Woodworking Tools

Shop Made Sander - That Really WORKS

"If you HATE SANDING, and all the dust that goes along with it as much as I do, this article will interest you. I think I have every "sander" ever conceived of just to try to cut down on my "sanding time". A few years ago at one of the Wood Shows, I happened to stop at a booth that was demonstrating what looked like a little home-made sanding device". It looked intriguing but I wondered how well it would work. On the trip home from the show a friend mentioned he had purchased one of those little "V" Drum Sander kits.

Hmmm ... I thought maybe there was something to those little sanders. A few weeks later I went over to his workshop to see how his little home-made sander was working ...

To read the full article , click "read more" below.

As it turns out he had finished building the little unit, but had not used it much. He told me that it seemed to be working OK, but that it took him a while to realize that the adjustment of the table height was critical and when this was done the sander seemed to work just fine. Since he didn't offer to demo the sander, I was somewhat skeptical about how well it worked and didn't give it any more thougth.

Skip forward to the next Wood Show ... yes I saw the same booth with the same demo. There were a group of people around watching the demo and a few of them bought some of the little "V" Drum Sander kits to make their own ... again I passed on buying one, though I continued to be intrigued. As luck would have it, a few months later while visiting another woodworking buddy, I noticed he had, what seemed like a fairly well used home-made sander tucked under his work bench. I asked him if it was one of the kits we had seen at the Wood Shows, which he confirmed it was ... and added that it was a great little tool that he used quite a bit.

Fast forward to the NEXT Wood Show ... I finally broke down and bought one of these sanding machine kits. I purchased the 18" kit, which consists of a couple of steel pulleys, a link belt, 2 low-profile bearing blocks and of course the 18" drum. You have to supply a small quarter or half horse motor, and of course the wood to build the sander. My kit also contained two sets of instructions for constructing the sander, one a deluxe floor-standing version, the other a more modest portable model (shown in pictures), which is what I elected for my small shop. The plans are simple, one sheet of paper with a parts list and size on one side and a blow-apart diagram on the other.

I cut out all the pieces as described in on the sheet of paper ... then had some fun trying to figure out which pieces connected to what. It's a bit like putting a jigsaw together but if you are in anyway mechanically minded, it's just takes a bit of time. In small type on the plans there is small phrase that states "adjust plan to size of drum". You may also need to adjust your wood thicknesses to fit the plan if you use other than what they recommend (which I did in a couple of instances).

Well, after a few days of off and on tweaking and adjusting, my sander was ready to go. I decided to heed all the information given to me by the manufacture and my friends who said ... the height adjustment of the top is critical to good results. What they meant by this is that the actual drum needs to be below the table when it is turned off because the centrifugal force of the sand paper on the drum will lift it just enough to sand your wood once the drum is spinning.

The sandpaper that attaches to the roller is a hook and loop type and comes in a variety of grits. I was surprised how easy it was to change grits. The first few times I tested the sander I found that I had over compensated and raised the table too much, and had to lower it a bit at a time. I even marked the head so I could see how much movement was required in raising and lowering the top. I was also astounded how quickly this little sander was working just as I had seen at the Wood Shows. One small hitch I ran into was that ... I found that somehow a one of my wooden support blocks seemed to be slightly lower than the other which meant that drum was sanding more on one side of the table than the other. (Actually I think the problem was that hinge was slighly higher on one end than the other) The fix for this was to simply raise one of the two bearing blocks by shimming it with bit of thin metal I had on hand. If you look closely to the image with lid up you can see the copper shims used to raise the roller bearings.

Once I had the blocks even with the top on each side, and adjusted the height of the table accordingly this little sanders works remarkably well. You can adjust how much wood to take off by the grit you use and how many passes over the drum you make. I still find I need a tiny bit of finishing sanding on some projects before finishing, but the bulk of my sanding is now done on my little portable home-made sander. And there is a bonus ... because of the design and materials used in drum, this sander is virtually dust free ... that's right, almost dust free. Most of the dust collects in the small drawer in the front for emptying later. If you really want you can connect you dust collector, but I hate the noise so opt to let the drawer collect most of the dust.

I purchased some rough-cut Broad Leaf Maple some time ago and found that much of it tends to tear in the planer, and that the only way to get dimensioned wood is to have it sanded to dimension. This little sander does a great job of doing that.

