Folding Helping Tower

A helping tower is like a step stool you use in the kitchen with a child. It gets them up to a height to be able to help out with basic cooking tasks. Unlike a basic step stool, this has sides and a back so they can be kept in place, and not easily fall off. There are a million different examples online, but most all of them are bulky (by necessity) and end up being a bit of an albatross in the kitchen. I wanted a folding one that could be packed away easily. It took a lot of prototyping, but I did it.

I normally jump into projects, but this one was a very slow methodical trial and error build over nearly 2 months. A broken AC and baby tasks stretched that out a bit. The front frame of the device consists of two permanent uprights with an upper and lower stretcher. To those uprights, a set of folding sides are attached. The right upright is thinner so that the two fold over each other in an overlapping pattern.

The middle stretcher will hold the step and let it swing into place. I needed a strong stop that would support the step and draw the sides into the step. I used a dovetail bit on the bottom of the step to make a slightly angled groove. The stops had the same angle in reverse. Now, the more weight put on the step, the tighter it will draw the sides in.

The seat can fold up and the sides fold in. Everything is compact and easy to deploy. The stops are only 1/2″ thick and don’t interfere with the fold up.

It needed some kind of back to keep people from falling off backwards. A simple swing arm accomplished this task. It was narrow enough so as not to interfere with the unit’s ability to pack up. This had all the rough mechanics I wanted, but was narrower and not as deep as I felt it should be. Also I wanted the step portion to be adjustable as the child grows. On to the next prototypes.


I am going to use dowel nuts and binding screws to make something that was strong, but could be removed and reassembled. It would take a number of holes drilled in the right places to make that work. I planned the sizes of the parts and printed out drill guides that would hold brass tubes to act as drill bushings. The brass won’t last forever, but is easy to cut and insert, and helps keep the hand drilling accurate.

First up I clamped the jig in place and used a transfer punch to mark the centers of where the barrel nuts will go. This makes drilling on the drill press easy.

Next to accommodate the bolts, I need to drill a long hole end-on to meetup with the cross holes. This can’t vary much and the parts are too long to use the drill press, thus the drill jig idea.

With both sets of holes accurately drilled, the nuts and bolts will meet up in the correct spots.


With the folding and adjusting mechanics worked out I could move on to the real thing. I selected 1×3 pine for the uprights and spreaders. The step spreader got its holes drilled with the above jigs, and the other two spreaders received a set of fair curves thanks to my new drawing bows.

Part of the assembly folding out and being stable is having the sides only fold out 90 degrees. They must positively stop when they reach the right angle. I do this by firmly clamping the sides and uprights together and routing a small pocket for the hinges. This 3d print has a center-line mark on it and is perfectly spaced to make a tight mortise for the hinges. The result is a flush hinge and sides that do not swing out past where you need them.

I assembled the step and determined how high it could go when folded up. Too high and the step hits the top spreader. Marking those places I could make a row of holes that would allow the step assembly to adjust as needed. The sides and uprights got a set of holes placed every 2 inches.

To lighten the structure and add something fun, I printed a series of shape templates. Double sticky tape holds them down, and a plunge router cuts them out quickly. I made 8 unique shapes and it really adds a lot.

I put the center spreader in at the top most position and marked where the stops should be. Each one has two t-nuts hammered in place. Bolts go in from the outside to hold those securely. Now to adjust the height you have 8 bolts to remove. 4 from the stops, and 4 from the folding step. The final unit is light, compact when folded, looks decent (even though most of it is plywood), and should have enough room for any kid small enough to need it. The swinging back stop is made with another set of dowel nuts and binding screws. Everything got a coat of shellac as basic protection.

As a final bonus, I was able to cut the shapes out carefully enough that they all survived in tact. I rounded the edges and shellacked them as well.

I want to be able to re-create this again in the future. Here is a rough parts list with sizes. Dowel nuts and binding screws are both 1/4-20s.

