10-Drawer Small Tool Chest – Part 3

August 18, 2014 Leave a comment

I was blessed with one day in the shop this weekend as Saturday was a road trip day for me and Susan. I finished up last weekend’s effort realizing that the drawer sides, backs and fronts were all proud and had to be fit to the case. Better too big than too small I suppose but having already glued up 4 of the 10 drawers meant it wouldn’t be as easy as running them through the table saw or so I found out.

Build Day 5 – Gluing and Fitting Drawer Sides

I thought that I had been careful to dial in my measurements when milling the drawer sides. I took my time and got it just right before starting on the sides glue up last weekend. After the glue-up I found none of the 4 fit and were both too tall and too wide for the case. Sigh. I’m really not surprised after all I have no previous experience with this sort of work so I’m reading and learning as I go. I reasoned that I could trim up the frame on the table saw which turned out to be true in the width dimension. The frame was wide and sturdy and when laid flat up against the rip fence the cut was smooth with just a bit of tear out on the end grain as the saw blade left the work piece. The tear out was worse on the oak face so I learned to lead with the oak, trimming approximately half off of each side of the frame until I dialed in the fit.

I found trimming the height on the table saw turned out to be a different story. I probably could have trimmed the awkward frame if I had bothered to make a tall fence jig to hold the piece vertically. I tried sawing one without a tall fence and it turned out how you might have predicted a real mess. Butchered it up pretty good but… I was able to salvage it by cleaning it up with a plane and using it on the top drawer which as it turns out was the smallest of all the evenly sized drawers. At this point I got real busy with the  block plane and it took a while but I was able to fit the 4 glued frames to the case.

Drawer Shavings  4 Down 6 Left to Go

Now that I had a better idea of sizing the sides, I took the unassembled pieces back to the table saw for tweaking prior to gluing.

Re-sized Drawer Sides and Fronts

I decided to see if my corner clamps were of any benefit gluing up these frames and I found that using all 4 provide great results.

Corner Clamps

I started by locking all four sides in place, squaring up the corners. Then I gently loosened the two clamps which held the front, applied glue then gently locked it back in place. Before cinching it down I applied quick clamps on both sides to draw the pieces together then locked it back with the miter clamp. I could then take the quick clamps off and repeat for the drawer back. The only draw back is that I could only glue up one frame at a time having to let things set up before moving to the next frame. I’m glad I tried it and would have completed all the frames this way had I experimented earlier.

10 Drawer Sides Glued

So the afternoon’s work found me with 10 glued up drawer frames. My next session I’ll be fitting the remaining drawers and then gluing the frames to the draw bottoms. After that I’ll be able to think about beading the drawers and fitting pulls. I predict it will be 2 or 3 more build days then I can start finishing the piece. Please don’t get me wrong, this hobby has taught me humility and patience and I’m not in a hurry. I enjoy my time working in the shop so it takes as long as it takes and that’s OK by me.

Lesson’s Learned

I’m learning shop tips and tricks all the time and some are pretty basic but very important. Last Friday I stumbled upon a Forrest Saw Blade video which happened to be sponsored by Woodcraft. I learned that the blade should be raised way above the work piece for ripping cuts, about one inch above the work piece for cross cuts and just clearing the tooth gullet for plywood. Dude, no wonder my rips were almost catching the wood on fire. Yes, you really need to be careful of that wicked spinning blade but I couldn’t believe the difference. I had been raising the blade so that the gullets just clear the wood for all cuts and on rips I could easily stop the blade the blade and lots of burning on the edges. Education is a good thing.

Using the miter clamps was good thing also and I’ve no doubt this trick will be useful on future builds.

And one other trick that I’ve yet to use but will do so once the drawers are finished and that is to the fix the chest so that it doesn’t rock. As I have learned, furniture with 4 legs often have this problem. With 3 points of attachment, you define a plane and if you add the 4th point, it too must be on the same plane or else you have rocking. Gary Rogowski, Director of The Northwest Woodworking Studio provided a great video tutorial on Leveling Chair Legs showing us how this problem can be easily and efficiently fixed. I won’t say “I can’t wait to try this” but I know I’m going to have to give it go because my chest rocks and that ain’t cool.

You have been reading an excerpt from the shop journal of the Turtlecovebrewer.

