Sunday, June 29, 2014

That dude has it bad...

Have you ever been out and seen some guy or gal that is clearly driving themselves and quite possibly those with them crazy over an OCD issue? We all just shake our head and and mumble to ourselves "That dude has it bad". But wait... what if that poor person is us. Is there someone out there shaking their head and taking a moment of silence. Or is a spouse that we are driving crazy with our OCD tendencies? I think Kelly (my very supportive wife) just laughs at me. So my latest big shop project was my new Workbench/Outfeed/Assembly table (which you can read all about at The long awaited completion of...). One of the drawers on the table was designed to be fitted with some kaizen foam and store all my measuring and layout tools.
Table finished... Check, kaizen foam fitted... Check, lay out all the tools on top of the foam and arrange in an orderly fashion... Check.... and then?????
Now was the moment of truth... once blade goes to foam I was committed. I told myself over and over that it was good. But still I couldn't bring myself to do it. Thankfully I've realized more than I care to admit that I'm that guy... I'm a victim of my own OCD. It also helped that it was getting late so I decided to sleep on it and have a go at it in the morning. The next morning came and over a hot cup of coffee I started hacking away at some foam. Well, by hacking away I mean I carefully traced out the tool with the recommended long tip marker and then carefully cut out the shape making sure to keep in the lines. Once the lines were cut all I had to do was pluck away at the appropriate amount of foam.
Once everything was in its new home I used a 1/2 inch piece of scrap pipe and heated it up to melt finger slots where needed.
 I don't know why I really surprise myself at being a little touched with OCD. I'm just glad it's only with some things and not everything. Well I'm sure Kelly is glad as well. So what's your little OCD thing? I have this strange feeling that I'm not the only one... Every once in awhile we need to look in the mirror and shake our head and say "That dude has it bad"...

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Fitting of a fond farewell...

So my latest project which I completed this morning is a display case for some replica Harpers Ferry Pistols. This display case is intended as a going away gift for Military Police Soldiers who leave the section where I work (my day job). Crossed Harpers Ferry Pistols are the insignia for the US Army Military Police Corps. It would be pretty cool if we could present a real Harpers Ferry Pistol but that was a little out of all of our price range. We were able to find a company that made replica pistol kits and made that the center piece of the gift. We wanted the gift to be symbolic of both the unit assigned and our duty as Military Police. It was with that in mind that I designed and built these display cases.
The case is red oak that was purchased from a local family owned saw mill. The replica pistols are mounted on the back which is covered in green felt. Above the pistols is a unit coin that is affixed to a wood disc made from the same red oak. Below the pistols are where I mounted a small brass plague which I had engraved the name of the Soldier being presented and the dates that he served.
Like I said the red oak was purchased from a local saw mill. I try to purchase as much lumber as possible from local sources. The only down side is that my only local options are red oak, poplar, and if I'm lucky some maple (and that's only been once).
I then cut down the material to a little bit larger than the finished dimension. I always try to allow to give myself just a little wiggle room for a mistake I'm sure to make. They keep telling me to measure twice and then cut once... or something along those lines. So sometimes I keep cutting... don't judge me! Well then it on to cutting some miters with my table saw. I've never really gotten good results cutting miters on my miter saw. My miter saw is dead on at 90 degrees but if you ask it to do anything else it laughs at you and then ruins your project. I then cut a dado to fit the glass front and a rabbit in the back to fit the back piece. Before I glue it all together to make a box I do a little prefinishing. This will prevent a million issues versus waiting to do all your finishing at the end. Just use some painters tape to cover any areas that you will glue.
The back of the case is quarter inch baltic birch plywood. The company where I purchased the pistol replicas gave the dimensions for mounting the pistols and I made a template to make it easier for the next one I build. Once the back piece was cut and the holes drilled it was time for a little spray adhesive and some green felt.
 I always over cut my felt on projects like this and then trim it down. This help stretch the felt and insures you don't end up with something to small to cover the area needed. Then it's time to mount the pistols and start finishing the exterior of the box.
I used a wiping polyurethane to finish these boxes. I took some poly and then cut it by 50% with some paint thinner. This allows it to wiped on and dry a little faster. The only down side is that it takes twice as many coats. But for a smooth finish I think its worth it.
From there it was just mounting the coin and plaque and then putting it all together. Hopefully the recipients will enjoy these for many years to come.

