Enter, the Router Table

Taking the first components off to the next stage of the process involves the router table, and the rail & stile plus raised panel bits.

Cutting the interior profile

After some test cuts, the router table was set up to run the rails and stiles through the first router bit.  I use MagSwitch featherboards to hold the timber against the router table fence. They are so easy to position, and hold fast to the cast iron top of my router table.  Make you think it fortunate my router table is cast iron, but it came about in the reverse order.  I made the router table out of cast iron so that I could use MagSwitches on it.

Woodpeckers Coping Sled

After changing to the complementary router bit, it was time to cut the end grain of the rails.  If you ever wonder how to remember which is which, think about rails being horizontal.  They certainly are for trains! The stile is the other one.

The Woodpeckers Coping Sled is awesome for this task.  It holds the rails perfectly, and perpendicular to the direction of travel.  If I had taken more care, I would have used a sacrificial backing.  Probably should have – hardwood tears out a bit too easily. I’ll make sure I do when cutting the doors for the sink unit.

I just checked – the coping sled is still available from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  They now have a mini one as well, but given the full sized one is on special, I’d still go with that one (the one pictured above).  There is so much more with this one, it is worth the difference.

Sanding the panels

After removing the panels being glued up in the Frontline clamps, I used the Festool belt sander to do a final flattening (including removing any glue squeezeout).  The large sander weights 7kg, and when coupled with the sled means you can hold the handle, and, well, hang on – letting the tool do all the work.  The work is clamped up using brass dogs on the vice, and dogs in holes in the table.

Panel bit

Once sanded (not the final sand – more a sizing sand than a finishing one), it was back to the router table, this time with a raised panel bit.  I don’t have a raised panel bit with a cutter for the back yet, so have to adjust it manually. This is not the final pass, but an intermediate one to check fit.  Best to do the crossgrain first, then the longgrain.

Panel bit

This is a monster bit – pretty much at the limit that a router can (or rather should) drive.  The run at the slowest speed still gets a decent tip speed.

Test fit

A quick test fit showed I was close, but still needs another pass to get it there.  Looking good though.  Will look even better when I do the 3D routing into each panel!  Once that routing is done (next session), then I can glue the panels up.

Thicknessing undersized stock

One thing I have been surprised with so far, is the lack of waste.  I’d always try to use timber to maximise yield, but there is always waste.  So far I’d not have enough offcuts to fill a 10L bucket – the yield is exceptional.

Even these thin panels that were ripped off the 19-20mm thick boards.  They will be perfect for the back of the units.  I wanted to run them through the thicknesser, but it just doesn’t go thin enough.  To solve that problem, I clamped on a sled.  The boards would not feed initially, but with a quick rubdown with Sibergleit, the boards fed through smoothly and easily.  I wouldn’t do this with any timber, or to go too thin, but it will get you out of trouble.
So a good session.  Progress seems slow, but this is always the slow part of any project.  Once the items are cut, and some preliminary joinery done, it usually flies together.

 

Some good news and bad news.  The good news is that I am documenting sessions on video.  Bad news is I am not planning on releasing the video until the project is complete!

Goodnight, Sleep Tight

It took pretty much two months to the day to build the cot, given that we were snatching half a day here, half a day there.

Friday evening was the final push, and we just kept at it until all the final issues were solved (making the side rise and fall, how to assemble it, etc etc).  Took us through to about 12:30 at night, but we got it done.  It isn’t sanded and oiled as yet (that’s a job for the expectant father!) and the final bit of time he has before his world becomes somewhat busier!  Looking back at the earliest posts, and we were a bit naive in our predictions on just how long/how many sessions it would take.  Just Friday night was a bit of a marathon – not that it wasn’t a good time, just that tasks always take longer than planned!  3 sessions?  More like 5 or 6 (really lost track!)

But first I’ll back up a bit, for a quick summary / overview, and then with more detail from the assembly of the ends.  As mentioned earlier, the focus was very much on the planning and construction of the cot, rather than documenting the process.

Session one was getting the bed itself made – the surround and base for the mattress.  Everything in the project was made from Tasmanian Oak, and machined down (and out of) large slabs such as seen here:

Tassie Oak Slabs

It was glued up in a later session (clamped up with Frontline clamps), with a rail under the bed supporting the MDF bed base.  This was also drilled with a series of large holes for ventilation.

Bed section clamped up

Session two involved making the slats (and some testing to get the distances between slats right, so it was even over the cot length.  Again, the actual glueup happened in a later session.

