Sharpening my Tools

I’ve never been particularly adept at sharpening my edge tools (chisels, plane irons, etc.). It’s not that I couldn’t get them sharp enough to work, it’s just that I’ve always experienced inconsistent results. One time, I’d get a blade so sharp, it simply glided through hard oak and maple. The next time I sharpened that blade, I’d be lucky if it didn’t tear its way through soft pine. Freehand sharpening always seemed like something that would take decades to get right (an opinion no doubt influenced by the fact that the best tool sharpener I know has made nearly 95 trips around the sun). The trick seems to be locking your wrists and fingers as you pass the tool over the stone, to keep the honing bevel at the same angle during every pass. Fail this, and you end up with a rounded bevel face and an edge that’s none too sharp. Yes, hollow grinding helps, as the tip and heel of the bevel are easier to keep flat on the stone. But unless the tool has a wide bevel, like a big chisel or heavy plane iron, even hollow grinding is no guarantee.

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More Time to Talk Table Saws

As they ponder whether new safety standards are needed for table saws, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has extended the time frame available for public comments on the issue. You now have until March 16, 2012 to share your opinion with the CPSC on “the risk of injury associated with table saw blade contact, regulatory alternatives, other possible means to address this risk, and other topics or issues.” (The extension of the public comments period comes at the request of the Power Tool Institute, Inc.)

If you have something to say to the CPSC, you can send them an email through this site (they’re no longer accepting emails that don’t come through this site), or submit written comments by following these instructions:
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Machining Tools for Woodworkers

Have you ever tried to chuck a triangular blank, cross drill a small hole off-center in a hardwood dowel, or keep a drill bit from wobbling while drilling in the lathe? The day-to-day work of machinists involves several tools useful to almost any woodworker.

Center Drill

To keep drill bits from wandering, a center drill works better than anything else I have tried. A center drill is also known as a combined drill and countersink or a Slocomb drill.

There are more than a dozen styles of center drills in 15 different sizes ranging from 1/8 to 1 inch. For woodworking, you don’t need anything more expensive than uncoated high-speed steel. The body diameter of your center drill should be the same as the largest drill you are going to use.

The Boring Head

A boring head is a more precise version of a circle cutter that can make a flat-bottomed hole of any size within its range. For the boring head shown, this is done by a dovetailed slide moved by a pair of set screws that push against the projection labeled “A” in the photo. Loosening one screw and tightening the opposite one moves the cutter to a larger or smaller radius. Always lock the dovetailed slide before making a cut. Any boring head needs a pilot hole. The range of the boring head shown is 3/8 to 1-1/4 inch. While most boring heads cost $100-$600, Taig Tools makes a good quality one (shown) that sells for $45 and includes two boring bars.

End Mills

Because drill bits are too long to resist much side thrust and cannot cut sideways with their flutes, they have a troublesome tendency to wander when not drilling a flat surface. You can remedy this by starting your hole with a center drill, but if the surface of what you are drilling is at too steep an angle to your bit, using a center-cutting end mill will work. Center-cutting end mills are ground for plunge as well as side cutting. Avoid end mills that are not center-cutting; they only cut sideways. End mills should only be used in a drill press or in the tailstock of your lathe because they will not start a hole if they are used in a portable drill.


The Four-jaw Independent Chuck

Taig Tools makes a 3-1/4 inch chuck with four independently movable and reversible jaws, enabling you to hold blanks of any shape down to 1/8 inch diameter. Because each jaw moves separately, it can be difficult to center your blank in this chuck. To do this, set the tool-rest of your lathe at center height. Then rotate the chuck to bring one jaw level with the top of the tool-rest. Measure the distance between the jaw and the tool-rest, turn the chuck half a revolution, and measure again. Calculate half the difference between the two measurements and move the blank towards the larger measurement by that amount. When you have one pair of jaws running true, repeat with the other pair.

If you do not own a bench grinder, Taig Tools also sells a set of small grinding wheels that are useful for small sharpening jobs and an arbor to mount them on a lathe with a 3/4 inch 16 TPI spindle.

