Posts from the ‘Woodworking’ Category

Work Holding Part 3

When it comes to work holding, Festool products are hard to beat. I have the earlier version of the MFT table which is awesome in the shop or as a portable work bench. Using their clamps, I find it very versatile for sanding, routing and other applications. Certainly beats trying to hold with one hand while using a tool with the other. You can even clamp to the side of the table for edge work.

In the bottom two right pictures you see how I use the Festool clamps on a home made straight edge I use for several things. Recently I have been cleaning up the edge on passage doors using a flush trim router bit. Simply mark your line, line up the rail and clamp from the bottom with no clamp on top I n your way! The T-Track is routed into the board. I have several lengths handy since they are I inexpensive and fairly simple to make to make.


I use a T-slot router bit on a router table for this for this. I find it easier to route the middle part first with a 3/8″ straight bit to hog out material. The router table fence can remain in the same position. Sorry about the picture but you should get the idea.


More to come 0n this subject soon!



Work Holding Part 2

Last time I promised to show how I use a router for T-bolts, a very important part of my work holding methods. Since there are several different methods, your choice will be determined by both your equipment and your personal preference. I find I don’t do this the same way every time, basically because I live in a perpetual state of confusion. Actually, my methods are usually determined by several factors–like how many am I doing, what size are the pieces, or maybe even which of my tools are free at the moment. Unfortunately, some of my methods are not available to everyone. However, you may find them interesting anyway.


As I prepared for this blog, I discovered the method that most of you can do turned out to be the most logical way to do just a few slots. This method is not restricted to just slots for T-bolts either. I use a lot of slots for my jigs. For this you need a plunge router with an edge guide.



I laid out pencil lines to mark the ends of my slots. Usually the length of the slots are not critical so you can eyeball that as you route. Set the plunge depth to just over the thickness of your material. Be sure to clamp on top of a sacrificial board so you don’t ruin your workbench. For safety and convenience, do not attempt with out clamping. You cannot control the router with one hand. I like to do this in multiple passes. It is safer and does a better job. This is very basic for using a plunge router. Be sure and hold the edge guide firmly against the work piece. I know some of this I information is a bit basic, but I want anyone to be able to do this no matter what there experience level is.


This is what you end up with. This slot is done with a 3/8″ straight router bit. Then I changed to a 1/2″ bit to router the other side for the T-bolt head. Flip the work piece, clamp the piece and with the edge guide in the same position and referenced off the same edge route just deeper than the thickness of the bolt head.


I also use my router table for this application. I use the Woodpecker Sidewinder router lift. Unfortunately it has been discontinued. I choose it because you can raise the bit through the work piece with it in position. JessEm Tools makes a lift you can raise from the side, available from Woodcraft. I am not sure if anyone else does at this point. I used to have to drill a hole at the beginning of the slot and position over the router bit to start the slot.


I placed tape with pencil marks to show the start and stop positions marked on the work piece


With the bit running I can raise it with the side crank through the piece. Be very aware of the bit position and keep your hands away. The feather board helps maintain control as the bit plunges from the bottom. This method is similar to the first in principal. I frequently use a sled for very small pieces which I will cover in a later blog.


I use my Torque Work Center often for this, but since there are so few of these machines in the US, I won’t go into detail for this method. You can see this machine in some of my previous blogs.

And finally, you can just drill a series of overlapping holes with a drill press and clean out with a chisel, rasp, or file. Of course this is my least favorite method for obvious reasons! I did not show this because it seemed like too much work, although I have actually done this in the past.

I hope you find this informative and as always, let me know if you have questions.

I intend on doing a video soon to cover this more in depth if anyone is interested.


Work Holding


Last time I promised a blog on work holding. This subject has almost become an obsession with me the last few years. I got tired of making do with  c clamps and other ways to clamp something firmly and safely. I grew up in a shop where safety was not always a big priority and as a result saw numerous accidents over the years. Working in production for years influenced my thinking to do things safely, but yet maintain a certain amount of speed. In the next few blogs I would like to share some of what I do to make my life easier while keeping my fingers I intact. There is a reason at 64 years old, I still have all mine!


