Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Quick 'n' Dirty Bathroom Shelves

When we moved into the "new" house last month, a few things had to change. The old apartment had tons of bathroom counter space, while the new house is pretty much a sink and a mirror. Ugh. I got spoiled with all that counter space.

So what to do? I'm tired of getting hand soap on my toothbrush!

The piece of curly redwood that I talked about in this post came from an 8ft board. Only half of it was nice and curly, and I've set that aside for other more decorative uses. But the rest will do nicely. Redwood does well in a damp environment, so it should make a perfect shelf!

I went with a simple "L" shape with a mitered corner, french cleats, and small braces. This was also my first attempt at pocket screws.

Everything was screwed and glued with stainless steel screws except for the shelf side cleats which were clamped with shop made clamping jigs.

4 coats of shellac finished the piece, followed by a rubdown with 0000 steel wool to give the shellac a satin sheen. I chose shellac simply because of the current temperatures. Shellac dries nicely in below freezing temps. Poly... Not so much. I'll watch the finish and if it starts going south on me, I'll refinish with poly. The cleats make it easy to pop the shelf and take it into the garage.

It came out quite nice and very useful. My teenage son and I are the only ones who use that sink, so I only needed two toothbrush notches. Toothpaste and mouthwash go on the shelf while the tall stuff like hairspray and hand lotion stay on the counter.

Simple, cheap, easy, attractive, functional! What else do you need?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Clamping Jigs

It's something you never think about until you need it. A method for clamping oddly shaped pieces when gluing.

On large items, my strap clamps are more than adequate. Especially for oddly shaped picture frames and such. But for small items? A strap clamp won't work on the piece shown above. It's half of a "french cleat" that is only 1" high.

Before, I would use blue tape. But I doubt the clamping pressure would be adequate for this job. I really needed to use my "F" clamps. But how?

I cut a notch that matched the profile of the piece being clamped out of a bit of scrap. On the bandsaw this is a simple cut, but it makes a world of difference in getting a good clamp on the small piece of redwood.

This project was just a simple shelf for the bathroom made from Lowe's redwood. Pocket screws at the miter joint (screwed and glued), small triangles for braces also screwed and glued, and cleats on each leg. I was going to have to make a corner mounting block, but when one of the pocket screws proved to be too long and poked out of the wood in the corner, I realized I could take advantage of that mistake and use it as a corner brace. Not all mistakes are bad!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Curly Redwood

I never considered redwood to be anything other than fence material. Until last week I was at the Lowe's in Castle Rock, CO, and saw some 1x3 boards with a distinct curl. $3 and I was taking the board home.

I chopped a piece off and ran it through the planer. 3 quick coats of rattle can shellac and I got what you see in the pic above.

Wow! It's beautiful!

Ideas of all the wonderful things I could make went rushing through my head. Beautiful furniture! Candle holders! Binders!

Then I ran some of it through my jointer with new sharp knives. Chipout all over. More runs through the planer got "scooping" in the weaker grain areas. Also, it's REALLY brittle. I was able to easily snap it in half along the grain when cut down to 1/4".


I'm going to try it on this binder:

The middle is curly maple with a blue mahoe inset. The outer edges are pieces of the redwood planed down to 1/4". I plan to round all the edges and apply a nice wipe-on poly finish. We'll see just how delicate (or not!) it is in a daily use item.

I hope it works out! I really want to use this stuff!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Tuning the Craftsman 10" Band Saw

All operarions discussed in this article were done with the saw turned off and unplugged. I **HIGHLY** recommend you do the same. I cannot be responsible for your failure to unplug the thing when sticking your hands around its sharp blade and spinning wheels!!!

Ok, you got the 10" Craftsman band saw for Christmas. The manual is pretty much a joke, and all the stuff online is for 14" Deltas, Grizzlys, Jets, etc. What do you do?

I watched a buttload of videos, read many many writeups on band saw care, checked books out of the library, etc. After much playing with techniques on my band saw, I feel I can share what worked.

The Sears Craftsman 10" band saw, model 21400, oddly enough does not come with a tension gauge. That makes accurately setting the blade tension not only difficult, but possibly dangerous! After some research, and various "techniques" used by other owners, here's what I settled on.

  • Deflection
    The blade of the 10" model 21400 band saw should deflect 1/4" at the center of the exposed area with the guide fully raised using "pinky finger" pressure.
To measure that, set a 2" thick block of wood on the table. Set your try square on top of that with the end of the ruler just behind and parallel with the blade. Use your pinky to press on the flat of the blade along the ruler. If you can't move it 1/4", it's too tight. If it goes further, it's too loose. Adjust with the knob at the very top of the saw.
Note that this measurement is only accurate for the stock blade that comes with the saw. Different blades may need more or less tension.

