I built the “Basic Mobile Workbench” following Steve Ramsey’s design about two years ago. Having a workbench on wheels ‑along with the a roll-up extension cord in the middle of the garage- really changed the entire way I make anything in the garage shop. But I put some pretty tiny little casters on it, and though it rolled ok, I’d always wanted to improve it. However, since I built it at the height of the table saw, there was not way I could raise. Well, with a new table saw (more to come on that soon), I decided now was a good time to put on some bigger rollers.
I cut off the legs below the cross members using my late father-in-law’s old reciprocating saw. That old Craftsman is crazy powerful and made short work of it. I also cut some support bases out of 3/4″ construction plywood to level out those cuts and give the lag screws something meaty to attach to. The overall effect was to raise the top surface about an inch and it rolls better than ever.
I built an out-board roller support for my dust collection for use with my shop vac. For a cheap project made from scraps, I’m very happy with the results.
I’ve used the same Ridgid shop vac for dust collection for about 16 years. It continues to serve me well, but last year I purchased a Dustopper from Home Depot to use with a 5 gallon bucket in order to collect saw dust and other debris. This saves on the filter, as most of the dust gets deposited in the bucket before it actually gets to the shop vac. This also makes emptying out the waste a lot easier.
Well, in theory, anyway. First of all, there are other cyclonic dust collectors that are for use with shop vacs that no doubt work a bitbetter. This was a cheap (around $25) option and it was lower profile (more on that further down). But it was a huge pain to drag the entire setup around the garage! The hoses kept coming undone. The bucket handle at one point pulled off the bucket. I tried zip ties and ratchet straps, but it just wobbled around and tipped over on me.
A couple of weeks ago I sketched out a rough idea of supporting the bucket dust collection with another caster. A lot of other DIY’ers solve this problem by making a vertically stacking cart, with the dust collection on top. However, I store my shop vac under my work bench and I needed a low profile solution. Also, I felt like I could build a minimal system here and only need to purchase a caster. I also purchased one of those “cut to your own size” shop vac power tool attachments, but it ended up not being nearly rigid enough to make a solid connection.
I used some scrap 3/4″ pine plywood (like construction grade stuff). I measured out the curve of the shop vac body as well as the bucket and cut that to fit the profile.
I propped it up on some other scraps to check the fit, trimming a bit more to fit the curve of the body. I also measured the height from the floor to the bottom of the plywood (about 4 1/4″).
I cut out some scrap MDF pieces to make a riser for the caster. The caster measures 2 1/4″ tall, so I needed about 2″ total. This was two 3/4″ and one 1/2″ thick pieces of MDF, cut down to about 3″ by 3 1/2″. I glued them up and then sanded the edges to clean everything up a bit. I also sanded all the edges of the plywood platform, thinking that will reduce shin splinters in the future.
I then attached the riser to the plywood using 1–5/8″ decking screws. I counter-sunk the screw heads on top, just to keep the surface flat for the bucket.
As I mentioned, I used one of those rubber, cut-to-fit hose attachments. The idea here was that I would nest this into the shop vac attachment storage slot on one of its casters. Then I could screw the attachment to the plywood. I really shouldn’t have bothered. The soft rubber just didn’t give me any confidence that the connection was solid. And the whole platform could wobble too much side to side. So, I grabbed a couple of galvanized metal building clips (basically, a small angle with some pre-drilled holes). I mounted those on the underside of the plywood and screwed a 5/8″ screw on each side into the shop vac body. This may result in some lost suction, but I can always go back and seal off those screw holes with some silicon if so. So far, though, I can’t tell any difference.
Lastly, I took a second bucket and just screwed it down to the plywood. The dust collection bucket can then nest inside this one. It makes for a very solid connection that I can pull on, but also allows the dust collection bucket to swivel. And, the final test: the entire thing easily rolls up under my work bench.
