Tag Archives: routers

A Look Back – Way Back

This is the last post of 2012. As the year ends, it’s only right to take a look back. I’m looking way back. Four decades back. It’s been 40 years since I’ve become involved with woodworking.

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As I dug through drawers in an older cabinet kept in my garage, memories of my first real project came flooding back. In one of the drawers I found the pencil shown above. It’s what I call a “first-grader” pencil – it’s the size of a convenience store cigar, about 1/2″ in diameter. Printed in black letters is “American Woodcrafters.” A now defunct wood supplier in Piqua, Ohio where Dad and I purchased lumber early on in our woodworking days.

I remember going there and walking around stacks of lumber housed in a concrete block building that, as I remember today, was a city block in every direction. In a small room adjacent to the warehouse area, my eye was drawn to a minimal stack of light-colored lumber with a bunch of lines running across the grain. I was mesmerized. What the wood was didn’t matter. I wanted some. After making my case, Dad allowed me to take a board home. Below is a box I made with that wood.

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Don’t laugh. I was 13 years old. Ah go ahead, laugh. The design is first-rate don’t you think? (Sarcasm intended.) In all my days since, I don’t think I have every come across a box built quite the same. Upon closer inspection you begin to see my affinity with power tools taking shape. My dovetails are tight thanks to a router and jig, but there are a couple gaps and a few well-placed wedges. And not a scribe line to be seen. At the back corner, screws are giving way to age, but I don’t mind.

I can’t remember what I used as a finish, but in a raking light, as you look across the top, you see scratches left from #80-grit sanding belts, or maybe I used #100 grit. Back in the day, I didn’t have a random orbit sander – I’m not even sure if they were in existence. For for the past 20 years, given my lack of skills, my box has lasted just fine while perched proudly at the top of my refrigerator.

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Years later I discovered that the wood I was drawn to was tiger maple. A wood that has become my favorite with which to work. In fact, when I build a project for publication, I often surprise editors if I opt to work with a wood other than tiger maple. Imagine finding something at an early age that plays a vital role in your livelihood as an adult. Was it a coincidence, or it was fate.  Best wishes in 2013. Until then …

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Filed under Design, Jigs, Joinery, Power Tools, Routers

Seldom Used Router Technique Solves Problem

DoorYears ago at Woodwork Event shows, I taught seminars on router techniques. I shared tips on router joinery, jigs and fixtures associated with routers and talked about basic router uses. As I neared the end of the 90 minute seminars, provided there were few questions,  I would jump into “fill the time” mode. I would ask if anyone had a drill bit that cut 4 1/8″ diameters. Of course, no one had such a  bit, or if they did they would not admit it in front of others.

The reason for my question was to open my discussion of how you could use two router bits – a pattern bit and rabbet bit – to create a hole of any size. I seldom used this technique, but I sold it as a way to create holes large enough to act as supports for dust collection pipe. J-hangers, commonly used to hang plastic pipe, were easily broken. If, however, you had a hole at the center of a piece of plywood, you could hang pipe forever.

IMG_0343It’s a simple technique. Begin with a 1 7/8″ hole drilled at the center of your plywood – a drill bit of that diameter is not out of the ordinary. Step two is  to cut a 3/8″ rabbet around the inside of the hole, then using a pattern bit where the bearing rides along the rabbeted shoulder, remove the remaining material to open the hole 3/4″. Your hole now has 2 5/8″ diameter. Repeat the process two more times and you then have a hole with a 4 1/8″ diameter. The technique works. It’s fun to talk about, and any diameter is possible depending on the size of your rabbet cut and the diameter of the hole in which you begin.

IMG_0342Until this week, I thought hole resizing was about the only use for this technique.  As I worked on my  waist door for the Egerton tall clock, I found another use. My door, as can be seen on the original clock in the opening photo, has a shaped top. The door also has edge banding that surrounds the veneered panel. For that, I needed to cut a recess.

My table saw worked great on the straight sides of the door, but for the top I needed a perfectly sized pattern that was offset from the door’s outer edge by 1″ exactly. I could have drawn a pattern, but would that have been an exact match? Instead, I grabbed a piece of plywood then used a pattern bit to get a profile directly off the door. I then went to my router table and stepped two times using a 3/8″” rabbet bit and my pattern bit, then grabbed a 1/4″ rabbet bit to compete my profile. My adjusted pattern was an exact match offset by 1″ (3/8″” x 2 + 1/4″).

