A pox on epoxy

So the glue up of the side panels didn’t go quite as planned, most because one of the panels twisted. The cawls helped a lot, but there is still a minor twist in it. I had considered building a new side panel, but I think I’m going to persevere with it for now. I see a lot of clamping my future!

I also had a minor blow with some epoxy. I don’t use a lot of epoxy, so I’ve been buying the 5 minute stuff that comes in the twin syringe so you get equal doses of resin and hardener. Except I don’t think the batch I mixed to seal and stabilize the knots on one of the panels had enough hardener in it or I didn’t mix it enough. I mixed and poured it yesterday evening in preparation for today’s day in the shop, and came down this morning to a goey mess. The hole I sealed on the other panel was fine so I know the epoxy itself was good, but I had mixed the batches separately. I’ve managed to clean off the resin from the panel and I’ll have another go at sealing the holes. I’ve sanded the side panels with some 80 grit as it’s easier to do that whilst it’s flat. This has removed the majority of the epoxy mess, but my sander is too big to fit in the flat panel so I’m going to have to have another go by hand. I’ll probably sand all the way up to 220 in preparation of finishing as it’ll be easier to do before the glue up.

With the rabbets in the side panel done (very easy on my new router table :), I’ve glued up some panels for the top and bottom of the carcass to the desired width.

I finished today laying out the dadoes for the shelves. Next week, I’ll route the dadoes and resaw the stock for the shelves and dividers. If I have time, I’ll glue up the main carcass.

Epilogue

So my re-working of the epoxy has improved the situation for the long dark streak but the two holes that had already been filled by epoxy, I wasn’t so lucky. They were rather deep and I didn’t take the old epoxy which it turns out was a mistake. Overnight the old epoxy half hardened and had gone white. So I spent an hour digging out the old epoxy and cleaning out the holes ready to be refilled. I’ll try again to fill the holes again tonight.

The long dark streak through the middle of the board caused by a branch coming out from the trunk which I’d stabilized with epoxy. Epoxy is gap filling meaning as you apply it, it will flow into gaps. I pasted a layer of epoxy on the dark streak which set good and hard. Ordinarily I’d use my random orbit sander to remove the excess, but the panel is too narrow to get the sander in and anyway the round disc won’t go into the corners. So I’ve resorted to using a utility knife blade to remove the excess and whilst I’m at it used it as a cabinet scraper to smooth the surface. This is very effective and can get wood smoother than 220 grit sand paper. If I had a proper cabinet scraper it would be quicker and more efficient.

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A new shop tool and a new project

With all the Christmas presents out of the way, it’s time to start work on some projects for myself. I’ve started with a router table. A router is essentially an electric motor with a collet to hold different shaped bits at 90° to a base plate. Typically the shank (or shaft) of the bit is either 1/4″ or 1/2″. I have a couple of routers, one of which can do either sized router bit. It’s an amazingly flexible tool. The router is often used as a hand held tool for example putting a shaped edge on a work piece – known as taking the tool to the work piece. However sometimes you need to take the work piece to the tool. A good example of this using the cope and stick router bits I got from Freud.

The two bits on the left are used to make rails and styles for a raised panel door.

You notice the grain at the top of the door is running horizontally which is a rail, and the style runs down the side of the door. The router can make the cope and stick joinery with ease. You can see in the image below how the two pieces go together:

The bit set can put a really nice profile on the styles. None of this would be possible without a router table. The router is spinning the hunk of metal at around 15,000 rpm so it just isn’t safe.

It’s a good idea to do the end grain on the rails first. Cutting wood across the grain often results in tear out. This occurs where the fibers of the wood aren’t cut cleanly, especially if the tool is dull or hasn’t been cleaned recently. The rails also need the same profile as the styles, and you can remove a lot of the tear out.

The rails are only 4″ long and with that much torque they could easily be whipped out of my hands, possibly injuring me in the process. So I’ve built a coping sled. The table has a mitre slot running parallel to the edge of the table, allowing me to run sleds or a mitre gauge down the slot. The coping sled is just a thin piece of ply wood with a runner on the bottom, and a fence at the back set at 90º to the mitre slot. The plywood is small enough that it keeps away from the router bit. It can also be used to help prevent tear out by putting in a piece of scrap in behind the work piece.

As a test of the new router table, I’ve decided to build a small portable apothecary cabinet.