Of course, I promptly pulled the vacuum back out to clean up the garage! It works great. And all for the cost of a 2″ swivel caster. I did blow about $10 dollars on that vacuum connection piece. I may get a more rigid flange connection to replace it, though (Woodcraft has one for about $5). I’m considering also painting the wood pieces gray and black to match the shop vac, which would be an excuse to take it apart and make that connection better.
So, if you happened to read my post last month on injuring myself, you’ll recall I did so because I was hoping to make a box joint jig. A box joint, or as it also known: a finger joint, is a series of overlapping “fingers” along a joint. This style of joinery gives lots of glue surface area as well as shear strength to a corner joint. It’s commonly used for the corners of a box, thus the name.
Well, I did manage to make a first attempt at a jig and made a single joint test. I was hoping to use my standard table saw blade with my sled in lieu of purchasing a dado stack1. The jig is a bit too loose in the cuts and it’s possible my table saw sled is a bit too loose in the miter slots, as well. This combined with some cheaper birch plywood (there are lots of voids and a very thin veneer) resulted in the fingers looking more like a boxer who’d just fought Mike Tyson.
Also, the depth of the cuts were a bit too deep (which is easy to adjust, at least). But gluing up the loose joints was a mess.
I had sort of given up on the experiment as a failure, but I did recently go back and sand the fingers down; this time on purpose (yeah, I get the humor after last month’s incident). The joint still doesn’t look great but it wasn’t as “gap‑y” as it seemed before cleanup. What’s more, I can attest that even as poor as this one looks, it is incredibly strong. It’s not especially pretty, but for some utility boxes, it would definitely serve it’s purpose.
So, this wasn’t a total failure and I did learn a lot from the exercise, including the injury. Which, my fingers have completely healed back, nails and all. As a result of “babying” the left index finger, I did develop tendonitis in my left elbow (which is really the forearm muscles and tendon connection). So, that little incident continues to remind me to be safe!
A dado stack is a pair of blades, often with intermediate spacer/chippers in between which cut out a wider section of material in each pass on a table saw. [↩]
A few years ago when I was considering getting into more “fine” woodworking, there was one project that came to mind: recreating the footstools my grandfather, Cicero, used to make. He was a handy woodworker and built a lot of useful projects1 I know we had two or three of these footstools around the house growing up. I assume my aunts and cousins may have had some, as well. They’re perhaps not a master craftsman project, but let’s not over-estimate my abilities. As my mom put it, though, after about a half century, they’re still in use!
So in 2016 I sat down to carefully draw out the pieces. His were all made from 1″ thick solid pine, but I figured I’d use 3/4″ plywood instead. The legs and sides have a roughly 10° slant such that the base tapers up to give a slight lip all around the top footrest. I also decided to add a handhold to the top of mine (some others of his may have this, but the one that sits in our kitchen does not). On my notes and sketches, I also doodled out a logo that read “Cicero Hand Made Crafts. Est. 2016”. I figured he was the “maker” in my family so I’d honor that by labeling made items with his name.
It took me about a year-and-a-half until I actually got around to making my first footstool. I batched out the pieces on the table saw for two footstools from a 2’x4’ project board of 3/4″ maple plywood. Some of the angle cuts using my cut pattern resulted in a color mis-match in the wood, but this could probably be resolved by buying higher quality plywood in the future. The bandsaw was used for all curves, including cutting the arches in the legs at 10° (so they’re actually level when assembled). I used the drill press and a 1 5/8″ forstner bit to hog out material for the handle (which I then cleaned up with a series of rasps, files, and sandpaper). The disc and belt sander were used to clean up all the edges (with care not to remove any more finger nails). My super-simple router table was used to add a 1/4″ round-over to edges. I then used the random orbital sander to clean everything up.
I used made an assembly jig for the first piece and used pocket holes to attach the legs to the top (something my grandfather didn’t have but he seemed like a practical enough person, he’d have used them if he could have). I attached the side runners to the legs with some counter-sunk wood screws (black). I used a light color wood filler for any ply gaps (or other blemishes). Finally, a generous coat of wipe-on polyurethane was applied for a finish.
