Blood, Sweat, and Sawdust

Going against the grain

Category: Workshop

The Miter Saw Station

I consider the miter saw to be a rough tool and don’t need a dedicated station for it.  What I need is more storage.  Housing my miter saw and supporting large boards is icing on the cake.

The Design

I scoured the Internet for ideas.  I need good dust collection, therefore a dust shroud is a must.  I need more work surface, so a miter fence is out of the question.  It would only get in the way.  Most importantly, storage is at the top of my priority list, so drawers are better than shelves.  I didn’t find what I was looking for on the Internet, so only a custom design would do.

Miter Station 2

This is the design that I came up with: two separate cabinets, with a miter saw support in the middle.  Each cabinet has four drawers and an open space for larger tools.  A dust hood goes behind the miter saw and between the two cabinets (not shown).

The Build

I built the cabinet bases from 3/4-inch birch plywood.  For the tops, I used 3/4-inch melamine with oak trim.  I made the base runners from 4×4 material, and installed lag bolts for quick leveling of each cabinet.  I constructed the drawer boxes from 1/2-inch Sandeply plywood.  I used cheap drawer pulls and Blum style drawer slides.

With the cabinet’s complete, I began working on the dust hood.  I wasn’t happy with my first design at all.  The saw interfered with the hood, and it missed a lot of dust.  As a result, I moved the dust port lower, and built a larger hood.  I am much happier with my second design.

I hope that this is the last batch of shop cabinets I’ll be making for a while.  With the miter saw station complete, it’s time to start building some furniture!  Stay tuned.

Building the Perfect Router Table

I experienced a love hate-relationship with my small, bench-top router table.  I regretted selling it, but it was a pain to use.  I promised myself that I would build a better one as soon as I got moved into the new shop.  That’s exactly what I did.

Router Table

Finding inspiration in Norm Abram’s Deluxe Router Station, I designed a custom table that exceeds the capabilities of the best pre-built options.  It has an integrated lift and a dedicated motor (no more pulling the motor for plunge duties).  It also has a large top, sturdy fence, and excellent dust collection.  Better yet, it has lots of storage and is completely mobile.

I made the base from 3/4-inch birch plywood.  I constructed the case using dado joints.  This makes a sturdy base that is easy to glue-up.

I made the top by laminating two sheets of MDF and covering that with a thin sheet of laminate.  Then, I trimmed it with oak and cut dados for a miter slot and t-track.  I finished the top by cutting the hole for the router lift.

I enclosed the motor with a small frame-and-panel door.  The frame is from oak and the panel is a small piece of Lexan.  The door is held in place using magnetic door stops.  I love that you can see all the mechanics through the Lexan panel.

The table collects dust using a 4-inch port on the base and a 2.5-inch port on the fence.  I built a small ramp inside the base with a hood below.

So far, I’m very happy with the build.  The Jessem Mast-R-Lift works flawlessly and it’s nice to have a powerful, dedicate router motor.

I have included the SketchUp at the following link: Router Table

Workshop Complete

It’s done; at least as done as a shop can ever be.

I will blow insulation into the attic space and build some storage units.  Aside from that (and the inescapable shop evolution) It is finished.

Completed Workshop

With the help of my awesome father, I moved everything I had in storage into the new workshop.

Clamp Rack

Now I can start building.  Speaking of building, I built an awesome clamp rack.  This one can hold more clamps than my old one and takes up less wall space.  I got the idea from Brad at Fix This Build That.


I also installed a wood rack and fire extinguisher.  I’m considering adding a second extinguisher on the other side of the shop.  You can never be too careful.

I also made up a custom dust fitting for my Minimax Jointer/Planer.  I used a 4″ Fernco fitting and a 5-to-6 inch reducer.  The Fernco fitting fits snug over the 120mm European port.  The 5″ side of the reducer fits over the Fernco fitting.  I used silicon adhesive and HVAC tape to secure the Fernco to the reducer.

For my first project, I will build a custom router table complete with a Jessem Mast-R lift and dedicated motor.

Thanks to everyone who helped me with this project.  I will have a few follow-up posts that relate to the shop build, so stay tuned.

For the rest of the workshop build, check out the garage workshop build index.

Dust Collection: Machine Drops

I intended to publish this post a week ago.  Unfortunately, a nasty cold kicked my butt instead.  I planned to be finishing up new shop cabinets.  Instead, I’m just now starting to feel well enough to get back into the shop.  Such is life.

I planned my duct work for three main machine drops: one on either side, and one in the middle.  Each drop will service at least two tools.  The central drop will service my table saw and jointer/planer.  One side drop contains a floor sweep and flexible port.  The other side will service a miter saw and flexible port.

