Blood, Sweat, and Sawdust

Going against the grain

Dovetails on the Table Saw?

I’m currently building a Mike Pekovich inspired tool cabinet.  Mike built his cabinet for a Find Woodworking video series.  In the video series, Mike uses a custom ground blade to cut his dovetails on the table saw.  The idea is brilliant.  Tails are dead square, and you zip through them with lightning speed.  Additionally, the kerf of your table saw blade is the only thing that limits the size of your pins.  And because you only have to layout the tails on one board, you save a load of time on layout.

Consequently, I remembered meeting an associate from Ridge Carbide Tool at a recent woodworking show.  Like Forrest, they make various saw blades right here in the United States.  So, I checked out their website, and discovered they made dovetail table saw blades.  I placed an order, and was pleasantly surprised when the saw blade arrived just a few days later.

I purchased an 8-degree blade for left-hand tilt saws, but Ridge provides many other options.  They grind the bevel on one side, so you’re able to get deep into the corners of your tail boards.  This reduces that amount of paring required.  Additionally, the blade seems very well made.

Using the blade is simple.  Mark your pins.  Then, adjust the angle of your table saw to match the angle of your blade.  Next, adjust the height of the blade to baseline of your tail boards.  Finally, make a few test cuts, and cut your tails.  I like narrow pins, so I just align the blade to the center of the pin mark.  Then, I flip the board and align the kerf in the tail board to the kerf in my auxiliary sled.

Since I made an auxiliary fence specifically for tails, I mark the location of each pin on the fence.  I use the mark as a reference for the rest of my boards.  This keeps me from having to mark my pins of every board.

At the moment, I still cut my pins by hand.  However, that may soon change.  I am very happy with the Ridge Carbide’s product and the process of cutting dovetails on the table saw.


Better Winding Sticks

I built my first pair of winding sticks a couple of years ago.  Back then, I worked primarily with hand tools.  Today, I prefer power tools.  However, I still need a good pair of winding sticks.  Recently, I discovered just how poor my first pair were.  That sent me on a path to build better winding sticks.

My old sticks suffer from poor visibility.  Consequently, I bored holes at the ends of one stick.  It turns out that the holes don’t quite line up.  Additionally, the sticks aren’t the same height.  All of this stems from the fact that I had limited tools and skills at the time when I built them.

Better Winding Sticks

So, I scoured the Internet for good ideas.  It turns out, there are quite a few.

  1. First, I picked up the idea to use quartersawn walnut, with maple inlay from Chris Schwarz.  This provides a lot of contrast for better visibility.
  2. Paul Sellers provided me with the idea to bore a hole through the center of each winding stick.  This allows you to easily center the winding stick on the board you’re checking.
  3. Finally, everyone seemed to use a beveled design.  I believe the benefits of this are two-fold.  First, it helps the winding sticks reflect more overhead light for better visibility.  Second, it increases stability by removing some of the weight at the top of each winding stick.

Next, I took a trip to the lumber yard.  It took some digging through the boards to find one that qualified as quartersawn.  In the end, I found what I was looking for.  I rough milled the board and let it sit for a few days to acclimate.  Then, I jointed the rough sticks and thicknessed them to 5/8-inch.  Next, I cut the bevel on the band-saw.  After cleaning up the bandsaw marks, I started work on the inlay pieces.  I cut these from some maple scraps I had lying around.  Then, I used the inlay pieces to mark their respective mortises.  I cut the mortises using a trim router, and cleaned them up using a chisel.  After gluing up the inlay pieces, I bored the holes at the drill-press.  Finally, I cleaned up the faces with a smooth plane and applied a couple of coats of tung oil.

I think the turned out well.  They’re much more accurate and easy to read than my old ones.  Additionally, the inlay turned out okay for my first try.  In conclusion, my attempt at making better winding sticks was a success.


A Hand Tool Cabinet: Lumber Selection

Cherry Lumber

Work is slow on the tool cabinet.  However, I scored a good deal on the lumber for the project.  As a result, I now have 40 board foot of nice cherry.  The mill listed the lumber as 4/4.  However, the it’s all closer to 5/4.  Additionally, the boards are all straight, clear, and over 9-inches wide.

I cut all the boards to rough length, and thicknessed them to 1/8th-inch over final thickness.  Now, I will wait another week or so for the boards to acclimate.  Then, I will finishing milling them at start work on the case joinery.

I would love to use cherry plywood for the door panels.  However, I’m can’t find anything 1/2-inch thick.  It seems to be available in 3/4 only.  If I can’t source cherry plywood, I will use maple.  It’s easy to source in 1/2-inch, and should give some contrast once the cherry darkens.

If you know of an Atlanta area dealer that stocks 1/2-inch cherry plywood, let me know.  Thanks.

Check out my previous post on this project: The Mockup

You can also check out my next post here: A Hand Tool Cabinet: The Case

A Review: Make a Wooden Smoothing Plane

I spent the last six months building the workshop.  Yes, life blessed me with an amazing opportunity.  However, I grew tired of drywall, cabinets, and electrical.  I wanted a fun project.  So, when I stumbled across Scott Meek’s video, “Make a Wooden Smoothing Plane”, I decided to give it a shot.