This time I would like to show the various ways I use toggle clamps. These are readily available from Woodcraft, Rockler and multiple other sources. They come in a variety of styles and sizes, so you can always find one that suits your needs. The first picture shows a coping sled I built for some glass grills for passage doors. It is the same doors I showed in the last blog. Notice the base on the clamp. These, as well as the handle, came from Rockler. Until I discovered these, I typically screwed the clamps to my jig. That is fine for a permanent jig like this one, but for multifunction jigs you end up with a lot of screw holes.2016-09-24-08-25-56

On this jig I have routed a T-slot which allows the clamp to be positioned anywhere by simply loosening the knobs. Because of the style of toggle, this one was raised with a block to allow for the thickness of the work piece. The grills on the last doors I built had some pieces about 1 1/2″ wide and 8″ long with a 5/8″ wide profile on each side. There was no way I am putting my fingers that close to the shaper cutter. The example is not the actual piece. They were much smaller. Now the task becomes a piece of cake!



The cutter is not  for this application.  I just needed to get pictures to show the clamps

Next time I will share some of the other ways I use toggles, and how I route the t-track.


Thanks for looking!

General CNC 40-915X


I have recently become a dealer for General’s CNC Machines. I sold my first one on the condition that I would set it up and assist in training the new owner how to operate both the machine and the software. The machine itself is ready to go out of the box. Basically, unpack and find a place to put it–preferably something solid. Needless to say–there is a learning curve with the software and operation of the machine. After some initial issues with getting the software loaded and working (and consulting wih General’s “amazing  technicians” –their words, not mine, although he was helpful) I got it working. After that the iPicture 1.2 software that drives the machine was actually very user friendly (the software’s friendly, not the user–I’m a grump) This machine comes with a CD which includes a lot of gray scale drawings, ready to load into iPicture and carve. This process is quite simple.


I will go into greater detail in a later blog on using the software. Once you enter the artwork you wish to carve and save the G-code, it is simply a matter of saving to a flash drive. You then insert the flash drive into the machine and go through a quick process to prepare the machine for carving. Trust me, if I can do this and carve something that quickly, it is  not rocket surgery!IMG_2769IMG_2770

These are two of the many drawing provided to get you started.IMG_2768

The General also comes with Artcam Express, allowing you to create your own custom carvings. The learning curve can be a challenge, especially if you are not familiar with art programs, but there are several tutorials available to help you learn. I would highly recommend watching some before you tackle your first project.


This is my first attempt  at designing in Artcam Express. The background texture and the rose are provided in the software. You can also import pictures and images to create your own. Again, I intend to address this in a later blog.



Festool Rotex 125

Whenever Festool is mentioned, there are always two totally different responses. One is–I absolutely love it and can’t wait until I can buy more of their products, and two–it is way overpriced and there is no way I’ll ever spend that much on a power tool! My answer to either is the same as my blog on tool value. Maybe, just maybe, both answers are actually very valid, depending on your needs. I do ask though, have you actually used the tool?  Being a professional woodworker for most of my life, I tend to look for the best tools I can find, unless it is truly a one time special job, and then I will rethink that. Often cheap tools have cost me much more in the long run.

Now, back to the Rotex 125. This is certainly not a cheap sander, but having used it, I would highly recommend it if you need a versatile, hardworking tool. While I use other Festool sanders, the RO 125 could be the only sander you own, and not be a sacrifice at all. Since getting the sander, I have basically retired my Porter Cable belt sander. I don’t miss the noise or the dust at all. Even using dust collection, I could sand for 5 minutes and come away covered inside and out with dust. As with any Festool sander, when using with one of their dust collectors, there is virtually no dust, even after a prolonged sanding session. The tool is smooth (when in the fine sand mode) and feels great in your hands. It can be used one-handed, but I recommend using both. The balance is better.

I have been working on quite a few boxes lately, and have been thrilled with the results using my Rotex. I can do a complete box without ever-changing sanders. I am starting with 60 grit paper to get the joints, splines and mill marks cleaned up, and working my way up to 220 grit. With the hook and loop pads, the paper changes are quick, and the paper can be reused until worn out. Using the aggressive mode with the flick of a switch, I quickly cut the surface down flat with out the frequent dips from my belt sander. The size of the 5″ pad is perfect for what I do. Having also used the 6″ RO 150, this sander is better for me.

