Batch Production

I made some small tablet/phone stands as Christ­mas gifts for fam­i­ly. Though they’re rel­a­tive­ly sim­ple, mak­ing a dozen of the exact same piece required think­ing ahead.

I used a 7′ (-ish) sec­tion of 1x4 poplar from the Home Depot. This was S4S lum­ber, so it was a good piece to start with. I did­n’t have to do any milling (which is good, because I don’t have any real milling tools). I ini­tial­ly cut a few short sec­tions on the miter saw to make a few pro­to­types. I did a few dif­fer­ent slot angles and widths, final­ly land­ing on a 3/8″ at 10°. The through hole is main­ly to help access the home but­ton (or swipe up ges­ture) when the tablet is upright.

For batch­ing out the remain­ing dozen of stands, I need­ed to think through the process to set up repeat­able actions for each step. While the miter saw is per­fect­ly capa­ble of mak­ing repeat­able length cross cuts, I end­ed up just using the table saw in order to reduce my cleanup time (the dust col­lec­tion on my table saw is much bet­ter and I was already going to use it for the slots). 

Cut­ting Down to Length

I then glued up a cou­ple of pieces of scrap to make a jig for drilling out the through hole. This did­n’t work out as well as I hoped and I end­ed up hav­ing to just man­u­al­ly align the holes. Cut­ting them with a forstner bit was at least fast, though. I’ll def­i­nite­ly re-vis­it that drill press jig if I make more.

Next came cut­ting the angled slot, which is the only real­ly tricky part of this project. I set my table saw blade at 10°. Now, it does­n’t mat­ter what table saw blade I use, because no blade can cut a flat bot­tom when angled like that. So I have to cut about 5–6 pass­es and then have some ridges along the bot­tom of the slot. 

Cut­ting 10° Slot

To set the bounds for the edges of the slots, I added a cou­ple of quick clamps on to my table saw fence gage to act as stops. Then I just need­ed to move the fence over just shy of an 1/8th of an inch for each pass until I hit the far stop. I also used my Micro­Jig Grip­per to help hold the pieces. As you can see, the length of the piece between the blade and the fence is more than the width of the piece par­al­lel to the fence. This is gen­er­al­ly not a safe cut, but with such a small piece, it not being a through cut, and using the Grip­per, I felt com­plete­ly com­fort­able mak­ing these cuts. After mak­ing the cuts, I could use a 1/4″ chis­el to clean up the uneven bot­tom of the slots.

Sand­ing Through Grits

Next came sand­ing. I sand­ed each piece through 120, 220, and 400 grit sand­pa­per. As these are very small pieces, I had to hold the piece in one hand and “air” sand it using the ran­dom orbital sander. To say the least, this was exhaust­ing try­ing to hold vibrat­ing pieces togeth­er! I then used my old neme­sis, the disc sander, to sand a cham­fer onto each edge. I set the table at 45° and made a quick pass along each edge. Keep in mind, each of thee blocks has 12 edges and there were a dozen blocks. That’s a long of sand­ing. At least I got through lis­ten­ing to a major­i­ty of my audio­book doing all this recep­tive cut­ting and sanding.

Cham­fer­ing Edges Using the Disc Sander

It’s dur­ing these sort of repet­i­tive actions that it’s very easy to get com­pla­cent, which can lead to injury with pow­er tools. Hav­ing my minor injury at the end of 2019 and then see­ing very com­pe­tent YouTu­bers get hurt, I was very aware of this fact. Even Adam Sav­age has talked about the risk of injury dur­ing these sort of repet­i­tive actions. So I did my best to keep my wits about me and pay atten­tion to every cut and every pass with the sander.

I fin­ished each of these with a cou­ple of coats of spar ure­thane (after stamp­ing the bot­tom of each). I then gave each a quick knock-down sand­ing with a sheet of 400 grit sand paper. The fin­ish is glass-like and should hold up to kitchens, bath­room coun­ters, cof­fee mugs, etc.

By Jason Coleman

Structural engineer and technical content manager Bentley Systems by day. Geeky father and husband all the rest of time.

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