Monday, July 23, 2018

Rolling Stool - Free Plan

I always wanted one of those five-legged stools like the doctor scoots around on when he has you trapped in his little examination room.  So I built one, using some beetle kill pine from the rack at Home Depot and some swivel casters from Harbor Freight.  It looked like this:

I figured from the beginning that sitting on it would tend to pry the legs loose from the little hub-like piece near the bottom, so I was very careful to attach the legs firmly to the hub.  So far, so good.  So far, so good, that is, until one day the hub itself split in two as I sat down on the stool.  Oops.  Butt, meet floor!

Design attempt #2 worked out much better.  It looks like this:

With the legs transmitting the load directly from the seat to the wheels, it's not trying to rend itself asunder when you sit on it.  Better materials (hardwood and metal tubing) didn't hurt, either.

Free Plan

This PDF file contains detailed drawings for all of the stool's parts as I built them.  There's also a SketchUp model here.  I made all of the wooden parts from oak, and the metal parts from 1/2" thin-wall electrical conduit.  I glued up some 3/4" boards to get the required thickness for the wooden parts.  I also had to glue together a couple of pieces edgewise to get a board wide enough for the seat.

Here are some hints that might be useful if you want to make one of these for yourself:

The Metal Parts

The metal parts are all straight sections of 1/2" thin-wall electrical conduit, so just cut them to length according to the plans.  If you want to paint the conduit, now is a good time so the paint can dry while you make the wooden parts.

The Seat

After you've cut out the seat, you'll want to put a slight round-over on at least the top edge so it doesn't cut into your leg when you sit on the stool.  Also, you'll need to accurately mark the center of the bottom surface for reference later when installing the legs.

The Other Wooden Parts

The hub, the feet, and the connectors are all drilled to accept parts made from conduit.  These holes need to fit the conduit fairly closely.  Since you probably don't have a 0.705" drill in your toolbox, make one by carefully grinding down both sides of an old 3/4" spade bit until a test hole in a scrap of wood fits the conduit.  Aim for a snug fit.

After cutting out the hub and the feet, carefully lay out the locations of the holes, then use a V-block for support while drilling with the modified spade bit.  Be careful to stop when you reach the depth indicated on the plans.

For the connectors, lay out the holes as before, then use the connector drilling fixture shown in the plans to hold the connectors at the proper angle for drilling.


Start by gluing five of the connectors to the five feet, as shown in the plans.  Each connector should be centered on the top surface of a foot, with the hole in the connector aligned with the middle hole in the foot.

Next, insert the five spokes into the hub, as shown here.  (Click on any of the images for a larger view.)  Make sure the spokes are fully seated within the holes in the hub, then drill pilot holes halfway through the bottom of the hub and into each spoke.  Install a 1" sheet metal screw into each hole to keep the spokes from twisting or coming out of the hub.

Now assemble the feet and braces together with the hub and spokes as shown.  This may be kind of tricky because it all has to happen at once.  Start by positioning the parts so that all the braces and spokes extend just a short distance into the holes in the feet.  Then work your way slowly around the assembly from one foot to another, gradually pushing the metal parts into the holes until they are all fully seated.

Next, turn the entire assembly upside down on a flat surface so that the feet are all in the same plane.  Check one more time to make sure the braces and spokes are all fully seated within the holes in the feet, and use clamps and/or weights as needed to force the connectors against the flat surface.  With everything in position, drill pilot holes and pin the spokes into the feet using sheet metal screws as before.  Important: Here, the heads of the screws must be sunk into the bottom surfaces of the feet so they don't interfere with the installation of the casters later.  You don't need to pin the braces.

In the next step, you will complete the assembly and glue the five remaining connectors to the bottom of the seat.  To make this easy, it's helpful to install some temporary guides on the seat to help position the connectors correctly.  Starting from the center point you marked earlier, draw five radial lines, 72 degrees apart, on the bottom of the seat, as shown here:

Next, draw five 3" x 1-1/2" rectangles to represent the footprints of the five connectors.  These rectangles should be centered on the five radial lines, and positioned 1/4" in from the edge of the seat.  Finally, use hot glue or small brads to temporarily attach small strips of wood along two edges of each rectangle, as shown.  The connectors will register against these strips in the next step.

