Monday, 28 December 2015

A router cutter storage cabinet

Over the years I have accumulated a decent collection of router bits and decided to upgrade their storage from the piece of mahogany drilled with a grid of holes to a storage drawer that can be mounted under the router table.
There was a fair amount of scrap wood that I had in stock; some left over oak flooring from a friend, a couple of cutoffs from an old oak open shelves and a few pieces of baltic birch plywood.

A design was made using Sketchup so that the internal dimensions of the drawer could take two rows of Trend router trays. I know I could drill holes in some wood myself but these are well made and cheap enough to buy in bulk.
Trend 1/4" router tray

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Bedside tables (nightstands) - Part 14 - Completion

The final part of the tables build was to fit the various shelves in place and fix the top.
I had designed the tables to have detachable shelves and top as it would have been difficult to fit the top if they were fixed in place.

First of all the top was inverted on the assembly table and the table frame was placed upon it. This was then positioned equally about the centre line and the rear was 1/4" (6mm) proud of the legs. Then a few shallow pilot holes were transferred through the predrilled slots in the securing cleats.

The frame was removed and the pilot holes were drilled to depth and correct diameter to suit the screws I intended to use. The screws were driven in by hand, after waxing the threads, to precut the threads in the top. This also makes sure that the potential for cracking the top is minimized. Then the table frame assembly was simply screwed into place. The holes are slotted to allow for seasonal variation in the width of the top.
Blue tape used as a depth gauge

The iPad shelf was then put into place and held in position with some small countersunk screws.

The bottom shelf was then put into position and again secured with some small countersunk head screws.
Tiny countersunk screws hold the shelves in place.
They are supported in rabbets.
This photo is the underside view.

The tables were then complete and ready to go to the customer. So there you have it - a pair of bedside tables or nightstands in a single species (sapele) finished with Arm-R-Seal semi gloss.

In place

Sapele is a wonderful species to use.

Hope you enjoyed the series.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Bedside tables (nightstands) - Part 13 - Lining the drawers and making drawer pulls

Lining the drawers.

The customer stated that green baize was to be used to line the bottom of the drawers. So I got some self adhesive felt baize that I have used several times before and cut it to size.

Securing the baize is a breeze by peeling back 1" or so of the release paper and gradually working along the drawer rubbing it down as you go along. Final flattening with a veneer roller ensures that any air bubbles are removed.
Cutting to size

Peeling the release paper

The finished results are very good.

Drawer stops

I used a couple of counter sunk wood screws in the back of each drawer to act as stops.

Screw into the end grain of the dovetail
This is repeated on the other side

View from inside rear of the table (top off) approaching closure

Drawer fully closed

Drawer pulls

The order from the customer was to have wooden knobs of the same species as the main wood used in the tables. I had all sorts of ideas for fancy drawer pulls made from sapele but "no" came from the client. So who am I to argue.

I broke out the dusty old lathe, sharpened a few gouges, dug out my calipers and turned a couple of knobs. They were finished sanded on the lathe and then when I cut them off at the base were placed into a piece of scrap wood containing a 3/8" hole. This fitted the turned tenon on the knob perfectly. It enabled me to hold the knob to cut the length down to 3/8" long (10mm). A pilot hole was also drilled for a #8 wood screw.
Finishing the knobs - they are screwed onto a piece of scrap

Then the knobs were finished with several coats of Arm-R-Seal and left to cure.

Final fitting to the drawers was simply by drilling a pilot hole, blue tape on either side of the hole to prevent break out and screwing the #8 screw from the inside. The knobs were then screwed onto the protruding screw.

The finish of Arm-R-Seal on the entire pieces really brings out the grain of the sapele.

