Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Quick tip: Arbor nut retrieval tool

The theme today seems to be things to do with string. Oh, well. :)

Once in a while, I'm swapping blades on the table saw, and I drop the arbor nut. The Sawstop has a shroud which dumps into a dust collection hose, meaning I have to get under the saw, take stuff apart, and get messy. It's a time waster and a hassle. So, this is a simple tool I made with some mason's twine, a rare earth magnet, and a magnet cup.

String goes through the screw hole, and a knot is tied to keep it attached. Then add the magnet. Holding the other end of the string, drop the magnet in after the nut, and fish it out of the saw. Very easy.

Tying the knot

So, as a result of getting married in October, I had a new safety issue: my wedding band. No wearing rings in the shop! This is something I learned in the Army, because they had safety posters everywhere of a hand with a de-gloved finger. If you're squeamish, don't look any further into the topic. Just take my word on it that you shouldn't wear rings around machinery.

The real problem for me isn't taking the ring off, it's where to keep the ring. If I put it down, sure as hell I'll forget where I put it, leave without it, and never find it again. My solution was simple: I wear a cord around my neck, and when I'm in the shop, I tie the ring to the cord. But there's a simple way to perform this operation without taking the cord off, that never fails to confuse people... and impress them.  So, it's a combination safety tip and party trick.

I took the cord off, for purposes of illustration. But I typically do this while wearing the cord around my neck.

Step one: pull a loop through the ring.

Step two: pull the loop over and around the ring.

Step three: pull down on the ring.

Ta daaaa...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Biesemeyer Fence Micro-Adjust

I love my Biesemeyer fence just as much as the next guy. It's solidly square, reliable, durable, and, well... it's just solid. But I got tired of doing little love taps with a fist, or my knuckles, or slapping it a bit, to try to move it just a smidge, or a hair, or some other nonsensical invented dimension that would work. I really needed a way to do small adjustments. I saw an attempt by Rockler to make a magnetic micro-adjuster, but all the reviews I read said it was junk and worth skipping. So, I did some head scratching, and I'm pretty happy with the solution I came up with.

I already have T-track inlaid into the extension table on both my SawStop, and my Delta contractor saw. I put it in at the recommendation of Jim Tolpin's book, as it helps with saving a fence position. (Bolt a block of wood to the T-track, snugged up against the fence, and you can always move the fence back to that setting.) I've also used the stop block to set measurements for long cross-cuts using a short miter bar. So, I put together this simple adjuster, using some all-thread, 2 wooden blocks, a knob, a threaded brass insert, and a plastic nut... which happens to be included with the packaging for the T-track.

The plastic nut is there to keep from scratching up the fence, but isn't entirely required. A scrap of wood would do. And in some cases, where the fence has to be closer to the blade, I need to use a block of wood to span the gap between adjuster and fence anyway.

The rod is threaded 1/4-20, which is 20 threads per inch. So, one revolution moves the fence 1/20 of an inch. (.05") And 1.25 turns gives 1/16".

The knob has 4 internal ribs and 12 external nubs. 1/20 of an inch, divided by 12 (moving one nub at a time) moves the fence 1/240" (.004") so moving from the peak of a nub to the bottom of the hollow between nubs is ~.002. I'm sure I could get more anal if I wanted to, but .002" is a pretty fine adjustment for a table saw.

Beyond that, if I want to get more precise I'll have to keep my saw blades a lot cleaner.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sjobergs hold down

One of my problems with my bench is that, like many other benches from Sjobergs, it has a skirt, which makes it had to clamp things down to the surface. It's a wide-ish skirt, so I can clamp close to the edge of the bench. But past 3 inches or so, there's a hollow, so my regular F-clamps don't register properly. I thought about flipping the bench over, and simply gluing in a few strips of extra wood. But that means either flipping it with the Emmert still attached, which is heavy, or taking the Emmert off, and it's heavy. And then there's the need to re-drill all of the dog holes, and hoping like hell that the new lamination doesn't cause the top to start warping again. That's the last thing I need... so far, it's been behaving itself. So I broke down the other day and bought the hold-fast that Sjobergs makes for the Elite bench.

I would rather buy a holdfast from Veritas... or from Gramercy, even. I have a couple of Gramercy hold fasts at home, they're great. But the bench has 1" holes, instead of the 3/4" that everyone else seems to like to use.  I suppose I could find someone to custom forge me a set of serious, old-school holdfasts... but that takes much more time and planning than an impulse buy.

The Sjobergs hold down is pretty stout, and the just-under 1" rod is actually solid steel, instead of a plastic filled pipe, like the smaller version they make for their smaller benches. It's pretty clear that the whole unit is designed to be bolted through a thinner surface, hence the flange, and the threads on the bottom. (Though the nut for doing so isn't included, which seems weird to me.) In that context, it makes sense to have the arm slide up and down. But since I'm dropping the thing into a hole in the benchtop, it seems a bit redundant. It works fine, it's just quirky and weird. In the end, it works fine, so whatever.

Either way, it works, which is, I guess, all that's required. I do wish they had used a nice grippy wooden handle, instead of a plastic one, which isn't so grippy. What's the use having such a stout clamp if you can't grip the handle hard enough to really get down on it?

So, as a tool, it works as should be expected. But the design is somehow less than I expected... which is fitting, I guess, since the bench started out the same way.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Shortening the bench

After almost 8 months of living with it, I finally trimmed the bench back to be even with the end of the pattern vise. One of my regular vise operations is to cut something to length with a hand saw, and that, to me, means doing it to the let of the vise. I like my cuts as clean as possible, so starting them 3 or more inches form the vise was really not working out. I was able to do some cuts with the vise at 90 degrees, but it was just... less intuitive. So, I sectioned a couple of inches out. I still need to recess the bolts that hold on the end cap, to protect my saw teeth, but process was a quick one.

It felt a little weird cutting that segment out, given how much other wood has already been removed from that end of the bench. There was a little voice in my head that was wondering if I was slowly but surely going to keep nibbling away at the bench top until there was nothing left. For now, I think I'm done.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Evolving techniques with the Domino

So, I apologize for neglecting this thing. It's been a busy spring, and I've been blessed with some really enjoyable work. The downside is that I've been busy as hell, and haven't really had the time to spend blogging about it.

Here are a few of the highlights of some of the process improvements that I've been working on. 

---Improved Domino technique---

Ron Wenner's Domino plate is great. And it was very useful to clamp the plate directly to the work I was doing. But I found that I had to turn the machine off after every mortise to adjust the clamp. So I drilled and tapped holes for a chunk of T-track to use as a third hand, to hold one end of the clamp in place while I tightened it.

That really helped with clamping more easily, but it revealed one fundamental problem: The marks on the bottom of the tool weren't properly aligned with the actual center of the mortise. Every joint I made was slightly mis-aligned by more than 1/16". I was less than pleased.

The only solution I could come up with, after much head scratching, was to erase and lay out new alignment marks. So I made a test piece to show the discrepancy, and I got out some WD-40, some wet-dry sandpaper, and erased the old marks. I used the test piece to lay out the new lines, and scribed them in pretty deeply. At this point, any discrepancies I have are the result of sloppiness in laying out my markings, which means my errors are now in the 1/64" range, which is much better.

---On using the Emmert---

I can't say enough about the Emmert vise. It's been great for all of the regular things, but the ability to go Horizontal has been huge in conjunction with the Domino.