Friday, July 31, 2009

Holiday Progress

It took till Wednesday but I finally found my ambition. I made a start on the go kart and it's probably going to be a longer then planned project. It's not going to be pretty but I am learning things along the way.

I made the steering wheel out of a 1x12x12 inch piece of walnut. It took a lot of different tools to fabricate this thing in one piece. I also now understand the need for a TEMPLATE when using a router with a bearing ended bit. Of course I didn't use one, that's how I learned this valuable lesson. So the steering wheel is not exactly round or even. But it will work.

Today I put wheels on the scroll saw and small band saw tables. The wheels on the scroll saw seem to dampen the vibration a little more so that's a plus. The only thing left that needs wheels is the Ridgid Oscillating Belt/Spindle sander. Unfortunately I will have to modify that tool stand before I put wheels on it in order to keep it at the height it's at now.

Now I am going to use the Mortiser to put a couple of through mortises on the 2x4 that will be the front axle on the go kart. I will put hairpins though the wheels shafts in these mortises. They will just be stub axles. I know it sounds weird, but in my head it all works beautifully.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Vacation Wasting 101

I'm doing NOTHING. Literally. My first two days of vacation have been totally wasted. I did have a bit of a tough weekend at work so I'll chalk up this wasted time to recovery.

Yesterday I was perusing the Kijiji ads and came across a Campbell Hausfeld 80 flux core welder for $75.00. I was all over that like a dirty shirt. I picked it up today and it works like a charm. These things retail for about $300.00.
I have wanted a small shop welder for a long time but the prices of them were holding me back. This unit is supposedly convertible to MIG but I think the flux core will suit my needs just fine.
Hopefully I'll get one of the MANY projects on my TODO list started tomorrow. A person can only waste so much time. I think I've reached my limit.

Friday, July 24, 2009

My Friday Night Fun

The computer fixing took longer then expected, as it usually does. The problem was an overheating processor. The fact that the fan and cooler were PACKED with dirt was probably the first clue. After removing them I also discovered that the CPU had NO thermal compound on it or the cooler. Somebody at HP was sleeping on the job.

Then I had a few other computer related things to take care of so the day was pretty much wasted. The fact that I also slept in till 11:30 didn't help either. I guess the workout I had in the shop all week finally caught up with me.

The spouse had to play baseball tonight and instead of tagging along and having a few drinks with the rest of the cheering section I opted to stay home and hang out in the shop. I ordered pizza and ate and watched tv at my workbench. My CLEAN workbench. It's corny but kind of fun. The shop is just a nice place to hang out now. As a matter of fact I am out here with the laptop doing this blog. This is how I WANT to spend my Friday nights.

Man I have really changed a lot in the last few years. I guess that's a good thing eh?

Cleanup In Aisle Three!

Today I made some excellent progress and even got a hand from the spouse. The first thing I tackled was getting the shelves cut and up. Once they were in place we started getting all the "stuff" off the floor and stored back on the shelves where it belongs.

There are a few things up there that won't stay up there, like most of the stuff in those pretty pink boxes. Once I make the rolling drawers for under the workbench most of that stuff will end up in there. A lot of it is household repair stuff, plumbing and electrical odds and ends and general hardware. And of course some of it is just junk I can't bear to part with yet.

Once the floor area was cleaned up things really began to take shape. I manged to entirely clear off one work bench. That's a first in this shop! After that it was just a matter of hanging a few things and putting things away.

There were moments it seemed like there STILL wasn't going to be a place for everything, but little by little it all came together. Low and behold there was actually FLOOR SPACE when it was all over!

It felt really good just being in there. Tomorrow I am actually going to be able to WORK in there again.

I have an idea for the drawers I want to make, but I am just trying to decide how fancy I want to be with them. Do I fire up that new Hitachi router and make drawer lock joints or do I just screw some plywood together and make a basic box?

I have some computers to fix tomorrow so I guess the deciding factor will be how much time I have left in the day. And how much ambition I have. This week has really wore me out. It will almost be nice to go back to work for a REST!

But I am extremely happy with the overall results. Now just a few minor tweaks and I will have my "DREAM SHOP". My FANTASY dream shop is a whole lot bigger, and who knows maybe down the road I'll have that too. Right now I just want to build something.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Shop Make Over 101

I just couldn't seem to find the right spot in the garage for that beautiful new saw so I decided some changes were in order. Normally when I make these epic decisions, nothing much happens for a while. This time things are changing rapidly.

