Making a Dewalt Sander work with a Bosch (or Festool) dust hose

Dewalt sander dust port before modification

Dewalt sander dust port before modification

My Dewalt random orbit sander serves me pretty well, but I’ve never really had a lot of luck connecting dust hoses to it.  Until now, I always had a hard time finding one that fit snugly enough to stay on and didn’t get in the way while trying to use the sander.  I recently discovered this Bosch 35mm VAC005 5-Meter Vacuum Hose at Amazon.  It’s a perfect fit for my Festool tools and it works with my existing standard shop vac as well as an adapter that I got for my 4″ dust collection pipes.  It also fits other tools like my mitre saw very well.  I was able to get it to fit over the smallest tube of the Dewalt fitting, but it kept slipping off.  Looking closer at the Dewalt fitting, I realized that the Bosch hose end would fit inside the mid-sized tube on the Dewalt fitting.

The drill press set up to remove the inner most tube on the Dewalt sander dust fitting

The drill press set up to remove the inner most tube on the Dewalt sander dust fitting

To get it to fit, I was going to need to cut out the inner most tube deep inside the fitting so that the rubber hose end would be able to go in far enough to stay connected.  I thought about a few different ways of doing this before concluding that I could use a Dremel 199 High Speed Cutter mounted in my drill press as a saw.  This isn’t really the intended use for a drill press or for this cutter, but it worked well.  From the smell of it while it was cutting, the Dewalt dust fitting is probably ABS plastic.  I set the drill press to around 500 RPM and I lowered and locked the drill press quill at the proper height so that the fitting was flat on the table as I was cutting.  I manipulated the dust fitting by hand, keeping it moving and taking many shallow passes so that heat didn’t build up too much on the bit and I didn’t put too much sideways pressure on the drill press – the bearings aren’t designed for sideways force, and if your chuck’s taper isn’t seated well, it can come loose so be very careful if you do this.

Dewalt sander dust fitting with the smallest tube removed

Dewalt sander dust fitting with the smallest tube removed

Even though I was being careful, the cutter did get a little too warm and melted the plastic, so I had to stop and clean its teeth.  It might be a good idea to stop half way through to let it all cool off a bit to avoid melting.  Breathing the fumes from melting plastic is a bad idea, so I did this right beside my open garage door to avoid them.

I set the depth so that I got almost right down to the bottom of the fitting, but I was careful not to weaken the base of the medium size tube.  If that becomes too thin, it might break off in use, and there are some corners of the fitting that are close to the bottom of the tube where you could puncture the dust fitting and dust could escape in use.

This modification works perfectly, and now my dust hose works with one more tool.  Almost all of my hand held tools now connect through this same Bosch VAC005 hose and I’m really pleased with how flexible it is and how well the rubber fitting connects to my tools.  I have it set up to the right of my work bench and connected to my shop dust collector and it seems to be working well enough with the tools I’ve connected to it.  I wouldn’t want to run my shop vac for a long sanding session because it gets a bit warm and its suction is a bit too much for sanding, but the big dust collector is pretty choked up because of the tiny opening inside the Dewalt sander’s dust fitting, so I normally open a nearby blast gate part way to ensure that the cyclone isn’t too constricted to separate the dust out of the air.  Opening a second blast gate also lets me regulate the suction a little bit at the tool.

Dewalt random orbit sander with Bosch dust hose connected

Dewalt random orbit sander with Bosch dust hose connected

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Built-in Entertainment Centre

I built this simple entertainment centre in two separate parts.  I finished and installed the bottom last summer just before it started getting cold out, and early this summer, I finished the upper portion.  I didn’t take any progress pictures on this one, but it generally follows the sort of design that you’d see on the New Yankee Workshop – very simple, dados and rebates nailed and screwed together and covered up with lots of wood filler.  To dress it up a little, I added glass doors to the top, illuminated the top cabinet and the top of the case with strip LEDs from Lee Valley Tools, and set it up with a dimmer.  I plugged the LED’s transformer into the existing switched receptacle in the room and in the evening, this cabinet serves as our primary light source in the room.  The light looks much more yellow in the photo than it does at night – even dimmed, these LEDs have a nice coloured light.  The finish on this is General Finishes Enduro White Poly, which was impressively easy to apply (as long as you use the right spray gun tip).  Unfortunately my driveway now has a faint cabinet outline on it from overspray…

Those upper cabinets are crying out to display the few antique planes I have and don't use.

Those upper cabinets are crying out to display the few antique planes I have and don’t use.

The colours in this photo are really quite wrong - the LEDs aren't yellow like this.

The colours in this photo are really quite wrong – the LEDs aren’t yellow like this.

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Folding Out Feed Table for my SawStop PCS

I recently snagged a rare deal in the Toronto used machinery market:  a used 3HP SawStop PCS with a mobile base.  It’s a great machine and it takes up less space than the Ridgid TS-3650 contractor saw it replaced.  Unfortunately, when you get a new table saw, you realize just how deeply integrated into your shop setup your old one was.  My Ridgid’s out feed table regularly served as a drying rack, assembly table and random sorting space in addition to holding up long boards so they could safely be ripped.  Now I find myself needing to replace all of those functions in a hurry.

The length of the table was limited to 24" in order to clear the dust collection fitting, but that's plenty. It could have been wider, but I felt it would be in the way.

The length of the table was limited to 24″ in order to clear the dust collection fitting, but that’s plenty. It could have been wider, but I felt it would be in the way.