If you look at the photo above, you may think that the sized pattern matches the door profile and I could have simply slipped the profile down the door and went to work. You would be wrong. The photo below better shows the relationship of the sized pattern and the door profile. Using this technique was the perfect solution.

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This technique works. Now I’m left wondering where else I could use it, and if there are other seldom used router techniques that could make work in the shop better.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Hollows & Rounds – No Way

IMG_0339In woodworking, joinery and casework are important. But just as in life, the devil is in the details. Great casework without strong moldings leaves the project lacking. This is especially true on tall case clocks. The hood’s scroll moldings dominate a clock, but it’s the other moldings that carry ones eye upward to the hood. Poorly designed base-to-waist moldings or shabby cove moldings used to support the hood can destroy the line of a tall clock.

Of the “other” moldings on clocks,  the base-to-waist cove on tall case clocks, due to the thumbnail edge detail, is a difficult molding to reproduce using power tools – you cannot add the thumbnail using round-over router bits as that would require that you invert your molding as it runs past the bit. It is with this molding that I most often thought that I may benefit with a set of hollows and rounds, handplanes specifically designed to produce moldings.

IMG_0330With all this in mind, I set out to find an easy way to make the moldings for my clock using power tools. The first step was to sketch the design I was after. Because I needed to move out 1 5/8″ and up 2″ I decided to use a 30/60/90 triangle design. The two parallel lines in my rather crude drawing represent the 3/4″ thickness of my workpiece. The thumbnail is oriented as it fits to the clock case. After I had the design drawn to scale, I transferred the profile to the ends of my milled stock.

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The next step was to setup my table saw to make the cove cut. I set my blade height to match the arc of the drawn cove then skewed the fence so the blade entered and exited the cut at the two points of my profile (shown in the insert photo). Above you can see the long fence as it is skewed to produce the cove that I needed.

IMG_0334Take a look at the end results as the pieces are complete at the table saw. My cove is offset to one edge of the stock. It is this beefier edge that becomes the thumbnail area. With my fence back in use, I set the blade angle to 30 degrees. My first cut was with the stock standing vertical to my fence and the cove facing the fence. This removed the extra material at the top, back edge so my molding fit tight to the waist of the clock. A second cut, with my cove facing up, produced the flat area that fit to the top edge of the base section. Below you can see the results.

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Next I moved to my router table to form the thumbnail. As I mentioned above, you cannot use a round-over bit to make the thumbnail unless you run your stock inverted and you have the router bit set extremely high above your table. It’s dangerous and I do not suggest you work that way. Instead, look at other router bits you have at hand. I have a 1/2″ bead bit that is perfect for this operation. In the photo below you see how I have the bit set to cut using only the top half of the profile. You also see a neat trick when you do not have a fence that offsets.

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Calculate the amount of material removed as you make your cut, then on the out-feed side of your fence, clamp a scrap that is sized to the exact thickness. As the cut is made, your molding runs tight to the scrap and is supported throughout the cut.

A little light clean-up work and my new cove molding was ready to fit to the clock. I mitered the two corners then added a small bead along the top edge to complete the profile shown in the opening photo. While this takes some calculations to get the profile to perfectly fit into position, it is way faster than making the molding with hollows and rounds.

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Build Something Great!

Glen

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Router Surprise

I own a few routers. Most have cords, but I do have a router plane, too. Over time, I have come to use trim routers whenever possible. This past week while I was working on a bunch of mallet inserts, I made a discovery.

The photo above is of a small jig I created to rout a handle area into half of the assembled insert. A small block (each milled to the exact thickness, length and width) is slide into the jig then a pattern bit, installed in one of my trim routers, clears away the balance of the waste – this is step three of many steps to complete the inserts.

As each pair of routed pieces come out of the jig, I use a fractional dial caliper to measure the opening. In the past when I would make these pieces, I had measurements all over the place. I had to retract the bit depth every so often to keep the measurements within a usable guideline. It wasn’t clear what was going on. The router bit was not slipping – I have a phobia about this, so I make sure to install the bit and tighten the collet correctly. The adjustment was not a problem, but I had to keep an eye on things.

This week, as I checked each pair coming out of the jig, there was no adjustments made. From start to finish, pieces came out right. Of course, this caused me to wonder. Then it hit me. The only difference between this time and the other times when I made sporadic adjustments was the trim router used. Bingo, that must be the problem.

As shown in the opening photo, this time I use a DeWalt DWP611, which has become one of my favorite small routers. Previous times I used my Ridgid R2401. It seems my Ridgid trim router was slipping as I used it. Not the bit out of the collet as you may expect, but the motor was sliding down into the adjustable base.

