Friday, December 28, 2012

V3.51 - Christmas, yes it is - and stuff

This week I may bounce around all over the place. I wanted to just write about Christmas but some mentally deranged EVIL person decided it would be a good thing to murder some innocent people in Connecticut. Even sadder, some of those were children. As a nation, we display our shock and outrage that 20 children were brutally murdered, yet Each and Every day, around THREE THOUSAND-SEVEN HUNDRED (3,700) innocent children are killed by abortion. Where is the outrage and shock over that?

We hear politicians blow their horns about how it is time to ‘stop the murdering of our children’ and I could not agree more. It IS time to stop it…not by ‘banning guns’ as the grandstanders are yelling about, but maybe we need to start by banning the scalpels and the vacuum cleaners that are used to cut up and dismember the unborn.

What allowed this murder in CT was not a lack of ‘gun laws’. As I understand it, CT already has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the USA. Yet, it still did not stop this creature from STEALING some guns and using them.

Perhaps CT needs to rethink this. Instead of having signs that say “Gun free zone” outside the school, maybe they need to change to: “Armed and trained staff on site - enter at your own risk”. It only makes common sense. How many times have we heard of someone going into a Police Station and shooting the place up? Never…not even when they do have a death wish.

Anyway, back to what I really wanted to write about- Christmas.

Not “Happy Holidays”…um...which “Holiday” would that be? Christmas!

As the Go Fish Guys say: “It’s called Christmas, with a capital C.” (that’s really a kool video- check it out on Youtube). Some people will say ‘how can this be? Jesus wasn’t born in winter’ First thing, were you there? None of us were…and maybe He wasn’t. So we select this one day, December 25th, to celebrate the anniversary of his birth. A birth, without which, mankind would have no hope of eternal life. Some will say that the original Dec 25th celebration was a pagan ritual and the Christian Church took it over. IF that is true, I say, it’s about time that the Christians took something from the pagans. Lord knows the pagans have stolen many things from the Christians. Even today, it’s still going on. Every time some judge bans a nativity scene, it’s really theft. And while I am ‘tangenting’- did you hear about the judge who says a North Carolina “Choose Life” license plate is “unconstitutional” because the opposite view does not have their own plate? How absurd. But, hey, this is America. So here’s what to do, have the Choose Life plate show a baby and make the “Choose Death” plate show parts of a baby. Let’s see how many they sell.

Christmas will be here in a few days, and it is a joyous time, so I say celebrate to the utmost! Don’t tell me ‘happy holidays’ because I will tell you- Merry Christmas!

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

Thursday, December 13, 2012

V3.50 - Keeping your Drill Press ‘chucked up’: part 2

Last week we talked about putting your drill chuck on your Drill Press. I ran out of room to fully explore the subject, so here we go again.

Let’s say that you get the chuck installed and all appears to be well. But then, one day, you turn your DP on and the chuck falls off of the spindle nose. Now, what to do?

Well first, you’d want to make sure that the inside of the chuck taper is clean and free from any oil or contaminants. Once you’ve checked/cleaned the chuck, check/clean the spindle nose also.

NOTE: while you are checking/cleaning those tapers, this is a good time to inspect the surface of the tapers closely. The tapers need to be smooth and free from any galling. ‘Galling’ is a machinists term that refers to the tendency of metals, scrubbing together under force, to grind and scar each other. If your chuck has been loose on the spindle nose (unknown to you) for a while, the two parts may have galled their surfaces. IF they have, it is usually useless to try to get them to properly seat again. (The prescription is to replace both parts and start fresh.)

Ok, let’s say that you’ve checked for galling and found both the chuck and the spindle nose to be smooth and in good shape. Now, you’ve cleaned them again and they are now absolutely oil-free and dry as a bone. Take the chuck and ram it sharply onto the spindle nose.

Now, it’s time for the 2x4 and small sledge hammer again. Swing the table out of the way so that you can get a pretty decent swing with your sledge. Retract the chuck jaws to prevent them from getting bent and put your 2x4 under the chuck. Hold the 2x4 with your ‘weak’ hand and use your dominant hand to swing that sledge upward and SMACK the 2x4 (which is against the chuck) very hard.

As I said last week, Tapers seat best with a shock to them. A good 3lb sledge and a 2x4 block will allow you to deliver that shock to the chuck without risking damage to your chuck or Drill Press.

If you continue to have your chuck fall off, there may be a misfit between the two parts, or you may be asking the Drill Press to do something it was not designed to do (like milling, or using an out of balance item in the chuck) and the design of the chuck/spindle taper was not intended to account for that.

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

Friday, December 7, 2012

V3.49 - Keeping your Drill Press ‘chucked up’

Well, after our short detour, let’s get back on the Tooltrack this week and talk about Drill Press chucks. Your columnist is always networking and open to new career opportunities. You can find me on LinkedIn: and I’d be happy to talk with you. If you’re aware of something, drop me a note and we’ll connect.

Now, what about those Drill Press chucks?

I was one of those ‘poor folks’ who didn’t have a drill press during my ‘learning how to work on stuff’ years and let me tell you what, by the time I got older and realized what I had been missing…Hoo-boy, was life in the shop so much easier with one around.

Most of today’s ‘home/hobbyist’ drill presses use a taper to hold the chuck onto the spindle. Some manufacturers have the chuck already installed, while others ask the buyer to do it. In any event, the following information will come in handy.

Drill Press Tapers & Chucks usually fall into one of two categories: A spindle with a male taper and the chuck having a female taper; or a spindle with a female taper, a chuck with a female taper and an adapter with a male taper on each end that goes between the chuck and spindle. Each style has their place, with the adaptor style being used more on the bigger Presses.

Alright, there’s your ‘taper background’, now let’s get specific. Drill Press tapers engage (‘seat’) best with a shock. I know some manufacturers who tell you to just push them together, but that’s not the best way. Let’s say that you have a Drill Press with a female tapered chuck and the spindle has the male taper sticking down. First, clean the tapers completely to remove any oil, grease or coating that could prevent metal on metal contact. My favorite solution to this is an old rag saturated with acetone (NOTE: if you use acetone, be aware that it is highly combustible). Next, once the tapers are cleaned, turn the chuck so as to retract the chuck jaws. Next, Place the chuck onto the spindle taper by hand. Finally comes the ‘shock’ part. Put a small 2X4 underneath the chuck jaw opening and use a small mallet (I have a 3lb sledge for this) to hit upward on the 2X4 (chuck bottom). One good sharp whack ought to do it.

Once the tapers are seated properly, they will usually remain engaged unless something too large or out of balance is put into the chuck.

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

Saturday, November 24, 2012

V3.47 - Winter Time Static

You might have read this one before, but as we get into winter, static becomes and real issue so, here’s your (maybe twice yearly) reminder.

This week let’s talk about static electricity in your woodshop. I’m sure we’ve all experienced it when using our belt sanders, but it can show up on all rotating equipment and especially in your dust collector ducts.

Static electricity in a wood shop is mainly caused by two things. First is low humidity in the air. Static is especially troublesome in winter when the outside temperatures are low. A rule of thumb is the colder it is outside, the lower the humidity is inside a heated shop. As a result, static charge builds up easily and causes shocks when the electricity discharges through contact. The problem is even worse if a shop’s dust collection system exhausts its air outside the building. This builds an additional requirement for fresh air coming in and the fresh, cold air will have low humidity once it has been heated indoors.

The second thing that causes the static electricity problem is motion between two things. In the case of a belt sander, it is the motion between the belt, platen and pulleys that causes the build-up of electricity. In the case of the dust collector or Shop-Vac, it is the motion of the particles through the hose. There are two places where the charge can build up. One is in the machine the dust collector is attached to and the other is on the person who is operating it. Fortunately, grounding the frame of the machine will eliminate the buildup of the static charge. All fixed machinery, such as a table saw, jointer, planer etc., should have its frame grounded to a water pipe or at the very least, to the ground conductor or conduit sheath of the machine’s electrical wiring. Sometimes this is not possible, especially if the machine is electrically double insulated, as is the Shop-Vac.

Beyond grounding the machine, the best cure for static problems is to try to keep the humidity in the shop from getting too low. This can be done by using bag-type dust collectors that re-circulate the same air within the shop after the dust has been removed. These collectors will also reduce your heating bill. Other ways of adding moisture to the air, such as using humidifiers, are worth considering. Another thing you can do is wear shoes that bleed off the static charge rather than allowing it to build up.

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

Saturday, November 10, 2012

V3,45 - Straightening Warped & Bowed Stock

We were talking about Industrial Planers (IP’s for short) and snipeing, but there is so much more to them than just snipe. Perhaps we had better start at the beginning. Some of this stuff is going to be good info for ALL planers.

So, we’ve discussed that planers are really ‘thicknessers’ and to let them do the best job they can, they need a flat board to start with. Let’s talk about shop setup. I’ve often been asked ‘when I’m putting a shop together, what are the first machines I should buy?’ It does depend on what your shop’s purpose will be, but just for this week, let’s say that the goal is a decent little Woodshop.

Your shop’s heart is the Table Saw. You really can’t get anywhere without one of those and a 10-inch Table Saw will be fine for all but the largest projects. I believe the next purchase is a good Jointer. The bigger, the better if you will be doing larger projects. Naturally, if you intend to build model airplanes, a 4-inch jointer would be fine. After that, it’s the Planer. Again, you’ll need to choose an appropriate size. Follow this up with a good Drill Press and then perhaps a good Bandsaw. Most projects can be done with this group. Sanders, Shapers, Lathes and Hand Power Tools are also part of a complete Woodshop.

