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Shop Towel & Shelf Combo

This is one of the simplest things I’ve made for the shop, and one of my most favorite things to date. I’ve always kept paper towels in the shop, but I’ve just had the roll free floating. That’s been okay, but this is much better. The problem with the free-floating roll is that I have to look around to find it, and then when I need a paper towel, I have to find a way to hold the roll while I tear one off. Many times though, I have one hand that is occupied with what I’m trying to wipe in the first place (like glue, paint, etc. on my hand). So I always ended up having to try to tear a towel off one-handed, and many times that resulted in the roll rolling across the shop floor…sometimes unrolling itself.

[Watcht the Video]

[Get the Free Plans]

So what I’m describing isn’t exactly a new concept. Obviously, almost everyone has a paper towel holder in their kitchen, for all of the same reasons I just described. It gives you a single place to know where the towels are, and stabilizes it for you so you can more easily operate it with one hand. That said, I could have just bought one off the shelf, but as I mentioned in the video, paper towel holders that are cheap don’t have a nice shelf built into them. And ones that have a shelf built into them (even the ones with a pretty bad/weak shelf) are surprisingly expensive.

The other side of this coin is that I never found one that had exactly the type of shelf I wanted. I wanted a large shelf that takes advantage of the fact that it has to hold a paper towel roll. A lot of the ones I saw when shopping online had a shelf that was smaller than the overall footprint of the paper towel roll. What’s the point in that?! I mean, if you have to take up that much space for the roll anyway, you might as well make the shelf that large, right? Finally, I wanted a small lip to help reduce the chance of things sliding off, and most of the ones I saw didn’t have what I would consider an effective lip, or at least not an effective “lip-to-shelf” ratio.

The thing I love most about the shelf is that it gives me a place to keep a small squeeze bottle full of water, close to the paper towels. Since I don’t have sink in the shop, this has become my go-to arrangement for glue squeeze-out clean up. I take a paper towel, fold it over twice, squirt some water on it, and then set that on my workbench. Then anytime I get glue on my fingers and don’t want to smear the glue all over my workpiece, I simply give them a quick wipe on the wet paper towel. The water makes it stick to the workbench top so as I drag my fingers across it, it stays put. Obviously, the water also helps wipe the glue away. Since this method requires very little water, I only every have to fill my water bottle once every week or so. So not only has this method simplified my glue clean-up experience, but it actually saves water compared to rinsing my hands in a sink.

Based on the popularity of this design (it gets downloaded…A LOT), it seems like I wasn’t the only one looking for something like this. If you have any ideas for improvements or just want to share your thoughts on this design, feel free to send me an email, or let me know in the YouTube comments for the video! Happy building, Everybody! Let’s keep it clean!

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Track Saw Update

I updated the track saw design based on feedback I received from viewers. A lot of people suggested making the entire bottom out of plexiglass or polycarbonate, but when I looked for pieces that were big enough, they were all really expensive. Instead, I just added plexiglass at the sight hole locations. That did the trick and was much more affordable.

[Watch the Video]

And really, the only reason to add plexiglass is to maintain zero-clearance at the sight hole locations, which helps to reduce tear-out at those locations. I didn’t find that tear-out was bad on the first version, but it’s certain better on this version.

The thing I think I like most about this newest version, is that I used higher quality plywood, which means it’s flatter, and has a more premium feel. Since the plywood is higher quality, I decided to use a thinner piece as well. So this time around, I used 1/2″ instead of 3/4″ plywood. That didn’t exactly make it lighter though (as some people have suggested would be a reason to use thinner material). In fact, it’s probably right about the same weight because this plywood is so much more dense.

However, it was never really very heavy to begin with. One of the main discussions regarding the original track saw in the YouTube comments was about how to make it lighter weight. No-one ever asked me if it was heavy though – it’s really not. I would say just a few pounds, and I’ve never felt strained when lifting or maneuvering it around the shop.

As I mention in the video, another thing people wanted me to try was making it out of masonite, and the reasoning was that I could use a thinner piece and it would be lighter. As you see in the video, I tried making it out of masonite, and that didn’t work. One thing I failed to mention in the video though was that the masonite was actually very heavy especially for how thin it was. That said, even if the masonite had worked out, I don’t think it would have reduced the weight much at all.

