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Category: Workshop

Simple Boom Arm for your Equipment

This boom arm is a great addition to any shop! It is easy to make from scrap pieces, preferably plywood (but you can get away with virtually any kind of wood if you adapt the dimensions a little). Have things within reach without cluttering up your work space with stands or such.

Let me know what you think, and remember to share – and to be Inspired!

Table Saw – Tool Basics

The table saw is the centerpiece of most woodworking shops, at least in the opinion of many table saw owners. There are many things you can do with it, and if you are doing furniture on a regular basis there is probably no reasonable way to avoid getting one.

Welcome to the second article in the Tool Basics series. If you have not done so already, check out the first one about general thoughts on tools here, or dive right into what the table saw can do “out of the box” below.

Tool Basics – If I had the tools…

Welcome to Tool Basics, the series about what your tools can do – and what you can do with your tools. If you watch some of the more prominent makers doing their thing on YouTube (or elsewhere for that matter), you are bound to find comments along the lines of “I could do that if I had their fancy tools” or “I could do that if I had tools worth my weight in Atium” (which, if you are not familiar with the Mistborn novels, is a lot of money).

Of course, the usual and true answer to that question would be that it is not the tools that make them good but their skills, creativity, and ingenuity. If you cannot hit a nail if your life depended on it, a gold-plated hammer will not do you much good. Then again, a laser-guided CNC-hammer, on the other hand… But I digress.

Now the question is, could there be more to it? Could it be simple lack of experience that prompts such comments? Maybe people assume a “high horse” situation when they see things done with tools when they are not familiar with what these tools can actually accomplish in the hands of a skilled operator and thus think it is a matter of cost and quality.


Enter Tool Basics

Thus was born the idea for the Tool Basics guide (or series). While this article covers the very basics when it comes to how to think about tools and their price, the upcoming ones will show you in detail what the various tools are capable of – both out of the box and with homemade jigs and fixtures. Whenever possible, I will link to videos or articles that go into more detail or show you how to do something the right way.

A word of caution, though – take everything you find here with a grain of salt. You and what you feel comfortable with should always be the first line of defense against doing something stupid with any tool. And with tools that have sharp edges traveling at high speed, it is your responsibility to stay safe.



A Note on Tool Cost

Before we begin, let us acknowledge that quality does have a role to play here. There are cheap tools and expensive ones, and there are low-quality tools and those of superb craftsmanship. While the two often go hand in hand – cheap tool equals low quality – the following point cannot be stressed enough. A huge price tag does not make a good tool. While you generally get the quality you pay for, that does not mean that a cheap tool cannot do what you need it to do.

So Tool Basics starts with this. You get what you pay for, so pay only for what you need. How often you are going to need that tool heavily factors into it, as well as the budget you have to begin with. If you are making a living with these tools you will probably want better quality tools than the hobbyist looking to do small repairs around the house. Especially since tools geared towards professionals also tend to come with benefits that are not actually a physical part of the product, such as extended warranties and better customer support. For the sake of Tool Basics, we will leave these out entirely.

Look at it this way. If you need to drill one hole a week, buying a drill for a thousand bucks will come down to a per-hole cost of roughly 20 bucks after one year. Buy a cheap drill for 50 bucks, and after one year you will have paid 1 buck per hole. I know things tend to be more complicated, but this is a good way to start. Of course, the point could be made that a cheap tool will not last you as long. But if you could drill a hundred thousand holes with the expensive drill, and only a thousand with the cheap one, you would notice the difference after about 20 years in the given example.

Also, you can find expensive tools used in various places on the internet. If you can afford to wait, you will eventually find the bargain you were looking for. Old tools, too, can be a treat if they are still working or you can put them back into working condition. Because we all know they don’t make ’em like they used to.


A Note on Consumables/Blades

In most cases, tools are but one part of the equation. They use consumables in one form or another, and most of the time, their quality has more influence on the final result than the actual tool itself. We are talking about saw blades, drill bits, sandpaper or carbide inserts. These are the parts that actually do the work on the material.

As a rule of thumb, the consumables that come with a tool are of lower quality than the tool itself. So you can get a boost out of it by investing in something better. That being said, there are high-end consumables that cost more than low- to medium-range tools themselves.

So what is better, a low-prize saw with a high-quality blade or a high-quality saw with a low-quality blade? In this particular case, I would go for the better blade, mainly because that is what comes in contact with the wood and makes the cut.

But this comparison does not consider one thing – what you actually want to do with it. A great blade is wasted if you only cut a 2×4 every other month, while daily use would wear down a cheap blade in no time. In the end, you are paying for quality in consumables more than you are with the tool itself.

And another point to consider. Would you buy a high-end car and run it on the cheapest fuel? Or would you expect your hand-me-down junker to go that much faster if you feed the engine with that expensive premium stuff? The answer is probably no in both cases.


A Note on Tool Safety

Safety is important because we all want to keep doing what we are doing tomorrow and in a week, a month or a year. Nobody cares for losing a finger, taking a splinter in the eye, or breathing issues caused by fine dust. But we are responsible for our own safety. Hence, safety features or instructions will not be a part of Tool Basics. I will mention it if and when I deem it appropriate regarding the operation of a specific technique, but the rest is up to you!