Alright, so you now have a basic woodshop and have this board you need to make flat, so you can run it through your planer. First, use your Jointer and surface one side of it. “Surface” is the technique of flattening one of the wide ‘faces’ until it is smooth and flat. Once you’ve done that, place your surfaced face against the fence and make passes until one edge has been jointed. At this point, you will have two parts of the board flat and smooth, and they will be 90degrees to each other.

Now, take your piece to your Table Saw, place the surfaced face on the table, and the jointed edge against your fence. Rip the board to the width you need. Now you have a board with 3 flat and straight surfaces. Now you are ready to place the surfaced face on the Planer’s bed, set your thickness adjustment and run the stock through the Planer.

You now have a straight board, that is flat and the proper thickness. All that remains is to cut it to the proper length. Remember, measure twice, cut once.

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

Sunday, November 4, 2012

V3.44 - The continuing saga of snipe

As I had said a week or two ago, I am still a rookie at the newspaper column business and it reared its head in my column from last week.

There was a very important paragraph that got mangled up because I used odd characters. Here is what came out… “In other words, if you need a _” thick piece, take your adjustment to 1” and bring it down to _. Do not start at _” and go up to _ and then plane it. If you do that, you are leaving the backlash in the lead screws & nuts and that will be increasing your chance of snipe.”

As you can see, the dimensions I was referencing got obliterated. I thought I had best rewrite the paragraph so that my meaning is crystal clear. Here is what I meant to say. ”In other words, if you need a Three-Quarter-Inch thick piece, take your adjustment to One-Inch and bring it down to Three-Quarter-Inch. Do not start at One-Half-Inch and go up to Three-Quarter-Inch and then plane it. If you do that, you are leaving the backlash in the lead screws & nuts and that will be increasing your chance of snipe.” Hopefully, you can see the difference and why it is important.

Alright on to new business - the Industrial Planer. Most Industrial Planers have bed rollers and they are height-adjustable. Ideally, bed rollers are for use when you are planning very rough or warped boards. Yes, planning warped boards is not a good idea; however, in certain instances (like sawmills) one needs to make a pass through a planer and then go on to other machines. In most IP’s, the bed rollers are directly underneath the infeed rollers. This helps put the ‘squeeze’ on the stock as its going through the planer. As I said, the bed rollers are usually height-adjustable and very rough boards can use a bed roller height at 5 to 10 thousandths. If one is trying to get a snipe-free surface, the height of the bed rollers should be level with the bed or even 1 to 2 thousandths below the bed. If a smooth surface is the objective, having the bed rollers above the surface of the bed can actually create snipe because of the upward force of the board as it bumps up onto the bed roller.

Yes, there are many issues with an Industrial Planer, and it’s gonna take quite a few columns to work through them. I’ve got time, do you?

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

Friday, November 2, 2012

V3.43 - Our ‘snipe hunt’ continues.

Last week, I gave you the most basic description of what snipe is and how it happens. The “why” it happens and how to minimize it, is the subject of this week’s column.

Setting the stage, your lunchbox planer has a movable head for depth of cut. It has no bed rollers, and the distance between the infeed roller and the outfeed roller is 4 inches. With that foundation, our snipe would be 2” long at the front and 2” long at the rear of the board. “Why” do you ask? Good question.

Here’s why- as long as the board is underneath both rollers, the head will be shoved upward by the force of the rollers pushing down against the board.

The early lunchbox planer designs were notorious for the problem of snipe. Later designs, and the ones most often found now, had a head locking mechanism made into the planer that allowed the operator to actually lock the head in place, which has pretty much eliminated snipeing on this design.

One thing that will do much to decrease your snipeing is [on the movable head style] to ALWAYS make your final depth of cut setting by moving the head downward. If you will do this, it will remove the backlash out of the lead screws [the threaded rods that the planer head moves up and down on] and their nuts. In other words, if you need a ¾” thick piece, take your adjustment to 1” and bring it down to ¾. Do not start at ½” and go up to ¾ and then plane it. If you do that, you are leaving the backlash in the lead screws & nuts and that will be increasing your chance of snipe.

On the early design lunchboxes, there were many different methods attempted to eliminate snipe. Some were easy, some were weird and most did not work every time. Once the planer makers figured out that customers were not in the mood to accept snipe as a way of life, they went back to the drawing board and did something about it. Hence, the head lock I mentioned earlier.

So far, we’ve been talking only about the lunchbox planers. Let me tell you straight up, snipe on industrial planers is a real happening, too. The Industrial planers have an inherent advantage because most of them have a movable bed, not head. This design difference makes snipe a lot easier to control, but there are so many adjustments that other things can go wrong. We’ll ‘go there’ next time.

Oh, and watch out for the kids that might be out Wednesday night...and/or the punks that might be armed with eggs…

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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

V3.42 - Yes, a ‘snipe hunt’ is a real thing.

Ok, so we’ve talked about planers, what they will do and what they won’t...what causes the biggest problem (and it really is a simple solution). Now this time, we get to talk about one of the biggest pains in the you-know-where.

This week I’d like to introduce you to one of the most frequent problems of a planer. Snipe. Yes, it really IS called that…among other things. The basic symptom is that after the board has been run through the planer, the thickness of the ends is thinner than the middle of the board. Remembering that the purpose of a planer is to make the board the same thickness in all areas, Snipe is not an acceptable outcome.

Snipe can also be known as ‘cut out’; ‘dip out’; ‘notching’- names like that.

Essentially tho, one looks at the board surface and sees where, for the first few inches and usually the last few inches, the knives have made a deeper cut than they do on the rest of the board. For the purpose of our discussion, we’re going to limit ourselves to lunchbox planers that do not have bed rollers. [Bed rollers, which are mostly found on industrial planers. create other situations that we aren’t ready to talk about].

Alright, so you’ve sent a board thru and you see and feel snipe on the ends of the board. The first thing to realize is that this is being caused by the head of the planer rising as the board gets underneath both feed rollers. Again, we’re talking about lunchbox planers that usually are pretty simple- they have a fixed bed and a movable head. The head moves up and down to adjust the thickness of the cut.

So what happens- as the board is placed on the bed and pushed into the planer, the infeed roller grabs it and pulls it in, about 2 inches into the planer, the board runs underneath the knives and starts being cut. About 2 inches after that, the board runs underneath the outfeed roller and starts being pulled by both rollers, AND this is where the snipe stops… on the front end of the board. As it comes out, it leaves the infeed roller and snipe starts on the trailing end of the board. In this case you would have a 2” snipe on each end of the board.

Lots of background I know, but knowing the basics is essential to knowing why snipe occurs and what to do about it…and that we will do next time.

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

Saturday, October 13, 2012

V3.41 - Is it Dull Knives, or something else?

I just got to thinking that these past couple of columns have been more and more like a Saturday morning cliff-hanger…I set out the problem and just when you think I’m gonna give up the answer, I put it off until next week…?

Alright, this week, I really will give you the final solution to the problem.

We do need to recap, if we have some new readers…So here it is: you’ve been using your lunchbox planer, and it has been working just fine…but all of a sudden, it refuses to plane the wood. You can’t even shove the wood in and get it to work. It used to be that it practically pulled the wood out of your hand as you fed it…now, it ain’t happening. Last week, we brought up a dirty, or pitch encrusted bed surface and dirty or wood flour-caked-up feed rollers.

I left you with a teaser about there being one more solution that many people think should be number 1 on the list.

Here it is… Dull knives. Yep, that’s it. I have seen many a planer, just quit planning and the owner changes the knives, or flips his over to a fresh edge, and the planer resumes ‘doing it’s thing’ just fine. One needs to understand that when the knives get dull, they start beating on the wood and they actually create more resistance to the job the feed rollers can do (that being push the wood through the planer). Yes, changing the knives CAN do that.

Now, if you’ve read the past couple of columns, you may be asking: “If it’s that simple, why didn’t he just say so?” Well, here’s why… let’s pretend that your planer quit working as we have described and you change the knives…and…it…still…doesn’t…feed. Now what? Well. More than likely, your problem was a dirty bed or caked up feed rollers (or maybe both)…which you will now have to clean, with those freshly sharpened knives right within a finger’s reach. Do you know how easily fresh knives will cut flesh? LIKE BUTTER.

So, as I suggested, clean the bed and the rollers first. That way, your fingers are at least close to used knives. Don’t get me wrong, they will still cut the mess out of you, but not quite as easy as fresh knives will.

Also, there is a possibility that you will get more board feet cut with your knives before you need to change them, if you will clean the bed and rollers first. That was my thinking behind my suggestions.

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

Sunday, October 7, 2012

V3.40 - Oh No, My Planer quit planing

Let’s see, where were we?... Oh Yes, you’ve been using your lunchbox planer, and it has been working just fine…but all of a sudden, it refuses to plane the wood. You can’t even shove the wood in and get it to work. It used to be that it practically pulled the wood out of your hand as you fed it…now, it ain’t happening. What’s a woodworker to do?

Well, in this scenario, the FIRST thing to do is to make sure that the planer’s bed (or “table”, if you prefer, by either name, it is the surface the wood slides on) is not caked up with sticky pitch or sap. If it is, you may have found your problem. What you need is a good bed cleaning. There are several tar & pitch removers on the market and I am sure they work great and are not as hazardous as my personal favorite – fingernail polish remover. Also known as, acetone. I like it, I use it, but I make doggone sure that I have good ventilation while using it. Back when I was in the Navy, I got wasted by working in an enclosed space with lots of free-flowing acetone. That taught me a good lesson. Anyway, clean the bed if it needs it.

