the way.

Proceeding further down the wall, you see the lumber rack. I spent some time working on cleaning this out and straightening it up. Kind of hard to tell right now. I need to use up a bunch of the pine 2x... stock. I REALLY need to get a proper sheet goods and cutoff cart built. I have the plan ready to go, I just need to build.

Lumber rack. Yeah I need to do something about sheet goods.

Next along the way is the stack of totes housing automotive chemicals, drywall and paint tools, and misc stuff like the pressure washer etc... And of course the lawn and garden racks and equipment. A good deal of this stuff is slated to go into a shed once that is built, so I should be able to clear out yet more shop space... Sorry, no photo of that stuff... Now those that know me, know I give credit where credit is due, the design for the sheet goods / scrap cart came from a Lumberjocks member Jerry when he posted his build HERE.

My Sketchup 3D design with layout for the sheet goods cart.
I am no CAD engineer, hopefully the design makes sense.

Looking up you see the Grizzly G0572 which has been churning away for several years sucking the junk the DC misses out of the air very well... I have it mounted via 2 2x4s that are screwed directly into the studs in the ceiling.

Turning past the lumber rack, you come across the heater, and air conditioner. The heater is a 1600 watt oil filled radiator, and the AC is a 13.5K BTU portable unit. They both work well enough. For how cold it has managed to get in coastal Texas winters, the heater will get the shop too warm if I let it. The AC struggled last year to keep it cool, but I had a LOT less insulation last year... This year should be better. You should be able to make out from the photo the silver backed foam insulation packing the garage doors, that is R10 insulation with a radiant barrier. Not exactly ideal, but the best I can do with those giant heating / cooling leaks in my shop. I also have gaskets around the doors (that were NOT there when I bought the place!)

Next to the heater / AC is the recently completed rolling clamp rack with my collection of clamps, and the drill press. My plan and links to the Sketchup file for the clamp cart are in prior entries into this blog. The drill press table is one I built a few years ago after the particleboard Grizzly table I started with crapped out. I got the drill press on Craigslist a few years ago for $75.00, it was pretty rusty, and beat up, but it worked well. The top pulley cover was bent up pretty good, and the column, table, and foot were rusted, The belts are holding up okay, although there is some wear on them and I would like to replace them. I straightened out the problems, lubed up the seized chuck, added a auto return chuck key holder and accessory tray, and a Harbor Freight mobile base, mostly to stabilize it as it is awfully top heavy for the puny foot they put on this thing!

Turn yet again, and you see the Wonder Winder, a pretty basic cord reel, but effective.... And of course the lathe and its goodies, and both of my hanging tool cabinets. I keep many of my hand tools, and small parts in them. The lathe is a basic Harbor Freight clone of the Jet JWL1236. It actually works shockingly well.

And passing yet further down the wall you see my tool stacker, which is just a set of heavy duty closet standards, and brackets. The tools are mounted to 3/4 inch plywood panels cut to match at 18" x 24". I have my scroll saw, bench grinder with sharpening jig, lunchbox plane, benchtop jointer, and benchtop oscillating sander stored here. Makes for easy access, although makes getting the bench grinder down kind of a problem when my back acts up. Next to that is another wonder winder. I keep heavy gauge (10) extension cords, I have my spraying, sanding and misc supplies in the shelves above there, The small blue bins on the wall house spare peg hooks, misc work gloves, paint filter funnels etc... The scroll saw was another Craigslist score, I paid I think $20.00 for it. It needed a LOT of cleaning, and paint to make it tolerable. The jointer was a closeout from Sunhill Machinery. What I didn't know at the time was that Sunhill was going out of business, a pity if you ask me. This jointer was a rebadged Geetech 6-1/8" bench top jointer, and aside from the fact I would prefer a cast iron fence, there isn't much better they could have done with a bench top layout... I get some grief from tool snobs about having a bench top jointer, but as you can see, I don't really have space for a floor model.. 

The tool stacker idea came from a 
BT3Central member DonHo years ago.