If you can't wait for the next woodshow to get sander that doesn't blow your years budget and works exceedingly well ... check out the manufactures website ... and tell Paul you read about it on Woodworkweb

Copyright Colin Knecht

The Agony of Setting Jointer Knives

 "I often wish I was one of those dedicated woodworkers who loved to spend hours of their time "fine tuning" their equipment and sharpening tools to a razor edge. Sadly, I love to spend more time cutting wood than fine tuning the machinery. This shortcoming has disadvantages. Some time ago (I embarrassed to tell you how long ago) I purchased a very nice, brand new 6" Delta jointer. A fine machine, factory set up and "ready to go", or so the salesman told me.

When I got this machine home, I used it for many months (many, many months) and became more and more dissatisfied with it's performance. Oh it ran fine, but for some reason it would not joint a straight edge. I purchased a very expensive straight edge to check the infeed and outfeed tables and they were well within tolerance.

I became more and more frustrated and even considered selling the jointer -  click below to read what happened next

I often wish I was one of those dedicated woodworkers who loved to spend hours of their time "fine tuning" their equipment and sharpening tools to a razor edge. Sadly, I love to spend more time cutting wood than fine tuning the machinery. This shortcoming has disadvantages. Some time ago (I embarrassed to tell you how long ago) I purchased a very nice, brand new 6" Delta jointer . A fine machine by all counts, factory set up and "ready to go" or so the salesman told me.

When I got this machine home, I used it for many months (many, many months) and became more and more dissatisfied with it's performance. Oh it ran fine, but for some reason it would not joint a strait edge. I purchased a very expensive straight edge to check the infeed and outfeed tables and they were well within tolerance. I became more and more frustrated and even considered selling the jointer .

I read two or three articles on "how to use your jointer" properly and still it was delivering cuts that my tablesaw could easily beat (especially with Freud's Glue Line Rip blade that I love so much). I even made a fancy holding device like one article suggested still I got rounded results.

Finally I found an article somewhere, and I don't even remember where, that explained that if the jointer knives are not set properly, unsatisfactory results will be obtained. The article went on to say that if the knives are too high above the outfeed table the wood will have a "snipe" at the end (a place near the back of the board that has extra wood removed by the cutter). The article also said that if the cutters are too low the resultant cuts will be bowed  which is exactly the problem I was having.

Now I was in a conundrum - do I sell the jointer as is and get a bigger 8" that I want anyway, or do I try and fix the problem? I looked for article on how to set jointer knives and found them somewhat conflicting, so decided to talk to some woodwork buddies. The first one I talked to told me he set them up, as level with the out feed table as he could using a strait edge, then rewired his jointer motor to run in reverse and ran a fine, flat sharpening stone over the knives to get them perfect. Since I am not an electrician, and I felt this was making something much harder than it should be - I called another buddy. My second contact told me he now had also been struggling with setting knives and now had the perfect solution and he showed me a pair of very sophisticated setting jigs. He went on to say that these now made his settings perfect. Since I was in the neighborhood, I decided to talk with yet a third buddy. He just chuckled, shrugged and shook his head,  "I don't worry too much about it" he told me, and with that I thought the best advice was the two little jigs, and off I went to the tool store.

At the tool store I asked one of the salesmen where their fine adjustment measuring tools were? He asked me what I was looking for and told him, Jointer knive setup device. He immediately walked to the end of one isle and handed me a small flat wooden box, "there ya go" he said, just what you need. I opened the box to see two long black square bars. "These weren't what I was looking for" I told him  then I pointed behind him to the pair of jig holders one of my friends was using. "Those are for planers" he told me, what you are holding are for jointers". He went on to explain that when you are setting up a planer, the knives all need to be the same height to one another, with a jointer all the knives need to be the same height as the outfeed table and that the tool I was holding, with two back, square rods, which had magnets in the bottom would do what I want.

I was beginning to think that selling the jointer would have been easier, but I struggled on and purchased the recommended tool ... with the two long black square arms. Since there were no instructions in the box, I surmised either this was really meant of woodworkers (who hate reading instructions) .. or, setting up the blades was not going to be that difficult.

The instruction book for the Delta Jointer was helpful. I suggested that each blade needed to be in top-dead-centre when setting the knives. Now my eyesight isn't the best it once was, so I decided that as long as each blade was set in exactly the same place, they would all be the same height, so I etched a line in the front of the table where each blade would be aligned to, and set about setting up each knife. See the white arrow that shows how the square aligns each knife for setup.

After setting all three knives, I decided it was time to test the jointer. As I ran the first piece of wood through, I could feel it was finally working. When I looked at the edge I had just created I noticed a slight "sniping" at the very end. On closer examination, I could see the blades were all a few thousands of an inch high.