Friday, 9 October 2015

New jointer/planer blades fitted Axminster AW106PT2 Jointer/Thicknesser

I have just spent a couple of hours maintaining my Axminster AW106PT2 planer/thicknesser (combo jointer/planer for North American woodies)

I replaced the expensive TCT blades with some HSS blades I bought from a local tool company, Woodford Tooling in Cheshire UK, via Amazon. I have been disappointed with the TCT blades from Axminster here. They are of Chinese origin, are not as sharp as HSS and probably need honing from brand new. They are supposed to last much longer than HSS but I have had a problem with tearout on the ends of boards. This is not usual shallow tearout but massive lumps of wood been removed. No such problems with the new HSS blades.

It took about 2 hours to replace the blades, cleaning the machine as I did so. Since having the machine I have done the periodic maintenance specified in the manual, oiling the chain, oiling the bearings, greasing the massive guide shaft and waxing the beds. All very straightforward and easy to do.

The blades are more time consuming to do, I use the setting gauge supplied with the jointer, a block of wood, the tiny 7mm spanner and a pair of Axminister LED setting jigs to do the job.

I have had these a while and they needed the rare earth magnets re-gluing into the body of the gauges with CA glue as the original glue was not very good. After that the gauges have worked perfectly.
Underside of one of the jigs shown.
The rare earth magnets needed re-gluing on the set I have.
I also levelled the magnets to the surrounding thermoset plastic
by running the jig using sandpaper on a granite plate
(same technique as used when flattening a handplane sole)

Jigs shown in position on the AW106PT2.
When the blades are in the right position an electrical circuit
is made and the LEDs light up.

After fitting the new blades a test cut with oak showed the new knives cut a lot better than the TCT knives with very little noise and they are very smooth. 
I have a couple of sets of knives to be sent out for re-sharpening. Hopefully the TCT blades will come back much better than before.

I wish Axminster would produce a helical head for the AW106PT2 though. Sadly at the moment they don't and there is nothing on the horizon.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Trend T4 Review - not good

I am a fan of Trend products as all of their professional products, routers, safety equipment, cutters etc that I own are top quality and built to last. However the T4 router is garbage here's why:

I needed a small plunge router and the Trend T4 seemed to fit the bill and at the current Amazon price point also seemed to be a bargain. I ordered one. The router itself is a 850 watt 1.1 HP machine with a plunge base which has a 30mm (1" 1/4) plunge. It comes with a pressed steel adjustable fence, a few tools, 3 sizes of collet (1/4", 6mm and 8mm), a transparent plastic dust shroud, instruction manual all enclosed in a blow moulded carrying case.

The dreaded T4

The router has an electronic variable speed control mounted on the top of the motor which goes from 11500 to 32000 rpm. The highest speeds are intended to be used for die grinding as the plunge base comes off the motor making it a hand held die grinder. For routing the manual recommends setting the variable speed control to 4 which is around 24000 rpm. The plunge mechanism itself it very smooth with external springs over the plunge shafts. There is a 3 position turret stop and a continuously variable plunge stop. The on off switch is conventiently located on the front of the router and is easily latched and unlatched. The plunge lock lever is on the rear and is in the roght position for an index finger to control.

The router and its cast aluminium plunge base are all well made and look as though they will hold up to light use. The router itself is marketed as hobby/DIY/light trade usage and as I just wanted it for occasional use it would probably suffice. I intended to dedicate it to pattern copying using guide bushes and removable collars to route cavities the exact size of cover plates. My Trend T11 is great at this but is too heavy - hence the need for a lighter smaller router.

All seems good so far.

Guide bush and collar

Trend T11 - I love this machine
First of all some explanation of guide bushes and the Trend T10/T11. I have an extensive set of guide bushes/collars - they are all standard across Trend routers - and decided to fit one to see how concentric the motor shaft is to the base. On the T10/T11 there is a sub plate that is fitted first of all and a centralization shaft (line up pin in Trend speak) is fitted into the collet. A 30mm guide bush is fitted to the subplate (innerplate in Trend speak) and the whole assembly is manoeuvred on the plunge base to get it exactly central on the shaft. Screws lock it into position. The guide bushes are fixed to this plate with countersunk screws so if you put one of a different diameter in place it will always be concentric.

