Saturday, May 26, 2018

Teaching People

Last month, I had the opportunity to help teach a carving club about the scroll saw and how to use one.  There were several members of my club there also assisting.  It was interesting to interact and help people with their questions.  It was an open forum and there was some practice pieces to cut.  I learned a lot and re-evaluated the woodworking class I would like to do next year.  My wife got to learn a little on the scroll saw and may even take it up.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Since I got a Hand Plane

Last year, I decided to purchase a couple of hand planes to help me understand how they worked and to allow me a little more flexibility.  I purchased Lie-Nielson low angle jack plane.  I honestly did not think I would use it as much as I do.  I built a storage cabinet and put it, with my sharpening tools, in the back.  It is a rolling cart, so it is not a big deal to get back there, but it is an extra step.
I am amazed how much I use it and how much easier it has made certain tasks.  Just recently, with making a smaller version of a train, I needed to add a flat to the boiler.  Last time I did this I mounted the dowel to a board and cut it on the table saw.  This time I mounted to the table saw and used the fence as a guide.  With a few passes I had a nice flat on the dowel to glue to.
I was making several cars to donate and I had some re-sawn board that had a warp and twist to it.  I did not think much of it because I was cutting them down to about 2” wide by 8” long.  After roughing out the parts I realized I did not run the board through the planer to clean up the band saw marks.  It probably would not have done well because of the warp and twist in the board.  The parts were now too small to run through the planer.  With a couple of passes on the plane and the boards were flat and ready to be cut out on the scroll saw. 
One of the best things that I did was go to a show and get hands on experience with the planes.  I was shown how to set them up and how to take care of them.  I was shown how to sharpen and what the edge of the blade should look like.  I learned some tricks and what to look for.  Best of all, I felt what a tuned plane should feel like and what to expect when using the tools.

Triton Work Center Table Saw TWX7 Contractor Saw Module

Part of my son’s winnings was the table saw module for the work center.  This was the first piece that I tried out. Overall, not bad.  I have my opinions and I was comparing it to my 20 year old Dewalt contractor’s saw.  I will start out with my issues and move on to the things that I really liked about it.
This saw is meant to be a portable contractor saw.  Triton does a good job on the specs on their website, so I am not going to give all the specs.
Disappointment: The only thing that I really had a problem with was using the riving knife making blind cuts or narrow rips.  The blade guard and anti-kickback pieces can be removed and the riving knife can be lowered.  However the riving knife interferes with the dust port so the blade sticks out about 2” at the interference point.  So I have to take the entire assembly if I want to rip thin stock with my gripper push block.
Concerns: I was ripping a lot of poplar for toys and noticed the quality of cut was getting worse or down right awful.  One reason was the set screw on the fence became loose.  In general, the quality off the saw was worse than what I experience off the Dewalt.  It took more than a few passes with a plane to clean up the saw marks on the edges.  I am still going to remain optimistic and try a new blade rather than the one that came with the saw.  I will continue to adjust to see if I can get a better cut off the saw.
The saw was also a little tricky to install the first time.  It is not a big deal but I thought it was put the pins in the groove and the lower the saw down onto the table.  The motor needs to go in first and then put the pins in the groove.  From a design standpoint, I get it.  It was a “oh the saw doesn’t fit” moment to the realization on how it is supposed to go in.
The fence has two sets of marks on the plastic sight.  One red and one black.  This is because the saw can be set up for both right and left handed users and there is no reduction in capacity depending on how the saw is set up.  That being said,  I had to be very careful that I made sure the same color mark lined up to the mark on the other side.  I did screw that up once.  The other minor concern is the default setting for the sight is all at one end instead of centered.  Not a big deal but could become a problem if I need to adjust.  The fence system is also problematic if slight adjustments need to be made
The throat plate on the saw is beveled into the saw.  This does not great a problem if cutting larger pieces.  It will be a problem doing dust cuts and veneers.  The taper can make small pieces wedge into the blade and get stuck.
Limitations:  This saw does not accommodate for a dado stack and blind cuts are out of the question.  Most contractor saws do not accommodate a dado stack.
Surprises: The fence system was a surprise to me.  I went in very apprehensive to it.  I did not think it was a very good idea to have a fence that can be installed very crooked.  I even cut out strips to the size I was going to cut so that I did not have to measure front and back of the blade.  I stopped using them after two sizes.  The fence system was accurate and worked well.
It was easy to set up and most of the parts came assembled.  It wasn’t awkward to move around and was lighter than I expected.  Adjusting the blade and angle were less cumbersome than I thought.  The handles are a little deeper then I was accustomed to. 
The miter gauge was the best one that I have seen come with a piece of equipment.  I currently own an incra miter gauge and was excited to use it in a t-slot.  The Dewalt does not have a t-slot (at least 20 years ago it did not).  When I saw the miter gauge that came with the saw I was equally excited to try it out.
The assembly instructions are bad.  They are wordless and have multiple steps in one picture.  However their YouTube instructions are amazing and thorough.  They even go through and show adjustments and fine tuning of the product.  Customer service is also very helpful with questions.
Overall Performance: The saw has good power and solid design.  I was please how it worked and for a contractor saw.  I was able to cut several linear feet of both 4/4 and 6/4 poplar.  The setup and changing of rips went smoothly once I trusted the fence system.

I do like the ease of removing the guard and anti-kickback system when it interferes with a cut.  I told my wife that I will leave these on when I can.  The Dewalt guard was a pain to take on and off and ended up in the recycle pile.  

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.