Router Table

While building my baby bookcase I noticed the table top on my router was not flat. The joinery was poor enough I had to go to the table saw instead. 10+ years of Florida humidity and a heavy router finally did it in. The red arrow is pointing to all the light coming out from under the straight level.

I use my router table a lot, so I wanted something nice to replace it. A full professional router table setup can cost 1,000 bucks with all the bells and whistles. I want something of decent quality, but not for that much money. I did a ton of research and finally broke down to buying a really high quality lift, and building the rest. Say goodbye to my old friend! By the way, I took the mounting plate out and tried it on my tablesaw top. It had a very distinct rock, so it wasn’t flat either.

The Top

These days my building and blogging are badly out of sync. Some short projects get posted in a week or two, and bigger ones linger for months before getting posted. This one started right about the time we were all supposed to limit our trips out to essentials only. The hardware stores are open, but I can’t call this router table essential. A broken toilet or water heater, this is not.

I normally would have gone to pickup laminate faced plywood, but instead I looked around and decided to use this big piece of butcher block counter top. Some friends were having their kitchen redone and saved it for me.

I got to cutting off a nice hunk and my saw went a little nuts. It turns out the way they clamp everything together is with screws! Lots and lots of screws. If you look at the side, they even cut through some to make the counter top the right size, and just filled the void with putty. They must make these things in massive sheets, then cut down what they need.

I took my number 5 to it and planed off all the old finish that was feeling a little gummy. It looks a lot nicer now. This is really soft pine and not as flat or as stable as I was hoping. There was some twist I couldn’t quite get out.

With the top mostly flat, I built up a set of guides to install my router lift. This part didn’t go quite as planned either. I tried to attach each piece together with pocket hole screws, but going into the plywood sideways with a screw caused it to de-laminate and bulge. I muddled through with double sticky tape and got to routing with a template bit.

Once I had a recess routed that was the thickness of the router lift top, I went through and cut out the inside area. Those pesky screws came to bite me again, my jigsaw was not happy. When it was all cutout I marked the location of the leveling set screws and soaked the area with thin CA glue to stabilize the wood. I was worried the set screws would slowly sink into this soft pine otherwise.

The top’s twist was a little evident in the fit of the router top, and the template bit’s radius was off. It turns out the lift has a corner radius of 3/4″ of an inch, and my bit is 3/4″ in diameter which yields a 3/8″ radius. I think we are going to call this a practice table top. I will eventually get a new material and make a better one. I put down a few coats of polyurethane to seal it up and give me a solid surface to wax.

Base

With the top basically finished I was able to move on to the base. Using the plywood I had available I made a 3 chambered base. The left was going to be for open storage, the center would house the router and collect most of the dust, and the right would have a set of drawers for bit storage.

I set the top down and the twist is even more evident. The bottom is really uneven, so I guess they only ever planed the top to flat-ish.

I thinned down some maple scraps and cut them up to make runners. I used a piece of hardboard as a template for the drawer side height, and it also served as a square and guide for installing the runners. I nailed and glued those in place, then hit everything with boiled linseed oil to finish.

Fence

I had some ideas about how I wanted to make a fence, but wasn’t quite sure which way to go. I was also running low on some materials, so to conserve, I just re-purposed the fence from my old router table. I added wings to make it reach out further. To hold it in place I made it go past the edges of the table, then used a little clamp paw to squeeze it down to the edge of the table.

To attach the wings I just screwed them down from underneath

It worked reasonably well, except that any time I pushed on the fence in the center, it seemed to bow outward. The system wasn’t rigid enough. I added a support across the back to help stiffen it up. That reduced the bow. Next time I will sink some tracks into the table top to facilitate more centralized clamping.

Drawers

Things were starting to come together. With the top in place and a working fence available I was able to employ it in making drawers. Nothing fancy, just some plywood sides with half lap joints and rabbeted bottoms. I added drawer fronts with rounded edges and finished everything with boiled linseed oil.

The top drawer holds my trim router and all 1/4″ shank bits. Only got this thing a month or two ago, but have found it to be an incredibly useful tool.

