Archive for the Category ◊ Product reviews ◊

Author:
• Friday, August 24th, 2018

double-stick tape

Double-coated tape earns Shop Miracle status for its simplicity and problem-solving versatility.

I prefer SpecTape ST-555H 1″-wide (Woodcraft item #15D25). This is a tough cloth tape with strong adhesion, yet it removes cleanly. It has a stiff, smooth paper backing that is easy to remove. I have used other tapes with soft paper backings that were annoyingly difficult to remove.

Its top uses in my shop are:

  • Template work on the router table
  • Bandsawing legs with three-dimensional curves: For taping the waste back on to restore the layout lines, double-stick works much better than wrapping tape around the leg.
  • Mock-up designs: Lightweight parts can be rearranged easily.
  • Bandsawing curves in wide boards: Tape an extra squared board to the back of the work piece for stability.
  • Holding small/odd-shaped work on the bench

Here’s an efficient way to work with this tape. While applying the piece of tape to the wood, fold up a tiny corner to create a little “ear” of separated backing. Rub your fingernail over the main area of the backing paper to seal down the tape. Then grab the ear to pull away the backing.

Clear packing tape

This works well as a glue barrier. For example, I wrap tape on the tops and upper sides of the wooden support strips used for gluing up panels. The forms and clamping blocks for bent lamination work also get covered.

Oh, and of course this is essential equipment for returning that tool you bought that didn’t turn out to be as cool as it looked in the online catalog, or that, nope . . . ya just don’t need.

Cloth friction tape (rightmost in the photo)

I wrap, hockey style, my coping and fret saw handles with Ace Hardware black Cloth Friction Tape to greatly improve my grip and reduce hand fatigue. I also flat wrap some clamp handles such as the outer handle on wooden hand screws.

This stuff is grippy without being too rough on your hands, as can be anti-slip tapes. It can leave a bit of black residue on your hands when new, but not significantly as the wrapping inevitably gets sprinkled with wood dust. It does not leave sticky residue on your hands.

[3M Cloth Friction Tape appears similar but I have not used it. 3M 1755 Temflex Friction Tape is different – it’s coated on both sides.]

Silicone “X-Treme Tape” (Rockler) (second from the right in the photo)

This interesting stuff stretches a lot and bonds to itself without adhesive. It is useful for some dust collection fittings where it makes a nice tight seal. However, it really only sticks well to itself, and therefore needs contour on both parts of the fitting that it can tightly conform into, and so create a mechanical lock.

Author:
• Tuesday, August 21st, 2018

3M tapes

Funny that tape is even used in the woodshop where we sweat over joints, glues, and fasteners to keep things together. Nonetheless, a variety of tapes serve all sorts of duties, and it pays to be familiar with the options. From among 3M‘s numerous tapes, here are the ones I have found useful, working from left to right in the photo.

The workhorse is the #2093EL blue painter’s tape, rated “medium adhesion, 14-day removal,” very similar to the original #2090 but with Edge Lock (EL), designed to give cleaner paint lines for painters. This is handy stuff – as a drill bit depth indicator, marking the floor locations of machines, reminding myself not to reset a gauge, and on and on. For shim purposes, it measures .004″ thick by my calipers. 1″ width is versatile.

Second from left, #2080EL “low-medium adhesion, 60-day removal” is smoother and thinner at .003″. I like this one better for taping off areas to protect them from glue squeeze-out. It’s not a big difference for our purposes from #2093. The EL tapes do seem to lay down to a neater edge.

The green tapes are interesting. The thinner green roll is Scotch #233+, which 3M renamed to #401+. It has significantly greater adhesion than the blue tapes, and it is stretchy. It was developed for heavier-duty use such as conforming and holding to auto body contours. For woodworkers, it makes a great light-duty clamp in situations where regular clamps are awkward to arrange, such as gluing edge trim or small miters, especially with CA glue. It is much better in this regard than the blue tapes.

However, the green #2060 (fourth from the left) is more widely available than #401+, and can be found in home centers in a variety of widths. #2060 is practically as good as #401+: adhesion and tensile strength are nearly identical, and at 8% elongation before breaking, it almost as stretchy as 401+, which has 10% stretch. Both remove cleanly.

