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A Time Machine Would Have Saved Me Time…

As we all work hard and try to find the best and most efficient ways to work, we somehow miss something every once in a while and wish we could turn back the clock.

It all began when I met with a builder who was finishing up a new elementary school. We were speaking because they had plans to put in hundreds of laminated counter tops throughout the school. This was a big job so I took it. To be honest, growing up learning furniture making, this was not the dream job I thought I would be doing. But, like everyone we have our bills to pay, and a couple months of steady work is nothing for a furniture maker to shy away from.

The shop was outfitted to work as a factory with an assembly line. We made room for the stacks of particle board we were using for our base and emptied the racks to make room for the laminate to stand.

We were all ready to go, and the project went really smoothly. We would cut the particle board to size, cut the laminated strips for all the edges, and cut the laminate tops.

We set up a station where we attached two pieces of particle board together for thickness, followed by the station where we began our gluing. The gluing went well, and we had great success.

I am one for details and precision. Yet, to be honest, I was ready to bang out this job and was looking for any shortcuts I could find. Unfortunately, I could not find any.

We continued with applying the edges and then trimming the excess with a trim router. The next step of filing the edges was the most labor intensive and delicate. Although very important to the final product, it was a stage I would have liked to have done without. After hours and hours of filing day in and day out, we were finally finished. We delivered the counter tops, the school was happy, and then it was time to work on the next job.

It just so happens that when speaking to a friend about this experience, he laughed and pointed me in the direction of a trimming bit that also files at the same time. This saves just a few minutes of filing on one counter top, but it would have saved me a few days of work with the amount of counters we made for the school.

I could kick myself and be upset that I did not know such a tool existed, but I suppose that would not help. I have no time machine to go back, but I do know that for the next time I have a way to work much more efficiently.

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The Art of Buying Woodworking Tools

A nightmare scenario: It’s my wife’s birthday and she loves gifts. More than just gifts, she loves when people buy her make-up. I would go through the different types of make-ups, bases and highlights, but I would have no idea what I am talking about. I am not a cosmetician, nor have I ever put on makeup. But one thing is for sure, my wife just loves makeup so I have little choice but to bite the bullet and go for broke.

This is my worst gift buying nightmare. It is a good thing that this is not a reality, but I am using this example to show what it may feel like for a wife to buy woodworking tools/bits for her husband.

Non-woodworkers generally feel a bit overwhelmed searching for an appropriate tool for a gift. As a woodworking expert, even I occasionally feel the challenge of purchasing a new tool. Tools are always changing and being upgraded so there is always something to learn. For the non-woodworker, there is no reason to learn new trends let alone know the old ones.

Knowing how happy your husband would be if you came home with a 3-Piece Ogee Raised Panel Set – 1/2 Inch Shank, wouldn’t you want to know what it is, what it is for and what machine it is used with?

There are many gift ideas for woodworkers on the market, and I often wonder how often they are purchased. As a woodworker, I see great value in getting a packaged deal, but I tend not to buy gifts for myself. So the question remains: how does someone without any real knowledge of tools choose an appropriate woodworking gift? Good question.

The first step is to identify a number of gifts, as seen here on the Tools Today Gift Ideas page.

Second, every woodworker has a buddy who also is a woodworker. Whether they speak every day or just once a year, there is a bond between them, and they talk about the tools that they purchase. This person is your guy. Use this contact as a way to identify exactly what your husband can use.

Please note that as a woodworker I know that we all love to create for the sake of creating, giving to others and seeing them happy. In the end, your gift to your husband might just be that jewelry box you always wanted.

Happy shopping and good luck!

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Corner Chisel Saved Hours of Hand Work

Buying new tools is always a two part decision making process for me. First, I love tools so in the end I know I will have to wrestle with my emotions. I am a self-ascribed tool addict and find joy in purchasing a new table saw or even an antique hand-place from the garage sale down the street. The second thing I keep in mind is business. Will this tool be an investment for my company? More specifically, will it make my work more efficient? Will it save time? Will it save me money? At the end of the day, I am blessed to have enough work with a waiting list of over six months so I know that the faster I work the more money I am going to make. Some tools enable me to work faster.