Now insert the legs into the connectors on the feet and slip the remaining connectors onto the top ends of the legs as shown.  As always, make sure the metal parts are fully seated into their respective holes.  Apply glue to the seat and the connectors, align the connectors with the temporary guides, and clamp the connectors to the seat.  Once the clamps are in place, remove the temporary guides and wait for the glue to dry before removing the clamps.

Install some casters to the bottom of the feet, and you're done!

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Drill Press Table Counterweight

My drill press features the "lift it up and down with your hand" method for adjusting the table height.  This got old after a while, especially with a vise or a heavy workpiece on the table, so I started looking for a way to add a counterweight to make the process easier.

The best setup I found on the internet had a cable running up from the back of the table, over a pulley at the top of the column and then down inside the column to the counterweight itself.  Unfortunately, I couldn't make this work on my drill press because the motor mount was in the way of the cable.  There was also no really good way to attach a cable to the back of the table.

I eventually figured the next best thing would be to have pulleys just below the drill press head with the counterweight riding outside of the column.  The pictures show how I did it.

The bracket that holds the pulleys is made of red oak, and clamps to the drill press column with some long bolts.  The axles for the pulleys are 1/4-20 bolts that I just screwed into threaded holes tapped into the oak.

I machined the pulleys themselves from high density polyethylene (HDPE) scraps that I melted in an oven and then cast into a block under pressure in a wooden mold.  (That's another story altogether--this YouTube video and the very first part of this one show how to do it.) The HDPE plastic is kind of slippery, so I didn't need any fancy bearings or anything to make the pulleys work for this project.

The counterweights are simple wooden boxes with sand in them.  I adjusted the amount of sand in the boxes until the weight seemed about right.  In the end I think the whole assembly wound up about three pounds lighter than the table.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Small Parts Storage Trays


Here’s yet another way to store nuts and bolts and screws and whatnot. These trays are made from scraps of 1/4” MDF and 1/8” tempered hardboard left over from other projects.

I sized them so they will sit up on edge in a couple of the drawers in my work bench. That makes it easy to remove any one by itself while still utilizing most of the space within each drawer. For that to work, though, the sliding lids have to fit nicely against the dividers so the hardware doesn’t get all mixed up when the tray isn’t sitting flat.

You could also store them like books on a shelf.

To keep track of which tray contains what, I made an Excel spreadsheet on my computer that lists the contents of each tray. I keep a printed copy in the drawer with the trays so I can find the correct tray pretty quickly when I want to deposit or withdraw some random bit of treasure.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Biesmeyer-Style Bandsaw Fence - Free Plan

I have a Taiwanese clone of the Delta 14" bandsaw that I bought used without a fence.  That didn't bother me too much at first, because I thought that I would be using it to cut curves most of the time, and that when I did need a fence, I could just clamp a board to the table.  But then I found out how useful a bandsaw is as a ripping machine and for certain kinds of joinery, and how tedious it is to accommodate drift using the clamp-a-board-to-the-table method.

I needed a real fence.

I thought about building the shop made fence described by Patrick Sullivan in Fine Woodworking #210.  But when I looked at it closely, the design seemed overly complicated to me.  So I set out to build something simpler that would still get the job done.  After a couple of false starts, I eventually came up with the Biesemeyer-style fence described here.

I started with a piece of 1-1/4" x 1-1/4" x 1/8" 6063-T5 aluminum channel for the rail.  I cut one leg off at 13/16" as shown in this drawing.  I then drilled it to match the mounting holes on my bandsaw table and cut a little notch to match the bandsaw's miter slot.