Further down the wall we come accross the R.O. system (Reverse Osmosis, as in water softener / purifier), and following that is the hot rodded Harbor Freight band saw, and a simple shelf mounted above holding "Shop Rags In A Box",  The blue tote in the photo is table saw and router bits, blades and accessories.  Hidden in the corner is the Harbor Freight dust collector fitted with Wynn filter, and pulling through a side inlet Thien separator.

The HF 2HP DC is resting on a shop built stand, just cobbled together out of scrap wood found in my lawn anfter hurricane Ike blew through in 2008. Underneath I store my 8 gallon HF air compressor, spare air filter for the air cleaner, and infrequently used auto tools (Ball joint press specifically). I should mention although I don't show many pics of it here, my DC ducting is 5" through the separator and DC, and then split to 2 4" circuits, an upper along the ceiling, and a lower run along the floor. The lower for the table saw / workbench pass right by the tool stacker, so careful footing is MANDATORY!

Of course the heart of the workshop is the table saw, mine is a fully outfitted Ryobi BT3100-1, with a wide table / fence rails, and router table built into the extension. The shop vac and shop vac separator live under there. The table saw is outfitted with a Shark Guard blade guard and riving knife. A worthy investment of every penny and this is coming from a guy notorious about pinching pennies on equipment if he can...

If there is a compatible one for your saw, you really should do yourself
a favor and check out the Shark Guard!

Hiding behind the mortiser bench is a 29 gallon 2HP Harbor Freight air compressor.The 8 gallon got winded a bit too easy when spraying, so I got the 29 gallon. I am pretty happy with it.

Nice compressor, good capacity, good price!

One of the other storage projects taken was painfully simple, I needed someplace to store the extension poles I use for painting and other work around the house. A couple of regular bicycle hooks and some careful placement are all it took to store those poles along the ceiling. I just needed to keep clear of the dust collection ducting.

Not fancy, but certainly functional!

Turn along the last wall and you have the workshop library cabinet, a simple open cabinet / wall mounted bookshelf of sorts built to house documentation, mostly my woodworking magazines manuals and books.  I will have to owe you a photo, not sure where my pic of it is...

Under the library cabinet is of course the mortiser / miter saw / hand held power tools cabinet. I built the dust hood on to it and plumbed it. It works way better than the stock bag, but honestly, dust collection off of this is still not that great, too much air volume to cover with a 4" duct... the pull at the port is great, and it IS way better than without, but I just don't see how to make this any better...  The mtier saw and mortiser tables / fences line up just so, and long stock can feed into both without hitting the newly moved in freezer.

I have included accessory storage onto the sides of the cabinet, most notably I just used a scrap cutoff of 2x4 milled and drilled to accept the accessories for the mortiser. Not a super elegant solution, but it sure works! The mortiser was an unusually great deal. I scored a free to me as it was a trash day curb find from a neighbor that could never get it to cut right, Delta 10" non slide compound miter saw that needed a new blade and to be cleaned up. I did the clean up work, painted the steel, and polished the aluminum, threw an Irwin Marathon 80T blade that I hated on it, adjusted it out, and tested it out, it cut great, but was just an extra saw. A friend locally had this HF mortiser in his garage he got as a gift, and never used, so we traded. It cost me maybe $5.00 in marterials if you don't count the blade that as I mentioned, I hated... so no big loss to me. I haven't used the mortiser a lot yet, but from the little use it has gotten, it is spot on.
The table with the T track was my addition. I ddin't like the particleboard table, and wanted additional clamping options. 

Turning around and looking up you see my ladder storage solution. My 10' A ladder is stored off of a heavy duty pair of garage hooks, one of which is mounted to a hunk of 2x4 cutoff that was put there to push it down so that the ladder could clear the garage door track supports. I can walk under this, but my clamp rack with the 6' clamps has some trouble clearing it... I also have the 6' ladder pulled tight against the ceiling with a pulley / rope / eye bolt system.