Adhering to a manufacturer’s safety guidelines, and making sure that all the safety gear is in place and being used, is your responsibility. And if you think that one of the jigs I am showcasing is unsafe – do not use it. That you can do this awesome and dangerous thing on that tool does not mean that you should, and if you do, the consequences are yours to deal with.

And as an aside to this aside, consider that safety is in part a function of quality and the features a tool comes with. These features might not have a direct part in your productivity, but they are meant to keep you productive for a while longer.


Moving forward with Tool Basics

Thanks for checking out this first part of the Tool Basics series. In upcoming articles, I will look at specific tools and give you the most complete rundown of what they can do possible. That being said, I could use your help in making this guide even more comprehensive and helpful for everyone. If I missed anything regarding any of the tools I have already covered, please let me know. And if you come across something that is just plain awesome, I would love for you to share it with me as well.

So make sure to subscribe to my newsletter so you do not miss the next installment of Tool Basics! And remember to be Inspired!

Storage Boxes from Scrap – Quick & Dirty

Today I share with you a technique to make multi-compartment trays or even shadow boxes from scrap pieces. With a slight modification, you can also make single storage boxes in large numbers for all your shop organization needs. And if you go that extra mile, you can turn what starts out as a shop project into something beautiful, too!.

You can find more information on determining the sizes required below! If you found this video valuable please share it with as many people as you can find! Thanks for watching, and be Inspired!

How do dimension Storage Boxes

Two things determine the dimension of what storage boxes you can (and should) make. One is the size of your scrap pieces, the other is what you actually want to store in them.

There is no way to influence the size of your scrap pieces (or possibly new stock you might be willing to use). So let us look at how to get from the desired size of the compartment to the actual measurements of the pieces. I drew up this sketch. You need the three dimensions of the desired size (yellow) and the thickness of your stock.

Keep in mind that you can (and should) double and triple C as many times as your stock allows. Do not forget to add the kerf-width as well. You will need to true them up later anyway, so you might as well cut them up then.

dimensions for the storage boxes

How to easily get the measurements you need from the compartment size you want.

What are the limits?

The main limits to what you can make are your clamps and the size of stock you have on hand. The tray design should keep things stable enough for most purposes and sizes. If you want to go really big, I recommend using thicker stock than I did or glue the whole tray onto a board large enough.

If you use this technique to make your own storage boxes or trays, I would love if you took pictures and sent them to me. Thank you for stopping by! And as always, remember to be Inspired!

Improvised Thickness Sander – Quick & Dirty

In a project I was working on (the tintin rocket) I had to flatten some segmented rings. I ended up using the thickness sander method I am showing you here, using a spindle sander or a sanding drum. I hope you find it useful and share it with your friends! Enjoy, and remember to be Inspired!

Ways to improve your thickness sander further

One major problem with this kind of sanding is that it is easy to push the piece faster than the sanding drum can remove material. Forcing it can cause the sandpaper to overheat and clog up with sawdust, which will in turn make it even harder to remove material – and ruin the sanding sleeve quickly. It can also cause deflection by pushing the axis out of alignment, resulting in skewed pieces.

The best way to avoid both problems is to take it slow. If it requires force to push a piece through, back off. Turn the screw back a notch and try again. Taking 10 light passes will get you better results than 2 heavy ones, and in the end it will not take you that much more time.

And while we are talking sandpaper, here is a neat trick to clean used sandpaper to make it last longer, and it works for any kind of sanding implement as well.


What not to do

You probably noticed already that you should always put in pieces against the rotation of the drum. Otherwise, your thickness sander turns into a workpiece accellerator, which means you either get shot at by your tool or have to play fetch every time you let go of your workpiece.

The same applies if for some reason you get the idea to use your belt sander for this, which is something I would not recommend. Although it is probably possiblbe with the right amount of care and accuracy.

Want more Dirty quick?

Have a look at my other Quick & Dirty projects for more inspiration and simple ideas in the workshop.

Thanks for stopping by, and remember to be Inspired!


Lathe Shavings – Gotta Catch Them All! (Fail?)

Dust collection is a big topic in the shop these days, and so it should be. But some tools do not play well with a dust collector, and the lathe is on the top of that list with all those pesky shavings flying this way and that. So I came up with a solution that did not quite live up to my expectations, but even though I stopped using it, I give you – the lathe shroud. Let me know if you find some use for this in your shop! And as always, remember to be Inspired!

Air Blow Gun Holder – Quick & Dirty

An air blower gun paired with a compressor in your shop is a great way to remove dust and debris, be it from a workpiece or a workbench. But while the looped hoses that are available offer some advantages, mostly in terms of reach, tidyness is not one of them. Fix that with a simple holder that allows you to put the loops in their place. And on top of that this can be made from scraps and in very little time. Enjoy, and remember to be Inspired!

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Paint Fake Grain – With an old Gimmick

Ever thought, this piece could do with a bit more grain? Or, why is there no tree with a lilac-green grain pattern? Fear not, for there is a way! And yes, this is another quick video, but rest assured, more involved builds are coming up, as well as other fun stuff. Enjoy, and remember to be Inspired!