Making the slats

All the rail components

We also resawed, dressed and glued up the pine end panels in this session.

End panels

A month then passed while we both had other distractions.

Session three commenced with a glueup of the various sections.  The bed (as seen above), and the rails.

Rails glued up

Each end panel had the 3D routing done, and the rails for the cot ends made.

Session four was time for the legs to be made.  These were each notched so the bed rested firmly on them, transferring the load directly down the legs rather than through a mechanical joint.  A T Track was routed into the two front legs, using a slot-cutting router bit.

By the end of the day (including some extra work done afterwards), the ends were done.  This is where we pick up the story.

After producing the inserts for the ends (10mm thick pine boards, joined to produce a full panel), routing the 3D pattern into each end, it was time to cut them to their final dimension.  The question is, how to use the tablesaw to cut boards with uneven ends.

There are a whole host of methods promoted, sleds that clamp down on the piece, extension tables either built into the tablesaw (or added on, such as the Triton Extension Table) etc.  Actually, speaking of which, the Triton extension table would have been great for this project, if I had somewhere to actually put it!  This project really demonstrated how tight the shed has become. Assembly, and even moving around the larger components was a real problem.  Could really do with another shed, either to spread the overall load, or to use more as a project area / workbench area rather than the actual timber shaping/component construction.

Back to cutting the panel.  The solution I used was to attach a temporary straight-edge to the board, and it ran along the tablesaw fence, so the opposite side could be cut parallel.

Using a straight edge

In this case it was simply a piece of MDF and a couple of screws into what would become waste.  FWIW, I hadn’t set up the saw at this point, changing the blade to a crosscut blade and then replacing the splitter and guard.

The top and bottom rails were dominoed onto these boards (biscuits could have been used), glued and clamped, then the whole assembly glued and clamped to the legs to form the cot ends.  This was done over a number of days (availability of clamps, and time), ready for the final session.

Assembling the panels

Cot ends

(Yes, I know you have just seen this image – as mentioned, I was concentrating a lot more on the build than on documenting the process! Sorry 🙂 )

Session five – our late night marathon to finish.

A bed takes shape!

There was a lot of bolting and unbolting of the ends as we finished off the various components and steps, and the beauty of the cot is it can be flat-packed when no longer needed.  Just with the ends bolted on, the rigidity was obvious.  An extra stringer between the ends would be ideal, but with a combination of bolts and the corners being recessed into the legs is enough.

The back rail was added, again bolted to the bed itself, and with dominos into the legs.  These were left unglued – more than enough strength left just like that.  In time if it proved necessary, a small hole and a piece of dowel inserted through the leg and the domino as a pin would lock them together.

The final job was getting the front rail so it was functional.

At first it was pretty tight – a roof screw running up and down the track.  With quite of bit of trial and error, sanding the track a bit, adding some plastic tube to cover up the exposed screw threads, adjusting the height of the screws so they run cleanly in the track, and finally lubricating the track with Ubeaut Traditional Wax.  Whatever it was (and more likely a combination of them all), it went from being a bit average, to running as well as any commercial solution.  With spring-loaded catches at the top edge that automatically engage when the rail is lifted, the cot was finished (at least as far as my involvement).  Still needs a bit of sanding and oiling, but other than that, a really successful, enjoyable build.

Finished!

Side dropped to lower position

The final view

So the cot was done – getting it out of the shed was a mission – we took it out assembled, and it was a rather tight fit (leveraging it around the bandsaw).

Getting it into the covered trailer was also interesting.  Another 5mm in leg length (perhaps even less), and it would not have fitted.  Also in length – it was like absolutely built with the trailer dimensions in mind!

So that’s it – another successful project conclusion.  There is always that air of relief, satisfaction, remorse, disbelief when a project is over.  Fortunately, there is always more timber out there, and so many more projects to build!

Battle of the TS saws

Back around March 2008, I posted quite a lot of information on this site as I went through the process of choosing a cabinet-type tablesaw.

Now four years on (believe it or not!!), and prompted by a recent query (given my tablesaw, the TS10L has been off the market for around 3 years) I can look back at the decision I made, and whether the apparent successor would have been a contender.

Tablesaw comparison - what floats your boat?

Saw Soup

This is also interesting as news filters through that may have gotten themselves as national importers/distributors of Jet power tools. Still a rumour at this stage though. Wonder if it will impact on Powermatic as well?

