Vise Rebuild

I recently inherited my great grandfather’s vise. It isn’t some magnificent old pre-WW2 piece of hardware that shows they really knew how to build them. It was purchased in the 70s and has an old green paint that looks like a faded version of what harbor freight uses today.

Still, no reason to get snoody about it. It is a really beefy looking vise compared to my little red one, it appears quite serviceable, is kind of an heirloom, and why toss something when you can fix it! It isn’t in horrible shape, but I wanted to do something before the rust moved in any further.

Everything came apart easily with the exception of the jaw pads. Their screws were in very poor shape and took some coaxing to get out. Looks like someone tried and failed earlier. I will replace these with something that accepts a hex key.

All the other minor screws and smaller hardware looked to be in good enough shape to keep. I put it all through a hot ultrasonic bath with a rust remover/inhibitor.

With the small parts taken care of I took an angle grinder powered wire brush to the main body parts of the vise. A flap wheel was used on the non-painted parts. They shined up a bit, but with all those deep gouges it will never look like new. Not sure if that means it is a soft casting or saw very heavy use. Everything remaining got a heavy coat of rust preventing primer.

I wanted to gussy up the dreary green, so I broke out the vibrant red paint. It kind of looks like my smaller vise now. Big red and little red. Everything that moves got oil and I bolted it down to the new heavy duty workbench. Everything else below the bench is mobile, but this is going to see some heavy use, so permanent fixing is justified. Its first job is coming just around the corner.

Heavy Work Bench

Shop work is still mostly getting usurped by home improvement projects. In moving stuff around the shop it occurred to me that there was some space for a work bench. I want something very sturdy to attach bench tools to (vise, bench grinder, anvil, etc), but also a place I could sit and do repairs. I worked out a design that requires most of a sheet of 3/4″ plywood and a hand full of 2x4s. I started by planing 2x4s square and gluing them together for extra thick legs.

The frame is 4ft wide which goes well with a 4×8 sheet of plywood, and 8ft 2x4s. The recessed bottom shelf gives some space for storing bench equipment when not in use. It would store more and be more accessible if it was full depth, but I wanted leg room so I could sit comfortably at the bench.

I screwed together two sheets to make the top. I was going to glue them, but screwing was good enough and I can replace the top piece if it becomes damaged. This is a very stout table.

Bare, and in its final resting place it looks pretty good. Time to load it up with junk! From left to right, my big red vise from my dad, old bench grinder turned buffer, anvil, arbor press, carved depression used to hammer bowl shapes in wood, and bench grinder on the bottom.

Most everything is attached to thick pieces of wood. This lets me put the tool wherever I need it and clamp them down. I made sure the table top protruded from the legs far enough so I could clamp anything across the entire width. I kept thinking of fancy dovetail sliders, or bolt patterns, or bench dogs that would let me install a wide variety of tools. In the end a thick top and some C-clamps is simple and effective.


While I was dismantling parts of the garage to make space for this bench I pulled off these shallow shelves. It was kind of perfect for what I wanted to add to the bench. These shelves can be used to store my electrical/electronics stuff. That jives with my idea of this serving as a part time repair bench. The shelves were up against the wall and didn’t have a back. I added one to keep stuff from falling out the back.

The lower shelf has a power strip and commonly used equipment. It probably needs more organization in the top shelf. For now I am going to live with it and see what gets used often, and what can live elsewhere.

A front cover helps keep the dust out and things from falling off the shelf when banging on the table. Two bent brackets catch the front door on the right hand side, and a swiveled part holds it at the top. To remove you just swivel the one catch and slide the door left a few inches. That way it can be removed or installed even when the table is covered in junk.

I have had it this way for a week or two now and already I christened the table top with grinding detritus and grime from the next project. We all knew that pristine surface wasn’t going to last long.

Chimney Cover

Home buying is a nerve racking experience. Thrills and surprises await you around every corner. One big one is the home inspection. On something as big as a house there are always items that crop up. You have to decide if they are deal breakers, or if you can take the risk of them being worse than the inspection indicated.

One thing that came up on ours was that the chase cover on the chimney was rusted. It was a surface rust, no emergency, but something to not ignore. A winter break gave me the time, and cooler weather, to get up there and do something about it while not dying of heat stroke. Close inspection revealed that it wasn’t bad and some cleanup plus paint would add many more years of life.

