My Not-So-Mysterious Benefactor

I don’t spend nearly enough time with my dad. As a fellow maker, he is an enabler in the best sense of the word. He coached me through my first furniture project, which quickly inspired me to set up my own woodworking shop. A shrewd and patient observer of classified ads, he found my 1970s Unisaw in the newspaper and called me one bright spring day to see if I was interested. We had it purchased and in my garage a few hours later.

Not long after, he fabricated a T-square rip fence for me, much like the fence he built for his vintage DeWalt tablesaw. I couldn’t have afforded to buy a commercial system at the time (I asked forgiveness, rather than permission, for spending $150 on the tablesaw), but as with all of the best lessons in making, that was completely beside the point. We went to a local metal supply shop, where I bought the materials. He built it to my specifications, giving support for 18″ extensions on either side of the 34″ cast iron top. It has worked every bit as well as one of those commercial systems, and between the saw and the fence system, I had invested maybe 20% of what I would have spent at the local Woodcraft on a new cabinet saw.

Recently, as I began to plan my workshop reorganization, I decided I wanted one 36″ extension to the right instead of an 18″ extension on each side. I simply took the two 70″ pieces of angled steel off the tablesaw and took them over to my dad’s shop for modification.

Over the past decade, my dad has invested heavily in his metalworking capacity, acquiring a hefty Bridgeport milling machine and a heavy-duty metalworking lathe. After discussing what I had in mind, he swung into action, milling new reliefs for the miter slots and new slotted scew holes for the bolts that would attach the rails to the tabletop.

Dad at his Bridgeport milling machine. This is where the magic happens.

Dad at his Bridgeport milling machine. This is where the magic happens.

After a few hours of milling and conversation, he realized he was doing all the work, and asked if I’d like to take a turn at it. It’s a fantastic machine to operate, with digital readouts in three dimensions. I wish there were two of me so I could dedicate one to mastering this new skill.

It's my turn to run the mill. And to take crappy photos.

It’s my turn to run the mill. And to take crappy photos.

I have my fence reassembled, and soon I’ll make a new extension by laminating two layers of 3/4″ MDF. Meanwhile, though, I need to wrap up my workshop reorganization.

The slot on the left was from a decade ago. The slot on the right, made on my dad's Bridgeport mill, shows the benefit of using the right tool for the job.

The slot on the left was from a decade ago. The slot on the right, made on my dad’s Bridgeport mill, shows the benefit of using the right tool for the job.

I’m incredibly fortunate to have my dad nearby, with his fantastic shop and his patient tutelage. Do you have a metalworking mentor, or a buddy who’s willing to swap favors? If you haven’t found one, may I suggest membership in one of the many maker shops that have sprung up in recent years?

Come together right now (but not over me, please).

A few years ago, I shoved my machines to the back of the shop to focus on hand tool skills. Now that I have a better sense of what I can accomplish with my hand tools, and how efficiently I can accomplish it, I’m ready to let the machines rejoin the party.

Don’t get me wrong; I love my hand tools, and in a fire, I’d still rescue my chest of hand tools before anything else. But since I own a cabinet saw, a jointer, and a thickness planer, all of which I bought used, each in good working condition, I see no sense in letting them sit unused.

As a maker I’ve come to see myself not as a victim of the Industrial Revolution, but as an inheritor of a post-industrial landscape. My 1970s cabinet saw came out of a small fiberglass shop about a mile from the house where I grew up. My thickness planer and jointer came used from hobbyists who were looking to get out. The only major machine I bought new was my 18″ bandsaw, in celebration of my 10th wedding anniversary.

I have my workshop turned upside down right now, about three quarters of the way toward a major reorganization that will bring my tablsaw back into the center of production. My joinery workbench will eventually sit below a north-facing window.

I'll give up some depth in my 14' x 24' garage shop, but I'll gain more-precious width.

I’ll give up some depth in my 14′ x 24′ garage shop, but I’ll gain more-precious width.