I had two main regrets with my previous out feed table.  First, it didn’t let the saw tilt to 45°.  When I tilted it, the motor hit the support arm that held up the out feed at around 34°, so that was as far as it tilted.  In general, I never tilted that saw because of this.  Second, I had the end of the table held up by legs that folded down, extended to the floor, and had to be secured using wing nuts.  So setting it up meant clearing the space behind the saw followed by a very awkward operation to lower the legs and I usually just eyeballed whether it was sitting flat with the table.  So sometimes the end of the table was a little high and sometimes it was a little low.  And sometimes, the legs weren’t long enough because my floor is fairly uneven.

These steel tubes helped test the stability of the saw with a load cantilevered off the back.

These steel tubes helped test the stability of the saw with a load cantilevered off the back.

With this out feed table I set out to make it so simple to set up that I could extend it in just 5 seconds.  I went through a few different design iterations before I managed to achieve this.  I also wanted to make sure that no matter where the saw was in the shop, the table was flat and reasonably co-planar with the table saw’s cast iron top.  So the legs couldn’t sit on the floor if I wanted to achieve both of those goals.  This meant that the table was going to be cantilevered off the back of the saw cabinet.  That’s usually impractical on a contractor saw because of the placement of the motor and their lighter duty legs, but on cabinet saws with angle-iron fence rails, this is not a problem.  To make sure I wasn’t going to cause a stability or tipping problem, I clamped some steel tubes to the table top, cantilevered out to the same distance as I intended to have the out feed table extend from the back of the saw, and I very scientifically applied 200 pounds of force to the end of the tubes.  And by scientifically, I mean I pushed down on it with my hands and when that seemed stable enough, I lifted my feet off the ground and didn’t fall.  Seemed ok.  See?  Science.

Here is the folding leg assembled on my bench.

Here is the folding leg assembled on my bench.

I recently learned how to weld and got myself a MIG/Flux Core welder, so for this project I decided to use some steel angle and square tube.  I don’t have shielding gas yet, so I was using flux core and that worked just fine.  The paint did wonders to make my ugly welds look better than they are.  The idea was that the leg would fold in the middle and I’d use angles for the top and square tube on the bottom.  The angles overlap on top of the square tube to keep it from extending past straight.  I welded on a crossmember angle between the two steel angle legs to keep the upper legs from twisting, spreading or buckling.  The leg was arranged so that gravity would help to keep the leg straight too, but I didn’t want an accidental bump from below to cause the leg to fold, so I welded some barrel bolts to the top to prevent that.

This heavy angle bracket allows the lower leg to shift upward so the top of the leg doesn't hit the cabinet while folding it up.

This heavy angle bracket allows the lower leg to shift upward so the top of the leg doesn’t hit the cabinet while folding it up.

I had originally intended that both ends of the legs would pivot on bolts at fixed positions, but because the steel angles overlap the tubes by a couple of inches to keep them straight, the end of the steel angles would hit the cabinet as the legs fold, preventing the table from folding down all the way.  To solve this problem, I made a bottom mount that allows the leg to lift out so the leg can fold toward the extension table before it hits the cabinet.  A jig saw with an appropriate blade and some files makes this far easier than you might think.  If you intend to do something like this for yourself, it should be possible to use fixed mounting points, but you’ll need to space the bottom mounting point a little bit further off of the cabinet back than I did.  It would be a really good idea to prototype this motion using wood or cardboard or something before going to the trouble to make it out of steel – I wish I had done that.  The steel angle I used for this bottom mounting bracket was 2″x2″ and 3/16″ thick – it’s not going anywhere.  A 1/4″ steel round rod spans the gap between the bottoms of the legs and slots into the angle bracket mounted to the cabinet.  To affix these to the legs, I threaded the ends of the rod using a 1/4″-20 die and secured the ends of the rod inside holes drilled in the end of the leg with nylon lock nuts.   The other thing worth noting about the bottom mount is that the SawStop cabinet isn’t perfectly rigid, and mounting the steel angle directly to the cabinet allowed the cabinet to flex inward under pressure, making the table springy.  To prevent that from being a problem, I mounted the angle on a piece of scrap oak.  With the load spread across the whole cabinet back and most importantly, overlapping the corners of the cabinet, it’s solid enough.  The bolts for the foot mounting brackets run all the way through the oak into the cabinet and are affixed with nylon lock nuts.  I don’t plan to put really heavy weights on this table.

Folded, the table provides a small amount of out feed support as well as protection for the dust collection fittings

Folded, the table provides a small amount of out feed support as well as protection for the dust collection fittings

The SawStop PCS really doesn’t have a whole lot of support at the back of the blade, and I suspect most table saws are like this, not just the SawStop.  So to ensure I’ve always got a little bit of support back there, even when I’m not using the full out feed table, the out feed table mounts to a block of solid maple that I lag bolted to the rear fence rail using the holes that the manufacturer included in the rear rail.  I carefully planed the block so it would be about 1/32″ below the surface of the cast iron table and bevelled the leading edge just in case of expansion.  The width of this block is about 5″, which was also intended to provide enough overhang so that the dust collection elbow at the bottom of the cabinet wouldn’t get banged up when the table is folded down.  I had originally intended to add a bracket to keep the back of this block from sagging, but it seems solid enough without that for now.  The folding portion of the out feed table attaches to the maple block with a piano hinge.  My old out feed table used this same piano hinge successfully for years and showed no signs of bending or giving, so I’m comfortable enough with this.

The upper end of the leg is permanently attached. The lower mounting bracket extends to the corner of the cabinet for rigidity. Barrel bolts keep the leg from buckling if bumped.

