Friday, April 6, 2018

Wen Drill Press

 A spring on my drill press broke a couple of weeks ago.  I was hoping that I could replace it.  It would have been an inexpensive part with a little bit of difficulty to replace.  However, the part is no longer stocked and cannot be replaced.  I thought I would just deal with it.  I quickly learned it is not smart to use a drill press where the chuck lowers by itself.  It makes adjustment difficult and setting the depth stop even harder.  Not to mention it is not very safe.

I really wanted to upgrade but could not justify it.  While looking online I found several that would work.  The WEN 10 drill press at Home Depot stood out.  Not because some of the new features that my old one did not have but because of the spindle travel.  It was 2 ½” while all the similar drill presses were 2 3/8”.  I know it is only 1/8” but that makes a big deal when a lot of my toy chassis are 2 ½”.  The other neat features include laser cross hairs and an LED light.  Not something I was looking for but a nice to have.

The drill press shipped to my house quickly and was undamaged which was a good thing.  The laser cross hairs line up with the hole.  They become a “V” when a drill bit is put in them.  It is also fairly accurate. The LED light worked.  At first, I was frustrated the LED light did not have an on/off switch.  I found it a couple of days later.  I was impressed how quite the machine was wen used.

Overall it was a good purchase.  We will see how long this drill press lasts.  The last one was almost 15 years.  No complaints from me except for the timing.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Arrow of Light

I was asked a little while ago to produce some Arrow of Light plaques for a local cub pack.  I thought about many the different ways and styles I could use.  There was scrolling out the image.  I also thought about making a template and routing it out.  Then my laziness kicked in and decided to go the easer way, CNC. 
I have access to a CNC router and since I was making 4 of them it would be a fast way to batch them out.  Programing proved to be a little more challenging than I thought.  By programing I mean drawing it up.  For some reason I could not get the parts to constrain correctly and it kept failing to constrain.  Once the drawing was done to my satisfaction the importing into the machine was relatively easy.  One test sample and then four more were completed in about 20 minutes. 

The painting is something that I have done before.  It is paint slightly over the lines and then sand it off.  There is a coat of shellac and that is it.  Sometimes it is nice to have a quick project even if the drawing part was a pain.  In the end I learned more about the drawing program and how to import a drawing into the machine.  Usually I just program the machine.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

DeWalt Scroll Saw

So my scroll saw took a dive.  Looking online, it appears that the bearings are going bad.  I noticed that it was getting more difficult to cut and there seemed to be a lot of vibration in the blade.  Then I just started breaking blades. So I decided to buy a new scroll saw.  I have had the saw for about ten years.  It has done well with moderate use.  I looked at upgrading.  I have heard a lot about Hawk and Seyco brands.  They are about double the cost of the DeWalt and I am told they are “better”.  In the end, I decided to buy another DeWalt.
I have watched someone working on a hawk and thought the table was small.  I also watched them struggle with the blade change.  When looking at the Seyco saw, they all seemed to have an attached base.  Their latest model features a digital angle gauge that I really liked the concept.  Here are the some of the reasons I went back to DeWalt:
Portability – I have a garage shop and I move the tools out of the way to park a car.  The ability to move them is important to me.  I did not want to it tied to a stand.  However it is 67 lbs and is heavy to move around.  The lack of stand allows me to take it to shows and venues.
Blade changes – It is two thumb screws to change out the blade.  No allen wrenches or special tools that I need to take with me or remember where I put them.  The DeWalt also allows for bottom and top feed for inside cuts.
Price – This is a big factor.  The DeWalt has a large table and a 20” throat depth.  I have not heard that they are comparable to the top of the line saws. 
I looked into the digital angle gauge on the Seyco that I liked and found out that I can buy the gauge on amazon.  Although there was a pull for it, there are ways to work around and add features to the DeWalt.  This saw lasted me 10 years before the bearing went out.  The saw lasted a long time.  I have no complaints that it wore out.
I am also going to admit that there are some short comings to the DeWalt scroll saw.  The blower on it breaks really easily.  The set screws that hold the blade against the thumb screws need to be adjusted from time to time.  The tension dial will also come loose on occasion and need to be retightened.

Overall I was happy with my last saw and do plan on repairing it.  This way I have a backup and I can teach with the other one.

Lego Banks

This year our family plans to take the kids to Lego Land.  To continue to reinforce good behavior and some responsibility for this trip, I made them banks.  They are shaped as Lego bricks and made from scrap wood.  I purposely did not put a noticeable plug to get the money out.  The bottom is not glued in, but the joints are tight enough it is very difficult to take them off.  The kids loved them and they are excited to put money in them.

I did make parts for 6 of them.  The other three will have coin bank plugs and the paint will be a little nicer.  I will be selling them when they are complete.  I think they came out well for a weekend project.  I would probably use poplar dowels for the pegs instead of oak if I make more.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Photocopy Rubbings

So I tried to do a photocopy rubbing on the wood chest of drawers that we purchased for my son.  He is a big Harry Potter fan so I wanted to do one of the Hogwarts crest and one of the Gryffindor crest.  The Hogwarts was in color while the Gryffindor was in black and white.  Looking online they suggest lacquer thinner or acetone.  I purchased lacquer thinner and I had denatured alcohol at home.