Next are all of my 1/2″ shank bits. They fit with plenty of space to spare. I 3D printed the holders for these because I didn’t have the right sized drill bits. A 1/2″ bit will leave a really snug fit. My next size up was a 5/8″ forstner bit. Too loose! Everything is kind of grouped and there is a lot of room left for new bits. The last drawer is empty believe it or not. Plenty of room to grow!

Finishing Touches

With the drawers set I was able to work on a few finishing touches. I moved the power switch over from the old table to the new one. This works great and will stay. There is a hole in the back for the router’s power cord to come through. I covered it with a custom 3D print cover. I put a cover over the front router cavity with magnets. It comes right off if I need to service something, but otherwise has gaps to pull air and dust through when in operation. On that cover I have two printed holders with magnets for the collet release and hex tool that runs the lift. Lastly I added a shelf to the left cavity. It holds common use accessories and a stack of different brass setup bars I cut from 12″ lengths of key stock.

I have been using this table for a few weeks and it has been working really well. The router lift was pricey, but is a dream to work with. It adjusts easily and locks down securely. The top is fine for now. The pine has already gotten dented and my install job has left some gaps. The fence clamps work well, but it flexes too much. I will take all these lessons learned and do a series of upgrades soon. For now, it is back to work on other projects.

BBQ Sign

I have a cooking corner on the porch. It has my grill, smoker, and the griddle cook-top out there. I wanted a kind of old western style sign to help indicate the area. Blacksmithed letters and old wood are the look I was going for. I don’t do much metal work but figured I could cut some basic letters if I had to. I started by 3D printing a B and a Q in the font I wanted. The print only acted as a tracing template, but it help me set the scale of the project and pick the right wood. I started with a jigsaw, but had trouble with the sharp turns I needed.

I tried using a friend’s plasma cutter but got pretty rotten results. Also I am not very good with a plasma cutter as it turns out. I found a cheap nibbler and ended up going that route. The nibbler is a little round punch that oscillates in and out and is powered by your drill. It can start from and edge and cut a swath, or if you drill a starter hole it can do inside curve work. It is hard to get right up to a line, and often you are left with little round cutouts as shown below.

I slowly went through and cut all the pieces out. I was showered in a sea of little crescent shaped metal debris. Those things are sharp as heck! A good magnet sweep is a must for a nibbler. After the roughing pass I used a carbide bit on my dremel to take everything up to the layout lines. The final result was pretty good. Only a few errant nibbler bites were present. To help add authenticity I heated the letters up with a torch to darken them.

After the heat treatment I picked out a piece of cypress and coated everything in boiled linseed oil. The letters got drilled out at points so I could hammer them home with cut nails for the final touches. The firing and oiling got the color of the metal letters about right. As it sits outside on the porch it will continue to age and darken. Overall a pretty nice project once I got the basic metal cutting figured out.

Pallet Wood Florida

I am not really into the shabby chic movement as a whole. I guess it is good to repurpose things, but it isn’t really my style. That said, I have seen some cool pallet art that is of different states made out of random bits of wood. I liked this idea and decided to go with it. My rock project came in on 10 pallets, so there was no shortage in available materials.

I started by using my mini projector to project a silhouette of Florida onto a sheet of butcher paper. It is such a weirdly shaped state that I had to add a little panhandle extension to the paper. I traced the shape while making simplifications for all the waterways, and cut it out.

With a serviceable template in hand I headed to the shop and set about tracing it onto a sheet of 1/2″ plywood. I wanted this to serve as the backbone of the sign. I didn’t want it to show up around the edges, so after tracing it I offset the line inwards to hide it behind the pallet parts.

With that cut I assembled pieces of pallet from my collection in the rough shape of Florida. I used the template to make sure I had enough coverage. I clamped them together and again traced the outline.

Now I can go through and trim up each individual piece to shape. It took a lot of time with a jigsaw and my spindle sander, but I got the shapes I wanted. A heavy smear of glue and a lot of pin nails holds all the pallet pieces down to the plywood I cut earlier. The plywood is recessed enough that you can’t even tell it is there from the front.

I gave everything a super thick coating of Boiled Linseed Oil and let it dry. A wire across the back acts as hanging gear where I put it up on the porch. It makes a really nice addition in the corner where I have my grill and smoker sitting.