I guess the other reason for wanting to use thinner material would be to increase depth of cut. I find the depth of cut to be very good, especially when considering most of the other DIY options for a track that captures your saw in both directions. Most of the current designs involve attaching pieces to the bottom of your saw that then go onto of the track. This creates a reduction in the depth of cut equivalent to two material thickness – double what this design affords.

I’m pretty happy with how the track(s) are working now, and the videos have done very well. People really seem to like the idea of this track, and I think that’s because it’s very simple to make, yet still has really good performance. All that said, I’m still open to more suggestions. If you have any, send me an email, or post them in the comments on YouTube to let me know what you’ve got!

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Jointer Push Grips

When I first got my jointer, I was pretty impressed with the pads that came with it, especially for the price. When I made the video review for the jointer, I indicated that I’d probably make my own push blocks for it at some point. As time went on, I found the grips very reliable, and never really wanted to take the time to make something more substantial because they were actually pretty darn good – for most cuts.

[Watch the Video]

[Buy the Plans]

Fast-forward a couple of years and lots of boards jointed later, and I received a comment from a viewer saying that one of my techniques for jointing boards was out-dated. He noticed that as I passed a board over the cutter-head, I had my hands placed flat on the face. When I learned to use a jointer, I learned that this was acceptable because the thickness of the board protected my hands from the blades. That viewer let me know that even though that’s the way it was taught, it had over the years become known as something that wasn’t as safe as possible because the cutter-head could catch a knot or something else in the wood and project it backwards. In that case, it could so happen that your hands would remain over the blades as the board was thrown out, and your hands could then be injured. I did a little bit of reading, and as it turns out, this has happened. Yikes!

So why not just use the push grips that came with the jointer, and abandon the “hands-on-the-board” technique? Well, this goes back to the original push grips being pretty darn good….for most cuts. It turns out that when face-cutting a larger board, the rubber grippy surface of the stock push grips can sometimes start to slip. Which is why I used my hands for cuts like that in the first place; my hands have better grip than the rubber sponge on the bottom of the stock grips.

So when I set out to make these grips, the first thing I wanted to do was use something that provided more grip than the rubber sponge on the stock grips. I performed a bunch of tests with materials I had available in the shop to see what worked best, and (at least from the stuff I had on hand), the bicycle inner-tube worked the best. Next, I thought about other weak points in the design of the stock grips. I realized that near the end of a cut, especially on longer boards, the downward pressure had to be increased in order to keep the board flat as it goes over the cutter-head. This means two things: #1, there is less force being applied in a forward motion to complete the cut, and #2, there is more friction between the board and the tables. So it’s a double-whammy! Not only do you have less power to push the board through, but it’s also harder to push it through because of the increased friction.

If you’ve seen the video, the answer is now obvious. The drop-down pegs make it to were you are able to apply much more forward-directed force than you ever could with just the grippy surface of the grips. Before, it was always a contest between the tables’ friction and the rear-directed force of the blades, and the friction of the grippy surface and the forward force it was capable of transferring. With the pegs behind the board, you have a solid object pushing the board forward. So you can press down as hard as you need to to keep the board flat as you finish the cut, and at the same time, rest assured that you enough oomph to push the board through without having to rely on friction alone to do the job.

And the last part of this design was to make sure the drop-down pegs would not damage the cutter-head or increase the likelihood of an injury. So, it would have been much easier to use bolts in the drop down slots, but if they ever come in contact with the blades, it would be catastrophic for the blades, and dangerous for the user. So while it is a little more trouble to make the pegs, they are well-worth the effort! Anyway, I hope enjoyed this article – REMEMBER TO BE SAFE OUT THERE!

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Vise Mounted Router Table

For a very long time, I’ve had an inexpensive, fixed-base router. For almost as long, I’ve wished that I had one of those fancy (…and expensive) plunge-style routers. I always imagined that I could do so much more with one that has the plunging feature, and while that may be true, I was neglecting the fact that there is really a lot that can be done with the one I already had – I just needed to build a table for it!

[Watch the Video]

[Buy the Plans]

I can’t tell you how happy I am with this build. This has changed the way I work in my shop for the better, and I’m never going back. If I were to eliminate all of the things this router table is good for, except for round-overs, it would still be worth it. Before, I did all my round-overs with sanders, sandpaper, and/or files. This thing makes rounding edges over a breeze, even on smaller parts that would have been impossible to do while using the router “freehand”.