I have to admit that I have used the dog out of my Ridgid router, so I don’t want to give the wrong impression. Until the DeWalt came along it’s the router I used for everything except pattern routing with a 3/4″-diameter bit. I use it so much that the bearings in my Ridgid are wearing out and the added vibration may be the cause of the unwanted slippage.

There is a fix for my problem and this is why I am bringing this to your attention. Under the clamp lock there is a nut that tightens to increase the hold. I have adjusted that nut and should no longer see any creeping of the motor. It’s important to check your small power tools on occasion just as you check your woodworking machines.

I am not going to toss my Ridgid.  No, I plan to use this router for regular routing of moldings and the like instead of operations that have critical measurements required. In fact, at $89 from Home Depot, I may purchase another to have in reserve.

Build Something Great!
Glen

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Powered-up, Super-thin Dovetail Pins

I have not spent many hours in the shop this past week. Had a photo shoot on Tuesday for a Popular Woodworking Magazine article (more on that upcoming), then spent the balance of the week preparing for my classes at Woodworking in America – West Coast which begins on October 12th. As a result, I am responding to a few email questions. After numerous requests, I am posting this dovetail pin video. (It’s the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.) When I moved sites I dropped the collection of router videos that resided on my homepage. If you are an old friend, you have seen today’s video. If you’re new to Woodworker’s Edge, it is new to you.

Build Something Great!

Glen D. Huey

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A Move Toward the Dark Side

This week I found myself moving toward the dark side. I installed bench holes so I could use a holdfast. Why a holdfast? I am working on a piece that has 10 drawers – 10 hand-cut dovetail drawers. I couldn’t stand the idea of turning an F-style clamp that many times, so I opted for the holdfast.

To use a holdfast meant that I needed to add a couple through-holes to my bench. (My Shaker-style bench has a bank of drawers underneath, so I did not drill the original holes completely through the top.) For this operation I used a plunge router and 3/4″-outside diameter router bit. When I posted this technique while at Popular Woodworking Magazine, I didn’t include where I found the router bits. I will not make that mistake again. I have two sources for 3/4″ up-cut spiral router bits. The first is Lee Valley & Veritas (item #86J01.42). A second source is Woodcraft (item #03K53). Also, the holdfast is from toolsforworkingwood.com. (Here’s a link)

Below is a short video that shows the process. It is too easy!

Build Something Great!

Glen

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Dovetail Evolution

If you have ever attended one of my woodworking classes or a seminar on joinery, you probably have been bored to tears by my dovetail story. Or you laughed out loud. Just as my mind has, my dovetail work has evolved. As I began building furniture, I knew that I would have to dovetail if I had any hope of selling my work.

My first dovetail chapter included an old Sears template guide that produced perfectly sized, perfectly shaped dovetails with identically sized pins and tails – the kind used on kitchen cabinets. Ugh! Phase two brought about a better dovetail jig. With it, I decided that half-blind pins and tails were too difficult to set up, so I built drawer fronts from 1/2″-thick  stock then applied a 1/4″-thick shaped drawer front (kitchen cabinet construction was still in my blood). That process worked until a customer noticed the half-ass technique and verbally chastised me during the delivery. After a bit more trouble with fingers moving, I gave up jigs and succumbed to hand-cut pins and tails. I defined each pin and tail with a dovetail saw cut, then chop out waste with a chisel.

After some considerable hand-cut experience, I remembered that I was in business to make a profit. Hand-cut dovetails are period correct, but the process is slow when every minute has to earn dollars. As I discovered a way to cut the pins using my band saw and an angled platform as shown the photo above, my dovetails evolved again. I could power-cut the pins, but continued to chop away waste using my chisels. My tail boards were produced using the same techniques, but without an angled platform.

This method of dovetails produced perfect angled cuts that detracted, at least to my eye, from the hand-cut look I wanted. It was time for another evolution. This time I decided to hand-cut the pins and tails, but use a power tool to hog away the waste as depicted in the opening photo. This provides a hand-cut look – I am sawing the actual pins and tails – as the angles and the width of pins and tails different. It also provides a time savings due to the quick removal of waste when creating pins – waste between the tails is either nibbled away while at my band saw, or it is chopped out using chisels and a mallet.

If you’re not quite clear on this technique, below is a short video. You tell me, is this still a hand-cut dovetail joint, or is this a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Leave a comment below.

Build Something Great!

Glen

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