Thursday, January 26, 2012

How to Eliminate Snipe on Lunchbox Planers

Snipe's a dirty word.  In a class of its own: it has 5 letters!

Way long ago, I wrote about reducing snipe on lunchbox planers, but the planer in this video was all installed in a machine stand so the pictures required some imagination.  Tonight, I was replying to someone about how to reduce snipe with a lunchbox planer and realized the planer was in a for-sale pile and available for a last shot at (very very limited) fame!

The popular forum solution to lunchbox snipe is to elevate the two flip-down tables to compensate for the flex that happens in use.  That relies on a little black magic if you ask me... you can't guess the weight of the boards you are planning on running through and with an elevated table, the load is variable as the stock progresses through the planer.  Either that or I can't figure it out.

My solution consists of two feed tables, but their torsion-box construction and how they are used with the planer on an assembly table is the key.  The boxes can also be used in different ways for thin or short stock like box parts or drawer sides.

When I used this system before getting a big industrial planer, I never was concerned with snipe because it just didn't happen even on a set of 12 foot by 1 foot planks I ran through it for a large cabinet on my patio.

If snipe is making you use slightly shorter words to scare neighborhood children, give this a shot; I'm sure you'll like the results.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Some site maintenance... won't be long :)

Tonight I'll be starting a move of my site to a different hosting company; their plans will better allow me to add features like local "non-Blogger" pages, video hosting for iTunes, and maybe a download section if I ever make something worth downloading!  When I originally created the site, I punted and took a blogger recommended host GoDaddy, but I really don't like that company especially in light of the recent SOPA initiatives.

During the migration, projected for just 24 hours, you might experience things that look like the site is down.  If for some reason you really want to browse the blog during this window, it is still ultimately hosted by Blogger at

Thanks! See you on the other side... during the transition, I need to wrap my head around some compound angle stuff so that should be the first video after the move!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Review of Aqua Coat Grain Filler and Festool Granat Sanding Sheets

Well, that qualifies as the longest title I've ever written... :)

Charles Neil gave me a can of Aqua Coat clear grain filler when I was in Tucson with him because he had been watching my sculpted Mahogany vanity series and though it would eliminate all the wet sanding.  At the time, I had only one panel remaining to wet sand so I didn't use the Aqua Coat fearing the panel would look different than the others.

In this review, I used Aqua Coat on an offcut of the vanity and compare it to an equivalent offcut that was wet sanded.  It definitely worked well and at a quarter the labor, possibly less.

While preparing the sample boards, I had a chance to pick up an assortment of Festool Granat hand sanding sheets from Tom Bellemare.  Normally it is sold in huge single-grit boxes, but Tom makes assortments by hand.  I chose the full assortment.  In the video, I compare using the Granat to Mirka hand sanding pads that I've been using for awhile.  Both work very well, but I suspect the Granat will last longer.  If the Granat sampler I had with the RO-90 is any indication, it will last a long time.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Review of Qwas Speed Dogs

I had a chance to use a new product called Qwas Speed Dogs from Steve Adams, the maker of Qwas dogs.  You already know I like Qwas dogs and Qwas rail dogs for use on my MFT table as they allow accurate placement of stock relative to other parts of the table thanks to the CNCed top.  Speed Dogs are a different animal (snicker...): they act like quick hold downs.

I've had them for awhile now, but didn't have a chance to do a review earlier.  These are definitely a hit.  In the video, I'll show you how they are used in a number of scenarios so you can decide for yourself if they solve a need you have in your work flow.  For me, they definitely do and they'll definitely get used in other places, too, like my Moxon vice bench you've seen before (video forthcoming on this modification).  Takes it to 11.

Monday, January 9, 2012

No Comment #1 - Follow-up

VoilĂ , the bombe box I made for my mom in the first "No Comment" build.  If you didn't watch the video yet, well, sorry, that picture is a spoiler for what was built, but it was a fun video to watch.  I thought so, anyway, and the comments were all in line with that.

So the future will see more No Comment builds for smaller projects with the blog posting at least pointing out some techniques you can watch for in the video.

I filmed the video while working on the project; although I say "I just flipped on the camera and worked", there's always a fair amount of time thinking of some angles you want to take and monkeying with the camera and your work pieces to accomplish it.  And the lights, good grief, the lights.  Three tripods in a shop take a surprising amount of space!!  Definitely still impacts your speed on a project.  But it's true that I'd finally hit record and go...

That meant a lot of footage on my iMac for processing.  Would you believe 10 hours 7 minutes and 15 seconds worth of raw footage coming in at 156 Gb.  ...and I didn't import at full resolution!  While a totally worthless statistic these days, that would work out to 111,000 floppy disks... which is a stack as tall as a 173-story sky-scraper (with a 4' antennae on the top :)

...all that reduced to 26 minutes.