I can also use this router for doing dados, which is something that my table saw can’t do (it doesn’t have enough room on the arbor to add a dado stack). And while this is a very small table, and the fence doesn’t allow for much depth, the fence can be removed. If you watch the video, you’ll notice that if the fence is removed, the only thing behind it is my workbench. This means I can clamp a temporary fence at any distance I like, as long as it doesn’t exceed my workbench’s length. This provides more than enough room to make just about any dado you’d ever want to make.

The other thing I love about this router table is the compact size. As you are probably aware, I’m very big on making efficient use of time and space. The fact that this router table is vise-mounted makes it to where it doesn’t need all the bulk that that regular router table has. Normally, a router table has to allow room for the router to sit inside, provide feet to hold the table up, and basically just a huge empty carcass around that. That sort of setup takes up a lot of space on a shelf, or under a workbench, but this thing will actually fit in a relative small drawer!

The dust collection is pretty good too; especially when compared to what it was like using my router before it had any. It was the single worst tool in the shop when came to how much dust it put E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E. Now, depending on the operation I’m doing, my vacuum collects between 75% and 100% of the dust produced – quite an improvement! I’ve got some ideas on how to make it even better, but I’ll have to explore those in a future video 😉

I’ve had some time with the router table now, and as I mentioned, I’m already very pleased. That said, I’m still learning about it and look forward to finding more and more ways to use it. If you’ve got any ideas, feel free to share them!

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Non-Flexing Zero Clearance Insert

Some people have said that the saw I have isn’t for fine work or small pieces. I respectfully say that is now! While it’s true this saw is marketed primarily as a contractor’s saw, DeWalt knows (as do the outlets that sell these saws) that these are purchased by home woodworking hobbyist probably as much, if not more than actual contractors. Now I’ve also encouraged readers not to be upset at DeWalt, they have made a fine saw here. It is compact, versatile and powerful. I’ve had *almost* no complaints with this saw in the 4ish (I think) years that I’ve owned it. For the money, it’s done a very impressive job. It cuts straight and true, and that’s pretty much the most important aspect of a table saw. As I mentioned, it also has plenty of power, so I’m not unhappy about that either. The only two things that have ever bothered me about the saw are:

  1. Flexing allows small pieces to get caught, which is dangerous and uncomfortable.
  2. There is no dado stack ability.

[Watch the Video]

While I can’t really do anything about not being able to add a dado stack, or at least I haven’t figured out anything yet, I did think of adding a steel band to the zero-clearance insert to keep it from flexing at the end. I do get some comments and questions about this insert though; sometimes people don’t understand why I couldn’t have used a more conventional approach, so I’ll try to sum it up.

The main problem with a conventional insert, in other words an insert that doesn’t accommodate the riving knife, is that it would require me to remove the riving knife every time I wanted to use the zero-clearance insert. Some have said “That’s no big deal, when you need zero-clearance (when cutting very small pieces), you don’t need the riving knife.” While that’s true, having the riving knife there while cutting small pieces won’t hurt. So I say, if I can skip the extra step of removing and adding the riving knife every time I have to switch from cutting a small piece to a larger piece, I’ll gladly do so.

The next idea that’s brought up is just leaving the bit of wood connected at the end, so it wraps around the riving knife and removes the flex from the insert. While this will work on some saws, it won’t work (or at least it probably won’t work for very long) on the DeWalt 74xx series of saws because there is less than an 1/8″ of gap between the riving knife and the slot wall. So that leaves very little room for material back there to bridge a connection between the two sides of the insert. Using a small steel strap, even only .060″ thick is much stronger than leaving somewhere around .080″ to .090″ of wood back there, and will last MUCH longer.

Now, this insert doesn’t work for all situations. I have not made this insert capable of accommodating angled cuts, so for those, it’s back to the old insert. If I have to make an angled cut that is ALSO a small piece that could get caught on the old insert, I’ll have to make another zero clearance insert that works for both. Luckily, I haven’t encountered that situation yet, so hopefully I’ll get a break from making custom inserts for a while. 😉

I’ve also heard some really great suggestions in the YouTube comments. Here’s a quick list of my favorites:

  • Use hot glue to more easily set the depth of the insert flush with the table.
  • Add set screws to the insert to control the depth, just like the original.
  • Add a threaded hole to one of the tabs that support the insert, and add a lock screw to keep the insert from coming out on accident.
  • Use MDF for future inserts because it’s stable, easy & cheap to replace, and easy & cheap to make multiple versions for different cutting scenarios.
  • Use plywood; for similar reasons as MDF…it’s not quite as cheap, but still pretty inexpensive and has a lot of the same good stuff going on for it.