Guide bush installation instructions for a T10/T11 router
And now the T4. The T4 has no provision for an adjustable subplate and the guide bushes are intended to fit into a machined recess in the plunge base. There is no adjustment at all! The router also does not come with a setting centralization shaft either. It came as no surprise that the guide bush was not concentric to the motor shaft. It was out of alignment by a considerable amount (around 1/16"). There was absolutely no way of adjusting this and for the intended purpose I had for the router it was impossible to use.
It does not come up to the high standard of the rest of Trend's products and I can't understand why they would have let this on the market with such a fundamental design flaw. It couldn't be used as I intended nor could be used in a dovetailing jig. It could however be used quite successfully for bearing guided pattern routing, edge guided routing, die grinding and normal routing duties very well.

So I have started the process of sending the router back as "not fit for purpose" without even making any dust.

I think if it wasn't for this major manufacturing/design problem the router itself would be OK.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Bedside tables (nightstands) - Part 12 - Finishing

Sapele, like mahogany, is quite an open pored wood. It can be finished after sanding to 220grit with most finishes but leaves slight pock marks or small microcraters in the finish. To get better results I find it is best to pore fill. You can use something as basic as shellac to do this but in my years of making stringed instruments I find a proprietary sealer much better.
The one I use all the time for mahogany is a oil based thixotropic pore sealer called Jecofil made by W.S. Jenkins & Co Limited. The one I'm using for this project is Jecofil JO27 Mahogany.

This is a coloured sealer that is first applied with a foam brush with the grain. Then you work accross the grain with the foam brush to prevent it being pulled. out. The spirit in the sealer evaporates but before that you simply wipe across grain with a rag. It tints the pores slightly and the mahogany one I'm using gives a slight red/brown colour to the timber.

The sealer has the consistency of mud when stirred and it is very time consuming to do. The results when you apply finish though are simply stunning it is well worth doing.

I applied it to all the show surfaces of each table, the tops, intermediate tops and the drawer fronts. W.S.Jenkins also make Jekofil for oak but I left the secondary oak wood of the drawers natural and unfilled.


I decided on this project to use my dwindling supplies of Arm R Seal semi gloss. After pore filling and leaving overnight I lightly sanded with 400 grit just to provide a key. This got rid of any rough bits of Jecofil that may have been remaining on the surface.
Then I gave each part of the project 2 coats of wipe on Seal-A-Cell (according to General Finishes best results with wipe on Arm-R-Seal are with SAC on first! - not me speaking :) )
After rubbing down between coats with 600 grit with a mineral spirits lubricant to make sure that I got a smooth base layer I then applied two more coats of Arm-R-Seal. On the horizontal surfaces I gave them 2 more coats (6 coats in all on the horizontal surfaces).

Some photos after two coats of Seal-A-Cell are below. There isn't much colour variation in real life as there are in the pictures. Digital camera has lied!

Intermediate tops and one drawer

Another drawer

The tables

The table tops

The results of a wipe on finish are stunning. You do have to watch for runs though and wipe them off before it cures. Good lighting is recommended when applying any finish. Once you have completed the job get out of the shop. Dust nibs can fall by air movement caused by you walking around in your shop - especially in the majority of home woodworkers non dedicated finish areas. As you build up coats the wood takes on more and more of a depth. Both seal r seal and arm r seal have tints and this changes the colour.

I left the finish to cure for 2 weeks before the next stage.

In a future project I will be using black Jecofil on an ash bodied 5 string bass guitar. You may be interest to see what happens to the wood grain on that project. I'm not sure myself but my customer was really stoked by the thought.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Bedside tables (nightstands) - Part 11d - Intermediate Tops (and some veneering)

The shelves were next and they were produced in exactly the same way as the top, two boards jointed and glued together.

