Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

I'd like to wish both of my loyal readers a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.  Hopefully the couple extra days off at this time of year will get you in the shop more :)

Meanwhile, I'll be using my assembly table to "assemble" gift wrapping.  A friend Chris of FlairWoodworks has a very creative post yesterday on how woodworkers should gift wrap.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Stealth Project

I have since completed this project... read this teaser if you like, but then head over to the build post!

Last night a little after midnight, I thought of a nice project to make with a special board I found last week at Woodworkers' Source.  Having (more or less) finally finished a bunch of "shop-tectonics", I could even use bench surfaces for what they were intended to do!

Today, I got started a little after noon and finished a little after midnight.  I streamed the whole time via UStream though I stayed out of any chat rooms or I'd still be at the "lumber selection" step.

I can't explain the project yet as one of my two readers is the lucky (?!) recipient of the project.  At this point, everything is ready for dying then glue-up; one part needs drum sanding, a couple dimensional changes, then a special finish to compensate for its construction.

I'll blog about it on, say, Boxing Day and include photos.  Regrettably, I didn't take a lot of photos along the way of the build, but it isn't that complicated anyway.  Considering the work I have left, it is likely a (full) weekend project, finishing taking more time simply to let the stuff set.

There were notable appearances by the DJ-1, CT-16, and JMPv2.

Stay tuned (literally!)...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Streaming Update

Most of my languishing remodeling projects are completed, as is the sub-panel in shop, the "shop-tectonics" after moving so many things for the conduit runs, and, you know, yadda yadda.

Tomorrow I'm starting on an impromptu project that I just drew up on the proverbial cocktail napkin.  Though my blog page talks about occasionally streaming, that never happened over summer.  So, I thought to kick on the camera during this build.  If you have sleep problems, this is your ticket!

I currently stream via  When starting to stream, UStream lets me tweet what I'm up to along with the stream's URL for your clicking convenience.  So, follow me (@PMSO) on Twitter if you'd like to know where and when I'm at it.  Chat with me via IM/Jabber (blog home page gives the details) or Skype if you're that dude in Michigan... :)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Quickie Zero-Clearance Insert for your Bandsaw

I needed to rip some small molding.  Each piece is just 1" wide by 3/8" thick by around 5 feet.  With this small a molding, the stock insert on my bandsaw would leave a lot of chipout on the backside due to the cut being so poorly supported.

When I have this issue, I usually grab a piece of scrap ply from the offcut bin, push it through the blade until it protrudes a couple inches on the backside.  Then I corner it in place with the two switchable magnets that are for my tablesaw feather board.  The position of the magnets prevents the board from moving at all, it's fast to setup, and the molding cuts were perfect.  Keep the ply around for the next time.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

More Wood Pron

Went to Woodworkers' Source Thursday morning on the way to work as they had a 3-day 25% off sale on hardwood.  Now, they tend to have higher prices so that isn't quite as crazy a sale as you'd think, but I digress...

Board on the left is just a 12' piece of 8/4 Walnut I need for handrails... nobody else had pieces longer than 8' and my rail is 10' (no, I won't do a scarf joint, thanks).  The other is Etimone, a species I never heard of before.  Looks like a member of the Mahogany family.  Spectacular colors and I plan on using the grain's curve and strip of sapwood as part of my entertainment center's back cable channel (yes, that project is finally starting this weekend).  That board is 12" wide and riff-sawn!

The last was an impulse buy.  A 5'x8" wide piece of highly figured quarter-sawn Eucalyptus.  This could make an amazing looking jewelry box.

As you can see, the heartwood edge looks like a dark cloud; will be interesting to keep that to the top of any box I make with it then carry over the cloud look with perhaps a burl veneered top.  This will just sit for now; enough with postponing the entertainment center :)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Extending the Capacity of the MFK-700

The Festool MFK-700 has pretty amazing dust collection, but the horizontal bases (0º and 1.5º) require the use of pretty short bits.  If you use non-Festool bits, you're likely to run into this problem repeatedly.  I decided to fix that.

This entry is actually the first of three enhancements I'm making to the MFK-700 although arguably this is the most useful :)

Here is one of my favorite bits for flushing banding: a 1/4" spiral down-cut bit.  I have a bearing version I use in the OF-1400, but this bit is what I want to use in the MFK-700.  As you can see, there's an "issue".  This fix is essentially to remove that part of the base to make clearance for the bit or any number of other reasonably short bits.

