Apr 29, 2009

Tips for dust collection in small and large shops

Dust collection in small shops, and tips for for bigger shops to minimize waste and maximize efficiency.

Dust collection is a rather important aspect of the woodworking trade. Believe it or not, sanding dust is a very combustible substance. To add to that, it sure doesn't taste good, and breathing it is harder on your lungs than smoking cigarettes. For safety sake and your health, you should consider some type of collection in your small shops.

Do you sand a lot, and find yourself waiting for the dust to settle before finishing, because it's the same room. Any person who already has dust collection might find a couple of pointers that will help reduce the waste when running the system. Though some people do woodworking for a hobby, and would rather not spend $200.00 - $500.00 on a cheap dust collection, others have thousands of dollars spent into their systems and would like to optimize it's use. The following tips are a great way to eliminate most of your dust control problems.

I've seen and done many different techniques in many shops. Some take the route of using smaller dust collectors at each machine, while others have a big unit with piping to each machine. If you have duct work running to all the machines and are not using gates, you are wasting tons of energy, which equals money. Not only does the system not take all of dust out of the air current, you find yourself sticking your arm in the table saw often to clear it out. It's not easy tilting the blade to a 45° angle when it's packed with sawdust all around it. A good dust collector would prevent this, or at least minimize your cleaning time.

One tool that doesn't absolutely need collection is you jointer. This tool makes shavings more than dust. And most cases if you don't have a fancy cabinet under it, you have an angle iron stand and your chips fall below. You can stuff a cardboard box under there, this will catch all your chips. If you do in fact have a base to your jointer, with a chute for chips, which are mostly square for some odd reason. Make a 9" x 9" square, or what ever size you need to overlap the chute by 2" or so, with a 2 3/4"(or whatever size you have) hole in the center for your vacuum. This way you don't have to clean up when your done.

Go over your machines and determine what makes dust and what makes chips. You can be quite creative and find easy solutions with the stuff you already have. Saw dust is the real problem, and we are going into that right now.

Solutions for the small shop.

Firstly and most obviously, your sander most likely can connect to your shop vac, if it has holes in the backup pad and paper. It does get heavy after a lot of sanding, and it's hard to do panels on different angles because the bulky hose coming out of the back. But, it is an efficient way to put dust where you want it, and not air borne. This works well because it's actually sucking the dust through the sander, not pushed by the sander. Beware that you might need a finer filter on your vacuum to trap the dust inside so it doesn't blow out the side of the thing,(Not that it happened to me....lol).

Another good way that won't cost you an arm and a leg is a simple box fan. Believe me this helps a lot. What you do is use a furnace filter on the back side of the fan, Mount it with screws or duct tape. This filter will last years so semi permanent is o.k. Hang it from a hook in the ceiling, or somewhere you can reach it. But be sure air can pass through it from both sides. I keep mine near my sanding bench. Run the fan on low during your work hours. Simply vacuum the filter every so often as it's pulling the dust out of the air. I run two actually, one near the sanding bench and on central to the shop, but out of my way. This works rather well, and it'll cost you $25.00 for one. You can buy the stuff and any local home center, or Wally world(walma*t).

Another good, but a little more expensive way, is to build yourself a sanding station. Sounds huge, but it's really easy. By some 2"x4"'s and a sheet of peg board. Build a bench about 4" inches shorter than working height. Then stand you 2x4's on the tall edge and make a frame around the edge of the table. Depending how big the table is you might want to put some cross supports to eliminate bowing of the work surface. I recommend at least one. I used Velcro to attach the peg board to the surface so I can clean the inside periodically. Next, make a hole in the side, that your dust collector or vacuum can connect to. When you sand your project 90% of the dust will be sucked through the top and into your system. Works well but takes time to build, and floor space to sacrafice. You can also devise some type of foldable legs for easy storage.

Solutions for a bigger system.

On bigger dust collection systems there are many things you can do to optimize your usage. First and foremost, if you don't have gates, get them. Make sure all other gates are closed when in use, to maximize vacuum pressure on your machine. Some shops have automatic gates which are a great system as long as they don't get jammed. Plywood squares do help, but manual gates are rather inexpensive, and are easy to install.

Don't walk so much it's not a marathon.