You can buy Scott’s video as a digital download or DVD.  It provides over two hours of detailed instruction.  In addition, Scott includes a Sketchup template and detailed drawings.  The video starts with wood selection and milling.  Then, it walks you from shaping to troubleshooting.  Additionally, Scott provides you with excellent plane making tips along the way.  Furthermore, “Make a Wooden Smoothing Plane”, puts it in simple English that’s easy to follow.

Heck, even I was able to follow along.  In fact, I was able to make my wooden hand plane in just a few days.

The entire process is pretty simple.  First, you mill your cheeks and center assembly.  Then, you dry assemble the plane body.  Next, you cut your throat and ramp.  Then, you glue everything together.  Finally, you shape the plane body and troubleshoot.  While the most difficult part was cutting accurate tenons on the cross-pin, my first wooden plane was a success.

My only complaint, is that Scott doesn’t delve into plane iron selection or troubleshooting.  I choose the 2-inch wide, by 4 1/2-inch long iron from Ron Hock.  In conclusion, I highly recommend Scott Meek’s, “Make a Wooden Smoothing Plane”.  It provides excellent instruction and it’s a fun project.

You can find it at

The Big Green Egg Table: Part 2

If you haven’t already, check out The Big Green Egg Table: Part 1.  Otherwise, continue reading for more of the cedar Big Green Egg Table build.

The Top

With the base complete, I moved on to the top and shelf.  Consequently, I struggled with how best to attach them.  While pocket holes would conceal the screws, drilling through the boards would increase strength.  Ultimately, I decided to go through the boards.  This allowed me to use a longer screw.


Next, I cut the circular hole for the Big Green Egg.  First, I determined the center of the circle.  Then, I marked the circumference using a shop-made jig, nailed to the center point.  Finally, I cut out the hole using a jig saw with a fine blade.  I cleaned up with cut with an orbital sander.


The End Result

This left me with finishing the table.  I cleaned up the surfaces with the sander, and applied a couple of coats of clear Danish oil.  Danish oil is super easy to apply, dries quickly, and is great for outdoor furniture.

I’m very happy with the result, and I think my customer is as well.  I think the mortise and tenoned base really adds a lot to the look and strength of the table.  I hope that this supplies him with many years of good use.

Stay tuned for more news and projects.


Improving the Porter Cable Drill Press

The 15-inch Porter Cable drill press is an excellent value.  It’s cheap, accurate, and powerful.  However, it has one huge drawback for the woodworker: the table.  It sucks!  As a result, I made an auxiliary table to help me get the most out of this tool.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of information on making an auxiliary table for this model.  So, I inspected the drill press and came up with a game plan.

Porter Cable Drill Press Table

My design consists of two sandwiched pieces of melamine, and oak edge banding.  It also has a slot in the middle for replaceable inserts.  Finally, it has t-tracks for a fence and hold-down.  I used a plunge router to create the slot and a dado stack to fit the t-tracks.  Easy stuff.  The hard part is mounting the new table to the existing one.

Ultimately, I decided to mount the auxiliary table using two hex bolts.  The bolt heads are countersunk to keep the surface obstruction free.  Since the existing table doesn’t have mounting holes, I drilled them myself.  This was easier than I anticipated.  As a result, the table is easy to remove and adjust.

I built the fence from scrap melamine.  The fence attaches to the table with star-knobs and bolts.  I also added a hold-down.  Now, I no longer have to hold my work-piece with my bare hand.  Yay safety!

While still in the workshop, I made about 15 zero clearance inserts.  I cut these from the same material as the top.  As a result, they sit perfectly flush.  Hopefully, I won’t have to make any more for some time.

The new table presents a big improvement to the Porter Cable drill press.  So far, my only concern is the height of the fence on the right.  With smaller material, the drill-press handles may interfere with the fence.  If this becomes and issue, I’ll just cut a notch in the fence.




A Hand Tool Cabinet: The Mockup

So, my hand tools need a new home.  I’ve drawn up a plan for a hand-tool cabinet that I think will work.  However, I need to be sure that it will work.  So, I built a mockup cabinet.

A mockup is quick and cheap.  More of all, it allows you to see how furniture works in the real world.

I built my mock-up out of 1/2-inch scrap plywood.  The only item I purchased were some cheap hinges for the doors.  Furthermore, construction only took about an hour.


Tool Cabinet Mockup

Hanging the mockup allowed me to workout some kinks with the exact placement.  As you can see, the left door hits the grinder.  As a result, I will hang the final cabinet a few inches higher.  This provides me with extra space below the cabinet.  This is important, because I plan to build a sharpening station in that space.

With the mockup complete, I will move on to lumber selection.  Stay tuned for more.

Check out my first post on the hand-tool cabinet design.

You can also check out the next post here: Lumber Selection

The Big Green Egg Table: Part 1

When you have a good friend who helps you a lot, you take care of them.  So, when my good friend asked if I could build him a Big Green Egg table, I said, “of course”.  Unfortunately, I could only offer my services at cost.  So, I put a little extra effort into making this table as nice as possible.