QtyDescription
6Dowel Nut
4Binding Screw, 5/8”
6Binding Screw 1-3/16”
4T Nut
8Pan head screw, 1-1/2”


1Back Bar: 18-1/4 x 1-1/2”
3Spreaders: 16 x 2-1/2”
1Upright Left: 38 x 2-1/2”
1Upright Right: 38 x 1-3/4”
1Side Left: 36 x 10”
1Side Right: 36 x 10-3/4”
1Step: 16 x 11-1/2”

Printed Router Accessories

I have been making good use of my new router table. It was already very capable with a flat surface and adjustable fence, but there is always room for improvement. I am going to trick it out with a few printed accessories.

I have seen dust collector chutes that sit at the end of the table and suck up dust from dado cuts. I have a big enough table that I can do some pretty wide cuts before needing to break out the handheld router. First up, here is what the critter looks like. It sits at the end of the router table and collects the dust that blows out from the slot you are cutting when doing dado work.

I made a housing with a groove around the edges that would accept some brush material from a door sweep. It turns out if you remove the brush material it comes crimped in a little metal frame. That can be cut with a heavy pair of diagonal cutters. Doing that pinches off brushes so that nothing falls out. I cut up 3 segments and glued them into the housing.

To hold it down to the table I printed a bracket with alignment features and slotted screw holes. Now the dust chute can be raised and lowered or removed. The brushes will help catch dust, but won’t interfere with a board passing over the table’s edge. It certainly isn’t an accessory I will use every day, but it was a fun build and will come in handy from time to time.


An accessory that will see far more use is a pair of rolling stock guides. They are based off a design that Jessem sells. Theirs are made of metal and the wheels don’t allow kickback. I think my version is good enough given the price difference. I found a pack of cheap rubber wheels for luggage. There is an infeed and outfeed version with the wheels angled slightly towards the fence. They can adjust to accept thin or thick stock.

I needed a few small knobs for this job and experimented with using coupling nuts. The tall nuts give a lot of surface for the printed part to bear against. I tried tightening one against a vice, and couldn’t twist it hard enough to break it by hand. I will be making more of these in the future!

Here is a quick animation of it in action. The guides keep it pressed down to the table and the angle of the wheels guides the board towards the fence. I purposefully started the board away from the fence to illustrate it being guided in.


Lastly, I spent a lot of time making sure everything on this router table was flat and precise. I want to be able to do precision joinery, and that requires fine adjustment. It can be frustrating when you are trying to fine tune in a joint and just need a little nudge out of the fence. These little jigs will secure down via the T-track on the table and run a fine screw up against the fence.

The front of the screw has a ball bearing glued into a coupling nut. This means that the fence is only touched by the very tip of a hard bearing. When you rotate the screw it is a consistent touch point centered on the axis of rotation. The bottom of the jig has rubber bumpers so it doesn’t slide around on the slick table top. The shaft is a 10-32 screw. That means every rotation is 1/32″ of an inch. The mounting block uses another coupling nut and the handle is just threaded plastic. With one of these on either side of the table you can square the fence, or move it in very carefully prescribed movements. 1/8 of a turn of both handles will adjust the fence by about the thickness of a sheet of paper!

Drill Press Table

I built a new drill press table when I dropped my press before the move. It was a good table for how quickly I turned it around with what I had on hand. There are a few issues though. I made it small because my last one was too big and would collect junk storage. It is a little too small and stuff overhangs a lot. The 2.5″ insert is a lot smaller than many of the bits I use, which means the top has a lot of damage from my 4″ hole saw. More importantly though, the fence is unusable. I put the t-tracks right in line with the rotating handle. Every time you bring the press down it bonks on the fence knob. A few inches to the left or right and things would have been fine.

To start with, I had been fussing around with dust collection solutions on my drill press for ages. I finally broke down and bought some big locline hosing (blue and orange in the pictures below) and 3D printed an adapter to attach it to the back column. The adapter has passages for hose clamps to pass through it and clamp it securely. I had already wired in a switch at the front, so you just turn the vacuum on and start drilling.

With dust collection solved, I attached the first layer of the table top. The large hole in the center will let me reach up from underneath and pop out the top table’s insert. Notice the dust collection switch already attached at the bottom left.