SECOND: Check the feed rollers and make sure that they aren’t caked up with wood flour. If they are, they could be slipping on the wood and not grabbing it enough to pull it through. Here again, a good cleaning is the answer. If your planer has steel rollers, acetone could be your friend once again. On the other hand, if your planer has urethane or rubber-coated rollers, as most lunchbox planers do, you’ll need to clean them a different way. Some people say to use alcohol, but I have seen this cause those types of rollers to get harder than they should be...which also causes them to lose their gripping power. My personal favorite for urethane rollers is…Dawn. Yep, dish-washing soap. Mix up some in a bowl with water as hot as you can stand it and use a Scotch-Bright pad to scour and scrub the rollers. Rinse all the soap off and let them air dry and they will be good as new… and pull like it, too.

Ok, we’ve covered two corrective actions for when a lunchbox planer abruptly quits planning...there actually IS a THIRD solution…and some people would say that it should be the first thing to do. I don’t think so and I’ll tell you what the THIRD option is, and why it is third on my list…next week.

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

Friday, September 28, 2012

V3.39 - What is a Planer to do?

OK, I jumped the gun a little bit last week. I said we would start talking about lunchbox planers...and we will, just not quite yet. The reason is that we should really have a discussion about what a planer will, and will not do. What’s it designed for? Does it straighten out crooked boards? Will it flatten out twisted boards? …or not?

As I mentioned last week, Europeans call a planer, a thicknesser and I said that ‘thicknesser’ is a more appropriate description of what it does, than the word ‘planer’ is. Here is what I mean. The wood planer (remember, aka - thicknesser) is designed to make the stock that is passed through it, the same dimensions in both the left/right directions and the front/back directions. In other words, after being passed thru the planer, the piece of stock should be the same thickness in all areas.

A planer is NOT designed to flatten warped stock, or straighten curved stock, or remove a twist in the stock. Those are the jobs of other shop machines. A planer simply makes the stock the same thickness. I have seen people try to flatten bowed stock by running it thru their planer. The stock comes out the same thickness, but the bow is still in it. What happens is that the planer forces the stock down, removes some of it and then, as it leaves the planer, the wood springs right back to its previously bowed shape. Here is the secret: Surface joint your stock first. If you will create a flat bottom surface which will slide on the planer’s table (aka, bed), then the planer (thicknesser) can do what it was designed to do and make the stock the same dimension in all directions.

Now, that is what a planer is meant to do. So, let’s start our discussion about the lunchbox planers. For the sake of discussion, let’s say that you bought one of these little beasts- and there are several good ones to choose from- and you’ve been using it, and it has been working just fine…but all of a sudden, it refuses to plane the wood. You can’t even shove the wood in and get it to work. It used to be that it practically pulled the wood out of your hand as you fed it…now, it ain’t happening. How frustrating.

Let’s hold up for this week and we’ll get you out of this predicament next time.
Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

V3.38 - Introducing the Wood Planer

This week is the lead off column of a series on a machine that many woodworkers find to have an almost ‘mystical’ air about it. This is the Wood Planer or, as it is known in Europe, the wood thicknesser. In all fairness, “thicknesser” is a more appropriate description of what the machine actually does, than is the name ‘planer’. While handtool history is not my ‘thing’, I suspect that the thicknessers acquired the name ‘planer’ simply because what they did was so similar to a hand plane that smoothes a boards surface.

Over my many years in the industry, I don’t suppose there was ever another machine that caused as many headaches and problems for my customers as did the planer. I think most of that was because the average woodworker just doesn’t understand how these things work, and because the typical planer has so many adjustments that it is a bit intimidating.

The best starting place for our discussions is most likely to define the types of planers that are out there. Decent sized shops would have a planer that would be capable of planing 18” – 20” – 24” or even 36” wide stock. These types of planers are the ones with all those adjustments I mentioned because they have chipbreakers, pressure bars, spring-loaded infeed and outfeed rollers and bed rollers. All of those components must be adjusted properly and they have to be adjusted with consideration given to each of the other components. This is what I call an Industrial Planer.

Further down the scale is the planer that is typically found in home workshops. It’s easily portable and usually has a capacity of only 12”- 15” wide. These planers do not have pressure bars or chipbreakers or bed rollers. As you can see, the number of adjustments is way down from the Industrial types. These planers are fondly called “lunchbox” planers.

I think we will start or series off talking about lunchbox planers because I think that is the most likely type of planer my readers would have. Now, I could be wrong and if I am, I trust those of you who may have industrial planers in your shop to drop me a note and let me know.

Most lunchbox planers are ready to use, right out of the box. Oh, there might be some accessory tables to add or a stand to put together, but essentially the planer is ready to plane wood… and that is a bonus for the buyer.

Let’s pause here for the week. See ya next time…
Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

V3.37 - Bench Grinder: Tips & Techniques

We’ll finish up our look at Bench Grinders with a few Tips & Techniques.

Every once in a while, we run across something new about Bench Grinders, but most of our knowledge is tried & true, and time-tested.

First off, every ‘store-bought’ grinding wheel that I know of has blotters on its sides. ‘Blotters’ are those pieces of paper, or cardboard, on each side of the wheel. While they might look like just a convenient place for the manufacturer to put warnings and such, they actually do serve a very critical purpose. When a wheel is put on a grinder, there are metal flanges that squeeze against the sides of the wheel. If the wheel had no blotters, those flanges would be tightening up against the actual rock of the wheel and you would stand a very good chance of cracking the wheel. Blotters provide a ‘buffer’ between the flanges and the wheel rock and thereby cushion and distribute the tightening force. Bottom line: Don’t buy a wheel that has no blotters or, if you do, don’t put it on your grinder without making some blotters and using them.

While we’re talking about blotters, they have another use. Most manufacturers put their product warnings on them and one of the major warnings is “Do not grind on side of wheel”. Now, do most of us follow this warning? Probably not, but I am here to tell you that if enough sideways force is applied to as grinding wheel, a wheel explosion is a very real possibility. Years ago, I saw a training film (yes, “film”- not tape or DVD- I’m dating myself) wherein a grinding wheel explosion was created and it is not a pretty sight. Even though I might use the side of the wheel to do some very light & delicate, precise grinding, I’m only able to do so because of my many years of experience with this and I know that I am not applying any sideways force at all. My general advice to everyone is: Don’t grind on the side of the wheel.

Lastly, always keep the tool rest adjusted as close to the wheel as possible, in order to provide the most support for what you are grinding on. Use your safety glasses. Keep the grinder’s eyeshield in place to provide added protection. Make sure the spark arrester is in place and adjusted to within 1/8” of the wheel and always keep an open container of water handy for cooling off your material. If your grinder has a factory water pot, that’s even better. Keep it full.

These hints, and our last two columns, should help you get the most out of your Bench Grinder. Happy Grinding!

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

Sunday, September 9, 2012

V3.36 - Taking care of Bench Grinder wheels

Last week we talked about one of the staples in every shop, the Bench Grinder. This week, we’ll continue that theme and talk about the ‘care & feeding’ of your grinder.

Just for a bit of clarification from last week, my point about using a slow speed grinder (which is what a 1725rpm grinder is called in the industry) is that one needs to be careful when grinding metal and not heat the metal up too much. With a slow speed grinder, it is much easier to keep the grinding heat under control.

Ok, let’s talk about one of the natural problems with any grinder. After some grinding time, the face of the wheel will get ridges, or become tapered and one must “re-face” the wheel to get back to a smooth grinding surface. There are a couple of ways to do this.

Some grinders, the more professional models, usually have an accessory that is used to re-face the wheels. It bolts on in place of the tool rest and uses a diamond-tipped tool to re-face the wheel. Having one of these makes the task much easier. Unfortunately, not all grinders offer that. If your grinder isn’t that sophisticated, just buy the diamond-tipped tool and use it free-hand. The technique is not that hard to learn, in fact, if you have had enough grinding experience to get your wheel out of shape, you certainly have enough experience to re-face it.

So, let’s say that you don’t have the re-facing accessory and you must do it free-hand. The diamond-tipped facing tool I am most familiar with has a round shank, so that is what I will speak to. The technique is to place the tool on the tool rest as if you were trying to grind the diamond off of the end. Support it very well with your hands. In fact the tighter you hold it, and control it, the straighter your face finish will be.

Make sure you have your safety glasses on, and turn the grinder on. Put the tool on the tool rest. You would let the diamond tip touch the face of the wheel very lightly- you do not want to ‘deep grind’ this- and move the tool side to side as straight, and smooth, as possible. Keep the tool at 90degrees to the face of the wheel and realize that the high points of the wheel face will require a lot of material removal before you will get close to having a straight wheel face again. With patience and a bit of time, you will again have a smooth wheel face to use.

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

Sunday, September 2, 2012

V3.35 - Let’s talk Bench Grinders

Ok, after a few detours, let’s get back to our ‘roots’ – which is not to say that I will not ever bust off on some more ‘passing thoughts’, shoot no. It’s just that there are a lot of folks who write about current events every day, but not so many that help folks with tools. I kind of like my slice of the pie. Anyway, keep reading… you never really know what might show up in here.

I would wager that most anyone who has a shop, or works in one, would be among the first to tell you that one of the most necessary tools in their shop would be their bench grinder. This may not apply for some specific woodshops, but since Toolsmartz is about ALL shops, we can cover it.

