Thursday, July 31, 2014

V5.31 - 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.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

V5.30 - Update on Ms. Rachel

Ok, I feel a ‘detour’ coming on. It’s about time, isn’t it?

A couple of months ago, I told you about my friend, Ms. Rachel. She was the relative of Emanuel . Rachel had sent me a photo of a young child sitting in a stroller. She said that the picture was probably taken in Lithuania in the late 1930’s and she wondered of the stroller could be identified as a 1930’s vintage Taylor-Tot.

As it turned out I have been in recent contact with Rachel and she told me that she has visited her ancestral hometown of Skuodas and even has a website that’s dedicated to it. She said: “By the way,  I don't know if I ever told you I started a website about my dad's hometown of Skuodas, in Lithuania. I've been back there a few times and hope to go back again this summer. Aside from researching my own "roots," I'm interested in fostering a dialogue between present-day Skuodas citizens, who are all Christians, and descendants of the former Jewish community, who now live all over the world. The site is at, if you're interested. It's a big site, so you probably won't want to look at everything, but I can recommend the blog if you want an idea of the kinds of things I've been up to.”

Of course, I’ve been all over the site and it is truly interesting. There is now a nice little video which shows a ride through the area and it is very quaint. One can only imagine the horrors that occurred in that small town.

This passage is from a translation of writings from one of the citizens:

“Once there was a shtetele, Shkud, which is no longer, which will never again rise from blood and ash and smoke. The laughter of Jewish children will never again echo in the marketplace. Respectable people, lost in thought, will never again walk down the Long Street into the synagogue, and summery young people will never again stride through the Vilke Birzhe ["forest of the wolf," possibly the local name of a wooded area between Old and New Skuodas] and through the Old Town to the rivers. Fires have devoured the Long Street’s marketplace. Perhaps red roses will sprout from the Vilke Birzhe, dark with Jewish blood, and the last cries of mothers and fathers will echo in the playful murmur of the rivers. The conflagration has devoured the town together with those who built it. And the place where it stood will not, and should not, dare to refill itself with life. The laughter of Lithuanian peasants must not disturb the rest of our murdered generation”

People, it can happen here…in America- never forget.

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

V5.29 - 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.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

V5.28 - 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
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Thursday, July 3, 2014

V5.27 - 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.

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