Bandsaw Outfeed Table

I have a project coming up that will require a long resaw cut on my band saw. Resawing is where you sit a board up on its skinny side and cut down the length. I love my bandsaw, but when it comes to doing long work the small table has left me in the lurch. The bandsaw is a tall tool so that most roller type outfeed supports don’t come close to high enough. I am going to add a removable outfeed table to the back end to help with these kinds of scenarios.

I have some phonelic resin covered plywood that makes good slick surfaces for things like this. The resin surface can chip off if hit on the edges though. I made a frame to hold the plywood, protect the edges, and give me a place to bolt too. This could have been done in pine, but I am trying to increase the quality of my infrastructure work, so I went with maple instead. I routed a groove on the router table and used my roundover templates to make the corners match on the plywood insert.

After gluing and pinning it through the side I did a careful trim with a block plane to get the outside frame and inside surface to be perfectly flush. This made fun little corkscrew shaped shavings. Now anything sliding across wouldn’t get caught on a lip or edge, and the sides of the plywood will remain protected. This is another place where hand tools make the job a lot safer and less likely to induce disasters than something with a motor would do.

With the table top complete I needed a support leg to help keep the back end from sagging. Making it screw together let me turn two short pieces of plywood into a longer one, and helped with fine tuning the outfeed level.

A hinge attaches the support leg to the under side of the table top. There was a good place for the bottom of the foot where the bandsaw base meets the cabinet it sits on. This will let the table support a decent amount of weight without sagging.

The bandsaw’s table top has two bolt holes in the back that accept M6 screws. I got some socket head cap screws and bolted the front of the outfeed into the back of the cast iron top. The back support leg keeps the rest of the table top up under load. I finished everything with boiled lineseed oil and wax.

The table is almost exactly the same width as the iron top, but doubles the total length. Now I can resaw a 3ft board without worry about it dropping off the back end. As a bonus, the outfeed table doesn’t interfere with anything behind it when pushed into its resting place. Nor does it interfere with the fence. Basically I will probably never take this off.

Maple Closet Shelves

I am starting to mix in house projects and longer term goals along with my shop infrastructure work. We pulled all the built in organizers out of the master closet when we were renovating. It was basic white particleboard and appeared to be rather old. We cleaned up all the walls and installed brackets that supported a continuous closet rod for hanging clothes. This gave both of us ample hanging storage space. The bracket is designed to have a shelf above it. I wanted something nice, and waited until now to build it.

Actually like a lot of my projects I started this a few months back and got side tracked by other house issues. I got the only 10 foot maple boards they had at the local lumber place and went to town planing them.

Buying rough cut wood is a bit like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. In this case, some cool mineral darkening and nice figure.

This is an interesting transition project. I started it with my old Hitachi planer and ended it with my new Dewalt planer. The old planer has been donated to a co-worker that is starting to fill out his shop and could put it to good use.

Goodbye old friend

With the boards cleaned and flattened I needed to work on the edges so I could joint them together in a panel glue up. I preserved the length as long as I could knowing that the ends would eventually get cut down some. Planing a 10 foot board by hand is hard work. I had to employ a helper to keep the board propped up. I haven’t had a power jointer in years, and I don’t see how it would have helped me in this situation.

After much time spent with my #7 jointer I glued the two shelves together and was ready to continue the flattening. This time with the new planer. The main reason I bought this one was because it was reviewed well, and there was an available helical cutter head for it. The two are a match made in heaven. No matter what, the thing produces a clean surface, no tearouts, and the carbide inserts will last a long time.

There is some really pretty figure in the wood. Another advantage of the new cutter head is that it makes really short shavings. You can see them wizzing around in the first stage of my dust collector window.

After a very minimal amount of sanding and clean up of the ends, I routed a round over on all the exposed edges.

With the boards in their correct shape I applied a coat of boiled linseed oil to protect the wood and give character. These will not see heavy use, so a tougher film finish shouldn’t be needed. The oil really pops out some of the birds eyes and other grain variation.

Unfinished above, oiled below

Once the oil soaked in and dried I installed the shelves. They don’t hold a lot now, but probably will as we collect junk in the future. With all the clothes in place you can barely see them. I almost wish I had used pine instead of this gorgeous wood. Oh well, it should be a good shelf for generations. The next owners certainly can’t say it was made of particle board and falling apart.

