Rolling Sink Carts

Now that my summer slog rock project is done, things have cooled down enough to get back into the shop. I am still refining the organization of my shop and turned my attention to the area around my sink. There was a pile of spray bottles and gallon jugs of cleaners scattered all over the place. I wanted to make a little set of carts that slide out to hold the junk.

The two carts sit low on either side of the sink and roll out to expose all their contents. These are already mostly full which means I either made them too small or I need to pair down the stuff I keep around.


I designed this project back in the spring based on a gallon jug of headlight fluid and two scraps of plywood I had. Thankfully 6 months later the jug was still the same size and the plywood was still there. The design is like a two shelf book case, only with no back. I made runners to go on either side of the shelf to prevent sag and keep everything from racking.

The assembly was mostly glue and brad nails, and once dry felt quite stiff. I gave everything a single heavy coat of polyurethane. I would typically use boiled linseed oil for shop furniture, but had some old urethane around and figured these would get splashed around the sink quite often.

I found really small wheels to put on the bottom. They don’t swivel, but I don’t need them to. The carts just roll in and out. Plus their compact size means I waste as little space as possible. Lastly I printed a beefy handle on top to help me grab and roll the loaded carts.

Straight Edge Clamp Saw Guide

Track saws are one of the hot new things in woodworking. I guess they have been around for a while, but it seems like every power tool company has jumped on the bandwagon. They look handy and appear perform nice clean cuts with the way the track backs the saw blade. They are all really expensive though.

A cheap substitute is to use a clamped straight edge to run your saw or router up against. It works, but doesn’t prevent you from wondering away from the guide and doesn’t back the cut. I have a few clamping straight edges from a company called E Emerson. They sell a saw plate to attach your own circular saw to their track, but it has abysmal reviews and doesn’t back up any of the cuts.

Instead I am going to 3D print an adapter to hold a sheet of 1/2″ plywood to act as a moving saw plate base. I took a pile of measurements and after a few iterations came up with the right design that would hug the tracks available on the clamp.

I had some phenolic faced plywood left over from making my own table saw inserts. I cut the plywood to the rough size of my circular saw base, and attached two long guides.

To attach the saw, I tried printing some different bracket styles, but was never happy with how they held. Instead I found a 1/4″-20 threaded hole in the base near the front to take advantage of (I think it was for some kind of moveable crosscut guide you could buy), and just drilled a hole in the back. It worked out though, the ribbing in the saw plate holds a nut perfectly. I counterbored holes in the bottom to keep the screw heads from interfering with the plate’s movement.

The saw is well fixed now and ready for me to plunge the blade through. With this setup I cut a slot that is perfectly sized for the blade. Now any cutting I do will be well supported and have little to no tear out. It is like a moving zero clearance insert.

It just so happens that I had a full sized sheet of plywood that required crosscutting down to reasonable sized for a project. Here is the setup ready for its first cut.

Everything went smoothly until I got to the end. The guides got hung up on the folding clamp lever (blue and pointing downward in this picture). It left me with a few extra inches of plywood still left un-sawed. Kind of a bummer.

I regrouped and decided to move the front guide back until it touched the rear one, this would buy me a little. It still wasn’t quite enough, and some heavy sanding was required. Once I shaved it down at an angle I was able to make a complete cut across the plywood.


Once I got the cutting part figured out I wanted a set of guides. Setting up one of these straight edges always involves a bit of math. You need to know the distance from the blade to the edge of the saw plate, and are you concerned about the inside or outside edge of the saw kerf? I made a set of plywood blanks that show exactly where your cut will land. Now you can make a mark. line the blanks up, and voila. Just line it up and that is where the cut will happen.

I made a number of different length guides all designed for 1/2″ plywood and uploaded them to thingiverse.

Router Table Dust Collection

The next item on my dusty hit list is the router table. I have a dust port in the back of the fence, but that only really gets half the mess, and depending on what kind of operation you are doing it might get none. A lot falls down below the table and gets everywhere. The router is a high speed cutter and makes a lot of fine dust. Here is what the surface below the router often looks like.

I need some kind of box to go around the router and capture most of the dust that falls below the table. They can be bought online, but for 100+ dollars I will make my own. I made a back and bottom with dust port in the back to take a 4″ hose.

I wanted all the other sides of the box to move out of the way when I am working on the router. I attached the left and right sides with hinges so they can swing closed or wide open to let you get your hands in and work.

To hold everything closed and attach a front door, I put strips of magnets on the front edges of the side walls and the front door. It just snaps into place and keeps the side walls from swinging open.

I attached the bottom of this box directly to the toolbox base that the router table sits on. There is a small gap between the top of the box and the underside of the router table, and a large gap at the front wall. These gaps help by drawing air in and pulling the dust away. If this box was completely sealed you wouldn’t pull any dust out.

The quarters are a little tight under there, but the front door just pulls off and comes out any way you want. The sides naturally swing open a little and there is all the access you could ever want to the router for adjustments.

In the back I attached a duct splitter and have one hose going to the box and the other to the fence. Hopefully the 50/50 split will always be enough to get the job done. I wanted to add blast gates to adjust which side got more flow, but didn’t have space. Maybe a 3d printed part that acts as a flow control valve is in my future!

To test it out I routed a bunch of rabbets in some random plywood. There was a little left in the bottom, but most was removed. Any left over dust is at least confined to this box instead of in the air and all over the shop.

Dust Collector Upgrade

I picked up my current harbor freight dust collector probably some time in 2010. For the price it is an awesome deal, but after these years it is time for an upgrade. The motor (lower left in left picture) pulls in dust and blows it into the upright section. Everything swirls around so big dust falls to the clear bag while finer dust gets filtered in the white upper section.