Sketchup of Apothecary Cabinet

You can find the Sketchup file in the media folder, or here.

The side panels are exposed in the sketchup so you can see the shelves more clearly. Each space inside the cabinet will have a drawer. I’ve not yet decided about the joinery for those just yet, but I am leaning towards machined dovetails (seeing as I have a dovetail jig). I’m going to put a secret bottom into the base. I have some magnets I removed from some failed hard drives which I’ll epoxy in place and the can grab onto some screws placed on glue blocks on the underside of the cabinet. That’ll let me adjust the depth of the panel. The panel will be able to be pushed out by removing the bottom draw and pushing a finger through a 3/4″ hole.

The main carcass will be made from red oak, though I’ve been inspired by The Woodwhisperer’s Fancy Raised panel, so I’m going to attempt that for the doors, using some soft maple for the panels, and red oak overlaying the top. I’ve used the same cope and stick router bits to create the side panels for the carcass, but use flat pieces instead of raised panels. I thought that using raised panels on the side would detract from the overall look. I haven’t yet decided on a finish, though I’m leaning towards either Danish oil, or shellac and poly. I’m more comfortable with shellac and poly, and the cold weather is going to make applying the oil more complicated due to very limited amount of time in a warm shop.

My challenges for this project will include trying to use my table saw or jointer as little as possible as it’s -10c (12F) in my barn workshop which I feel makes it unsafe. I’m limited therefore to portable power tools, my planer, my drill press, mitre saw and bandsaw. I’ve not done much resawing before, so that’s going the fun.

The wood came to me second hard as 12/4 stock, and I’d managed to get some of it milled up before the cold weather set in. I’ve got a new 1/2″ 3 tooth per inch (TPI) blade in my bandsaw which is making resawing pretty easy going, even with my little 1/2HP bandsaw. I’ve been resawing the pieces, then running both pieces of stock through the bench top planer to smooth the surfaces off and bring the work piece sides back to flat and parallel and remove the washboard saw marks

So far I’ve milled and glued up the two side panels for the carcass. As I was finishing gluing the second panel I noticed a problem with it as it was twisting significantly. As the glue was still wet, I put some cauls diagonally across the panel to straighten them out. Time will tell how much of an issue that will be:

Andrew’s _IMG_0875 Andrew’s _IMG_0874 Andrew’s _IMG_0876

The other panel is fine:

Andrew’s _IMG_0878 Andrew’s _IMG_0877
The glue has been drying for a couple of days so they’ll be done by Saturday ready for the next step in the project: routing the slots of the shelving, and the rabbets for the top and bottom panels and re-saw the wood for the top and bottom panels.

The shelves are only 1/4″ thick. I want to do stopped dadoes for the shelves, but I don’t have a 1/4″ chisel. My current plan is to round over the leading edge of the shelves so they fit in the dado left by the router. I’ve already taken the panels out of the clamps and it’s looking pretty good. One of the rails isn’t quite right but I can clean that up with a plane.

The plan for my next session:

  • Clean up the panels I just glued to insure the tops of the panels are square. I noticed one of the rails is not quite in place. Should be able to clean that up with a hand plane and a little sanding. Also some of the rails aren’t quite flush with the styles, so some sanding will be required.
  • Cut the rabbets in the top and bottom of the side panels. This will determine how thick the top and bottom panels will need to be. The plan says 1/2″, but it’s going to be decided by the rabbets. I have a couple of 3/8 rabbeting bits, so that’ll probably do quite nicely. I can cut them on the router table with the coping sled and a backer board to prevent tear out.
  • Re-saw some more stock. I’m going to need some for the top and bottom panels, and the shelves which are 1/4″ thick. It’s all going to need gluing up as I know the stock I have isn’t wide enough.

I don’t know if I’m going to have much more time than that, but if I do then I’ll need to route the slots in the side panels to accept the shelves. I won’t be able to route the slot in the top of the carcus for the divider because the glue up won’t be dry in time. I will also need some more stock for the base and the molded piece at the bottom. I’ve already glued up the the molded piece for the top. I’m not going to cut that down any further until the rest of the cabinet is finished.