The Base

Instead of making this table out of construction lumber, I went with cedar.  I built the legs from rough 16/4 stock and the rails from 8/4 stock.  I also used draw-bored mortise and tenon joinery.  This makes the table stronger and more attractive than the average BGE table.

After milling up the rough lumber, I made quick work of the mortises in the legs.  I mortised the legs with a plunge router and my new mortise jig.  Then, I cut the tenons on the table saw with a dado stack.

With the joinery cut, I test fit all the joints and made any adjustments.  Then, I drilled the draw-bore holes in the legs and tenons.  For a complete write-up on the technique , check out my earlier post on draw-boring.  With that complete, it was time to glue up the base.

Next, I attached casters to make this table mobile.  Then, I added braces to the upper and lower rails.  The upper brace provides and anchor for the top slats after I cut the hole for the grill.   The lower brace strengthens the area where the grill sits.

All that’s left is the top, shelf, and delivery.  Check out part 2 of the cedar Big Green Egg Table build.

A Hand Tool Cabinet: The Design

Ever since we moved, my hand-tools have been homeless.  Throughout the workshop build, they’ve remained hidden in drawers and boxes.  So, it’s time I give them a home.  It’s time I build a proper hand-tool cabinet.

A few years back, Mike Pekovich built a beautiful hanging tool cabinet for a Fine Woodworking video workshop series.  I fell in love with his design immediately.  Not only did I love the look, but I loved the creative use of space.  The doors are shallow boxes that allow for extra storage.  So, I downloaded the plans and hoped that I could make the design work for me.

Unfortunately, Mike’s design doesn’t fit my space.  An outlet and a few power tools limit the overall size of the cabinet.  Additionally, the stud locations require that the French cleat extends outside of the case(Mike’s is neatly hidden).  That’s okay because, I can use the longer cleat to hang other things.  With that discovery, I set out to modify Mike’s hand-tool cabinet to fit my needs.

The 4-plug outlet limits the space where I will hang the cabinet. The outlet is mounted to a stud just to the left. If I used the two studs to the right and hid the cleat inside the case, I would have to move it too far to the right. I wouldn't be able to open the doors.

My space is shown above.  The 4-plug outlet on the left mounts to a stud on the left side of the box.  To hide the cleat, I would have to move the cabinet so far to the right that I wouldn’t be able to open the doors.  Instead, I plan to hang the cabinet on an external cleat that passes above the electrical box.

The design above, is what I came up with. The case is a few inches narrower and shorter.  The back is one solid piece, and I will attach a French cleat directly to the back.

The next step is to build a mock-up, and make sure that the design works before purchasing lumber.  Fortunately, I think I have just enough 1/2″ plywood left over from previous projects.

Stay tuned.

Check out my next post in this series: The Mockup


Air Conditioning a Workshop: A Follow Up

Air Conditioning a Workshop

Nothing kills my spirit like a hot, humid workshop.  In the past, I avoided the workshop for the entire summer.  So when we decided to move, an air-conditioned workshop was at the top of my list.  I figured the cost would justify itself in a single summer.  Georgia summers are long and damp.

If you haven’t yet, check out the ductless mini-split air-conditioner installation.

The Benefits

My unit is a 12,000btu Mitsubishi Mr. Slim heat-pump.  It provides heating as well as cooling.  While it is pricier than a window unit, it is much more efficient.  In fact, I keep the shop at a cool 70 degrees, and there hasn’t been a noticeable increase in our power bill.

Another plus is noise.  The unit is very quiet.  It is an excellent choice for anyone who makes video.

The unit is also small.  The indoor unit occupies very little wall space.  You’ll forget it’s even there.


  • Dust.  Workshops are full of it.  Air-conditioners hate it.  Clean your filters often.  My manual states that the filters should be cleaned every couple of weeks.  I clean mine at least once a week.  Fortunately, this only takes a few minutes.
  • Fan Speed.  A few days after the heat hit, I noticed that the thermometer on one side of my shop was reading high.  Initially, I thought it was because I hadn’t yet blown insulation into the attic.  Worse, I feared that I purchased an undersized unit.  Upon further investigation, I determined that the cause was fan speed.  The auto-speed option set the fan speed to its lowest option.  Increasing the fan speed fixed the problem.  Apparently, I don’t have good air circulation in the workshop.
  • Moisture.  The Mr. Slim does a decent job of removing moisture out of the air.  Like most air-conditioners, it works better on warmer days.  It’s the cool, humid days that give most conditioners trouble.  This is because they simply aren’t running long enough to dehumidify.  Fortunately, the Mr. Slim has a dry operational mode.  This keeps the unit just below the dew point and allows the unit to remove moisture even on cooler days.  However, if your workshop is particularly damp, you may still want to consider a separate dehumidifier.

In conclusion, the Mr. Slim mini-split air-conditioner proves to be a great investment.  It allows me to spend several more months in the shop each year than I would otherwise.  Even better, it makes the shop more comfortable and I hardly even know it’s there.  If you have the means, I highly recommend one.