Bench grinders come in many different sizes and the major defining factor about them is the wheel diameter. Most people would not say, ‘yea, I have a ½ horsepower bench grinder’. No, they will be saying, ‘yea, I have an 8” bench grinder’. Even the bench grinder manufacturers set up their advertising literature in this fashion. The grinder’s horsepower and speed are somewhat of a secondary matter, after the wheel diameter, but don’t mis-understand, the horsepower and speed are critical factors when selecting the correct bench grinder, but what is usually seen is that as the wheel diameter gets larger, so does the horsepower. This allows the bench grinder to tackle harder jobs. The deal is, when you have a large item to grind on, you really need a decent sized bench grinder. My personal philosophy is that if you have a large (meaning 10” wheels) bench grinder and need to do a small job, it can handle it. On the other hand if you have a small (meaning 4” or 6” wheels) bench grinder and need to do a big job, you can’t…or if you try to, you may burn up your small grinder. So yes, when considering what bench grinder to choose, size does matter.

Another factor to consider is the bench grinder’s speed. This is also known as the RPM of the grinder. For most grinding operations, I prefer a speed of 1725RPM. Many grinders only come in a speed of 3450RPM, which is fine for many operations, but again, if you have a 1725RPM speed, you can pretty much always do whatever it is that you need to do. If you only have a 3450RPM grinder, I can promise you that you will overheat some items real fast. As I suppose you have gathered, my personal favorite bench grinder is my 10”, 1725RPM unit. It has no problem grinding small parts and it can handle all of my lawnmower blades without overheating them and burning them up.

Next week, we’ll continue this Bench Grinder discussion and get into some of the typical problems that you might encounter and recommendations for solving them.

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

Saturday, August 4, 2012

V3.31 - The Story of Ms. Mayberry - Part 4

Picking up where we left off, with Ms. Mayberry back on the road and us thoroughly enjoying her…We’ve won a “people’s choice” award, a second in class at an antique auto show and had her in a Christmas parade in Millington, TN…and the adventure is just beginning.

Since the time I originally wrote this story, we put another 6000 miles on Mrs. Mayberry and even drove her all the way to Branson, MO for a show. Unfortunately in 2005, time, and not being used for those 10 years, took its toll and the motor lost its compression. We just couldn’t get her cranked again. It wasn’t unexpected because getting 60,000 miles out of a car back in 1955 was doing pretty good, even for one that was maintained perfectly. It was still kind of sad, tho.

Due to a job change and relocating to Murfreesboro from Jackson, I wasn’t able to get to work on the motor until 2008. But work on her, we did. I had Mike’s Speed Shop do the machine work (by the way- those guys are great!) We bored her out, put hardened valve seats in and a new camshaft. I even found a decent ‘how-to’ book about the Ford Y-blocks and put a couple of tricks into the motor to keep her lubricated far better than she was out of the Ford factory.

Anyway, we got her going again and have been going to shows and cruise-ins for over 2 years now and but for a leaky top radiator hose, she has been just fine. We even drove her back to Mt. Airy to visit the daughter of the original owner- that was a 7 hour, 410 mile trip –one way. I must say that big old 281 (it was a 272 but we bored it out, remember?) just rolled on down the highway. She wasn’t designed for interstates because there weren’t any back in 1955, so we cruise down the State roads whenever possible and practical.

We do hang out at the Auto Garage in Cannonsburgh a lot and it’s quite possible that you might see us out on the roads when the weather is good. We even had occasion to display her at our church (World Outreach) on father’s day 2009 and it was really a hoot talking to the folks about her. There was one particular lady about my age (maybe a few years older) who said she had learned to drive on a ’55 Ford. She stopped by before service, and then was back again after service, so, me being me, I told her “If you can remember the trick to starting it, here’s the keys, take her for a spin.” She looked flabbergasted…and then you could see the wheels in her mind turning…trying to remember what the ‘trick’ is.

She didn’t recall it, but I love connecting with people’s fond memories of their past - that’s what it’s all about.

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

Sunday, July 29, 2012

V3.30 - The Story of Ms. Mayberry - Part 3

Picking up where we left off, with us going back to Mt. Airy and trying to get Ms. Mayberry on the trailer for the trip home, and finding a dead battery… Even though I was never a Boy Scout, I have always believed in being prepared so I went to my truck and took a 6 volt battery out of the back. I had used this battery in my 1934 Ford, but had recently changed that car to a 12 volt system, so this battery was sitting there waiting to be used elsewhere. Little did I know that it would be in a 1955 Ford Fairlane. When Mr. Mittman saw me take the battery out, he said, “Wow, you really did come ready for anything.” We put my 6 volt battery in Mrs. Mayberry, cranked her up, loaded her up, and headed for home.

The trip home was uneventful and once we got back, I put the car in the air and proceeded to give her a good once over. The brake cylinders were corroded, the exhaust pipes were rotted and the master cylinder leaked. Even the heater core was leaking onto the carpet. I replaced all the brake components (hoses, shoes, cylinders, etc) and bypassed the heater. It still ran kind of rough on take off, but I thought a good tune-up was in order. To my surprise, I took her down to get new exhaust pipes, and mufflers, installed and once those were in, she ran like a new car. The old mufflers had corroded and collapsed internally.

But Ms. Mayberry was on the road…July of 2003.

We put about 1000 miles on her and only had one real scare. On the way back home from a cruise in Union City, TN, she started running horribly, almost like on 2 cylinders. I thought we had broken a rocker arm or something internal in the engine. As we limped along, I decided to try the choke to see if the carburetor was plugged. Lo and behold, she perked right up and we made it back home fine. After getting home, I decided to rebuild the carburetor and in my “junk box” I found a carburetor that my dad had used on one of his dirt track stock cars back in the late 1950’s. It was exactly the right carb for Ms. Mayberry, so I rebuilt it and put it in. Boy, did that wake that big 272 cubic inch motor up! After a while I had to put in smaller carburetor jets, but that’s not surprising…Ms. Mayberry isn’t a race car. She is just a sweet old car that has found herself a new home with folks who appreciate her and who will enjoy making new family memories with her.

Next week- part 4.
Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

V3.29 - The Story of Ms. Mayberry - Part 2

Picking up where we left off, with Ms. Mayberry (a one-owner, 1955 Ford Fairlane, Town Sedan) getting banished to a garage for 10 years….Unfortunately, this was the same garage that she used for sheltering her cats. Sometime around 2001, Mr. Mittman bought the car from Mr. Harris’s daughter and took it down to his shop. Once there, the damage from the cat urine was evident. Some parts of the lower body and the chrome bumpers and guards needed attention. The most fortunate part of it was that the car’s windows were always up, so no cat ever got inside.

Mr. Mittman had the bumpers and accessory bumper guards re-chromed and the gas tank boiled out and ‘re-nued’ (which is an operation to coat the inside of the tank with epoxy). He had the front door upholstery redone because of wear around the door handles and did the bodywork necessary to be able to repaint the car in its original colors: Sea Sprite Green and Snowshoe White. Once he had the car looking good, he parked it alongside his shop and waited for the right folks to come by.

It looks like my wife and I were “the right folks” because after talking to Mr. Mittman, and hearing what his price for the car was, we decided to go back and take a closer look…and this time, we’d take the car trailer with us.

The third weekend of June, we made a quick trip back to Mt. Airy to seriously check the car out. Yes, we took the trailer with us. When we drove up to Mr. Mittman’s shop the car was sitting there running and I had to look twice at the turning fan blade to make sure…it was smooth. We got in it to take a test drive and started off down the street. At the first traffic light, I stepped on the brakes and the right front tire locked into a skid. That squealing tire sure made lots of folks sit up and take notice. Then, after taking off again, she stumbled a bit, like she might need a tune-up. We drove over to Ms. Starr’s house (the daughter of the original owner) and the brakes wouldn’t stop the car. Luckily, the parking brake worked ok, so we made it up her driveway just fine.

Ms. Starr came out and talked with us and told us of how many fond memories she had of being in the car with her folks. She even made the comment that my wife reminded her of her own mother getting out of the car. After a while, we decided we needed to get on the road, so we headed back to Mr. Mittman’s shop, to finalize the deal. Once we had completed the paperwork, we went outside to crank the car and put it on the trailer for the trip back to Jackson, TN…and the battery was dead.

Next week- part 3.
Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

V3.28 - The Story of Ms. Mayberry - Part 1

In honor of the passing of Andy Griffith on July 3rd, I decided it was time for a ‘detour’ this week. Tools are kool, but there are other things going on that you might want to read about.

On the 5th of June, 2003, my wife and I were on our honeymoon. We were cruising the backloads of Virginia and North Carolina, and we decided to visit Mt. Airy, NC…the real “Mayberry”…Andy Griffith’s hometown.

We toured the local museum and the “Mayberry” jail, and even had our picture taken with “Floyd the barber”. He was a cool old fellow and the wall in his shop – yes, he really is a barber – is just covered with pictures of people and celebrities who have been in there.

We started out of Mt. Airy, attempting to take route 601 South but unknowingly, I turned a block too early. As we headed down a hill toward an intersection, we passed an Auto Body Shop and noticed a long row of cars sitting facing the road. Among the cars was a really pretty 1955 Ford. It caught our attention, so we turned around and drove back to take a look. There was no “for sale” sign, but this Ford was looking real good. It had an unusual paint pattern on because the color was above the white. We had never seen that before. The chrome was nice, the paint did look sharp and the interior looked like it had just rolled out of the factory. We could tell that it was an original interior because of the small cigarette burns that occur when a smoking driver doesn’t quite get the cigarette out of the vent window and instead burns the upholstery. We checked it out for a bit and then got back in the truck and headed on our way.

Once home and back into the daily routine (if that’s even an accurate statement for newlyweds), I couldn’t get that ’55 off my mind. So, I called back to Mt. Airy and after a few days of talking to the Chamber of Commerce and several other area people, I was able to find out that Mr. John Mittman owned the Body Shop, and presumably the ’55.