Set up a switch that works on a pull string rather than push button. Then run a web around your shop that's in reach to each machine. Not the most efficient but it minimizes walking time, and works good. Another way to do that is run actual switches to each machine that all connect to your one dust collector. This takes a little more money, and OSHA wants the wiring enclosed in conduit, with junction boxes.

Downsize your duct work.

As you reach the far extents of your shop, your dust collection seems to lose its sucking power. Get some reducers right at the machine and you'll double it. ( 6"to 4" reducer) these are most common as a six inch runs the length of the shop and your 4" drops down to your machine. Sometimes you can reduce again right at the machine to increase suction, depends on the tool. Don't downsize below the machines output duct size, then increase to make the connection because you'll lose all that gained power.


Most shops I've seen always use sheet metal screws to attach duct work together. Naturally it's the way to do it, but do you take the extra steps to ensure quality? Run a bead of silicone around the tube before connecting, then cover each screw. Even better don't use screws, use hose clamps. This will minimize the loss as you get further away from the dust collector. It may only be a little at this joint, but after 100 joints or so, and 1000 screws you'll lose a lot. I seen a guy make a living from optimizing collection systems. This is one of his techniques that always boosts suction. In the least, use duct tape to seal the joints.

These are some tips that will help you breath and work better, and make your woodworking experience a much more pleasurable one. A safe shop is a happy shop.

Frankie Talarico Jr.

Apr 24, 2009

Sorry for the delay

We haven't done much this week on the blog, but we are working on videos and other jig making tutorials. There is a lot to be learned in the upcoming months. We added many more products to the store, and are continually adding more. Two new things to look for at the store are
1- The simple screw finder.
( A program designed to make yor screw selection as simple as possible.)

2- Free gifts with every order
(You'll recieve a free gift with any order over $25.00)

Don't forget to all you twitter users, Use promo code "tweet" during the checkout process to recieve 15% off your total purchase. While you are there you should sign up for our monthly newsletter. This is a once a month email that you get on the upcoming events, specials, and woodworking tips. Often times there are promo codes attached to them for even more savings.

Happy Woodworking and we'll talk soon


Apr 13, 2009

Board Feet

Measuring Board feet

When it comes to buying solid lumber it’s a good idea to know how they are going to charge you. This way you have a good idea on what it will cost and there shouldn’t be any surprise when they give you your total.

Simply put, break down all measurements into inches. Then multiply Length X Width X Height. Then divide by 144 (square inches in one board foot)

Dimensions are strictly for rough sawn lumber. So a ¾” pland board is actually called a 1 by.

Example - 1” x 8” x 10’ of red oak

1” is ok.
8” is ok.
Convert 10’ * 12” = 120”
120 x 8 x 1 = 960 sq\in
960” / 144 = 6.66 Board feet

I found a nice calculator that makes this formula simple, all you do is enter the dimensions of the lumber. http://www.csgnetwork.com/boardftcalc.html

So if they charge say $6.00/ board ft. this one piece of 1” x 8” x 12’ would cost $39.99

Unlike softwoods, which are sold in standardized dimensions, hardwoods are sold in random widths and lengths. So to tell how much wood hardwood boards contain, they are measured in board feet. "Board Feet" is a volume measurement. One board foot equals 144 cubic inches. Often, a board foot is illustrated as a board 1"-thick x 12"-wide x 12"-long, but you'll rarely find lumber in those dimensions.

Any board containing a total of 144 cubic inches of wood equals one board feet, regardless of its proportions. To calculate the number of board feet in a piece of lumber, multiply the board's thickness by its width, then its length, all in inches. Then divide by 144: (thickness x width x length)/144

For example, a 1" x 9" x 96"-long board equals six board feet (1x9x96=864/144=6). If this board were 1-1/2"-thick, it would contain 9 board feet (1.5x9x96=1296/144=9). Thinner stock is not typically described in board feet.

Also, hardwood thickness is expressed differently than softwood -- in quarters of an inch. A 4/4 (say "four-quarter") board is 1"-thick. A 1-1/2"-thick board is expressed as 6/4. This often reflects the rough-sawn thickness. Surfaced lumber will be slightly thinner.

Frankie Talarico Jr.