The original design came from Charles Neil as part of a Lumberjocks challenge.  All of us in his guild liked it enough to bug him into interrupting the table series going on in order to do this box.  So in December, his  guild members got around 6 hours of video.  That's nuts!  Not complaining :)

I used his guild videos to learn how to make this box; it was the first guild-build of any kind I've built with few modifications.  Loved the results.  If the techniques in the video are familiar to you, you could likely watch it a time or three to draft up a build plan if you wanted to build your own.  If not, the video series that was on the guild is now on a DVD in his store; since the whole Lumberjocks challenge tried to raise money for charity, the sale of this DVD benefits the Wounded Warriors Project charity.

Someone asked me how long the whole build took.  It took about 11-12 hours including the filming, which adds significantly.  That includes finishing since I did the finish as much as possible along the way.  Naturally the "middle-ing" (what I call finishing since it's about the midway point...) takes a fair amount of extended time because you spend 15-20 minutes wiping on a finish then ignoring it for 10 hours.  I only counted the 20 minutes.

Another viewer asked about the tool I used for routing out the recess for the hatch pull.  That's a Foredom rotary tool and a William Ng router base.  Also use his bits since they come with a collar so you can easily set your routing depth and swap between bits and the depth is the same; very nice feature.  This is a pretty new tool for me, but I'm loving it.  Thing is, I picked that pull because my mom would have a very difficult time with the holders in Charles' version (very bad arthritis).  The pull is much easier for her to use, but I got it after I had the panel done.  Loved the precision of the tool: the wood behind the pull's bowl-shaped bottom is less than 1/32" thick.  It was prefinished plus I had wiped some thinned epoxy on the wood earlier in the process.  Actually had to sand the back of the bowl a bit to seat it correctly.  A bit of epoxy on that thin wood on the inside reinforces it.

Bob Kloes sold me some fantastic Tiger Maple for the box; the Walnut I had here in the offcut bin :)  Just tonight a fellow woodworker came over to see the rest of the wood I got from Bob... the 8/4 bird's eye is amazing and it isn't planed yet!  Nice stuff.  I have to re-air dry that board cuz of drool.  I don't normally find stuff like this around here; maybe in your area, selection is better (bravo for you!)

He also has some special boards so call him to see what else he has; I got some Maple with knot inclusions... not something everybody would want, but I definitely wanted it.  Also, for this box, it turns out he has a kit of all the right stock; if doing the cove on the table saw and all the ensuing clean-up turns you off, have Bob run it through his molder for you.

Great project; thanks for putting that together, Charles!

(Extra note: I recently did a blog entry on other uses of the Domino; give it a look again as I've added additional uses like a laptop stand in the shop and using Dominos to hold mirrors in place)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Visual Reminder to Stir

While finishing a project for Christmas, my quart of Arm-R-Seal Satin stopped having a tight fit.  I transferred the finish to a mason jar.  It was very well stirred at the time.  The next day, exactly 24 hours later, this is what the jar looked like:

Remember that non-gloss finishes have flatteners suspended in solution so they need to be stirred.  I knew that, but was surprised at how much separation happened in just 24 hours.  Honestly, after just 12 the division of layers was clearly obvious from a distance.  So remember to stir!

Now, I'm not sure what happened to the quart container and why the lid was no longer sealing tightly.  Might have had something to do with my mallet...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Season of Taking

Now that the Season of Giving is more or less over (marked by the end of free shipping at Lee Valley...), we resume our regularly scheduled Season of Taking.  d'oh!

After typing that, I did a quick pass to the shop to make sure everything was locked up, again.  It's an annoying if healthy paranoia.

Before my day-job company closed between Christmas and New Years, we had a small pizza party and lots of conversation about anything but software.  One discussion stuck in my head: our president had his garage broken into and several custom bikes stolen (as in $1,700 wheels custom).  How they did it, and I'll discuss that below, is strikingly easy to do.  The interesting part is that of the 12 of us there, 4 had this exact same technique used to steal from their garages.  I knew of the technique because two of my neighbors were robbed the exact same way.

Likely your garage right now could be raided with this low-tech technique.

For fun, a few photos...

What you see here is my, er, somebody's shop.  Someone driving by can easily see there's at least $20 of tools in there.  Here's another view:

this is what the would-be thief would see after I close up for the day.