A good and recent example of when I was deciding whether or not to buy a new tool was while I was working on a job building cabinets for a yacht club clubhouse. The library which housed thousands of books needed a new home, and the club commissioned me to create a library.

It was important for me to pay attention to each detail, no matter how small, when planning out its construction. Because of the sheer number of glass doors, I was required to fit more than 300 brass hinges. Since my shop is not outfitted to only create cabinets, we tend to do more hand work than would be done in an industrial shop. In this case, the hand work was cutting insets for the hinges. We decided that although using bench chisels may not be the most efficient way, the alternatives were too expensive or inconvenient.

We knew of a tool called a corner chisel which easily cuts 90º corners for fitting hinges. By simply lining the straight edges of the cut and striking the edge with a hammer, one can achieve a perfect 90º corner with a clean, crisp and straight edge. It turns your rounded corner into a neat square corner.

To achieve this with bench chisels, we calculated it would take an additional two hours. Although this is not a lot of time, it does equate to a lot of money. Being that a corner chisel is inexpensive there was no question that this tool would be beneficial for this job. We ordered it, used it and were very happy with it. Plus, I knew it would find a home in my shop and be used again in the future.

I am a big fan of small trinket tools that have simple uses, and the corner chisel ended up doing us very well. So although there have been times when I purchased a tool through my addiction and found that it was not the most rational purchase, the example above of the corner chisel was without a doubt a money saver and a smart purchase.

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Signmaking & Lettering Bits: A Quick and Reliable Option for Signs

I was never a fan of CNC machines. Perhaps it was my traditional learning of hand techniques that turned me into a bit of a snob. There is romanticism about being in a quiet shop, just you, your hand tools and the shavings at your feet.

One day we all come to a point where after cutting six dovetail drawers by hand and still having a few left, we start to wonder why we don’t just use a dovetail jig to cut them all in a fraction of time. They come out perfect and do not compromise strength, often the opposite.

For the professional woodworker, we all know that time is money and although we would love to live the dream described above, the reality of bills comes to the forefront. A businessman needs to look at what is most efficient and profitable.

Efficiency and profitability are often found in shops that take advantage of both hand work and CNC work. While still keeping the “hands on” look and feel, one can also have the details of work performed on a CNC machine in no time.

One great example of the time I used a CNC machine was when I was commissioned to make signs for a school. The school was a prep school that wanted to keep a traditional look throughout the school. They requested solid wood signs for all faculty offices and classrooms – a pretty daunting task if done by hand. Instead, I was able to pick up CNC V Groove, Miter Fold & Signmaking Router Bits and use the basic CNC program to lay out each sign and the fonts.

At the end of the day, I was able to focus on the sign itself and have the hundreds of letters carved into the sign without any headaches, sweat, and best of all no errors.

So although we would all love to live the dream of working with our hands at our own pace, we have to keep in mind that we have a business to run.

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Brad Point Drill Bit: A Small Innovation That Makes a Big Difference

Like most woodworkers, I believe that we like to read up on really cool advances in tools and technology. Like the table saw that stops instantly when unintended materials (like fingers) touch the blade. Or something of the sort that creates a buzz throughout the woodworking world. But like most of you, I only hear about these things when they are featured in magazines or discussed with my colleagues. The fact is that most of these featured advances in tools are too expensive to even consider for a small shop owner. On the other side of things, there are those small affordable advances in tools that don’t get much of the attention from the magazines yet would be useful to small shop owners.

