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Don’t get your feathers ruffled

June 22, 2011 Leave a comment

*** This post is courtesy of Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench ***

At my day job, I have given hundreds of hurricane and disaster preparedness talks. Big groups. Small groups. Companies, churches, neighborhood association meetings … you name it, I’ve gone there and spoken. For me, it’s all old hat now.

Tom Iovino

But, that hasn’t always been the case. When I first started out, I was told by my boss at the time that I needed to not run my talks free-form. Instead, I was encouraged to build a PowerPoint presentation, rehearse my material based on cues from what was on screen and NEVER deviate.

For my first few talks, this worked well. I never forgot a single point. I always put the emphasis on the key message I wanted to convey. I went from success to success, clutching tightly to the security blanket of my canned presentation.

Then, well, it had to happen. I went one place to talk, and blammo – no outlet was convenient for me to set up my projector and laptop, and I didn’t have access to an extension cord. Boy, did that ruffle my feathers.

The same thing happens when we are in the workshop. When we have our table saw tuned up and ready to make a cut, we become comfortable using the equipment. But, if you need to cut something on edge or try something a little out of our comfort range, it’s easy to get flustered – and worried – by the operation.

“That’s where feather boards come in,” said Dan Walter of Eagle America. “These simple jigs give you much more control – and confidence – over your operation.”

Feather boards are very useful jigs that help hold your work down to the table or against your fence to ensure a more accurate cut. And, they also can help prevent kickback, improving safety.

“The classic way to make a feather board is to fish a piece of scrap out of your wood stash, cut a series of parallel angled fingers and clamp it down to your saw,” said Dan. “And, you know, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s a cheap, practical shop solution.”

But, Dan also told me that commercial feather boards offer more versatility, are more durable and don’t take valuable shop time to make. Eagle America carries an extensive line of feather boards – each of which has special features.

“If you need feather boards for your cast iron topped table, band saw or other ferrous metal work surface, the Magswitch featherboards offer incredible convenience and flexibility.” Using a special magnet users can switch on and off, these feather boards can mount anywhere on the table, independent of the miter gauge slot.

Jessem’s Paralign models allow users to align them parallel to the work piece while they are clamped in the table. “In router tables, this is a very handy feature that allows you to skip all of the trial-and-error fidgeting to get the set up right.”

Milescraft’s dual slide motion feather boards feature large ergonomic handles for tightening them in place. “What a boon for people who may have limited hand strength. The ability to set these into place and know they will be rock solid helps ensure accuracy in cuts.”

Feather Bow’s offerings feature a traditional looking feather board finger design on one side and an innovative bow hold down on the other. Shaped somewhat like the leaf spring in a car, this focuses the pressure exactly where you need it without applying it across the entire length of the fingers. “These babies work very well on router or shaper tables where it’s critical to get proper bit or cutter contact to ensure a flawless shaping job.”

And, Kreg’s True Flex models not function as either a feather board or a stop block. “Their locking system also relies on a wedge to get a solid lock in a miter slot. That’s going to help ensure nothing slips when you are pushing the board past the blade or cutter.”

Dan also pointed out that many of these commercial feather boards can also be stacked together to give you control when resawing, cutting raised panels on a table saw or other functions. “I’m always surprised when a company comes out with a new and innovative feature on such an old power tool standby. There are some creative minds at work!”

My speech in front of that group sure threw me for a loop. But, it also taught me to look beyond just that one tool in my public speaking toolbox. Today, when I go out to talk, I know that I can adjust my presentation style to meet the needs of the specific group I’m addressing.

And, it allows me to stop obsessing over what could go wrong during the talks and start enjoying my time off in the shop a whole lot more.

Making Wooden Boxes – Quick and Easy

April 21, 2011 1 comment

Today’s post is a quick and easy read, inspired by a post on http://www.KimbertonWoodworks.com titled “A Simple Oak Box“.

Photo courtesy of Wilton Marburger

In his quick post Wilton shows you an oak box that he made using one of our old Router Box Joint Jigs.  He said, “this project was just plain shop fun.”  Well done Wilton, we agree!  Box making is one of the easiest ways for you to make someone a gift (hint, hint – Mother’s Day is only a couple of weeks away…better get to work!).  Here are some suggestions on how you can quickly and easily make beautiful, clean, sturdy boxes:

Use our Ultimate Box Joint Jig on your router table or table saw to easily make 1/4″, 3/8″ or 1/2″ box joints.  This is a woodshop  accessory that no woodworker should be without!

Get yourself a good Box Joint Blade Set for your table saw.  We have options from Oshlun and Freud, both will provide you with excellent, clean cuts and will make your life a lot easier.

