Fall is Here; Clean up Your Wood Shop or Work Area

by Kelly R. Smith

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My router table in my messy shop
My router table in my messy shop

Generally speaking, I’m diligent about putting my tools where they go when I’m done with them. As far as keeping the wood shop spic n’ span, not so much. I’m guessing that we’re all like that to some extent. I do tackle it monthly. Fall and spring are the times that I really clean my wood shop. I put my big wet/dry vac through its paces.

Throw Out What You Won’t Use

As DIY’ers, we are confirmed pack rats. There’s a bin or container for everything, be it a washer, bolt, screw, or nail. I’m guilty of not tossing anything in the trash bin. But if there’s a scrap of hardwood, oak or walnut perhaps, that has been gathering dust for a couple of years, the fireplace might be a fitting destination. Then again, I might do a small project or some inlay work soon…

Start with Your Work Bench

It’s a fact; you can’t work on something if there’s nowhere to do it! My work bench gets piled up with my stuff as well as the stuff SHMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) and the daughter stack up there. These are low-hanging fruits just waiting to be picked in the re-organization process.

Shuffle this stuff to storage bins and other storage spaces as much as possible. I like those little plastic cabinets. They are great for organizing all those weird tools. I’ve got one drawer for screwdrivers, another for chisels, etc. (I need one for Freudian slips!) And after all, how many times do you get an opportunity to use that Whitney Punch?

And the glass-cutter? And the roller tool for setting the screen splines? And those tap and dies that gather dust until the one day that they’ll save you yet another trip to the hardware store.

Power Tools Need Their Space

I have one overhead shelf for power tools that come with their hard plastic cases like drills, biscuit joiners, routers, etc. Usually, I don’t always repack when I’m done; I keep them for when I go mobile.

All my benchtop tools — drill press, belt sander, and the like, spend active hours on top of the bench and sleeping hours inside the body of the bench). Quick change-out is the key here. My router table, table saw, and lathe all have dedicated stands.

Stowing Your Sandpaper

You obviously don’t want your different grades of sandpaper scattered willy-nilly all over God’s creation. Some woodworkers have nice cabinets with drawers to stow different grit sandpapers, and I mean to do it myself someday. In the meantime, I’ve got file folders tacked up (like those hanging file folders) to hold the different grit sheets.

Wood Storage

This can be the most problematic issue of any woodworker on limited real estate. Where to store all that nice hardwood stock? I didn’t used to have that enviable problem but when my master carpenter Father in Law went to that great work shop in the sky, I found myself with a nice treasure trove of exotic wood.

So Pity me. Right. Anyhow, I’m figuring out a method of storing it so that I can free up floor space for staging larger projects like book shelves. Wish me well. These are some of my experiences with cleaning up your wood shop or work area. When you find yourself spending more time to find tools than work with them, it’s time for a call to action.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

ACI 80W LED Garage Light, 3 Adjustable Wings: A Product Review

by Kelly R. Smith

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ACI 80W LED garage light with 3 adjustable wings
ACI 80W LED garage light with 3 adjustable wings

This article was updated on 10/08/20.

Effective lighting in the garage has always been an issue for me. The garage is not only home to the washer and dryer, but it is also my woodshop. I saw one of these 3-wing LED lights advertised on the news one morning and thought I’d check on Amazon Prime (if you’ve got the Prime, use it). Sure enough, I got a better deal.

I should mention in passing that that soffit vent I installed that you see on the left hand side of the image above is something that most homeowners don’t think of doing. The garage can get very hot (and in my case, humid). So these vents, in conjunction with the ones I installed on the outside of my garage doors, help to circulate the air when the roof ridge vents draw. This is especially important when you are running a clothes dryer. Just a tip for you.

Features of this Garage Light

  • Screws into a regular light socket: Easy install in minutes, just have the switch off when you screw it in because this light is bright.
  • Adjustable design: The 3 aluminum adjustable LED panels incorporating LED garage ceiling lights can be folded up to a 90 degree angle Point them where they are most effective.
  • Very bright: The 80W, 8000 lumen 6000K white light bulbs really perform wherever they are directed.