Then I noticed a huge problem - I only had enough sapele wood for the two bottom shelves. I had miscalculated on the amount of stock I needed. Fortunately I had some baltic birch plywood 18mm thick (3/4" nominal)
and I have a heap of veneers - some are rolls of sapele. So I set about veneering the top face of some of the birch ply. Normally I would veneer both sides of a substrate to ensure flatness but this is 18mm thick and won't bend appreciably.

I don't currently own any vacuum veneering equipment yet and normally use the veneer pressing method. Essentially this involves using some cold press veneer adhesive, gluing the veneer to the ply substrate and then applying a plastic covered caul over the top of the veneer with a large weight and a few clamps holding it down while it cures.
This works fine for flat even shaped panels such as this.

Preparing the veneer

The first thing to do was to cross-cut the veneer to approximate length. I use a proper veneer saw with a craft self healing mat as a backer. I also use a safety rule as a straight edge. No point in risking your fingers whilst pressing down on a regular ruler.
Self healing cutting mat and a safety ruler

The Pax veneer saw - Sheffield England made.
When I had cut up enough lengths of veneer I needed to get it's moisture content up to stop it from bending or potato chipping. There are a few veneer conditioners that are available in the US but I can't get any of them or anything like it in England - not sure why nobody makes it over in Europe as it looks great. Anyway I just use regular tap water to spray on both sides of the veneer.

Liberally spraying with water
I first placed a sheet of ply onto the bench and a layer of paper shop rag. Then each sheet of moistened veneer is placed in alternate layers with shop rag in between making up a sandwich of veneer and shop rags.

1st sheet placed onto a plastic covered ply caul with a layer of
shop rag underneath

Subsequent layers of moistened veneer and shop rag
are placed on top to create a sandwich.

The final layer has another layer of shop rag placed over the top.
Then another plastic coated caul of plywood is placed on top and held down with some stage weights (or anything heavy you may have in your shop).
The sandwich is left overnight

Veneer glue-up.

The next day I came back and had a look at the now flattened veneers. All was good. I then used a straight edge to cut a straight line down one edge of the veneer. I also did another piece and butted them together. Sometimes you have to have another go to ensure that you get it straight.
Cutting a straight edge

Then I applied veneer tape to the upper surfaces of each leaf to hold it together. Glue was spread on both the veneer and the baltic birch ply substrate. The veneer glue I use is Titebond cold press veneer adhesive. I apply it with an ink roller.
The veneer was then applied to the substrate and pressed down with a veneer roller.
Pressing down from the centre to the edges with
a veneer roller.
The plastic faced ply cauls were brought back into use again and used to clamp the veneer/ply together and left to cure overnight.
Stage weights and extra clamps were used

Cutting the boards to size.

I had already cut the plywood substrate to size in a previous operation. When the newly veneered board was taken out of the press all that was left to do was to cut the excess from the board.

Excess cut off with a veneer saw.
You have to take care in this process as you can chip the
edges and show face of the veneer unless you are careful.
 The board was turned over and the veneer tape was removed. The boards were then cleaned up with a random orbit sander taking care not to burn through.
A finished board. I used 180 to 220 grit on a random
orbit sander to clean up.

Rabbetting (rebating) the edges.

 Each board then had a 4mm (5/32") deep rabbet applied to the underside to ensure that the top of each shelf came slightly below the shelf support rails. We had decided in the early stages of the design that this slight lip would prevent items such as pencils rolling off the shelves.