Categories: Woodworking Tags: ,

10-Drawer Small Tool Chest – Part 2

August 11, 2014 Leave a comment

Boy, I had what I can only describe as a stressful week last week. No less than three deaths of friends and acquaintances plus two roll-outs of new equipment. I’ll not trouble my readers with the sad details for the families of those who lost loved ones had a far more stressful time than I. My heart and prayers go out to them. My brother wanted me to travel to Orlando so that we could begin the process of selling my Mother’s house but I fought for my shop time, there really wasn’t a whole lot that could be accomplished so that work lies ahead.

Build Day 3 – Case Assembly

Coming off the hubris of last weekend’s work I realized that I wasn’t yet ready for case assembly. In fact a fair amount of work lay ahead of me before I was at that point. I needed to form the back crown and bottom shelf edge banding, then glue them up and sand them flush. I started with the edge banding for the plywood bottom which I glued up, planed flush and relieved the edges with my block plane. I used the same strategy as I had on the back edges (dado stops) which was to leave both ends a bit long then after glue up I sawed them close (if necessary) and planed them flush.


While the bottom edge banding was drying, I began the layout of the crown. Although I have project plans it’s not like I’m working with a template.  So it’s back into creative mode to see how the arc for the crown should be drawn. I laid the sides on the back and used the previous arc as a guide. This is not exactly how it was done in the plans but I thought it reasonable for my version, so I extended the arc out to the edges and cut it out on the band saw. I was careful not to butcher the off cuts because I was going to need them for cauls. The back was oversized being of the correct width but taller/longer than required so prior to assembly I cross-cut  it to terminate at the bottom shelf.

IMG_3729  IMG_3730

For this glue up I pulled out my “never been used” pipe clamps. Another day, I’ll bolt on some wooden pads but to keep things moving I decided to save that work for another day.


With these two oak pieces completed I was ready to plan the case assembly. I begin with a mock-up using four corner clamps. I inserted 1/4″ strips into the bottom dado to make sure the bottom shelf lines up properly and relied on pencil marks to align the top. Hummm things basically fit but how am I going to glue four sides and a back at the same time while? The age-old wood working question I suppose. My solution was to glue and screw a piece at a time so it was time to drill and counter bore for screws.


I began by laying out the screw locations while the case was mocked-up. I made two simple templates, one for top and bottom and the other for the back screws. This was no time to mess up so I carefully checked that I going to hit what I was aiming at. I marked the locations by drilling with 1/8″ bit using a hand drill (could have used a punch) then after marking all the screw location on the side, I took to over to the drill press to make the through hole. With the 1/8″ holes drilled, I changed the bit and bored a 3/8″ recess with my Forstner bit. I didn’t want to counter bore too deeply and weaken the joint I decided to stop just shy of the bit depth which translates to about 3/8″ or 9 mil. Deep enough to hide the screw and easy to plug. Because the through hole was only 1/8″ the Forstner bit was fairly easy to center on the pilot hole. After doing about half of them, I remembered my press has a laser light that I had never used before. That really sped things up when I realized that the thing actually worked. So instead of turning off the press for each hole, I kept it running and relied on the laser to center on the pilot hole. Worked.


Tired or not I can’t stop now as everything has been prepared for assembly.

IMG_3733   IMG_3734

So my strategy was to once again mock-up the pieces using clamps as required. Once I was happy with the alignment (double and triple checking) I then pre-drilled and in some cases, replaced the clamps with screws so the case would hold shape until I could glue it. The actual glue-up is now a bit of a blur. I started with the back laying flat on the bench and I simultaneously glued one side and bottom using the pre-drilled screw holes for clamping and alignment. Next I did the same thing on the side, gluing the bottom, back and side together using the screws to keep things aligned. It wasn’t perfect but it was pretty close and my best work yet. I managed to get it assembled without covering up the bottom dado and it looked like all the other ones lined up. Smashing day’s work!

Build Day 4 – Drawer Manufacturing and Plugs

After a lovely morning spent with the Mrs., I made it to the shop around 10 AM. I started by pulling out the circ saw and rough sizing the plywood draw bottoms. After the first cut, I took to the case and realized I had cut it too narrow. But how, I used by nifty guide how could this have happened? It’s called, cutting on the wrong side of the blade. I forgot on this first cut that the waste is to be on the left side of the blade and the work piece to the right. That is why we test right? Turns out I had more than enough if I chose not to use this first piece, but I kept it handy in case one of the slots was bit tight perhaps I would need it. After I dialing in the dimensions I wanted, I made final cuts on the table saw. Drawer bottoms took a little longer than I might have predicted and this time included an attempt to clean up the dados to make them slide cleanly. All but the top and bottom drawers cooperated. I’m still working on those.