Lewis Hein is a machinist and woodworker who has been working with wood ever since he can remember. He lives near Casper, Wyoming.

Satisfaction from the Simplest of Tools

Last summer, we moved to Virginia. Along with packing and loading the personal effects of a family of four, I also had a barn full of woodworking stuff that needed to travel. If you’ve ever moved the entire contents of your shop, your back probably remembers the kind of “heavy lifting” that goes along with it. I might just as well have dismantled, boxed and transported a Sherman tank.

Thankfully, the shop traveled some 400 miles without calamity, and I lost very little skin moving it from Point A to Point B. But one item did take a bit of a beating: my workbench. Continue reading

MicroFence’s Rich Wedler and Friends “Sawing” Holiday Tunes

With the holidays in full swing, and workshops in at least some parts of the country now covered in snow, it’s high time to crank up those old familiar Christmas standbys. As you are working your way through your last-minute gift projects — and maybe burning some midnight oil in the process — here are a couple of holiday tunes we recently ran across on Micro Fence’s website to help keeps spirits bright (click here).

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Sizing Up the Latest Cordless Drill/Drivers

Like most red-blooded 21st century woodworkers, I have a thing for power tools. Especially high performance portable power tools. Wrapping my hands around the latest, most powerful reciprocating saw, D-handled router, orbital sander, impact driver, etc., makes me almost as happy as if I’d just taken a pavement-scorching ride in a new Ferrari. The precise feel of the tool’s trigger, the jolt up my arm as the motor roars up to speed; it just gets my blood pumping.

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Woodworking: 60 Years Ago

old wj coverHere at Woodworker’s Journal, a staff birthday (no, it’s not Rob — as he will clearly tell you, his birthday is December 11. That’s De-cem-ber el-ev-enth.) has us looking to the past — 60 years ago, to be precise. What was happening in woodworking back in 1951?

Well, it was right in the midst of the post World War II “do-it-yourself” era, the beginning of the birth of modern hobbyist woodworking. Some of the names in woodworking tools back then are names you still see around today: In 1951, Milwaukee Tool introduced the Sawzall, the first reciprocating saw. Featured in the 1951 Delta Milwaukee Industrial Machine Tools catalog were a new Delta/Rockwell 8″ jointer, which weighed in at 400 pounds without its motor and switch. Those, said the catalog, cost extra. And, according to one source, the Shopsmith used in broadcaster Andy Rooney’s shop today is a 1951 model.

Also in 1951, Walter Durbahn, a locally famed TV woodworker of the day, published Walt’s Workshop, a woodworking manual with the same title as his Chicago-area NBC TV show. It joined the year’s other publications like Make Your Own Modern Furniture by Paul Bry, and the ongoing series of “Deltagrams,” published by Delta Machinery from 1931 to 1959.

And, in 1951, the Sauder Woodworking Company of Archbold, Ohio, made their first snap-together table, thereby, according to their website, “creating the ready-to-assemble furniture industry.”

So, Woodworker’s Journal blog readers: do any of you have memories of woodworking from 60 years ago?

Tiny Screwdrivers, Handy Tools

Tiny ScrewdriversYou’re “supposed to” remember, in detail, where and when and from whom and how and … just everything … about how you acquired your favorite tool.(s.) Unfortunately, I don’t.

I just think, every time I use one of my tiny screwdrivers, “Wow, this is a really useful tool.” And just kind of throw some gratitude out into the universe toward … however I acquired them. (I think one was actually a freebie thrown in with … something.)

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Woodworking App Options

If you’re a woodworker with a gadget that hosts “apps” — the iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch/etc. — you may be interested in the following Software Advice article: it’s about apps that can help turn your device into a tool for your woodworking.

Look beyond the construction trade references to find apps for board feet calculation, I.D. Wood (previously featured on our very own Woodworker’s Journal eZine), Google SketchUp tutorials and more. There’s even an app that lets you use your smartphone as a level — literally turning it into a woodworking tool.

Matt Becker
Internet Production Coordinator