The big square chimney cover bridges the gap between the chimney pipe (might not be the right term) and the wooden structure sicking out of the house. My plan was to take it off, bring it to ground level and do all the paint work. The trick was I couldn’t figure out how to get that top little set of square covers off. I tried rotating the assembly but was worried something in the wall would come apart. 10 minutes of googling while on the roof didn’t give me a good answer.

Chimneys are completely new to me, so I am just feeling my way through all this. The section of roof is pretty tame so I took a grinder up there and did everything on the roof.

Sure enough, the rust wasn’t that deep. I knocked it, and as much other crud off as a I could with a wire wheel and came back with a coarse sander pad. There is still a lot of zinc left, but I had read a self etching primer would bond well with it. A few coats of that, and It was way too hot to keep working.

I came back the next day, sanded the primer and used a full can of high temperature white enamel. Even early in the morning the metal was getting hot and the paint dried too quickly. It isn’t a great paint job, but looks fine from down below. The original plan was to do this all on the ground in the shade. If I had known from the get go I was going to be working on the roof I might have opted to brush on something instead.

I replaced the rusted screw hardware with epoxy coated torx head screws. There is a thin band of metal that covers the gap between the pipe and the newly painted cover. The old one was pretty rusted, but a local fireplace store had new ones, so I replaced it. Not my finest repair overall, but it won’t be rusting through any time soon. When this needs work again I might be calling a fireplace expert of some sort.

The Great Cat Door Conspiracy

Great is maybe overselling it a bit. And does it count as a conspiracy if I have been openly talking about doing this for months? The Moderately Interesting Cat Door Plan just doesn’t sound as good. Here is the situation. The previous owners of our house had cats. They adored these cats and gave them reign of much of the house. As such there are a number of cat doors around. Some are internal doors, some go from inside to outside (AC leaks!). On top of that there are two exterior doors that had intercoms. The intercoms are dead and gone which leaves a hole to fill.

This was an example from an outdoor closet that housed a set of litter boxes. All doors had the same size and shape of hole. To fill it I got a wide board of PVC wood. It has a smooth side and a textured side that looks like wood grain. I am not sure how they make it, but the inside isn’t as dense as a PVC pipe. It has a closed cell foam kind of interior. Not structural strength, but good enough for trim and jobs like this. They probably have a reasonable insulation value too, which is handy for the exterior door.

I cut out a few blanks and got to carving away on the router. I was having so much fun working in the shop I forgot to take pictures.

I used a wide router bit to rabbet around the edges so the blocks would fit inside the door and leave less than 1/4″ showing. That made them less obtrusive visually. The inside doors have a wood texture, so I put that side showing out and matched the grain orientation. The outside doors are smooth. Before installing I used my corner radius jigs to add a little round over to the 4 corners. I used white calking to glue each one in place and cover up any edge seams. Blue tape kept them in place while that dried.


With all the cat doors taken care of I used what I learned to attack the outdoor intercoms. I didn’t think a round over would look nice here, but did take advantage of the wood grain. Same trick as before with some careful adjustment to get these to press fit in. I used a small amount of clear silicon to hole them in place in case I needed to pry them out for some reason. The side garage door is bare but has wiring for a future doorbell. The front door has one of those new fangled video doorbells.

Hidden TV

Things are continuing to come together at our new house. I have my workout area setup in my office and have been getting back into the kettlebell routine. There is one thing missing though. About the only time I watch TV is when I am working out. Our only TV doesn’t live in my office, so I wanted to stash one out of the way but within easy reach.

Ta Da, TV hidden behind a closet door. Nobody expects it! The sound bar was left over by the previous owners. It just fits inside the door opening and matches the TV perfectly. I cooked up a set of 3D printed brackets to hold the sound bar and mounted them to a 1/2″ sheet of plywood.

A slim TV mount holds the TV tight against the door and with just a tiny gap between it and the sound bar. I mounted everything, hooked up power and AV wires, then wire wrapped the two power cords together to prevent them from getting caught in the door and make it all cleaner. Buying a TV with a roku built in made for one less device and cord to deal with. I was going to paint the plywood, but it is tucked well behind the TV and sound bar, and the closet door is normally closed. I finished it off with a set of printed remote holders that sit just below the TV.