Apr 7, 2009

Climb cutting with a handheld router

Climb Routing
Techniques and safety.
(all pictures in this article are clickable)

Climb routing is an alternate way of using your router. There are times in every woodworker’s life that he or she will encounter an instance of funny grain patterns. Most people approach this technique with a premature fear. But, there is nothing to fear when you are properly trained.

Previous experience with a router is a must, and you do have precautions to watch for.

On this particular piece you can see the grains pattern is left to right. The router cuts against this pattern creating a risk of splintering or chipping out. The reason you’d climb cut is to avoid this.

Let’s understand the term “climb”.

A router when in the upright position spins in a clockwise direction. The blades on the router bit are tilted the same way, so it cuts into the wood. When you make your cut, you travel from left to right, creating resistance on the bit. Giving yourself control over how much, and how fast.

When climbing you would travel from right to left creating a drag that pulls the router in that direction. This will climb the board because there is new material to grab and pull it that way, making a dangerous situation for the unsuspecting craftsman.

Special notes:

-Never climb cut on a router table unless you have two people. One person on each side
and the board is long enough for you both to have a grip the entire cut.

-Always use a router bit with bearings.

-Shapers can climb cut if the proper feeders are mounted to the machine. Only
experienced employees should attempt this.

-Stand in directly in front of travel direction, or directly behind so you have the most control over travel speed, never perpendicular unless it's absoulutly mandatory.

The Approach:

The approach is actually very simple. I stand in a boxer position, giving myself a solid foundation to balance on. I lock my elbows straight and use my core (stomach and back) muscles to resist the router.

Once started you can relax your elbows and gradually feed the router into the board. Following the line you need to route, but not going the full depth of the cut. Watch the video below to see how many passes it takes to run an Ogee pattern on ¾ red oak.

As you can see I don’t force the router, I let it take what the chip clearance allows. As I approached the end of my cut I felt it get a little heavy so I re-climbed that section. It’ best to hold your footing and climb one section at a time, all the way to the bearing. Once the length of the cut is finished do one pass the right direction as demonstrated in this video.

Respect the tool, Don’t fear it.
The finished product:

Frankie Talarico Jr.
Bulk woodshop supplies

Apr 6, 2009

Top 5 ways a cabinet shop can save money

Top 5 ways a cabinet shop can save money

1: Have your employees work no more than 40 hr weeks.

This can be arranged in a variety of ways. Some guys like to come in earlier than others so plan a happy medium. Make sure to keep the office running normal business hours, to take potential orders. Some places have even gone to 32- 36 hours to avoid layoffs.

5 days 8 hrs,
The normal, whatever you regular shop hours are.

4 days 10 hrs.
A little less likeable, but the employees like the three day weekend.

9hrs a day 4 on Friday.
This seems the most favorable from the executive position, due to the fact you have guys in the shop all 5 business days. You are readily available if needed.

2: Plan your deliveries so you can consolidate your driving.

If your a busy shop, you're more than likely making deliveries weekly. Why not make them on Monday mornings, or any other set day, and put more than one job if space permits. Try to plan your routes, and stick with it. Plan any material pick up on the same day, sometimes it's cheaper just to go get certain things yourself. 1 round trip is always better than 2 or 3

3: Buy material in bulk.

Try ordering materials in bulk. Things like screws, hinges, locks, mdf or ply sheets, office supplies, and stuff you use regularly. You always buy the same ones, so why not buy more. We all know when you buy small you pay big. Only stuff that you find yourself ordering all the time. try buying as much from one vendor as possible, this way you save on stacked shipping costs. It all adds up at the end of each month.

4: Shop around before you just buy.

Too many times businesses get comfortable with the supplier they use. Often times they don't even ask about price. Normally they do beat the competition, but not on everything. I've seen prices rise as much as 15% over one week. This is like the gas stations that sell fuel through accounts. They are always top dollar, could've saved if you went across the street, but they don't accept that card! Don't forget to calculate shipping costs as well.

5: Save on energy costs.

In the hot summer months, keep the place buttoned up during the morning hours. The insulation will help keep it cool with some fans circulating. Once the heat builds up open two door or windows across the shop. Use a fan in one pointing out, It makes a good cross breeze that is steady, Start early so you're done by 2:00pm. During the winter keep the heat at 63-66 degrees in the shop. Sounds cool, but aren't the guys already dressed up for winter? Once you're working ( should be immediately) it's perfect, not sweating is good.