A few years ago I was building a kitchen for my wife. There were about a dozen cabinets both for the floor and above. We planned out the space as well as we could but like all cabinets, she wanted the versatility of being able to adjust the shelves. Simple bored holes and pins are a standard practice and that was what I was going to do as well. I created a template for the holes to be bored which was good for all of the cabinets. When it came to drilling I did a few tests and found that using a standard wood bit with tape as a depth gauge was good but it had its faults as well. The greatest fault I experienced was wandering. No matter how I drilled the holes there was the slights movement which, in the end, allowed the pins to be just a bit loose when set into the holes. After speaking to a few friends, I was introduced to something that was never featured on the front page of my woodworking magazines: the Brad Point Boring Bit. The Brad point drill bit was created specifically for this function. With a small pin at the end of the bit, I was able to set the bit in the center of the hole to be drilled. As I drilled, this pin took hold and took away any chance of wandering. This bit is designed to elevate tear out on the edges which left me very little finish sanding.

It’s the small and usable things that I find that make me happy. Although new technology featured on the cover of a magazine creates intrigue and sells magazines, it’s the items like the Brad point drill bit which actually makes my work more pleasant in the shop. But that table saw safety stop is still really cool….

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Beautifully Simple Lonnie Bird Tambour Door Router Bit Set

Check out this Lonnie Bird Tambour Door Router Bit Set #54314 review by Stuart.

Here are a few excerpts.

Bird? Not Surfin Bird, not Larry Bird, but Lonnie Bird! If you haven’t heard of Lonnie Bird, he is a very well-known fine woodworker, educator, author. You may have heard/read/owned his Bandsaw Book, or a number of the awesome Taunton’s Illustrated books.

So when Lonnie Bird speaks with Amana Tool® with a view to produce a set of Tambour Door Router Bits U.S. Patent #7,810,532, you know the result will be something special…

Very quickly, I had a whole set of tambour door parts. They slotted together very easily, and what I was left with, was a perfect camphor laurel tambour door!

Originally posted on May 7, 2012 by Stuart
Read the original article here

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Raised Panel Doors: Table Saw, Router, or Shaper?

Creating raised panel doors can be done in a number of ways. For the most basic, you can use the table saw with a few passes and a tilt of the blade. This will give a flat profile. But the table saw is limited, and it can’t give you much of a complex profile. For a more complex profile with a bit more machining, use a router table with a paneling bit. You can achieve a professional look with an ornate profile. The limitations of the router can be the workload. For instance, what type of wood is one milling and for how long is the machine running for? A router is designed for smaller work and to be used for a limited time.

The best option for created raised panels is through the use of the shaper. A shaper is much more powerful than a router and is meant for prolonged work. It is an industrial tool. The shaper cutters are great. One can switch and replace heavy duty cutters which have a long life span. The shaper is very powerful which, combined with sharp cutters will enable you to cut clean profiles in some of the hardest of woods.

The issue with purchasing a shaper is not only the cost but the need to purchase multiple cutters. With such a powerful and sometimes very expensive machine, it is only as good as the quality and the variety of cutters you have available. One thing is clear: purchase cutters for specific jobs. For instance, do you know there are an unlimited number of raised panel profiles? Imagine purchasing all of these cutters and then finding that just 5 of them are popular and chosen by your client. It’s best to have your client choose what profile they want first and then order the cutter, while building this fee into the cost of the project.

To view the variety of raised panel Shaper Cutters in stock at toolstoday.com, click here.

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What’s the Best Table Saw Blade?

I am just a simple furniture maker with limited space and money. Ideally I would have a machine and tool for every possible use, but this is a pipe dream. Perhaps if I win the lottery things would be different. In the meantime I do my best with what I have.

Just one example is my table saw. My one table saw. I use my table saw to rip as well as crosscut on boards too wide for my radial arm saw. The problem with using the table saw for both purposes is that I cannot use a dedicated rip blade to crosscut and cannot use a dedicated crosscut blade to rip. In doing so, I would not only get a chipped out edge, but it would be dangerous.