Rabbet was applied by hand with a Record #778 Rebate/Rabbet plane

So I dodged a bullet there and the moral of the tale is always ensure you have enough stock to complete the project or learn how to veneer.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Bedside tables (nightstands) - Part 11c - Top shaping

After cross-cutting the tops to length on my new table-saw sled it was time to produce the bevels on the underside of each top.
I have designed the tops to have a bevel on three sides only as the rear is flush with the legs and has no overhang. The bevel measures 1/4" x 1" and a pencil line is transferred onto each relevant face using an adjustable square.
6mm (1/4") deep - underside of top is facing upwards

25mm (1") wide

My table-saw is a right tilt blade which means the blade tips in to the fence. This is quite limiting as it means I couldn't construct a jig to hold the work-piece vertical whilst running on the fence to produce the bevel with the table-saw blade.
It does however have a sliding table on the left side of the blade onto which I could mount a jig to do the same thing. This is a bit of overkill for so few bevels and it is far easier to do them by hand with a few planes. This is what I normally do and it doesn't take very long.

First of all place the tabletop upside down onto the bench preferably with a spacer (some plywood is ideal) in between. The spacer servers two purposes it raises the work-piece so you are not risking planing the bench and also ensures any embedded crap on the bench does not get transferred through to the tabletop. The first bevels to create are the cross-grain ones. On the far end I like to apply a slight chamfer just in the area where the plane comes off the wood. This is to minimize break out.

Then using a series of planes starting with a block plane, in my case a Stanley #130, set for a heavier cut I started establishing the bevel.

As more and more wood gets taken off it gets difficult doing this with one hand so I then use a #5 jack plane. I keep checking that I am getting close to the line on both faces and when almost there I stop.

Then using a low angle bevel up smoother just work slowly until you kiss the pencil marks.

I then finish off with some 80 grit self adhesive sandpaper applied to my wife's favourite grained piece of oak scrap. If you read this blog often you will be familiar with this particular "beautiful grained" item of scrap.

I then did the other cross-grain bevel using exactly the same method. The final bevel was established on the front edge with the grain. This has the benefit of cleaning up any tear-out that was produced by going across grain in the previous operation.

If you get it right the bevels will intersect with a nice 45 degree mitre. It takes me about 5 minutes to do each bevel. It would have taken me a day or so to make a holding jig to do the same on the table-saw and it wouldn't have necessarily produced results as good as this (on my table saw at least - yours might be different).

Thinning the edge of a table top down gives it the appearance of slenderness even though the actual table top is substantially thick.
The final process was to run a small ovulo bearing guided cutter around the perimeter of the upper face.

Monday, 7 September 2015

Bedside tables (nightstands) - Part 11b - A cross cut sled

As my existing crosscut sled wasn't deep enough between its fence and the support member I had to make another. This was long overdue.

I made another from 1/2" MDF sheet and some oak and sapele scraps I had. I won't go into the constructional details of this but suffice to say it follows a similar method to Marc "The Woodwhisperer" Spagnuolo's and William Ng's sled construction techniques. Real easy to make and this is about my 6th one over the years that I have made. The other smaller one is still ok (ish) and will be used for smaller items.

No fancy shaping of the crossmember and fence.
I find it better leaving straight as you can clamps things to the fence
very easily.
There is a single mahogany quartersawn guide rail secured to the bottom of the sled and the whole underside has had a coating of wax applied. 

Bedside tables (nightstands) - Part 11a - Table tops preparation

The table tops are each made from 2 boards jointed and glued without any alignment (biscuits or dominoes). I milled each board to 22mm thick (around 7/8") and cut them to length. They were jointed and glued and placed into clamps to setup overnight.

After jointing the boards were checked on a flat surface

The boards are glued , in this case with Titebond II dark, placed into parallel clamps on my assembly table
and left overnight to setup.
I have some heavy duty pond liner to protect the surface from glue drips

A final check with a straightedge ensures that the boards are
flat on the clamps. If not tap them flat with a deadblow.

After emerging from the clamps the joint lines are cleaned up.
I sanded the boards both sides to 80 grit with a ROS.

The boards were then cut to finished width on the tablesaw. I then found that the boards would not fit into my crosscut sled. I needed a new one CCS fabricating so next I made a bigger sled.