You start applying these tactics to your everyday work day. You will save thousands by the end of the year. I'm not the most perfectly green person around, But I'm on my way to be greener, and I hope you to will to find a greener way.

Frankie Talarico Jr.
Woodworking supplies

Reading and understanding wood grain.

Understanding wood grain.
(any picture is clickable for a full view)

One of the most common mistakes people make in a woodshop is feeding the wood into the machine in the wrong direction. They don't understand the grain of the wood and often times find themselves chipping or gouging out grain when running a router, shaper, or planer. First of all wood grain is a form of natural organic growth. As we all know anything that grows, does so in a pattern. And natural patterns, if not followed, normally lead to problems. Lets go with an example of a cats fur. When you pet a cat front to back it's fur is nice and smooth. The hair lays down over each other with a very natural pattern. Now stroke him backwards, what do you get? Ruffled up hair standing straight up on end, in a ugly not so nice pattern, with a cat half mad.

The anatomy of wood cell structure:

I couldn't explain this better. This is an excerpt from wood magazine. Detailed information on the pores and structure of wood cells.
Technically, the word grain refers to the orientation of wood-cell fibers. That's quite different from figure, which describes the distinctive pattern that frequently results from various grain orientations. To understand this, it may help to think of the word direction following the word grain. All grain types except straight grain can be a blessing or a curse. Because wood with anything other than straight grain may be sawn to produce sometimes exquisite figure, errant grain becomes a blessing. In structural applications, such as home construction, lumber (mostly softwood) with other than straight grain loses some strength. And hardwood boards without straight grain require extra care in machining to avoid tear out and other reactions.

Grain means texture, too
Texture means the relative size as well as the amount of variation in size of the wood cells. It's the cells and how they're arranged in bands called rays, and the size and distribution of pores, that make the difference between fine-textured wood and coarse-textured wood. Woodworkers, though, say "fine-grained" and "coarse-grained" rather than use the word texture to describe this characteristic of wood. And you don't have to be a wood technologist to see as well as feel the difference in grain.
First let's go over the three grain types there are.

1. End Grain (usually not exposed after a project is finished due to it's nature of absorbing too much stain)
The end grain is the little straw ends of the natural fibers in the tree. These used to be feeding tubes. There are 2 end grains on each board.
2. Face Grain (Most commonly used to display a finished even toned pattern)
Face grain is what you normally see when you look at your cabinets, or the side of the wood you can easily identify tree species. This grain is often the most precious side of the board. A piece of wood normally has 2 faces.
3. Edge grain. (This is the strongest side of wood. Quality cutting boards are made from maple on edge.)
Edge grain is usually the same side you measure thickness from. It can be stained to match the face and looks similar to face grain. Edge grain is acceptable as face grain on certain applications.

As with the cat theory, the same applies for wood grain. If you look at the edge or face of a board you can easily see the pattern. We used red oak to express this, for it's natural prominent grain pattern.
turned on edge

As you can plainly see the grain lays in a distinct pattern. This is the direction it grew in and will always stay that way. This example has a tendency to go left to right. meaning a cutter should move right to left. If you tried to cut against the grain the wood will splinter and try to continue down the grain line. If cutting with the grain, the wood chips would clear out smoothly revealing a nice clean cut.
Some examples below.

This one the grain goes right to left meaning you cut left to right. An example of a face cut

This example demonstrates a left to right grain. And feed again is opposite that. This demonstrates jointing

Things to keep in mind:

When making an edge cut, you will be reading the face grain.

When cutting the face grain, you'll read the edge grain.

Sometimes you won't be able to control which way to cut. This often happens while doing a project that needs lots routing. Most times it's after assembly of certain pieces that you run a decorative edge and need to pay special attention to details. These are instances of running against the grain. Sometimes it's got to be done, and when this is the casea you need advanced techniques and experience. Some people believe running the piece slower over the blade helps. To some degree this is true, but most times it's not.
check out my advanced routing and techniques. Covering against the grain cuts.
Coming soon, as this will be my next article.
This is pine Easy to read.