Satisfied that I could move on, I pulled out my 3/8″ plug cutter and made plugs to fill my screw bores. This was the first time I used this technique that I learned (on the Internet of course). So you drill your plugs making sure not to drill all the way through your piece. You then put a piece of tape over the plugs and then re-saw the piece in half. I used my bandsaw which seemed way safer than the table saw. Worked like a charm, the plugs stick to the tape so nothing goes flying. You might have noticed that I used white pine instead of purple heart. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em I say ;-)

IMG_3735  IMG_3736

So while the plugs were drying it was time to turn this:


into this:


then after that, each one of these had to be ripped to final drawer height. I forgot to get a photo, sorry. This all took a fair amount of “quiet time” at the table saw.

Now it was pretty late in the afternoon but I still wanted to glue up a few drawer sides before calling it quits. One piece at a time, I plane and sand relieve edges prior to gluing. I pulled out four drawers to start with which worked out just right because I was ready to quit for the day and I ran out of clamps and table space.

IMG_3742   IMG_3741

Nothing but glue (and clamps) holding this together but Jim Stack as assured me in his plans that when secured (glued and nailed) to the plywood bottom the drawer will be plenty strong. I though about using dowels but they would have drastically slowed progress. Perhaps when I’m retired I will take the extra time but now if I was really worried about strength I would nail it instead.

What’s Left?

I would estimate another day or two will be required to finish the build. I need to shape and finish up the other six sets of drawer sides, then glue them to the bottoms. Then I’ll need to fit the drawers which I fear I have made too tight. Oh they fit but I’ll definitely have to trim the sides to make them practical. I completely forgot about that whole wood expansion, contraction thing. Perhaps because it’s summer I’ll be OK but then again, I’m in the air conditioning so maybe not.

Finally I’ll make and fit the drawer pulls. No telling how long it will take to apply the finish but I think I’m going to stick with shellac.

You have been reading an excerpt from the shop journal of the Turtlecovebrewer.

Categories: Woodworking Tags: ,

10-Drawer Small Tool Chest – Part 1

August 4, 2014 Leave a comment

I think it’s pretty normal for woodworkers, especially beginning woodworkers to want to build boxes. If you think about it, boxes make satisfying projects because they have a bit of complexity yet once completed offer utility and often-times beauty for the builder. As an aspiring luthier I ran across the Gerstner Tool Chest and although I can’t explain exactly why, I really wanted one. It’s probably the allure of it being a “Luthier’s Tool Chest”.


Gerstner Tool Chest Kit sold by Stewart-McDonald

Of course, this post isn’t about that chest rather it is about another chest that I decided to build. If you look around you can find free plans for just about anything and if you’re a little further along on your woodworking journey you can probably figure out how to build most things simply by seeing a good set of pictures of it. I have found that at my skill level, I still require a detailed set of plans to keep me on track. I know what you’re probably thinking “you should draw your own plans” or “plans are for wimps” or some such non-sense. For me the reality is that woodworking is difficult enough even knowing what you’re supposed accomplish, I don’t need to make it any more difficult than it already is. So there, I’ve said it!

As I mentioned earlier, if you look hard enough you can find free plans for just about anything. The downside is that you might end up building something that isn’t exactly what you needed or wanted and that’s fine if it’s just practice. I kept hearing about Jim Stack’s plan for a 10-Drawer tool chest so I finally purchased it. Looks nice, functional with simple joinery, that’s it I’m in. So if you like what I’m building, I suggest you purchase his plans or better yet buy one of his books! This is chest I’m attempting!


10-Drawer Tool Chest plans published by Jim Stack

Bill of Materials

So this is where every project begins is it not? The good news, a BOM was thoughtfully provided with these plans but for the novice (I’m talking me here) figuring out what I actually need to buy is always a bit awkward. For example, the sides of this case are listed as 12″. Now we all know that if I buy a 1×12″ the sides will only be 11 1/4″ wide. The plans state that a strip is glued to the back to make stopped dados from through cuts but this is listed as 3/8″  in thickness. So how in hell do I get 12″ inches, am I expect to joint two boards for the sides? Not only is that more work  (I don’t have a jointer nor a planer) but it would also be more expensive and waste wood. If I go with the 1×12″ does that affect the other dimensions, and so on. So the bad news, I spent a bit of time trying to figure out exactly what to buy so that I had enough material, without wasting boards. The good news was the time I spent figuring this out paid dividends when I was in the Blue Big Box store making my purchase. Still, I created my own spreadsheet and made it available during the purchase. I decided to build it in oak and ended up spending close to $200 for the lumber. I could have probably saved some if I purchased the 1/4″ plywood as a full sheet and if I purchased long boards and ripped my own drawer sides but the convenience of being able to load everything in my car without sawing in the parking lot and the ease of estimating need won the day. This basically what I purchased. I’m not sure if I’m going to use the poplar dowels or not but I went ahead and bought them just in case.


