Friday, August 10, 2012

Shop Notes - Woodworking

I'm not a big garage saler but when I'm out riding my bike I always slow down a bit and give the yard sales I pass a quick scan for anything that might be valuable or useful.  On a recent road bike ride as I was heading through town I spotted this little bandsaw.  I pulled over to take a closer look and also noted a Dremel rotary tool with it's assortment of bits, burrs, sanding drums and cutoff wheels for ten dollars!  It was late Friday afternoon so I asked the women who were setting up the sale if they would be up and running the next day and if so I would return with the car to buy the two items.

The following day I drove the car over and bought the saw for $25 and the Dremel tool also. The sanding drums and cutoff wheels are worth the ten dollars by themselves so basically the rotary tool was free.  Normally I like to buy new tools to avoid the problem cases and other peoples worn out stuff but in this case I just couldn't pass up two hundred dollars worth of hardly used equipment for $35.

Besides some quick test cuts later that day to verify that the saw worked I haven't had a chance to do anything with it until now.  The extremely hot temperatures have finally eased off so I ventured out to my garage workshop to putter around.  I've wanted a band saw ever since I got into wood working many years ago but it was just one of those things I never got around to.  I have a similar saw at my business that I use occasionally or I made due using a handheld sabre saw.

The first official task for my new band saw was to prep some spindle blanks for lathe turning.  Before I used the Dremel and a cutoff wheel to cut grooves in the end of the stock.  I highlighted that process in a blog post here.

The end grooves in these spindles I cut free hand with the Dremel tool.
Cutting a precise X pattern in the end of a small stick of wood with a hand held rotary tool is tricky to say the least.  From the moment the cutter touches the wood extreme care has to be taken to keep the cutoff wheel on course and not flying off wildly from the torque of the rotating shaft.  The Dremel cutting discs are actually made of stone-like material so if you hog too much material or inadvertently tilt the tool too much once you've got a groove cut the thin wheel explodes with fragments flying everywhere.  There has got to be a better way and my new bandsaw provides it.

I thought about it for a bit and engineered a V-block that I could clamp down to the saw's bed and align squarely to the blade.  The V-block I made from a piece of hardwood birch plywood using two angled cuts on the table saw to create a V channel.  The plywood is expensive stuff imported from Scandinavia but it is very stable and is perfect for making jigs and fixtures. 

This view from behind the saw shows the dead-on alignment of the blank to the saw blade.  With my hands safely clear of the saw teeth just a slight push forward the blank slides in the V groove and into the blade.  I aligned the groove in the plywood slightly off center to the blade so I can make one cut then rotate the piece 180 degrees and cut again to end up with a wider slot in the end of the wood. 

The shot above shows the prepped blank chucked up in the wood lathe.  Notice how the flat of the spur drive closest to the camera lens lines up perfectly with the corner of the stock.  This precise alignment allows me to turn the square shape to round and end up with the largest diameter possible.  If my grooves or end holes are crooked or off center I would have to remove more material as I worked the stock down resulting in a smaller diameter spindle.

I have as much fun problem solving and engineering fixtures to facilitate my production processes as I do working on the actual project.  It must be the German in my blood.

Ready for the gouge!


  1. Thanks a I miss the lathe I sold awhile back to make room for trike stuff. :(

  2. So cool. Woodworking, radio, bikes... you are something of a renaissance man, I think.

  3. Thanks Rantwick -Very kind of you!

    I hear you Mark. It's like musical chairs in my garage everytime I try to do something. Motorbikes and bicycles and tools all crammed in a tiny one-car space.

  4. I have a hard time feeling sorry for you, not having space for all your toys. My wife would insist upon more time spent with the family but nonetheless good for you! I will keep reading how the other half lives. Enjoy!