Drilling Straight is Hard to Do

I've been obsessed today trying to figure out why I can't drill a straight hole into the end of a one inch dowel.  This isn't the first time I've noticed this problem.  I've been working on wooden track risers and I've been able to drill straight into the face grain of the base and tops, but when it comes to the columns, whether it's dowel or 2" square stock, I just can't drill a straight hole in the end grain. Read more »

Tools: drill press, miter saw

Tags: end grain

Materials: dowel, hard board

Notes from the Workshop: 20101227

Bent Hook Blues

I noticed one day my favorite tape measure seemed to be off.  After double checking the measurement with another tape and confirming my suspicions, I noticed that the hook was bent.  At some point I must have dropped it on the floor; I can't think of any other way I could have bent it.  I tried to bend the hook back straight, but it is difficult when hook is still riveted to the tape. Read more »

Tools: clamps, table saw, tape measure

Tags: dado, notes, rabbet

Materials: glue

Creating Special Track Pieces

Building on the techniques I've shown in previous sections of the wooden track project, I built two special track pieces, but to fully understand what I did I'll give you a little background.

The curved track pieces come in two different sizes, a wide curve with an outer diameter of 18" and a tight curve with a diameter of 10". For both types of curve, it takes eight pieces to form a full circle. Read more »

Creating Curved Track

After figuring out how to duplicate the track profile and make both male and female connectors, the last piece of the puzzle was how to make curved track sections. I keep forgetting to look for beech whenever I'm at Rockler, so instead I picked up I some 1/2" thick red oak boards that weren't quite 1/2" thick, but they were much closer in width to the actual Imaginarium track than the aspen I had used for the double female connector. Read more »

Notes from the Workshop: Dumb-Ass Edition

Maybe the cold has frozen my brain or the stress of the Holidays has made me crack, but I've done some dumb things in the shop this week.


A few weeks ago I mentioned that I found some mold under a piece of plywood on the shop floor.  What I didn't mention was that I also threw away a drawer that had been sitting on the floor.  It too had developed some mold on the exposed chipboard bottom.  After I a while, I dug it out of the trash because I had thought of a use for it.  So I cleaned it up and hit it with some Concrobium to take care of the mold.  Evidently, Concrobium doesn't work so well on porous surfaces.

A few days latter I went back into my shop and noticed the mold smell again.  I had left the drawer sitting on my workbench for several days, probably still slightly damp.  When I picked it up, I discovered mold had transferred itself to the top of my bench, Ugh!  Well the old bench needed a little resurfacing, so I grabbed my jack plane and hit the bench top with a few passes then went back over it with some sandpaper.  I made sure that I vacuumed up the shavings and the sawdust, lest the mold find somewhere else to grow.  I threw out the stupid drawer.

Flying Debris

Read more »

Tools: jig saw, router table, safety glasses

Tags: notes, toys, wooden train

Table Saw Alignment Part II

I went to rip some 2" strips to make a new drawer to replace the one that molded on my shop floor.  Since I didn't have to be ultra accurate I set the rip fence using the indicator on the fence scale.  I decided to double check the distance to the fence anyway.  It was off by almost a 1/16".  Then I remembered that I had just realigned the fence and hadn't reset the indicator. Read more »

Tools: benchtop tools, table saw

Tags: alignment, DeWalt

Notes from the Workshop: 20101207

I've found that blogging about my time in the workshop helps keep me focused on a project.  Documenting the process as you go slows you down, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Slowing down makes you think more about each step, working it through in your head and figuring out how you're going to explain it.  Also years down the road when you wonder how you did something, you can come back to the blog.

It's still hard to stay with a project to the very end.  Often once you've figured out how to do something, it loses it's challenge and becomes busy work -- especially the sanding and finishing stage. Trying new techniques and products during this stage helps, but it's still no substitute for discipline.  I still find myself starting new projects before I finish the ones I'm working on.

Talking about new projects:

Domino Setter

I've been playing dominoes with my daughter lately, because they are using them in school to teach adding.  Although how my daughter's Dora Dominoes which only have pictures help in this respect is beyond me.  It's still a good game to learn because you need to plan ahead.  Once we get bored with the game, we like to set up the dominoes and knock them down, which is where my son starts getting interested in what we're doing.  Both my son and my daughter have a hard time setting up more than a few dominoes in a row before they accidentally knock them down, so I'm always the one setting them up.  I thought there had to be a quicker way. Read more »

Tools: table saw

Tags: dado, domino, notes, Rockler, toys

Materials: bloodwood, cumaru, red oak

Table Saw Fence Alignment

I've had my DeWalt benchtop table saw for about 10 years now.  At the time I thought it was the right saw for the projects I was working on, we had just purchased our house and there were many projects where it was great to have a portable saw.  Now that I'm more interested in fine woodworking, I wish I had chosen differently; for what I paid for it I could have purchased a decent contractor saw.  While the benchtop table saw works fine for plywood and dimensional lumber construction, it's not my saw of choice for detail work.

Recently, I've noticed the fence has become more and more misaligned.  The back side of the blade bites into the wood, even when it's past the front edge of the blade.  Not only does this increase the chances of kick-back, but it tends to burn the wood.

Obviously the fence is closer to the far side of the blade than the near side.  Optimally you want the fence to be parallel with the blade or maybe have the fence slightly farther away from the far side of the blade than the near side.  My table appears to be square with the blade, otherwise the slot on my miter sled would have a slot wider than the blade.  Since it's a bentop saw, I don't even think I could adjust the table if I wanted to.

Read more »

Tools: benchtop tools, table saw

Tags: alignment, DeWalt

New Instructable: Jig For Sanding Small Parts

I finally got around to publishing the instructable about the sanding hook, a jig I made for sanding the pieces from the blocks and marbles set I've been working on.  Here's the link to the Instructables page:  Jig for Sanding Small Parts Read more »

Tags: Instructables, jigs, sanding, Sketchup

Notes from the Workshop: 20101124

It's been a hectic week, with Thanksgiving coming and all, but I was able to sneak into the shop for a few hours Yesterday.

Sanding Hook

While sanding the mahogany blocks, I was holding the sandpaper in place with one hand while rubbing the block against the sand paper with the other hand.  I figured there had to be a better way.  So I built what I'm calling a sanding hook.   I can't believe that I'm the first to come up with this idea, but I haven't run into anything like it so far in my searches across the internet.  So I've been busy the last two days putting together an Instructable on how to build one.  I'll post a link here when I finish it. Read more »

Tools: sanding block

Tags: notes, photography, sanding

Materials: bloodwood