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Monday, June 23, 2014

Spring cleaning and a little shop organization

***WARNING the photos you are about to see are not the normal condition of my shop***

Well, Spring has come... and gone and I've finally finished (for now) some much needed shop cleaning and organization. Unless you have access to a ginormous building for your shop, you've got to find and make the most of what real estate you have. I have a 20' x 20' room that once was designed to hold something that can do just fine outside. That's right folks, the paint and finish on yours and your spouses vehicle were made even designed to withstand all (ok most) of what mother nature has to offer.
 Since I live in the real work and didn't have anywhere to put everything in my shop (formerly a garage) while I tried to figure out where I needed to put everything in a way that made some kind of order and that supported my work flow, I fired up the SketchUp machine and drew my blank canvas. The next step was to put the non-woodworking items that have to share your space in so you can see whats left for you to work with.
 For me it was a wooden wall locker for my Army gear, two metal shelves full of miscellaneous stuff, a garbage can, a metal wall locker full of camping gear, and my beer fridge. Now comes the hard part. You've got to figure out what you have (or will have if your planning a purchase in the near future) and choice the best spot for it. This is where using SketchUp can really help. As you place your tools in your virtual shop you can check measurements to see if you'd be able to crosscut a 8' stick on your miter saw or if the location of your band saw stops you from being able to resaw long pieces of lumber. It might also be that you haven't made some of your tool purchases yet and just want to see what you can fit in the shop space you have available. There are other resources available online for shop organization. Grizzly offers a easy to use online "Dream Shop" organizer at I used shop organization as a method to teach myself SketchUp. There is just about every tool ever built in SketchUp's 3D warehouse.
The other thing to keep in mind is your work flow. Now everyone is different, but what I tried to do was create some kind of flow between lumber storage to rough dimensioning to final dimensioning to making things stick to each other to finishing and everything in between. Now in my shop that isn't a straight line. I have to have several things that do multiple tasks or that have to be moved to allow for the "next" step. With this in mind, almost everything in my shop is on casters. The other reason for this is if your like me you will "fine tune" your shop from time to time. If you think that you'll set up your shop only once without having to make adjustments... well your a better person than me. Once I find an issue my OCD kicks in and I try to find a solution to the "problem". What isn't depicted in my SketchUp is use of wall storage.
This panoramic view of my shop shows most of the use of my vertical storage options. Most of my lumber storage is at the very top of the walls on either side of my shop. I have french cleats running down both side walls also to allow for maximum use of the space. This also keeps things movable which in turn allows me to "fine tune" things as needed. Some items I use french cleats on are...

Clamp racks


Jig Storage 

Tool Storage


even re-purposed kitchen cabinets  

I even made a wall mount for a small TV, sound bar, and Apple TV. I mean how else is Norm going to visit my shop and help me on a project or two. 
There are several other things to think about in setting up or "fine tuning" your shop that maybe we can talk about another time. Issues like power, lighting and dust collection are some of the big ones that come to mind. I have also included a link to a short tour of my shop on YouTube. 

Please feel free to leave a comment and also check out my earlier posts. You can also visit me at Facebook , Twitter, or here on Google+. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

The long awaited completion of...

Yep, you guessed it!! I finally finished my new workbench/outfeed/assembly table. Weeks of planning, designing, modifying someone else's design, then modifying it again, and then a long weekend of making sawdust and then BAM!!! Just like that it was done.