Part Material Qty
Sides and Top 1X12X6 RED OAK BOARD 1
Crown and Strips 1X4X2 RED OAK BOARD 1
Back and Bottom ¾  X2X4 OAK PLY 1
Drawer Bottoms (bought an extra) ¼ 2X4 BIRCH PLY 5
Drawer Fronts ½ X3X4 OAK (PROJECT) 5
Drawer Sides and Backs ½ X3X4 POPLAR (PROJECT) 10
Plugs to cover counter bore screws 3/8-IN X 48-IN RND POP DOWEL  1
Pulls 1/2-IN X 48-IN RND POP DOWEL  1

So this is the bulk of it, I think I had a 1x4x2 oak board at home so your mileage may vary but as you may have deduced, I did go with the 1×12 in lieu of jointing up smaller boards. During the build I also decided to make the drawers 16″ wide instead of 15″ as called in the plans. This may come back to bite me but I had a lot of extra wood so I figured why not? It shouldn’t throw off the “look” of the chest that much and I’ll be wasting less wood while adding an inch times 10 to the drawer space.

Let The Games Begin – Day 1

So I began with this nice piece of oak that would form the sides and top of the chest.


I finally had the opportunity to use my cross cut sled extension which was kind of satisfying.


I squared up the board by taking a small piece off the end, then used a stop block to cut the sides the same length. The top will also be cut from this board but I didn’t do that until later. So far so good.


The better part of the morning was spent with my head in the plans trying to sort out the next steps. A template (or SketchUp drawing) would have been invaluable but as it was I needed to 1) figure out the best arcs of each foot 2) same for the top of the sides 3) figure out the dimension and layout of the 10 dados that needed to cut into each side.

I began by making an impromptu trammel and experimenting with the base. Instructions were vague but clear enough to lay out a design I thought worked. I then did the same for the side crowns.

IMG_3709  IMG_3710

Don’t be fooled by these pics, this is the trammel I made but this was not the final layout nor even how I marked it out. As it turns out, I had to make the bottom arc much smaller for everything to fit properly. This because although I drew a single line for the top piece, I didn’t draw the bottom line representing its thickness. This lead to my first “DISASTER!” I oh so carefully used the calipers to figure out and carefully score where each drawer dado should be cut and it worked out perfectly, except that I needed another 3/4″ inch for the top and bottom to fit. Oh crap! If I had used a pencil I could have erased it but with the cuts, I had to sand them out. This is where a cup of coffee would have been helpful….

So once I had sanded out the erroneous score marks, I began again first by redrawing  and reducing the height of the bottom arc by 3/4″ and then by starting again at the top 3/4″ lower (to account for the thickness of the top). Sigh.

IMG_3712  IMG_3711

With a bit of patience, I was back on track. Drawer height interval was right at 2″ although I set the calipers to an exact 1.998″ for my specific piece. Right, because my work is that good ;-)

Satisfied with the layout and taking a deep breath I now move to the table saw to cut the 1/4″ x 1/4″ deep dado slots for the drawers. Only problem is that I haven’t purchased a dado stack so I’m going to use multiple cuts with my regular saw blade to form the slot. I’m bright enough to realize that I’m going to need to do some testing to get this sorted, I’ve never attempted anything like this before but I knew it was doable. I began by considering my saw kerf was 1/8″ then 1/4″ should be exactly two kerfs of the blade. I found a scrap of wood about 1/8″ thick and used it as a spacer for the first pass. I would then remove the shim and scoot the work piece over to the stop block for the second cut. A test fit showed the slot was too small for my plywood bottoms so I used duct tape and successive test cuts to dial in just the right thickness needed for the ply. I could now cut a precise dado with three cuts for each slot. Here was the setup I used.