To solve this I purchased two inexpensive flat feeler gauges and used them between the knife setting tool and the blades. I found that 6 thousandth was perfect, so re-set the knives. This time the wood ran through perfectly. I ran several other pieces and type of wood all perfect.

There is a strange feeling that comes over oneself when you finally accomplish something that has been bothering you for many, months. I had a new excitement about this tool. Lucky for me, it had not been used much so my blades were in great shape. I will now purchase a spare set of blades so that when these are dull I can put sharp one in as I am taking the dull ones out and save a bit of time and be able to use the machine while the other blades are being sharpened.

I wonder ... maybe I should change my ways and become one of those dedicated woodworkers who spends the time fine tuning and sharpening  what a pleasure working with tools that are sharp and set up properly.

Copyright - Colin Knecht 


Rockwell Hardness Scale for Sharp Woodworking Tools

 "Make Your Own Tools" the article said. I love the idea woodworkers making their own tools, so I decided to make use of some plans in an old woodworking magazine, and make myself three nice marking tools that will leave a crisp fine line on wood I am marking for cutting. The article said it was easy, and I liked the idea of using hardened steel and my own woodworking skills to make some of my own tools. Of course the first thing to do is obtain the materials, so off I went to the "metal supply store" to purchase the steel material for the blades. I asked for a piece of steel, according to the instructions. The grumpy salesman then asked "what hardness do you need?". I was totally lost ... what hardness of steel did I need? the article didn't say anything about that.

I tried to explain what I needed the steel for, but both of us had lost patience with my lack of knowledge, it was time for me learn a bit about steel, and here's what I found ...

Back in the early 1920's (the exact date is a bit fuzzy) a metallurgist by the name of Stanley Rockwell (wow, what a great name), needed to devise some way of determining the hardness of ball bearings. As the story goes, his simple idea was to place a penetrating tip on the steel to be tested, and with careful measurement of pressure, see how far the tip penetrated into the steel. The depth of the dent left would determine the hardness of the steel.

Today we use the same idea, but in a more sophisticated tool with precise measuring accuracy. As a rule, most of the steel you find in woodworking tools, like chisel and plane blades are measured in the Rockwell "C" scale, hence th expression "Rc". The number that follows the Rc code is used to denote how deep the tip penetrated into the steel, the deeper the penetration, the lower the number and the softer the material, so an Rc90 would be harder than an Rc60 for example.
In real tests, today they use diamond indentors and apply a fixed amount of pressure to the diamond tip, then measure how far that diamond tip penetrates the steel. So with 150kg amount of weight, the diamond indentor might penetrate a piece of steel to a depth of .038" - this means that this particular piece of steel would have an Rc harndness amount of 28. By contrast, still using 150kg amount of weight on a harder piece of steel, the diamond indentor this time only penetrates the steel to a depth of .022" - in this case, this piece of steel would be recorded as having and Rc of 69.

The reason there are so many different degrees of hardness is because different tools are required for different jobs. If steel is very hard it is more difficult to sharpen (often requiring special sharpening tools) and it is more brittle. For example a quality turning chisel like a Robert Sorby that are hit with a hammer will have a slightly different hardness than caving knives that are drawn by hand and sharpened frequently. If it is too soft, it won't hold an edge long, which means it needs re-sharpening often or it bends. Such is the case with a hammer. Carpenters expect to hammer nails all day without the hammer's head chipping away or bending. This is "balance" of creating the right hardness. There is also a trade-off in the flexibility of the steel. Softer steel will flex, hard steel will not, in fact if steel is too hard it chips, because it is brittle, which makes it even harder to sharpen.

Sawblades are a great example of combining various degrees of hardness. A saw blade might have a hardness of say Rc50 but the tungsten carbide tips might have a hardness of Rc90. This is so the blade can still flex somewhat (without breaking because it is too brittle) as it moves through the wood, but the tungsten carbide tips which do the actual cutting will last longer as they are harder than the steel. Freud Tools have made a real art out of combining different degrees of carbide to their different saw blades to achieve a wide range of saw blade uses. For example the carbide used in their Laminate/Melamine blades will be slightly  harder than the carbide used in their famous Glue Line Rip  woodworking blades because the  hardness and content of the laminate compared to wood is much different.  But there is also a limit to hardness as it compares with brittlenss.  Freud  actually use a slightly softer carbide in their metal cutting blades because a softer carbide is less brittle, which is what you need for cutting hard metals so all the teeth in the blade don't shatter. (Editors note: carbide is NOT metal, it is only used as a comarison element in this article because most woodworkers are familiar with both hardened steel and carbide)


Most highspeed steel such as what you would find in bench chisels and woodturning chisels are around Rc60. This is because they hold a good edge, but are still reasonably easy to sharpen. Robert Sorby , arguably the finest manufacture of wood turning and carving chisels, is well aware of how important hardness is tool making.

