Sunday, December 11, 2011

V2.34 - Some Tools Defined

We’ve talked about some of these machines, so just in time for the holidays, here are some definitions for those who might be thinking about buying someone a tool for Christmas.

DRILL PRESS: A tall upright machine useful for suddenly snatching flat metal bar stock out of your hands so that it smacks you in the chest and flings your coke across the room, denting the freshly-painted project which you had carefully set in the corner where nothing could get to it.
BAND SAW: A large stationary power saw primarily used by most shops to cut good aluminum sheet into smaller pieces that more easily fit into the trash can after you cut on the inside of the line instead of the outside edge.
WIRE WHEEL: Cleans paint off bolts and then throws them somewhere under the workbench at the speed of light. Also removes fingerprints and hard-earned calluses from fingers in about the time it takes you to say, 'Oh, dang!'
TABLE SAW: A large stationary power tool commonly used to launch wood projectiles for testing wall integrity.
HAMMER: Originally employed as a weapon of war, the hammer nowadays is used as a kind of divining rod to locate the most expensive parts adjacent the object we are trying to hit. It is especially valuable at being able to find the EXACT location of the thumb or index finger of the other hand.
TWO-TON ENGINE HOIST: A tool for testing the maximum tensile strength of everything you forgot to disconnect.
SKIL SAW: A portable cutting tool used to make studs too short.
PLIERS: Used to round off bolt heads. Sometimes used in the creation of blood-blisters.
PHILLIPS SCREWDRIVER: Normally used to stab the vacuum seals under lids or for opening old-style paper-and-tin oil cans and splashing oil on your shirt; but can also be used, as the name implies, to strip out Phillips screw heads.
STRAIGHT SCREWDRIVER: A tool for opening paint cans. Sometimes used to convert common slotted screws into non-removable screws and butchering your palms.
HYDRAULIC FLOOR JACK: Used for lowering an automobile to the ground after you have installed your new brake shoes , trapping the jack handle firmly under the bumper.

Yes, these tool definitions are a bit ‘tongue-in-cheek’, but the underlying theme heads right back to: Be SAFE, not sorry.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

V2.33 - Rusty tools? What to do.

We got a good question from Donald in Arlington, TN for this week (my, does our paper get around or what?). Donald says: “I don’t use my woodworking machines a lot, but when I do try to use them, they have a coat of rust on the tables. How do I stop that?” Hint: the more you use your tools, the less rust will be able to grow on them.

While I am tempted to just answer Donald’s question, I think you all might be better served by knowing what to do when you find the rust, then we can learn how to prevent it. First off is to clean the rust from the surface. How to do that really depends on how severe the rust is. For this column we’ll just deal with light surface rust. You can use fine or medium size steel wool, or a palm sander with 220 or 400 grit paper, or even wet or dry sandpaper and sand the rust off. My favorite method is to use a sanding block with 220 grit ‘wet or dry’ sandpaper and sprinkle a bit of nail polish remover (acetone) on the table and use that as the paper’s lubricant. Sand the whole table and then wipe the surface thoroughly with clean rags soaked in acetone. Once the surface is clean, dry the area very good…because now comes the ‘How do I stop that?’ part.

The ‘old school’ method is to coat a good rust-free surface with Johnsons paste floor wax and lightly buff it. Don’t remove all the wax, just try to make the coat spread evenly. The modern ‘hip’ method is to use a product called Boeshield T-9® (you can find it at Sears) and follow the directions on the package. CAUTION: Do NOT use automotive wax. Most of them have a high water content and will actually cause the rust you are trying to prevent.

On woodworking tool surfaces Boeshield T-9® recently topped all other surface treatments in Wood Magazine's article on “Rust Busters”.
The formulation is based on a unique combination of solvents and waxes and is designed to penetrate metal pores and dissolve minor corrosion, then leave a resilient waxy coating that lasts for many months.

During my years in Technical Service on woodworking machinery, we consistently recommended the paste floor wax and our customers had great success using it. It’s like a ‘tried and true’ method for preventing surface rust. Fortunately, I’ve heard so many good things about Boeshield T-9® that I am confident in that, also. Thanks for your question, Donald.

Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

V2.32 - Safety - it’s what’s for dinner

Let’s shift gears a bit this week and introduce a subject that should be near and dear to all of us - Safety. Specifically- Personal Safety in the shop. This came to my mind because of the article I did about using safety belts.

Safety is one of the basic building blocks in any shop. In fact, safety is something that we all need to be aware of in every aspect of our everyday life. Without a constant mind-set of being concerned with your own safety, you might tend to drive without using your seat belt. Without this constant awareness, you might cross the street without looking both ways. Safe thinking is something that we all need to keep on our mind.

This is especially true in the woodshop. If you ask an experienced woodworker what their most prized possession is, many of them will proudly hold up a full set of 8 fingers and two thumbs. These are the woodworkers who have been safety conscious for a long time, yet many of them will also tell you stories of how they have been very fortunate in certain situations to have escaped serious injury due to their own lapse in judgment. Many of the stories one hears of “being lucky” start out with, “Well, I was in a hurry and thought I could just do this one thing quickly…and I almost didn’t get away with it. It was really stupid on my part.”
Remember, the best safety device that you have access to is your own good sense. If something you are doing creates hackles on the back of your neck, it just might be your intuition telling you to stop before you get hurt. Don’t get in a hurry. Think through your actions first and be prepared to work safely.

You should never work on, or operate, woodshop machines if you are taking medication that makes you drowsy, if you are very tired or if you are under the influence of alcohol. These substances may cause you to ignore potential safety hazards. You should always use proper safety equipment. Eye protection is first and foremost on any safety equipment list. It should comply with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z87.1 standard. Hearing protection is also important and it should comply with the ANSI S3.19 standard. Even if you install the best dust collection system that money can buy, it is always wise to use a proper dust mask. Many people use the white disposable paper masks; however, those type masks typically allow too many smaller particles to pass thru them. I recommend using a good respirator mask that has replaceable cartridges. In extreme dust environments, there are other respirators that supply fresh air to an attached hood.

Send your questions or comments and we’ll see what we can do to help you