So if you have a saw that has a couple of inches between the riving knife and the slot wall, you can achieve the same (non-flexing) results by just leaving some wood back there, but if your saw is limited on space like the DeWalt 74x series saws are, then you can use a method like this, and maybe pickup some benefit from the suggestions above. You might even think of your own! If you do, be sure to share what you come up with!

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Glued, Nailed, and Screwed!

I think the video pretty much says it all for this one, but it has sparked a lot of interesting conversation. Some say that sprinkling a little salt into the glue will provide enough slip resistance for adding screws, which will save the step of firing nails. Others say they’ve read reports on how salt can negatively affect the chemistry of the glue and weaken the joint. And yet others have suggested using A LOT less glue, so that it no longer acts like a lubricant, or using a different type of glue (some swear by Gorilla Glue having an “instant tack”).

[Watch the Video]

So what’s the real answer? I guess there’s probably a little bit of merit to all of the ideas. Does salt stop slippage? Probably, but probably not as well as nails. Does salt affect the chemistry of the glue? Probably, but probably not enough to make a significant difference; if it goes from being able to hold (as an example) 500psi down to 450psi it probably isn’t going to make or break most projects. Does using less glue stop slippage? Probably, but it won’t hold the pieces together like nails do, which make it easier to move an assembly around in a pre-clamp or pre-screwed state. Does using Gorilla glue provide better “instant tack” than yellow glue? If people are saying it does, then it probably does. But is it enough to be better than nails? Probably not, but it might be a good option if nails aren’t okay for the project (you don’t want to see even the smallest nailhead in a beautiful mahogany dresser). So I still think nails are a great option because of how fast they are, and how they keep the project together, BUT this ONLY works if nails are acceptable. So all the other suggestions are great ideas for when nails are not acceptable. Gorilla glue with better tack? Bring it on! A little bit of salt to help control things? Sure!

Which brings me to my last point: There are a lot of different ways to go about making joints, and I think it’s awesome that this video has inspired so many people to share what they believe is the best way of going about it. Not every method is right for every situation, and some are only right for very specific situations. The more we share are methods with each other, the more options we’ll be aware of the next time we have to make a joint, and the more we’ll be able to pick a method that suits the project.

Thanks to everyone who gave feedback in the YouTube comments and shared their ideas and methods!

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Desktop Fidget Spinner

Okay, I know what you’re thinking. This thing is useless. And….you’re right. Sort of. I find it to be somewhat entertaining to use, and because it has entertainment value, I guess that means it’s not completely useless. It came about because I had a prototype on my desk of a small component that had a bearing in it, and I kept sticking it to the end of a pencil an spinning it around. A friend was at the house one day and saw that and said, “dude, you should built a giant, desktop version of something like that…”. And so this thing was born.

[Watch the Video]

After I built it, I showed it to a few friends, and they all looked at me like I had a third eyeball in the middle of my forehead. Even the guy that gave me the idea. I showed it to him and he looked at me like I had lost my mind. Anyway, a few days later, another friend of mine called me and said, “Hey man, I just saw the fidget spinner video! That thing is awesome!” So I gave it to him as a Christmas gift, and he was thrilled.

So is this thing useless? I guess it depends on who you’re building it for!

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All-in-One Board Milling Station

If you’ve watched my channel for a while, you’ve probably noticed my planer sitting on the box it came in for a long time. You’ve probably also thought it was about time I make a home for that thing. I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s been driving me nuts having to drag the box out to use the planer, and it’s been an eyesore in my garage. As mentioned in the video, I was going to make a regular mobile cart for it, just like I did the jointer, but it never seemed right. It seemed like something was missing.

(Watch the video)

(Buy the plans)

What was missing was the integration of multiple processes into one time saving, space saving unit. That’s what One Minute Workbench is all about. It’s about being able to setup and tear down quickly, all while taking up as little space as possible. The idea of having two separate carts seems like a good idea at first because I could reduce use of floor space, but I was missing the key ingredient of integration. Integration, or at least the right kind of integration, maximizes that reduction in floor space use, and maximizes efficiency.