The beige tape on the right is #2040 Solvent Resistant tape. I use this infrequently to mask off an area from a solvent-based finish.

Surprisingly, the tensile strength of all of these tapes is about the same, from 24-27 lbs./inch of width.

So, let’s simplify. I suggest go to the orange palace and get a 1″ roll of #2093EL for general use, and a roll of 1 1/2″ #2060 for stronger adhesion and clamping. I covered the background info and the other options in case you need them.

Next: other tapes including . . . the Shop Miracle.

Author:
• Saturday, September 30th, 2017

Supercut bandsaw blade

Readers of this blog know of my fondness for the bandsaw. More than almost any other tool in the shop, a fine quality bandsaw allows you to upgrade your range of designs and unlock the wonders of wood.

With that in mind, here is my favorite bandsaw blade – the one that is almost always on my 16″ Minimax: the Supercut Premium Gold 1/2″, 3 tpi. The band is .025″ and the alternate set, aggressive hook teeth produce a kerf of about .044″, or slightly less than 3/64″.

Here’s the big deal about this blade: the teeth are carbide impregnated, which keeps them sharp vastly longer than those of conventional carbon or silicon steel blades. I have used this blade for years, feeding it thousands of feet of everything from dense exotic species to knotty construction lumber, and it remains quite serviceably sharp. Only that it is no longer as crazy sharp as it used to be, has me now wanting to replace it at the very reasonable price of about $31 for 143″.

Now, a 1/2″ blade may not suit much of your work, but it’s just what I need for the gradual curves characteristic of my work. Its nominal minimum circle diameter is 3 5/8″. What’s more, this blade resaws fast and true all the way up to the 12″ capacity of my saw – no blade changing needed. Virtually every project I make involves these two processes.

The hook teeth with this amount of set should not be expected to produce a surface ready for gluing laminates or thick veneer, but with a well-tuned bandsaw, the surfaces do not require a lot of clean up. I’ll go to other options if I really need an excellent surface directly off the saw.

All of the manufacturing details are excellent, including the weld, and especially the outstanding sharpness. Supercut Premium Gold blades also come in 1/4″ 6 tpi hook and 3/8″ 4 tpi hook.

The blades are made by a family-owned company in northern Idaho, the kind of small business I like to support. Supercut also makes an extensive line of other bandsaw blades and accessories. They will provide personal attention to your order on the phone.

As usual here, this review is unsolicited and uncompensated. I just really want you to use excellent tools made by good companies so you can make great stuff!

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Author:
• Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

DeWalt XL trigger clamp

Of all the squeezy clamps that I have tried out in a store or used in the shop, this is the first one that I can reach for with confidence.

The tightening handle is big and comfortable, making it pleasant to apply the rated 600 pounds of force. The bar is a sturdy I beam. The release trigger is readily accessible and has a nice curve onto which I can hook my finger, making it easy to release the clamp pressure. And my fingers do not get bumped in the process. Most of the other clamps of this type that I have tried out have an annoyingly uncomfortable release.

What I like most are the large rectangular pads, which are almost like those of a parallel bar clamp. The throat depth is about 3 3/4″. The pad material is just right – soft enough to protect the work but not squishy. The fixed jaw can be easily reversed to use the clamp as a spreader.

Squeezy clamps are wonderfully handy for bench work, but have a tendency to shift the workpiece alignment when used for assembly. This is inevitable if you squeeze down the force in one fell swoop.

I suggest the following technique to avoid workpiece shifting. Gradually pump in the jaw contact while maintaining the workpiece alignment with the other hand, readjusting it if necessary. As you take up the toe-in of the jaws (which is mostly in the moveable jaw) and build just a little bit of pressure, the clamp itself will stabilize. This is the key moment because then, and only then, can you bull down the force and the workpiece will remain stable. I usually find it best to hold the fixed jaw against the workpiece and advance the moveable jaw into contact.

You can find them at the orange palace and elsewhere.

This review is unsolicited and uncompensated.

Author:
• Tuesday, August 01st, 2017

Woodturner's Wonders CBN wheel for Tormek

I was pretty much content with my Tormek for grinding tools for 16 years. It sacrificed speed for relaxed and reliable grinding with excellent jigs, especially the SE-77. Though that tradeoff suits me, I like woodworking a lot more than sharpening, so a faster pace at the grindstone was always welcome. Thus I was drawn to try a CBN grinding wheel available from Woodturner’s Wonders.