I assembled the first footstool as a Christmas gift for my older brother last year and then completed the second footstool as a Christmas gift for my mom this year. The process for building both pieces was a learning curve, so I didn’t really take great photos of either build. These are a mix of both projects (which is why the tops look different). I already have planned out making some additional templates to use with a trim router to help improve the process for future builds. This project is so great because it ends up using almost every power tool I have. But just like every project I try, there is always something new to learn even when I’ve already built the same thing before!
One of which was a long shelf for my dad’s hi-fi system; a gift to his new son-in-law. This later became the platform which our G.I.Joe USS Flag aircraft carrier play set lived! [↩]
I got a hard lesson delivered today while starting a project in the garage this afternoon. I’ll lead in with saying that I’m ok (and will heal up fine in a week or so); only a bit rattled. Let me start with where my head was (and shouldn’t have been) that got me here.
I’ve had on my “To Do” list for 2019 to learn how to make box joints. Well, here we are into December and I’ve not even tried it. I had wanted to spend last Saturday working on it, but I let the weekend get away with me with Thanksgiving and Christmas decorations (which are fine and I was glad to get the time I had with all my family). This evening, I had a Cub Scout event with my son in which I was responsible for bring some audio and video equipment (i.e., our home AV receiver, speakers, and disc player). That ended up taking a lot longer than I had anticipated. But I had an hour to spare so I figured I’d at least get a jump start on my box joint jig, knowing all day Sunday (tomorrow) is going to be busy with other things.
And it’s entirely worth underscoring here: this is all arbitrary pressure I’ve put on myself. Absolutely no one else cares if I figure out how to make box joints ever, let alone today or even this year. But I had convinced myself that I needed to rush through the hour to get the table saw jig set up.
I picked out my backing board and was looking for a piece of scrap that approximately the same thickness as my table saw blade kerf (simply put, that’s the width of the cut that the table saw makes and is fractionally wider than the blade itself). My initial plastic piece for the jig ended up a big loose the backing board, so I wanted to quickly try a different approach. Mind you, the piece I’m trying to cut is less than a 1/4″ thick. So I figured, why not start with a thin off cut and just sand it down to the necessary thickness?
My power sander is a combination of a belt sander and 6″ disc sander. The disc of course will put a twist on any object pushed into it, so a firm grip and just being mindful of one side lifting and the other pushing down is important. I grabbed a long thing piece of scrap and tried sanding it on the disc, not thinking about where my hands would go if (when) it slipped out of my grip. I also failed to put on gloves. You certainly do not wear gloves with some power tools (anything with a circular spinning blade), but they are a good idea with a sander.
Within less than a second of me pushing the wood into the disc, it knocked it right out of my hand and left me pushing my fingers into the sanding disc. Now, in all the power tools I have, if I had to pick one that I was going to injure myself on, it would probably be the power sander. Blades, as you can imagine, can quickly cut into flesh and cause serious injury or death. I cannot imagine sustaining a life-threating injury on a small power sander like mine (though I’m not saying it’s impossible). But at 3600 rpm, 120 grit sandpaper can remove skin and nails quite rapidly. Certainly faster than my reaction time. Before I knew it, my unnecessary rush and lack of thinking about what I was doing caused me to injure my index and middle fingers on my left hand. My middle finger got the skin scraped badly but my index nail is about 1/4″ too short now. And boy howdy is that sensitive skin under there!
Again, it’s nothing serious. I was able to turn off the machine and immediately go treat it myself. My fingers are sore but the nail should grow back. Honestly, it’s the lesson I needed to learn. Power tools are not anything to be in a rush around. Every action with one requires complete focus and attention. I need to always think about how the tool could injure me based on the action the tool makes. Given that I was also using my band saw and table saw today (which, I do take less for granted, to be fair to myself), I’m fortunate that this is the injury I ended up with.
As my kids join me in the shop more, I’ve had to teach them lessons about safety. I’ve even had to warn my son about touching that very sanding disc until it comes to a complete stop (he thought he should stop it spinning one day after I’d killed the power). I even recently watched James Hamilton’s (aka, Stumpy Nubs) video on injuring himself with an angle grinder and remarked on the need to pay attention when I’m working. I firmly believe that the number one most important piece of safety equipment is your brain. Too bad I failed to put that and my gloves on this afternoon. I’ll do my best to take that lesson to heart from now on.