Then I made the "slider" shown in this drawing.  It rides to the left and right along the rail and clamps in place with a little bolt.  The longish piece on the bottom of the slider registers against the rail to align the slider, while the shorter piece carries a T-nut for the bolt that clamps the slider to the rail.  You could use a threaded insert instead of the T-nut if you want.  If you look carefully, you'll see a little piece of bent sheet metal that prevents the slider from marring the aluminum rail when you crank down on the bolt.  I called this thing the "rail protector", and it's shown in this drawing.

There are also two T-nuts in the holes on top of the slider.  These receive a couple of bolts that hold the base of the fence to the slider.

This drawing shows the base of the fence itself.  It's cut out on the left side to clear the bandsaw's yoke when the fence is positioned towards the left side of the bandsaw table.  The hole and the curved slot nearest the operator accommodate bolts that attach the base to the slider.  The curved slot allows the base to rotate in order to adjust for drift.

The other holes in the base have threaded inserts or T-nuts that allow attachment of the auxiliary high fence shown in this drawing.  It can be installed in either of two orientations for resawing or to accommodate various workpiece thicknesses.

You might want to use star knobs instead of the bolts that I have shown for the clamp bolt in the slider and the bolts that attach the base to the slider.  You might also might want to make the slider and base out of aluminum instead of wood!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Super Simple Horizontal Boring Jig

I needed to drill some fairly accurate holes in the ends of a long board.  So I made this jig to hold my drill in a horizontal position.  I was careful to make the centerline of the drill parallel to the edge of the base.  That way I can line up both the jig and the workpiece with the long edge of my workbench to more or less guarantee a straight hole.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Coolpix 990 Battery Door Repair

As nice a camera as it was in its day, the Nikon Coolpix 990 suffers from a design flaw that affects a large fraction of the units that were produced.  The problem is the latch on the battery door.  It involves a little plastic part that eventually fails after years of trying to hold the battery door shut against the pressure of the springy battery contacts.  Once the latch is broken, the batteries won't stay in place, and the camera is essentially useless.

You can have Nikon fix your camera for a zillion dollars, or you can order a replacement part for half a zillion and attempt the repair yourself.  Or, you can try one of the several do-it-yourself ideas that you find on the internet.  The do-it-yourself ideas all seem to take one of two approaches:
  • Repair the latch itself with some sort of microsurgery that involves gluing tiny pieces of metal or plastic inside the camera.
  • Add a plate to the bottom of the camera that will press against the battery door and hold it shut from the outside.
The "fix the latch" ideas all seemed kind of iffy to me, so when my camera broke, I went with the second approach.  Here's the result:

The plate covers most of the bottom of the right-hand side of the camera.  It's attached with a screw that fits into the camera's tripod mount.  The plate then has a 1/4-20 tapped hole in it so the camera can still be used on a tripod with the plate in place.  The slot in the screw is about the thickness of a penny, so all you need is a coin to remove and replace the plate in order to change the batteries.

The image below links to a PDF file with a detailed drawing of the plate and the screw.  The drawing doesn't do a very good job of specifying the oddball curve on the right-hand side of the plate, but that's not very critical anyway and you can more or less just wing it if you decide to make a plate for your camera.

Note: The drawing specifies 5/8" for the diameter of the counterbore for the screw head. The counterbore really only needs to be slghtly larger than the screw head, as shown in the earlier photo.

Monday, December 24, 2012

What to Do with Slippery Glue

Sometimes you have a simple project where you just want to glue a couple of pieces of wood together.  You might not want to mess around with a bunch of fancy joinery, but you probably do want the alignment of the two pieces to be correct.  So you draw some lines on one piece to show where the other piece should go.
Then you smear some glue on both pieces and slap them together.  The glue is so slippery that you can't keep everything in position while you apply a clamp, and even if you could, the squeezed out glue has covered up your lines.  Bummer.
So what you need to do is start over, but this time before you start slinging the glue, clamp an alignment block right next to one of your layout lines, but on the opposite side of the line from where the glued-on piece is supposed to go.
Now you can glue and clamp the parts together and be confident that, as long as the part you're gluing is in contact with the alignment block, it will be in the right place.
Don't forget to remove the alignment block and clean up the excess glue before it hardens!