Winter is no long coming – it’s arrived

With a light dusting of snow on the ground, the shop relocation has begun in earnest. Some tools can’t be relocated. My beloved tablesaw will have to remain up in the barn. It’s too big to get in the shop without dismantling it, and even if I did get it in over muddy ground I wouldn’t be able to do anything else in the shop, there just isn’t enough room. Similarly, the jointer will have to stay up in the barn. I don’t use it often enough to justify trying to move that hunk of cast iron down the slope. Like the tablesaw, it will have to remain in the barn and I’ll just have to clear a path in the inevitable snow bank when I want to get up there to joint something. To prep them both for winter I’ve applied a thick coat of paste wax to help prevent the surfaces from rusting. It won’t stop it completely and I noted that it had already begun a little on my table saw. Time will tell how effective that will be.

However, the bandsaw, the compound sliding mitre saw, the planer and drill press have come down. Apart from the planer, they are on their own stands and don’t take up a lot of space. I might end up putting the drill press on wheels as it’s in the corner of the room, but I haven’t yet decided. In another corner of the room, I still haven’t got rid of the ancient wood burning cook stove. It weighs too much to put out during spring/autumn clean up. Currently it has a pile of junk on it. I really ought to clear that off to use as an assembly area. The stove is a little short for me to use as a workbench for power tools, but I could use it for glue ups and putting finish on projects. Next to the stove I’ve lined up the mitre saw on it’s stand. There’s enough space I can cut down most lengths of wood. Anything longer than I currently have space for and I can open the door to the mudroom. I also have my old Black and Decker Workmate workbench. It’s very low which is ok for hand tools, but a PITA for power tools. I’ve found some blocks of wood I can put under the feet to raise the level up to a more manageable height. I’ve also got a slab of pine which came from the top of an Ikea chest of drawers which recently self destructed. It’s surprisingly flat and the vise in the workbench means I can clamp the top down when I want to use it and break it down when I need the space to do something else. With the work top in place, it almost doubles the work space on the top which is far more usable.

There are still a few tools in the barn, but that’s going to have to wait till I finish my current project: My contribution to the Wood Workers Fighting Cancer build for 2013. This year it’s a “Young Artist’s Easel”. I’m building it from some red oak I picked up earlier this year from Kijiji. Most of the consignment came as 12/4 stock, which meant ripping a lot down to 3/4″ stock.

When saw mills are cutting lumber from the trees the wood is never dry at that stage. They cut it by 1/4″ increments. 12/4 is 3″ wide when they cut it. However at that point it will begin to dry and in so doing will shrink, twist and bow. My 12/4 red oak is rough sawn, the same as if it just came from the saw mill. The good news about this stock is that because it’s thick, there isn’t a lot of bowing and twisting. There’s some cupping but not a lot, and it can be quickly cleaned up on the jointer. Having milled some of the oak, I was able to cut it down ready for the project. After making a lot of saw dust, I realised the fence on my saw was misaligned. The distance at the back of the blade was closer by around 1/8th” (a little over 3mm). This is potentially very dangerous. The blade on the saw rotates, so the front of the blade pushes down against the table top, but the back of the blade has nothing stopping the blade from lifting the work piece up and causing “kickback” (NB: Do NOT watch this video if you are at all squeemish. There’s no blood but it freaks me out every time I watch this one). Fortunately I always use the blade guard on my saw unless I absolutely have to (which is incredibly rare). From now on I’m going to pay a lot more attention to the fence alignment. But because of that alignment there were a lot more saw marks on the surfaces than I really should have to deal with a sander. Most of that was cleaned up with the planer.

Having cut down a lot of the wood, I realise there are quite a few splits and the odd know. Some are terminal, others are repairable with epoxy resin. This is why the wood was a cheap as it was. This has slowed the project down quite a bit as I’ve had to replace the odd piece, and other times I’ve had to wait for the epoxy to harden. I’ve gone through nearly a syringe of epoxy too. With all the parts cut to size, I had a decision to make. Should I brave the cold temperatures, or try to cut them with my router. I’ve had some success with the table saw so I figured it was time to try a different technique. After all when the snow falls in earnest I will want to spend as little time as I possibly can with my table saw, so I opted for the router method. The bandsaw can be used to cut the ends of half laps, but not so useful in the centre of pieces.

When gluing two wood surfaces together, ideally you want to join them so that long grain is facing each other. Either running in the same direction as each other, or in the case of the half lap joint running perpendicular to each other. A half lap joint is very strong because of this grain direction and a quick joint to cut. It’s also not a very complicated joint, but it’s also not a particularly pretty joint. The mortise and tenon joint is stronger and prettier, but more complicated to cut.