Conclusion

I have been using this light fixture for a month now and have no complaints. My work in the shop is much easier than when I was using the fluorescent tube fixtures. And added benefit with this ACI 80W LED garage light fixture is that I was able to eliminate the multi-plug adapter. I recommend this product.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Tips for Glue-Up on Woodworking Projects

by Kelly R. Smith

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Wood glue, band saw, and drill press
Wood glue, band saw, and drill press

No woodshop is complete without at least one type of woodworking glue and a variety of clamps. Can’t have too many clamps, I always say. There are many varieties and brand names of glue on the market today. We all have our favorites. Some are better suited to some purposes than others. Let’s look at some woodworking tips.

Glue Tips

  • Always dry-fit your pieces and plan where your clamps will be going before even thinking of dragging out your glue bottle.
  • Squeeze-out is almost always inevitable. I like to protect work surfaces with wax paper.
  • Clamp your work well and securely, but usually there’s no need to overdo it. You want the joints to be tight but you don’t any warping. I like Irwin clamps.
  • Use cauls made with softer wood than the workpiece. Cauls prevent indentations that you only notice after removing the clamps, resulting in a self-inflicted slap to the forehead moment.
  • Take your time during the glue-up. This should be obvious but I suspect we’ve all rushed a job or two. After all, most of us have more time on our hands in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Flux brushes are available in the plumbing department of hardware stores and home centers and they are are just right for applying and spreading glue on smaller surfaces like dovetail joints. On large surfaces, an inexpensive notched plastic trowel is great.
  • The sooner you apply glue after the wood is cut, the better. This makes for a stronger joint.
  • After the squeezed-out glue has been removed, there’s always a chance that some is hiding. Find it now or you’ll see it later when you apply stain or finish. Spraying some warm water near glue joints will make any hidden glue more visible.
  • Allowing the glue to set up a half to a full hour makes it easier to scrape off squeeze out with a sharp chisel.
  • A synthetic abrasive pad, dampened with water, works perfectly to remove the remaining glue. Much better than a paper towel or a rag.
  • After applying glue and beginning to set your clamps, some pieces slip and slide. One solution is to use your finish nailer with a couple of brads to hold things together.

Use Glue to Make a Color-Perfect Wood Putty

Types of Woodworking Glue

  • Elmer’s glue, as pictured above, is the old standby. It is priced right and comes in a variety of formulations. There is white and yellow glue is for interior use but the some yellow can be used for exterior applications. It will be labeled as such.
  • Exterior yellow glue is labeled water resistant or exterior. Titebond II is one brand that I like.
  • Polyurethane glue is a completely waterproof glue. It can also be used on metal and some plastics.
  • Contact cement has its uses such as applying plastic laminate (Formica) to plywood.
  • Hide glue was around long before woodworkers had so many choices. When refinishing antiques it should be used to maintain the historical value. It’s still used in making certain musical instruments because it is easy to take apart for repairs.
  • Epoxy is used to fill gaps and and offers great strength. Gorilla is a good brand.

I hope these tips for glue-up on woodworking projects have made your craft more inspired. If you have any tips of your own, share them with our readers in the comment section. You might also be interested in reading about the benefits of a woodshop dust-collector.

References



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Top 10 Table Saw Safety Tips

by Kelly R. Smith

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Craftsman woodworking table saw
Craftsman woodworking table saw

This article was updated on 10/14/20.

By its very nature, woodworking is a dangerous hobby and profession. There are 720,000 injuries each year associated with woodworking projects and about 42% of these occur on the table saw. No surprise here; almost every project needs stock ripped or crosscut. How can we do better? Let’s look at these top 10 table saw safety tips.