If you had a bench chisel with an Rc90, any time it fell off the bench onto the floor it would chip or fracture, then and you would have to send it somewhere to get sharpened because it is too hard for most conventional sharpening methods. The same thing that happens when you drop a carbide tipped router bit on the floor or bang a carbide tipped saw blade ... the carbide often chips. You now have a very expensive fishing weight, because ANY chipped carbide blade should NEVER be used in a power tool again ... at least if you value your eyesight, as flying pieces of carbide from a highspeed tool can cause serious (and often permanent) physical damage.

And so, back to my tool. I finally decided that the best hardness was that similar to a bench chisel where there would be some flex but that the maker blades would hold their edge longer, and that is exactly what I purchased. Now all I need to do is find the time to make them.


Copyright - Colin Knecht 

Making a Performance Table Saw Part 1

"There are basically four types of table saws, 1) Bench or Portables , 2) Contractors , 3) Cabinet and 4) Sliding Table Saws used by large commercial outfits. The portables and contractors are the most popular because of their price point, space required and movability. The problem with portables and contractor saws is very often they just don't do the same quality job a cabinet table saw does. This is because they are not setup. No one has taken the time to set these saws up so they can make quality, accurate cuts. Well ... I have news for you. With a bit of work, your portable or contractors saw can often do the same or even better work than cabinet saws three or four times the price.
Click below to read more

Table saws are the work horse of the workshop and spending some time on yours can make a huge difference to your work and lower your level of frustration at the same time. All it takes is a bit of time and investing in some quality parts and your inexpensive or used table saw can perform most cuts with incredible accuracy.

The main purpose of any table saw is to rip wood, and the secondary purpose is cross cut wood. Ripping wood is very important in woodworking. It is critical to get a good cut or else you will spend your time compensating for the poor cut throughout the rest of the project. If your rips are not correct, I can guarantee your cross cuts will also be off, adding to even more frustration and poorer quality of work.

To rip any wood it is critical that the fence be absolutely parallel to the saw blade. You can tell if it is not parallel because the back teeth of the table saw will also be cutting the wood and will be throwing sawdust up in the air at the back of the blade. Something that shouldn't be happening if your blade and fence are parallel.

Everything on a table saw is aligned with the mitre slots. That is the law of table sawing. When everything is aligned with the mitre slots your cuts will be accurate and you won't have to spend you time trying to align the fence with the blade on each cut.

Most portable or contractors saw will use something called a "trunion system" to hold the saw blade assembly within the saw. Trunion systems also allow the saw blade to be elevated and lowered as well as to be tilted in one direction or the other.

If the saw is a any kind of a decent saw, this trunion system will be somewhat adjustable. There should be two sets of bolts, one at the front of the trunion system and one near the back (see arrows in picture). To set your trunion system parallel with the mitre slot on the table saw top, you will need a very accurate form of measurement. I purchased a dial meter (these are not expensive and will be useful many other measurements for years and years to come).


I attached the dial meter FIRMLY to the mitre gauge with a shop-made jig the took a couple of minutes to put together. With this assembly I could measure the front and back of the blade by sliding the mitre gauge back and forth at the same time as I adjusted the trunions. Use a very good quality full kerf blade for this, AND make a mark near the edge of the blade and use that mark to measure the distance both front and back.


This will mean you will have to rotate the blade a half turn each time you measure. We do this to make sure our measurements are as accurate as possible by using the exact same distances.

Re-tightening the trunions can be tricky, I have found that slightly tightening the middle bolts first helps stop the trunion assembly unit from moving slightly. We are dealing with thousands of an inch here so accuracy IS important. Take the time to do this job properly and you will not have to re-do it for a long time.

Aligning the tunions is the one of most important things you can do to "tune" your saw. When your trunions and saw blades are parallel with the mitre slots you can now adjust your fence to the mitre slots.

I came across a used Biesemeyer fence and decided for $125 is was work upgrading the fence. Attaching the fence was a bit of work because none of the holes lined up with my table saw but after drilling three new holes and performing some minor adjustments I had an incredibly accurate fence on a now "tuned" table saw.

In Part 2 - We will discuss the rest of the things you can do make your old table saw perform even better

Copyright  Colin Knecht





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