Addendum: that 1/4" bit works for me, but some others who have done this modification find that they just can't get the base low enough to get the cut perfectly flush, so there's a variance (in one case, though, they did this to the 1.5 degree base).  Anyway, the best bit by far for this modification, and what I now use exclusively for flushing banding, is this 8mm down-spiral carbide bit (#1322) from Vortex Tools.  The larger diameter means you can definitely get it to flush with room to spare, full capacity of the modification, and a down-spiral so the flushing is the cleanest possible.

The portion you have to remove is done in two parts.  First part is marked here.  While this part gives clearance for the bit, it doesn't make the channel where the bit rides wider.  This will be clear in a photo later.

You'll want to "raise" the fence as much as possible to get the top (shown) far from the base (background).  This lets you use the fretsaw on an angle to make these cuts.

I'm using a fretsaw from Knew Concepts along with metal-cutting Pégas blades from Ben's Scrollsaw to cut away the bit clearance.  Yes, these were blatant plugs, but that saw and those blades make a fantastic combination.  Say goodbye to wandering blades ("goodbye!")

Okay, so anybody purchasing a Festool router base knows how difficult it would be to start cutting it up... but it cuts very cleanly with this blade.  You don't need the cut really clean; the second cut will clean it all up along with filing it.

Voilà!  Point of no return :)

For the second cut, we need to remove the bat ears I highlighted.  While they don't give more bit clearance, they make the channel for the stock narrow (the channel being the light portion of the base that is above the lower brown foot).  For this cut, I used a hacksaw to get the crosscut straight.

What's left now is to actually remove the bat ears so they are flush to the offset portion of the base.  Back to the fretsaw...

As you can see, there isn't much room for long passes with the fretsaw so it's slow-going, but you get there.  Cue up a long song.

Take a mill file to flatten the portion where the ears were and clean the edge made with the hacksaw crosscut.  I also used a half-round file to clean the round bit recess and soften some edges.

The final result with the bit having enough room.  Start to finish it might have taken a half hour.  This is a modification I'm certain to enjoy and take advantage of.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Holiday Lights

Weekend is upon us!  Don't forget to put up your holiday lights :)

Using the Domino on Thin Stock

I swore I posted this before, but it must have been on a forum that was later deleted :)  So this is a Tivo post of sorts...

The 90º fence of the Festool Domino doesn't go down to 90º when the fence-to-bit distance is less than 8mm or so.  This makes centering the domino in 12mm ply difficult.

I found this tip on the FOG long ago from a number of sources.  The problem is basically that a corner catches on the fence when you move it down.  I've highlighted the corner that I filed long ago for this fix.  Mine is the older (better!) pin-style fence so if you have a newer one, the stick point may be elsewhere.

Work the corner with a file; be sure to match the file handle to the marker color :)

If you round the corner that touches, it can pivot down to 90º even with the fence-to-bit distance at 6mm.  Just takes a little filing with a little file.  Voilà, magic!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Inexpensive Dye Sprayer

I decided to give this simple touch-up gun a try from the Harbor of Freight (sounds classier that way, no?)  It was on special for a whole $9 (that's just two lattés!).  It seemed like if this gun worked well with a dye, anybody could use it even with the smallest compressor.  Hey, it even says "professional" embossed on the handle!
I have to say, it greatly exceeded my expectations.  It won't spray a triple venti soy latté, but with dye, it rocked.
I made this trival cabinet of left-over maple-veneered waferboard.  The intention was to put it under the drill-press table to store shtuff.  What's on the side are two slide-out trays.
Maple being maple, it had some streaks in it on the B-side of the sheets.  Clearly, this would be unacceptable inside the cabinet under anybody's drill-press.  :)  That said, I wanted to use this gun to both level the tone of the cabinet and spray a brown over it.
To level the tone, I sprayed Transtint Yellow Additive all over the surface.  Notice how the streak's contrast is muted a bit (the darkness in the corner is because I shot this while the dye was plenty wet; that part is just wetter).
I then used Transtint Medium Brown.  The brown and yellow combine for a honey brown as you can see here.  Remember that this dye looks much duller even seconds after spraying it; it comes to life under a top coat.
Here's the result before making the drawer for the top; it'll hold the planes I use constantly; the hand saws finally have a hanging home on the side and they are within two feet of the vice.  The trays are on slides so this is a mini-Sysport, if  you will.  (Yeah, my Festool stickers don't, too!)
Voilà, the drawer fresh out of clamps.  Hand-cut dovetails in Beech, which gets it's name because it is a real beech to chisel.
Pretty good way to use up scraps! Yes, the drawer will get an applied front someday.  'nuther day, 'nuther scrap!  This whole cabinet is under the table of a Powermatic VS 18" drill press.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A bit of Blue Spruce for the Holidays...