It is an ok principle, but has issues. The upper bag filters down to 5 micron, but no further. A very fine dust will land on everything in the shop when using this for a while. Those finer particles are bad for your lungs. The bag is a pain in the butt to replace and often gets rips in it from sucked up chunks of wood.

I spent about $350 on this upgrade. Over half of that was the filter. Considering a new harbor freight dust collector can be had for about $180, that is ludicrous. A new tool with good filtering and easier disposal is in the $1,500 neighborhood. We have had a ton of house expenses, so maybe a diy upgrade isn’t so ludicrous after all. I want to keep my lungs clear, so let’s get started. With a dust mask on, I ground off some rust spots and repainted with whatever green I had lying around.

I had thought about doing a lesser version of this many years ago, but never got around to it. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to do one upgrade and make it count. I will show where we are going, then explain the journey in steps.

The motor has been turned sideways from where it originally was. Below it is a pre-separator (red). It pulls out most of the junk before it gets to the filter area. As everything swirls in the upright the leftovers fall into my new bag replacement (blue), and finally out through a new hepa filter (green). Everything gets attached to a mobile base. Let’s start there.


Dropping Some Base

I was going to need more space for the pre-separator and wanted nicer casters than the original assembly, so I started with a cut bit of 3/4″ plywood. A set of 2×4 uprights with plywood and angle brackets support the motor in its new configuration.

The motor is really heavy and caused the base to flex a lot. I added a rib along the right side and eventually a 2×4 underneath to further stiffen the bottom. With that I had a good mobile base for my new dust collector.

I reused the circulator and upright rods to attach that section to the base.


Pre-Separator

Before hitting the motor or clogging up the filter most dust will be caught in the pre-separator. The design is called a Thien Baffle. The exact dimensions seem to be debated, so I just made it up as I went along. Basically everything comes in through a right angle port so it swirls around and gets flung to the edges. Gravity takes over for the particles and the air goes up through the center.

My circle cutting jig came back in full force with a lot of inside and outside cuts. I love this thing! I cut out a top for the separator and added a groove for the weather seal that would go up against the trash can top (left). Next I cut the baffle that keeps dust in the bin from getting pulled back up (right).

I clamped the two together and match drilled the 1/4″ threaded rods that hold the two sections together. I used the circle jig to drill out the 4″ inlet and 5″ exhaust ports. The inlet port is sized to allow a 4″ right angle dust fitting to slip into the top. The bottom goes onto a 4″ tight PVC drain elbow. I custom printed this to work with the parts I had around. I used silicone calking to seal it and screws to hold it in place. The center is larger and will accept 5″ hose to go between the separator and motor. Same method of silicone calking and screws to seal and hold.

I bolted the bottom baffle on and fitted it all to the metal trash can. This section is before the motor, so it will be under vacuum. I think the metal can will do better than a plastic one in preventing collapse.

I added weather stripping to the lid where it interacts with the trash can overlapping the interface to help form a better seal. With everything underneath I just needed a short segment of 5″ hose to attach the two.

Here is the pre-separator fully assembled and in place.


Bag Replacement

Ideally, most of the dust is already out by the time it passes the motor. Some will still exist and it will need a place to go. Instead of a thin plastic bag that rips and is difficult to install, I wanted another rigid bin. A 20 gallon rubbermade can was just about the right size. I temporary attached two pieces of 3/4″ plywood and match cut the interior and exterior diameters, the cutouts for clearing the metal upright bars, and holes for screwing the two halves together.

The upper section had a groove in it to lay a generous bead of silicone calking to help it seal with the metal ring of the circulator. It turns out that ring isn’t very circular, so the gap in that groove varies wildly.

I didn’t trust the calking alone, so I cut down some right angle brackets and drilled/screwed them into place to help support this mating ring.

The bottom half of the mating ring will attach to the 20 gallon trash can. I installed 1/4-20 T-nuts so a bolt can come in from the top to draw the can up and seal it. I put another thick bead of silicon calking on the ring and screwed the can down through the lip. The combo of screws and silicon made for another slid connection.

It is pretty important that you don’t let this section get too full. Otherwise the circulation of dust might get up to the filter and damage it. I cut a thin section of clear plastic and added a viewing port to the can.


Last but not least is the filter. Made in America from Wynn Environmental, the filter is a majority of the cost of the project. The new filter gets down to 0.3 micron instead of 5 micron. That doesn’t hamper flow though, instead of the 30-something square feet of filter the bag had, this one has over 200. The kit comes with little cleats that look like modified hose clamps to strap everything down from the inside.

To test out my new vacuum rig I had 20 board feet of 4/4 maple to plane. I got through all the boards and looked into the grey plastic bin. I was horrified to see a pile of shavings in it. I thought the pre-separator had failed to… well separate.

Turns out the pre-separator was past full and the shavings had gotten up past the baffle into the final stage. Good thing emptying both sections is easy and only takes a minute. The newly revamped dust collection rig works well and the pleated filter on top makes it breathe even better than before the pre-separator was added. Very happy with this upgrade.

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.

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.

 

 

Sawhorse Sheet Goods Table

UPDATE: This setup served me well for about 6 months, but died this weekend.  When assembled it is a really sturdy platform.  Disassembled, the brackets are weak and prone to bending.  During the assembly process they are easily damaged as well.  I don’t regret having built it, but will be doing sheet goods differently in the future.

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.

DSC_1416

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.