Back from the Dead, a New Project, and Other Shop Musings

Published on by Mike  (Leave a comment)

What?!?!  A new post?!?!  It’s been over a year!  It has been far too long since I have written a new post for the blog.  Fear not, I have still been in the shop, making stuff, however most of the documenting of my projects has been on social media.  While that does give brief glimpses into what is going in my shop, it doesn’t go in to near the detail of what I have written about on the blog.  

First off, a status on videos.  I have footage of several projects that I have not yet edited, that someday I will edit them and release them.  The biggest hold up for the video is the editing process.  Unfortunately the laptop, or more specifically the video car in the laptop that I currently own is simply not up to the task of editing video in an efficient manner to get them out on a regular basis.  Until I get a better laptop, my video production is on hiatus.  

In the meantime, I do want to get my blog back up and going again, especially as I prepare for an upcoming project.  That project being a home made CNC Router!

Why a CNC?  First off, do not think for one minute that I am giving up traditional woodworking, as that is simply NOT the case.  I look at it is the next step in my journey as a woodworker.  Just as the table saw, jointer, planer all are tools that simplify or make possible certain tasks, so to is the CNC.  For example, one of the things I want to start doing is bent laminations.  A CNC can help me make the bending forms that are needed.  This will give me more time doing the actual woodworking, rather than spending time making jigs.  Also, I am a computer guy.  My day job isn’t woodworking but rather it is Information Technology, and as a result I am a bit of a technology enthusiast.  Getting a chance to build a piece of technology for me is exciting.  A big reason I am coming back to the blog is that I am going to document the process of the build.  I am debating on whether I will shoot video or not.  As I mentioned video production is not my priority right now, and if I do shoot video, it will probably be awhile before I get it edited.  

Finally, before I sign off, I did make another change to the technology I use in my shop.  As I have written about in the past I keep a computer in the workshop.  I recently replaced that computer with a Raspberry PI 3.  So far, I have been very impressed with what its capabilities are.  Since it is pretty much always running, I now stream my shop much more regularly when I am working.  Plus, getting to play with Linux again has been a lot of fun.  I did just say I am a computer guy(coughgeekcough)  ūüôā

That is it for now, I will have the first CNC post out shortly.  I also have a couple posts that I started last year, that I will try to finish up and get published as well.  Happy and Safe woodworking!

Handworks 2015 and The Studley Exhibit – Part 1

Published on by Mike  (2 Comments)

Handworks Banner Probably the biggest issue about my hiatus from writing on the blog is that I never wrote about my visit to Handworks 2015 in Amana Iowa, and the Studley display that was in nearby Ceda r Rapids Iowa.  Well, now that I am writing again, I am going to correct this issue!

The trip was simply flat out awesome.  It was about a 7-8 hour drive for me, and I stayed neared Amana Iowa for a couple days to attend the various events.  First and foremost, I met with several friends that I know from The Wood Whisperer chat room, Karen, Jason, and Kip.  While we have gotten to know each other very well over the last few years, this was our first time with all of us meeting at the same place.  It was really great getting to meet up with these folks!

Waiting in Line For the Handworks 2015 to Open
Waiting in Line For the Handworks 2015 to Open

The show itself is still a very young show.  It is put on by the Bench Crafted people every other year, with the first year being back in 2013.  Handworks 2015 was the second time this show was put on, and I believe in 2017.  As the name implies, the show is all about traditional woodworking hand tools.  The tools that are on display and available for purchase range from antique tools to high quality mass produce tools, such as Lie-Nielsen and Veritas, boutique tools, and everywhere in between.  The show is put on for two days, and I needed every bit of that to really shop around!   The line that formed before the show opened was amazingly long!  It was incredible to see the amount of woodworkers who came to this show.  In my mind this is proof that our craft is most definitely alive and well!  The time spent in line actually went fairly quick as it was a great opportunity to talk with other woodworkers.

Many Great Vendors

Normally when I go to a woodworking show, I spend the first couple hours or so exploring the various booths to see what is out there before I made any purchase decisions.¬† While I did do this, I did actually deviate from this a little bit.¬† One item that I have had my eye on for several years now is Bench Crafted‚Äôs Moxon Vise kit.¬† Once the doors opened on the first day, I went directly to that booth, and immediately made that my first purchase! (Don‚Äôt worry, there will be more on that in future posts)¬† The next thing I did was immediately jump into another line.¬† The month before I was at the Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event at Popular Woodworking magazine.¬† Besides Lie-Nielsen, Lost-Art Press was one of the vendors at that show, and I purchased ‚ÄúCalvin Cobb: Radio Woodworker‚ÄĚ by Roy Underhill.¬† This line I was standing in was the chance to get to meet Roy and to have him sign my copy of his book!¬† After that, I was able to explore around the show.¬† The show itself was in three buildings around the Amana Colonies.¬† Not only were there tool vendors there, but there were demonstrations all around. There was an incredible amount there too learn from!

