Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Today in the wood shop...

Use a dial indicator to measure at front and back of the blade
Adjust table saw top until blade measures the same front and back.
New sleds take only a few minutes to make and last years.
I have a break between adult classes to get ready for an ESSA class on making small cabinets, AND I am swapping out table saws, making room for the new Saw Stop saw I purchased in the spring. I took apart my wonderful almost new Grizzly saw which will be picked up for a new owner on Saturday.

The SawStop is a beautifully crafted piece of equipment, but requires complicated not so easy to accomplish set-up, indicating it was designed by engineers, and not with your basic consumer in mind. Squaring the blade to the table is a challenge. If you don't know which way to turn a bolt in the first place (a common situation these days for most consumers), you can spend way too much time getting things right. On my saw, the four bolts securing the top to the arbor/trunion assembly were so tight they made me question my own sense of which direction.

Of course, the saw will work right out of the box (after getting all the parts assembled), but to tune it up to give the best possible cut requires a dial indicator and some expertise in the use of it, but also the body and hands of a capuchin monkey to get in where the adjustments are made, and the strength of a gorilla to get enough torque to loosen the necessary bolts. In any case, with the blade square to the miter gauge slots, I am now making or adapting the necessary sleds to return to making beautiful boxes and any other kind of interesting woodwork that crosses my mind.

A friend had noticed that the high school in a neighboring community is attempting to make the point that they offer hands-on learning. Of course that can be a big point for advertising, since everyone already knows that those things that ARE learn hands-on are learned at greater depth and to greatest lasting effect.

Hands-on learning should be a no-brainer, but it's not actually as simple to accomplish as one might think. It requires the arts, music, laboratory science, wood shop, and means offered to all students (even those going to college) through which ALL learning (even the most abstract subjects) may be correlated and can be put in touch. Is it enough that some students are offered wood shop but that history and math remain untouched? It is easy to claim "hands-on learning" but it takes a lot more than a simple declarative statement for it to be true. I'll be curious whether the Berryville High School actually invests in it. Hands-on learning requires that teachers step down from their ivory silos and get busy redesigning classes and curricula with the hands in mind.

Make, fix and create...


  1. Brent5:23 PM

    I have been reading your Taunton book, The Complete Illustrated Guide to Box Making. I am working on my first box of curly soft maple with a walnut bottom and keyed splines of walnut. The box measures approx. 6" wide by 10" long by 2 1/2 " tall. I just cut the lid off using my bandsaw. I have been trying to use a plane to smooth the edges of the top and the box where they fit together. I have noticed that my "reveal" is no longer uniform around the top. I have evidently planed more material at some locations. As you might guess, I have removed more material along the length of the sides and not on the mitered corners. I am curious as to how to plane evenly around the box and especially over the mitered corners.

  2. Brent,
    Hand planing the edges of a box is not an easy task to do well, particularly when planing into mitered corners where the grain may cause you to take something out you would prefer had stayed in place.

    I prefer to simply put a piece of sandpaper flat on the work bench and sand the lid and lower part flat. You can use double stick tape to hold the sandpaper to the bench. The top of your table saw would also work for this.

    I know that a 10 inch box can be hard to sand on 11 or 12 inch paper. Try taping down two sheets or take a piece of sanding belt long enough to do the job.

    Hope this helps.


  3. We have had the SawStop Saw in my school for a year now and I must say it is a wonderful piece of equipment.

    Aside from the patented flesh-sensing technology (which hopefully you will never use), one of the best things is the blade guard and riving knife. You can take it on and off in about 10 seconds, which mean you actually USE it, as opposed to the blade guards on older saws, which are habitually left off by many woodworkers.

    The only time I have had kickback with the SawStop is one time when I was too lazy to replace the guard when cutting sheet stock.

  4. I've used sawstop saws at Marc Adams School, at the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, last week at the Eliot School, and now have 3 of them, two at Clear Spring and one at home.

    They are not fool proof, however. A teacher at Eliot School had two fingers bandaged due to the sensor not being set off by touching his fingernails when his hand slipped into the saw. But the damage was far less severe than it would have been without SawStop. I'm glad you have it in your school, too.

  5. The saddest part of the setup for the Saw Stop is that most consumers will find it too difficult because they don't have those basic skills, and the saw won't be properly adjusted. My only tablesaw accident was a kickback cutting white oak cabinet panels, and I was out of the way, but after losing part of the end of a finger to the jointer, I am a fanatic for safety.


  6. Consumers who don't have the basic skills and don't make the effort to learn them will end up with a Saw Stop that isn't adjust properly. And their results will show it, unless they were lucky enough to get a saw that was perfect coming out of the box.


  7. It's interesting, consumers would not accept a car that wasn't tuned properly right out of the box, but table saws and other woodworking equipment seem to be a different story. I had to set up the Grizzly saw with the proper angle on the stops, and had to do the same thing with the run-out and stops on the SawStop. On the Grizzly planer, I had to adjust the height of the infeed and outfeed rollers, which was not an easy task, but without adjustment, the rollers left indentations on the planed stock that took a tremendous amount of sanding to eliminate to my satisfaction.

    But the point is that unlike buying a car or truck, most woodworkers wouldn't know the difference in how a machine tool is set up, or what to look for in results. So I guess it is OK that they don't get it right. They will just suffer along with poorer quality work than they would like to accomplish. It's said that a poor craftsman blames his tools, but we are being taught to blame ourselves.