As print readers of the Woodworker’s Journal know, we design a good number of the projects that are featured in our pages. And that is especially true of our shop projects. For example, in the April 2012 issue of the Woodworker’s Journal (on newsstands soon), we present a downdraft sanding cart. If I must say so myself, it is a very nice and truly functional project. How do I know that? Well, because I’ve tried it, of course. But, you might ask, how did we know it would work properly before we built it? Good question. How can we be sure our projects, specifically ones like this, whose primary feature must be functionality, are all we want them to be? It is a short answer, really: we build prototypes. We test out the ideas that we have with knocked-together mock-ups made from MDF, plywood or whatever we have lying around the shop.
In the example of the downdraft cart, I had a really great idea of using a dust port at the bottom of the vacuum chamber and a dust hood at the back of the sanding area — both hooked up to a single dust collector. The only problem was that it sucked — or, actually, did not suck very well at all. So, we scratched that idea … We also had the concept of making wings that folded down to create a reduced area in which to sand smaller pieces — thus increasing the airflow around the small pieces and therefore collecting more sanding dust. This idea, like the previous one, bit the dust. (Sorry: puns are a weakness of mine).
After several incarnations and input from most of the staff (people located from the East Coast to the West Coast and points in-between), we arrived at the cart you will find in our magazine pages. It controls and collects dust while sanding, it is a good size, has some nice additional features — in short, it works great.
Which is one of the nice benefits of using one of our plans to build your projects. We have already done the trial and error — testing and refining — that are required to get a really useful project. And, while I am sure that our readers will find ways to improve even this well-thought-out offering, I am confident that if you give it a try, you will be happy with the results.