Next I printed a template and routed out a square section for the inserts to go into. Previously I had a smaller insert. I found myself using the 3 and 4″ hole saw at the drill press often, and it damaged the tabletop outside of the insert area. This new one is 4.5″ wide. I cut a pile of inserts to make sure I wasn’t going to run out anytime soon. They got their corners and bottom edges rounded to fit in the cutout better and prevent dust in the corners from letting them sit properly.

Last but not least I made up a set of fences. I find myself rarely clamping to the fence, and often wishing it was very short. I made both a tall fence, that could have stop blocks clamped to it, as well as a flat fence. The t-track is far enough out on the table and the clamp knobs are short enough that the drill press handle shouldn’t ever be an issue.

Flat Fence
Tall Fence

Router Table Top and Fence

I have been using my new router setup for a number of weeks now. The lift is fantastic, the top is a little wonky and too soft, and the fence is barely adequate. I am settled enough on some of my other projects and have spent some time thinking out how I want to build a final top and fence. So, let’s get building and address all the issues my first top created.

The first thing to fix is the cutout the router lift fits into. The radius required is a size of router bit I don’t have. My last attempt didn’t go well. This time, I have a good plan. First, I put the router lift down on a piece of hardboard and snugged up pieces of plywood next to it. I then glued and weighted the plywood to the hardboard so it would provide a very tight hold of the lift top plate.

That all made the edges fit snugly, so I know there won’t be any wiggle when I drop the router lift in. Next, to solve the radius problem I just 3D printed some corners that take up the extra space. Now, the router bit I have will follow the contour and there won’t be any gaps at the corners. I used thin CA glue to hold the printed corners in place.

With the cutout template finished I double sticky taped it down to a big piece of laminate faced plywood and got routing. The first pass hogged out the lip that the router lift will sit on. A jigsaw opened up the rest.

I checked the fit and it is wonderful. There is almost no slop, and the corners match the lift well.

I cut a piece of 3/4″ plywood to go under the laminate top to act as support. I sat the two pieces on my flat table saw top and went around with a straight edge and flashlight to check everything. I found some slight bows and used cawls to clamp everything flat, then slowly brad nailed everything together.

With everything tacked together I moved the top to the router base I built earlier. I found some slight dipping in the center, so I cut brass shims to bring the top back to flat when everything was screwed down. With the top in place, flat, and securely fastened, I added edge banding all the way around to help protect the laminate from getting chipped.


Next I wanted to add a number of t-tracks to the top for featherboads and to keep the fence in place. My router produces a ton of dust when doing a big cut and my fixed base porter cable 890 series doesn’t come with any collection port. A few iterations of printing got me this two piece design that I glued together. It goes in where the edge guide would normally plug in.

The start of the cut usually generates a lot of dust, but once the grooves got going the shroud did a good job picking up most of the dust. There probably aren’t any 100% solutions, but this does save a lot of mess. The grooves turned out well!


The top is nearly complete. I just need to do the final installation of the lift. First, I wanted to reinforce the places where the leveling set screws will land. The plywood is too soft, and I expect they will sink in with time. On my last top I used CA glue to shore up the area. This time I found some 1/16″ brass to line those areas. Once bonded, the leveling went quickly. All the effort I spent getting the table top level means the router lift plate can be perfectly flush all the way around. No catches or dips at the transitions.


The Fence

With the table top finished, I was ready to move on to the fence. Having it clamp at the edges worked in my last fence adaptation, but the center tended to flex. That is the most important place to keep still, so I added the t-track in closer to the center to keep the fence stable near the bit. I cut out some 3/4″ plywood to act as a base an front face for the fence.

I put in knobs to clamp the fence down, and added spacers to move the height of the knob up. The fence is tall enough it needs a little boost to make it easier to reach.

I cut out laminate plywood sections to make movable fence faces. I set them against the front of the fence and marked the spots where a slot would need to start and top. I should have drilled out the ends of the slot and routed the middle. The full depth cut got a little squirley in places. Oh well, the fence faces open and close easily.

Now that I know where my hands will be going to tighten the fence and faces, I know where there is free space to add ribs. These triangular ribs will stabilize the fence front and keep it stiff. I just glued and nailed them in place.

To finish off the fence I cut a strip of laminate to go across the top of the moveable faces. It makes the total height 5 inches and holds a t-track that goes the whole length of the fence.

