Little Bushy South

This project was completed in July at the old house, but I had to keep it under wraps so it could be a surprise to someone.  My wife’s grandmother was a British war bride.  She met her American husband at Bushey Park outside of London where he taught air sea survival for the 8th Army Air Force.  When the war was over they moved to Michigan (his home) and eventually had a farm called “Little Bushey”, after the place they met.  We had talked about calling our new place “Little Bushey South” as a tribute to that.  I thought a sign was in order, and no wood could be better than the family wood.

These walnut beams were picked up by my mother’s parents when she was very young.  They spent a lot of time around boats and they were used as ballast by someone.  No clue how old they were then, but our family has had them for 50+ years.

One of the beams had been cut down a few times, so I cross cut it to about 42″, and then re-sawed it to make a 1 inch thick slab.  I left some of the worm eaten edging because it is so good looking.  A little work with my jack plane had it smooth and revealed a gorgeous piece of walnut.


In order to make the text for this project I am using my plunge router and custom printed 3D letter templates.  I wrote up all the text, then broke each segment up into a size that could be printed.  They are keyed to fit together to keep alignment and kerning proper.  Letters like “e” and “B” have to be done in multiple segments.  The “B” below shows how I tackled this.

The plunge routing went reasonably well, but something shifted part of the way through.  My cuts were shallower when I went back and redid certain segments.  Not sure what happened, but next time I will make everything double tight.  I went back with a chisel and cleaned up the issue areas.  The bottoms are still not smooth, but aren’t as uneven as before.  That left me with a few accidental chipout segments.  See near the top of the “O”.  Also, the “h” was in part of a knot.  My colorant will want to bleed into those cavities, so I have to fill them.

I used some dark woodworking epoxy to fill these problem areas.  First I went carefully with painters tape and dammed up all the problem areas.  Next I mixed the epoxy and used a syringe to put just the right amount into the voids.  A little light buffing and the epoxy filled the voids but is really hard to see.

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I was going to spray paint this, then just plane off the top layer to reveal colored letters.  The bottoms are still uneven, so I opted to try epoxy.  I bought a big batch of system three epoxy with white color resin.  It worked really well.  No progress pictures because you have very limited time once the mixing begins.

The places I blocked the chipouts didn’t bleed, and only a little snuck in under the knot around the lower case “h”.  A syringe helped me pipe it into each letter, and manipulate the results.  The epoxy clung up at the sides and dipped a little in the center.  The result is a really awesome shiny 3D lettering effect.  It looks quite good on our new mantle.  I don’t really understand fireplaces in Florida, but this one looks picturesque.

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Sawhorse Sheet Goods Table

I will need a temporary work surface when renovating the new house, and have a lot of sheet goods and drywall to cut up.  I thought about building some sawhorses and adding on to them, but I don’t have much time.  Instead I started with two of these Burro branded horses.  Honestly, for 20 bucks a piece, these things are pretty good.  Made in USA, stackable, stable, and strong.  Just make sure you are choosy, not all were created equal.  Explaining the build will be easier with a before and after shot.

I want to put a full sheet of plywood or drywall on these and have the cuts be well supported.  That would require a structure almost a full 4×8 feet.  I used metal brackets to help it be a quick assemble and break down job.  Two 42″ 2x4s go across the saw horses.  The saddle brackets keep them upright and a right angle bracket on the edge holds a long support to tie the two horses together.

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Every time I use these as a cutting surface I am going to cut into the 2x4s a little.  I will adjust blade depth to minimize the damage, but I don’t want metal anywhere near the top surface.  The brackets that hold my middle support were too tall, so I cut them down.

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The table breaks down into 2 stackable horses, 2 supports that go on top of the horses, 2 long ones that go from horse to horse, and a center one to help prevent sag.  The only extra screws needed for assembly are at the four corners where the long stretchers meet the supports on top of the horses.  I made sure to install the screws low so the saw won’t catch them.  The horses still stack, even with those saddle brackets installed.

When I assembled this I didn’t screw any of the 2x4s down to the horse’s saddle brackets.  It all still felt stable.  A half inch sheet of plywood and a few screws should turn it into a sturdy temporary work bench.  All the drywall cutting I need to do will be aided by this big stable platform as well.   The assembled dimensions of the top are 44×84″.  Enough to support a 4×8′ sheet, but leave some room at the edges.

When the house work is done I will probably keep it as a way to break down sheet goods.  This will be a big upgrade over my current method of hanging them out of the back of the suburban.

Goodbye Garage

The wonderful wife and I are pulling up roots and moving.  Not far, just a few miles away, but our new dig will be bigger and better than ever.  I have lived in my fixer-upper for 9 years now and the time has come to move on.

When I moved in I had few tools and not much experience.  I ended up renovating the whole house and developing a strong passion for woodworking along with more tool junk than you can shake a stick at.  The garage has seen a lot of my screw ups and disasters, but with that, a lot of learning.  It has been a slow organic work of progress.  That and mostly a huge mess.

I started packing up right after taking these pictures and finishing off my drill press rebuild.  This is why I was so interested in it being mobile.  It was a little sad to start undoing all my hard work that got this shop to where it is.  To offset that, the new garage has over twice the square footage of my current one.  Lots of exciting posts to come in the future about new house renovations and shop setup.  Until then, goodbye old friend!

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Death and Resurrection of a Drill Press

My beloved drill press is a Craftsman from the early 90s (I think) that I snagged on craigslist.  It has served me well, but is very difficult to move.  Top heavy and with a small base; even small shifts in position are precarious.  I am going to need to move it a lot soon, so when woot had a Bora Portamate mobile base on sale I snatched it up.  I was walking the drill press out of its corner to get the base installed when disaster struck.