Image

Having marked out the joint on the surfaces, I proceeded to cut the half laps. Things didn’t go quite according to plan and all the joints are a little sloppy. I’m hoping long term this isn’t going to be a problem. Some practice required! However, the surface areas are quite large and I’m sure they’ll hold. If it falls apart, there are always screws!

After the glue dried, I went on a mammoth sanding session during which I sprained my left thumb with the random orbit (RO) sander. The RO sander is superior to other sanders because the patterns left by the sand paper don’t immediately attract the human eye as a repeating pattern. It’s there but no where near as obvious as palm sanders and way better than the belt sander. The sander is just about big enough to fit in my hand but it stretches my thumb a little. Once you turn it on, then the vibrations impact the muscles and tendons by vibrating them like the sandpaper. I think I might need to manufacture a handle to make it more comfortable to use in the future – not too difficult with a bandsaw and some plywood.

All the pieces are now sanded so I cut the rabbet needed to take the boards. This is quick and easy with a rabbeting bit and the router. Put the rabbeting bit in the router collet. Drop the bit down so the cutting edge is flush with the base of the router. To set the depth of cut, use something with a known thickness between the depth stop and the depth stop turret. Often people will use finely engineered set up bars, milled to thousands of an inch. I don’t have them, but I do have a LOT of drill bits with a huge range of widths. They work well enough for this kind of purpose. The work pieces are 3/4″ thick so I used a 3/8″ drill bit to set the depth stop. Using the turret I cut it in two passes. This makes the work easier on the tool, on the router bit itself and I’m less likely for the bit to tear out the wood. The router I used was the heavier of my two routers which on reflection was a mistake as it was more difficult to control. If I were to do this again, I’d use the lighter router as it is less likely to tip off the narrow pieces. It has enough power, but it’s currently sat on a shelf in the barn still. With the rabbets cut I now have the sizes for the boards. I cut those on my table saw. I finished the day’s work by putting a coat of primer on the surfaces of the boards. This is oil based and has stunk out my workshop. Respirators FTW!

Now the primer is dried, I need to give the boards a light sanding and a second coat of primer. The surface is a little rough with quite pronounced grain pores, so it may take a few coats and sanding between coats to smooth that out. Finally I’ll apply a couple of coats of blackboard paint.

Craftex CT052 tool review

Craftex CT052
I’ve only cut a couple of sets of dovetails with the jig, but enough to give an overview of set up etc. Until now I’ve not attempted cutting dovetails in any other way, with power tools or by hand.

This is a review of the Craftex CT052 dovetail jig. It is designed to accommodate pieces up to 12″ in size. I got mine on special offer from Busybee Tools for $80 (+tax) CAD.

The Craftex CT154 can go up to 24″ and is available for $189 (+tax) CAD, although at the time of writing there was a $20 off sale.

Both these jigs allow you to cut both pins and dovetails at the same time on the same pass.

Some people online have commented that whilst they may own a cheap dovetail jig, they’ve usually hated the things for some reason. It maybe because they have found them difficult to set up, or they are not very flexible. Having watched the video (see the link below), I found the set up pretty easy. I would however agree that they aren’t very flexible.

Out of the box
Out of the box a minimal amount of assembly is required. There are two clamp levers that need installing, and two thumb screws on the side. When you screw the clamp levers on, make sure you screw them in the right way round so that when the clamps are applied the long handles don’t obscure your work. (Which is what I did when I first put it together). The thumb screws on the side prevent the template gantry from moving during routing.

There are a number of templates available usually for around the $25 CAD mark, but it comes with a 1/2″ blind dovetail template already installed.

Build quality
The body is made from steel, and has quite a bit of weight to it. There are two holes in the metal at the back feet you can screw onto you bench or into a piece of plywood. The feet aren’t big enough to use to clamp the jig to the bench. That said, I’ve used the jig a couple of times and I’ve not really noticed movement to be a massive problem. The only time the jig moved was during the initial scoring cut, where you’re moving laterally across your stock.

There are a number of plastic parts which are for the most part fine. My only gripe on this front are the four stop blocks used to place the pieces in the jig. They are made of plastic, when they really should have been made of aluminum or steel. They are such an integral part where accuracy is needed. That said they are fine for now. I might replace them later if I really see a need.