***Update: it is confirmed (information received independently from 3 different sources) that Carbatec have become the importers/distributors of Jet.  In doing so, it is likely that competing saws also made in Taiwan (such as the TSCE-10L) will no longer be available once current stocks are exhausted***

So 4 years on. The TS10L is still a great saw, and I still have no issues or regrets over the decision. No weaknesses or issues have come to light in that time, other than a couple of very minor items I resolved very early on – the antikickback pawls that were spring-loaded and causing damage to timber passing underneath (since removed), and the insert having to be lifted to get access to the guard/splitter quick release (solved by creating a new insert that can be removed from around the splitter).
So what features really make this saw, that are worth ensuring are included in other models?

Well many, but there are a number that do come to mind. The arbor lock for blade changing. Quick release for the splitter/guard. That the splitter/guard rises and falls with the blade. The left-tilting blade. The Biesemeyer-style fence. The large, heavy, flat tabletop that is significant on both sides of the blade and having two miter slots – one either side of the blade. The overall weight, and heavy manufacturing of the machine.

TS10L ….. TSC10HB Specification TSCE-10L
254mm 250mm Blade Size 254mm
16mm max*** 15mm max Dado Capacity 15mm max
Left Right Tilt Direction Left
3HP 15A 240V 3HP 15A 240V Motor 3HP 15A 240V
Induction Induction Motor Type Induction
2850 RPM Motor Speed 2850 RPM
4000RPM Blade Speed 4300 RPM
Triple Belt Drive Type Poly v-belt
5/8″ 5/8″ Arbor Diameter 5/8″
75mm 77mm Max Cut at 90° 75mm
69mm 58mm Max Cut at 45° 55mm
255/695mm Max Rip L/R 300/762mm
1072x739mm 1015x685mm Table Size WxD 1118x739mm
860mm Table Height 864mm
305mm Blade to Table Front 305mm
150mm Blade to Table Rear
Biesemeyer Style HD Al Lever Action? Fence Type Biesemeyer Style
Clear, Lifting Clear, Lifting Blade Guard Clear, Lifting
Quick Release, Floating Fixed, Anti-kickback Riving Knife Fixed Height *
Magnetic Contactor Magnetic Contactor Switch Type Magnetic Contactor
1×4″ 1×4″ Dust Port 1×4″
Cabinet Cabinet Stand Cabinet
1480x1100x980mm Footprint 1650x1100x1100mm **
220kg 190kg Weight 216kg **

* Error on website – riving knife does rise and fall

** Contradiction between website and latest catalogue

*** I have fitted more – up to 20mm from memory

So what does all this mean? Basically that it is very hard to tell machines apart on spec.

I’d be asking myself (and looking at floor models to see) where the additional 25+kg came from? Some is in the larger top, but the TS10L is not the largest of the three, but is the heaviest. Heavier mechanism (which is a good thing).

Left vs right tilt. I’ve heard justifications for both. I believe left tilt is a safer machine, so that is why I went that way. So did SawStop, and Powermatic. Think that is a pretty clear message.

Riving knives (and guards) are vital safety features. You cannot use them every cut, so one that is quick release is highly desirable. It has to work for you, not against you.

If I was in the market for a tablesaw again, I would first look at SawStop (for the quality of the saw, not just the safety feature), and Powermatic, and work my way down until I got to a model I could afford, rather than work my way up, trying to justify each price increase. In hindsight, I do not have any regrets spending the extra amount I did.

When looking at the machines in person, I would be looking at the strength of the mechanisms, smoothness of operation, quality of the motor (size is a bit of an indicator here – they are both the same power, but is one a lot smaller and therefore less robust internal construction / cheaper manufacture), quality of the fence and how easy it is to adjust/set it accurately to a measurement.

One thing that isn’t shown in the specs, is the accuracy to which the machine is made.  The TS10L has an impressive lack of runout in the arbor, both axially and radially.  This affects the accuracy of every single cut.  Before buying any machine, I would want to know / physically test the runout using a dial gauge.  Two similar looking machines with a large difference in tag price could boil down to one being superbly accurate, and the other being unfit for your purpose.

I don’t know the specs on the individual machines so this is a general comment.  When I did my “Battle of the Blades” soon after getting my machine, I tested the runout and was very impressed – it could have made the difference between every cut being rougher than need be, so is definitely worth considering.  http://stusshed.com/reviews/blade-review/

There is also a strong intangible element here – do you like the saw?  Will you regret not going for the larger/more expensive model in 2, 5, 10 years?  These are long term relationships you forge with large workshop machines – they should last a lifetime, and are not short term affairs as you get with cheap machines and disposable tools.  For the sake of a few dollars (and I do acknowledge the cost difference is significant) will you remain happy with the decision?