Jacked Up PushUp Bars

I built a set of pushup bars to go with my pullup bar from early last.  You grip them while doing a push up and it lets you dip down further than when using your hands on the ground.  That stretches your chest and gives a harder workout.  The only problem with them is that now I am flexible enough that my chest can touch the ground.  Time to jack them up a bit!  I started with the same 2×12 that they came from.

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It turns out old ratty 2x12s can be quite beautiful if you just give them a bit of planing.  Hand planing construction grade pine to make a piece of exercise equipment is probably some kind of sacrilege, but I like using hand tools when I can.  Besides, sanding is just the worst!

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I chopped this piece up to give two layers of material beneath each bar and glued.

All the load will be pushing down on these, so only a minimal joint is needed.  1/2″ dowels will be more than enough.  You drill in one side, insert these metal plugs with a sharp point in the center, align the other part and give it a wack.  The sharp points all transfer over the exact center of where you should drill to the mating part.

Some drilling, gluing, drying, and a fresh coat of boiled linseed oil later they looked smart.  Well not really smart, kind of chunky really.  If it were architecture I would call it brutalism.  Probably fitting for a room full of kettlebells.

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My beard touches easily, but my chest still has inches.  This is hopefully the last raise these will need for a long while.

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Sharpening Station

Sharpening is one of those things that you know you should do often, but always gets put off.  It is often said 90% of your problems with hand tools can be fixed by proper sharpening.  I am getting better at free hand sharpening, and getting less lazy over time.  It is hard to always have some dedicated space to sharpening though.  I read an article in Fine Woodworking Magazine where someone suggested using a basic tool box plus custom top as a sharpening station.  It is portable to follow you around the shop, and has all the right stuff where you need it.  Instead of buying something I decided to stash bust and build one.

I have a ton of 3/4″ plywood around from my temporary kitchen counter tops, and some left over spares from the cabinet installation.  I turned them into a 16×16 open fronted box, along with a few drawers.

Given that the case and drawers would be short I didn’t want to use my normal method of attachment.  This typically involves building the drawer to just below the inside width of the box, and using pine as runners.  It is quick and easy, but the drawers fall out if you pull too far.  Instead I went with metal slides, and got to use my new drawer install tools.

I picked up a slide install tool and drawer guides from rockler.  They help a lot, but are a little awkward to use.  I wish I had do more research before buying.  I think kreg might have a better system.

Instead of using some kind of gripy surface to hold all the various plates and stones in place I went with a small vise.

On the left is a small work surface with bench dog clamps to help hold sharpening plates.  It is offset to the left to prevent drawer interference.  On the right is a small granite surface plate I had.  I added a protective cover to it eventually (seen in later photos).  Now I can use whatever method of hand sharpening best fits the situation of the tool.

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I built 3 sets of drawers to start with because it was all I thought I would need.  Then I found enough stuff to add a 4th drawer.  Once that was built and installed I found enough for a 5th.  I probably have too much sharpening junk.

The project ended up stretching out over a month as I worked on other things and came back with more ideas.  In that time I used a few different pieces of plywood for the front face of the drawers, so they don’t match well.  I did cook up a cool side caddy for honing fluids though.

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In all I think I am going to like it.  It rolls nicely, tucks away under one of my other benches that didn’t have a use for that space, holds a lot of stuff in the drawers, and even has space on the bottom shelf for my work sharp tool box and saw sharpening clamp.  The only thing it might need is weight in the bottom to help with stability.  Now I have no excuse not to sharpen early and often.

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Pullup Bar

I have been doing kettlebell and bodyweight exercises consistently for over 6 months.  I love the speed at which it kicks my butt and have been getting progressively stronger at all the exercises.  Aside from a variety of bells none of it requires anything more than a small bit of space.  The two exceptions are pull-ups and Turkish get ups.  Pull-ups obviously require some kind of bar, and Turkish get ups involve large series of steps to take you from lying flat on your back to standing up straight with a kettlebell overhead.  It takes a bit of room.

The plan is to kick out my treadmill and build a dedicated kettlebell workout area.  I have a doorframe pull-up bar, but want to build a freestanding piece of equipment.  Might as well use this as a chance to do some woodworking.  Start with some nice (Super rough!) untreated 4x4s and get cutting.  Even though they were supposed to be kiln dried they were wet enough that my normal tenon saw bound up an inch or two in.  Had to break out a panel rip saw!

