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!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Adjustable-Width Vise Spacer

If you want to hold a big panel or something in your vise, sometimes you have to clamp it off to one side of the vise because the vise hardware gets in the way. When you do that, it's a good idea to put a spacer in the other side of the vise to keep the vise from racking.  So you have to find something as thick as your workpiece to use as a spacer, then hold it with one hand while you hold the workpiece with your other hand and then somehow snug up the vise with your nose or your knee.

Growing a third arm would go a long way towards solving this problem, but I hear that takes a long time. Also, people who aren't quite as tolerant as they should be towards biological diversity will point and laugh and look at you like you're some sort of three-armed freak.  So that's no good.

Maybe you would be better off to just build this little gizmo.  It lets you make any size spacer you need by rotating the leaves in and out of the way. The 3/4" thick blocks on each end of the bolt keep the thing from falling through the vise while you position your workpiece with one hand and tighten the vise with the other.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Yet Another Box Joint Jig - Free Plan

Like most everyone in the world, I've posted a few of my projects on So far, the most popular one has been this box joint jig. The basic idea came from Matthias Wandel's original box joint jig, but instead of a crank like Matthias used, I put a knob with a dial on mine to move the workpiece back and forth. I thought this was a little bit simpler and a little more versatile than Matthias's version with the crank.

The jig is built by adding a sliding carriage to the rear fence of a standard crosscut sled. To use it, you clamp the your workpiece to the sliding carriage, and then turn the knob to precisely position the carriage for each successive cut. Each mark on the dial represents 0.002" of movement, so with a little planning, you can make any sort of box joint you want. More on that later.

The Details

If you want to build one of these yourself, the following pictures link to drawings that give the dimensions of the jig as I built it.  The table on my saw is about 27" wide, and the blade is about 16" from the left side of the table.  If your saw is substantially different, you may need to adjust the dimensions of the jig to suit your saw.  In particular, you must make absolutely sure that your saw cannot cut into the jig's metal lead screw.

Rear Fence
Bearing Block
Lead Screw

Building the Jig

To build the jig, start by making a standard crosscut sled for your table saw.  Make the rear fence 2-1/4" tall and 1-1/2" thick, as shown in the first drawing above.  Make sure the rear fence is square to the saw blade.  This video shows a quick and straightforward way to square the fence on a crosscut sled.

Next, find a bearing to support the end of the lead screw near the dial.  Ideally, the bearing should have an inner diameter of 1/4" to match the 1/4-20 threaded rod used for the lead screw.  If you happen to have a bearing with a larger inner diameter, you can make it work with a bushing as shown in the photo nearby.  My bearing happened to have an outer diameter of 1-3/8".  Anything smaller than 1-1/2" or so would work.

When you have found a suitable bearing, make the bearing block shown in the second drawing above, except that the hole should fit your bearing.  Center the hole in the bearing block, and size it so that your bearing fits tightly into the hole.  Attach the completed bearing block to the left end of the crosscut sled's rear fence, as shown in the first two photos above.

Now make the carriage as shown in the third drawing above.  Use extra care when making the little hooks that ride over the fence.  You want the carriage to slide freely on the fence, but with as little play as possible.  There's nothing special about the big mortise that houses the lead screw;  it was just easier for me to make it that way than to try to drill a long hole lengthwise through the carriage.  (I guess there's also some comfort in being able to see the lead screw, in order to make double dang sure that you're not going to cut into it with the saw blade.)  Embed a 1/4-20 nut in the end of the carriage as shown in the drawing and in the first photo above.

Important:  When you have the carriage complete, add a block of wood to the backside of the rear fence as shown in the second photo above.  The purpose of this block is to protect your fingers from the saw blade at the end of each cut.  The block must fully enclose the blade as it comes through the back of the fence.  You will need to notch the top corner of the block as shown to allow the carriage to slide freely back and forth.  Do not use the jig without this block in place.

To make the dial, click on the image above to open a .PDF file that contains a full sized image of the dial.  When you print the image, the diameter of the dial should be 3-1/2".  Paste the printed image onto a piece of 1/8" plywood (or something similar), cut out the circle, and drill a 1/4" hole in the center.  Next make a knob of some sort, and cut the lead screw to length from 1/4-20 threaded rod stock.  Attach the knob and the dial securely to one end of the lead screw.  The knob and the dial must not be allowed to rotate on the lead screw.

Next, thread the free end of the lead screw through the bearing and install a washer and a pair of jam nuts as shown in the photo nearby.  When you're using the jig, you'll need to apply slight pressure to the carriage to ensure that the jam nuts ride tight against the bearing.  If you want, you could add some sort of spring arrangement to take care of this automatically.

Finally, position the carriage over the rear fence and thread the lead screw into its embedded nut by turning the dial.  Check one last time that your saw can't cut into the lead screw, and you're ready to go.

Measuring Your Kerf Width

With the jig complete, you can now make precisely spaced crosscuts by clamping your workpiece to the carriage and then turning the dial to move the workpiece after each cut. Before you can do much of anything useful, though, you need to know the width of the kerf that's taken by your particular saw blade. If you have a dial caliper or one of those fancy electronic ones, this is fairly easy to measure, as follows:
  1. Use your saw to rip a piece of scrap two or three inches wide. Make sure the edges are both straight and parallel to one another, then use the caliper to take a precise measurement of the width of the scrap.
  2. Rip the scrap down the middle into two pieces.
  3. Reassemble the two pieces next to each other, and measure their combined width.
  4. Subtract the combined width of the two pieces from the width of the original piece. This difference is the width of the kerf that was taken by your saw blade.
If you don't have a caliper, you will have to take as good a guess as you can, then make some trial and error adjustments later when you actually go to use the jig.

Cutting a Simple Box Joint

Probably the simplest box joint to cut is one where the fingers are the same width as the saw kerf.  That would be roughly 1/8" for a normal blade, or whatever you want if you are using a dado stack.  In any case, the joint involves a series of cuts that are evenly spaced by twice the width of the saw kerf.  So let's suppose that your kerf is 0.132" wide.  That means you want to move the carriage by twice that amount, or 0.264", after each cut.  So how do you do that?

If you're a math whiz (or maybe a machinist), you might realize that each dot on the dial represents 0.002" of carriage movement, and that the numbers on the dial represent thousanths of an inch.  From that, you could figure out how far to turn the dial based on the numbers, but doing so would involve some error-prone arithmetic for every single cut.  Fortunately, there's an easier way that's based on the pattern of colored arcs and dots on the dial.

Here's all you have to remember:
  • Rotating the dial by one dot's worth moves the carriage 0.002".
  • Rotating the dial by one arc's worth moves the carriage 0.010"
  • Rotating the dial one full turn moves the carriage 0.050"
So, in our example, to move the carriage by 0.264", you would turn the dial five turns to move it by 0.250", then one arc to bring it to 0.260", then two dots to reach 0.264".  So "five turns, one arc, and two dots" is all you have to remember (or write down), and it's the same for every cut.  This is actually a lot easier to do than it is to explain.  Once you've played with it a while, you'll do it without thinking.

Cutting More Complicated Joints

With the jig, you're not limited to any particular finger width or spacing, although more complicated joints do involve a little bit of planning.  But the fundamental process is straightforward:  Figure out how you need to space your cuts, turn the dial to put the workpiece exactly (!) where you want it, and have at it.