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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Iovino’

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. ***

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. ***

The Router Bit Basics

January 21, 2011 1 comment

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

So, you have a router.  Great. It’s a very useful tool, allowing you to cut joinery, shape moldings, thickness boards and a host of other uses. Maybe yours has an ultra-smooth plunge action. Perhaps a soft electronic start. A massively useful edge guide. Go ahead. Open the case on your router and breathe in the multitasking goodness.  Take your time.  I’ll give you a minute…

Tom really, really loves routers!

Oh, wait, there may be one little detail you have overlooked, isn’t there? That’s right – the router itself has to be paired with router bits to do its woodworking goodness. Without router bits, your router is really a high-tech, tricked out paperweight.

So, what can you do to remedy this situation?  There are two different routes you can take.  First, you can buy bits one at a time as the need arises. But, if you do that, there’s a chance you’ll be mid-project without the bit you need.  The other option is to buy a set of bits to have the basics on hand. In this scenario, you’ll discover that you use some bits until their carbide is about to fall off while others sit idle in the case.  I’ve approached the router bit buying routine from both sides as my woodworking skills have developed and have arrived at a third avenue of choice.  That would be to ask your woodworking friends what bits they use the most and pick those most useful up first.

What are my most used bits?  I’m glad you asked.  They include:

A 1/2” straight cutting bit. If you are going to route dadoes or rabbets, you could do a whole lot worse than this workhorse. If you are working with material thicker than ½”, you can cut your dado and then use the bit to rabbet the material being inserted into the groove so it fits the channel. This bit can also be used to set your router table up as a jointer using an offset fence.

A 3/8” up-spiral bit. Your plunge router makes a very handy and effective mortising machine. Since I frequently use 3/8” mortises when joining ¾” material, this bit gives me the dimension to shoot for. The up-spiral bit helps eject the router shavings effectively while you are plunging the router.

A 1/2” top bearing pattern following bit. If you want to ensure that identical project pieces are truly identical, cut a template from an inexpensive sheet material such as MDF and pattern-route the pieces to shape. A very cool technique that will improve your woodworking. A bonus use – you can run this bit against a straight edge and cut dadoes in sheet goods.

A 1/2” round over bit. Cut pieces of wood have very sharp edges on them. Easing these edges makes your projects more comfortable to handle and the rounded over edge is less likely to splinter if handled roughly. You can adjust how much is cut by changing the amount of bit that’s exposed for cutting.

A 1/2” cove bit. This bit cuts the mirror image of the round over bit, scooping out an area of wood. Combining the round over and cove bits creatively can allow you to cut some very cool looking moldings with basic bits.

A 3/4” chamfer bit. In addition to knocking a 45 degree edge off of projects and moldings, you can also use this bit to ensure mitered project parts are accurately milled to 45 degrees, ready to be joined into perfect, airtight miters.

A 3/4”, 14 degree dovetail bit.  When you buy a router jig to cut dovetails, you probably won’t be using this bit to do your cutting.  Most jigs require different sizes or diameters of bits to work properly.  However, this bit can allow you to master another awesome joint – the sliding dovetail. Once you learn how to cut one, you’ll be hooked.

*** 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. *** Read more…

Our First Guest Blogger – Tom Iovino

January 14, 2011 1 comment

Everyone at Eagle America takes our blog “The Cutting Edge” very seriously.  It is our opportunity to speak directly to woodworkers like you…freestyle.  A catalog and many email broadcasts are very focused on highlighting specific products and their features, advantages and benefits.  We simply have a limited amount of space to get all of that info across, which means we have little to no room to add a personal touch or narrative.  We like the fact that on this blog we can actually DISCUSS what projects we are working on, what tools we are using and why, or what YOU, our dedicated customer and reader base, are up to in the shop.

As you know we love talking about the woodworking tools we sell and how we use them.  Be it router bits, router accessories, saw blades of all shapes and sizes, Kreg pocket hole jigs, Festool power tools or more from our list of over 6,000 total woodworking items offered…we just love using them and sharing our experiences.  That being said, we know that you crave the thoughts and opinions of other real world woodworkers, just like you.  That leads us to this guy…

 

Tom Iovino (head in clamp!) - Guest Blogger to the Stars

Tom Iovino has been providing a humorous, yet educational look at woodworking for some time on his Tom’s Workbench blog.  You might also recognize his name from his recent articles in Wood Magazine.  Long story short, we get a kick out of Tom and think you will too.  That is why he is our first regular guest blogger!  He will be writing a monthly blog post for us on a topic of his choosing.  If there is something in particular that you want Tom to write about, please let us know by adding your comments to this blog post.

Welcome aboard Tom!

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