Set up
Confession: I’ve not read the manual. I did watch the video (see the link below) and found that to be an awesome guide. Mark Eaton from BusyBees does a good job of walking you through the set up. I don’t have set up bars that Mark uses, but a 1/4″ and 1/2″ drill bit do a good enough job of getting everything in the right place.

My only criticism of the video is that during the setup half, it doesn’t discuss the fence at all. The fence is only mentioned very briefly at the very end of the video.

I do like Mark’s phrase for ensuring your router bit is set to the right depth:
“Heighten to tighten, Lower to Loosen”
If your dovetails are not tight enough, raise the router bit. Too tight, lower it. As with all jigs, some test cuts are needed to get things right.

Cutting my first set
I positioned the two pieces of stock in the clamps, vertical pieces first. There is a little frustration in positioning the vertically mounted pieces. Gravity has a way of taking hold! Mount the vertical pieces first, tweaking the screws on the clamp to hold the pieces in place before locking the clamp down. If you are doing a small box/drawer you will find that you can only mount the short pieces in the vertical mounts. My test pieces had a 5″ side, which is too short to go in the horizontal mounts.

The video recommends doing a gentle scoring cut on both work pieces first to help with tear out. I don’t know if it was the cheap pine I was using, or I didn’t do enough of a score, or it’s the jig, but I found a little tear out on the right hand side of both sides of the cuts. More attempts will with harder wood may tell.

Having cut the first set of pins and tails I removed them from the jig and noticed my first problem. The fit was tight enough that I needed to use a mallet to push the pieces together (perhaps a little too tight as it might squeeze all the glue from the joint).

As I’d been following the video, and didn’t really understand what the fence was for, my tails were cut too deep, resulting in the tails sinking too deep into the box by just under 1/8″. This resulted in me sanding off the extraneous tails. Not a problem with a box, but if your drawer needs to fit in gap, you’ll be 1/4″ too narrow. Once you’ve done one test cut, you can see how much you need to move the fence by and then use setup bars (or in my case, drill bits) to help with that placement.

I then made the mistake of not watching which way round I was putting the vertical pieces back into the jig, and cut the pins the wrong way round, resulting in a question mark shaped “box”. Lesson learned.

I also found that one of the stops on the left hand side of my jig was not in quite the right place, resulting in a step between the two pieces. So I wouldn’t have been able to complete my first box anyway.

Second cut
I went back through the very easy set up of the left hand side of the jig, and proceeded to make my second set of cuts. Everything went smoothly although again there was a little tear out on the right hand side – which makes me think it’s my technique and will probably be resolved with practice.

The resulting box (which I have glued up, but not taken pictures of) is square without any need to tweak the joints. I did note that the second cut was far looser than the first. So much so I was very surprised when it came out square first time!

Reflections
Dust collection – none. I was sprayed with pine fibers from head to toe. It wouldn’t be hard to create a shroud around the jig. I might make one if I find myself using it a lot. There’s no point in putting a shroud on the tool itself as you need to use a guide bushing, and the router rides on the template meaning there’s very limited air flow.

Quick to set up. I managed it with the video guidance in an hour or so if you include the time to reset the left hand guide blocks.

It is very limited. You can only cut even spaced 1/2″ dovetails. This can mean the edge of your project can have half a pin exposed on one of the corners. This means you either put up with it (or arrange it so all the halves are concealed in some way), or design your project with this in mind.

Conclusions
Generally I like the jig.

  • It was very easy to set up.
  • You can cut both pins and tails at the same time making work very quick. This adds to the limitations of the jig, but at the moment it suits me.
  • The video is worth its weight in gold. It gave me a lot of confidence to try to fix things when they didn’t quite fit.

That said, it is very limited (see above):

  • I wish the setup blocks were not made of plastic. Otherwise the build is of reasonable quality given the cost.
  • You can only cut half-inch, evenly spaced, half blind dovetails – which means there is a tendency to design the work around the jig.
  • If you don’t already have a half-inch dovetail bit, and a 7/16ths outside diameter guide bushing. I happened to already have both of those so I wasn’t more out-of-pocket than the $80 I spent.

What next?
I might actually have to read the manual.

I’m going to build a few boxes with hard wood. I’ve got some cherry and birch which I can play with. I see small boxes for my family for Christmas on the horizon.

Related links:
Instruction video
Craftex CT052 at Busybee Tools
Craftex CT154 at Busybee Tools