That gargantuan steel shelving I had in the shop was at best, useless. It held a lot of stuff, but it mostly took up room which I don't seem to have enough of. So I offered it to someone for FREE and they actually took it.

I suddenly had a gigantic big bare wall to work with and that was awesome. However I also had a ginormous MESS to contend with and that was disastrous! The shelves may have been space hogs but they held all this STUFF! At this point there is absolutely NOTHING I can do in the shop because I can't MOVE in there!

Okay so it's time to get busy. First of all, I need a plan so I fire up Google Sketch Up and devise a new floor plan. This is a GREAT idea! I can move all that equipment around in my shop and never lift a finger.

It's great on paper but now I actually have to try to implement it. The easiest place to start is with the bare wall. So I move everything over there according to my new "plan". This is good, it's working for me. And I am trying to keep everything mobile so I can move away from the wall if I have to. Move it out into all that new floor space I will have.

But as you can see I am a long way from there yet. I at least made a "pathway" so I could sort of get to things.

I have another idea! I'll put up shelving (oh no not shelving again!) OVER TOP of the machines for storage. One shelf, 18" from the ceiling, and 20" wide and 16 feet long. This will fill that missing "storage" area.

So I ordered some serious heavy duty shelving brackets from Lee Valley but as you can see, they aren't here yet. Time to work on something else.

That new drill press is not very stable on that temporary mobile base I made so I decide to make a new BIGGER mobile base. The problem here is because this drill press is very top heavy it really needs to be BOLTED to the FLOOR. Unfortunately in my shop that is NOT an option. So I make a bigger base and it it less "tippy" then it was, but it will still require caution whenever I use it.

Now while I am twiddling my thumbs waiting for the shelving brackets I am thinking that there must be another project I can tackle in the meantime. Something small and quick and easy. Oh wait, those words don't exist in my world.

This pile of lumber and trim and ceiling tiles and god knows WHAT I have piled in the corner really need to find a proper home. AND they need to be organized. I could put up shelving... NO NO NO NOT SHELVING! This is a big pile and no matter what I do with it it will be in the way at some point. If only I could make it MOBILE....

I searched the net for some suitable plans but I didn't find anything that appealed to me. My problem is I want something that will hold ALL the wood I have AND will organize it too. I don't want much do I?

So again I turned to Google Sketch Up. I am not very astute at using it yet but using it sure helps you to learn things. Unfortunately I am still doing everything the hard way. I really need to learn the keyboard shortcuts and how to use some of the simple tools like the guides better. If I keep this remodelling pace up, I should have it mastered soon!

After a few hours I had a design I liked and that would work in my space and for my needs. Now all I had to do was build it. A trip to Busy Bee tools for some 6 1/4" heavy duty casters and then to Home Hardware for $300.00 worth of lumber and I was all set.

I chose to use 3/4" spruce construction grade plywood. I would have LIKED to use Baltic Birch but this would have been an even more expensive lumber cart if I had. Of course it would also have been a lot sturdier but it's working for now.

It took about 8 hours to build. Manhandling 3/4" sheet plywood by oneself is not an easy task. I managed to get all the pieces cut by myself, and then the spouse came out later to help with some of the more difficult assembly which had to be done with the cart upside down. Flipping it right side up was NO easy feat! But it's built AND it's mobile. My one regret is using two swivel casters and two fixed casters. In retrospect 4 swivel casters would have been a better choice.

Hopefully tomorrow I will get the shelving brackets and get the shelves up. Then I will be making some rolling drawers for storage under the workbench. And someday soon, I will be able to work in my shop again.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Bosch 5412L/T4B Combo Makes The Cut

It might not seem right for a person such as myself to be reviewing and rating a compound miter saw because I don't have a lot of experience with them or many different models. But I think it's suffice to say if a novice can buy and assemble one of these and use it within minutes of setup AND make dead on accurate cuts and miters then the saw almost speaks for itself.

This is true of the Bosch 5412L 12" Sliding Dual Compound Miter Saw and Bosch T4B Gravity Rise Miter Saw Stand. Although mine is only a "hobby shop" this saw is most definitely in the professional/contractor saw league. The saw combined with the stand is made for portability and easy setup and storage. Even a small hobby shop can reap the benefits of this powerhouse without compromising valuable shop space.