My results were, denatured alcohol does nothing.  Lacquer thinner worked a little bit but it was tough to rub out.  I still need to try acetone to see how that works.  The color did not work at all.  I might try the wax paper and inkjet printer if I want to try color again.  If you want to find out more, there is plenty of information on YouTube.  As things work I will continue to update.

Build and Grow

So I tried a build and grow series.  It did not go down in flames but I realized really quickly that I was not going to mass produce them.  It is a pain to line up all the nail holes and predrill everything out.  I understand a little more what it takes to make the build and grow projects.  I would not be able to compete with the product already on the shelf.  I was not a total waste of time though.  Here are some of the key things that I did and learned.

I wanted to make three sets of each.  I created a parts list and listed out all the rips that needed by thickness and totaled how much I would need in each rip.  Sounds difficult but excel and pivot tables make it very easy.  Each piece was cut to the correct length before I even started putting the pieces together.  If my cuts were off then it would not go together.  It was interesting how little lumber it took to make fifteen of these cars.

      Planning and design was also a factor in making these.  I needed to make sure that kids would be able to put them together.  In the end kids are not putting them together because I don’t want to drill all the pilot holes.  I had to think about where the nails would go and could they be pounded in in the location they were in.  There were a couple of instances in the design where I had nails running into each other.

      I used experiences and job knowledge to make these cars more production friendly.  A little note about my work, I work for a cabinet manufacturer.  I did not want to mix my hobby with work which is one of the main reasons I make toys not cabinets.  The cabinets we build are good quality for the price and I would and have put them in my home.  However, I build to a higher quality in personal projects.  So I have tried to keep work and hobby separate as much as possible.  My goal was to produce a fair amount of them and it still is.  When looking at the break down of parts I noticed I had several rips that were an 1/8” apart and all were short lengths.  So I went back through my designs and reduced the amount of rips by a third.  This meant less table saw set ups and longer lineal strips to cut parts out of.

      The last thing that I learned is that I need to follow my plans as well as pay attention to test before drilling everything.  The first front end loader’s shovel is not flat to the ground because I did not put the holes in the correct location.  I thought they were the same as the bulldozer.  The biggest mistake was with the fire truck.  I marked and drill all the holes using the wrong drill bit.  I used 7/32” bit.  I could not fix them and had to remake all of them.  I had to remark and drill 36 holes.

The plan is still to make a lot of them.  I am going back to glue and dowels.  The nice thing is that my kids should be old enough to help me assemble them.  That is what I am looking forward to.

Thursday, February 1, 2018


I think that people either love Ikea for the product that they make or they hate it because they see it as temporary and cheap.  I started building furniture because I did not want the cheap furniture that was in the stores at the time.  Over time I have developed a respect for their business and the product they bring to the market.  Here are a couple of things that I have grown to respect and they might be surprising coming from a woodworker.

Quality – Ikea is consistent.  Their product looks decent for the price.  When I buy something from them I know what I am going to get.  I know where they have used a cheaper part to cut cost.  I know that I am not spending money on the parts that are going to be immediately thrown away; packaging, instructions, guides.

Cost – They have gone to great lengths to cut out cost.  I know that I am not going to get it anywhere cheaper for the quality that I am receiving.  Even the items that are not furniture related.  I remember when coating the scrap blocks to give away, butcher block oil was expensive.  Then walking through Ikea, I found it for a quarter of the cost and double the size. 

Convenience – If you don’t live near one it is not all that convenient.  I have found I will cost compare what it will cost me and what I can get at Ikea.  I now look at projects and ask a couple of questions.  The first is do I want to make it?  How long does it need to last? And how much is it going to cost me to make verses buy?  Here are a couple of examples.  We were looking for a smaller bookshelf in for the family room.  It was a temporary item because we hope to buy a home sometime (not soon).  It was an easy choice to buy a $25 unit than make a $50 one for a couple more inches and better joinery that would take 2-3 weekends.  

Minimal Risk – I know that I am not going to have Ikea furniture forever.  I figure it will last 3-5 years depending on the use.  I do not plan on moving with it.  If it works great if it does not make it so it does.  I don’t have a problem experimenting with their stuff.  Recently we purchased a dresser for my oldest.  I was looking online at taking prints and rubbing them on wood.  I used this furniture as an experiment piece.  Color came out bad black and white did all right.  I was not thrill but my oldest was happy.  I would never try something like this on something I had made.

I have a respect for what Ikea offers and value revere them has a great business.  They set the standard for RTA cabinetry and have a great design and marketing group.  I see them as a valuable source of information and ideas.  Just for the record I do glue in the wood dowels even though they say I don’t have to.