After working with a CBN wheel for several months, I am completely sold. The main reasons are simple: It is much faster than the Tormek OEM wheel, and it never needs dressing. For my sharpening system, detailed in an earlier post, the 200-grit wheel works extremely well.

I can grind the primary bevel out to the edge, such as for completely reshaping the edge, with no worry about drawing the temper, even using the wheel dry. From there, I will usually do a bit of work on the 45µ DMT DiaSharp stone, and progress from there. If I stop grinding the primary bevel short of the edge, I may go directly to the 9µ DiaSharp, or touch up on the 45µ, depending on what I am dealing with. In any case, I then move from the 9µ, to the 3µ DiaSharp, and finish with the 0.5µ Gukomyo. Creating even substantial camber on a plane blade using the CBN wheel, particularly with the SE-77 jig, is so easy that it feels like cheating.

Woodturners Wonders sells these Tormek replacement wheels, called “Tornado Waterless CBN Wheels,” in grits from 200 to 1200. Depending on your sharpening system, you may want to consider the finer grits. Of course, finer grits are slower but leave shallower scratches. I found the 600 to be slower than I wanted, but it still beat the Tormek OEM wheel.

CBN wheel for Tormek

The Tornado wheel is two inches wide, flat and true, 10″ in diameter, with one-inch sidewalls. If I were a piece of tool steel, I’d wave a white flag at first sight of this thing. CBN, cubic boron nitride, is a crystal lattice of boron and nitrogen molecules, with a hardness near that of diamond, but with superior chemical and thermal stability, which increases its durability. Ken Rizza of Woodturner’s Wonders, the same guy who sells this great lamp, also sells a wide variety of other CBN wheels for regular bench grinders, including radius-edge wheels.

By the way, fellow Tormek users, I do not miss the touted dual-nature (220/1000-grit) of the Tormek OEM wheel, which is achieved by using the grading stone. I have always found this to be of marginal benefit and just not worth the hassle. Incidentally, the Tormek leather honing wheel does not get much use in my shop; it is not part of my main sharpening system.

The Tornado wheel can be used dry on the Tormek. Aggressive sharpening will produce some heat but I have not found this significant because the work is done so quickly. However, I prefer to use a little water to reduce the spread of the steel dust, including into the air. I just wipe off the accumulated steel dust on the tool itself.

[UPDATE: Based on Ken Rizza’s comment (see below), I did some more experimenting and found that just two or three light spritzes of water on the wheel is sufficient to keep the steel dust contained. I’m done grinding before this small amount of water evaporates a few minutes later, leaving the stone dry. I will not use water in the trough at all. To emphasize, heat build-up on the tool is not an issue and is not the reason I use the water.]

One more thing. If your Tormek wheel, like mine, has been on since the pre-smart phone era, it may be tough to get off. The folks at Tormek advise us to remove the stone with the shaft, use penetrating oil on both sides of the shaft, and let it work in overnight. Tap the shaft with a mallet. Repeat. It may take days. Don’t ask me how I got the wheel off my Tormek because it wasn’t pretty.

This review of the WTW CBN wheel is unsolicited and uncompensated. I just want you to have great tools . . . so you can make great stuff from wood.

Author:
• Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

inlay banding

Here is another product that I think you will appreciate knowing about, which I alluded to in the previous post. It is inlay banding made in North Carolina by Matt Furjanic, sold on his website Inlay Banding.

This is beautiful material made with precision from highly select, solid hardwoods. Only some of the narrow outer stripes are made from veneers. Most of the bandings are about 1 mm (3/64″) thick – enough to work with as real wood instead of as curled up, long potato chips like some other bandings. Lengths are generally 36″.

These bandings consist of all face-grain wood, not end grain, so they look great and finish beautifully and predictably. This also makes them easy to work with. They glue well into the slot and pleasantly scrape flush to the surrounding wood. By the way, scraping works much better than sanding for flushing, especially for banding containing ebony, which tends to muddy the lighter woods if sanded.

They come in a wide selection of patterns, mostly low-key. These will enhance your projects and not be obtrusively glitzy.