IMG_3713  IMG_3715

It did occur to me that I could use stop blocks and a 2″ spacer to make my drawer spacing even and accurate with minimal fuss but at the time, I couldn’t get my brain around how to set this up. So I opted to just line up each stop by eye. I was careful to not move the stop block between sides so whatever error there was between drawer spacing’s would be duplicated on both sides. I will be able to account for this by carefully fitting each drawer as I make them. Hopefully they are all close enough so it won’t matter. The first hurdles have been cleared.


As you can see at this point, I have band sawed off the tops and finished shaping them on the belt sander. Looks like Moses just can down from the mountain in this pic. That pretty much consumed day one of the build. I was tired and it was time for dinner, a shower and my wife.

Day 2 – More Cutting, Dado Edges and Shaping

Refreshed and ready to go I begin by tackling the edge banding that will provide the stop for the “stopped dados”. Turns out I had a piece of flame oak laying about which I had hand selected from the regular old wood pile at the Orange Big Box store. Since I didn’t have a good color match for this banding, I decided to make it contrasting, so I used the figured oak piece. I started by thinking I could glue up both sides at once but the old adage, “you can never have too many clamps” dictated that I do one side at a time. By the time I had ripped the pieces, sequentially glued and flushed everything up a couple of hours had passed. To keep the edge piece lined up I used a couple of small clamps to straddle the two pieces on both ends (first photo below). I discovered this was necessary after the first glue up. Fortunately I was able to crank the first one back in line before the glue had set.

IMG_3722  IMG_3718

While the glue was setting up I went ahead and cut the plywood back and bottom and the oak top. For the 3/4″ plywood I used a circular saw to cut it to rough dimension, then took it over to my table saw where I could rip it to size and finalize the length with my cross cut sled. I was pretty psyched that all of this went smoothly with the tools and shop setup.

Next I realized that I hadn’t yet cut and shaped the arched feet so it was over to the band saw and spindle sander once again. The remainder of the day was spent relieving edges, smoothing and sanding the sides. I also experimented with some wood filler to see if it was suitable as a pore filler. Oak is very porous so I want to fill the grain but like so many firsts I’ve encountered on this project, I haven’t actually ever done it. I tried it “full strength” and it was terrible to work with, like spreading beach sand onto your project. Next I diluted it water and that worked much better but still dried way too quickly. I’m thinking more water and hopefully it will flow on more like a paste than a clump of sandy clay. I would also consider coloring it but alas, I don’t have any dyes …. poor me….. sniff….

So I was pretty happy with the project so far. Who’d have thunk it?


I feel the sides are everything I could have hoped for and I have learned a bunch along the journey. It’s seems a good idea to pre-finish as much of the project as possible before assembly so finished the day with a seal coat of shellac on the parts that won’t need glue. I’ll pore fill next, then continue with finish coats before final assembly of the casework.

Here’s the weekend’s effort, sides, top, bottom and back with a coat of sealer on the face side.


I’d like to start right in with making the drawers but.. I think it best to assemble the case before diving in. That way there can be no mistake with the required dimensions. So next time I’ll continue with finishing and assembling the case.

You have been reading an excerpt from the shop journal of the Turtlecovebrewer.



Categories: Woodworking Tags: ,

Turtlecove Workshop – Additions

July 28, 2014 Leave a comment

Greetings All,

I hope everyone is having a blessed summer season. Personally I haven’t been in the shop nearly as much as I would have liked but I do what I can when I, can. I’ve caught up on a few of the back-burner items that have been on my list a while.

Bandsaw Riser Kit

When I purchased my Grizzly bandsaw last summer , I ordered the 12″ riser block kit for at the same time. Unfortunately for me, the kit was on back order  for many months after my saw had been delivered. By the time the kit was finally available, I was engrossed in other activities and the thought of “breaking” my saw wasn’t the highest priority given my limited shop time. Not long ago, I finally gathered my courage and installed the kit which all-in-all wasn’t very difficult. Against advice given in the instructions, I did this without any assistance but it would have been easier and “safer” if I had had assistance.  For me, the biggest benefit to this upgrade, is that I learned more about how my saw is put together and now, I’m not afraid to make proper adjustments.

12" Bandsaw Riser Kit IMG_3703

Installing the new hardware was actually much less difficult than learning the nuances of the adjustment procedure.  It turns out, that I hadn’t done a very good setup on the guides the first time around and although I don’t feel they are perfectly set now, I know they are a lot closer to how they were meant to function. I have heard “experts” both pro and con regarding the practicality of resawing on 14″ bandsaws, but I wanted to give it a try.