Lastly, looking to the middle of the shop, behind the table saw, you see the workbench. A basic little bench based off of the Fine Woodworking Magazine Get Started in Woodworking series videos. Not super complicated, I made mine a full foot longer than theirs, using plywood instead of MDF, I hate MDF, so it isn't in my shop. The vise is a Central Forge 9" Quick Release vise from Harbor Freight. It is a bit wonky, but it works. I do wish for a better one. I honestly never liked this bench much, it always flexed way too much, and was too light to be really useful, but then I added a shelf made from literally plywood scrap. I simply cut and installed plywood cleats, then cut the plywood scraps to span across the cleats , drilled and screwed it all down... Then I loaded on some of my heavier handheld power tools. The bench is now rock solid, and I am really growing to like it...

Hopefully this long winded, and honestly somewhat redundant shop tour was able to better organize the tour itself, and to showcase some of the storage ideas. Like me, so many of you are dealing with shop storage space issues, and hopefully some of my ideas can be useful to you!

So now that it's done and ready to work in, I was able to manage to just sit in the shop with a mug of hot tea, and select just the right bit from my collection for a commission for a friend... Building a replacement false front for a vanity in a rent house. I know overly simple... But it works.. 

I have a couple of projects I need to do in the shop, including planter boxes and the like, but for at least the next week, I need to be working on my truck, and knocking out the thin set in the living room. Once done, I will start on my next project, I need Cedar for it though. I want to build a planter box / bench for the living room that will give me some storage for pet stuff, and a planter and sunning platform for the cat, and her cat grass... 

08 March, 2014

Making good on a deal 17 months in the making...And making it work in my shop.

The married or otherwise committed ladies and gentlemen out there can likely relate to this.

If you read my blog, you know I made a deal with my lovely bride that I would move the big upright freezer from the kitchen into the shop if I could get the sub panel / drywall job done in the garage.

To keep budget in line it the drywall and insulation was a DIY affair, but the wiring was hired out to a contractor at a very reasonable rate considering the amount of work done. The biggest expense was NOT labor for once, but material (Copper wire has gotten EXPENSIVE...).

 The electrical install was completed in October 2012. Through pretty much the entirety of 2013, and well until today, I have been working steadily toward the goal of getting that freezer into the shop. Yes other things, shop projects were involved there, my simple Strong Tie bench / miter saw station was jettisoned, and a full out miter saw, mortiser, storage workstation was built, The library cabinet was built to move other items from the house that were shop related, well... into the shop.

After much painting, and having to remove a door, a full freezer was maniplated over the threshold, and into the shop...
The Whirlpool 22 cu/ft upright deep freeze in the shop!

Now a deep freeze in the shop, that close to the miter saw and mortiser I know, has you thinking, I bet that freezer is in the way of feeding stock!

Nope, took that into account when I built the miter saw station! Mind you the tolerances are VERY close, but stock clears the freezer quite well, the miter saw and mortiser, assuming the mortiser fence is FULLY retracted, have fences that line up directly with each other.
I need to shim up the miter saw just a hair to keep the tables level.

The fence of the miter saw lines up perfectly with the fence of the mortiser. The tables are CLOSE, but not perfectly level, Some minor shimming is in order to correct this. 

Stock bypasses the freezer door with 1/2" to spare!

Now that everything is in order, it was time to relax a bit. I cleaned up, put the bit sets and drill back where they belong, and like was recommended to me, I just sat in my shop, and popped a cold one. Well actually not cold, as I presently have a sinus infection I am fighting off, but rather a hot one... I am partial to spice teas, and so I just enjoyed a tall mug of Orange Spice tea in my shop...

Nothing like going through the router bit profiles while sipping a mug of hot tea!

The bright red thing on the lathe in the background of the last photo is my Craftsman diamond plate texture anti fatigue mat. I had washed it off earlier that day and had swept the floor but forgot to put the mat back down after sweeping...

The hunk of oak is sitting there for a commission project for a friend's girlfriend. She owns a couple of rental homes, and needs to replace one of false drawer fronts in one of the bathrooms, a simple rectangle , with some sort of routed profile. Still waiting for the sample to make sure my bit selection will do the profile they need...