The upper end of the leg is permanently attached. The lower mounting bracket extends to the corner of the cabinet for rigidity. Barrel bolts keep the leg from buckling if bumped.

To mount and level the legs, I first affixed the bottom mounting bracket to the cabinet and made sure that it was properly parallel with the cast iron table top.  Getting this right is important to the stability of the table and the folding motion.  Since it’s difficult to get a reference point back there, I carefully levelled the saw with cedar shims under the base, then I levelled the mounting bracket with a level before tightening it up.  Then, I took my 4′ level and laid it across the table saw’s iron top.  My level has magnets on one edge, which was helpful.  With the leg hanging in the bottom bracket, I brought the extension table top up against the bottom of the level, then I lifted the leg’s mounting board up to the bottom of the extension table and put a clamp across it to hold it in place.  It is screwed to the under side of the table with 1/4″ lag bolts through the angle brackets and into the plywood extension table.

Extended and ready to cut.

Extended and ready to cut.

So this extension table successfully meets both of my main design criteria:  it takes about 5 seconds to extend and stow the table, and it doesn’t matter if the saw is perfectly level or not, as long as it’s placed in a stable location, the extension table is co-planar enough.  With the out feed sorted out, the next thing I need to deal with is dust collection for the router wing.  My old setup on the Ridgid saw worked really well, but I can’t use that one because it interferes with the tilt crank on the right side of the SawStop.   My first crack at solving this problem failed to actually collect dust, so I’m not going to write about it until I come up with a solution that actually works.

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Installing a Cast Iron Router Wing in my SawStop PCS

For the past few years, I had been running a Ridgid TS-3650 and one of the more popular articles on this blog was about how I installed a cast iron router wing in its left side.  That worked great.  A few weeks ago though, I got really lucky and spotted a used SawStop PCS on Kijiji and I jumped at it.  SawStops come up on the used market around Toronto less often than once a year.  I had been looking at buying one new for a long while, but one of the things that stopped me was honestly that I liked the router table being in the left wing of my Ts-3650 that much.  The price was right though, so now I’ve sold my Ridgid and I’ve moved all of its upgrades over to the SawStop.

In its new home.

In its new home.

I won’t repeat my review of the features of the router wing here, but I will say that some years later, I’m still loving it.  Once you’ve tried a cast iron router table and a router lift, you will never look back.  You can check out my article about installing it on my Ridgid Ts-3650 for more information about the router wing itself, and I also have an article about the low-priced Jess-Em Rout-R-Lift II router lift that I use in it.

The SawStop is a left tilt cabinet saw which presents some minor challenges for mounting a router wing when the right side of the saw is up against a wall.  You can’t mount the router wing on the left side like on the Ridgid, because there is a motor cover there.  I would really have preferred to have the router on the left, but it just wasn’t going to happen.  The other option is to replace SawStop’s pine and laminate right side extension table with the router wing.  That would require drilling some new holes in the router wing, but mounting it should be feasible.  The router wing would definitely make the saw tippy, which could pose some difficulty using the built-in PCS mobile base, and it would make the levelling legs particularly important, but I don’t think the beefy T-Glide fence rails would have any difficulty supporting the weight with the legs in place.

Because of how my space is configured though, I decided to mount it as a replacement for the original cast iron wing on the right side.  I was slightly worried that I would have difficulty reaching the router from the front of the saw, but this turned out to be ok.  I’m about 6′ tall, and the SawStop table sits a little lower than the TS-3650, so I can reach the bit alright leaning over just a little.

Steel tube and clamps hold the router wing in alignment as I find the bolt holes

Steel tube and clamps hold the router wing in alignment as I find the bolt holes

Like I did on the Ridgid, I clamped straight lengths of material across the router wing to hold it up as I found the bolt holes.  I happened to have some heavy steel tube around this time, so I used it, but 2x4s would have been every bit as good.   The steel tube I had was so heavy it almost counterbalanced the weight of the casting, but getting it in place was a bit of a struggle, and I had to put it on and take it off several times as I marked, cut and fitted the various holes.

This bolt hole needed to be re-shaped a little to suit the table alignment bolts

This bolt hole needed to be re-shaped a little to suit the table alignment bolts

The router wing didn’t require much modification to fit.  I drilled holes on the front and rear edges to match the T-Glide fence rail’s holes.  My holes were clearance-sized to allow aligning the table nice and flat.  The SawStop has a very nice table alignment setup – allen bolts accessible from the underside of the table at the rear can be used to very precisely align the tabletop (and mitre slots) with the blade and keep it from getting bumped out of place.  These bolts are accessed through a hole in the edge of the extension wing casting.  To be able to access the allen bolt on the right side after installing the wing, I needed to grind away a little of the cast iron near the rear mounting bolt on the wing.  I did this with a Dremel grinder but I didn’t grab a picture of the finished product.

Just before painting

Just before painting

The fence rails needed to be notched to allow for the mitre and accessory t-track slot in the router table.  I did this simply by marking out the locations with a marking gauge, bevel and a ruler then using a hack saw, grinder and files to refine the notch.  Once I was done, I dabbed on some black enamel paint I had kicking around in the basement and I was quite pleased with the end result.  If I use the mitre gauge with it, I’m going to have to do so from the back of the saw, but I very rarely do that, so I’m not too worried.

Wish I had black laminate on hand....

Wish I had black laminate on hand….