I was concerned about the stability of the central drop.  So, I secured strut channel to two joists and braced the drop to the strut channel.  This adds a lot of rigidity to the drop and supports some of the weight.   Plus, I think it looks a lot better than using dimensional lumber.

I replaced all of my sheet metal screws with rivets and sealed all the joints with silicone caulk.  I tested the cyclone with the ducting installed and I’m amazed by the suction.  The system is also much quieter with the duct work.  My wife was very happy about this.  I no longer have to worry about making a bed in the shop!

Complete Ductwork-web

I still need to blow insulation into the attic area, build a router table, and miter saw cabinets.  Stay tuned.

For the rest of the workshop build, check out the garage workshop build index.

Dust Collection: Snap-lock Ducting

Snap-lock ducting offers a great compromise between affordability, durability, and ease of install.  Fittings and adapters are easy to find locally and online. The only tools needed are a HVAC crimping tool and an offset tin shear.  I purchased both for less than $25.

I am using Gripple’s Hang-Fast system.  It makes hanging your ductwork a breeze.  Simply, hang the loop on an eye-bolt or j-hook.  Then, slide one end of your wire through the grip.  Loop the wire around and insert it through the other end.  It’s self-locking and can be loosened using a supplied key.  I am very happy with this product and would use it again in a heart-beat.

The straight pipe goes together easy enough.  Cut the pipe to length using a pair of offset shears.  Then, snap the seam together by starting at one end and working down towards the other.  Once snapped together, it helps to drive a self-tapping sheet-metal screw near each end.  You could also use pop rivets.  Finish each section by crimping one end.  The crimped ends should always point back towards the collector.

I secured each section and fitting using a couple of sheet metal screws and then sealed all the seams with clear silicon caulk.

I’m currently about two-thirds of the way complete with my ducting.  Even with ample planning, it’s hard to know exactly what you’ll need until after you get started.  I am short a few fittings and patiently wait for them to arrive.

Stay tuned.

For the rest of the workshop build, check out the garage workshop build index.



Dust Collection: Installing the Super Dust Gorilla

Good dust collection is a productivity saver.  Good fine dust collection is a lung saver.  That’s why I invested money into a powerful dust collector with pre-separation.

I did a lot of research and decided on the Super Dust Gorilla from Oneida Air.  It has a powerful 3hp motor, cyclone separator, and HEPA filter (filters 99.97% of .3-.5 micron particles).

I have nothing but good things to say about the great people at Oneida Air.  They were fair and very helpful.  Their product is extremely well made and made entirely in the USA.

Bracket and Cone-web

I opted for the wall bracket.  Initially, I attached the bracket to two studs.  I was a concerned about durability so, I tied in two more studs using 2×6 cross-braces.  This feels much more secure.

Improved Bracing-web

Then, I assembled the barrel to the fan housing, and the motor to the fan housing.  The top half of the assembly weighs well over 100 lbs.  Attaching it to the cone on the bracket was not easy for two able men.  Do not attempt this by yourself.

Barrel Assembly-web

Barrel and Cone-web

Then, I simply attached the filter using the supplied hardware.  I replaced the supplied plug with a L6-30 twist lock.  I had an issue with the bolts used to connect the filter plenum to the fan housing.  They were too short.  This is due to the gasket material used between parts.  They might have worked if I had clamped down the flange to compress the gasket.  Instead, I went out and spent a few bucks on longer screws.

I did a quick fire with everything attached using the optional remote control.  Everything works flawlessly.  I can’t believe how much air this thing pulls.  I’m looking forward to a dust free work area.  I just need to get the ductwork installed.

Please, check out Oneida Air at

Super Dust Gorilla-web

For the rest of the workshop build, check out the garage workshop build index.

Garage Workshop Build: Installing a Mini-Split Ductless Air-conditioner

No more sweating profusely over expensive cast iron tools.  No more miserable summer days in the shop.  All thanks to my Mitsubishi mini-split ductless air-conditioner and the nice HVAC guys who turned up the system yesterday afternoon.


Ductless, split heat-pumps (also known as mini-splits) are the new standard in efficient heating and air.  These consist of an indoor unit (found in wall mount, flush-mount, and ceiling mount varieties) and an outdoor unit.  They are more expensive than tradition units, but pay for themselves with reduced energy costs.  Their benefits include, but are not limited to: reduced energy costs, less noise, and improved comfort.

If you’re thinking about getting one for your workshop, do the legwork yourself to offset some of the cost.  I installed my system for about half the cost a professional quoted.  I purchased my equipment from a reputable online seller and had professionals test, vacuum, and connect the lines.

Wall Bracket-web

The indoor unit mounts to a wall bracket.  I attached the wall bracket using five screws.  I secured two screws to studs, and the others into drywall anchors.  The wall bracket includes a guide that helps you locate the 3″ hole you will need to drill through your wall for the refrigerant lines.