With guns that big my joints weren’t exactly surgically precise.  Along those lines I didn’t really have the right chisels for the job.  An old 2″ framing chisel helped, but my only other option was a 1″ bench chisel for chopping the waste out.  Still I was able to bang out some bridle joints to attach the upgrights to the feet.  Things were going swimingly enough I was able to shoot a little assembly vid!

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Timber time!

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Before doing any glueups or serious trimming I assembled the uprights with the pull up bar at the height I thought appropriate.  This let me do some basic testing to see if I was on the right track.  It was shaky, but even without glue or fasteners it held me!  Last but not least it let me play with different widths to figure out what was right for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I started trimming excess and planning out the rest of my parts.  A shelf across the back holds kettlebells when not in use.  The shelf is dovetailed so it helps keep the assembly square.  All that weight comes in a lot of handy!  The right angle joints between the uprights and the feet got glued and pinned for good measure.  Everything else is going to stay friction only so it can be disassembled.

I tried trimming everything down as much as possible so it wouldn’t take up any extra space inside.  It looks compact, but beefy.

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I made one critical flaw though.  Those pins on the backside are pretty thin, and any force on them by the tails puts a lot of shear force along the grain.  It is a recipe for splitsville.

Yup, I was doing some assembly and it popped off.  I tried gluing and pinning it back in, but only managed to destroy the piece.  If I had made the foot extend a few more inches past the tail it would have been strong enough to survive.  Lesson for next time.

I installed some angled pegs along the back of the uprights to give myself storage hooks for grip trainers and other items.  The whole thing goes into the house easily, and assembles in a few minutes.  The pull up bar itself was pinned with some 1/2″ dowels though the upright from front to back.  That will keep it from rolling or working its way out.  The shelf and those pins are just held in with friction and gravity.  Assembled the device is too big to get through any doors, but by using carefully planned joints, I can take it apart to get it in and out of the house.  A coat of boiled linseed oil offers some protection and adds color to the pine.

All the wooden joints creak and groan and shift a bit when doing pullups, but it is super sturdy.  I might drill out the pull up bar and upgrade from a 1-1/4″ to a 1-1/2″ bar at some point, but for now this works well.  Those pegs along the back hold my chalk, a towel, and grip trainers.

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Porch Fuel Organizer

The slow take-back of the porch continues.  With all the bunny stuff gone, I have to get things organized so we can maximize the available space.  I have grill stuff everywhere.  Three propane cylinders for the grill, outdoor cooker, and spares for hurricane season.  I put all my Traeger pellets into kingsford charcoal bins to keep them organized and from spilling all over the place.  This all needs a nice storage rack.

dsc_0561I was planning on using 1x4s to do a majority of the building, but found that the store was out of their basic grade boards.  Instead I noticed their furring strips.  1×4 with nicely rounded edges for about a 1.70 a piece.  The quality is terrible.  They are very light rough and soft pine.  Many were so bent and twisted you couldn’t even use them for boat building.  Still, with enough cherry picking I got some good boards and was able to keep my whole project cost to less than 15 bucks.

A few scraps of 2×4 made uprights for the two level contraption.  I set the width so that I could store the 3 propane tanks comfortably below with a few pellet bins on top.  Keeping the propane low seems like a good idea.  Less distance to fall.

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Short pickets run between the two frames to tie them together and give the propane tanks a stable surface to sit on.

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The top shelf could hold a lot of weight in pellets.  To help stiffen the two existing runs I wrapped a vertical boarder around the edge.  It added a lot of strength to the shelf, keeps the pellet bins from sliding off, and looks nice!

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Everything fits as intended, and I am ready to give it all a heavy coating of boiled linseed oil.  Never used this on an outdoor project, but it will live under cover on the porch, so it should work out.

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24 hours later the coating was nicely cured, and the wood took on a lovely golden yellow look.  I may have to use furring strips more often!  It looks good on the back porch and helped clean up a lot of space.  I wish I had gone a few inches wider though, I could have gotten another bucket of pellets up there.  Oh well, next time!

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