El Salvador Trip 2013 — Part 3

I’m headed to El Salvador in a couple of weeks to help local craftsmen. I’ll be teaching them how to use a router and router table donated by Kreg Tool Company. Most of these craftsmen have never used a router, so I’ll have to start with the basics. I’ll be presenting two, 2-day seminars at two separate locations with 6 to 8 craftsmen in attendance at each one.

In preparation for the seminar, I was trying to come up with a project we could build during the seminar that would cover basic routing techniques. I played around with a design in SketchUp and came up with this Shaker-style wall shelf:

It incorporates routing edge profiles with roundover bits. And I’ll be talking about routing out the shape of the ends of the shelf using a template. I’ll also talk about joinery options for cutting rabbet and dado joints. I intend to present options for joinery since we’ll have access to Kreg pocket hole jigs.

In order to test my ideas, I made a couple of samples. One is made from inexpensive poplar. I hope to be able to disassemble it and take it with me on my trip to show as a demo. The other sample is made from Lyptus and finished with a coat of boiled linseed oil.

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SketchUp on Windows 8 Tablet

SketchUp on Windows 8 Tablet
Sketchup on an Acer 8″ Windows 8 Tablet

I recently had the opportunity to try using SketchUp on an Acer Iconia 8″ Tablet. You can install standard Windows applications on this tablet. What you see on the left is screen capture on the tablet of a SketchUp model I downloaded from ShopNotes magazine. The user interface in SketchUp was designed for use with a mouse so I was curious to see how it behaved on the Windows 8 tablet interface.

I was disappointed to find out that SketchUp ignores the Windows 8 tablet right-click function (press and hold). Since the use of context menus via right-clicking is critical for efficient SketchUp use, you’re pretty much limited to the native, default tool functions. I also discovered that using my large fingers for drawing functions was pretty frustrating. So I switched to using a capacitive stylus which gave me much more control of precise cursor movement. But I still wasn’t able to access the context menus normally available by right-clicking.

I quickly learned that to be as productive on the tablet as I am on my laptop or desktop PC, I need to use a mouse. Since I didn’t have a bluetooth mouse, a USB mouse worked great. (You’ll need an adapter to convert from the micro USB port on the tablet to a standard USB port.) I felt more at home using the mouse.

But there was still the issue of using the keyboard for input into the Value Control Box. Using the popup Windows 8 keyboard didn’t seem to work for me. Fortunately, Acer makes a bluetooth keyboard that also serves as a stand for the tablet. It’s a $60 option, but if you want to do any serious typing while sitting at a coffee shop or at home, it’s the way to go. With the keyboard connected, entering values was a cinch. The setup I use for serious SketchUp modeling while on the go is shown in the right photo.

Hardware setup for using SketchUp on a tablet
Hardware setup for using SketchUp on a tablet

There was one other annoying thing I noticed when using SketchUp on the tablet. When drawing objects, it leaves ghost images trailing the mouse movement. As soon as you change views by zooming or orbiting, the artifacts disappear, but they can still be a little bothersome.

Overall, I was thrilled to have an option for using SketchUp on the road. It’s great for showing clients your and their design ideas in real time. Or if you’re just killing time at the local coffee shop, it’s a great way to “sketch up” some new designs of your own.




Reconfiguring my router table

Back in 1982 I was a newlywed and setting up a shop in the basement of our first home. My income wasn’t all that great, so I was on a tight budget.

At that point in time, I was a subscriber to Woodsmith magazine. In issues 20 and 22 of that year they published plans for a router table and stand. I don’t have a photo, but I drew up a SketchUp model you can see and download here:

It’s made from a few 2×4’s, ¾” plywood, and hardboard. It has served me well all these years.

Some time ago, I added a new 1″-thick laminated top to the router table. I didn’t even bother to remove the old top. But lately, the clear acrylic insert plate was showing signs of sagging.

So I decided it was time to give this old router table a little more attention. I started by removing both tops and discarding the original top. Next, I cut out the recess to fit a larger Kreg insert plate. I used Kreg’s insert plate levelers. They’re easy to install and it means I don’t need to create a rabbeted opening for the insert plate.

With the insert plate fitted, I turned the top upside down and added a 3″-wide apron at the front and back. Finally, I added a short rail at each end to engage the top of the legs of the router table base. I redrilled pilot holes and installed the original lag screws to hold the top in place.

Now I’m back in business and will find out soon how much of an improvement this will be over my old setup.

The passing of a computer pioneer and woodworker

If you appreciate the history of woodworking, you know that computers and woodworking haven’t coexisted until recently. In a former career, I was a computer geek. I got paid to teach and consult with others about how to maximize their productivity with CAD (Computer-Aided Drafting/Design) applications, specifically AutoCAD.

When I first learned CAD software back in the 1980’s I immediately started to put it to use designing woodworking projects. I would produce working drawings that I could take to the shop.

My career changed directions as I become an editor for Woodsmith and ShopNotes magazines, but I still dabble with CAD software, primarily Google’s SketchUp.

So, it was with interest and sadness that I read about the passing of one of the early pioneers of the personal computer as we know it. Dr. H. Edward Roberts was the inventor of the Altair computer. And he was a mentor to none other than Bill Gates, cofounder of Microsoft. What I found most interesting was that Dr. Edwards never lost his love for tinkering and was an accomplished woodworker.

Who says woodworking and computers don’t mix.

Here’s the article in The New York Times. It’s worth reading just for the historical information.

Design your own furniture using SketchUp

Those who know me at all know that I’m a big fan of SketchUp. It’s a free, powerful, and easy-to-use software program that lets you design in three dimensions. You can see some of the models I’ve created by clicking here. I’ve also created a most of the SketchUp models you can download as Online Extras for ShopNotes magazine.

There’s a blog (knockoffwood.blogspot.com) I ran across that uses SketchUp to create free plans of “knock-off” furniture. Ana White takes her ideas from Pottery Barn and other catalogs and creates plans so that you can recreate the same style in your garage or basement workshop. And she uses SketchUp to generate the plans. Go take a peek at what she’s done.

And if you find something you like, let me know and I can build it for you! Just use the contact form and we’ll see what we can do.