The last modification needed was to replace the pine-and-laminate extension table.  Since the router wing is about 4″ wider than the original wing, the extension table didn’t fit anymore.  I made mine from a 12mm baltic birch top wrapped with pine edges 2″ wide and installed some plastic laminate.  Unfortunately, I only had white and didn’t want to go buy a sheet.  To ensure that the extension table would fit between the wings, I set my rip fence to 27″, then I clamped a block to the table with two scraps of the laminate between the block and the fence, removed the laminate scraps, then moved the fence over to touch the block again.  This gave me the space necessary and I was lucky enough to get it right on, so no shimming was necessary.  If you’re going to make a mistake here, err on the small side and shim between the fence rail and the table.  I left my extension table short of the end of the rails because I wanted to be able to fit dust collection pipe between it and the wall.  The T-Glide fence has a fair amount of rail to the right of the fence itself, so even though the rails stick out a bit with my extension table, the fence is fully supported right to the end of the rail.

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Quick Sugar Bowl

I had a glass sugar bowl that had a stainless steel spoon and lid.  Over time, the rim of the bowl got chipped and sharp so decided to get rid of the glass, but the lid and spoon looked like they’d look very nice with Walnut.  The major diameter is about 4″.  I’ll let you be the judge.

Not much to say about this one.  I hollowed it out to a wall thickness of around 3/16″ to 1/4″, left the bottom a little thicker.  The finish is General Finishes Wood Turners Finish, which was very user-friendly.  I didn’t put any finish on the inside.  This finish didn’t pop the grain quite as deeply as a lacquer or shellac finish might have, but it also doesn’t seem to have added much yellow to the colour, which is good because yellow isn’t a very popular colour in my household.

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Router Wing Dust Collection

The bottom of the cast iron router wing is designed to accept dust collection.

The bottom of the cast iron router wing is designed to accept dust collection.

Most of the time, when I use my cast iron router wing and my router lift, I use it for work at the edge of a board, and the dust port on my fence works fine.  It always lets a little bit of dust escape to be swept up, but never enough to bother me.  Recently, I used it for running some 1/4″ dados on my lathe tool rack, and because those cuts weren’t near the edge, all the dust went on the floor.  And because the router cools itself by blowing air through the motor toward the bit, it scattered dust in a 3′-4′ radius around the table.  Quite a mess.

Who said crayons are just for kids?

Who said crayons are just for kids?

A pre-made sheet metal dust shroud is available from General International that is designed for this cast iron router wing, and it’s even pretty reasonably priced, but it’s pretty cold out around here right now and I had a pile of scrap MDF to use up, so I decided to stay in and build one.  First order of business was determining how to mount it under the table.  There are 6 tapped holes in the underside webbing of the table to accept the sheet metal shroud.  The threads are metric, 6mm.  To get the hole pattern, I took a piece of paper and taped it to the side of the router wing.  I then used a crayon to get a rubbing of the screw locations and the perimeter of the opening.  I transferred the rubbing to a piece of 1/8″ hard board using an awl and a knife, then cut the pattern out on my band saw.  For the holes, I drilled 3/16″ and pushed 3/16″ machine screws through to make sure that my rubbing was accurate.  I held the pattern up and put all of the screws into the bolt holes under the table, and they fit well enough.

Nothing fancy here. I didn't even choose my screw lengths carefully.

Nothing fancy here. I didn’t even choose my screw lengths carefully.

The box itself is 1/2″ MDF with a bottom made of 1/4″ peg board.  Nothing fancy – just butt joints and brads.  The peg board allows air to enter the bottom of the box so the router has air to cool itself with and to keep the airflow going in the right direction.  I stapled the peg board without glue just in case that turns out to be a bad idea.  There is a 2″ hole on the side opposite the dust collection hose connection to allow the power cable to pass through.  It’s located in the top corner so that the airflow it allows will pass over the top of the router.  The dust collection hose fitting is a pretty standard dust collection fitting that you can get at woodworking stores, and it takes a 4″ hose.  The mounting flange is mitred, glued and screwed oak that I had sitting around.  I marked the holes through my mounting template after all the glue dried.

This simple sliding door works smoothly and was made entirely with scraps.

This simple sliding door works smoothly and was made entirely with scraps.

The plastic door was the simplest thing I could come up with based on what I had on hand.  The door itself slides, and it is 0.220″ clear acrylic that I had sitting in my scrap bin for at least 5 years.  The tracks are very simple.  Each one is 6mm baltic birch; a 1/2″ wide piece laminated to a 3/4″ wide piece to make a rebate for the door to ride in.  With the box on its side, I set the top 1/2″ wide piece on the side of the box, glued and tacked it with 22 gauge pins.  I then set the 3/4″ wide piece on top of  the 1/2″ wide piece, glued and tacked it.  With the plastic in place, I then set the 1/2″ wide strip for the bottom runner in place, leaving a 1/32″ gap between the plastic and the plywood strip and affixed that with glue and pins.  Finally, I added the 3/4″ wide strip and tacked it down too.  The door slides very easily because the 6mm baltic birch is slightly thicker than the 0.220″, and the 1/32″ clearance vertically is pretty generous.  It’s a little wobbly with the suction off, but with the dust collector running, it snugs up against the side of the box and stays put.

Now I just need a router table switch for outside the box.

Now I just need a router table switch for outside the box.