Key to this reorganization was to shift all of my wood storage to the West wall, storing full-length boards on end over a raised floor off the concrete surface. I’d helped my dad make something similar for his shop several years ago in his spacious two-car garage, and it turned out to be a much more efficient use of space.

It’s coming together nicely, but I’d forgotten how heavy some of this lumber is. There was a moment, when I’d worn myself out and carried a particularly heavy board to the corner, that I imagined myself pinned beneath the board, unable to call for help. Time to break for dinner.

For my next trick, I’m removing the heavy-duty lumber rack to make room for a shop-built system to store offcuts and sheet goods. I wish I could take credit for this idea, but I have to tip my hat to Frank Howarth, whose wood rack video made me realize how much space I could reclaim in my own shop.

I’m looking forward to a more organized and more efficient workshop in the coming year. What are your woodworking goals for 2015?

Sold: Jet Lock Rip Fence Parts

My 1978 Delta Rockwell Unisaw came standard with a Jet Lock rip fence, but I upgraded to a custom-fabricated t-square rip fence.  I’m parting out the Jet Lock fence for your benefit and mine.

Update: I’m reaching the point where I’d rather have the space than the money, so I’ll sell the front clamp assembly, the front and rear rails, and the fence extrusion, all for $30 plus shipping. Standard Post might be the best option.

Front Clamp Casting only. This is the cast-iron body that rides along the front rail. A bargain compared to buying new. $75 marked down to $30.

Front Clamp Pad only. This piece presses against the front rail and pulls the threaded rod that runs through the fence extrusion to tension the back clamp. $30 marked down to $10.

Eccentric. This is the cam wheel that presses against the front clamp pad. The handle screws into this piece. (The handle I have was made by brazing a socket-head set screw to a screwdriver handle – perfectly functional, but not exactly original equipment. I’ll throw it in for free if you want.) $25 marked down to $10.

Front Clamp Assembly

Front Clamp Assembly. If you want the Front Clamp Casting, the Front Clamp Pad, the Eccentric, the Pinion, and the pins to hold everything in place, I’ll knock $30 off the overall asking price. $100 it’s marked down to $40.

Front Clamp Assembly

Front and Rear Rails, with hardware. The rails have an outer diameter of 1 3/8 inches. The overall length of the rails are 44 inches. The front rail is machined for rack-and-pinion adjustment. There are four holes for mounting – the two inner holes are on 16-inch centers. Holes are drilled for 5/16″ fine thread bolts, which are included in the price of the rails. On my saw, the front bolts were received by nuts, while the back bolts were received by tapped holes in the table. $75 marked down to $25.

Jet Lock Rip Fence

Aluminum fence extrusion. Some blade scoring – good for a sacrificial piece? Buy the rails and if you want, I’ll throw in this piece and the threaded rod for free. $5.

To see more tools, click anywhere you see a for sale link.

The fine print:
– To purchase one of these items or to ask a question, please use the contact form below.
– Purchasing is pretty simple. Let me know you want a tool, and I’ll let you know the cost for shipping (Priority Mail Flat Rate unless you request otherwise). Send me that amount via PayPal, and I’ll package and ship your purchase.
– Returns are pretty simple, too. If you’re dissatisfied with the item you receive, let me know. Ship back the unmodified tool at your expense and I’ll refund your original purchase price.

Please Hold for Your Next Available Woodworker

Wednesday morning found me parked in front of the DeWalt Factory Service Center in Lenexa Kansas, waiting for the store to open so I could buy parts for my thickness planer. The manager saw me waiting and invited me in 15 minutes early. I was back on the road by the time the store was supposed to open. What a great guy!

DeWalt Service Center

Why did I need parts? It seems the nut holding the pulley on the cutter head had worked loose, allowing the drive belt to slip and burn through the belt guard.

burning plastic stinks

The belt went on quickly, and while I had everything apart, I decided to make things neat and tidy, cleaning off the mixture of sawdust and lithium grease. I used graphite spray instead of lithium grease. No more gunk!

neat and tidy

Last but not least, the bed got a coat of paste wax.

like a new dime