News, views, tips and techniques


9 March 2017: Patterns for routing. I normally make my patterns from 6mm MDF. This material is relatively cheap, and is flat and stable. Most importantly it is homogeneous and is easy to cut with a bandsaw, jigsaw or scrollsaw. It is also easy to trim with a second-cut file (using a draw-filing technique), sandpaper and sometimes a slice from a sharp chisel. The problem is that most outlets will only sell you a full 2750mm x 1830mm sheet. I stock and sell 685mm x 455mm (1/16th sheet) pieces at R30,00 each. I can often supply other partial sheet sizes and thicknesses – 9mm, 12mm and 16mm.


16 January 2017: Router table push block. My mortice jigs each require three slotted brackets such as shown in photo 1 below. They are made from three layers of 3mm tempered Masonite laminated together. The bulk of the slot is cut away on a bandsaw (photo 2) before trimming on a router table (photo 3). This router table cut is potentially problematic if the bandsaw cut is not well centered. The bit can grab the edge of the slot closest to the fence and drag the bracket forward (climb  cut). This can also happen if the bracket is allowed to move away from the router table fence. A safety JAG is needed. Photos 4 and 5 show the push block I built from scrap 9mm MDF and a couple of 16mm screws. It holds the bracket firmly down on the table and firmly against the fence. It also provides added purchase for the operator's fingers and positions them further away from the bit as the action shot photo 6 shows. Safety is no accident.

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15 January 2017: Bandsaw zero clearance. The insert on my bandsaw table (photo1) has seen better days. Its design doesn't lend itself to replacement with a wooden insert (I'm not a metal worker). When cutting cross-grain I often get breakout on the underside as there is insufficient support for the wood fibres. What is needed is a zero-clearance insert. My solution is shown in photo 2: a piece of 3mm Masonite (could be MDF or plywood) clamped to the table. As seen in photo 3 this provides the necessary support and I get a clean cut. For this job a strip of Masonite is big enough. For other jobs I will use a larger piece: sometimes the size of the table. The easiest way to hold the Masonite in place is a C-clamp or two. If the clamps get in the way I'll attach the Masonite (I guess I should say Evowood - see the 1 January blog entry) with double-sided tape.

Compare the height of my blade guard compared to the 1 January entry below. Safety is no accident.

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ClampingTip

9 January 2017: Clamping tip. If you have enough* clamps alternate 100mm and 75mm (or any two other sizes) clamps as shown in the photograph. The handles don't clash with each other and the clamping operation is a lot less frustrating. I add and tighten the smaller clamps first and then go back and add and tighten the larger clamps.

 * you never have enough clamps

I stock and sell Tork Craft C-clamps. I keep 50mm, 75mm, 100mm and 150mm clamps. There is current a special on 100mm C-clamps. A pack of two is available at 135% the price of a single clamp. Contact me for a quote - click This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 

 


JapaneseJoint

5 January 2017: Traditional Japanese Wood Joinery: I have just come across some fascinating material. The following is extracted from a website that I will introduce in a moment:

Long before screws and metal fastenings became de rigueur, Japanese builders had mastered the art of wood joinery. Using techniques handed down in guilds and families for centuries, Japanese builders would fit wooden beams together without any external fasteners. Buildings would stand for generations, held together with nothing more than tension and friction. While traditional joinery techniques were documented in books and archives, their two-dimensional representations were hard for non-experts to visualize; that is, until recently, when one woodworker decided to bring these techniques back from the dead in GIF form.

To view a series of 18 animated GIFs – click here. How many of these joints could you cut?
Would a router play a role?


PanelGlueUp

3 January 2017: Edge-to-edge gluing: Each time I go to the timber yard the boards seem narrower. Edge-to-edge gluing is a common activity in my workshop. I’m sure it is in yours as well. More rubbish has been written about this subject than any other woodworking topic. A recent exception is the free Woodworking Guild of America video “Tips for Perfect Panel Glue Up”. Click here to view. I agree with every word George Vondriska has to say in this 11-minute video. I envy George’s parallel head clamps. I can teach how to achieve the same flat glue up using cheaper sash clamps.


1 January 2017: Masonite rebranded. Masonite Africa has been acquired by a South African consortium and Masonite will be rebranded as Evowood. Click here for details. I will probably continue to refer to it as Masonite.


BadBandsawPractice

1 January 2017: Safety is no accident: As I get older (I turned 77 last week) I am more concious of the importance of workshop safety. I am aware that my reflexes are not as fast as they were, that my eyesight and hearing have seen and heard better days and that my balance has deteriorated. I believe that woodworking safety is a skill that has to be learnt and honed like any other woodworking skill. Unfortunately the major source of woodworking information, the Internet, pays scant attention to safety. YouTube and other videos can be very misleading and often show total disregard of woodworking safety. To quote Norm Abram (of American TV  fame -  The New Yankee Workshop):

"Unfortunately there is lots of bad information online; some of it is really scary. It's probably not intentional, but I've seen some content that sets up the illusion that you can do whatever you want and get away with it.”  