I knocked together a long plywood box to safely store the bandings in my shop:

storage box for inlay banding

Matt also sells guitar bandings, stringing and stock for line-and-berry work, federal shaded fans, and very select thin stock for making your own inlay materials. He also does custom work, and sells some great looking boxes, which, of course, feature inlay bandings.

This is the best inlay banding material I have found. This review is unsolicited and uncompensated. The last paragraph of another post explains why I present these reviews.

One more thing. Some woodworkers may balk at including woodwork made by someone else in their pieces. This makes no sense to me. Virtually all of our work contains elements made by someone else, such as hinges, handles, locks, other hardware, and glass. And don’t forget the finishing materials. It is how you use these materials that counts. Even aside from this, we have had lots of help, starting with the guys who cut down the tree, drove the trucks, milled the log, and so forth. I am happy to add expertly-made inlay such as this to my work.

Author:
• Sunday, December 18th, 2016

Very Super Cool table saw fence

How cool is this table saw fence? The answer is in its name: Very Super Cool.

The Saw Stop cabinet saw that has been in my shop since 2005 is still a great machine but the Biesemeyer-style fence that came with it has never measured up in quality. The fence’s travel and locking mechanisms are very good but the fence face is simply not straight enough for the precision I demand and which the saw is otherwise fully capable of delivering.

The relatively flexible MDF-plastic laminate fence face is tightened against the painted metal fence body, which is not machined. This has frustrated my many attempts at shimming to create a true, flat fence.

True, the work piece bridges hollows to some extent but there are still inaccuracies and unpredictable effects at the beginning and end of the cut, depending on the length of the board. Bottom line, the results were wanting.

Enter the VerySuperCool fence. Its prime and great virtue is the incredibly flat and true one-piece, machined, aluminum extrusion fence, 40x80mm in section. Testing with my two-foot Starrett straightedge, both faces were flat everywhere within one thou. Amazingly, the faces are also parallel within one thou, which comes in handy for using the fence on either side of the blade, or for a jig that slides over the whole fence.

Very Super Cool aluminum extrusion

Now I can trust that when I ride a work piece with a nice straight edge against the fence, the cut edge will be just as nicely straight. What a relief.

The fence slides wonderfully smoothly and locks without creeping as the handle is tightened. The hairline cursor is easy to read accurately if you want to cut to an absolute dimension or repeat it.

The set up procedure is eminently logical. The maker walks you through the details with very understandable You Tube videos available via his website. The result is a fence parallel to the blade and square to the table that is adjusted to lock solidly.

The slots in the extrusion can be used with a variety of manufactured and shop-made add-ons, limited only by your ingenuity. Below is shown a simple end stop for cutoffs attached with bolts and T-nuts, using no clamps.

Very Super Cool T-nuts

The VerySuperCools Tools fence was developed and is made in the USA by Allan Little. The personal attention and service I experienced were just what one would expect from a small independent company like this one.

This review is unsolicited and uncompensated. I write this sort of review for two reasons. First, I want to present my experience with beneficial excellent products that may be unfamiliar to my fellow woodworkers. Second, I am in awe of the work of inventive entrepreneurs like Allan Little, Mark Harrell, Ken Rizza, Tico Vogt, Kevin Glen-Drake, and Bob Zajicek, all of whom make products I have reviewed on this blog. I want to support them and urge you also do so. They help make the world go around and America great.

Author:
• Monday, November 14th, 2016

lumber rack

This upgrade of the main lumber storage rack in my shop has worked out well. Manufactured by Slacan Industries, based in Canada, it is designed to hold underground cable but is sold to woodworkers by Woodcraft and Lee Valley as a lumber rack.

The formed-steel brackets, U-shaped in cross section, are available in 10″, 14″, and 18″ lengths. They freely insert at 1 1/2″ intervals into the rolled-steel channel wall straps, which come in 55″ and 24″ lengths.

The versatility of this rack is the main reason I chose it. The movable brackets of different lengths make it easy to adjust the rack as storage needs change. It is now easy to create room to store wood by category or to make a pile with spacers between boards.

This thing is mega beefy – all parts are made from 3/16″-thick steel. Fuhgeddaboudit: a single 18″ bracket is rated by Slacan to support a 300-pound load applied one inch from the outer end!