After a few tries, I was able to talk to Mr. Mittman, who relayed to story of “Ms. Mayberry” (our new name for the ’55) to me. (Ed note: Mr. Mittman died in 2008) A fellow named Mr. Watson Harris had bought his car new, in 1955. Mr. Harris only drove it to church and to Florida once or twice over the 46 years that he used it. The car had only 56,300 miles on it when Mr. Harris passed away in 1991. Mr. Harris’s daughter put the ’55 into a one-car garage and left it there for the next 10 years.

Next week- part 2.
Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

V3.27 - Rusty tools – what to do?

We got a good question from Donald in Lakeland, 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 coating 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 directly, 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 it, also.

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

Saturday, June 30, 2012

V3.26 - Table Saw: Blade Alignment

Ok, let’s see if, after a couple of trips to never-never land, we can get back on track this week.

One of the most common adjustments on table saws is that of making sure the blade is properly aligned within the saw. There are several indicators that let one know that the blade is not in proper alignment. The operator could see some burning on the side of the stock. There could be some excessive roughness on the sides of the cut. There might be a tendency for the stock to lift at the back of the cut or even kickback at the operator. This isn’t a complete list, just those that are the most common. When those conditions are showing up in your work, it’s time to do a bit of blade alignment checking. It’s not difficult when done the right way.

First, choose an accurate ruler with which to measure. Personally, for this task, I use a combination square because it can be locked to a length and you can hang the angle-finder inside the miter slot. Raise the blade to maximum height and pick one blade tooth and mark it. Rotate the blade so as to put the chosen tooth at the front of the saw. Measure the distance from that tooth to the miter slot in the table and write it down. (This is where the combination square comes in handy- it can be locked into that distance and you know it stays accurate) Then rotate the blade backwards which puts the chosen tooth at the rear of the saw. Measure the distance from that tooth to the miter slot. These two measurements must be the same.

The reason for using one particular tooth is to eliminate any possibility of the blade being warped and that causing your measurement to be inaccurate.

Once it has been determined that the measurements are not the same, it’s time to get the blade properly aligned. In my experience all table saws, no matter their size, have the means to align the blade to the miter slot. What needs to be done is to determine exactly how this is accomplished on the particular saw that is being checked. Start by looking at the undercarriage of the saw and see how the saw arbor is hanging from the table. That should tell you where you need to loosen to be able to shift the saw arbor to properly align the blade. Most Contractor-style saws have 4 bolts that hang the undercarriage to the bottom of the table. Most larger saws have an independent table and the undercarriage hangs from the cabinet. On those saws, simply loosening the table to cabinet bolts allows for the alignment adjustment.

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


Monday, June 25, 2012

V3.25 - Static Electricity wakes you up

What with summer upon us and its sometimes, drier air, it’s time to re-visit a column from a couple of years ago.

This week let’s talk about static electricity in your woodshop. I’m sure we’ve all experienced it when using our belt sanders, but it can show up on all rotating equipment and especially in your dust collector ducts.

Static electricity in a wood shop is mainly caused by two things. First is low humidity in the air. Static is especially troublesome in winter when the outside temperatures are low. A rule of thumb is the colder it is outside, the lower the humidity is inside a heated shop. As a result, static charge builds up easily and causes shocks when the electricity discharges through contact. The problem is even worse if a shop’s dust collection system exhausts its air outside the building. This builds an additional requirement for fresh air coming in and the fresh, cold air will have low humidity once it has been heated indoors.

The second thing that causes the static electricity problem is motion between two things. In the case of a belt sander, it is the motion between the belt, platen and pulleys that causes the build-up of electricity. In the case of the dust collector or Shop-Vac, it is the motion of the particles through the hose. There are two places where the charge can build up. One is in the machine the dust collector is attached to and the other is on the person who is operating it. Fortunately, grounding the frame of the machine will eliminate the buildup of the static charge. All fixed machinery, such as a table saw, jointer, planer etc., should have its frame grounded to a water pipe or at the very least, to the ground conductor or conduit sheath of the machine’s electrical wiring. Sometimes this is not possible, especially if the machine is electrically double insulated, as is the Shop-Vac.

Beyond grounding the machine, the best cure for static problems is to try to keep the humidity in the shop from getting too low. This can be done by using bag-type dust collectors that re-circulate the same air within the shop after the dust has been removed. These collectors will also reduce your heating bill. Other ways of adding moisture to the air, such as using humidifiers, are worth considering. Another thing you can do is wear shoes that bleed off the static charge rather than allowing it to build up.

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

Saturday, June 9, 2012

V3.23 - Table Saws: Pick a Fence

I know we kind of got sidetracked (remember, I call them detours) because of our discussion about Sawstop and Flesh-Sensing Brake Technology, but this week, we’re going back to our previous world of Table Saw fences. The table Saw fence is basically just a guide for the stock as you move it thru the blade and cut it. There are really only a couple of time-tested designs of fences. One is called the Jet-Lock fence. This name is not intended to be connected to any brand, but it was what old Delta called their basic fence system, starting back in the 1940’s. Many other saw makers have used the same basic design and they call it other things. I won’t go into the ‘name-calling’ here, but the way to tell what it is, is this: This type of fence does require a rear fence rail because it clamps on both the front AND rear rail. There are usually several adjustments that allow the operator to make it perform correctly. The usual problem with this type fence is that, when the operator pushes down on the front clamp handle (this handle is supposed to clamp the fence tightly against the front rail AND align the fence parallel to the sawblade) the fence clamps fine, but it does not align parallel to the sawblade. This is a most frustrating situation. Well, here’s the ‘trick’ solution: The front of the fence should clamp to the front rail BEFORE the back clamp locks the fence to the rear rail. The way this fence was designed, the very act of clamping to the front rail MAKES the fence align to the sawblade. As you can probably guess, if the back end clamps up first, then the front cannot make it align properly. At its most basic, if one adjusts the fence clamping sequence properly, and has taken the time to adjust the alignment of the fence so that it aligns when the front clamp engages, then this fence locks in and will be one of the best guides for your work. The other fence style is the T-square fence. One of the most famous of those fences systems is the Biesemeyer brand. There are many other manufacturers that make a t-square style fence, but I think that Biesemeyer is sort of like the grandfather of them all… or maybe he was just the best for a many years. Either way, it is an excellent fence system. The working difference between the T-square fence and the jet-lock style is that the T-square has a much wider front clamp AND does not use a rear rail. It is usually much more heavy-duty and is so stable that it does not need to clamp at the rear. The T-Square fence is much easier to square up to the blade and because it does not have that rear rail, there is no premature clamping on the rear to interfere with fence alignment as it locks down. Till next time….

Sunday, June 3, 2012

V3.22 - Table Saws: What’s Kick-Back?

So where does all the talk about FSBT leave us? Right back where we were…simply saying that new technology is good ; however, if one will USE the guards that have been part of table saw equipment since the 1930’s, one will avoid injury. Just as a side note, one of the other things that the engineers noticed with the Sawstop FSBT feature was that they felt it would encourage users to leave their standard guard off the saw. ‘After all, you now have this great flesh-sensing safety device that stops you from cutting your finger off’. Well, it’s my understanding that Sawstop still furnishes a standard guard with its saws AND they intend for you to USE it. Even THEY will acknowledge that use of a standard blade guard will prevent contact with the blade. Amazing how that works isn’t it? Truthfully, the FSBT safety device is merely another layer to help prevent injury. Sort of like seat belts AND airbags. Seat belts DO save lives, if one will USE them. Add airbags to them and you have another layer of safety. But ask yourself, would a car maker sell you a car that ONLY had airbags… and if they did, would you drive it? I’m thinking… not. Bottom line: USE the guards and safety devices that are supplied with your unit. Life will go well with you. Ok, so back we go to our discussion of table saw fences. Some fences have a ‘micro-set’ adjustment knob that allows very small, controlled adjustments. In all cases, it is very important that the fence does not pinch the workpiece between itself and the blade. If that happens, the subject of ‘kick-back’ could become very familiar to you. But since we’re on that subject, we might as well define it. “Kick-back” is a condition wherein the workpiece is grabbed by the blade and shot forward –TOWARD THE OPERATER- at tremendous speed. When kick-back happens, it not something you can dodge…well, not unless you are The Flash and are used to moving at supersonic speeds. I knew an engineer in Jackson, TN who did some very in depth studying of kick-back – even to the point of doing some hi-speed video of what happens as the blade grabs the stock and flings it back toward the operator. It was really incredible to see. The stock usually came flying out in a circular motion which produced an arced gouge in the surface of the piece. The blade deflected so far that you would have thought it would shatter, but it didn’t. Kick-back is not something to want to see. I’ve seen many a cinder block wall get some wood imbedded into it by kick-back. It isn’t pretty. Just guess how bad it hurts to be hit by it. Till next time…. Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Friday, May 25, 2012

V3.21 - Table Saws: Done with FSBT

We were talking about the use of FSBT on smaller bench top table saws. Those are the lightweight 150 dollar saws that you see flopping around in pickup truck beds, going from job site to job site. Like I said last week, those saws are very lightly built - there just isn’t a lot of steel or bracing inside them and the force of the FSBT would be very hard for them to handle. Now, of course, the makers of those saws could beef up the guts of their saws to allow it to handle the FSBT. Yes, they could, but it’s very likely that the added weight would make the saw too heavy to be easily portable. Not to mention the added costs of doing so. So, if FSBT is required by law, it might put those manufacturers out of business. Sadly, that has never seemed to be much of a concern to any Gov.Co agency. Especially nowadays. We, the people, have given them way too much power over our lives. But I digress, sorry… Anyway, there is talk among the lawyers that handle this sort of thing that the CPSC might just write some new directives and force every saw to have FSBT. On one hand, I’d hate to see it because, as it stands now, the only workable FSBT belongs to Steve Gass. Enacting new regulations that force FSBT to be installed would make Mr. Gass immensely wealthy. Please understand, I have nothing against someone inventing something and the market going crazy over it and them getting very rich from it. (Think: “Pet Rock”) That’s what our country has been about from day one. However, I surely DO have a problem when someone invents something and then does everything within their power to gain the backing of the US Government and have them force manufacturers to buy his product. In my personal opinion, there is something just plain wrong with that. This is not letting the market forces do what they usually do. Unfortunately, it IS the way our society has become. I’m sure that there are some parts of Mr. Gass’s thoughts that have him just drooling at the very idea of the companies that turned down his invention, now being forced to pay him for it. Retribution? Payback? Who really knows. One would hope that his integrity would transcend those sorts of schoolyard shenanigans, but with him constantly being in the CPSC’s face and trying to push them in the direction he wants them to go… well, as I’ve said before, it just stinks. The greater good to mankind would be for him to release all claims to the patents of FSBT. THAT would show his true heart. Too much to ask for? Probably so. Till next time…. Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

V3.20 - Table Saws: Who Loses?