I recently came across the attached picture on YouTube. The author of the video disregards one of the fundamental rules of bandsaw safety. The gap between the blade guard and the piece of wood being cut is about 50mm. It should be no more than 5mm. I hope he has good medical insurance.



9 October 2016: Inlays. A hand-held router is the perfect tool for doing inlay work. The technique used is pattern routing with a guide bush. The same pattern is used to rout both the recess and a perfectly fitting inlay. For this to work two guide bushes are required that satisfy the following relationship: outside diameter of larger bush minus outside diameter of smaller bush equals twice the diameter of the bit used to do the cutting.

Commercial inlay kits are available. Slide 1 shows the inlay kit for Bosch routers (part # RA1127). The removable brass collar effectively gives two guide bushes and the slide shows how the dimensions of the kit’s components satisfy the relationship given above. Bosch South Africa does not import this accessory. You can purchase one from amazon.com but by the time you have paid shipping and duty it will have cost you more than a Bosch router.

The guide bush shipped with Bosch routers has an outside diameter (OD) of 17mm. I have some 27mm OD Bosch guide bushes for sale at R200,00 each. Add to this a 5mm diameter straight bit (R135,00) and you have an inlay kit at a fraction of the price. This combination works as (27mm – 17mm) / 2 = 5mm.

Slide 2 shows an ellipse pattern, a 3mm deep elliptical recess and a 4mm thick inlay routed with the above combination. Slide 3 shows the inlay after gluing and sanding. The commercial kit is more precise than using two guide bushes. I had to add one layer of masking tape to the 17mm bush to get the fit (no further adjustment needed) seen in Slide 3.

I use these elliptical inlays to hide defects such as knots; bad dings; cigarette burns and incorrectly positioned mortices, biscuit slots and dowel holes. I take more care with grain pattern and colour match than seen in Slide 3. A more general use of the technique is decorative inlays using different shapes and contrasting woods. In order to check the repeatability and the accuracy of the approach I had Michael repeat the exercise with a contrasting inlay – see Slide 4. It occurs to me that this could be used as an accent at the top of a leg or column.


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4 October 2016: A bit of history. When I bought my first router more that 50 years ago tungsten tips were unheard of as were bearing guides. Slide 1 shows one of my early router bits. It is machined from a single piece of steel. The HSS cutting edges were sharp but didn’t stay that way for long. The bit was guided by a pilot which was simply a round stub at the end of the bit. These pilot-guided bits need a very gentle touch. A fraction too much pressure and the edge being routed was scorched. Slide 2 is one of the first tungsten carbide tipped bits I bought. The manufacturers claimed that the bit stayed sharp ten times longer. They also warned that tungsten carbide was very brittle and that the bits had to be carefully handled. No sign of bearings yet – simply a solid pilot. Signs of scorching on the pilot are very evident on this bit. I am not sure when the bit in Slide 3 was manufactured. I couldn’t believe it when I was given this bit: it is stamped (?) from a single piece of 1/16” (1,6mm) steel plate. The shank and the pilot are hollow! Slide 4 is a modern router bit. Quite a difference between Slide 1/Slide 3 and Slide 4!

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12 March 2016: Grain direction. A well known and useful technique is to use your router table as a vertical mini jointer. All that is needed is a hefty straight bit and some shims to offset the out-feed fence by a millimetre or less. I use a 28mm diameter bit with a 38mm cutting edge. If you want to joint thicker wood a 19mm x 50,8mm or 12,7mm x 63,5mm bit is available. Use the largest diameter bit that will give you the required jointing thickness: the larger the diameter the lower the exit angle of the cutter  and the smoother the cut. I typically use 0,3mm or 0,5mm shims. The picture to the right shows a router table set up as a vertical mini jointer. Why did the operator forget all he had learnt about grain direction? He is feeding the piece of wood being jointed with the grain slope pointing the wrong way.

On most router table cuts the piece of wood can only be fed one way: the option to turn it through 180 degrees does not exist. This is probably the reason the operator did not stop to think about grain direction. Think 'jointer' when using a router table this way.

 
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11 March 2016: Extending a router table. My router is mounted off-centre in my router table. It is midway left to right, 400 mm from the front and 200 mm from the back. The maximum distance I can get (when the fence is on the back half of table) from the fence to the centre of the bit is 130mm (Slide 1). I needed to rout a groove in the centre of some 400mm wide panels. If I rotate the fence through 180 degrees and place it on the front of the table I can get a maximum distance of 330 mm. If I do this, however, I have to operate from the back of the table. The problem with this is that I no longer have access to my 'bump off' safety switch. This is not acceptable so I came up with another solution than can be seen in Slide 3 and Slide 4. These two pieces of wood are 250mm x 50mm x 40mm and are held with two 40mm x 5mm screws each. I can now get 240mm from the fence to the middle of the bit. This could, of course, be increased by extending the length of the pieces of wood used. The two extenders shown in Slide 2 are made from a single piece of wood and required accurate cutting of the lap so that hey line up flush with the top of the router table. I made a set for another router table by laminating a piece accurately thicknessed (to the thickness of the router table top) to the holding piece. This was much simpler and highlights one of my woodworking philosophies:

        It is often easier to build it up from two or more pieces than it is to break it down from one piece.