The fence is done, but it still doesn’t have any dust collection. I printed a duct section to screw down just behind where the router bit will be. This combined with the dust collection built into the cabinet means that very little dust will escape this unit.

That puts the final touches on the fence. While I was at it, I cut a hand full of extra moveable faces and screwed them to the back of the table cabinet as spares. I also cut a full length extra tall fence that moves the total height up to 6 inches.

These upgrades should make the whole router setup really clean and fast to operate. Combined with the base I built earlier I am all set on the router front and am ready to tackle a lot of new future projects!

Wee Walker Wagon V1 and 2

Getting back to baby furniture, I have seen different kinds of little pusher wagons that kids learning to walk can use to help them build muscles and coordination. A co-worker mentioned that his daughter had a plastic store bought walker that she was learning to walk with, but that it was so light that it would shoot away from her. I had him measure her height to the shoulder to act as a rough starting point

I will probably build one for us and a few for friends having kids. That means making use of templates to repeat the work once I figure out what I want it to be like. I broke out the compass and thin bandsaw blade and got curvy.

I added holes to the templates and used a transfer punch to copy those holes over to each part. That way the wheels will connect in the same spot, and the handles will go on evenly. To add a little color and flare I painted green accents to the handle and wheels and a racing stripe for +2 speed. When the paint was all dry I coated everything with polyurethane.

I was worried the walker would go skidding across the floor if placed on anything other than carpet. I printed thin TPU bands to act as tries and glued them to the wooden wheels. The TPU isn’t as grippy as a rubber tire, but I was able to produce it in house and it will grip better than the bare wood.

I spent some time fiddling with the arms, and probably built them a little too short. I will give this to the co-worker and have him test it out on his daughter.

The finished product looks nice. It is heavy enough that a child just learning to climb up will not have it shoot away, but light enough they can still push it. Lock nuts set the tension at the wheels, so there can be more or less resistance as needed.


I gave this one to the co-worker that was complaining about the plastic one his daughter was using. The only catch was that he had to report back how it worked, and let me tweak it if need be. A few weeks later the reports were in. The bigger kids liked to play with it too! They treated it like a bumper car and crashed it into a lot of things. Also they wrenched on the handle hard enough that the arms were flexing where they screwed into the body. Lastly, it was a little on the wide side.

No problem, this is why I gave it to him! I didn’t like how the old arms turned out, so I went ahead and remade the template. Instead of freehanding some curves I got more systematic. I drew two circles that were the size I wanted each end of the arm to be, and drew them further apart than the original arm so I could move the base down lower on the cart. Then, to connect them, I set my drawing bow to a nice curve and connected the tangents of the two circles. The results look a lot better than my first arm template.

I assembled everything with pocket hole screws from underneath, and a few visible screws on the side. That let me take everything apart for alterations. I trimmed the center width down from 16 inches to 12. That should lighten the look and load of the thing and make it more maneuverable.

The bumper car comment had me wondering. I had left the bolt heads stick out beyond the wheel. If they caught a piece of furniture or baseboard, the bolt would probably fair better than the target. Also, there wasn’t much cushion to the tires. I mostly added them for grip, not as a bash protector. I counter-bored all the wheels, to recess the bolt heads, and upgraded to 5/16″ bolts as that was what I had available. The old tires were cut off and replaced with thicker ones that wrap around the outside face of the wheel. Now they shouldn’t be so offensive to fine features in one’s house.

With those upgrades complete I reassembled everything and gave it back to my co-worker. If there aren’t any more changes needed I can go into production and make a few for myself and other co-workers that are having kids.

Hardware Drawers with Organizer Trays

A few years back I built two rolling cabinets to hold all of my screws and other hardware. They were a big boon, but I quickly converted one over to having only drawers. It looks like the other is about to have the same thing happen. I have lots of plastic organizers that are well labeled and sorted, but they have a few issues. The first one is that I go into them so often they pile up everywhere. I even added a pull out shelf so there was always a place to sit one. There tend to be 2 or 3 stacked up at any given time.