The best option for me was to get a combination blade. A combination blade is just as it sounds—it takes on the structure of both the rip and crosscut blades. I rarely use my wood right from the saw so the fact that the combination blade doesn’t give you the results of the dedicated blades doesn’t bother me.

I will say that when I’m ripping or crosscutting for an extended period of time, such as milling hardwood floors, I do take the time and change my table saw blade to a dedicated ripping blade. Not only will the dedicated blade give me cleaner edges but it allows the machine to work at full power.

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Do-It-Yourself Beautiful Hardwood Floors Using Tongue and Groove Joints

After many years of having a hardwood floor, one can experience all types of damage. Whether it is light starched, gouges, water damage, boards lifting up…etc. Kids especially put a lot of wear and tear on hardwood floors.

There was one customer I had that lived in an old colonial home in central NJ; a historical and very well-kept beautiful home. The kitchen cabinets were made from old cherry with a gorgeous patina which showed that it lived a very long, yet delicate life. What wasn’t so beautiful, and the reason I was there, were the oak floor boards, which were in shambles, found directly under the sink; obviously damaged through many years of water falling from the sink.

The client needed to have these boards replaced without losing the integrity of the old floor. We decided immediately that factory boards were out of the question. What we needed to do was to locate old growth oak, cut boards from it, create a tongue and groove joint to match the existing boards, install it and then age it to match.

I took a couple of good boards that surrounded the bad ones to my shop. I planed my new boards to thickness and with my shaper and shaper cutters, I was able to get a very close match to the old tongue and groove joints. Just a few minutes of hand work and they were as good as the original boards.

When installing them, I had to keep just one side of one board without a tongue for the board needed to drop in. With a strong adhesive on the bottom, it would sit secure for another century or two.
Now was the fun part. Not only did I need to match the patina, but also the color and finish. After playing around with color pigments, I was able to get something very close. After coloring it, I took out my keys and began to throw and scrape them a bit until I gained the amount of wear which had built up for so many years. Good as new (or old)!

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A Mortise and Tenon Nightmare

I spent some time working in a high-end shop located in a poor industrial area in Northern New Jersey. From the outside you would never guess that inside there was a set of ten chairs being produced to be sold for $66,000. I think this is way too much for anyone to spend on a set of chairs—but to be fair these chairs were made from Makassar ebony and had ivory inlay. To this day I remember that each chair required 12 mortise and tenon joints. For $66,000, there is no doubt that there was not one straight line on these legs, rails, or back.

When I was first hired, I joined a group of 6 highly skilled masters who all looked at me happily. It was then I knew that I was to be given the task to create 10 chairs with more than 120 joints…PERFECTLY.

The shop owner was a real collector of any machine that was at least 40 years old and weighed over a ton. “They don’t make ‘em like this anymore,” he would say. He was right. These beasts would run all day and work strong. There was one machine though, that didn’t work as well as the others—yes, it was the mortiser. The very machine that I would be working with to mill 120 mortises. They all needed to be the same and all needed to be perfect- there is no such things as “good enough” when the client is paying that much. There was a moment where I actually thought of cutting them by hand.

Setting up the mortiser for production was a challenge. I could tell by its location in the shop that this machine didn’t see too much action. I had no choice but to create my own clamping table with blocks so that each leg that went on the table was being cut the same exact way as the first and the last.

A few test pieces showed me that this milling wouldn’t even be “good enough.” Everything was outdated. The table wasn’t stable and the sliding mechanism was not accurate. Not to mention that the hollow-chisel mortising bits were not clean or sharp enough. At this point there was nothing to do about the mortiser; perhaps the shop owner would buy a new one with his $66,000. Until then, I was stuck with it. One option I had was to replace all the bits. So I took a break from the project to wait until they arrived in the mail. In the end the chairs turned out very good, but there is no doubt that without the new clean and sharp hollow-chisel mortising bits, the project would have been a train wreck.

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