I really make a point to try to learn something new with each maker project I do. Whether it’s a woodworking project, a guitar effect, or some other hobby project, I want to add in at least something new to each one. First, it just keeps things from feeling redundant. But also it helps to expand my skills.
I’ve needed to make a guitar pedal board for a couple of years now. Mostly just to clean up the corner of my office where my amp and effects sit. It’s not like I’m ever going on tour or anything. I figured the metal frame I made in my intro to metalworking class would be fun to use as a basis for a pedal board. Up until now, it’s just been sitting in our garage; leaning against a wall. Of course, the more I started planning, I quickly realized it was really just a decoration around an otherwise wooden stool (albeit a short and slanted stool; that’s really all this is). I had wanted to put a shallow rabbet around the edge of the board so the top of the steel frame would be flush with the wood. I tried using both a router bit and my table saw and both were pretty much complete failures. Oddly enough, the sample board I tried on the router worked fine, but that was with the veneer grain running along the direction of the rabbet. When I tried using parallel grain on the “real” board, it just shredded the veneer. The table saw gave a cleaner cut but was just far less accurate (and wasn’t much cleaner than the router).1
So, I basically just build my pedal board out of 3/4″ plywood to dimensions that I could slide the metal frame over it. The pedals don’t sit entirely flat, but they work fine for my needs still. I still need to get some more Velcro tape to attach them (which would just mainly help allow me to up the power cords underneath). It’s probably a bit too tall to be very practical and I’ll almost certainly replace it at some point. Whether or not I try to include the metal frame is another matter…
I fully attribute both of these failures to my own inexperience. It doesn’t help that I have some very basic setups and things like featherboards, zero clearance inserts, etc. would also help actually accomplish what I had in mind. [↩]
I almost made through August without posting about a project. Then again, I almost made it throughout August without actually completing a project, as well.
I decided to get around to a project I’d been wanting to do for a few years now: a cart for my drill press. This is part of the bigger project to revamp my garage shop and, eventually, clean up the garage as a whole. I started by tearing our an old workbench and putting my bandsaw and power sander on a cart. That bench was also where my drill press resided since I first got it and it had been moved to my main bench (along with all the other junk in my garage it seems). So the idea would be to make a relatively small cart with some drawers and storage for “drill” related items. I’m pretty pleased with how everything turned out, especially since there were a few new skills on this one.
First, I decided I’d model the project in CAD so I could make sure everything fit. I would be making drawers on slides for the first time, so I figured it was important to get the measurements right. I ended up using SketchUp since they have a free version for makers (that runs on the Mac). It’s a pretty nice program and I figured out to model my project as well as generate a cut sheet.
This morning I got to actually cutting and assembling. The cabinet for the cart isn’t especially large, but almost everything was larger than I could actually cut on my table saw. So I had to break down most of the pieces using my circular saw and my homemade track. It’s a more tedious setup and it has the drawback of not being able to make repeat cuts. I managed to make a passably square cabinet carcass. My assembly jigs came in handy getting the carcass together, too. I used pocket holes and glue.
I also followed April Wilkerson’s advice and glued up a double-thick top (1.5″ total of plywood as the entire cabinet is 3/4″ maple plywood) as the drill press is heavy and will cause long-term sagging if not well supported. I differed from her cart as a intentionally had the sides butt onto the top and bottom such that the pocket hole / glue joint isn’t in direct shear from the load. It exposed the pocket holes in the lower cabinet opening, but no one in the garage is going to complain. This also allowed me to place the castor at the very corners of the bottom shelf without concern of the lag screws splitting the sides.