This seems to have been very successful.  I tested it by running some 1/2″ wide, 3/16″ deep dados in MDF.  If I fed quickly, I found that the router bit threw the dust forward through the dado a bit, but with a more relaxed feed rate, everything was getting sucked down under the table quite nicely and I didn’t end up with much dust in the air at all.  I’m quite certain that this will be a nice improvement for cuts on the edges of boards too, because what little used to go on the floor will now end up captured by this enclosure.  For now, I’m opening the door to get at the router switch, but I’m going to pick up a router table switch box as soon as I can find one that has a long enough cord to reach my receptacle.

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Lathe Tool Rack

My old lathe tool rack on the wall

My old lathe tool rack on the wall

This little project is aimed at reclaiming a bit of inefficiently used wall space near my lathe.  My old lathe tool racks hang on the wall and they are a bit of a space hog, because the tools are arranged horizontally and they vary in length from a bit over 24″ to less than 12″.  I’ve recently re-arranged the area around my lathe and I was hoping to reclaim some of the space to hang up some new tools that will make more efficient use of the space.  Also, I’ve always had to stretch pretty far to reach the scrapers on the top of this rack, so keeping things within a more comfortable reach will also be nice.

I love my General 260 – it’s built like a tank and absolutely everything about it feels solid.  Even though it’s designed to be bolted to the floor, I’ve never felt the need.  But nothing’s perfect.  I’ve always envied the empty space between the legs on more modern lathes like

Loaded up and ready to go

Loaded up and ready to go

the Powermatic 4224B.  That space pretty much calls out for rolling tool cabinets.  The General’s heavy gauge sheet metal cabinet stand gets its rigidity from an angled panel that runs underneath the ways and is welded solidly to the headstock and tail-end pedestals.  This tool rack is designed to make better use of that little space.  It’s not a rolling tool cabinet, but it does give me a good place to keep my spindle tools. Long gouges stored in this way would interfere with the locking cam lever on the banjo, so this rack works best with tools that are 18″ long or less.  The scraper on the far right is 22″ and I am only getting away with it being there because I don’t do all that many long spindles.

The new lathe tool rack is very simply built

The new lathe tool rack is very simply built

The rack’s construction is as simple as possible, and it was all from my scrap pile.  Two pieces of 3/4″ plywood, 6 1/2″ by 34″ with 1/4″ dados spaced on 2″ centres along the length.  In each dado, there is a 2″ by 6 1/2″ piece of 1/4″ MDF glued to guide the tools straight and prevent their cutting edges from nicking each other.  The bottom of the rack is open, so the tools’ cutting edges are actually resting on the shelf below.  This lets any shavings find their way out to the shelf.  The rack is mounted on legs that have a 54 degree angle cut on them matching the angle of the steel sheet that braces the machine’s base.  If you build one of these, you’ll probably want to measure that angle for yourself.  The legs are pocket screwed and glued to the ends of the rack.  The rack mostly balances itself, but to prevent it from tipping out when loaded with tools, I put a couple of big globs of high-temperature hot glue on the back of the rack and pressed it to the steel back panel.

This is rubber mat, attached with carpet tape to protect the cutting edges

This is rubber mat, attached with carpet tape to protect the cutting edges

To protect the tools’ cutting edges, I lined the shelf with some rubber mat that I found at a local big box store.  The mat was sold in a small roll, 24″ by 60″ and 2mm thick.  It’s really solid stuff and it smells like tires.  It has a non-slip texture and I had quite a bit left over.  I secured the mat to the shelf using a generous application of carpet tape after carefully dusting and cleaning the shelf with alcohol to remove any oily or dusty residues that might interfere with adhesion.  This seems quite secure.  I’m really happy with the mat and even if the tool rack doesn’t work out, I’m quite sure the mat is there to stay.  I usually store my extra tool rests down on that shelf, so the rubber will reduce the rattling noise and occasional wandering of those items when I’m turning something that isn’t balanced yet.

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Hammer A3-26 Shop Made Extension Tables

I have a Hammer A3-26 jointer-planer, and it’s a great, compact machine (I reviewed it shortly after getting it). It can joint and plane wood up to 10″ wide, but packing a 10″ jointer into the space normally consumed by a 6″ jointer does make handling long boards more difficult.  The longest board I’ve jointed with this machine was about 6′ long, but the user manual states that extension tables are required for workpieces that are greater than 1500mm (a little shy of 5′).  Wrestling those 6′ long boards over the thing without extensions isn’t something I want to repeat, but I’m currently building a built-in cabinet that calls for some face frame parts to be almost 8′ long.

The in-feed and out-feed tables installed require a lot of clearance.

The in-feed and out-feed tables installed require the full length of my shop for clearance.

Hammer offers some very nice aluminum extrusions to extend the table and make handling longer stock easier.  Their solutions mount on aluminum rails – the fence rail on the in-feed side, and an additional rail that you add to the out-feed side.  But … the truth is that I hardly ever make parts longer than 4′, so I decided to try making a pair of extensions from scraps, figuring that if it didn’t work out, I would at least recover some space from my scrap pile.

Back when I made my work bench, I had successfully improvised in-feed and out-feed extensions for my old 6″ jointer that worked surprisingly well despite literally being banged together from scraps and hastily secured to the jointer tables using small C clamps.  The A3-26 is much better designed though and has some very convenient mounting points.

The edge is rounded over so that boards being fed don't catch.

The edge is rounded over so that boards being fed don’t catch.

The extension table surfaces are simple 1/2″ MDF, reinforced with 1/2″ MDF ribs that are glued and pinned with 23 gauge pins, just to hold them while the glue dried.  On the in-feed extension, I glued a white oak off-cut to the end and rounded it over a little bit with a block plane.  Any hard wood would do for this, because it just keeps the MDF from getting chewed up immediately.  The rounding over prevents rough sawn lumber from catching on a sharp edge.