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I tried to control it on the way down, but once it got going there was no stopping it.  I didn’t get hurt but the arm that holds the table broke off.  I still had a drill bit installed in the chuck, and that is what kept the table from sliding further.  It bent the drill bit, but the quill appears true.  I stood it up and started it spinning.  No wobble of any sort that I could see.  With that established I gathered up the broken parts.

Maybe a quick visit to the local welding shop would have me set right?  Apparently cast iron is very difficult to weld.  They were not wild about trying, and wouldn’t guarantee me any of their work.  Whelp…forget that.  After being really bummed for a day or two, I decided I could build up my own top table top out of the scraps I had around.  I gained enough confidence to install that mobile base.  It floats like a dream now!

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I started with a stout piece of oak drilled to match the table arm attachment point.  A drill press would have been really useful there, but I managed without.  From there I built out ribs that hold the top.  I made sure everything was square with respect to the drill bit before screwing them in completely.

The table top will be done with two layers.  The top will have a square cutout that holds a sacrificial drill insert, and the bottom has a hole so you can push up from the bottom to remove the insert.  I printed a square guide to let me cut out a 2.75×2.75 inch hole for the insert.  That new plunge router lets me do all sorts of cool things.

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I routed some slots for a set of aluminum t-slot guides that hold the fence in place.  The fence is just two pieces of the same plywood glued back to back.  I cut a dozen of the center inserts.  They all got an undercut chamfer to help keep dust from letting them sit level.  This table is smaller than my last, but I feel it is more functional by far.  It was a good recovery, and ultimately led me to making a better drill press table.

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Table Saw Inserts

Professionally made zero clearance table saw inserts are an important add-on for any table saw.  They make the cuts come out cleaner and ensure small scraps don’t get lodged inside the throat.  They are quite expensive though.  They run over 30 bucks a piece for my saw.  No more, time to make my own.  I bought a smallish piece of phenolic coated plywood for 40 dollars.  It has enough material to make at least 8 inserts.

I started off trying to make a jig that would hold the plywood and make all the blade relief undercuts and slots for the riving knife behind the blade.  It was difficult to hold everything and produced mixed results.

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Eventually I just used carpet tape to tape down one of my old store bought inserts.  A guide bushing on my plunge router let me remove all the area where the riving knife should be.

From there I printed a 7/16″ radius template for the tracing router bit.  I could have used the already taped on insert as a template, but it had a few weird features I didn’t want copied.  With a finger hole drilled in, things were starting to look right.

I need a way to level out the insert.  The pocket they go in is always deeper than a 1/2″ sheet of plywood so you can raise it up to be flush with the top.  I used brass threaded inserts for #6 set screws to give each one leveling feet.  The set screws can be adjust from above with the insert in place.

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The surface coating on this plywood is hard and very slick.  A great material for fences or inserts like this.  The phenolic chips like mad though.  I will stick with these and have left over material, but probably not buy it again.  A few coats of polyurethane and wax would be easier to work with and also reasonably slick.

Because of how high the 10″ saw blade is in the housing I had to use a 8″ dado blade to start the cut before switching back to the full sized blade.  I made 4 total, and once I got the swing of things they came pretty quickly.  Two will be for dado cuts, so they don’t need the riving knife slot.  Hopefully this batch lasts me a few years.

Nailer Cabinet

Air nailers are a pretty wonderful invention.  They can provide low visibility fastening in a lot of different applications.  I have had a brad nailer for ages, and picked up a good pin nailer when I redid the kitchen.  The cordless electric nailers are a lot heavier than their air counterparts, but for just a few quick hits, they are awesome.  I recently built up a full inventory of air and electric brad and pin nailers.  Time to put those nailers to work building a little home for all these gadgets.

I planned out a cavity to hold all the nailers up top, and a set of drawers below to keep the nails and other accessories.  1/2″ maple made up all the components except the drawer bottoms.

Once assembled I cut more plywood with a 45 degree angle on it to act as a french cleat across the back.  The electric nailers sit nicely on their own, but the air ones will need hangers.  Plus, this lets me rearrange things, or add dividers if I feel the need later down the line.

I played with the arrangements, and there are lots of spacing options that work.  Big enough to be flexible, but not so big as to waste space.

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This is a decent looking cabinet on its own, and is about where I would stop in my previous builds.  I wanted to add a little something, so I made my own maple edge banding.

The pin nailer came in handy for securing it all, and hand planing really lets you sneak those parts into a good fit.  With the body of the cabinet in shape I turned to the drawers.  I thought drawer fronts with chamfers might be a neat flare, and I had a new router bit to try out.  I cut all the end grain chamfer while it was still a solid long block, then cut the two fronts out and routed the long grain.  It completely mitigated any tear-out issues.  I finally feel like all those minor screw ups of the past are congealing into wisdom.

Everything got multiple coats of danish oil.  Not a bad finish, I like the wipe on aspect and how it looks.  Honestly though, it is just some kind of thinned linseed oil.  At probably 4x the price of basic linseed oil, I might just figure out how to thin that stuff myself.

I 3D printed organizers to keep each set of nails contained and labeled.  The drawer I had these in was a mess with different nail lengths all mixed up.  Mishaps have occurred from pulling the wrong length nail ream.  If I ditched the manuals I could have probably combined everything in one drawer.  Oh well, this provides ample expansion for new nail lengths, or other jigs/accessories I might acquire.

The final design looks pretty nice.  I will see how much dust it collects and consider adding doors later, but for now it is perfect.

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