  • Using your blade guard. Yes, they come from the factory installed and recommended but who actually uses them? Ahem, yeah, I thought so. I use a push stick or another woodworking jig to get the job done. Should I use the guard? Yeah, but usually… no. Still, I recommend it.
  • Table saw blade selection. It is tempting to use the same table saw blade for every job, but should you? No. You need a separate blade for cross-cutting and one for ripping Why? A crosscut blade makes the rip cut much more difficult. It can burn and bind.
  • Use a zero-clearance insert. Yes, there are two schools of thought on this one. Safety says a supported piece is a safer piece.
  • Woodworking dust collection. If your table saw offers a port, use it. You will guard your health, keep your wood shop clean, and lower fire risks. Wood dust not only irritates your throat and nose, but some species can be poisonous. Keeping a clean and clutter-free work area is important.
  • Use your PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). Yeah this stuff is front and center because of the Covidid-19 Pandemic but truth be told, it was always a big deal. Use safety glasses and ear protection. Gloves? Personal decision.
  • Keep your hands out of harm’s way. Use push sticks, push blocks and other safety devices to help guide and control work pieces.
  • Don’t stand directly in front of or in back of the blade. Always stand to one side or the other. Even with the guard in place, the odd chunk of wood might kick back.
  • Make adjustments before powering up. Make all adjustments with your blade stopped, with the single exception of changing the speed. Never try to change the configuration of the table or the power plant before the machine has stopped.
  • Keep your hands safe. Do not reach under the table to make adjustments, remove scrap, or make adjustments while the blade is turning.
  • Use your accessories. Make use of your miter gauge or rip fence to guide your work. Free-hand cuts are very dangerous, inaccurate and not recommended. For larger pieces, such as plywood, use table saw extensions or rollers. Ideally, you should have a helper, but realistically that’s not always going to happen.

Keep these 10 table saw safety tips in mind each and every time you enter your shop. It is easy to become complacent with this and other tools. None of us came with spare body parts.



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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Make a Round and Cylindrical Object Drilling Jig

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Woodworking jig to secure round, cylindrical while drilling
Woodworking jig to secure round, cylindrical while drilling

Holding round objects stable while drilling or otherwise working with them can be a sticky wicket. Holding them with your hand can lead to losing some skin and clamping them can mar the surface. One solution is to make this round and cylindrical object drilling jig. And who couldn’t use yet another woodworking jig?

Using the Jig

Once built, using the jig is straightforward. The adjustable fences slide in from the long sides and the stop blocks slide in the other direction. All movement and clamping of these components is done with the t-tracks, fence knobs, and t-slot bolts. The drilling plate serves to drill through, preventing splintering of the bottom of the object as the drill bit exits. You’ll find yourself using this woodworking jig over and over, with your drill press or independently.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

5 Benefits of a Wood Shop Dust Collector

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A Shopsmith wood shop dust collector
A Shopsmith wood shop dust collector

When most beginning woodworkers are setting up shop or experienced ones are upgrading, what first comes to mind? Tools, benches, and fixtures. But here’s a woodworking tip for you; it pays to first consider an investment in a wood shop dust collector system. Here are 10 of the most important reasons.

  • Sawdust is a royal pain. Shavings, dust, and chips accumulate very quickly. Fine dust fills the air until it settles somewhere, such as the surface of your current project that you are putting a finish coat on, applying putty to, or gluing up. And it goes without saying that you won’t make any points with your spouse when you inevitably track it into the house.
  • Sawdust is a definite fire hazard. It only takes one spark from your grinder to get things going. And if you are not storing your flammables properly you are compounding the problem. Even fine dust that sifts on top of lighting fixtures and electrical boxes has the potential to light up your day — and not in a good way!
  • Sawdust is a great candidate for recycling. Having the dust collector consolidate it while you work on your table saw, band saw, or other piece of equipment takes half the effort out of the process. It can be used to make sweeping compound (which you can use or barter). Hardwood is a great soil amendment for your garden because as it breaks down it feeds the soil with beneficial nutrients.
  • Fine sawdust is a health hazard without a dust collector. It can hover in the air for hours where it enters your sinuses and lungs. You can end up with allergy issues and congestion. The effects accumulate over time meaning that they can build up over the course of years even if you don’t notice a problem for a while. Exotic woods can be outright toxic. I had an x-ray several years ago and they picked up a spot in one lung. Turns out it was a “calcified nodule” which results when you breath something in and your lung isolates it by coating it, much as an oyster creates a pearl from a grain of sand over time. Was it from woodworking? Quite possible after 20 years as a carpenter.
  • Dust collection extends the life of your power tools. If chips or even dust is removed immediately, friction on moving parts is reduced greatly. When sanding, your paper will take longer to clog, saving time and money. It figures that sawdust from any wood containing moisture or sap will gum up a heated machine fairly quickly.