Dust Collector

Not much to say other than,  every shop where power tools are being used need some for of dust collection. I finally broke down and purchased the unit sold by the store that sells freight down by the harbor. I had already installed blast gates and 4″ hose to my table saw and bandsaw but I was previously using a shop-vacuum for the suction. These hose runs were intentionally left long so I had enough existing hose to connect the new collector and my other new toy, an oscillating spindle-belt sander.


Spindle Sander

I also picked up an oscillating spindle/belt sander from Home Depot which is my first Rigid tool. Rigid does still offer lifetime warranties on their tools and amazingly even on their tool’s batteries. Now registering you tool with Rigid to receive this warranty is another story. The little card states, “Register your new tool in 3 easy steps”. I couldn’t believe how hard it was, there were more than 3 steps and they weren’t what I would call “easy”. It goes something like this 1) visit their website and create an account 2) register your tool online including model and serial number 3) register the receipt information from your purchase 4) cut the UPC code off the original box (you kept the box right?) 5) mail in the cardboard UPC code along with the original receipt with arrows pointing to the qualified product you intend to register 5) get postage for the item you now must mail into Rigid. If all your information “checks out” and Jupiter is in alignment with Mars, you will be notified within 2-3 weeks if your registration has been accepted. Rigid, I applaud your warranty but your primitive registration procedure sucks. I should be able to do all of this online at a single session. You are already checking the register transaction number so the need for me to mail you anything is frankly ridiculous and in my opinion is likely intended to reduce the number of valid registrations because who has time to mess with it?


I really had a difficult time learning how to adjust the belt so that it tracked properly. I finally got it but only after about the 20th attempt. Admittedly, I’m not the most mechanically inclined individual but I would liked to have had some supplemental materials to help me through the process. I’m sure someone has a link on YouTube but I never did check. I ended up iteratively adjusting a tiny bit at a time until it neither wildly spun off the top or ground itself down against the machine bed. I do like sanders however, for their ability to take bits of wood off at a time until you get things just where you want them. The dust port also seems to work pretty well so despite my bitching I’m thrilled with the purchase. I think it a good addition to the shop and I’d purchase it again.

Micro Adjuster Project

July 21, 2014 Leave a comment

I know there are many very accomplished woodworkers. I know this because I see evidence of their work everyday and I am still in awe but what can be done with the right tools, patience and a skilled hand. I on the other hand am not an accomplished woodworker so I look for projects that even I think I can build. I ran across a DIY fence micro adjuster on Canadian Woodworking & Home Improvement magazine while surfing the web last week.


Adjuster Jig – plans by Michel Theriault

Somewhere along the way I decided that the jig looked simple enough and that I should build a few of them so I purchased the hardware to make three. Additionally I thought I would have some fun and tinker with the plan a bit. It looked like the screw was off-center so that the left hand side of the block could be used for clamping. This was simple enough but I figured the block could be a bit thinner so the clamp would need to be opened quite so much, my idea was to put the adjuster screw back in the center and make cutouts for the clamp jaws.


This would make the adjuster ambidextrous, allowing clamping from either side. The cut-outs are a little over an inch  (1.2″) deep and this was a compromise so as not to weaken the center, yet allow enough space for the clamp jaw. The other modification I made was to drill 3/8″ holes through the end grain so that these could be clamped using my Rockler Universal Fence Clamps. Both of these modifications seemed to work out as I planned.


A third modification was to install rare earth magnets along the bottom so that I could just stick it to my table saw and band saw table without clamping. I haven’t installed these yet but my initial testing tells me I need larger magnets than those I had on hand. The adjuster screw turns without a lot of pressure but to move a heavy table saw fence the adjuster will need to be somewhat firmly affixed.

Micro-adjuster Scale

I did have an issue with the plans however which I addressed before starting the project. The scale that was to be printed and cutout for the adjuster had been messed up with the online copy of the article. After a couple of attempts at fixing it, I decided to make a new one using SketchUp. Expert I’m not but I can get around enough for simple designs and with a bit of patience I was able to knock out a scale that worked. So the way it works is as follows, using the recommended 1/4″ -20 bolt you have 20 turns for the screw to advance one inch. The scale has 50 divisions thus:

20 turns/in * 50 divisions/turn = 1000 divisions/in

So advancing the screw by one division should represent 0.001″ of throw on the adjuster. To make things simpler, the plan calls for a 1″ diameter wheel which is important because you need a scale to fit your wheel. The way this works is to find the circumference of the wheel and divide it into 50 intervals.