I had an existing piece of 1/4″ birch plywood that I used for the back panel. Before attaching it, I added in the divider which is hidden by the bottom drawer. This goes to add a bit of stability to the cart and also helped in installed the drawers. I used a trim router bit to clean up the 1/4″ back as it was just slightly wider than my 16″ width. The carcass was just a bit off square, but I was able to nudge it just a bit when screwing on the back such that it trued up. That’s where taking some time with the main butt / pocket hole joints paid off.
While the wipe-on poly was curing on the main cabinet, I got to work on the drawers. I used Brad Rodriguez’ general design for the drawers. Once I broke down the 1/2″ birch plywood into two pieces, I could finally batch out the drawer pieces on the table saw. I set up the fence to rip the false fronts and the moved the fence again to rip the 4″ drawer sides. I made sure to place the drawer slides and sides into the cabinet opening to measure for the width. I could then use my cross-cut sled to get my final pieces. Of course for the 1/4″ plywood drawer bottoms, I still needed to use the circular saw. I assembled the drawers with pocket holes (laid out such that they’ll be hidden once in place. You may notice that I didn’t use drawer pulls but went with just notched handles (again, somewhat inspired by April Wilkerson here along with some of our IKEA drawers). This coincidentally allowed me to easily clamp on the false fronts while getting them attached. I used the band saw to cut out the notches and then the power sander just to clean things up and get right up to my lines (and I should add that having those on a cart is also great!).
Getting the drawer slides installed was pretty straight forward, although I managed to get the spacing off some. Nothing critical, just that the slides are at different depths on the top versus bottom drawer. As of right now, the drawers are only held together with the pocket holes and 5/8″ screws for the bottoms. I did this to “dry fit” them as I wasn’t 100% sure they’d fit in the slides (it’s tight to be for sure). If they don’t bind up as I use them, I’ll probably take them back apart and glue them together. I probably would have done so today, but this “small” project ended up taking me over 8 hours so I just swept up the garage and called it a day. The good news is that I had some additional storage to put things away when cleaning up that I didn’t have this morning!
Here are the Sketchup files for the 3D assembly (shown above) as well as my cut sheets. Bear in mind the cut sheet was done for the specific pieces of plywood I had on hand, and won’t necessarily be the most efficient if you have full sheets (or sheets of any other size).
Lastly, these are the soft-close drawer slides I used (Amazon affiliate link). If you use any different slides, you’ll need to take into account the width of those when cutting the drawer pieces. These are exactly 1/2″ on each side, which makes for easy math. I used 18″ length, which allows me to fully extend the drawers.
This is a small project I came up with an evening last week after cleaning up my shop bench some. I’ve always just sat my battery chargers on top of the bench area, but they take up precious space there. After getting another Ryobi quick charger recently, I figured it was time to make a dedicated space for these.
There’s no shortage of shop projects for this same purpose, but it seems that most folks are ok with putting their chargers on a shelf semi-permanently. I figured I would need to occasionally get the chargers off the shelf as well. So I built in a small chase such that the cords won’t interfere with the French cleat system and can easily come out.
The dimensions of this project are very specific to the set of chargers I have (two different Ryobi and a Bosch), as you can see here. However, I’ve posted my set of plans below and it should be easy to change the dimensions for different chargers. Just make sure to account for the power cords!
I used pocket holes to assemble the entire project (edit — which was made entirely from 3/4″ maple veneer plywood I already had on hand from repairing my kid’s bed). 28 pocket holes is a lot for something this small. But with the back split as in this design, I wanted to makes sure it was plenty rigid. I could have glued it up as well, but by the time got it all dry fit, I figured that would be overkill. I can always disassemble it and glue it later. The real trick with this was getting to all those pocket holes. Basically, but the shelf fronts on first and then put the back/sides onto the shelves.
Another small thing that made this little project fun: my table saw sled. I had really been disappointed in using it. I put a decent amount of work into getting it right but it just wasn’t sliding well. I’d sanded the runners down as much as could (more and I figured there be too much slop). I just happened to buy some paste wax today as I’d seen it mentioned in some videos. It really should be stressed more: put paste wax on your table saw sled runners! The sled glides along with very little force now and cross-cuts are a breeze!