This article is definitely not a comprehensive look at current tablesaws, it is an attempt to address a specific question. If looking, there are other manufacturers and suppliers that you would have to carefully consider while making that crucial decision.

The Pandora Box continues

For those following along, I opened Pandora’s Box about 2 weeks ago, and have been pushing to get it completed in time for my wife’s birthday.  Rather than jump to the end, we will pick up from where I left off, where the box had 4 dovetailed sides, a base, and I had made some practice excursions into the dividers for some yet to be built trays (at that time).

This next bit ended up being a bit of a detour – as I’ll explain at the end.

I needed the trays that will fit into the main box, and wanted to have them pretty thin – an obvious point of difference from the thickness of the main box walls (it is around 10mm thick, so aimed for about 3mm for these boxes).

The Miter Express from Incra, complete with the V120 Miter (and the Incra fence I have added to mine, with Shop Stop), really came into its own here.  Superb control, and repeatability.  In fact this project would have been significantly harder without this setup – it proved invaluable having such controllable results, and being able to work with fine components.

After resawing the boards (silky oak) again on the bandsaw with the new blade from Henry’s, they were again fed through the thicknesser to get the boards I wanted.  Ripped, and crosscut on the tablesaw gave the sides I wanted.  As much as there are shop-made jigs for ripping small boards, I really think there is an untapped commercial market here – something Incra based for sure.

I wanted two trays, and thinking about the result, decided that the second tray should be half-width only, and able to slide back and forth for access to the lower tray where the bracelets and necklace is stored.

I know where this idea came from – Chris Schwarz’s Anarchist’s Tool Chest

I wanted to dovetail these boxes (and I don’t hand-cut dovetails- one day) but discovered that there is a lower limit for the Gifkins Dovetail jig for wall thickness.  I tried to fake it, and did work out a way to do it, but decided to go a different direction.

The Incra iBox.

Rather than using a dado blade, I measured each of my current saw blades to find the one that was closest to the minimum size that the iBox could handle.  It ended up being the CMT 80 tooth crosscut blade.  With each piece run through the iBox, I had the joints ready to go.  I felt rushed, so didn’t take as much care setting up as I needed to, and the joints were a bit looser than I wanted. Definitely an operator error.

One trick that Incra advised is to draw a line across the top of the board, directly at the back of the jig, so that if the board isn’t perfectly vertical, it is easily detected.

I particularly liked the individual fingers being proud of the surface, so deliberately cut the joints deeper.  The base was made by resawing some pieces of mahogany, and running a rebate around the edge.

This provides support for the walls, and glue area.  The protruding edge effectively becomes the lowest layer of the box, and is the same thickness as one of the fingers.

Glue and clamp up proceeded, and the trays were finished.  I looked, considered, debated then decided not to compromise – the trays were just not good enough for what I needed.

Next article, the project gets back on track.

Baby Bed Build Bis

Had a change to take another crack at the cot build this weekend, which was good – more progress.

After last weekend, we had the bed itself built (as in the surround and support for the mattress), so today it was time to build the side rails. Oh, and fwiw we are referring regularly to ensure compliance with the Australian Standard for cot design, so the maximum clearance between mattress and bed, height of sides, gap between slats etc etc are all being carefully adhered to.

Once again, we started with a large chunk of timber (around 250×45) and began machining it down.

A combination of jointer, thicknesser and tablesaw gave us the rails and stiles as the frame for the sides.

Despite having them for years, this is about the first time I have actually used the jointer MagSwitch featherboards. They worked very well to ensure even pressure across the jointer cutter. A quick tap down between passes to ensure even pressure is maintained as the board becomes thinner (I do 0.5mm passes on the jointer, so not a real issue in any case). And in case you were wondering, we jointed an edge so we had something straight and true to run up against the tablesaw fence, then ran the board through the tablesaw to get 2 lengths a bit over 90mm wide. From there, we started machining the boards from scratch, jointing a side, then an edge. Next onto the tablesaw to rip the boards in half, so they ended up 20mm thick after machining.

We then spent some time testing and preparing to make the slats for the sides. A number of test pieces, and setups done to fine tune the operation. We started with the Domino – when we need mortices, why not use the best tool for the job?! So with a 10mm cutter, and set to the widest mortice setting, we got a 33mm slot, and thus our slat size was determined. We then made one, and tested it for strength. That went well too.

