Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Workshop Maintenance Made Easy

Tell me if you can relate: once I get going on a project, I kind of slip into tunnel-vision mode.
"The Zone", if you will. I don't like to get distracted because I'm totally immersed in designing, building, and problem-solving.  That's the kind of stuff that got me into woodworking in the first place.  And once I'm done, I usually jump right into the next project.  This is a really rewarding cycle, of course, because it maximizes the amount that I can get done, but there's a downside- a dirty little secret, let's say.  After all this time, I'm ready to come clean about it:  I'm not so hot at tool maintenance.  I blame it on being busy, but that's not really a good enough excuse.  Just because it isn't sexy doesn't mean it isn't important.  We all know, intuitively, that time spent maintaining tools will most likely prolong their lives, help them to function better, and actually even increase our enjoyment.  And yes, you read that last part right: a well-tuned tool is simply easier and more fun to use.  So why don't some of us give maintenance its due? 

For me, I think there are two answers, and maybe you can relate: 
           1) I'm just not in the habit of it and
           2) I never thought about exactly what to do, and when and how   

In this post, I'd like to tackle both of these issues, specifically as it pertains to the issue of lubrication, which all woodworking machines need to varying degrees.  Periodically lubricating tools also provides an opportunity to inspect for other possible problems, like loose or worn drive belts.

The heart of my newly adopted system- which I'm excited about, because it seems like something I can actually stick to!- is something that I'm calling the "Monthly Maintenance Spree".  It really only takes about 10 or 15 minutes, but it gives me a chance to take a look at each of my major machines and lube up anything that needs it.  It is a pretty intuitive process- common sense dictates that just about anything that slides, threads, or moves against something else probably needs some lube.  That said, I don't generally concern myself with bearings, because my machines are newer and incorporate sealed bearings, and a bad bearing is most likely to be identified by uneven movement, vibration, and noise.  I mostly think about the daily "wear and tear" spots that need attention.  And in a woodshop, this means that there's usually plenty of sawdust around, so I make sure to choose a lube that goes on dry to the touch- this ensures that is isn't a magnet for sawdust.  Check the labels, because they're not all created equal.

Have a look at your bandsaw- I bet there are a bunch of
places that could use some love.  I could barely turn
the tensioning knob before I lubed up the threads.
Afterward: cha-ching!
The first time I maintained the sliding rails on my
compound miter saw, I was humbled- how had I
been so neglectful before?  Soooooo worth it.
Most planers have a set of threaded rods that the cutting head raises and lowers
on.  Overtime, they tend to get covered in sawdust, so a quick clean-out
works wonders.

It isn't pretty, but my drill press keeps on ticking.  I
need to remove some surface rust (that's a whole
'nother story) but a few seconds spent lubing it up
will prevent things from getting any worse.

My jointer has a million little bolts and rods that control the position of the fence.
Go ahead and give them a little lube, too.

Jointer fences usually slide in and out on a keyed casting of some sort.  Anytime
you have a situation like this where two surfaces slide against each other, that's
a good place for some lubrication.
Disclosure: I received, for free, the 3-in-ONE oil that I used in this blog post.  That said, every word of the post comes from my own experiences in the workshop.  I love this stuff and will happily buy more once this container runs out. 

For more information on 3-in-ONE oil (they've got a larger range of products than you might realize) click the link below:

Monday, June 13, 2016

PureShield Protect: An Amazing Finish for Wood

I recently tried out Pureshield Protect, a new acrylic clear-coat product from PureColor.  To cut to the chase: I was blown away.  I've used acrylic (often known as water-based) finishes for years, and I've tried all of the manufacturers that I could get my hands on.  But none have performed this well.  Here's what I liked about it:

1) The product itself is much thicker than any other products in its class- this allowed me to apply 2 coats and achieve a level of finish that felt more substantial than 4 coats of other products.

2) The finish self-leveled really smoothly.  I couldn't get brush marks to show up, even when I tried.

3) The build quality of the finish feels great- this is hard to describe, but it feels thick and waxy, without looking like a layer of plastic on top of the wood.

As you can see from the picture at the top of this post, the product comes in a box-
 well, in a bag inside of a box- and you just pour it into a container and brush it on.
As with any finish, I suggest making a sample to see how the finish will look on
your project.  I hadn't expected the color to pop so much in this old, reclaimed
wood, but I loved it.  I scuff-sanded the piece with 220grit paper between coats.
Here's the before photo: the reclaimed wood in this
bench was kind of cool, but it looked dirty and
dingy and the colors were pretty lifeless.
After 2 coats of PureShield Protect, the bench was totally transformed.  I now want to use this stuff ALL THE TIME!  It is
an amazing finish that I highly recommend.  Full disclosure: PureColor sent me a kit to try out, but my review is unbiased.
 I couldn't recommend something that I don't love.

Here's a couple of links to learn more:

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Making a Mallet with a Round Tenon Cutter

I've been wanting to make a mallet for ages now, but never got around to it 'til now.  Today I got a new toy (aka, tool) that I was itching to test out, and a mallet seemed like a good fit for the job.  I picked up a round tenon cutter at a local tool supply company.  They cost $20-30, and are available in a variety of sizes.  I went for the 3/4" diameter one, as I have some projects in mind where I think 3/4" tenons will work out just right.  Be advised that these cutters require a drill with a 1/2" chuck, but other than that, they're a snap to use.  I'll provide a couple of tips below.

I started with a seasoned chunk of oak that I was given by the good
folks at a local hardwood supplier.  It was big enough for a couple
 of mallets, really, and in hindsight I wish I had made an extra.
You're going to see lots of cordless tools in this pic- our power was
out on the day I did this project, so I couldn't rely on my bigger
tools as I usually would.  I used a circular saw to rip a 1" x 1"
handle blank from a piece of roughsawn oak.  This isn't the kind
of project that requires fastidiousness at every step, so a
circular-saw-rip was perfectly fine.

The chunk of wood that I used for the head of the mallet had
originally been part of a pallet or shipping skid, so it had a couple
of "fins" that protruded on the edges; I sawed them off with the
circular saw.

A block plane leveled the remains of the fins, creating a
(basically) rectilinear blank.

A simple crosscut gave me a 5" long blank for the head of the mallet.

I used a spade bit to drill a hole in the head.  I usually would've
used a drill press, but with no power... this method worked
just fine.

Here's my big tip for using a round tenon cutter like this- make
sure to ease the leading edges a bit with a block plane, rasp, or
sander.  It'll make it easy for the cutter to get a purchase on
the blank without slipping.
Again, a 1/2" drill is essential.  I found that it worked best for me
on the faster speed setting, and I pulsed the trigger a bit rather
than going all-out.

I didn't measure, but the cutter has about a 3" capacity, which is
pretty impressive.  It cut the tenon in seconds, and it was
really clean and even.

The cutter actually created kind of a burnished finish- I
scuffed it up with some sandpaper afterwards, under the
theory that it might help create a better glue bond.

Its a simple project, but that's part of what makes it so satisfying.

I used a handsaw to cut a groove into the end
of the tenon.  I went down about 1.5".

Here's a pic of the spline, after being pounded into the groove.
Leaving the tenon exposed is just an aesthetic choice, but I do
really like it that way.

I used planes and sandpaper to  create a comfortable profile on the handle, but
other than that, I kept the overall feel of the mallet kind of rough.  I'm not fussy
in my approach to tools, so this one suits me rather nicely.