Use our Eagle America or PriceCutter Box Side Router Bits to give your custom boxes a gorgeous, distinctive look and design.  See our Build-A-Box Value Packages for extra savings. That’s it for this post, but click over to our Box Making Supplies category to see even more options such as our new Spline Jig, Music Box Movements, Box Making books and more.

Make Woodworking Projects for Mother’s Day

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment

Just a quick reminder for you that Mother’s Day is fast approaching.  This year it is on Sunday, May 8th so you better get cracking on making her something special.  You are a woodworker, this is your chance to shine!  Use your router bits, saw blades, Kreg jig, sandpaper, wood glue and finishing supplies to make Mom feel loved.  Looking for some project ideas?  We’ve got them!  Click here for a few, we have the ideas and the tools for you to get the job done right.

It’s All a Pile of Junk

April 11, 2011 3 comments

*** This post is courtesy of Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench ***

A few years ago, a colleague of mine at work stopped me in the hallway. She had just returned from an extended leave of absence due to the passing of her father. “Tom, I don’t know if you know this, but my dad was a woodworker.  We have his collection of tools, and I was wondering if you wanted to take a look at any of them for your workshop.”

What treasures would Tom find?

Wow.  I was floored.  That was quite an honor to be considered to receive something so precious from my coworker’s dad.  I told her I would come out and, even if I didn’t take anything, I would help give her an idea of what each of the tools was worth.  I drove to her condo that weekend and she led me to a storage shed for her unit.  As she cracked the door to the shed, I have to confess that my mind raced with the thought of being able to expand my meager tool collection and fill some needs in my shop.  The reality was quite different.  As we pulled tools out of the shed, they were caked with years of rust.  Insects had taken up residence in warped 1970s vintage plastic cases.  Wooden handles on tools were cracked, warped and, in some cases, completely falling off.

Tom was shocked at what he found, such a shame

“What happened?” was the question that raced to my mind – and reflexively slipped from my lips. My coworker said that her dad was slowing down in his old age, and the neighbors were afraid he might hurt himself working with the tools.  So, they took them to an old barn and just let them sit for about a decade. Apparently, the barn wasn’t as weather tight as they had expected. No one ever checked on them… decided to put them up for auction… or cared for or maintained them.  I told her that if there was something special from his shop (there was a well-worn square that was protected in a case), she should save it as a memento, and that the rest of the stuff was just too far gone to salvage.

A little Tool Care and Maintenance could have saved this collection from a trip to the junk yard

As I drove home feeling disappointed – at the tools and myself for being a jerk – my thoughts turned toward my own collection of tools.   How could I prevent my tools from ending up like those poor, rusty specimens?  That’s when I decided to throw myself into the maintenance mindset.  It doesn’t take hours of slavish devotion to keep your tools in tip-top condition.  Actually, I follow a pretty simple regimen to help keep my investment shiny new and working great.

Clean

Shop cleaning is such a turn off for many woodworkers.  I mean, wouldn’t you rather be in the shop creating beautiful pieces of work than scrubbing the teeth of your table saw gears with a toothbrush?  Yet, simply using proper dust collection, vacuuming dust from your tools and scraping off any dry glue beads from your clamps can keep them working like new for years.

Sharpen

Woodworking is mostly about making big pieces of wood into smaller ones, then – in many cases – figuring out how to attach them to other pieces to build a project.  None of these tools works well if they aren’t clean and sharp. Plane irons, router bits, chisels, table saw blades… they all deserve good treatment.  Not only will your work look cleaner, but sharp tools are safer and put less strain on power tool motors.

Protect

In Florida, I’m always battling humidity and I sharpen my tools with water-lubricated diamond stones. I always make sure my tools are dry before I store them, and I keep a rag dipped in furniture paste wax nearby to wipe them with to keep rust at bay.  There are lots of products out there to help you get rust off your tools or to put a barrier up to prevent it from forming in the first place.

I once read a comment by a woodworker as to what he hopes happens to his tools after he passes.  “I want my children to fight over them like ravenous jackals battling over a zebra carcass on the Serengeti.”  While I hope my two sons have better manners,  I hope one day they find the tools in my shop in good shape and ready to help them if they would like.

*** Specials thanks to Tom Iovino, a true Shop Monkey,  for this post.  He will be providing posts on a monthly basis for Eagle America, check back again soon. ***

Hot New Woodworking Tool from Fine Woodworking

April 5, 2011 Leave a comment

Our friends over at Fine Woodworking have done it again! They have found the next revolutionary woodworking tool that will be sweeping the nation.  Are you confident enough in your skills to use this one?  Or do you think you have woodworking safety covered without it’s help?

