Sunday, July 3, 2016

You, too, can be a Happy Clamper with 3/4-Inch Pony Pipe Clamps

Pony Tools ¾-Inch Pipe Clamps #50

Pony Pipe Clamp
Any good woodshop has what may appear to be excessive wall space lined with clamps of all sizes and shapes. Many look at first glance to be common black pipe with bulky orange fittings on the end, and that’s exactly what they are: black pipes with orange cranks and tabs on the ends. They’re a woodworking standard, gas pipe fitted with ¾-inch Pony Pipe Clamps, and most woodworkers have several pairs.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

It’s Always the 4th of July When You Own a Palm Nailer

Porter-Cable Palm Nailer PN650

Everyone has his or her weakness, be it shoes, books, music, or whatever. One of mine – I have several, unfortunately – is power tools. Fortunately, using tools for projects gives me the best excuse to buy new ones. Can people say that about their shoe habits? Happily, my wife buys them for me as gifts – perhaps because of the carpenter genes she got from her Dad. One such gift was a device that lands somewhere in the middle between "why didn't I think of that?" and "why would anyone want that?" It's a Porter-Cable PN650 Palm Nailer. Not familiar? Think on this:

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Accentuate the Natural Beauty of the Wood

Formby's Low Gloss Tung Oil Finish

The project I'd (finally) completed was small, and I'd made an unusual choice of woods: half clean, yellow-blond poplar and the other half handsome, chocolaty walnut. The choice of woods – in particular the colors --  was the point of the piece, so when it came time for finishing I wanted something that would accentuate the wood's texture without overpowering its natural colors. My Dad liked tung oil for subtle finishes, so I followed his lead by choosing some Formby's Traditional Tung Oil Finish. Although Formby's is now a member of the MinWax family, Homer's bespectacled face still decorates the label and, according to MinWax, the formula is unchanged.

The low-gloss formula I used is 70% aliphatic hydrocarbons (i.e., mineral spirits), and the rest is a proprietary mixture of oils and resins of tung oil, pressed from the nuts of a tree native to east Asia. Formby's Tung Oil is intended for use as a hand-rubbed finish, applied with lint-free cloth in a circular motion, much like waxing a car. After the finish dries -- some twelve hours, unless the humidity is high -- you apply another coat. I prefer to soften the grain with a light application of steel wool between coats. Repeat until the finish is satisfactory.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Skil's entry-level wet tile saw gets the job done for DIYers

Skil 3540-2 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw

I once laid ceramic tile in a bathroom using only the “score and snap” technique to cut my tiles… never again! It’s something you only have to experience once, if you ask me. So when I took on a project remodeling the powder room, a project that entailed ripping up the existing sheet vinyl (thank you, Rockwell Sonicrafter!) and laying 8” x 8” tiles, I sprung for a wet tile saw. Amazon had bunches, most of which were out of reach – so I went for the least expensive model they had with a name I recognized.  That mean I chose a SKIL 3540-02 7-Inch Wet Tile Saw. Being a recognizable name, though, doesn’t mean the saw didn’t come from China…

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Handi-Clamps: Irwin's Gift to Woodworkers Who Never Learned to Juggle

Irwin Quickgrips 4-Inch Handi-Clamps

The walls in the shop look like they've sprouted bar clamps in all sizes and shapes: these are the "big guns" in my woodworking arsenal. Smaller clamps, in multiple shapes and sizes themselves, dwell in a drawer in my tool cabinet. There you’ll find C-Clamps, band clamps, spring clamps and corner clamps; along with some light-duty clamps combine the C-Clamp’s reach with a spring clamp’s convenience. By that, I mean some Irwin Quick-Grip Handi-Clamps, the 4-inch size (stock number 59400CD).

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Crown Molding was Never This Easy: Corner Blocks Rule!

House of Fara Corner Blocks

There are few interior details that effectively add some "class" to a room as a
course of crown molding up at ceiling level. It's tasteful, elegant, attractive... and a total pain in the butt to install. That’s probably why the skinny saw originally used to cut miters on the stuff is called a coping saw: because carpenters had to cope with the stuff too. But seriously: cutting a miter in crown molding truly tries one’s patience: does it go in the miter box/saw upside down? right-side up? Must you cope the joints for a better fit? How loud should you swear when you botch a cut? 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Cutting Large Circles or Arcs? No Problem!

Dasco Pro 1405 Giant-Circle Beam Compass

Woodworkers have plenty of ways to mark out circles. Little circles -- up to perhaps 3” diameter -- are easy to cut with a hole saw. Anything bigger means that bringing out a different sort of tool like a jig saw or a band saw, depending on the use. Assuming you have a saw and the stock to cut, the problem becomes one of "How do I mark a curve that large???" You could root ask your kids for their compass (what the geometry teacher calls "dividers"), but they’re good for a radius of about six inches at most. What if you need to mark a curve with a twenty- or thirty-inch radius? Or larger? Do you struggle with string, a nail, and a pencil? 

Nope: you pull out your Dasco Pro 1405 Giant-Circle Beam Compass and a half-inch dowel, and quick as a whistle you've marked a curve. It actually is that easy.

Friday, February 5, 2016

The Power Tool I Didn't Know I Needed -- Until I Did

Rockwell RK5140K 3.0-amp Sonicrafter

Apparently every well-equipped DIYer’s workshop needs an oscillating multitool – at least that’s what the BigBox stores told my wife when she was shopping a couple of Christmases ago. That’s why she gave me a Rockwell Sonicrafter kit that year. 

I’ll be honest: I looked at the thing, took all the pieces-parts out of the handy carrying case, and then shoved it under the workbench with several other power tools that only come out for special jobs, like a palm nailer and an angle grinder. I pretty much forgot all about this tool until starting my latest DIY job, remodeling the powder room in the new home. After pulling all the fixtures and removing the molding, my next step was to pull up the cheesy-looking sheet vinyl floor in preparation for laying ceramic tile. I’d started that rather laborious process by hand, using a heat gun and a scraper, before I remembered the multitool sitting unused in the workshop. Yippee! Not only did I have a chance to use the new toy, but I had a much faster way to strip that crummy flooring!