A Small Part of Amana’s Huge Shop

The Amana colonies has a woodworking shop that they produce custom made high-end furniture.  After the workers close down for the day, they do provide tours of the shop, which I was able to take.  This was actually a fascinating tour to see the range of tools that professional woodworkers use.  It is mostly traditional power tools, but they have also have a couple CNC controlled machines.  It was really interesting to see how they integrated modern and traditional tools and methods together.



Roy Getting the Crowd Going

The second day of the show started with a speech from Roy Underhill.  This was actually the second time I have seen Roy speak in public.  One thing I can tell you is that he is absolutely phenomenal speaker.  He tells a great story that is both hilarious and informative.   His speech at handworks was no exception!  After his speech, I spent more time shopping around, until it came time to travel to Cedar Rapids to see the Studley Tool Chest and Workbench.  I am going to write more about that in my next post.

Compass Made By Peter Ross
I Won!

The tools I ended up purchasing, besides the Moxon Vise, included a couple rasps from Tools For Working Wood, a burnishing kit from Czeck Edge Tools, and a dove tail saw from Lie-Nielsen.¬† However, the most memorably tool I was able to bring home wasn‚Äôt one that I purchased, but rather I won!¬† The door prizes at the show where amazing.¬† In my case I won a 6‚ÄĚ compass that was made by Peter Ross.¬† If you watch the Wood Wright Shop, that name may sound familiar.¬† He is the black smith that Roy often has on his show!¬† This compass now has a prominent spot in my hand tool cabinet.¬† I will have a video coming out at some point in the future.

Over all, the show was nothing short of awesome!  It was a great time to meet up with friends, learn some new skills, and of course to bring home new tools!  I am looking forward to writing about the Studley Exhibit in my next post!

Breathing Easier – Shop Air Filter Installation

Published on by Mike  (Leave a comment)

air filter
Air Filter

One of the constant battles that any woodworker should be fighting is keeping the air quality of the shop as clean as possible.  When it is warmer than 60 degrees outside, I typically have the garage door open, so I have pretty good air circulation going on.

Air Filter Mounting Holes
Air Filter Mounting Holes

However, I do work as much as I can during the cold months, so the shop is closed up.  As I am working in the shop, even when using dust collection, quite a bit of dust does get airborne.  So to help this out, I recently purchased a used Grizzly air filter via Craigslist.  It appeared that the previous owner used it on a shelf as the ceiling mounts for it were long gone.  However,

Air filter ceiling bracket
Air Filter Ceiling Bracket

I did want to mount this to ceiling in my shop so that I could get the best possible air circulation in the shop.  The cabinet of the filter did have mounting holes, so I got some measurements, and I constructed a bracket from a pine board I had laying around.  The bracket actually serves two purposes.  First it allowed me to make sure I was able to mount it securely to the ceiling joist, as well as spacing the filter far enough from the ceiling so that it wouldn’t interfere with opening the clips that hold the filters in place.  The
cross pieces are attached simply with pocket screws.  I then found where the ceiling joists were, and attached the bracket with screws into those joists.  With some help lifting the filter to the ceiling, using screws and washers, I attached the filter to the bracket.


Air filter hung
Air Filter Hung on Ceiling

Whenever I am running any machinery, including the dust collectors, I keep the air filter running.  I do notice that it does circulate the air in the shop very effectively, and it does seem the air is cleaner.  As I said, this is still an ongoing battle to keep the air in my shop as clean as possible, and I do have plans to expand on my dust collection even further.  I will write about those as well.

March 2015 Shop Update – Redesigned Website!!

Published on by Mike  (2 Comments)

logo So if you haven’t noticed yet, I have completely redesigned my blog! ¬†Before I get into too much detail, there is a group of people, that are in The Woodwhisperer Chatroom that I need to give a shout out to. ¬†First is Travis (aka SynCro) he took the photo that I use as a logo, and made it into a more usable image for me, and his advice went a long way in coming up with the header design. ¬†He did a great with it! ¬†Next is Jason (aka Beamer) as he gave some great design advice as well helping me debug some Javascript and CSS. ¬†Another shout out to Gary (aka EI). ¬†He also did some treatment to my logo that I hope to eventually turn into a t-shirt design. ¬†A big THANK YOU to you guys! ¬†Finally, one last thank you to the entire chatroom. ¬†The feedback you guys gave really inspired me to reconsider my ideas of web design.