D'oh! I've been absent for quite awhile doing things like drywall, electrical, and stair molding that isn't particularly interesting to see.  Though I will be blogging about the electrical install and specifically some creative wiring for the SawStop.
So how do I make up for the absence? Pron, naturally!  Tool pron specifically... (I'm titillated just typing that!)

Packages with this return address are always welcome (so, send me yours :))  David Jeske is the guy behind Blue Spruce Toolworks.
Inside, a care-and-feeding letter from him about your order; nice eco-friendly boxes with twine seal the deal.  oooh, open! open! open!
This is the curly maple and African blackwood mallet that originally caught everybody's attention.  Too pretty to use?  Heck no... pretty has to be functional (well, tools anyway ;)).  The head is infused with acrylic so you can beat your butt chisels all day with it.  Hey, what's that to the right???
Oh, a lovely pair of skew paring chisels in tulipwood, a long marking knife in birds' eye maple, and a small marking knife in canarywood.
I feel a little like Ricardo Montalbán when I say, "Exacto knife? Plastic mallet? But why?"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bandsaw Blow-out and McMaster-Carr

-sigh- I have a stair project that gets little attention.  I started making great progress sealing it a couple months ago then made the molding recently.  All I needed to do was rip the molding and put it down.  Seems simple, no?  Halfway through the third piece of 14, -boom!- blade stops.  Then I hear the unique sound of a bearing bouncing repeatedly on the concrete.  Look under the table to find this:

My lower thrust bearing disintegrated.  It jammed against the blade and snapped my Laguna Resaw King (if you look at the product page and think, "hmm, cheap blade"... that's the per inch price).
I sent the blade back to Laguna for sharpening and a weld repair, but they called to say the resulting blade would be a Frankenstein so I agreed to just buy a new one that will be here tomorrow.  Excellent service.  They were nice enough to make me a very nice deal considering the circumstances.
So why did I mention McMaster-Carr? It's a treasure-trove of hardware goodness.  A friend Poto from sent me there awhile ago then I sent some people there from  It now routinely comes up as the source.
If you shop there, you'll be impressed with the online catalog's search method.  When you order, you pay just the tax and total; shipping is added after they really ship, which is different from nearly all retailers, but I noticed that they pretty much charge the real shipping with, I believe, a $5 minimum.  I mean, just look at that catalog!  Three inches thick!  Their site banner says "Over 480,000 products".  And I swear every one of them is in stock for delivery...
...and that includes the six sealed metric bearings I need to replace all of them on my saw.
My only complaint is the packaging....

Monday, November 15, 2010

MFK-700 Dust Collection Mini Demo

Earlier yesterday, BuilderBill on the forum asked me what I thought of the MFK-700.  I love this router for its dust collection and that it's so nimble.  Most small routers like this don't seem to have a very big or stable base, but this router has a very nice wide base.  Dust collection is its star feature, though, as I demonstrate in this inpromptu video I shot last night while routing some small cove molding.  The molding will go between the tread and risers of my staircase.  Yes, the staircase from 2 years ago.  Been busy. :)

I have some issues with the MFK-700 mostly with its bit capacity when used with either horizontal base (0 or 1.5 degree).  There are a few other issues that need work-around, but nothing spectacular.  I'll be blogging about some changes I'm making to my MFK-700 to work around these issues once the necessary parts arrive within a couple weeks (backordered, -sigh-).
So here's 9 minutes of routing footage to cure your insomnia :)

(apologies to BuilderBill that I said BuilderBob on the clip!)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Convenient Fit

My quart of Titebond was getting very empty so I was going to pour it off into my small GlueBot bottle.  Nice coincidence that the GlueBot can be screwed into the quart bottle :)  Flip and ignore it.  Just be sure you really have very little although I found that you could unscrew it and separate with minimal loss on the threads if your bottle had more than you expected.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Well, They're Honest At Least...

While searching for a free video converter to convert FLV files to DivX, I ran across "VideoConverter" (clever, no?) that states it can convert most anything.  Freeware, too.  So I download it.  I'm weird in that I read license agreements since some people use those to have you okay all kinds of nasty stuff.

This one in particular has some clauses stating it installs an automatic update service.  Okay, everybody does these days (much to the chagrin of my resource load).  Further, it states it will use the updater to update the application, and download other applications to your machine, and that these applications will make peer-to-peer connections over your Internet connection (i.e., your cost), consume disk space, and make 'certain' files available for others to download.

That's a pretty hefty "continue" button to press.  Of course, I canceled it.  I will say, though, unlike a freeware program repackaged by hackers with a trojan horse in them, this is on the up-n-up... if you click it, you approved it.