The other issue with them, and this is minor but super annoying, is that occasionally the dividers shift and start mixing all your hardware up like a bad drink recipe. Lastly, I find myself taking the organizer with me to the project I am working on. Sometimes you absentmindedly pull the wrong screw, and it takes up more space where you are working.

I was inspired by Alexandre Chappel’s video about printing little trays and using them to organize hardware. I printed out a few of his trays and thought the concept was fantastic, but had some issues with the wall thickness in the model and wanted more label space. I made my own instead. They have rounded corners to help speed printing, consistent wall thickness, a slight taper to the sides to make pulling them in and out easy, and a large label area. Now I can pull only the tray of screws I need and take it to where I am working.

With the tray sizes worked out I did some measurements and found I could fit a drawer 8 trays wide if I was careful in how I cut everything. I went ahead and started installing runners in the cabinet. I cut a template that would set spacing and act as a router guide to cut a dado in the cabinet sides. Once again my trim router comes to the rescue. This will help with the drawer runner alignment and expose new wood for glue. The inside was covered in boiled linseed oil when I made it.

I took thinned maple and had a small production run of drawer runners. I sand the top and bottom smooth, marked the board for screw locations, ripped out each runner, drilled clearance holes for screws and then installed them. Each runner got glue, a few brads to keep it still, and 3 screws. There will be a lot of weight on these, so I didn’t want any movement.

I planned out all the drawers to be the same, and installed runners for each. Before I went into drawer production though, I made a prototype held together with clamps. Good thing I did! The original plan was for the drawers to be 6 trays deep. Looking at the left picture below, I have the drawer pulled out as far as I dare given the weight. I can’t see the label or the contents of the last row. Dropping back to 5 rows leaves plenty of drawer still inside the cabinet for stability. Metal slides would cost more money and drawer width, but allow full extension. I could have had a few more trays had I gone that way, but I am happy with my decision.

With the drawer parameters set I went back into production mode. The cabinets originally had a number of shelves made for them. I didn’t need those anymore, so I figured out how to incorporate them into the new drawers. I am working really hard to minimize waste these days, so I don’t have to go out to the store. No fancy joinery, just a rabbet on the bottom to help keep the drawer bottom in the right position. For the fronts I attached new plywood and kept the orientation the same so the grain pattern would flow down the front.

With the drawers all assembled and dried I needed to countersink the screws that hold the drawer pull on. Once again a template makes this repeated work fast and easy. The template goes inside the drawer and guides a forsner bit big enough for the drawer pull’s screw head. Countersinking like this keeps the head from interfering with my trays and protrudes the screw far enough so that It can bite into the drawer pull.

Drawer pull template in place inside the drawer
Hole drilled and drawer pull screw installed

The finished cabinet looks gorgeous and I was even able to use the same label holders as I did on the other cabinet. There are still shelves below for organizers I thought were worth keeping. The shelf space below is at only 1/3 full at most, and the drawer space is 3/4 full. I doubt I will have to build any more drawers in the future, but the cabinet has enough space for another 5 or so. Each drawer has a magnet embedded in the front to hold onto a small steel ruler. That way you can double check what you pull out, and always put fasteners back in the right place.

Table Saw Outfeed Extension

I already had an outfeed extension for my table saw. I only built it two years ago. Why make a new one? Well I love it and use it all the time, but often wish it was bigger. Wide sheet goods don’t get enough support on the side, and longer things still fall off the back of it. I have more space in my new house, and I saw a great idea from Wood Work Web. Colin over at that site used these clever folding brackets to hold the extension and in a followup added a really easy release bar. First, let’s say goodbye to the old extension.

How did I manage to get nice laminate faced plywood in these times? As it turns out if you order enough sheets of plywood from the cabinet store, they will deliver it all for a pretty reasonable fee. I got enough supplies to last me for months, supported a local business, and did it in a socially distanced manor!

The folding brackets are a cheap amazon versions of what was used in the video. They feel sturdy enough, but aren’t actually square. A deeper read of the comments would have highlighted that fact. They slope the table away from the saw. That is ok by me, but in a lot of other applications, that could be a deal breaker. After removing the old top, I was able to re-use the bolted on pine board that served as the anchor point for my previous extension. I spaced the extension far enough away to clear my fence and its hardware. There is a bolt head (circled in red) that sits well below the height of the table. I have to avoid it or risk limiting the fence’s movement. Once installed the extension folds very compactly.


