Cleaning a Scraper Plane

I acquired a nice Lie-Nielsen scraper plane in a tool swap. I’m the 3rd or 4th owner. It was in great shape except for a little surface rust. While I was in the shop doing a little cleanup from the last several projects, I decided to spend a half hour cleaning it up and getting it ready for use.

The photos below explain the basic process I went through. First, I went about removing the rust with 100-grit sandpaper. I took some care to keep the scratch pattern straight and consistent with the original pattern from the factory’s grinding machines. Then I moved up to 120-grit, finishing up with 400-grit and then a final polish with a green non-woven abrasive cloth, again keeping the scratch pattern consistent. While I was at it, I used the 400-grit paper to polish up the smooth portions of the blade holder.

To clean the accumulation of dust and grime from the inside, painted bed, I removed the tote and knob then used an old toothbrush to get rid of most of the dirt. Where I couldn’t reach with the brush, I used a long cotton swab — you know, the kind you see in jars in doctor’s offices. You can buy a pack of 100 from Grainger (formerly Lab Safety Supply) for about $5 or 1,000 for about $25. I use them a lot. After most of the dirt was brushed away, I wiped out the bed with a rag dampened with WD-40 then re-installed the tote and knob.

For the rougher portions of the brass castings on the blade holder, I scrubbed them with a brass-bristle brush. This removed the grime from the shallow recesses of the castings.

Before installing the blade, I applied a coat of clear paste wax to the bare steel and brass to hopefully stall any more rusting.

Good Rules for Safety

As I was walking through the facilities at Fort Houston, I came across a sign posted on the doorway to the wood shop. My photo didn’t come out very clear, but here’s what it said:


As per the the Metro Fire Marshall, this space must maintain a level of cleanliness to ensure the safety and well being of those occupying this facility. Given the severity of the situation, the following wood shop policies will be enacted and enforced:

  • All work areas must be maintained and free of dust upon completion of task
  • For your convenience a shop vacuum and brooms will be provided
  • Tools must be cleaned after use
  • No wood shall remain in the wood shop
  • Any wood left in the wood shop for more than 24 hours will be disposed of without question
  • If found abusing equipment or not maintaining the shop upon completion of tasks, one is subject to suspension of shop privileges

Now if I can just make myself follow these rules in my own shop. Right now I’m looking at a suspension of shop priveleges.

Ready Safety Posters or You Might Be Missing Something

Kunkel & Son a Hidden Treasure in Nashville

Kunkel & Son Mahogany Door CarvingWhile I was visiting Fort Houston, I was wandering through the old factory/warehouse building and stumbled upon a room that felt like I had stepped back in time about 100 years. Like the wardrobe in “Narnia,” I was in another world. It was a huge wood shop with benches and hand tools all along two walls. The wood floor was covered in sawdust, shavings from hand planes, and chips from carving. There were all sorts of projects in various states of completion from gothic church carvings to modern benches with aluminum butterfly keys.

As I stood there taking in the site of benches and walls loaded with carving and hand tools, an older gentleman steps out from the shadows in the back and asks, “Can I help you?” It was apparent he wasn’t used to visitors in this back corner of a warehouse. I told him I had just stumbled into the room and was admiring his work and tool collection. He immediately pointed out a few of his tools that had belonged to his great grandfather. After asking his permission to snap some photos, we struck up a lively conversation and he proceeded to show me some of his unique projects.

One project was the bench that had been made by his father and carved with his name. Then he stoops down and grabs an odd-looking wood box with a large hole in the top. Turns out it’s a vacuum-assisted carving vise. He picked up an old bowling ball that had a short piece of pipe with a wood block stuck in it. He places the ball on the box, hooks up a vacuum, and clamps his carving to the pipe stem. The vacuum creates a tenacious hold on the bowling ball yet it can be pivoted to any position. Ingenious. Next he had to show me the carving vise he made from an old dentist’s chair. He can elevate the work with a foot pedal. Brilliant.

His son soon came out of the back room and they told me about some of the work they have done, some nationwide for retail stores. Their website shows you some of the more interesting projects they’ve done.

Fort Houston Offers Creative Resources for Artisans

Earlier in August 2013, I had a chance to travel to Nashville, Tennessee. Somewhere about a half hour away from the corner of 5th Avenue and Broadway, buried in an old warehouse district of Nashville, is a place called Fort Houston.

Fort Houston gets its name from its location in the Wedgewood-Houston district of Nashville. The old brick building they call their home used to be a hosiery factory.

Fort Houston was started by a couple of 20-something guys looking for ways to work on projects but lacking the proper equipment to do so. So they started a member-based organization that offers a wide variety of classes and resources for artisans with specific skills. And if you’re an artist willing to teach a class, you get a discount on your monthly membership fee. I was so very impressed with the collaboration and cooperative learning among artists of varying interests.