Continuing our discussion… OK, MY discussion… you’re just listening in on my ranting. Flesh Sensing Brake Technology (FSBT) is currently available on the product called Sawstop. That’s all well and good. When the brake engages, it utilizes a replaceable cartridge that I believe costs around $80 to replace. So, let’s say that you have a table top saw that costs you $150 and it is mandated that you install FSBT on it. Currently, a FSBT retro-fit package doesn’t exist, so if a law is made that you cannot use your table top saw unless it has FSBT – you’ve just been legislated out of a table saw. So, OK… someone (be it Sawstop or another company) designs and starts selling a new table top saw that has FSBT included. The first thing that happens, the initial cost of this saw goes up to accommodate the new FSBT. But for the discussion’s sake, let’s just say that some REAL - cheap manufacturer out there finds a way to still sell a small saw with FSBT for $150…and then your brake fires…and it costs you $80 to replace the cartridge… that would be over half of the price of a new saw. Now, seriously, how many times are you going to do that before you throw the thing away? Alright, back on target…So Mr. Gass is ‘helping’ the Consumer Product Safety Commission decide whether to adopt new product rules that require FSBT on some table saws. He hasn’t made a secret of his efforts. This is well-known in the industry. It still smells a bit unseemly, but to each his own, I suppose. Please don’t misunderstand, I believe the FSBT invention is right on par with automotive airbags or seatbelts. It IS a game-changer, but if Mr. Gass’s motives for working with the CPSC were as pure as he would have us believe, it seems to me that he would donate the patents to the open market and anyone could use them…for free. Will we see that from him? Do NOT hold your breath. I believe I’ve read articles that have him saying how this invention was so badly needed and such a great contribution to society, and in the next breath refuse to release it so that everyone could be safer. Sadly, the ultimate loser will be the consumer. How? Good question. As already alluded to, if FSBT is required, the cost of ALL saws will go up. Not good. There are some small benchtop saws wherein FSBT is totally impractical. The motor design, or the ‘guts’ of the saw, may very well not be ‘beefy’ enough to handle the sudden explosion of a FSB…and let me tell you, it is fast, loud and hard when it goes off. It has to be in order to bring a saw blade that is turning around 4000RPM to a dead stop in milliseconds. Till next time…. Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Friday, May 11, 2012

V3.19 - Table Saws: Suits & Laws

So, where were we? Mr. Gass has started his own company, yet is still participating in hearings of the Consumer Product Safety Commission wherein they are considering forcing every saw maker to incorporate Flesh-Sensing Brake Technology (FSBT) on their products…or they will not be allowed to market their saws. Who holds the particular patents for FSBT? Why Mr. Gass, of course. I have always thought that the surest way to get filthy rich was to create something that the government said everyone had to have, and one could only get it from ME. Obviously, Mr. Gass thinks the same way. Now, one follow up part to this is that once the FSBT exists, you KNOW what is coming next. Never mind that FSBT was only designed for, and works on an Industrial Table Saw. Oh, no. Our society has become so enamored with ‘striking it rich’ by suing someone, that there are now court cases in the system wherein the complainant says they got hurt on their table saw…. Because FSBT was not installed on it. What sort of table saw, you ask? I am so glad that occurred to you. The most famous of these lawsuits pertains to a $150.00 bench top table saw….and I have not yet told you the real punch line. The user REMOVED the factory-supplied guard, used the saw and got cut. Yes, you read that right. The guard was there, the user decided to take it off and got hurt. Not surprisingly, two words come to my mind: “Oh, well”. That this wasn’t just laughed out of the room when they first had a hearing, tells you how stupid some judges are. I wonder… if I decided to remove the brakes from my car and go blasting off down the road and hit a tree and hurt myself…could I then sue the car maker? According to the progression of lawsuits on table saws, I suppose that I could. Seriously tho, back to the idea that because FSBT is available, ALL saws should have it… that is also a bogus idea. There are some autos that have 4 wheel disc brakes. Do they stop better than rear drum brakes? Yes, they do. Should ALL cars be forced to have 4 wheel disc brakes? Probably not. The customer should have the option. Kind of off on another tangent, but I cannot begin to tell you how many times we (old Delta) made a change to a product and customers who had bought the previous model were all over us about sending them the new design. I often wondered how many times Ford sent out new parts to upgrade the older models, when they came out with a new model… Yes, laughing out loud - Not on your best day. We’ll talk more next time… Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

V3.18 - Table Saw: Sawstop part 2

Continuing with our saga about table saw guards and Sawstop in particular; The story, as I lived it and heard it play out is this: Mr. Gass spent a lot of time and invented his version of ‘flesh-sensing’ brake technology and he then proceeded to contact various woodworking machine manufacturers in his efforts to get them to add his brake to their saws and pay him royalties. It might be best to mention that Mr. Gass’ profession is as a patent lawyer. At this point the Sawstop story differs. Gass says that ‘someone’ told him “Safety doesn’t sell”. But according to the manufacturers, Gass wanted way too much money for an untested product. “Untested”..? Yes, because some engineers had some very good points. Such as: no matter how much lab testing is done, there is no ‘test environment’ that will run a product thru the ringer quite like releasing it to the public will. Sawstop was untested technology. Also, before the brake engages, the user gets hurt. Now granted, it is just a scratch, as compared to a possible amputation, but the hurt IS there. That fact scared some folks off. Kind of a side note, but all of the demonstrations I have ever seen of the Sawstop shows the item - be it a weenie or Gass’s finger moved very slowly into the spinning sawblade. In the real world, kickbacks, which probably cause most of the ‘finger into blade situations’, happen in the blink of an eye. What I’d like to see is what the weenie looks like after someone has taken a major-league pitcher’s wind-up and thrown it into the blade as hard as they could. THAT would be a more realistic test, in my opinion. Anyway, trying to trim a long story, no manufacturer took Gass up on his offers. So, as inventors are used to doing, Gass started his own company which featured the Sawstop saw as its headline product. This was great…no one wants your product- start your own company and market it yourself…. But then comes the part that has turned a lot of people off. At some point in the process, maybe before he started his own company, maybe after… Mr. Gass made an appeal to the Consumer Product Safety Commission to have them require that all saws MUST have ‘flesh-sensing brake technology’ on them. The CPSC has the power to force companies to comply with this… and since Mr. Gass owns all of the FSBT patents, he could write his own ticket and be wealthier than Midas in the process. If this strikes you as an ‘around the backside’ way of forcing companies to give him what he initially asked for… you’re not alone. The same thought has occurred to many of us…and the smell is revolting. More next time… Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

V3.17 - Table Saw: Guards ‘n Sawstop

Last week we mentioned fences, but before we get into that, let’s take a look at one of the Table Saw’s most important safety features - the blade guard. There are several components of a blade guard. When talking about a conventional blade guard, there is the splitter, the housing, the mounting brackets and the anti-kickback fingers. One of the newer guard features that has come on the scene recently is the riving knife. While the riving knife has been featured on European saws for many years, it’s relatively new to the USA. Pretty much every woodworker will agree that conventional guards get in the way and are generally a pain in the caboose, but the bottom line is – they DO work. If you use them properly and allow them to do their job, they will prevent you from injuring yourself. Sadly, most woodworkers think they are too smart, too experienced, too ‘whatever’ - insert your own descriptive phrase that means ‘Those are for other folks not me’ - to need one. That’s when they get complacent and find themselves missing a finger or worse. Guards are not just for dummys. As we used to say in the Navy, most safety rules are written in someone’s blood. Guards fit this saying very well. One can be sawing along and have a kickback which throws their hand into the blade and poof, all of a sudden, there is a stump where a finger used to be. It’s NOT a pretty sight. Guards WILL prevent that, but one has to be willing to actually USE them. Nowadays one cannot talk about guarding of saws without mentioning a newfangled invention called “flesh-sensing technology”. The background of this is an invention of one Steve Gass and it is found on saws of his creation that are known as Sawstop. (note: for a video of how this works, just Google “Sawstop hot dog”) The invention itself, is kinda kool, but the politics surrounding it have left many a woodworker confused and some even a bit hacked at Mr. Gass. Once you see the video, I’m sure you’ll be impressed. You’ll see a hot dog slowly passed across a saw table - directly into a spinning saw blade, then, faster than you can saw ‘wow’, the blade will disappear with a loud BANG! Then you’ll see the side of the wiener and it will have a small cut on it. The hot dog represents a person’s finger, which would normally be cut severely and it will only have a small scratch on it. A truly ingenious device. BUT…the method of how this invention has been presented to the market has soured many a folk. Details next time…