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26 February 2016 (originally published 21 June 2015): Würth respirator. Routing produces a lot of fine dust. MDF is the biggest culprit and this dust contains urea formaldehyde which is a known human carcinogen. The dust mask that Michael and I use is the Würth product shown to the right. It consists of an outer plastic net that has a valve to allow warm, moist air to be expelled. The net is fitted with adjustable elastic straps: not rubber bands attached with staples. Disposable inner liners are easily removed and fitted. The first article number (00899 121 120) is for a pack consisting of a net and 20 disposable liners. The second (00899 121 121) is for a net only: two or more users can share a pack of 20 liners. The prices (as of 26 February 2016) are R235,98 for the former and R41,04 for the latter. Find your nearest Wurth office by clicking here. Note that although these two products are not listed on the website plenty of stock is available.

 
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30 January 2016: Router not needed here. We spent the New Year weekend in a log cabin on a farm near Graskop. The furniture was truly rustic. Slide 1 shows the dresser made from raw packing case timber, all butt joints, nails (no glue) and chicken mesh. I was fascinated by the leather hinges (Slide 2): they worked very well. You certainly don't need a router to cut mortices( recesses) for these hinges.

Most of the hinges you and I use require a recess to be cut and the best way of doing this is by pattern routing. On my pattern routing course I teach two ways of cutting perfect hinge recesses – see Slide 3 and Slide 4.

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24 January 2016: Safe routing of small pieces. I have got a lot of mileage out of the dangerous routing shown in Slide 1 below. A while back I had the need to perform a similar operation: chamfer the arrises of some small wooden knobs - Slide 2. Let me hasten to state that Slide 2 is a posed photo and that the router was never switched on. If I had switched the router on I would have been as guilty of dangerous practice as the operator in Slide 1. Slide 3 shows a simple jig to hold two knobs at a time and Slide 4 shows that chamfering the arrises on the small knobs has become a safe operation. I was lucky: the wooden knobs had a threaded insert and it was easy to attach them to a jig using short M6 bolts. It they were not threaded I would have used double-sided tape. The next time I have to do a similar job I will make the jig out of square of 6mm Perspex and do four knobs at at a time. The see-through Perspex jig will rely less on feel and a square shape will be more stable. On my table routing course I teach a number of tricks for handling small pieces.

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16 January 2016: Gloves and power tools. You may have read my letter to the editor that was published in the November 2015 issue of The Home Handyman magazine concerning the use of gloves with power tools. If you are not a subscriber or missed my letter I reproduce it below:

I am unhappy with the photo published on page 48 of the October 2015 issue of The Home Handyman. It shows a woodworker wearing gloves while operating a bandsaw. The use of gloves while operating a power tool is prohibited in my workshop. The reasons are:

  1. Gloves (be they leather, plastic, rubber or cloth) provide no protection against a circular saw blade, a bandsaw blade, a cut-off wheel, a jointer knife or a router bit. All of these cutters will slice through a glove like a hot knife through butter. The wearing of gloves promotes a false sense of security: this is certainly undesirable.
  2. Gloves reduce the tactile feedback to the operator: a second safety minus. Accurate and safe machining involves all of the human senses. Don’t blunt one of them by wearing gloves.
  3. Gloves can get caught in moving machinery parts and drag the operator’s fingers and hand into a machine. What may have just been a laceration, requiring a few stitches, can turn into broken bones and much worse amputation. Lathes, drill presses and jointers are particularly unsafe when operated while wearing gloves.
  4. If you are unfortunate enough to catch a finger in a spinning bit a clean cut is preferable. You don’t want your orthopaedic surgeon or neurosurgeon to have to dig out fragments of stinky, sweaty leather glove before he can get on with the job of sewing you together again.

The American Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) documentation contains a number of warnings against wearing gloves while operating machinery. Specifically bulletin OSHA 3170-02R (Protecting employees from amputations) contains the following statement:

"Instruct operators not to wear gloves, jewelry, or loose-fitting clothing while operating a band saw and to secure long hair in a net or cap.”

This statement is repeated many times for other woodworking and metalworking machines.


WorstEver

8 January 2016: Router abuse. Today I came across the worst disregard for safety I have ever seen (see attached screen shot taken from a YouTube video). The guy is routing a small round over on aluminium rings. My issue is not that he is routing aluminium – it can be done (with some special considerations). My issue is that he routing with a router laid on its side on a rickety stool. The router is held with three fingers of his left hand. His right hand, plus one finger from his left hand, is holding and feeding an aluminium ring (65mm OD, 40mm ID) against the bearing of a 2,5mm round over bit.

Does he think the glove makes the operation safe? Is the cat waiting for some titbits of minced finger?