Rounded Corners

I really wanted to cut some corners on this build. I know I will be lazy and leave the extension up most of the time, and I work a lot around the table saw at my router and back into the saw and extension often. Rounding these edges would make them less painful. I started with a 2.5″ radius template and used it to mark and jig saw the corner off. Next I stuck it down with double sticky tape and used a template tracing bit to smooth out the remainder.

Once both corners were done I applied a white edge banding to all the edges. This should help protect the laminate top from getting chipped or damaged. I trimmed all the excess with a sharp knife.

Miter Slots

My last extension didn’t have any miter slots. If I used any kind of sled or miter gauge they would bonk against the table. I took the time to install them in this top. I clamped plywood to the top just outside of where the miter bar would pass. I then used a short tracing bit route down enough to allow clearance for the bar. I then picked up the plywood, lined it up with the other side of the bar and routed again. It wasn’t as exact as a purpose built slot template, but was quick and worked well. With the two slots routed, I soaked the edges in thin CA glue to help reinforce them and prevent the top from chipping off.

Things were starting to look really nice and functional. I did notice that my last top had a slight warp to it. I may have stored too many things on it. To prevent warpage in this top, I took it off and screwed on a set of supports underneath. These should help keep it flat.

Release Bar

This was kind of above and beyond, but why not go all out? I wanted to add a release bar like Colin did. Between the supports I added, and the way it was anchored to the saw, there wasn’t room to do what he did. Instead I 3D printed a little funky zigzag bracket. It is threaded to accept a #10 screw. I drilled a hole in the bracket release tab so the screw would go into that hole and prevent the bracket from sliding off.

That printed part gave me a long arm to attach a wide piece of plywood. This would be the thing I press up against to release and lower the extension. I clamped it in place to make sure it was all working correctly, then screwed the release bar down.

The finished product is great! It holds a lot of weight, gives me plenty of support for wide and long cuts coming off the saw, and folds up really flat. I figured the ease and speed of pack and deploy had to be shown, so I made a short gif.

Pikler Climbing Triangle

The baby goods continue. I saw this one as part of a way to give kids something to help work on standing when young, and an acceptable indoor outlet for climbing urges when they get to be toddlers. It folds up pretty easily, because we wont be using it for a while and I don’t need big furniture taking up space. It has colored rungs, and three ramps that can sit on any rung to make them more or less inclined. One is a slide, one a rock climbing wall with 3D printed climb features, and the other has rungs stuck down to make crawling up easier.

I used poplar for the sides of the climbing structure. I rounded the ends and drilled spots for each rung.

Once again trying to make everything a different color took a lot longer and was more tedious than I had originally thought. Still, every rung is different and it looks great!

To attach rungs to the climbing ramp front I flattened them by hand. I was going to make some kind of sled to go through the planer, but I would have to adjust the planer multiple times for each rung, and they didn’t get pulled through well. By hand ended up being the easiest. I used a combo square as a depth gauge to know when to stop removing material.

I attached two rungs to the back of each ramp so they would fit around the ones on the climber. They probably won’t do a good job on the highest rungs, but it holds really well on any of the lower ones.

Those two mounting rungs are where I made my only big mistake on this project. While finishing all the ramps I noticed an orientation issue. I used a forstner bit to drill recesses for the t-nuts that all those climbers attach to. The side with all the big holes should be the back, but I put the mounting rungs on the other side. I could rip them off, but it would really tear up the plywood surface. I glued and nailed them down. Instead I just lived with it. The holes are ugly, but sanded well enough to not be a hazard.

I rounded over the edges of the sides, finished them all individually and assembled the two halves. To hold the two segments together I shaped a triangular piece of plywood. It screws fixed to one side while using a set of screws as a hinge on the other. A bolt and t-nut allow it to be locked in the open position. Removed, it pivots around the one set of screws and folds up.

Our little guy will be battle testing this design eventually. Maybe there will be an update in a year or two where he has figured out how to collapse it from jumping or something. Successful designs will have to get a #BabyProof update.

