Shop Tips

A Few Woodworking Tips:

Need an extra hand? Try using a feather board. They are easy to make and very useful for helping to make accurate cuts in your wood.

  Want a no-fuss finish on your project? Try Tung oil, it is one of the only oils that actually dries and can be re-applied in layers for a hard, durable finish.

  Trying to cut large sheets of plywood on your table saw? Try the safer, more accurate method, flip the plywood over, put it on a couple of saw horses and use your circular saw with a good blade in it. Then do your final cutting on the table saw.

Want to makes some nice elegant dovetail corners for your project? Think about using box joints, they are easier to make, almost as strong when glued, and most people other that woodworkers and a few furniture experts don't know the difference between box joints and dovetail joints ... and anyway, box joints look great

Having trouble making mortise and tenon joints that work? Yup, they look easy but in fact they are time intensive and fiddly to get a perfect joint. Why not try using "floating tenons" they are easier to make, the joints come to gether better, you can make them as long or short as you need, they are argueably as strong or stronger than standard mortise and tenon joing and ... well, when they are glued up joint, who will know it was a floating tenon or not?

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Bench Cookies

I'm always amazed in this world of high technology and all it's whizz bangs, that someone ... somewhere never forgets about the simple things in life. The small things that often frustrate us to death but that we never seem to overcome. Enter the new "Bench Cookies from Rockler. These are simple little discs with non skid material applied that not only allows them to stand off the workbench, thus giving the worker some room underneath the project ... these little things stick like crazy, even when grit and sawdust tries to confound them.

At first I wondered how many times I would really need to lift my work piece off the workbech top, but I soon discovered that was not the real issue, the real issue was all the stuff that always seemed to accumulate under my work piece, like nails, screws, bits of wood, tools, pencils ... the list goes on and and on. The real problem with thes is that in some cases I don't want the back to get scratched and marred, I want it to be clean, which doesn happen when a screw rolls under and all of a sudden your piece now has a dint or scratch in it.

I also like the fact that I can use them for painting and staining, simply by moving them in from the side of the piece. To me, the that is the best part of these accessories, when you want to paint, stain or varnish all sides of a piece, when it is small it often moves around on you.

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Plywood Router Bits

For those of you ... who like me, don't always like working with plywood because of it's sizing issues, there now it hope.

To refresh your memory, as you know none of the plywood you purchase is dimensionally the the thickness size you purchase. For example 3/4 inch plywood is almost never 3/4 inch thick. The reason for this is the standards adhered to by the plywood manufacturers industry states, in essence, that a 3/4 inch thick plywood can NEVER exceed 3/4 inch thickness. Since all plywood is manufactured green (i.e. it still contains a lot or water and will shrink as it dries) this means that the dimensional thickness will be less that the generic name it is given. That is that 1/4", 3/8", 1/2" 3/4" will all be somewhat LESS thick that what they are called. This means, working with plywood can be a challenge, despite all the other benefits that plywood has, like strength, flexibility lamination of hardwoods such as Oak, Rosewood, Maple, Cherry etc. all have a thin veneer of that hardwood laminated to an otherwise softwood plywood base.

So ... if you are wanting to make a nice Oak Book Case, and Oak Plywood is on special at your local lumber store, you run on out, pick up a few sheets and get ready to start making some cuts. Then you realize that none of the 3/4" Oak Plywood sheets are actually 3/4" thick, but are somewhat less ... now what ...

Any woodworker worth his dust, will know a book case needs shelves, and that shelves need dados to sit in. We all know the best, easiest and safest way to cut dados is with a router but who makes an undersized bit that will cut dados in one pass ... well the answer is Rockler.

Rockler has an entire series of undersized router bits, signed for plywoods

Copyright Colin Knecht

Steam Bending Wood

 My recent project of building a banjo has made it necessary for me to learn the art of bending wood. I searched the Internet and my local woodworkers guild library for information. There were bits and pieces of what I needed to know and some suggestions on how to get started. One of my sources suggested using a NEW gas can on a Coleman stove. The idea being that a new gas can would not explode if it happened to run dry. An important consideration I thought.

After a mornings outing, I found that new Coleman stoves were going for around $70 which was a price I was not prepared to pay for this kind of an experiment. I snooped around a few garage sales on Saturday morning a found one only a few blocks from home. The stove looked in very good condition, hardly used I thought. "does it work?" I asked, the answer was affirmative, "how much?" I queried, the answer was ... a whopping four dollars. At that price I didn't have the heart to dicker on the price.

Finding a NEW gas can turned out to be a bit more problematic. I can't imagine how many places I visited, from hardware stores to department stores only to find stacks and stacks of gas cans, all plastic. I decided and alternative needed to be made so began by snooping around one of my local used-goods stores. I discovered an old pressure cooker for five dollars and decided it would be the substitute for the gas can.

After some rummaging around at the hardware store and the autoparts store I managed to come away with the bits and pieces of plumbing fixtures and radiator hose that would connect the steam box to the steam source.
I cut a hole in the top of the pressure cooker and fastened the pipe to the lid with a couple of large nuts. The pipe was sealed with automotive gasket sealer that comes in a tube. A Tee was installed in the cedar steam box and connected with radiator hose.
On the big day, everything connected together fine and with some minor adjustments on the sawhorses everything fit fine. I drilled a small hole in the cedar steam box, just large enough to accept the Latte' Thermometer so I could check the steam temperature.
After about 20 minutes the steam started pouring into the box, around the wood and out through the small pressure hole in the end of the steam box. After waiting 30 minutes for the wood to heat it was removed from the steam box and immediately into the jig for bending.

I discovered that it is important to bend the wood as quickly as possible as it cools of rapidly and within minutes is difficult if not impossible to bend and breakage of the wood becomes a very real risk (I know because I broke two pieces).
It's a fun project, fairly easy to do, but it does take some practice in order achieve consistent success.





Copyright Colin Knecht

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