Here are two of several of the artists I met:

Jonathan Malphrus 

Michael Jones

JET Tools was so impressed with the work going on at Fort Houston, they donated a shop full of tools. Fort Houston also has a print shop and a wide open space for artisans to work on their projects at benches and tables. I can’t do it justice in trying to describe all that Fort Houston is and does. Their website provides a sketchy overview, but I recommend you “like” their facebook page to get a feel for the organization. I wish there were something like this in every city.


JET Tools Targeting a Younger Audience

I had an opportunity recently to visit with JET/Powermatic in Nashville, Tennessee. They introduced a few new tools: Powermatic PM1000 Table SawJET 14″ Steel Frame Band Saw, and soon to come, a 10″ low-speed bench grinder and a couple of new midi lathes.

But what was most interesting was a chat I had with their engineer, Barry. He said that from a design perspective, they’re really paying attention to details and a potential buyer’s first impressions. He reiterated what others in the product design industry have noted: Your decision to buy or not to buy a product is really made within the first few seconds of seeing it.

JET tools are made overseas in Taiwan. Most manufacturers are content to paint the castings their company color right out of the foundry and call it “done.” JET is raising the bar by really paying attention to detail and aesthetics of their products. For example, he said that by simply spending $5 more for a quality metal knob instead of a cheap plastic knob can increase the perceived value of a tool by $100. That’s pretty impressive.

They’re also looking at the overall design and visual appeal of the tools in addition to their function and features. The 14″ band saw pictured here is one example. There are no exposed fasteners as you look at the front of the saw. The doors have pleasing curves rather than the bland square features of other saws. They’re little things but I have to agree that they leave a positive impression of the quality of the tool.

And JET isn’t forgetting about how well the tool works and functions. They’re paying attention to details that make a difference in how the tool performs. One striking example is as simple as the location of the dust ports on the new band saw. They’re located to catch the majority of sawdust before gumming up the tires on the wheels.

Finally, I learned that JET will be targeting a younger audience with its upbeat advertisements. They’re also tweaking the design of the JET logo and will be experimenting with the trademark white paint color. All in all, JET/Powermatic is investing heavily in the woodworking market and I’m very interested to see how they revamp their product lines in the coming months and years.


My Name is Randy and I’m a Messaholic

Hi. My name is Randy and I’m a messaholic. I wish for a support group for guys like me. I’m a professional yet I’m ashamed to let anyone see my shop. I see all of these shops in magazines where everything is spotless and neat.

I can spend two days cleaning and organizing my shop. But within two hours of starting a new project, I can’t find one square foot of space on my benchtop. Why is that? Does anyone else share this problem? If so, have you been able to overcome it? How?

My shop takes up a little more than two thirds of a two-car garage. In that shop I have a table saw, 12″ planer, router table, scroll saw, 14″ band saw, 36″ x 80″ bench (made from an old solid-core door), a 30″ x 72″ woodworking bench with drawers underneath, a 24″ x 48″ cabinet that houses my benchtop radial-arm drill press and mortiser, plus a spindle sander. That’s not to mention all the bits and pieces of this and that strewn about and tucked into every nook and cranny. So even when everything is in it’s place (wherever that may be), it’s still hard to navigate around my shop.

I did make a major step toward a cure for my condition a few years ago. I took a few days to really try hard to find a permanent home for all of the stuff that typically clutters my bench — hand tools, rules, marking tools, power drills and drivers, wood scraps, sanding supplies, and just about anything else you could imagine. It helps tremendously to know where a tool belongs. This way, when you need it, you know exactly where to find it.

That is if you put it back where it belongs the last time you used it. And this is where a lot of my “condition” exhibits itself. When I’m in the middle of a project, I typically don’t take the time to put everything back where it belongs. I figure I’ll need it again soon anyway, so why bother. The problem is, I end up spending time later looking for it amongst the clutter on my benchtop…or drill press table…or router table. That ends up taking longer than if I had taken the time to put it away in the first place.

I’m trying hard to teach myself to take 15 minutes or so at the end of my time in the shop every day to put things back in their proper place. It’s against my nature. Usually I’m tired or frustrated and just want to call it quits for the day.

I know…I should just suck it up and “do the right thing.” I’ll try. Really, I will.

In the meantime, I have to work up the nerve to throw away the 7,259 board feet of scraps I can’t just seem to part with.

So tell me…what’s your secret to keeping your shop clutter-free? Or do you suffer from the same condition?

I’m dying to know. Leave me a comment.

Rockler’s Glue Application Products

About a year ago, I stumbled upon Rockler’s silicone glue brush. At that point, I decided to scrap the cheap acid brushes I had been using. The bristles on the acid brushes are too long so they require a snip of the scissors. But even with that, loose bristles would end up in the glue I was applying to the workpiece.

With the silicone glue brush, the bristles are just the right length and stiffness to lay down the perfect thickness of glue. And the best part is, if I forget to wash out the brush, the dried glue peels right off.