The stand is an exercise in simplicity and balance. The unit comes well packed in a heavy shipping carton and massive Styrofoam padding. The assembly takes about 45 minutes and can be done single handed. The assembly instructions are clear and concise and all the parts and diagrams are well labeled. The only tools required are 3 wrenches and/or sockets (10, 13, 17 mm) and a Philips head screwdriver.

The stand is finished in a metallic grey paint that is incredibly scratch and dent resistant so you'd have to work hard to mar or mark it during assembly. There are no little parts to fidget with, just plain old nuts and bolts and washers. There is no fancy mechanism for folding the table, just one cam lock lever and a twist handle that releases the spring lock pins. The unit glides up and down effortlessly.

Mounting the saw on the table is as simple as measuring the distance between the mounting holes on the saw and setting the stand cross pieces accordingly. Then four bolts attach the saw to the cross pieces permanently. To remove the saw from the stand, you unlock two cam levers on the cross pieces and lift the unit off with the cross pieces. The cross pieces then act as "feet" for any surface you want to put the saw on. The saw itself is not light, and it is bulky and awkward to carry. With the portability of the stand I can see no reason to ever remove it.

Even with the weight of the saw on the stand, the balance is so near perfect that folding or unfolding the stand can be done with ease. Release the locks, push the wheels forward with your foot and the table and saw fold to a vertical position. Lock the cam lever and you can wheel the saw anywhere. The air inflated rubber tires make it easy to push the saw over rough or uneven surfaces, or to pull the saw up stairs. It's like it's own built in dolly. The saw can be stored in the vertical position to save space.

The stand also has pullout extensions on either end that extend up to 28 inches each. This puts the overall length of the table at just over 8 feet, perfect for almost any job. The extensions both have double tube sliders for extra support so heavy pieces won't be a problem. The ends of the extensions are also adjustable vertically to line up with the table or higher if necessary. There are two leveling pads on the bottom front frame as well.

The Bosch 5412L 12" saw is a serious power tool for any woodworker. You can find all the specifications at Bosch Tools and there are a long list of features as well. It too comes packed in a heavy shipping carton with ample Styrofoam padding. Bosch didn't miss anything with this saw. It even had a convenient cord wrap attachment. If there is a specific feature you are looking for in a miter saw I guarantee you this one has it. The construction is solid, it feels like it's ready to take on any project. Nothing wobbles, wiggles or rattles, no cheap snap off plastic parts. Everything slides and moves like it's supposed to with one small exception. The bevel adjustment lock knob on the front of the saw is a little disappointing. I often had to push or pull the head to get it to engage or disengage. There is nothing smooth about it's operation at all. It has three settings that are also a little confusing, 45-0 Left, 0-45 Right, and Max Range. The first setting allows you to tilt the head left and will lock the head at 0 when you return it. The second allows you to tilt the head right but I couldn't find a locking position at any setting. The third setting allows you to tilt the head either way. This may be a minor flaw in my saw only and I will be contacting Bosch to find out.

Setting up cuts with this saw requires careful attention. There are numerous things that have to be locked or unlocked, and for bevel cuts you may have to adjust the two piece sliding fence. For 45 degree bevel cuts you won't be able to use the provided hold down clamp. The 60 tooth blade itself made smooth cuts in both 3/4" MDF and Oak with minimal tear out in the Oak using the provided insert. A zero clearance insert or backer board would probably eliminate any tear out. The provided plastic insert does have some small adjustability that would narrow the gap but not significantly.

Straight out of the box, the saw set up was dead square. I had perfect 90, and 45 degree cuts in both MDF and Oak in both flat and vertical cuts left and right. The only glitch was the left 45 degree tilt bevel did not cut all the way through the wood, leaving a tiny chunk right at the end of the flat cut. A small fence adjustment will probably fix this. I checked the saw with both a square and by test cuts and found no other adjustments necessary. The saw comes with one 4 mm Allen key, a double ended wrench and a socket wrench/screwdriver tool that stores right on the saw for quick adjustments and blade changes.

The saw also comes with a Laser guide that must be installed by the user. The unit is contained in a washer that simply replaces the left side blade washer. It's powered by three A76 button cell batteries that are contained in the unit and a centrifugal switch. It also comes with 3 replacement batteries, a very nice perk. There is no other adjustment for the laser guide. Once installed it aligns with the left side of the cut when the saw is powered on.