Circumference = pi * Diameter = 3.14 * 1 in = 3.14 in

So each interval on the scale should be about 0.063 in apart. Not easy to draw by hand but not too much trouble to make in SketchUp. Here is the scale that I drew for my project and you are welcome to use it for yours: https://3dwarehouse.sketchup.com/model.html?id=u9718b3cf-aca2-4ac5-b130-4c9ea1d2dcec

Printing things to scale requires a trick in SketchUp. First you must make sure that your model is being viewed in Parallel Projection (Camera, Parallel Projection) then when you go to print you can select your scale of 1 in drawing is 1 in printed.

SU printing to scale

So if you don’t want to fool with SketchUp you can also download this PDF version, just make sure you print it out in 1:1  scale: Micro-Adjuster Scale

What ‘s Left

As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to try a magnetic mount so I’m going to give that a bit of thought and purchase some bigger magnets! As creative as my clamping mount improvements may or may not have been I can’t think of a single place right now where the adjuster could actually be used in my shop. So there is that…. the magnet mount would change that. The 3″ bolts that were called for appear to be too short for this project. I’m considering purchasing a 3 1/2″ or 4″ bolt so that I have more room to add a second knob as called for in the plan. I made two wheels for each adjuster but the bolt isn’t long enough so for the prototype, the scale and the adjustment knob are one. Another thought I had been the cap nut coming loose during use would be bad for precision; I’ll add a spot of glue to secure it once I’m happy with the finished design. I haven’t yet made the plastic reticles for these adjusters as I ran out of shop time yesterday. Once I’m satisfied the version 1 adjuster’s are finished, I’ll rub some Danish Oil finish on them but at this point I’m still experimenting. Once I take a closer look at each of my fences and how I might use an adjuster, I might end up making a unique adjuster for each situation, I’ll let you know how things work out.

Categories: Woodworking Tags:

The Noisy Cricket Gutair Mini-amp

June 23, 2014 Leave a comment

As I may have previously mentioned, I’m discovering the real joy of electronics and discovering how they work. The basic facts I learned as a young-in were important but without learning how and when to put the components to use, the knowledge was unrewarding. It’s my own fault for not digging deeply enough into the topic but that was then and in today’s world we have so much wonderful (and free) information placed before us it is easy to learn. This revival begins with the simple desire to understand more fully how the electric guitar functions. Understanding pick-ups, volume and tone controls, microphones and amplification. It sounds like a life-time of study or at least a full retirement of study for me.

Soldering Iron/Station

As I often do I wrestled with picking my “first project” for trying out my new soldering iron. After much rumination and anguish, I decided to lay down my $100 on the Hakko FX888D, soldering iron. Review after review after recommendation compared this Hakko to the Weller WES51. Clearly for a “serious” hobbiest, these were the two irons of choice.


Hakko FX888D


Although the Weller iron had its following, the Hakko was mentioned over and over again as a solid buy. The Weller had an analog display whereas the Hakko was digital. There were debates both ways as to which was better. In the end, I went with the Hakko which included a free wire nipper (cutter). Woo hoo!

What to Build First?

My interest in electric guitars and “tone” lead me to learn more about audio circuits. As I was surfing the web, I ran across a pretty awesome site with the odd name, “Runoff  Groove“. I discovered all the wonderful work that has been done creating guitar effects pedals which has been placed in the Creative Commons for anyone to enjoy. I learned that guitar effects pedals exist to allow unique sounds to be sent/played through tube amplifiers which on the whole wouldn’t have many effects built in to them. The amp that I have is Fender Mustang I, solid state modeling amp with beaucoup effects already built-in to the amp. In a practical sense, I don’t really need any pedals at this point in my playing what I needed more was to learn about the effects that I already had available to use.  I was intrigued however by the many mini-amplifier designs I had run across. Using one or possibly two transistors to power a speaker and/or headphones. I figured I could use the mini-amp when traveling so in that sense, it would be both an educational and somewhat practical “toy” and also not terribly difficult to build.

I considered building the “Ruby” amp until I ran across the “Noisy Cricket” from Beavis Audio Research.