Recently, Rockler introduced the kit you see at left. You’ll have to click on the photo or the link above to appreciate all this kit contains. What I like most is that these accessories fit the Titebond glue bottles. This kit will be on my next Rockler order.



A little maintenance goes a long way

Every once in a while, something goes wrong with one of the machines in the shop. And it usually happens at the worst time…when you need that machine the most.

In a previous post, I talked about routine maintenance on the table saw. This was the first time since I purchased it that I had taken the time to tune it up. The benefit of doing this meant that I learned a lot about the mechanics of my saw. This will help troubleshoot any problems in the future.

The other day, I noticed the quill on my radial drill press was sticking as I was drilling holes. So I had to stop in the middle of my project and spray the quill with a little lubricant. While I was doing that, the collar that holds the depth rod in place let loose and fell off. So I had to reinstall that, as well. There’s not much else that needs attention on a drill press, so after doing these two things, I’m confident it will provide many more months of service without requiring attention. But that doesn’t mean I don’t keep my eyes and ears open for potential problems.

So the key for me is not to let frustration get the best of me when a tool breaks down. I try to take a deep breath and slow down and take the opportunity to learn.

Tool Books and Videos

Get to know the tools in your shop. Find books and videos on power and hand tool and techniques.

Band Saw Books (books)
Band Saw Books (books)
Routing Books and Videos
Routing Books and Videos
Scroll Saw Books
Scroll Saw Books
Table Saw Books
Table Saw Books

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.

Table saw tune-up

I spent about an hour last weekend going over my table saw and giving it its annual tune-up.

Master Plate with Super Bar Master Plate with Super Bar
Tune up your table saw to the peak of perfection…
Master Plate with Super Bar

The first thing I did was use my shop vacuum to remove as much sawdust as I could from the cabinet (it’s a hybrid saw I talked about in this post). One of the minor complaints I have with this saw is its poor dust collection. The airflow isn’t well-directed inside the cabinet so dust seems to build up fast. You can use an air compressor outfitted with a blowgun nozzle to remove dust from hard-to-reach areas.

Once the sawdust was removed I took an old toothbrush and set about cleaning off the gears used to elevate and tilt the blade. I found it helped a lot to remove the insert plate and blade. This way you can get at some of the components from the top. I tilted the blade to 45° and raised/lowered the blade to be able to clean all of the trunnion gear teeth.

Satisfied that I was able to remove as much dirt as I could, it was time to lubricate the gears. The owner’s manual suggests graphite powder or white lithium grease. I didn’t have graphite on hand and I didn’t want to use the grease since it attracts sawdust. So I used the only “dry” lubricant I had, Boeshied T-9. We’ll see how it works over time. The can says it’s okay to use on gears.

My saw has a feature that allows you to adjust the backlash on the blade lowering/raising and tilting mechanisms. I noticed the handwheels do have a little slop in them, so I’ll work on that next time.

The next thing I worked on was checking to see that my miter gauge was 90° to the blade. I hadn’t really checked it since I bought the saw and calibrated it the first time. My cuts were square, so I hadn’t been too concerned about it. But upon checking it with my square, I noted it was off just a bit. So I took the time to reset the 90° stop on the miter gauge.

Next came the rip fence. A quick way to check to make sure it’s parallel to the blade is to snug it up against the blade and tighten it down. Then check for a difference in gaps at the front and rear of the blade. You can also use the miter slot to help you align the fence. Just align one face of the fence with the edge of the miter slot at the front of the saw, then lock down the fence. Check the fence at the rear of the saw to ensure that it’s also aligned with the miter slot. Most fences have a set of screws you can loosen to square up the fence if it’s out of alignment.

The final thing to check is that the blade itself is parallel to the miter slot. For this, you can use a combination square. For the geeks, you can rig up a dial indicator to check this.

Superbar Table Saw Gauge Superbar Table Saw Gauge
Prevents kickback by keeping saws aligned, tuned up and calibrated to with in a thousandth of an inch!..
Superbar Table Saw Gauge

In either case, mark one of the teeth on your saw blade with a permanent marker. Rotate the blade so this tooth is at the front. Check the distance from the miter slot to this tooth. Now rotate the blade so the marked tooth is toward the rear and recheck the distance from the miter slot. If there’s a difference, you’ll want to pull out the owner’s manual and find out how to adjust the trunnion. For most contractor-style and hybrid saws, it means getting underneath, loosening the four bolts that hold the trunnion to the table, tapping the trunnion with a mallet and block of wood, then rechecking the blade alignment. Once that’s done, you can tighten down the bolts. You shouldn’t have to do this very often, if at all. But my experience has shown that if you move the saw a lot, it’s worth checking every so often.

I don’t know about you, but when my car is clean, it seems to run better. Same thing with the table saw. It just takes a little time to make sure you’re getting the most out of your saw.