Then we are back to the original question–Is it worth it? In my opinion–yes!!! 

Over the years I have gone through multiple sanders, and without a doubt, Festool beats them all. And when you look at buying an expensive belt sander and a random orbit sander too, then maybe the price is not necessarily so high after all. With the added value of unmatchable dust collection, I ask my self why I waited so long. I love their stackable Systainers too! It makes transport and storage so much better. Come to think of it, I have yet to find anything I don’t like about my RO 125.



New Website

For the last year, I have been spending much of my spare time developing my new line of custom boxes. This is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. Each “kreation” comes alive with it’s own distinct personality. I get a thrill with the completion of each box. With the availability of so many types of wood, there is no end to the possibilities one can come up with. This is a small sample of my work. I hope you will check out my website. Maybe you will find something you can’t live without.

Thanks for looking.


Tool Value

Obviously, it has been a while since I have posted. Summer time brings a lot of yard work and other activities, but I would certainly prefer to be in my shop working on a fun project. It seems like just about the time I got my shop somewhat organized, I was pulled in another direction.

However, woodworking and tools remains on my mind. Frequently we all read comments online defending tool purchases. Some are thrilled because the tool was cheap. Others, because they bought the absolute best tool made.

My question then is, was it a good value? My moto has been, cheap tools are the most expensive tools you can buy. This is based on my years of experience having bought some real junk early on in my career. If they don’t do the job properly, or the fail after little use, I consider that a poor purchase. In woodworking, is the quality of cut what you need to produce your work? Is the accuracy there. How much exta time do you spend using poor qualiy tools, or maybe the wrong tool? These questions must be answered on an individual basis. It doesn’t even come down to whether you are a pro or a hobbyist. What, and how much are you building?  What quality level are you after? And then, the all important question is–How much can you spend? What are your priorities. Are you setting up a shop from the ground up? Or are you upgrading tools, or maybe building projects that call for tools you don’t already have?

I frequently hear Harbor Freight purchases defended on the premise that ” I only need it one time”. In that case, that may be a valid arguement for feeling that a really cheap tool is the best value. Personally, I can’t bring myself to buy their power tools no matter how cheap the are. This is not to say that I would never buy other tools from them. I consider some of their products a decent value for me at times. Those who have seen my shop would consider me a tool snob. I guess I couldn’t argue that. I own a lot of really high end tools, especially Bridge City Toolworks products. Are these good value? I can’t say that they are, but I felt they were worth it to me. I absolutely love using these tools. It gives me a great deal of satisfaction. Do I need them to produce good quality work? No, although they do inspire me to work at a higher level. Some people fish and hunt. I buy tools!

I believe Festool is another example to bring up. Whenever the name is mentioned online, there are always  negative comments, usually based on price alone, and so often by those who have never used or even seen the tools in person. Are they “value”. This is a question each individual must ask. Personally I think they are. Are all my tools Festool? Unfortunately not. I can’t afford to go out and replace all my tools, no matter how good they are. Even if I had unlimited resources, would I? I can’t even answer that, and probably will never have to. To me though, the engineering that goes into all their tools is superb. The quality of cut and accuracy is fantastic.

Now, back to my question. What is value when it comes to tools? Honestly, the question has no right or wrong answer, though we all have out own opinion. Do you buy on price alone and brag about the deal you got? Or do you buy the best, which most cannot buy, and brag how much better your tools are? The key is to always examine all the factors–amount of use, quality of work, type of work (do you really need Festool to build craft items for a flea market?), How much use will the tool see in it’s lifetime, and so many other things that will influence the decision.

So often I read of those who buy the tool based on the best price. Then they go on and on about the poor adjustments, or lack of power, or even the fit and finish of the tool.( We seem to understand this when it comes to pricing our own work.) If we cannot, or will not pay for qualiy, do we have the right to expect perfection. Our buying habits have forced manufacturers to seek cheaper ways to make their tools. Maybe, just maybe some of the blame lies with us, but that topic is for another day. (And boy, will that open a can of worms!)

Hopefully this will encourage you to really evaluate your tool decisions on multiple factors, not just price, whichever camp you happen to be in. There is certainly some logic on both sides here.

Thanks for looking


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