The in-feed table extension attaches to the fence rail.

The in-feed table extension attaches to the fence rail.

The in-feed side connects to the jointer using a hard wood cleat that is screwed to the underside of the MDF surface and bears against the fence mounting rail.  I attached the cleat square with the end of the MDF top, then I placed a 1/32″ shim between the fence rail and a hard maple block.  The hard maple block was drilled and tapped for 1/4″-20 bolts that press against the angled steel strip that is embedded in the aluminum fence rail.  This attaches pretty much exactly how the Hammer fence attaches.  Before installing the bolts, I rounded over their ends with a file to prevent them from gouging the steel strip.  I added the MDF ribs to the underside after installing the maple block.  Then, I had to level the MDF surface with the jointer table top.  I thought about all kinds of cool stuff like maybe a couple of nylon grub screws set into the top surface or opposing wedges or … some other wild contrivance that I didn’t have on hand at the time.  And I ended up just stacking strips of masking tape between the blocks until it was level, which worked just fine and saved me a trip to the store.

The out-feed extension table is bolted through the factory extension mounting holes.

The out-feed extension table is bolted through the factory extension mounting holes.

The out-feed side is much simpler.  There is a single block of hardwood on the out-feed side with two bolt holes that mate with the pre-existing holes on the jointer bed.  The hardwood block is a little longer than the width of the extension table just because I didn’t have a 10″ wide piece of MDF for the top – I was limiting myself strictly to scraps.  The only tricky bit here is that the existing holes are counterbored so that they’re square with the jointer bed.  To overcome this, you need to add some spacers between the jointer bed and the extension.  I made my spacers by drilling a hole through some 1/2″ thick maple then sawing out an octagon around the hole, and sanding them round with a disc sander, but if you have some washers of consistent thickness around, they’d do just as good a job.  I used 1/4″-20 bolts with wing nuts to hold the table in place.  I made sure that the bolts had some play to allow levelling the extension’s surface to the jointer bed, and levelled it by placing my 4′ level across the joint and tightening the bolts.

The way I did the legs was the weak point of this design.

The way I did the legs was the weak point of this design.

Each side has a single leg with a simple levelling foot made from a T-nut and a carriage bolt.  This was the weak point – if I ever use these things again, I’m going to improve the leg by using a proper rubber levelling foot and a more sturdy attachment from the leg to the table that can fold up when I go to put it away.  It’s significant that there’s only one leg though, and it’s centred.  Having 2 legs would make levelling the tables to the jointer much more difficult, and wouldn’t add much additional stability.  Once the tables were levelled with the jointer bed at their attachment ends, I used the carriage bolt to level the far end, again setting my 4′ level across the table.

The dimensions of my extension tables were entirely dictated by the scraps I had on hand. The tops are 8 1/2″ wide and about 36″ long, and the ribs are about 1 1/2″ deep.  The parts came entirely from my off-cut bin, so the cost was negligible.  It worked great,  My 9′ board came out fine and I didn’t have to strain to do it.  I’m sure that I could find flaws in the result if I looked, but it looks smooth and straight to the naked eye.

Installing these is a bit of a pain.  It’s important to make sure you’ve got enough clearance to run the board through before you level off the tables, and then you have to remember not to accidentally bump those legs.  Don’t ask me how I know either of those things.  Also, you can’t adjust the depth of cut without re-levelling the in-feed side.  If I was going to be doing a lot of longer jointing, I think I’d invest in the ready-made versions, because they look considerably easier to install.  But considering that the last time I dressed a board this long was over 4 years ago, a little bit of hassle on the rare occasion that I’ll need these is fine.

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French Cleat Clamp Racks

These super simple clamp racks are designed to hang on french cleats that I recently screwed to my walls.  The fact that I was screwing so many things to the walls and then moving them around to rearrange things in the shop was becoming a bit of a domestic controversy so I decided to putty over the screw holes and hang french cleats whenever I replace or rearrange a section of my wall-mounted storage.

My longer parallel clamps hanging beside the empty rack that normally holds my longer F clampsThese french cleats are 3/4″ paint grade maple ply from the home centre sawn into 6″ wide strips with 45 degree bevels on one edge.  There are two 2 1/2″ #8 construction screws anchoring each cleat to the wall at each stud location.  For the sake of keeping things modular and interchangeable, I spaced my cleats on 15″ centres vertically.  I’ll use that same spacing everywhere in the shop.   I couldn’t find any information that put specific numbers to the weight that each cleat can hold anywhere on the internet.  The best I could find were comments like “3/4″ is plenty strong” and “well I hang lots of heavy stuff on it and mine hasn’t fallen down yet”.  So yeah.  I hung clamps on mine, they’re pretty heavy, and it hasn’t fallen down yet (although I waited a few months between building these and writing this article to make sure).

This is the rack that normally holds my longer F clamps, front view.These clamp racks were banged together fast using scraps, glue and brad nails.  The cleats are hard maple leftovers 2 1/4″ wide, which are glued and nailed to 1/2″ MDF back boards that are about 8″ wide.  That is the critical joint that gives the french cleat its strength, transferring the force that would otherwise pull the cleat off the bevelled edge into a downward force that instead pulls it tight to the wall.  The top parts with the fingers to hold the clamps are 3/4″ MDF, screwed into the cleat from the top with 1 1/2″ screws.