So this was a good little project and went off with (almost) no mistakes thanks to putting in some decent planning and taking plenty of measurements of what I wanted to store. I say almost, as the cut-out above the bottom shelf to accommodate the AC adapter was initially cut without accounting for the bottom shelf depth. Another quick pass on the band saw and it fit fine.
In case you can’t quite read those sheets on my rolling workbench, here are my plans for anyone so inclined to build something like this. One potential modification would be to put some handles (either hardware attached to the top of the sides or handholds cut into the sides) and a bungie cord across the front of the lower shelf. That way, with just unplugging one cord, I could take all my chargers with me.
As part of my goals for 2019, I am going to try to write about some of my DIY and maker projects. So, here’s an unexpected one to start off the year…
The other evening, I heard a thud and an “uh-oh” from my 11yo daughter’s room. Turns out, when hopping on to the bed to read that night, the bed rail snapped. The bed rail was made from pressboard, veneered to look like the rest of the furniture (which I think is of slightly higher quality). Our daughter felt terrible about breaking the bed, but in reality it’s a wonder it lasted for the 7 years it did. An average size toddler could break this stuff, let alone an average size 11 yo girl. The pressboard had cracked in two pieces, right through one of the screw holes for holding the slats.
We considered purchasing a new IKEA bed or similar, but she said she really like this bed and would prefer if we could just fix it. Maybe that was partly her still feeling bad for having done it, despite my wife and I assuring her it wasn’t really her fault at all. The only downside to this was that I was going to have to purchase a full size sheet of plywood at the big box store to get the 6′-6″ rails out of them. I normally have the store cut the board along the short dimension, so that it’s less than 7′ long as to fit into my Honda Pilot. However, in hindsight, I should have had them then rip down some strips to make it easier to manage. A 6′-8″ by 4′ sheet of 3/4″ plywood is only slightly easier to manage by yourself than a full size sheet.
I did get to try my hand at edge banding the plywood. Edge banding is a narrow, thin strip of veneer (almost exactly like the surfaces of hardwood plywood) that has a heat-activated glue on the backside. You simply iron-on this to the edge of your cut plywood.1 It’s actually a lot of nice furniture and cabinetry is made and it’s a pretty amazing transformation. Of course, it’s also how a lot of cheap furniture is made, too, but that’s often a plastic veneer rather than actual hardwood. I couldn’t find maple veneer at my big box store, so I took a trip to my local Woodcraft shop. There, I also got a self-centering drill bit. I’d always considered one of those to be for someone who makes a lot of furniture or cabinetry, but it’s worth it to buy some even for DIY’ers like me. It’s a huge timesaver for mounting hardware and really makes the process more accurate.
So, I ripped down the nearly full sheet of plywood on my little band saw. Again, I should have had the store cut this down, because it’s just not easy for one person to do this on even a high-end cabinetry saw, let alone a my small Ryobi2. It resulted in some not-so-straight cuts, but they were good enough for this as I wasn’t jointing anything. I straightened out some of the bend metal slat supports in my machine vice and then got all the screw holes drilled out.
I did a small test piece with the edge banding and tried using one of those spring loaded edge banding trimmers. The banding went on easy, but the trimmer was not so great. It ended up tearing the banding in a lot of places. I still tried using it one the first rail, which was a mistake. When trying to sand everything, the orbital sander grabbed one of those tears and ripped off a huge chunk of the banding. Fortunately, I was able to cut out that piece by re-heating the glue and Angela helped me put on a patch. It ended up looking just fine for our kid’s bed, but I learned my lesson. For the second rail, I simply flipped the piece over and cut along the edge with a box-cutter blade. I then lightly sanded over the corner with a sanding block.
I used a single (though pretty heavy) coat of wipe-on polyurethane for the finish. The final step was to stamp the work and then it was ready for assembly this afternoon. The final clip sliding in to place was so satisfying! The maple matches the furniture, but of course it will have to darken over time with exposure to light to fully match. But, I’m pleased with the final result and I’m confident this will last longer than the original.