What you cannot forget about is properly installing the rack. I consulted a structural engineer to make sure the wall studs could safely hold the anticipated load of lumber in the way I would set up the rack.

lumber rack

I have limited room in my small shop so there are two 55″ straps spaced 16″ apart on studs, plus a 24″ strap for the upper two or three levels that are more heavily loaded. I attached the straps to the studs with Simpson StrongTie 1/2″ x 3 1/2″ structural screws (#SDS25312), using 1/8″-thick x 1 1/2″-diameter washers to bridge the large bracket-insertion cutouts; there are no dedicated mounting holes in the 55″ straps (and those on the 24″ straps are large).

lumber rack parts

The galvanized finish on the straps and brackets is rough. I used a bastard-cut mill file to quickly ease the top surfaces of the brackets and their connection tabs.

I bought the rack from Woodcraft on sale as a set, which had a few more parts than I needed but was still cheaper than buying individual parts. With more storage capacity, I now have to resist buying beautiful wood that I don’t need (yet).

Author:
• Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Veritas slow adjuster

Another thoughtful refinement from Veritas, this adjuster advances the blade in smaller increments than their standard adjusters. It’s a hit.

Veritas bevel-up (BU) planes use a Norris-style adjustment system, which means that one adjuster controls both blade depth and lateral alignment. In a lesser quality tool, this system could be balky but the design and execution by Veritas makes theirs function very smoothly.

Now, just for fun, the lead screw of the slow adjuster has 58 threads per inch by my count, which translates to .0172″ of linear blade advancement per turn of the knob. The increase in depth of cut produced per unit of linear advancement of the blade is represented by the sine of the blade’s bed angle, 12° in this case.

.0172″ x sin12° = .0172″ x .2079 = .0036″ depth of cut increase per one turn of knob

This works out to .0009″ or about 1 thou change in shaving thickness per quarter turn of the knob.

Veritas bevel-up smoother

This may sound like too tentative an approach but in practice this exceptionally smooth mechanism is not only precise but also pleasant to use. I am usually using the BU smoother for difficult wood where small differences in cutting depth really matter. I suggest Lee Valley use the slow adjuster as standard in their BU smoothing planes, or at least offer it as an initial option.

The Veritas bevel-up jack plane, on the other hand, is used for tasks that require less precision in the cutting depth, so there I prefer the original, quicker adjuster.

With the Norris adjuster, side set screws that control the blade registration near the mouth, lack of a chipbreaker, and an easily adjustable mouth opening, you can practically set up a Veritas bevel-up plane with your eyes closed.

Just as a reminder, if the handle and knob on my BU smoother do not look like the Veritas versions, it is because they are not. They are wonderful retrofits made by Bill Rittner of Hardware City Tools.

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Author:
• Thursday, September 01st, 2016

drawer lock chisels

Well, I painted myself into a corner and now a half-mortise lock must be installed in an already assembled box in tight quarters and on a schedule.

No problem: just call Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. The nice folks there put a set of their drawer lock chisels on their way to me that same day. Thanks to Chris Becksvoort for his excellent design of these handy tools.

The chisels have square, raised corners (ends, really) so the hammer or mallet makes true, solid contact and the force of the blow is properly directed. My Glen-Drake #4 brass mallet came in very handy for this work, supplying more umph in a small space than the side of a hammer.

drawer lock chisels and Glen-Drake mallet

The chisels in the pair are mirror images of each other. In use, it soon becomes apparent why this is helpful. The larger edge, 1/2″ wide, is parallel to the length of the tool, while the 1/4″ edge at the other end is perpendicular to it. Again, only an experienced, thoughtful woodworker would know to incorporate these design features, which turn out to be so right in the hands of the user.

Yes, they are are fairly tedious to sharpen – the 1/4″ edge is like sharpening a hand router blade – but they do come well ground, which mitigates the task. The steel is A2. O1 would be easier to sharpen but I don’t know how it tolerates being struck and how it responds in the manufacturing process. Lie-Nielsen must have good reasons for their choice.

drawer lock chisels and half-mortise lock

These chisels probably would have come in handy long before my recent purchase but I bet they will soon come in handy again. Woodworkers are fortunate to have wonderful tools like this available to us.

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