The weakest feature of this saw is of course the dust bag. Being almost a burlap type material, it may be tough, but it cannot contain fine dust like that created from MDF or similar woods. The 1 1/4" dust port might also prove annoying to connect to a dust collection system.

The saw and stand combo is the "Binford Cadillac" of Miter Saws! The only other thing required is a skilled woodworker to benefit from all the exceptional features and abilities of this rugged instrument.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Spouse Surprise

The spouse and I were in the Big City today and we decided to go to Home Depot just to browse. Of course my secret agenda was to just take a look at the Ridgid 12" Sliding Compound Miter Saw. That thing is a BEHEMOTH! Even the spouse was shocked at it's size. The sales clerk noticed us checking it out and walked over and asked me what I planned to do with a saw like that. I said "With a saw that size I could do just about anything I damn well pleased"! The spouse went on to tell him how I was becoming a "Tim the Toolman" where I need the biggest one of every power tool imaginable. Now that was an exaggeration for sure.

It is a beauty saw but lacks a few things like pull out slides and even a rough scale on the fence. So I asked the sales clerk if they carried any Bosch miter saws, expecting that they wouldn't actually have any considering Ridgid and Ryobi seem to be their big sellers. He said they just got one in on a "promotional deal".

Low and behold it was my objet de l'amour the Bosch 5412L 12" Sliding Compound Miter Saw! As if that wasn't enough to make my heart palpitate it was mounted on a Bosch T4B Folding Miter Saw Stand!

This unit all together is a tool monger's work of art! It is stunningly beautiful, and even looks graceful before it even moves. I swear even the spouse lit up at the sight of it.

I would love to tell you all the incredible features of this saw and the stand but I barely took any of them in. I asked the clerk to show me how it folded up and unfortunately he said the Bosch sales rep had assembled it and SHE hadn't shown him how it worked. The spouse looked it over and figured it out in about 30 seconds.

OH MY GOD this stand is freaking AWESOME! It folds up and down so easily and the whole thing is so incredibly balanced that you can pick it up from flat on the floor with barely an effort. The spouse and I stood there literally with our mouths agape and I joking asked "Can I get this saw?" The spouse said "Oh yeah!" and meant it.

Once I got past that feeling like fainting stage, I asked, jokingly again of course "Today?" and once again got an emphatic "Oh Yeah"! I pinched myself a couple of times really hard and it WAS real, I have the bruises to prove it. I haven't been THAT excited since my dad bought me my first tool kit when I was 3 years old.

The price tag on this "promotional" offer is $799.00. That is MORE then my table saw cost. That is MORE then any tool I own cost. If the spouse hadn't been working midnights and hadn't just woke up 2 hours previous I would have swore there was alcohol involved. I don't know which one of us was MORE excited.

Of course there was a kink in the deal. You KNEW that was coming. We had just dropped the truck off at the shop for some repairs and it won't be done till tomorrow (hopefully). There was NO WAY IN HELL that outfit was going to fit into my little Cobalt. Then the clerk informed us that they only had one other set in stock and that the floor model was not for sale. I honestly think this all happened so fast that the clerk didn't actually BELIEVE we were going to buy this saw. I don't blame him, I was still thinking it was a cruel joke myself. I asked him to put it on hold for me till tomorrow and he did so even if a bit reluctantly.
So what are the chances I am going to be able to sleep tonight? I won't relax now till that baby is secure in my shop!

I am donating my current miter saw and drill press to the spouse's oldest son. I was going to sell them but I think this surprise act of incredible kindness on the spouse's part deserves a reciprocal act. I am also throwing a few other things into the deal because really it's NOT a fair trade. But I want to stay in the good books!

I have done some research on this deal since I got home and yes, it IS a VERY good deal. The stand alone retails for $300.00. The cheapest price I found for that saw in Canada is $671.00. So I am saving at least $200.00 and getting a kick ass unit!

I have to close now as it's very hard to type with my fingers crossed. I sure hope the spouse has a really good night at work!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Making Headway

Today was a great day in the shop! I sold my drums and decided to buy myself that Craftex floor model radial drill press I was eyeing up at Busy Bee Tools. This thing is a beauty! And the assembly process was a snap for a change. I did need a hand from the spouse to get the head on but I managed to put everything else together myself. While I was at it I put it on wheels because as you can imagine I have NO room left in the garage. There are so many ways you can twist and turn the drill head and the table you can practically drill upside down with this thing. I have done the complete set up yet of squaring the head and such but I will get it done this week.