Table Saw Zero Clearance Insert

Not that long ago I went to great lengths to make zero clearance inserts for my table saw. I had fancy (expensive) phenolic resin plywood, set screws with brass threaded inserts, and anything else you could want. While working on my baby bookcase, I noticed the old store bought insert was getting wallowed out and needed replacing. “No worries” I thought, I made my own inserts. After messing around with the level of it, I realized there was a problem. It wasn’t flat.

It had a pretty strong cup in the center. I don’t know if it started like this or gradually shifted since I first made them, but I can’t use it with that much of a gap (red arrow shows flashlight shining through). I needed something, so I nailed down a flat piece of 3/4″ plywood to the back where the motor wouldn’t hit it. That reduced the cup, but it still wasn’t perfect.


That was a band-aide let me get past the worst part of the problem and on to other projects. I needed a better solution though. The plywood inserts I made weren’t flat, and they wore out quickly. They plywood is just not going to stand up to any blade wobble. Gaps create tear out. I thought about buying more of the professional inserts. They are very well made (100% phenolic), but also kind of expensive.

Instead I thought about taking some of the 1/4″ material I bought for making miter saw inserts, and adapting that. After trying fancy plywood, 3d prints and pure phenolic, the phenolic wins hands down. My miter saw insert is still going strong 6 months later after lots of use. The printed ones were shot after a month or two.

Speaking of 3D printing, I printed a template to go onto the professional insert and guide my router to make a pocket just deep enough for the 1/4″ sheets. It sticks on and lets me use a router bit and bushing to make an exact cutout.

With a recess pocket milled out, (I forgot the picture) I was able to use another printed template to cut out the insert. It uses a template cutting bit that follows the printed part with a bearing and cuts away the extra phenolic below.

The holes in the brown printed plastic let me use a transfer punch to set the spacing for a few countersunk holes for 4-40 screws to bolt my insert to the store bought plate.

I again used a transfer punch to transfer the holes from the white insert into the larger store bought throat plate. Transferring holes like that means it will always fit and line up.

Top View
Bottom View

The only thing left to do was try it out. I sat the plate on top with everything adjusted in, moved the fence over to keep it from skipping out, and slowly raised the blade. I just so happened to buy a brand new blade at this time, so witness the birth of a new blade! A 20 dollar sheet of the white phenolic material can make a few dozen inserts, so I should be set for life with this system assuming the larger insert never gets seriously damaged.

Acrylic Paint 3D Printing Inlay

I have made multiple attempts at colored inlay with 3D printing and CnC milling in the past. My best results have been with epoxy resin and dye. It is hard to work with. Either you slop it on or pipe it in with a syringe. Slopping it on runs the risk of voids and has a lot of surface cleanup. Using a syringe has better control, but the stuff kicks off quickly when placed in a container like that. I had experimented with Acrylic paints in the past with only modest success. I tried again on my 3D prints and had a bit of a breakthrough.

I picked up some craft acrylic paint for general purpose use. It comes in a bottle and is the consistency of ranch dressing. The previous stuff I worked with was in a tube and was very thick I poured some black into a 3cc syringe and piped it into a cavity of my 3D print.

I started with a 25 gauge straight needle, but the paint flowed too freely and I ran over on one of the parts. I dropped down to a 30 gauge needle and had a lot more success. The paint flows in, sticks well to everything, and doesn’t appear to run. You can use the needle to guide it up to a wall if it didn’t quite reach everywhere.

These prints are my corner radius templates for the router table. The text is face up and have 3 perimeters. Not sure if it will bleed through 2 perimeters or not. I suspect if you had inset text on the side of a print it would seep out and run along the Z-layers. I haven’t tried it yet though. If you do happen to run over, the paint wicks down into the top layer and never comes fully out. Sealing it with a spray lacquer, before you paint, might fill the gaps and buy margin for error. I was just really careful and used a small needle after the first screw-up.

Once I got the hang of it I didn’t make any more mistakes and was able to fill them out in a minute or two each part. Maybe some day I will get a multi-color capable printer, but until then, this is a really easy effective method of adding color to inlaid text on 3D prints.