Be wary... if you are curious to look, here's the link as a text link you'll have to copy/paste to view:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Help for Lapping Plane Blades

I went to polish my plane blades tonight, front and back.  Thing is, hanging on to the plane blade is awkward, slows you down, and usually gives you a swarf-fill cut from time to time.  I wanted a handle for the blade to simplify matters.

I have a Veritas Flush Plane I use mostly for dealing with glue squeeze-out.  The handle has a lip on the back to catch the blade and a very powerful rare earth magnet that holds the blade in place.  This makes removal trivial for sharpening.  I took the blade out and stuck my regular plane blade in.  Voilà!  A handle for lapping the front or back of the blade.

The blades don't all fit perfectly centered or anything, but the magnet more than holds the iron in place while you swirl it around.

It's interesting to see how the swarf gathers close to the magnet; doesn't affect lapping, just when you lift it :)

You could make the same thing if you aren't interested in the flush plane.  A block of wood with some really strong rare earth magnets epoxied in place and a screw left proud will work.  The screw, in this case, takes the place of the small cylinder you see in the hole; it is used to register the flush plane's blade correctly.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Anodizing Aluminum Because You Can!

With Halloween in the air, we need a scary posting.  What is more scary than a bucket of sulfuric acid, a current generator, liberated highly flammable hydrogen gas, and blood-red dye?  Heck, I took my life in my hands for this posting; just to make it more edgy, I even invited a knife thrower from the touring circus to come over and practice on me while anodizing some aluminum bench dogs for fun and definitely not for profit.

I recently ordered custom Qwas dogs from Steve Adams. These are low-profile dogs for planing and they include a 5/16" hole through the center so they could have something attached to them with a 1/4" bolt.  I'm not sure what I'll do with that feature... yet.

Thing is, Steve said "I can make them, but they won't be anodized like the regular ones".  That got me thinking of anodizing them as a test.

I based my procedure on a great article written by Jim Bowes "Anodizing at Home".  Mine will be a photo version of his document along with some observations and tips not present in the article.  Overall, I had good success with some other aluminum dogs, but these from Qwas had been polished with an automotive protectant and I didn't know that first time around.  That said, you'll see some pictures from the first round and second round intermingled.  If a dog has a bit of color when you don't expect it, it is from round two; ignore it... nothing to see here :)  Due to this protectant I wasn't able to 100% remove, a couple Qwas dogs were a bit lackluster.

  • Sulfuric acid, commonly called battery acid; buy it at an automotive supplier in a 6 qt box for next to nothing (I got mine at Car Quest)
  • Manual battery charger.  I initially used an automatic battery charger (regrettably in some pictures); while great for charging a battery, it intelligently determines that the acid bath isn't really a battery and won't work correctly.  The charger should supply 2A at 12V.
  • Roll of aluminum foil; this is the sacrificial stuff.
  • Roll of aluminum un-insulated wire; I found a long spool at Ace Hardware in the picture framing section.
  • Rit Dye commonly available in the laundry section of a grocery store or in great variety at a crafts center.
  • Aluminum angle (not shown).  Get this at the Borg where the angle iron is.  I got 1/2"x1/2".  Cut into two lengths slightly longer than your baking dish (they sit on it).  You will see them in use later; optional but highly recommended.
  • Glass baking dish; (not shown) I used this for the acid bath.
  • Oil drip pan; (not shown) this can hold the baking dish in case of splashes and makes a handy place to tape the leads.
The whole procedure may be a little slow first time out, but then gets really pretty fast.

Start, shall we?

First, googles or at least good eye protection, gloves, and clothes that won't hang into the acid bath are a must.  The battery charger will put 2A through whatever is between the poles... whether that's the acid bath or, say, your heart if you touch the poles with each hand.  The reaction liberates hydrogen so ventilate like you just ate the biggest burrito of your life.  Pay attention.  This is easy, but don't try for a Darwin award.

Okay, really start now...

The parts need to be clean.  The dogs with a loop were 2-3 years old and raw.  They just needed washing with soap and Simple Green.  While I didn't initially know it, the Qwas dogs were polished on the lathe with an automotive protectant and wax.  To clean these, I used 600 grit wet/dry paper then soaked them in acetone overnight.  It wasn't completely cleaned, but I'm okay with it.  While Jim's article recommends a nitric acid wash, I found it too difficult and/or expensive to get here.  Acetone will dissolve nearly any finish or wax.  A sanding with 600 or even 1200 grit wet/dry sand paper will not sand-down the part, but will polish the surface mechanically and remove a lot of grime.  To me this is faster, easier, cheaper than mucking with nitric acid and hazmat fees.