This is the rack that normally holds my longer F clamps, rear view.The finger spacing and length is specific to each type of clamp, so you’ll need to measure if you want to make these for yourself.  For my F clamps, the spacing was 1 1/2″ on centre, and for my Besseys, it was 2″ centres.  The fingers on my F clamp racks are just long enough to reach most of the way to the yellow plastic pads without preventing the bar of the clamp from reaching the back of the slot.

To the side of each cleat, I nailed and glued a 1/4″ hard board extension, which adds practically no strength to the rack.  The purpose of the extension is purely to hold up the 1/2″ spacer at the bottom of each rack to keep the clamps plumb as they hang.  My intention there is to prevent the MDF fingers from being pushed down at the front and sagging over time, and to keep the weight of each clamp as close to the wall as possible.

12" F clamps hanging on two small clamp racks, each holding 5 clamps.I kept each rack small, limiting each to holding no more than 8 clamps.  This gives me the freedom to relocate groups of clamps relatively independently.  If I were doing it again, I’d actually limit it to 4 or 5 instead, because the difference in materials used is negligible but the smaller racks are much more flexible.

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Upgrading a Delta 50-760 Dust Collector with an Oneida Super Dust Deputy

One of the problems with canister filters is that they work really well, and an air filter’s job is to remove particles from air.  Sounds silly to say it, but after you install a canister filter on a dust collector, you’re going to find yourself having to clean it, especially with a single stage dust collection system, and cleaning it is definitely no fun.  It’s better that those particles are in the filter than in my lungs, but it’d be even better still if they were in a nice easy-to-empty bin, which is where pre-separators come in.

InstalledThe Oneida Super Dust Deputy is small cyclonic pre-separator that can be installed between dust producing machines and a dust collector to reduce the amount of dust that reaches the filters.  For some reason that I have difficulty understanding, some people get really intense about dust collection, so just to put things in perspective, here are my goals and parameters for installing this:

  • I’m reasonably satisfied with the performance of my existing dust collection system when the filters are clean.  It’s definitely not up to commercial air quality standards, but I use a very good dual cartridge respirator when I feel I need it, and I blow the dust out the door whenever the weather permits.
  • My main goal is to not have to clean my filter so often and slow the gradual loss of airflow that occurs as my filter loads up
  • Having spent all together too much time reading about this stuff, I’m well aware that I’m never going to get perfect separation efficiency or pull enough air through this 4″ system to meet industrial air quality standards – I’m taking the middle ground here and reducing dust, not eliminating it
  • Since my shop is small, I am having trouble justifying (and squeezing in) a “proper” dust collection setup, but it’s pretty likely that if I ever end up in a larger space, I’ll be bumping up to a 3-5hp setup because my pipe runs will be longer and this system won’t be able to keep up with that level of static pressure loss.

Here's the collector with the canister installedSince I’m trying to reduce cleanings, and this is very difficult to measure in the short term, this article isn’t a complete review – I’m going to have do a followup post at some point to cover my experience with the performance of this setup.  However, what I will talk about here are initial impressions and the process that I went through to integrate the Super Dust Deputy into my setup.  My starting point is a Delta 50-760 dust collector that has been upgraded with a canister filter, and which I have piped to my various machines with 4″ sewer and drain PVC pipe.

The first problem I had to solve was that the Delta 50-760 isn’t tall enough to fit a dust bucket and a Super Dust Deputy inside the cart.  I decided to make a steel shelf bracket out of angle iron and mount the dust collector body on the wall.  The original tubular steel cart wraps around the blower housing, so I cut up a bit of 4×4 to conform to the radius of the blower housing, and ran some 5/16″ bolts through the 4×4 to secure the blower to the shelf brackets.  Since the blower doesn’t line up neatly with my wall studs, I screwed some 2×4 to the wall to provide a solid mounting for the brackets.  Since the separator should nearly eliminate chips getting to the filter, I drastically reduced the size of the collection bag underneath it.  This arrangement has two significant bonuses:  my compressor fits underneath the left side of the dust collector, and the leg of the cart no longer obstructs my table saw as much, so I can rip a few inches wider without having to move the saw.  The new home for the compressor  is definitely welcome, as it never really found a permanent home before and was always in the way.

The shelf bracket and wooden adapterOneida Air Systems sells fibre and steel drums that can be used with their dust collectors, but my dealer didn’t carry them or anything similar.  I used a plastic garbage can of reasonable thickness so it wouldn’t collapse under the suction, and I took some 1/2″ melamine particle board and cut a couple of circles, one to fit inside the rim, and one to sit on top.  I screwed them together with the centres aligned, and along the edge, I used some 3/8″ thick closed cell weather stripping to create a gasket.  In the centre, I cut out a 6″ hole with my jig saw and bolted the super dust deputy directly to the melamine.  The bolts Oneida supplied were a little too short for the full inch of melamine, so I supplied my own.  I was not impressed with the thin piece of weather strip that Oneida supplied for this joint, so I used some of the remainder of what I bought.  The garbage can isn’t tall enough to reach the bottom of the cyclone, so I have it blocked up on scrap 2×4 bits to compress it against the gasket and keep the seal.  There is just enough play in the connections to lift it slightly and kick out the 2x4s to lower the bin.  I’ll probably improve that setup at some point.

Connecting it to my pipes was a bit time consuming.  Some say that a bit of straight pipe on the cyclone inlet helps with separation performance, so I redid a section of my piping to provide that.  This had a nice side benefit of making my table saw’s blast gate much easier to reach, but also required me to re-arrange how I store some items on the wall.