Ruby - mini-amp

The Ruby – mini-amplifier from Runoff Groove

Noisy Cricket - mini-amp

Noisy Cricket – mini-amp from Beavis Audio Research

The circuits are somewhat similar and both are based on the LM386  low voltage audio power amplifier chip. The Noisy Cricket project page came with a lot more information about actually building the device, pictures, parts lists and just a bit more documentation to get my feet wet for the first time. When I ran across the “Radio Shack Protoboard Build Guide” link, I was sold! This would be my first project and “instant gratification”. Rather than muddle for days over what parts to buy and where to buy them, I’ll stop by Radio Shack, and get started soldering. And that is exactly what I did, only they didn’t have all the parts that I needed so I still had to muddle over parts and the best place to purchase them.

RS mini-amp build

Radio Shack mini-amp project sheet (circuit build)

It felt good to finally tin the tip of my new soldering iron and solder up my first circuit board since I built my Heathkit H-8 in the 1980’s. I had the skills then, but I was very rusty now. After a while I began to calm down and my hands quit shaking so much and the welds got better. Hey, its new equipment and everyone has to begin their journey somewhere and so I started mine…..

Noisy Cricket mini-amp RS build

Start of the Noisy Cricket build, Radio Shack version.

I came prepared with magnification (reading cheaters) but I was shocked at how I needed it for every component and every weld. Man, how am I ever going to coup with surface mount components? Perhaps I never will…. On future builds, I’ll opt to use sockets for the LM386 and power transistor which in this case is the venerable MPF102. This would allow easy repair and some experimentation but really, if I fry the LM386 I know how to desolder and replace it so is the socket really necessary? And as far as experimentation goes, that is what the breadboard is used for so by they time one is building I should think the design would have been mostly locked in. There are many ways to get a job done so I have some experimenting in my future.

Next up…

Well the promise of instant gratification was a might exaggerated when I discovered that RS (in fact two stores) didn’t have one of the potentiometers nor the transistor that was required for the build. I was excited to get started though and gave me motivation to find a parts supplier and commit to an order. So I did, in fact I have two fairly substantial orders in for supplies. I finally ordered from Futurelec mainly because they seemed to have all (or most) of the parts that I was looking for and at good prices. Their website was navigable but I haven’t been super impressed with their customer service yet. It doesn’t appear that I can called them and I have no idea how to track my orders so I guess I’ll email them to see if everything is alright. Meanwhile, there are a few things I could work on with the project case, e.g. drilling holes for the pots and LED’s. I really think it best at this point however, to just wait for all the parts to arrive before I do much more with it. I purchased enough components to build additional units but I’ll be first interested in how this one turns out before deciding on what will follow. I think my next project might be a DIY iRig, or maybe a complete practice amp with speaker cabinet or perhaps ……

Categories: Electronics, Lutherie Tags:

Arduino – Huh?

June 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Whereas it is a fact that I haven’t been doing much blogging, it is not true that I have completely fallen away from my hobbies. It is also true that I haven’t had very much time in the shop for a variety of reasons including, job and family responsibilities. If a person has to spend their time doing something, family is a pretty good something! Enough for the excuses and on to today’s post.

Learn About Micro-controllers

As the saying goes, “everyone has to start somewhere” and I sometimes have a had time getting started. Taking your time isn’t necessarily a bad thing but paralysis is so at some point you just need to step up to the bar. I have recently become interested in electronics as a side-effect of my interest in building electric guitars. I mentioned that I wanted to build a pick-up (coil) winding machine which started this learning process in earnest. Once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I wanted to learn (or re-learn in some cases) everything but this time I really, really wanted to know how it all worked. If I was going to build a coil winder, I was going to need a machine that would count the number of times the coil rotated, thus counting the number of turns on the coil. It was fascinating to see the number of creative ways people invented to achieve this task on You-Tube. One fellow used a micro-controller on a breadboard to build his winder. He published his work which was almost enough information for me to understand what he did but not quite. It was then I ran across the open-source project Arduino.


Arduino Uno Development Board

This was an eye-opener. Easy to learn and use. Inexpensive and available to everyone. Arduino can be a stepping stone to the world of micro-controllers and for that it is a truly amazing gift. Micro-controllers are computers that allow us to interface with physical world. Need to record a temperature, position a servo, turn on a light using software? You could probably benefit by using a micro-controller.  Engineers don’t need Arduino to work their magic, but for students and regular folks like you and me Arduino makes learning fun and easy! Enough said for now, go check it out for yourself.



Categories: Electronics Tags:

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