Wall Cupboard Display

March 29, 2011 Leave a comment

 

Mary, one of Eagle America’s customer service representatives writes:

 

I have collected Wade figurines for 25 years.

It started innocently enough with the Rose Tea giveaways and now it has blossomed into a full blown obsession.

My collection had out grown its original antique medicine showcase so my darling, Mike, built a wall cupboard for me.

We designed it together and it turned out great.

 

 

 

The bits Mike used on the top and bottom were from Eagle America’s Price Cutter router bit line.

They were profiles P14-2911, P14-3107 & P14-3115.

I wanted a beaded board back for interest but we kept the stains light to highlight the figurines.

We added a cap at the top and bottom to soften the edges.

 

The clasp to hold the door tight are rare earth magnets embedded in the top of the door and the inside corner of the frame.

As you can see the new cupboard is full so I think he should get started on another one, don’t you?

Mary

Mortise. Tenon. Router?

March 21, 2011 Leave a comment

*** This post is courtesy of Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench ***

The mortise and tenon joint is timeless. Classic. Functional. And, not as difficult to cut as you might imagine.


Oh, sure, if you have never cut one before, you might be scared senseless to start. I mean, don’t you need a shop full of fancy, expensive jigs and unitasking machines?  Think about Norm Abram of the New Yankee Workshop. He cut mortises with special fixtures for his drill press or his dedicated hollow chisel mortiser. And, he had his special table saw jig that cut tenons on boards standing on their ends.  If you build a lot of projects with numerous mortises and tenons, this is a good way to go. These tools offer a great deal of flexibility and convenience when cranking out these joints all day.  But, I would contest that you have one of the best mortise AND tenon cutting systems in your plunge router. Equipped with the right kind of bit, these babies can crank out tight-fitting joinery with little effort.

For mortising, I like to equip my router with an up-spiral bit. Those bits resemble drill bits, with flutes that can eject sawdust from the joint you are excavating, giving you smooth walled mortises of a consistent width and depth.  There are many ways you can go about guiding your router to give you the desired results.  Here are just a few:

With a template. If you rout a slot in a piece of MDF or plywood at a width that can accept a router bushing, it will guide your router as you cut away. I usually cut a 3/4″ slot to accept a like-sized bushing, then use a 1/2″, 3/8” or 1/4″ bit to cut the appropriately sized mortise.

With a center-finding guide. Special base plates with carefully aligned bearings automatically center your bit on the work piece, locating the mortise in the ideal location for maximum strength.

With your edge guide. By using your edge guide, you can carefully place the bit anywhere along the piece, giving maximum adjustability.

With a table mounted router. Flip your router into a router table, adjust the fence to place the mortise where you want it and lower the work onto the bit and using stop blocks to control the final length of the mortise.

The tenon can be made just as easily with your router. You could cut it on a router table by pushing your work past a straight cutting bit, which is certainly a viable option.  However, once I tried a four-faced tenon cutting jig – WOW.  That has become my favorite way to cut tenons. Fast, accurate and repeatable.

Tom and his Tenoning Jig

The jig is very simple to build – it has a flat top piece with a window cut into the top for the router to plunge through. There is also a vertical fin that gets dadoed into the bottom of this top piece. And, finally, there’s a fence that the board you are routing sits against.

Tom's Jig with a board, ready to go

Set the depth on a rabbeting bit, and start the router. The length of the tenon is set by the plunge depth of the router, and the depth of cut is set by the guide bearing at the bottom of the bit.  Jim McCleary of Proven Woodworking has an outstanding page featuring plans for the jig and videos of how it works.

Yes, the mortise and tenon is a great joint. And, now that you know how to cut both parts with your plunge router, what are you waiting for? Get out there and build!

*** Specials thanks to Tom Iovino, a true Shop Monkey,  for this post.  He will be providing posts on a monthly basis for Eagle America, check back again soon. ***

Make Beautiful Boxes By Adding A Few Splines

March 7, 2011 Leave a comment

The Eagle America Spline Jig was designed for your table saw to save you time and help you safely create strong, decorative joints. Used when making fine furniture, picture frames and boxes, spline joints are one of the most beautiful methods of joinery used in woodworking.

You can use contrasting wood tones or various spline thicknesses to create decorative accents. Spline joints are not only attractive but they feature extra gluing surfaces when compared to a plain joint, making them one of the strongest joints you can make.