I had so many things on the go in the shop it was crazy. I read The New Scroll Saw Handbook this past weekend so it got me motivated to get my scroll saw set up and working. I literally tore it to pieces and put it back together AGAIN but now it really is running nicely. I added a speed control to it as well. There are going t be some really nice projects coming off that baby in the near future. But first I need to rework the stand for it or make a new one. Right now it is taking up WAY TOO MUCH room. I guess a 26" scroll saw will do that.

Home Hardware has some sheets of Masonite on sale for $2.00 so I bought a few of them and made a nice cover for my table saw. Now I can use it as a work surface and not ruin the table. I also bought a new miter fence from Busy Bee. It's not the Incra one I have been lusting after but it will do the trick. It took a little jury rigging to get it to work with my miter gauge. Once I had it set up I could see the saw blade is still out of alignment to the miter slot. But I bought some miter bar stock and I'm going to make a proper jig for my dial indicator. Then I should be able to set that up within a few thousands of an inch. The original one I made out of wood is too flimsy.

I also bought a little jig to set up the blades on my jointer. I don't know how well it will work, but right out of the package I had to "repair" it. It come with magnets and one of them wasn't glued in properly. It's starts to feel like working on computers all over again. STUFF SHOULD JUST WORK! Hopefully it will do the job on the blades without too much hassle. I really want to have everything tuned up properly and then actually BUILD something!

The only things I have left to buy are the Kreg Pocket Hole Jig, I am thinking the R3 Kit, and a new sliding compound miter saw. I have narrowed the choices down to either the Bosch or Ridgid 12" models. Whichever one I find on sale first will be the one. Both are in the $700.00 range so I need a really BIG sale. My woodworking buddy advised me to wait till the Woodstock Wood Show in October and I might be able to score a good deal there. For $700.00 I can wait. My little Jobmate 8" saw is working for me for the moment.

I am sure there will always be "something" I'll think I need, but I have to say right now, I pretty much have it all. Now it really needs to get some GOOD use!

What made today the most enjoyable, other then everything going well for a change, was that every time I needed a certain tool I had it! The spouse can whine about all the stuff I buy but it sure pays off. It was also nice to have a beautiful sunny day and have the garage door open!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Back In The Shop

Now that all the work drama has ended I can finally get back to normal. Well what's normal for me anyway which is usually total chaos. I have been back in the shop a little this week doing some tool tune ups and just reminding myself what I have been missing. The table saw got a work over including a new blade, a complete realignment and a fresh coat of wax on the tabletop.

I bought the Micro Jig splitters and the GRRRipper push block. The only problem is I now need stilts. Being vertically challenged, my forearm gets dangerously close to the blade once I am on the other side of it. Looks like I will have to build myself a little step up box to stand on at the table saw. Other then that I really like the GRRRipper. It does make me feel as if I have more control over the cut and I do feel safer when the blade is covered.

I had some issues with the Micro Jig splitter as well. Seems the Ridgid blade that came with the table saw is not even a standard "thin kerf" blade. The wood could still not get past the Micro Jig thin kerf splitter. Hence the blade change. I am now using a DeWalt combination blade but I still have to make a zero clearance insert with the regular kerf splitter. I'll keep you posted on how that turns out.

All I really accomplished with all my time off was making a longer "To Do" list. The grandson was over during my break and said he wanted a go kart. That sounded like a very fun project and I started buying parts and lumber to build it. Then the spouse came home one day with one of those little metal dune buggy pedal type go karts for him. That kind of took the wind out of my sails. Why would he want some wooden soapbox derby type kart when he had that? So that project is on hold for the moment.

I also thought about using all that nice cherry wood to build a bench for the front foyer. It will involve some serious resawing and glue ups but it can be done. The problem is the spouse is working night shift this week so I can't really run any noisy shop tools. The rest of the day just seems to get ate up by normal day to day stuff. I suppose this is only supposed to be a hobby so I should just relax. It just feels like I am wasting a lot of time doing nothing.

I am getting better with Google Sketch Up. I have been trying to use it to draw up my go kart plans. It takes time but I AM getting the hang of it.