Guide Bearings

One of the great features of this saw is that it comes stock with guide bearings instead of blocks. Which is superior is open to debate, but I happen to be a fan of ball bearings wherever possible.

Using one of the two allen wrenches that came with your saw (or one from any SAE kit) loosen both bearings. Not much, just enough that they will move from side to side. On the top bearings there are little mushroom pins that stick out of the sides, making it easy to push or pull the bearing as needed.

Stick a dollar bill between the bearing and the blade, then gently push the bearing against the dollar bill just hard enough to hold the dollar in place. Hold the bearing with one hand and tighten the allen screw with the other. Pull the dollar bill out.

Repeat for the other bearing.

Open the cabinets and spin the wheels and make sure the blade doesn't run against either bearing. Readjust if necessary. You want a bit of air gap between the blade and bearing.

There is a pair of bearings on the bottom as well, and they are more difficult to access, though you still need to adjust them. These oddly don't have the mushroom head pins, making it a 3 handed job. Do your best.

While you're adjusting them, make sure the bearings will never touch the teeth of the blade. They should only ride on the flat side of the blade. Directly behind the bearings are allen head set screws that will move the bearings forward or back as needed.

Blade Tracking

Open the cabinets and look where the blade rides on the tires. It should be pretty close to dead center. If it isn't, the adjustment method changes depending on upper wheel or lower wheel.
  • Upper Wheel:
    This one is easy. There's a black knob directly behind the upper wheel on the outside of the cabinet. Loosen the locknut (wing shaped plastic spinner under the knob) and turn the adjusting knob. Small adjustments make a big difference, so turn it 1/4 turn, then spin the wheels by hand in the direction they normally turn and watch where the blade moves to. It can take many turns of the wheels to get the blade to settle, so don't stop until the blade stops moving. Tighten the locknut/wing when you're happy with its position.
  • Lower Wheel:
    The lower wheel is trickier. There is a steel shaft that sticks out the back of the cabinet with 4 adjusting screws with locknuts. No handy knobs or wings here. And four adjustments that influence each other keep it interesting. Loosen all four locknuts, then turn the adjusting screws a tiny amount and watch what affect each has on the blade tracking. Then adjust until the blade tracks centered on the tire and tighten the locknuts.
With these adjustments done, you will be surprised how much better the blade cuts. I took mine out of the box, put the table on, guesstensioned the blade, and made some cuts. Ugh. Better than some I've seen, but I have no idea what kind of state of tune they were in.

One thing that I find really irritating about this saw is the thrust bearing position. Adjusted to its furthest forward position, it is still far enough back that the teeth of the blade will touch the side bearings. This is a bad thing. Especially since the stock blade is a 3/8" blade. What if I go with a 1/8" blade?

This final photo shows a cut made before my adjustments (left piece), and one made after. You can see the drastic difference between them!

Both cuts were made with a scrap piece of pine. I believe I can get a smoother cut with a different blade, but this one works quite well as it is. Not bad at all in fact.

I didn't discuss setting the table in this article because hopefully you've already squared it before you've gotten to the cut quality point. If not, get a try square and adjust per the manual.

Why you should inspect your wood before planing.

Apparently there was a small crack in the maple. When the stress of going through the planer hit it, the small piece broke off and ejected from the input end of my Craftsman 12 1/2" planer at high (read: dangerous) speed. It flew 16 feet.

Luckily for me I don't stand in front of the planer, preferring to stand to the side.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Craftsman 10" Band Saw

This is the tool I was really looking forward to working with. My Craftsman 10" band saw. For a cheap (slightly over $100) band saw, it has some pretty nice features. Large cast iron table, steel frame and doors, 1/3 hp motor, adjustable fence, miter gauge, and a resawing capacity OVER 4"!

As delivered the blade tracked square on the wheels! I was shocked! Appalled! How dare they make me have to enjoy this saw sooner!

I'm told it is made by Rikon, and I believe. Square and sturdy, this band saw made me very happy. Only 3 blemishes kept this from being perfection:

  1. Blade Tensioning
    I will have to do more research on accurate tensioning. There doesn't appear to be a gauge anywhere. For now I have it adjusted so there is no wobble between the wheels. But I think I should be a bit more taut.
  2. Sucky miter gauge
    I know, I know. No stock miter gauge is worth crap. Sigh.
  3. Cut quality
    Yep. Even pine came out looking like a washboard, regardless of feed rate.
None of these are really that big of a deal. Stock blade cut quality was expected to be poor, look at the pic:

Yikes. I'll spend my time learning about this saw with the stock blade, and order a nicer one for real work. (Anybody priced carbide tipped BS blades? Holy cow!)

I was really impressed with the bearings top and bottom. The only other band saw I've worked with only had rub blocks.

So, as I said, I'm very happy. I hope to destroy lots and lots of wood with this!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Craftsman 12 1/2" Thickness Planer

One of the other things I bought myself was this Craftsman 12 1/2" Thickness Planer. I picked it up just before Christmas while the price was still $200.