Saturday, April 21, 2012

V3.16 - Table Saw: Drives and Fences

Ok, back to the mission at hand - Mr. Table Saw. We had introduced the Table Saw and left off talking about how the motor is connected to the arbor. One thing I might mention, there are several table saws that use a ‘universal motor’ (this motor has brushes inside it, just like your electric hand drill) and some of those motors have a cogged drive belt inside the motor unit. (most of them have reduction gears, not a belt) This gives some folks the opportunity to claim that the saw is a ‘belt-drive’ saw and cheat unsuspecting buyers. Now, technically, they are correct, but in the world of table saws, a universal motor that uses a drive belt is NOT the same thing as an induction motor, with a v-belt and pulley drive system. Ok, to continue our saw drive information; the v-belt and pulley drive system has certain advantages over direct-drive systems. For instance: A- the maximum thickness of wood that can be sawed is greater, because it is not necessary to keep the motor down to allow for motor clearance under the table. All that is needed is room for the arbor pulley and that is a lot smaller, so the arbor itself can get closer to the bottom of the table - therefore, the blade can cut deeper. B- It is easier to change from one motor to another in case of motor failure or in case the saw is transferred from one shop to another with a different power supply. C- A belt-drive saw does not coast as long as a direct-drive saw when it is turned off. This adds to the safety of the belt-drive saw. D- Problems with the saw motor or drive system are far easier to troubleshoot on a belt-drive saw. E- If the saw motor is a true ‘direct-drive’, meaning the blade is mounted directly on the motor shaft AND the motor is an induction motor, it will be a quieter running saw. But if the motor is a ‘universal motor’ with a gear reduction drive, it will be much, much louder. The belt-drive saw is almost as quiet as the direct-drive. There are two methods of accurately guiding the workpiece past the blade: a rip fence and a miter gauge. The rip fence is usually guided by, and mounted to bars that are fastened to the front and rear edges of the table. On some smaller saws, the rip fence is mounted on the table edge itself. In either case, the front rail or front table edge will have graduated markings that tell how far the rip fence is from the blade. The rip fence is used for all ripping operations and is secured during sawing operations by lock knobs or clamp handles. Send your questions or comments to: and we’ll see what we can do to help you.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

V3.14 - Howdy, Mr. Table Saw

Yes, “Mr. Table Saw”…one of the brightest, shining stars in any wood shop, and one of the most necessary. In fact, most wood shops would be out of business if their table saw vanished.
Table saws have been known be various names such as: bench saws, variety saws or stationary circular saws. The table saw is one of the oldest known stationary power tools used in woodworking. It is estimated that better than 80 percent of all woodworking involves sawing, so the value of a clean-cutting precision tool for this purpose is of great value. Anyone who has used a handsaw making a cut and then used a table saw to do the same job knows the value that a powered table saw brings to the operation. Not only is there an increase in production and a decrease in expended effort, there is also a huge gain in accuracy because the machine is designed to minimize the possibility of human error.
The table saw IS the basic machine in any woodworking shop for performing the fundamental operation of “Straight Line” sawing. It is not a difficult tool to operate. Plain ripping and cross-cutting come naturally to most operators, and other jobs requiring more know-how are easily learned. In fact, there are only six basic saw cut in all of woodworking: rip, bevel rip, crosscut, bevel crosscut, miter and bevel miter. All other cuts, no matter how intricate, are combinations of these basic cuts.
The size of a table saw is determined by the largest diameter saw blade that it will accommodate. Popular sizes for home shops and schools can range from 8 to 12 inches. Table saws for industrial use can range in size from 14, 16 or up to 24 inches. Saw cutting capacity is determined by the blade size. For instance, a 10-inch saw will usually cut thru wood 3 and one-quarter inches thick; a 12-inch saw will cut to 4 and one-eighth thickness, with the blade at 90 degrees. The operation of the modern table saw is simple. The saw blade is mounted on a threaded shaft called an arbor that it turned by a motor. Some smaller saws have the blade mounted directly to the motor shaft. The blade projects through a table on which the work is rested. The arbor must be tilted to cut bevels, chamfers and certain types of miters. There is a handle to raise and lower the blade, a device to lock the blade at any degree of tilt or height and a scale to show the degree of tilt. Saws that have the blade mounted directly to the motor shaft are called ‘direct-drive’ saws. The arbor of most saws is coupled to the motor by means of a belt and pulleys.

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

Thursday, March 29, 2012

V3.13 - Wrapping up Drill Presses

As promised, this is the wrap up for our review of Drill Presses. My main objective for this year is to give my readers (um, there IS more than just one of you…isn’t there?) a bit more knowledge about the various shop machines that are available.
Who knows, maybe you’ve kind of toyed with the idea of setting up a machine or two in your garage and as we got through the different tools, you might discover one that is something you really need. Hopefully, these articles will help you.

Ok, this week, we run into number 9: A full line of accessories will help you get the most from your Drill Press. Accessories which are supplied by manufacturer of the Drill Press that you choose are designed for that particular tool and it will not be necessary to use ‘workarounds’ to be able to use them to their best advantage.
I cannot begin to tell you how many times, during my 23 years with Delta Technical Service, that I would get a call from someone who had bought an accessory at a bargain store, only to come home and find out that it ‘don’t fit’, or wouldn’t ‘do what it says it will’. Come to find out, that accessory was made by some third party who had nothing to do with Delta. It turned out to be my job to gently explain to the customer that Delta did not design, build or endorse that accessory and that it ‘not working’ was not our fault. Most of the time we had a similar accessory but of course, it wasn’t sold at those rock-bottom prices that the customer had found at ‘Joe’s swap meet’. Sadly, that left Mr. Customer in a bind, unless they were able to get ahold of the manufacturer of the ‘outlaw accessory’, and that was mostly impossible.
On to number 10: It costs very little more at the start and much less in the long run to equip your shop with the best in power tools. Choose a Drill Press produced by a manufacturer who has an established record of reliability and quality. Yes, there are some ‘low-cost’ options, but if you intend to use your tools and actually rely on them, it is always better to buy good stuff on the front end. I’ve heard so many examples of customers who buy the cheapest, smallest tool they can find and then expect it to perform like a machine that costs 3 times as much as they paid.
Or like this one fellow, he ‘bought cheap’ and got a small bandsaw – a WOODcutting bandsaw mind you – and was trying to cut deer meat with it. Naturally, the blade kept slipping off the wheels from all the meat fat and blood - Duh. Yet, (you saw it coming- right?) he kept fussing with us as if this was a problem with the bandsaw.

Ah, customer stories… I got a million of ‘em. See you next week.

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

Saturday, March 17, 2012

V3.12 - Drill Press: Why no Parts?

Last week, we were talking about the way tool companies supply their replacement parts, and we started outlining how Delta got into such a hole with theirs. The thing is that once Delta got taken over by the portable tool folks (first Porter-Cable, then Black & Decker) the idea of supplying parts for decades went down the drain. Truthfully, there is quite a lot of difference in the philosophy behind supplying parts for portable tools and for stationary machines. P-C & B&D just never did ‘get it’.
Sadly, it was about to get worse.

In the grand scheme of parts, once B&D had fully taken Delta over, it was not unheard of for them to discontinue a tool and immediately no longer have any parts for it. No one was doing that ‘long-distance planning’ that I told you about last week. In the portable tool world, one could buy a drill for 40 bucks, use it for a year or two and they’ve pretty much gotten their money’s worth out of it. Not so for someone who bought a lathe for 500 bucks and then, a year later, can’t get a drive belt for it. THAT is what Delta is dealing with right now. B&D would not get a supply of replacement parts for future support of Delta tools. In fact, I know of several instances where a tool is currently being marketed and sold and a customer has a need for a part and that part is ‘cannot furnish’. This is NOT what a customer wants to hear… this is one of the reasons that B&D sold off the Delta brand last February. The lack of foresight of B&D has really put those guys in a hole. Eventually, they will climb out of it, but it’s going to be a while. I suppose, being honest again, if I were in the market for a new drill press, and I were considering a Delta, I would make sure that it was made after 2010. I do know the ‘new Delta guys’ and they are committed to supporting their products, but they’ve been left holding an empty bag. I have even done some consulting for them and we’re working thru issues one at a time. If they can hang on, I know it will turn around.

It’s always important to consider the company you’re buying items from, or at least I do. I try my best to support businesses that employ our citizens. Think this means “Buy American”? You’re absolutely correct. Fortunately, even though a tool may be manufactured outside of our country, ‘tool service’ is still a homegrown effort. So, even when a machine is made in China, you can bet that you’ll be talking to someone in the USA if you have questions about it.

Next week, we’ll wrap up our Drill Press review.

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

Thursday, March 8, 2012

V3.10 - Drill Press: Parts and Parts

Last week, we left off at item number 8 on our list of things to consider when buying a Drill Press. Item 8 is a very important thing to consider if you intend to keep your Drill Press for a while. It’s also something that is a problem for some companies. We’ll explore the reasons it’s a problem, even though there isn’t a lot that we consumers can do about it, except let the manufacturers know of our displeasure.

Ok, so number 8 says: Be certain you can get proper replacement parts and service, if needed. Now, I could leave it at that and just dump you, but I am just not that way. Any advice I give in these columns has to be impartial and honest, above all. Frankly, there is a company that is near and dear to my heart that is having some serious part delivery issues right now. Truthfully, it wasn’t their fault that they got into this condition, but they have to deal with it now.