When it is all together and the door is closed you can’t tell what entertainment is lurking beneath!

DIY Ethernet Cabling

I had CAT6 cable pulled through our new house in various strategic locations.  In my master closet there is a set of outlets up high so I can run a POE wireless access point attached to the ceiling at a location that is out of the way, and central to the house.  Another set goes to my office so my 3D printer and office computer can be hard wired to the network.  Everything comes together to a network closet with a paper printer, NAS, and other local devices all wired in.  The result is good wireless coverage everywhere and super fast/reliable connection to important devices.  It did require a large number of custom cables though.

I picked up a few special tools, but by the time I got done, I really only used two.  First, you will need a good set of delicate side cutters like these.  I used crimp on connectors that let the wires pass through, and a strain relief boot.  Start by sliding the boot down the cable.

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I used the side cutters to slit up the side of the jacket, then try to cut the jacket as square as possible. CAT6 has a central + shaped member, cut that away and make sure you have ~2 inches of wire free.  Check for nicks or kinks in the cable.

 

With the wires free, untwist each pair back to the jacket and straighten each pair.  When untwisted, they still have a lot of curl to them (see the blue pair on the left).  To get these straight I pinch each pair between my thumb and forefinger tightly and pull.  A few pulls has them mostly straight and calm.  It may take practice tries to get the hang of it.  Don’t skip this step, it helps everything else.  If they aren’t straightening you need to squeeze harder when you pull.

 

With those pairs all straightened out, arrange them in the proper order.  I use the 568B spec.  Notice the ends are a little wild still?  I could never get the very ends right, I think cutting the cable cold works the copper into a bad shape.  I always cut the last 1/4″ or so, and make sure it is at a bit of an angle.  That gets rid of the curly ends, and helps loading later on.

 

Next, keep the bundled pinched together and pass it into the back of the connector.  This is where some extra length helps.  Enough room for your fingers to hold and get the wires passed through.  Connectors that don’t let you pass the wires through are a million times harder to use in my opinion.  Push it all through, make sure the order is correct, and use the extra wire length to help pull the jacket all the way up.

 

With everything snug and in proper order, clip the ends of the extra cable (those little side cutters again).  Now carefully pull the wires back just enough to get them recessed from the front.  Put them in a crimping tool (The only special tool you really need, and they can be had for reasonable prices) and give a good squeeze.  Slide the boot up and you are done.

 

I bought a connector tester that runs a voltage down every line.  After about 20 connectors I stopped using it.  I could see every wire was in the right order with these connectors and never had a miss.  After a bit of practice each connector only takes about 5 minutes.  A big spool of cable and the connectors on hand means I can make a cable for about 75 cents a cable plus ~ 5 cents a foot.  It makes my network closet neat and tidy and keeps the total cost down.

Mobile Clamp Rack

The next set of loose junk around my garage to organize are my clamps.  In the previous shop, these filled every nook and cranny along one wall.  Those dowel holders are a very efficient way to pack as many clamps in as possible horizontally.  The professional metal brackets don’t pack quite as tight, but look nice and make the clamps easier to access.  I had bought a number of them in the past, but didn’t use very many for lack of space.  Thank goodness I never throw anything away!

My new shop has a lot of space, but not as much wall as you would think.  Windows, doors, and a lot of plumbing stuff take up much of the available wall surface.  To remedy this, I need a new wall.  A wall on wheels.  I cut down two 1/2″ sheets of plywood and screwing them down to a 2×4 frame.

The wall stands on a set of 2x4s with casters and is short enough to get under my garage door.  I can roll this anywhere in the shop now.  The frame took 4 boards, and the legs with braces another 2 for a total of 6 2x4s.  I had the casters already, but went for nicer grade plywood and ended up spending about 100 dollars to build this.

I used a few of my previous clamp holders, but ditched most of the hodge podge for the nicer looking store bought metal brackets I already had.  Everything got directly screwed to the plywood face.  This big of a blank canvas supports all sorts of solutions and lets me pack in clamps efficiently.  I even managed to get my saw/router guides and cawls onboard.  I may eventually re-organize so they are grouped more by length than type of clamp, but with everything so open it is really easy to see what is available.