There are a few features I want to highlight on the redesigned website.  First, the fresh look is a huge improvement over the old one.  The new look was long over due.  Next, I have made it easier to find the various avenues to subscribe to my content with the social network bar under the main menu.  More links will be coming soon as I am expanding those options as well.   Another improvement is that I made the comments links more apparent, in hopes that more comments are left.  The last new feature I wanted to highlight is the Video page.  Since I am planning on making videos a more integral part of my blog, there is a video page where my most current videos will be nicely laid out.  Over the next days & weeks I will likely be making tweaks as I go, so if you seem something out-of-place, let me know and I will get it fixed.

2015-03-30 23.56.33On the topic of videos, yes it has been too long since my last video release.  The good news is I have footage for two more video projects that are ready to be edited.  The delay in getting them edited was a result of getting the website redesign going.  Now that is complete I am going to circle back and get those videos edited and posted.  I really do want to get to a point of where I can post these weekly, but that may take a while to build up to.  Right now, especially since the weather is improving, I am hoping to get them out every other week.  If you have an idea of project you would like to see a video, leave your idea in the comments, or send it to me via the contact link.

kimmyLast, I mentioned a couple of updates ago that I quit drinking pop just after Christmas.  It has been 3 months now and I am happy to report that my beverage of choice is still water!  I have not touched a can or bottle of Coke or Pepsi at all since then.  I have lost around 10 pounds as a result, and have found I have a lot more energy.  Now with the weather warming up I try to take a daily walk with our dachshund mix, Kimmy.  The next phase is also trying to take the bike out a couple of times a week as well.

Until my next shop update, happy and safe woodworking to all!

Tool Buying

Published on by Mike  (4 Comments)

sanderBefore my woodworking hobby became as serious as it is today, when I bought a tool, I would go to a box store and bought what I thought was a good value on a good tool. ¬†For many years, this worked well for me, especially as most of my projects were more DIY home improvement, where tolerances were a little more lax, and putty was available. ¬†ūüôā ¬†Most of those tools were bought during the early years of my home ownership. ¬†As much as I hate to say, ¬†nearly all the power tools I bought during this period of have been replaced, over a period of the last 4-5 years. ¬†Granted, these tools were bought for a different purpose and a much more limited budget than I have today, so in most cases it is hard to say I regret buying “x” tool because it did serve its purpose at one time, until my needs changed. ¬†However, there were also some uninformed tool purchases over the years that I did regret. ¬†Today, I take a very different view on my process for tool buying.

routerplaneSo what do I look for when buying woodworking tools today?  First lets look at hand tools.  When I buy a tool that I know I am going to get a lot of use out of, I tend to go for the premium tools.  My feeling is that these are truly once in a lifetime purchase, so I want to buy something that I know is held to a high standard of quality so that I can get that lifetime of usage out of it.  Also, a premium hand tool, while expensive, are easier to save up for than premium power tools.  I am not necessarily brand loyal when it comes to these tools, in fact my collection has tools from many different companies.  In fact, even though it is a premium brand,  I still do my homework on them.  Also, with hand tools, I think it is important to hold them in my hand and give them a try. Both Lie-Nielsen and Veritas travel around the country and give opportunities to take their tools to wood.  Typically, the one that feels best in my hands while using them is the one I buy.

bandsawWhen it comes to power tools, I would love to say I buy premium brand machines as well. ¬†But, I can’t. ¬†Unlike a premium hand tool which sells for a few hundred dollars, a premium machine sells for thousands of dollars, and lets face it, not all of us have the budget for these machines. ¬†To make matters more challenging, very few places will let you fire up a saw and make test cuts right in the store, so getting a feel for a machine before purchase may not be possible. ¬†I typically buy what I consider middle of the road machines. ¬†With this level of machine, there are some real gems out there, but there are also some real stinkers as well. ¬†To me, this is where it becomes vital to do my homework. ¬†I still expect these machines to be long term purchase, and with this level of machine, this is feasible. ¬†The first thing I look at is the construction and motor of the machine. ¬†When possible I want the machine body, or at the very least the machines work surface to be cast iron. ¬†The next thing I look at is the motor. ¬†Is it a belt driven induction motor, or a direct drive universal? ¬†The belt driven induction motor in most cases is superior to a direct drive system, with less vibration and more power. ¬†Next, I look at what are the machines capabilities, and more importantly what are its limitations. ¬†With the type of machines I buy, there are often trade offs to buying the premium version. ¬†This can mean less power, smaller work surface, and possibly less precision & accuracy. ¬†If I am willing and able to work around these limitations, that machine will go on my short list. ¬†Finally, I check out reviews, forums, blog posts, and various other means of information about the machines on the Internet. ¬†Once I have all the information I need, I make a decision on which tool I will buy. ¬†ūüôā

jointerWhen buying tools, it is possible to buy quality without busting your budget.  It may take some time to do your homework, as well saving up a little extra to meet your needs.  Most importantly, whatever you do buy, read up on how to safely use it, and them start making sawdust!