Now that we've seen the obvious, let's list what else these two photos show:

  • the shop completely fills the two-car bay; there will never be a car in there (even if I get a girlfriend... it's a pre-existing condition!)
  • the car is parked in front of the one-car bay.  It's likely the only car otherwise to use the car in the bay, you have to back out the first car to get at the garaged car.  Though the windows on the one-car bay are covered, this reasoning is pretty sound.
  • the guy might be silly enough to have a garage door opener in the car for when he comes back with another sheet of exotic MDF and doesn't want to have to go through the house to open the door.  Someone might find it easier to pop the car door to take the remote, although the tactic I'm gonna describe later is much easier than breaking into a car while owners are home.
  • windows.  The garage door has windows.

Next photo:

this photo tells us:

  • the car is gone.
  • as the car is likely the only car, nobody is home.

How does this ultra-easy break-in happen?  Someone pushes in one of the middle windows (they are held by metal clips; a baseball bat will make a loud noise when it pushes it open, but the 'glass' won't break; it's Lexan).  Nobody needs to crawl in... just reach for this:

Normally there's a pull-cord on the part connecting the door to the top rail.  Pop a middle window and you can easily grab the cord, pull, and you've released the door; lift at your convenience.  I removed the cord as a minimal deterrent; I routinely pop that release with a long clamp head when I install the red-neck A/C unit under the door.

Once inside the garage, they can close the door and watch through the window.  Grab some quick-sale stuff and go.  Worse... how many of you lock the door from the garage to the house?  I dunno if I have that key anymore!

Normally you can lock the garage door from the outside.  Mine could only be locked from outside so it was a major pain to do, plus the "locks" engaged these:

The steel cord went to the lock handle; when you twisted it to unlock the door, it pulled the spring-loaded latch out of the slot in the piece to the right that was attached to the house.  Problem is that if the door wasn't exactly lined up with the slot when you locked it, the tab never fell in the hole.  Silly.  I bet more modern houses have better systems, but a key here is that even if the locking part is better, most still use a steel cord to unlock; if someone pushes in a window, they might be able to use a simple hook to catch the cord, pull up, and unlock the door.  Worth considering even if you don't think you have lots of money in the garage; it isn't what you think the garage contents' value is, it's what the thief thinks.

Better deterrents, besides the obvious of keeping a half-starved Anaconda in your garage include:

Replace the door locks with latches and don't connect them to some goofy-ass knob on the outside of the door (i.e., no steel cords).  This is what I moved to:

I operate it by hand.  Push the rod into the door track to lock, press one of the releases to release the lock.  Someone would have to know that I have this latch and would have to stealthily reach from the window to move the bottom release to the side; not an easy trick.

That's one deterrent and it is quick to lock/unlock.  I also use a padlock in the track:

Uhm, I lock it usually :)  I keep the key very close by so for me to open it from the inside is very convenient.  If you have these locks, you don't need the latch I showed you earlier.  You also only need these on one of the two tracks for the door.

I also have one of these in the shop:

it's just a webcam connected directly to a computer on the second floor.  I haven't yet found something I like yet, but there are many security camera software applications out there.  Since the camera is there anyway for when I stream with woodworker friends ("shop at a distance" :) then I may as well have it record all day long.  It uses a roll-over buffer so I have the past 24 hours recorded at a slower frame rate to conserve disk space.  The monitoring software increases the frame rate when it detects motion.  Some applications allow you to set motion thresholds when it will send you a text message; when you get one, you can remotely access the camera with any browser and see what's going on.  When I find some software I like, I'll write up a post here with some configuration information.

It also wouldn't be a bad idea to occasionally take the video camera and walk the shop; open all the drawers, pan slowly, save the SD chip somewhere.  Makes a claim much easier.

Monday, January 2, 2012

No Comment #1

For a fun, more visual way to start the New Year, I produced this video while preparing a Christmas present for my mom.  I had no time for a regular build video with commentary, technique explanations, and all that, so I thought to make a video of just the "action" parts.  This isn't where my project builds are going; this is just a fun interlude until I start the next project.

The idea is that I don't tell you what I'm building, there is no commentary, no captions, nothing!  Watch as the build goes along and guess what I'm making or, if you're pretty certain what it is, where the part I'm building at that moment will go.

There are things to pick up on as you watch, though.  For example, shaping something with a 1.25" bandsaw blade isn't easy with tight curves, but using the back of the teeth, you can finesse a curve pretty quickly and cleanly so watch for that.  Using MagBlocks as stop blocks on the table saw; watch to see how multiple blocks can be used at the same time as multiple stops.  Using an RS2e quarter-sheet sander for small parts or leveling across parts.

Happy New Year!

(Note: Monday January 9th I'll post a follow-up with more details of this build)