Cooland Hole-web

Wall Sleeve-web

Once I had the bracket mounted, I carefully drilled my hole and installed a wall sleeve that came with my installation kit.  The hole should slope slightly downwards to make sure drainage from the condensate line.  Then, I passed the refrigerant and condensate lines through the hole and attached the indoor unit to the bracket.


Next, I installed a line hide kit on the outside of the house and connected all of my electrical wires.  The installation kit I purchased from the online retailer included both wires I needed.  One connects the outdoor unit to the disconnect box.  It uses water proof connections and supplies power to the entire system.  The other wire connects the outdoor unit to the indoor unit.  The terminals on both units are color coded and hard to mess up.  I also installed a surge protector to the disconnect for added security.


Disconnect Box and Surge Protector-web

I installed the outdoor unit on an equipment pad.  It’s made of hard plastic and does a good job of stabilizing the outdoor unit and absorbing some sound.

It took the HVAC professionals about an hour and a half to connect the refrigerant lines and turn up the system.  The system works flawlessly.  It’s so quiet, it’s hard to even tell when it’s running.

Mini-Split Ductless Air-conditioner

I purchased all of my equipment from  I am very happy with the service I’ve received from them so far, and highly recommend them.

For the rest of the workshop build, check out the garage workshop build index.





Garage Workshop Build: Paint and Trim

It’s finally starting to look like a real workshop.

After reading a few product reviews and tests, I settled on a paint and primer in one from Sherwin Williams.  In the past, I’ve always used the cheapest stuff I could find at the Borg.  Since the original paint had adhesion issues, I used something a little more high-end for the workshop.  I wasn’t let down.  The Sherwin Williams paint provided excellent sheen and coverage.  I believed I would need three coats on the bare drywall, but the guy at the paint store assured me that two would be enough.  He was right.

I’ve always hated painting, so I did a bit of research to make this as painless as possible.  I learned to cut in by hand, and properly roll on paint.  As a result, each coat only took me less than an hour (about 600 sq ft.).  My biggest piece of advice would be to drop the home improvement wisdom of rolling paint out in a “W” shape.  Roll straight up and down, starting at the center.  Then feather out the edges.  Also, use a high quality roll cage and roll cover.

I used PVC baseboard and molding for everything.  It’s a little pricey, but will hold up better to shop duties.  I still need to caulk the trim using a high quality, paintable caulk.

I finished the walls just in time, because I now have boxes for an air conditioner and Oneida dust collector taking up most of my floor space.

Stay tuned.

For the rest of the workshop build, check out the garage workshop build index.

Drywall for the Garage Workshop: Part 2

Completed Drywall

I am no drywall expert.  Many experienced professionals have detailed the process of taping and mudding.  So, I won’t go into too much detail about the process and techniques.  Instead, I will cover some of the lessons I learned doing this as a DIY homeowner.

A quick overview of my process

I pre-filled all of my large gaps with Sheetrock 90 bond.  Then, I embedded drywall tape in all of my edges and inside corners using general purpose mud.  At the same time, I lightly skimmed over all of my screw dimples and let the mud dry for 24 hours.  Then I filled in all the beveled seams with Sheetrock 90 bond, and let that cure for another 24 hours.  I gave everything a light sanding and finished up with a thin coat of general purpose.

Lessons learned

  1. Use the correct tools.  A narrow knife is perfect for embedding tape, but too narrow to feather out your mud on your final coats
  2. Mix your compounds thoroughly.  I failed to do this on one of my coats and it required extra sanding
  3. Learn the proper thickness for your compounds.  Too thick and it is hard too work.  To thin and it falls off your knife.  Filling gaps is easier with thick mud, but feathering edges on final coats requires thinner mud.
  4. Keep a bucket of water and a large sponge close by.  This is great for keeping your hands and tools clean.  It also allows you to quickly add a little water to your compound if it starts to dry out.

Now that they drywall is complete, I need to move quickly to trim and paint everything.  Stay tuned.

For the rest of the workshop build, check out the garage workshop build index.


Workshop Update: Patience


Patience isn’t something I do well.

The weather isn’t cooperating, so I haven’t mudded the drywall.  I can’t paint until the drywall is complete.  I haven’t ordered air-conditioning because the paint isn’t complete.  The list goes on from there.

The forecast is looking better, but I have other commitments.  Fortunately, I have Monday off and the weather looks quite nice.  If all goes well, I will be able to make some headway.

In the meantime, I’ve been doing what I can: cleaning up, planning dust collection, etc.

Stay tuned.

For the rest of the workshop build, check out the garage workshop build index.