I say “the right kind of integration” because I often see integration methods that require too much compromise. I’ve seen a couple of “flip top” designs that are okay, but for the most part, I’m not a fan of them. There’s always something funny going on with how the cords fit into the arrangement, there’s questions about the security and stability of the locking mechanisms (introducing possible vibrations or just a general “isn’t solid” sort of feeling), the out-feeds are in competition with each other, and most importantly, you can’t easily or quickly jump back and forth from machine to machine. There will always be an additional setup process in-between machine uses.

Some people have argued that I should have used blast gates for the board milling station’s dust collection system because swapping hoses is an extra setup process. While it’s true that swapping hoses is an extra step, it only takes a few seconds…literally less than 5. If you had blast gates, you’d still have to open and close blast gates, which would take the same 3-4 seconds. Blast gates are also notorious for being leaky or prone to the gates accumulating dust build up that prevents the gates from closing fully, which greatly reduces the efficiency of your vacuum. Blast gates are also expensive! So why would you pay more for something that doesn’t do as good of a job and still requires the same amount of setup time? If you’re like me, you wouldn’t!

You might also be wondering about the 3D printing I did for this project and what that means for your personal build. A viewer made a great suggestion in the comments on YouTube. He suggested that you buy PVC fittings that are close to the sizes you want, and then use a heat gun to heat them up and shape them to size (by inserting them into the ports), being sure to wear protective gloves and a respirator, of course. While I haven’t tried this method myself, I have heated and formed plastic before, and it sounds viable.

If you decided to build one of these, be sure to let me know how it goes and send pics so I can add them to the customer gallery. And if you’re thinking about buying the plans but have some questions, send me an email and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Until next time, I hope you have fun building something!

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Super Simple DIY Track Saw

Well, I’ve needed a track saw for a long time, and I didn’t want to spend the money on one either. The solution sounds simple; just build one! The only problem was that I hadn’t found or came up with a design that would appeal to my nature. Meaning, I hadn’t found or come up with one that was cheap, simple, easy to build, and would still perform as well as something that was complex and/or expensive.

[Watch the Original Video]

UPDATE: I’ve made a new track and built it a little bit differently based on viewer recommendations.

[Watch the Updated Video]

I was stuck in a situation where I couldn’t get the cut I needed for my latest “real” build (an all in one board milling station). I had cuts I needed to make from sheets of plywood, and those cuts exceeded my table saw’s fence capacity. So with that pressure on, I HAD to come up with this idea pretty quickly because if I didn’t, it would have meant wasting a day or more…or going to the store to buy a track saw – not happening. They say necessity is the mother of invention, and that was certainly the case here. Even thought I had been kicking around the ideas for a long time, I never would have come up with the final design unless I needed it as badly as I did right then.

I was already shooting video, and had originally just intended the track saw to be part of the board milling station video, but I figured some people might be interested in it. As it turns out, it seems like a lot of people are interested and have been wanting the same thing. So far, this video has been off to a more popular start than any project I’ve ever posted before, and by a lot. I had no idea that there was that big of a need for something like this, but I’m happy to share and hope it helps a lot of people.

Oh, and by the way, somebody commented on YouTube saying that they would like it if you could make it without a table saw (with just a circular saw), and this is how you do it:

  • Buy a piece of plywood.
  • Cut one of the factory edges off (don’t worry about the cut being crooked).
  • Attach that strip to the sheet (with glue, screws, etc.) with the factory edge facing towards the meat of the sheet, and the crooked cut of that strip alongside the crooked cut of the sheet.
  • Cut the other factory edge off, and then finish up the track as shown in the video…which is this:
  • Using a paper shim, butt one side of the circular saw’s base up against the 1st strip you glued in place,
  • With glue on the other strip, butt the factory edge of it against the other side of your circular saw’s base and fire a couple nails to pin that section of the track there,
  • Repeat that for every section of the track.
  • Add end stops, drill holes, and cut the slot. You’re done!
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DIY Lathe Improvements

You guys wanted me to make some changes to the lathe, so here they are! I appreciate you all taking the time to let me know what improvements could be made.

(Watch the video.)

The most suggested change was lowering the tool rest, and the second was adding a protective strip of metal to the tool rest. These changes really made a huge improvement. I didn’t think it was that bad before, but this is way better. The chips now fly downward instead of towards my face, and the gouges now slide very nicely along the steel strip. This just makes it to where I can get a smoother more consistent line as I’m turning a piece.

Thanks again!