Unfortunately, in my effort to squeeze as much into as little space as possible, I mounted the dust collector too close to the garage door, and when I tried to open the door, it knocked the canister right off the machine and jammed the door.  These pictures were all taken before I completely disassembled the whole thing and moved it 3 inches to the right.  Measure twice, install your dust collection system once.  D’OH!!!

The Super Dust Deputy itself looks pretty nice.  The paint is nicely done, and there aren’t any sharp edges on the outside of it.  I found some burrs on the sheet metal inside, but that’s really not somewhere you’re going to be sticking your hand much.  The inside of the cone is very simple – there is no “neutral vane” or air ramp inside.  It’s pretty much just a cone with a top, a bottom flange and a couple of pipes.  The joints are sealed with caulk, and the caulk was wiped over the paint near the seams, but since it didn’t adhere to the glossy paint, it rubs off pretty easily.  Oneida has been doing this a long time, so I will trust that this is adequately sealed, but it doesn’t leave me feeling good about durability or that I would have had any difficulty building something of the same quality myself.  Another thing that diminished my impression was the user manual.  Now, this isn’t a complex device, but the user manual they supplied seems to be for their smaller shop vacuum Dust Deputy product.  In a 22 page user manual, only one single page addressed the actual product I bought.  Considering all these factors, the CAD $285 plus tax that I paid for it seems a little hard to justify, and it will have to prove itself quite effective over the next year for me to feel truly good about this purchase, but I will definitely give it a chance.

The inside of the test pipe showing the pitot tubeInstalling a pre-separator costs you air flow.  There is no way around this fact.  But then again, a clogged filter costs more.  So to get some sense of how much airflow I was losing, I decided to borrow some ideas from Matthias Wandel’s article, Characterizing the cyclone.  Specifically, I built a simple manometer and pitot tube with 3/8″ flexible copper tubing, that I bent into a shape that would let me insert it into a scrap piece of 4″ PVC pipe, and I used hot glue to hold it in place.  My Manometer is just a length of clear 3/8″ ID vinyl hose that I slipped over the end of the pitot tube and formed into a U shape on some scrap melamine using zip ties.  The air flow in the pipe reduces the air pressure in the copper tube, which in turn reduces the air pressure in the clear vinyl hose and sucks the water up the loop a little bit.  I used blue food dye to make it show up better in the pictures.  The distance that the water is pulled up the tube indicates how much air pressure there is.  With some math and a couple of additional setups, you can use pitot tubes to calculate the air velocity and static pressure, which can in turn be used to calculate the total air flow, but I was satisfied with a simple demonstration of the principal without getting into the numbers.

The test setup at my mitre station, saw rolled awayI installed the probe at my mitre station inlet.  My intention here was to read the air intake at a real point of use, and to use as close to the same setup as possible for both tests.  I tested at this same point with and without the super dust deputy installed.  Without the Super Dust Deputy, the collector was connected to the pipes using 3′ of flexible hose and the Y connector that Delta supplies with the 50-760.  With the separator in place, I used a ring of plywood glued around the 5″ inlet on the 50-760 to hold a 6″ length of 6″ diameter hose running to the outlet on the Super Dust Deputy.

Test resultsI’m pretty amazed that such a simple apparatus can tell someone so much about airflow.  It’s so simple that I have trouble trusting that I did it properly, but it seemed like an interesting experiment, and it gave me a way to visualize the approximate change in airflow.  If anyone reading this spots any mistakes I made with this test, please do add a comment below.  I’m not going to make any judgment calls based on this, and I’ll just include a photo of the readings to allow people to draw their own conclusions.  The photo shows the manometer with the dust collector running with the separator installed.  The readings are marked in pencil.

My over-all feelings about this upgrade are a mixed bag.  I bought it because I didn’t want to go to the trouble of building a separator myself and I didn’t want to get a full-blown cyclone right now, but I do want to save time cleaning filters.  However, the total cost of this upgrade including tax, hardware, brackets, the Super Dust Deputy itself, the garbage can was around $500, plus the 4-5 hours of work setting it up, re-configuring my pipes and storage.  I’m hoping that as I keep tabs on the performance of this over the next six months or so, I’ll be able to say that it saves me a lot of time and keeps my airflow going strong, which would make the whole thing worth while.

Pros:

  • Incremental improvement – compared with replacing my whole system with a “proper” cyclone, this is much faster and cheaper
  • Recovered some floor space that was wasted by the original 50-760 cart
  • Recovered some rip capacity on my table saw that was obstructed by the 50-760 cart
  • If it works, my airflow should remain more constant and cleaning should be reduced

Cons:

  • Lost a little bit of airflow
  • General fit and finish left me feeling like the price is a little high
  • Setup was time consuming and this is really a component in a system that you are expected to design and build with only general guidance

So at this point, I’d estimate that I’ve spent somewhere around $1800 on my dust collection installation including the pipes, hardware, machine, materials, filter and separator, and probably 40-50 hours, but not counting time spent researching things.  I guess this may explain why people get so uptight about dust collection, because while my current setup does seem to be more or less meeting my expectations at the moment, I’m pretty sure that this isn’t going to be my final setup, and the price difference between a “proper” setup and what I have right now isn’t as much as one might expect.  I guess they’re just trying to help people avoid the expensive upgrade cycle that I suspect ends with a full blown cyclone system in many cases.

But then … who knows when they start out with a woodworking hobby that they’ll eventually be willing to spend that kind of money on something they’re not really sure they need in the first place?

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