With all setups done, all the spare pieces, offcuts from other pieces of this job were run through the tablesaw to create the number of slats needed, with a number of spares. Each was then tested, bent and abused. A few failed, but the majority were perfect, and will be able to survive even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s kid.

Still need to actually create the mortices in the rails, but will do that after some sanding and finishing.

To get the required slat placement, the Domino grows wings. It makes cutting the required mortices so incredibly easy, and accurate.

Now I know there are two main groups out there – those who cannot understand how any tool can be worth as much as a Domino, and those who love the tool. Unfortunately, I used to belong to the first camp, but since first using the Domino and then more recently (last couple of years) owning one, I cannot help but reside in the second. Awesome machine. Yes, I know – hideously expensive. But very, very cool. One of these days, I’d love to become permanently familiar with the Domino XL too.

20120706-173704.jpg

When Worlds Collide

Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech

Really, nothing so spectacular actually.

One of my staff is having a baby soon, so came around to ‘the shed’ so we could start working on a cot.  He’s chosen Tasmanian Oak, so bought some lengths, around 170 wide and 45 thick. (mm that is).

We were too busy to stop for photos, sorry about that!

First job was resawing, so I tried the bandsaw, but had a few problems there.  For one, I think my resaw blade needs sharpening – it really struggled.  I know hardwood is, well, hard but this isn’t the worst thing I have been able to put through this blade.

Combined with the blade dullness, is the increase of load that creates on the bandsaw and therefore an increase in power that is drawn.  Problem number 2 then cropped up – kept tripping the circuit breaker.  Now I know that isn’t related to any fault in the tool, just a underrated circuit breaker that trips at 10A (and probably less), without any threshold.  We ended up giving it away, and swapped over to the tablesaw, with the blade at full height, and two passes to split the board.  Even with two passes (flipping the board over) wouldn’t be sufficient to cut that entire width, but all we needed was actually 145mm, so ripped the board down before splitting.  Even the 15A tablesaw was pushed with such a full-depth cut, and even when changed over to a ripping blade, so perhaps the timber was as hard as the machines were saying.

So we properly dressed the timber all round (using the combination of the jointer (planer), thicknesser and tablesaw).  This obviously isn’t your garden variety DAR – the boards are left flat and true, without warp, twist or bend.

After docking the boards to their required length, it was over to the router table, where a 6mm groove was cut near the bottom in each side, so when assembled it can have a captive base.  By the end of the session, we had made the bed section itself (that has the mattress filling the area, with a maximum of 5mm between the mattress and the sides.  The standard allows for double that).

Once all machined, and edges rounded over with the Fastcap 1/8″ roundover plane, it was onto the Domino to make slots for floating tenons.

We ran out of time to sand and finish – job for another day.

This was part 1 of about a 3 part project. Good using the tools for a bit of furniture again.

I box, therefore I am

Ever tried a box joint (also mistakenly called a finger joint by Triton)?  Some regard it as a poor-man’s dovetail, but it is a legitimate joint in its own right, and can be used as a stunning joint, with the added bonus of significant glue area. You can pin the joint for even more strength, and if you take that one step further, the wooden hinge I made recently is another version of a box joint.

There are a number of plans out there to make a jig.  Some of them even offer the ability to have a couple of sizes of fingers.  Generous.

If you are fortunate enough to have an LS positioner on your router table, they are a pretty simple operation, but even that has some limitations.

They can be a stunning joint can’t they!  And those with variable spacing, or a central key pin are even more interesting.  As you become inspired by the joint, don’t you find yourself wishing someone like Incra would come up with a jig, incorporating their typical clever engineering, and insatiable appetite for precision?

Yeah, well, they did.  And it is a stunning looking tool at that.  Works on both the router table and the tablesaw, utilising the mitre slot.

I don’t have too much to add to the topic yet, other than these initial photos which just start to reveal the qualities of the jig.

On the tablesaw, this is one of those occasions where a dado blade really comes into its own.

The jig is currently available on pre-order through Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  The initial shipment is almost completely accounted for already, so if you are keen, be quick.

As I mentioned, I’m not going into a lot of detail as yet, but that is destined to change.  And you can talk to whomever you like on the blogs and forums, but at the moment I have loan of THE first pre-release model (the one that starred in the photos and video) to put through its paces, and there isn’t another one currently in the wild.  Just another Stu’s Shed exclusive!

It certainly has some very cool innovations – look forward to getting to know them better and to bring them to you as well.

In the meantime, have a gander at the following Incra video – it explains a lot.

 

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