The jig measures 12″ W x 24″ L and features an embedded t-track with two stop blocks. Use both stop blocks to sandwich and cut splines in narrow projects, one stop block to clamp and index cuts on medium sized projects or remove both stop blocks for larger projects such as boxes.

The base of the jig is made from durable 1/2″ HDPE which creates a smooth, non-marring surface that slides easily across your table saw top. The adjustable 18″ miter bar will fit in any standard 3/4″ miter slot. Made in USA!

We also recommend using our Thin Rip Jig which allows you to safely and accurately cut thin splines on the left-hand side of the blade so there is no burning, binding or kickback.

How do you use our woodworking catalog?

February 18, 2011 Leave a comment

One of our woodworking friends recently sent us this video, one woman’s idea on how best to use a woodworking catalog:

So what did you think of that?  Personally…I can see that happening to a lot of our woodworking friends!  So what do you do with our catalog when you get it in the mail?  Do you quickly flip through it?  Do you put it in your shop for use at a later date?  Do you keep it next to your router table system so it is handy when you need to order some new woodworking router bits?  Let us know.

Also, if you want to avoid being hit in the head you can always flip through our online “flipbook” version of the catalog.  It’s the closest thing to having the catalog in your hands that you can get online.  Click here to see the most recent version.

Categories: Shop Tips & Tricks

RTFM: Read That Forgotten Manual

February 17, 2011 1 comment

*** This post is courtesy of Tom Iovino of Tom’s Workbench ***

So, I have this band saw. Bought it back in 2004. It’s a pretty standard issue 14 inch model with a ¾ hp motor.  It has a nice shiny table. I’ve equipped it with some decent aftermarket band saw blades for resawing and curve cutting, a Kreg precision band saw fence, a brush to get the dust off the bottom wheel and a set of Cool Blocks to replace the standard issue steel blade guides.

Tom had his blades...

...and he had his fence but something still wasn't right

And, yet, even with the loving care I put into the saw, it still didn’t function the way I needed it to. The saw would cut very thin materials well – maybe up to ¾ of an inch – with no bogging or struggle.  But, once you got thicker than that, the saw had this maddening habit of slowing to a stop. I would have to stop the saw, back the band saw blade out from the piece and start all over again.  It was frustrating and dangerous, and I usually ended up turning to my jigsaw to make cuts that probably should have been easily handled by the band saw.

Eventually, the time came where I had to resaw a 5 inch wide piece of ash.  I was dreading this step, because I knew it was going to take at least a half an hour to nibble my way through the board, and I wasn’t going to like the results.

That’s when the idea hit me. Before I waste my time, why not break out the manual and see if there was a way to get the saw to work better?


The biggest challenge was finding the manual in the first place.  I looked high and low and eventually found it tucked away in a lower shop cabinet with the rest of the manuals. Apparently, I must have been slipping them in the same area for years, but forgot about them.  I must have referred to it, because I did have a page dog-eared over regarding band saw blade tensioning and I had written the blade length (93.5 inches) on the front cover.

Armed with my toolbox, I pulled the saw out from its place of banishment (against the wall) and set to work.  I discovered quickly that I need to hook up my dust collection system when I use the saw – there were strata of sawdust layers from previous projects. I vacuumed out the cabinet and flipped to page one of the manual. There were plenty of safety tips there – pretty useful stuff.

How to unpack your saw … we were well past that step.

How to assemble your saw… the saw is where it needed to be, perched on top of the stand.  That’s good.

Then, I got to the good stuff – how to set the saw up.  OK, the motor mounting instructions were interesting, and everything was still nice and snug.

How to set up the drive belt…. It was properly looped over the drive pulley on the motor and the pulley that connected to the lower wheel. Check.

How to tension the belt … OOOH, that’s where I made my mistake!  There were carefully written and illustrated directions on how to get the tension right… and I – in my haste to get the saw up and running – apparently ignored them.  My bad…

A few turns of a bolt later, I was set up the way I needed to be.  I ran through the rest of the set up instructions – slowly – and saw that the rest of the saw was OK.  I reassembled all of the guards and covers, plugged the saw back in and hit the on switch.

The previously wimpy saw was now strong. Beefy. Assertive.  The ash board didn’t stand a change. I went edge to edge on this two foot long board – taking my time – in about 40 seconds.  All told, even when counting the set up time, the cut took about 15 minutes. What an improvement!

So, the next time your tools aren’t functioning the way they should, do a little sleuthing and find that manual. You just might discover that a little tweak or two can turn the agony of defeat into the thrill of victory!

*** Specials thanks to Tom Iovino, a true Shop Monkey,  for this post.  He will be providing posts on a monthly basis for Eagle America, check back again soon. ***

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