The features according to Sears are as follows:

This is a no-frills, durable planer for beginner to professional projects. The 12 amp motor operates at 120 volts using standard household current. At 61 lbs. this unit is lightweight and portable. The maximum capacity of 12-1/2 in. wide by 6 in. thick is probably larger than you will need, but this unit will handle it. The patented Reversible Dust Collection Chute easily connects to a wet/dry vac keeping your shop clean. Includes blade magnets and allen wrench.

  • 2 double-edged high-speed steel blades provide smooth even finish
  • Blades are mounted onto indx pins for quick & easy blade change
  • Cutterhead rotates at 9400 RPM for 18,800 cuts per minute; auto feed rate - 26 ft. per min.
  • Maximum depth of cut - 3/32 in.; minimum work piece thickness - 1/8 in.
  • Two extension tables included to minimize snipe
  • Top-mounted crank handle moves the rollercase 1/16 in. per revolution
  • Rollercase moves up & down 4 precision-machined columns
  • Workpiece return roller assists with planing extra long boards
  • Locking paddle switch prevents unauthorized use
Let's see what I got when I opened the box before I discuss the features individually.

The parts list is confusing because the diagram doesn't really match the parts. When I pulled the planer out of the box, in the bottom of the plastic bag was the two thumbscrews for attaching the dust collection port. Bad. I nearly threw them away.

The blades appeared to be square and parallel to the feed table based on a quick ruler run. The polished stainless bed had a plastic sheet protecting it... Pretty standard. But that sheet didn't come off easily or cleanly. There was adhesive splatter all over the stainless that was a real pain to remove even with acetone.

The assembly instructions that came with it were horrible. Nothing at all about the dust port, other than "Attach per Key 3". Huh? Lucky for me it wasn't difficult to figure it out on my own.

I got it assembled and ran some scrap 8/4 pine through it. See the results below. I'm going to address the features list first.

Here we go. My comments in red.

  • 2 double-edged high-speed steel blades provide smooth even finish
    Not if they come notched from the factory.
  • Blades are mounted onto indx pins for quick & easy blade change
    I sure hope so, and that Sears will replace the blades without me bringing the whole thing back.
  • Cutterhead rotates at 9400 RPM for 18,800 cuts per minute; auto feed rate - 26 ft. per min.
  • Maximum depth of cut - 3/32 in.; minimum work piece thickness - 1/8 in.
  • Two extension tables included to minimize snipe
    Significant snipe out of the box. 1/16" deep and 3" long.
  • Top-mounted crank handle moves the rollercase 1/16 in. per revolution
    Way counterintuitive. Clockwise brings it up, counterclockwise pushes it down. Couldn't they use a left-handed screw for this?
  • Rollercase moves up & down 4 precision-machined columns
  • Workpiece return roller assists with planing extra long boards
  • Locking paddle switch prevents unauthorized use
    The "key" is a piece of yellow plastic shoved in the switch. Too bad I can't figure out how to get it loose.
The cuts really were smooth except for the grooves one of the blades left:

I was happy with the finish left. Nice and smooth, no chatter marks. A light sanding would be all that is needed.

The covers around the unit are plastic. Unfortunate, but even if they were to break they wouldn't affect the performance of the unit.

The planer was surprisingly quiet, even when cutting. Of course the stream of chips coming out of the thing was impressive. As is the case for most planers.

Note to self: Make sure shopvac is attached BEFORE feeding wood through planer.

For $200, I think it was well worth a purchase. Good cutting range, low noise, and a clean cut (except for the flaw in the blade that left the groove.)

I would give it an 8 out of 10.

EDIT: It was pointed out to me that the "grooves" may be marks left by the drive wheels feeding the wood. That would make sense since it was soft pine I sent through. I'll have to try a hardwood to confirm. But if that's the case, then all is good!

Delta / Leitz Saw Blades

A few weeks ago I ordered the above blades from a Woodnet seller: XCESSTOOLING. Here is the thread.

The deal was listed as:
  • DELTA 8” SPECIAL-BUY 2 8” BLADES AND GET A FREE DELTA 8” 34 TOOTH ATB THIN KERF BLADE-that’s 3 nice blades for $20-can’t beat that with a stick 

    35-751 8" z64 ATB 5/8" bore .0875 kerf,positive hook $10
    35-591 8" z24 ATB 5/8" bore $10
So I bought the two above and got the free 34T blade. Total with shipping was still under $30.

As you can see, the tips are beefy and well ground.

According to the package, the blades are made by Leitz in Germany and just have a Delta label.

No test cuts yet. Still have to dig out my Rockwell Table Saw/Jointer Combo from under moving junk! But I wanted to post these and share just how nice they look compared to the Harbor Freight "Lifetime" blades I have.