Of course, I’m talking about Delta. For those that don’t know, I was a founding member of Delta’s Technical Service Department back in 1985 and I finished my career with them in 2005, as their Technical Service Manager. Had things not been so discombobulated (that’s a southern word meaning: messed up) I’m sure I would still be with them…but that tale was told in this column last year - so let’s move on.
Anyway, Delta - when its tools were made in the USA (and I mean FULLY made here, not just assembled here) used to be able to supply parts for decades. They stored the patterns and kept the blueprints like, forever. They understood the value of being able to support their tools far into the future. I think some of that mindset might have been due to the efforts that Delta made in the war support and schools markets. Both of those groups would probably require their supplier (Delta or whoever) to be able to support the product for a set amount of time. So let’s step aboard the Wayback machine and take a look at Delta once it started making tools in the far East. That was when Delta discovered the same thing that other manufacturers did. Once a tool that was say, made in China, was discontinued, the Chinese manufacturer destroyed all of the molds and patterns, and probably the actual blueprints. The trick to keep this from biting you was to obtain a decent record of your part purchases and make your best forecast of future part purchases. Then you’d order however many parts you think you’d need for however many years you intend to support the tool. We need to stop here for this week, but we’ll do it more next time…

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

Saturday, March 3, 2012

V3.9 - Drill Press: Speeds and Capacities

Alright, if you’ve followed along for the past 3 weeks, you (hopefully) know more about the workings of Drill Presses. We’ve told you about just how versatile a Drill Press can be. Now, you’ve made the decision that this is one machine your shop could really use… but what to look for? What are the most important features to consider? What will it have that will allow you to fully utilize its capabilities? Well, let’s just take a look at some of those thoughts and give you some ideas.
1: The entire Drill Press should be solidly constructed to allow for long life and the ability to continue precision work over time.
2: The Drill Press table and base should be ribbed for strength and rigidity. They should be slotted. The table should have flats or ledges on the sides, which can be used for clamping the work. (This offers convenience and safety to the user.) The table should have a precision-ground work surface which helps keep the work accurate and the base should also have a flat surface for holding large workpieces. The table should be easily adjustable, up or down – left or right, for adapting to different drilling situations.
3: The Drill Press head should be cast iron since that offers excellent support and protection for the most important parts of the Drill press, the motor, the quill and the spindle.
4: The Drill Press should be equipped with a chuck that is tightened with a key, not by hand. The chuck should have a one-half inch capacity so that it will accommodate the various size bits and accessories. Many drill Presses feature a taper-mounted chuck. By having a taper-mounted chuck, the runout of the chuck/spindle is practically eliminated and the user is assured of accurate drilling. Some chucks feature a self-ejecting chuck key which ensures that the key is not accidentally left in the chuck.
5: The Drill Press should be equipped with a depth-stop. The depth-stop will allow the user to drill many holes at the same depth as the original hole. It eliminates guessing and allows precision accuracy.
6: The Drill Press should have an adjustable motor bracket support. It should be sturdily constructed to support the motor, yet adjustable to allow for ease of setting proper belt tension.
7: The Drill Press should have a selection of speeds for drilling wood, metal, plastic, glass and ceramics. Some Drill Presses feature a triple-pulley arrangement for easy selection of 12 different speeds, ranging from a low of 250rpm to a high of 3000rpm.
We’ll stop here, for this week…

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

Thursday, February 23, 2012

V3.8 - Drill Press: Speeds and Capacities

My, my. We’re just moving right along with our information about Drill Presses.
At some point we’re going to get into ‘what to look for when buying a DP’. I’m sure that will help anyone who is contemplating adding a new machine to their shop.
For now, let’s get back to our rundown.

Where’d we leave off? Oh yes, we were at the chuck and the next nearest thing to talk about is the spindle. The ‘spindle’ is usually driven by a stepped-cone pulley or pulleys that are connected by a v-belt to a similar pulley on a motor. The ‘motor’ is bolted to a plate that is located at the rear of the head casting at the rear of the column. The average range of speeds of the typical DP is 250rpm to about 3000rpm. Delta used to manufacturer a ‘super hi-speed’ Drill Press. It was so named because the bit speed was around 10,000rpm. The motor only turned at 3450rpm, but because of the belt ratio, it could really turn ‘n burn. It seems that jewelers loved it. Since the motor shaft stands vertically, a sealed ball bearing motor is best suited for a Drill Press. For average work, a one-quarter or three-quarter horsepower motor usually meets most requirements.

The capacity, or ‘size’ of a Drill Press is determined by the distance from the center of the drill bit to the front of the column - then doubled. For instance, a 12-inch Drill Press can drill to the center of a 12-inch diameter circle, but the distance from the center of the bit to the front of the column is only 6 inches. This is how all Drill Presses are measured. One of the most versatile Drill Presses was the “Ram Radial” Drill Press. This was an industrial Drill Press that was used a lot, during the Second World War, in airplane factories. The head had a long appendage fastened to its back and that casting rolled inside a ball bearing track. What this allowed was that the head could be moved backwards and forwards almost 3 feet. I’m working off memory but as I recall this press could drill to the center of a 72-inch circle, or down to about an 8-inch circle…and any and all points in between. It was such a popular concept, but one that most home shop guys could not afford, that back in the 1970’s, Rockwell International created a home shop version that could drill to the center of a 32-inch circle. It could also slide in and out, just like its bigger brother, which enabled it to be just as versatile.

Next week we’ll outline a few tips to keep in mind when you’re out shopping for your new Drill Press.

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

Thursday, February 16, 2012

V3.7 - Drilling, etc…

Ok, where were we? Lost in Space? In the Twilight Zone? Maybe in a Galaxy Far, Far Away? Nah, we were just playing around in the shop talking about Drill Presses.

Back we go… A conventional DP consists of the following main parts: the base, the column, the table and the head. The ‘base’ supports the machine. Usually it has pre-drilled holes that are for fastening the DP to the floor, a work table or a bench. Some bases have a machined surface that is used to hold a workpiece that might be too large to fit on the regular DP table. The ‘column’, usually made of steel, holds the table and the head and is fastened to the base. Actually the length of this hollow column determines whether the DP is a bench model (it mounts on a work bench) or a floor model (it stands on the floor). Floor DP’s range in height from 66 to 75 inches tall and bench-mounted models range in height from 23 to 48 inches tall. The ‘table’ is clamped to the column approximately midway between the head and the base. It can usually be moved up and down the column, so as to fit odd-sized objects inside the drilling range. The table may have slots and/or clamping ledges in it to aid in clamping and holding fixtures or workpieces. Most tables have a centered locator hole through them and some tables can be tilted, left or right, while some tables have a fixed position only. Some tables have a ready-made “dummy table” which can be easily attached to the table for certain sanding operations.
The term ‘head’ is used to designate the entire working mechanism that is attached to top of the column. The most important part of the head is the spindle. The spindle revolves in a vertical position and has bearings at both ends and is housed inside a moveable sleeve, called the quill. The quill, and therefore the spindle it houses, is moved downward by means of simple rack-and-pinion gearing, worked by the feed lever. When the feed handle is released, the quill is returned to its normal up position by means of a spring. Adjustments are provided for locking the quill and for presetting the depth to which the quill can travel. The quill usually has a stroke (travel length) of 2 to 3 and one-quarter inches on most home shop models. Industrial, or heavy-duty, DP’s usually have a stroke of 6 inches.
An average DP comes equipped with a one-half inch capacity geared chuck with key. This chuck offers the best grip for the most work.

We’ll wrap up this week here and be back with you next week.

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

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

V3.6 - Oh, Those Little Tots

We now interrupt your regularly scheduled programming for this important commercial. Well, it’s not really a commercial, but it does have to do with television. If you’ve been reading my columns for any length of time, you probably know about my love for the antique baby strollers that were made by The Frank Taylor Co. They were branded as “Taylor-Tots” and are the Model T’s of the baby stroller industry. There is no telling how many of them were made from the mid-1920’s until around 1975. I restore them, publish an e-newsletter with over 100 readers and sell some parts. As far as I know, I have the only website in the world that is about these little guys. (shameless plug alert:

Anyway, I also watch a program called “American Restoration” and last night the program guide said something about a “1930’s Taylor Tot walker”. So I was all eyes when the program came on. A little into the program it showed the fellows buying a Taylor-Tot from a local picker. (“picker”- where did that term come from? We used to call them “junkmen” or “scrounges”. If we liked them, they were “collectors”.) So the picker pulls out this little stroller and it’s kind ragged - no push handle, or foot tray and the seat was all busted – and he says “It’s from the 40’s”… BZZZZT. Wrongo, me Bucko. Right off I saw that it had plastic beads which were not put on the Tots until 1956. So I knew these guys were clueless as to what they really had. But don’t worry, the real punchline came later in the show. Then they settled on a price of 50 dollars and the picker went away happy.

So, as the show went along, it showed them taking it apart, media blasting all the parts, making a new foot tray and push handle and then putting it all back together. My wife and I are watching this and I kept going “Yep…done that… and that… and that…and that”. It’s a wonder she didn’t throw her bag of popcorn at me, but then she’s not like that. So, they get the stroller done and it doesn’t look too bad. Actually, it’s a LOT better looking than it was when they first got it. It was very apparent that they had looked at some other strollers to see how the handle and foot tray should be shaped, but they did good. THEN, they had a nice couple show up to buy this thing and when Rick (the shop owner) said that he wanted 1700 dollars for it, I almost fell out of my chair. I can do a complete restoration for around 500 and I’ll put my work up against theirs any day. But then, they have shop rent and higher labor rates in NV than I do in TN.

Maybe I need to raise my prices…

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