If you haven't yet mixed the dye from previous anodization sessions, mix a full dose of Rit Dye into about 2 cups hot water and mix well.  I used 2 cups of water since that's all I needed to easily cover the parts; if your parts need more, make it more diluted.  I chose red.  You'll re-use this so get a plastic container to hold it between flirting with death, er, anodizing.

Pour the dye mix into a sauce pot large enough to immerse your part.  You want this at room temperature when you finally drop your anodization parts into the dye so if you just mixed it, set the pot in a shallow dish of cold water to cool it faster.

Take a long string of aluminum wire and create a flat paddle of wire turns with an arm of wire reaching out of the pan; you will connect the cathode (negative) pole to this wire.  I ran 2-3 loops up and out of the pan for a better connection to the cathode.

Wrap the paddle portion in a lot of aluminum foil.  The parts (and anode!) will be on the other side of the dish so keep this foil paddle well on its side of the dish.

Using aluminum wire, suspend the parts to anodize on the other side of the baking dish; the anode (positive) pole needs to attach to the wire so bring a decent length outside the dish.  Again, I doubled up on the wire for better contact.

Put the glass baking dish into the oil pan.  Fill the dish with a diluted mix of sulfuric acid by adding 1 cup of water to each 2 cups of acid.  The picture shows how I re-sealed the dispensing tube.  Basically two scraps of wood and a C-clamp pinching the tube shut.  This is more certain than inserting something into the end of the tube and I never use my C-clamps :)  You can re-use the acid mix so you might plan on having a large plastic container with a screw top and plastic funnel for later.

Place the UNPLUGGED battery charger near-by.  Connect the anode (red) clamp to the wire suspending the part.  Connect the cathode (black) clamp to the wire suspending the paddle of foil.  I used blue tape to tape the leads to the oil pan so the wouldn't move.  I also labeled the parts and paddle with positive and negative in the photo for reference.  If you get this backwards, your part becomes the sacrificial media :)

Set the battery charger to 2A at 12V.  Recheck everything.  Plug in and turn on the charger.  You should immediately see bubbles spewing from the sacrificial foil and some from your part.  Set a timer for 15-20 minutes (these dogs were done in 15 easily).

This picture shows my improved setup for the acid bath connections.  The lengths of angle aluminum span the dish.  The foil paddle has its wires come up and loop the aluminum and the cathode clamps over the wires to the bar for a very solid connection.  Similarly, the anode clamps over the wire from the part.  If you had a tall dish, you could easily suspend the part from this setup.  This one is a winner.

While the anodization proceeds, get a plastic dish and fill it halfway with cold water.

Once done, turn off and UNPLUG the battery charger.  Disconnect the clamps and fish out your parts; drop them into the plastic container of cold water to wash away the residual acid.  Fish them out of here and drop them into the pot of dye.

At this point, you could start anodizing other parts.  You need the part to sit in the dye.  Shake the pot a bit, stir it with a plastic spoon, toss the parts around a bit from time to time.  You should be able to pull the part out to inspect them and see that they have taken on a color and may be a colored film.

What has happened to the parts so far is to build a thick surface of oxidation ("rust") on the surface of the parts.  Unlike common ferrous rust, aluminum rust just looks a little pale and doesn't flake off.  The oxidation layer is very porous so the dye will settle into the pores giving the color.  We need to seal the surface to lock in the color.  The rust collapses when subjected to heat like that found in boiling water.  At this point, you could transfer the parts to a pot of boiling water for a few minutes to seal the surface.  Thing is, some of the dye will leach off before the pores seal. What to do!

What I decided to try on my second attempt was to simply put the sauce pan on a burner and get the dye to boiling.  No color could be leached as it is in the color.  The dye is okay with boiling heat as they directions even state that boiling water is the preferred medium for coloring (cloth in this case).  I brought it to a boil and left them there for 15 minutes.

This is the result hot out of the dye.

I cleaned them up with a little light rubbing with 600 grit wet/dry paper to remove some dots of dye that stuck to the dogs including tiny dots you could feel but not see.  Doesn't change the color, but cleans them.  Careful of the edges as those can be sanded lighter.

Some observations:
  • Black dye likely won't make specs like red did in my case; however it is important to note that the specs only happened on the Qwas dogs that had the protectant.  This could be related.
  • The second time I anodized, it took very little time getting to the point of waiting for the process to complete.  While the parts boiled in dye, I put the rest away.  Very fast process dispite the seemingly long instructions :)
  • The un-anodized aluminum sanded easily; I tried sanding an anodized aluminum part and found it very hard by comparison.  Besides beautifying the part, it makes them much more durable.  If you didn't want the color, but wanted the strength, you could do all this with out the dye; just boil in water.