Ok, so maybe a little more went into it than that. Like I've said before the design of the top was taken from the  plans of the Ultimate Workbench by Ron Paulk. The design went through several versions as I moved and shifted things around in SketchUp.
The table was to fulfill several tasks. First it would serve as a outfeed table for my tablesaw. I wanted the table to be 4' x 4' and be just low enough so that anything I ran in the miter slots of my tablesaw would just barely pass over it. I know most people make channels in their table for that very purpose but I felt it would cause issues in the other two tasks this table needed to handle. The second would be to serve as an assembly table. I have limited horizontal surfaces to put together my projects so I wanted a dead flat table. This was the first, thing I liked about Ron's design. The last torsion box table top I had built was so heavy it eventually caused the whole thing to sag from the weight. With the cut outs in all the cross sections and the holes on top the table, it cut the weight while still providing support to keep it flat. The cut outs and holes also come in handy for other reasons as well. I know have the ability to clamp material from either the top or the sides of the table.  
The other task that I needed this baby to handle is storage. Not only for odds and ends but also a couple tools. The thickness planer was my first priority. Since I only use it to mill up my lumber I figured I could save some space in the shop and have it put away but at the same time easily accessible. So one side I designed with pull out trays.
I used 24" full extension drawer slides for this side of the table to allow full access to any tools I store here. The other side of the table I put 5 drawers. These drawers are on 18" full extension drawer slides. 
Now let's go back to the beginning and talk construction. I built the entire table from 3/4" Pine Plywood (Well, all except the drawer bottoms). Since total height is an issue I started with the top, then built the base and then the cabinets. But first things first... since it's already a billion degrees here in sunny NC I need some shade.
 My sheet goods are first broken down out in the driveway using a track saw. I cut the top first and then began laying out the locations for the holes. Since the table top was four feet square I was able to place the holes four inches apart. A little funny math, carry the one, and then multiplied by the remainder and you end up with 121 intersecting lines. At this point I'm sure your asking yourself... "what does that mean?" Well I'm glad you asked... it means I get to drill one hundred and twenty one 3/4" holes!!! Since I don't have a plunge base for my router I bought a drill guide and using my forstner bit started drilling.
It wasn't long before I realized that battery power wasn't going to cut it for this project. I quickly switched out for a corded drill to bore out the rest. 
Once I finished all 121 holes I sanded the top and then moved on to the next step. The side sections of the top were cut to size and then a template was made for each of the three sizes. I then used a flush trim bit in my router table and made a big mess... and finished cutting them all out. Once they were all finished it was time for pocket holes.
Now I'm not one for advertising products (sponsor me) but the K5 by Kreg is a pretty amazing tool. 
The sides and the top would all be joined together with pocket holes and glue. I had made sure that the cross sections would not cover any of the 121 holes.
Once together I sanded the top and then used a round over bit to smooth all exposed edges to include the 121 holes on the top. 
Next I started working on the base. I had purchased 4" casters to allow my dusk collection hose to be able to run underneath the table. The base is two sheets of plywood glued and screwed together with the lockable casters at each corner. Now armed with the two known heights of the base and then top I could measure out the cabinets. My goal was to have the entire table to sit 1/4" under the miter slots on the table saw. Again I used pocket holes and glue to assemble the cabinets. 
From there I just secured the top, made five drawers, and finished it with a couple coats of wipe on poly.
Now I'm left with the fun part... trying to figure out where to put everything. 

You can now download the SketchUp file for the workbench from

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Enough clamps? What about clamp racks?

A wise old man once told me "you can never have enough clamps". Ok, maybe it wasn't a wise old man... I think I actually read it online somewhere. Either way I'm sure we've all heard it. Over the last few years I managed to piece together a little collection of these jewels. There was a couple projects where I used every single clamp I had... but I made it work. Even made a little rack to hang them on my french cleat system I have on the walls in my shop.
and that's when I start seeing tweets and such pinging around on the interwebs about Lowes having a sale on their complete stock of Bessey Clamps. I think my eyes glossed over and things got a little blurry... The next thing I knew I had had been to not just one Lowes... but two! With the reduced prices it was an offer I just couldn't refuse.
Then the next day I had to run out to Southern Pines, NC to run a couple errands and guess what they have?Their very own Lowes!!!! Three Lowes in two days! At this point I've realized I've probably spent more money one clamps in a two day period that I've spent my whole life. But, in the words of every woman who has ever tried to justify a purchase... "but I saved so much money"! (Sorry Ladies, had to borrow it) Of course upon getting home reality sunk in... not about the money I spent of course... but where was I going to put all those clamps? Time to start building some more clamp racks. 

Now as mentioned before I have french cleats on both opposing walls of my garage. I've found that as I adjust my shop to fit my work flow, that sometimes I end up moving things from here to there. There is several very good videos on YouTube explaining and showing how to build french cleats. But in a nutshell its a "cleat" attached to the wall with a 45 degree bevel cut into the top edge. Then one whatever you plan on hanging up you attach a piece of wood with the apposing 45 degree bevel cut into it.   
Most of my clamps are the "F" style clams so I just had to cut out some slots with a 1/4 drill bit and then the band saw. 

For the Pipe Clamps I had to use two different dimension of forstner bit and then cut out the slot once again with the band saw. 
The ratcheting spring clamps, wood handscrew clamps, and strap clamps I used some wooden dowels to make a rack for. 
With all that finished I set them all up on the wall on and...
and a close up...
Now that all my new clamps have a place and I've over doubled my clamp collection you might ask if I have enough? You can never have enough clamps (and you might need some more clamp racks).