These are just 5 important benefits of a wood shop dust collection system. Yes, it is an expense but in the long run it will save you time, money, and your health.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.

Top 10 Woodworking Tips

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Various woodworking tools
Various woodworking tools

Whether you’re a professional carpenter or a hobbyist woodworker in the evenings or on the weekends, one thing is certain. You can’t have too many woodworking tips. They might make completion of your project easier, or more precise, or just save time. In this sense, tips are a lot like woodworking jigs. Let’s take a look at some of these tips.

  1. Make your own wood putty. Using wood putty is often inevitable. The problem with store-bought products is that it is difficult to get a good color match. The manufacturers can only replicate so many shades and the store can only dedicate so much shelf space. The solution for a perfect match at almost zero cost is surprisingly simple. Check out how to make homemade wood putty.
  2. Keep your work bench clean with wax paper. We’ve all done it — glued up and begin clamping all or part of a project only to see glue oozing out and dripping on your work surface. Clean-up will not be fun. The solution? Put wax paper under your project before you start. It’s cheap and disposable.
  3. Invest in a pneumatic nailer or two. There will be times when these tools come in handy. Say, if you are doing a repetitive task that requires fastening with nails, either 2″ ones or very small 23 – gauge pins this is much easier than the hammer-and-nail set approach. In fact, driving the smallest with a hammer is impractical. They bend; you curse. The solution is a battery-operated pin nailer.
  4. Know your lumber grades. Every project is somewhat unique. Most people go shopping for lumber and base their selection on straightness, no warping, no checking, no knots, etc. They don’t also evaluate by National Hardwood Lumber Association lumber grades and so sometimes overbuy. For example, if only one side of the project is going to be visible, your best choice might be FAS 1F or F1F.
  5. Select the right finish. Varnish or “polyurethane varnish” is only for interior use. It will not stand up to outdoor elements. Spar varnish on the other hand is excellent for for outdoor furniture, boats and exterior doors. It dries slowly and so it stays more supple. Because of this it accommodates the movement of the wood so it is not likely to crack and fail. Tung oil is also suitable for exterior use.
  6. Draw a line on a long board with your combination square. Drill a 1/16″ hole in the middle of your combination square at the 1″ mark. Now you can set your square so that the hole lines up with where you want the line to be. Insert a sharpened pencil tip into the hole and draw down the length of the board.
  7. Use the 3-4-5 method for squaring. There will be times when laying out large projects and it is not practical or accurate to use small tools. In this case you can use the 3-4-5 method for squaring. It’s quite simple and accurate as it’s based on the Pythagorean Theorem. Remember that from math class?
  8. Hassle-free screw insertion. In many cases it is a good idea to pre-drill screw holes to minimize the chance of splitting the wood. However, the further the screw has to penetrate, the higher the possibility that the screw will stall or the slot (standard or Phillips) will strip out. My favorite solution is to rub the screw threads on a bar of soap first. This lubrication minimizes insertion issues.
  9. Remove the plug from a holesaw with ease. The holesaw is a great invention. The drawback is getting that darn plug out after you cut the hole. Here’s a workaround. First, drill a pilot hole completely through the work piece with a twist bit the same size as the diameter of your holesaw’s drill bit. Next, insert your holesaw’s bit into that hole and cut more than halfway through the work piece. Next, pull out your holesaw, flip over your work piece, and saw the hole from this side, using the pilot hole to guide your second cut. After completing the cut and pulling out your holesaw, the plug will be sticking halfway out of the saw, giving you something to hold onto, making it a snap to remove.
  10. Cutting small pieces on your tablesaw. This can be a major hassle at a minimum. Altogether too often the piece either flies away or splinters up. Save yourself the hassle. Set you blade just shy of the thickness of the wood so you don’t saw all the way through. Now just finish the cut using your chisel.

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About the Author:

Photo of Kelly R. SmithKelly R. Smith is an Air Force veteran and was a commercial carpenter for 20 years before returning to night school at the University of Houston where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science. After working at NASA for a few years, he went on to develop software for the transportation, financial, and energy-trading industries. He has been writing, in one capacity or another, since he could hold a pencil. As a freelance writer now, he specializes in producing articles and blog content for a variety of clients. His personal blog is at I Can Fix Up My Home Blog where he muses on many different topics.