When jointing near a knot or check in the board use caution. The grain will often change direction. This is very common and should be handled appropriately. You read the entire length of the board. Majority of the grain direction is heading one way. This is the way you'll cut, taking time when approaching the knot and exiting. You will hear a distinct noise of wood breaking and chipping out where the cutter makes contact. There are tricks a jointer can do to prevent chipout or at least minimize it. I'll cover that at a later point.
Frankie Talarico Jr.
Woodworking supplies

Apr 3, 2009

How to use and read a tape measure

Reading and understanding a tape measure:

All the photos are clickable and you'll see the details needed if your having trouble viewing.

For first time woodworkers or anyone that needs to make a measurement. For most people you'll have to measure something sooner or later. You might as well sound like you know what your doing so you don't end up saying something like,"5 and three little little lines". Should be sounding more like "5 and 3/16 of an inch". After reading this you should have a good understanding of the following techniques:

1) Increments and steps

2) Reading a tape

3) Understanding fractions

4) General rules of thumb

Firstly I would like to make a note for all the beginners out there. The tip of your blade has a l shaped hook on the end. This piece is loose for a reason, don't tighten it or your tape is worthless. The purpose of this play is for an inside or outside measurement. The difference in the tip is actually the thickness of that tip. This is something that is set at the factory and should not be adjusted.

"What do all those lines mean anyway?". The standard or "imperial" tape measure is mostly used in the western world. Every one else in the world uses Metric. I will do a writeup about that another time. The imperial standard is an easy to use system that requires little to no thinking when it comes to math.

The way a tape measure is laid out is in such a way that inches are broken down to 16 equal step increments. those steps when multiplied are. 8 equal steps, then 4 equal steps, then 2 equal steps. 1/16th", 1/8th", 1/4", 1/2" respectively

Memorize fractions like this

1"= 2/2, 4/4, 8/8, 16/16"

1/2"= 1/2, 2/4, 4/8, 8/16"

1/4"= 1/4, 2/8, 4/16"

1/8"= 1/8, 2/16"

By remembering the fractions this way you'll easily be able to determine what your measurement is to the 1/16 of an inch, or even 1/32". To break it down visually I will demonstrate by marking out the lines on the tape. On the right we have an example of the 1/8" increments. This shows the actual numbers you would say or use.

And this example is broken down to the 1/16 of an inch increments. It's hard to put all this on one picture because it gets a little confusing. You can easily see that 1/2" would be 8/16". And 1/4" is equal to 4/16" This is what makes it easy. Then just remember to break down your measurement so you have a proper fraction.

When it comes time to actually read the measurement I do one of two things. I either round it up and subtract the number of lines or I count the steps and multiply. I will explain.

If I measure something that is 7/16" I look at the tape and see 1/2" is closest (which is 8/16 as we all know) subtract one little line ( equivalent to 1/16") And I get: 8/16" - 1/16" = 7/16" right?

If I happen to notice its center of 1/2" and 1" I can tell that its a quarter time 3 (because If i break an inch into 4 quarters I have 3 on my measuring side.) That would make it a 3/4" measurement.

The easiest way to measure is to follow these steps here:


Look at the big number that's nearest to, but before the mark you’re trying to read. It should be a whole number. That’s how many inches you’re measuring. If the mark you're reading falls on a whole number, then that number is all the information you need. Carpenters usually measure in inches. While framers use Feet, then inches, then fractions.


Count how many marks there are in between each inch if the mark you’re reading doesn't fall on a whole number. Most tape measures will divide an inch into 16 equal parts, or 16ths of an inch like the photo above.


Start at the whole number you found nearest your desired mark and count the number of marks between the whole number and the spot you're trying to read.


Read the final number as "inch and fraction." For example, if your nearest whole number is two and there are five marks between your spot and the whole number, then your measurement would be "two and five-sixteenths".


Reduce the fraction, if necessary. Fractions are expressed in the smallest numbers possible, so eight sixteenths would be reduced to half of an inch.


Sometimes a measurement ends up in between the lines, Now what? Well you say the line below your measurement the say heavy. and this is considered a 1/32 step from that line (ex. two and five sixteenths heavy)


You might have noticed that every 24" on the tape measure are marked with a contrasting black background and every 16" is marked with a red background. The marks are used by construction workers for spacing wood studs in a wall or joists in a floor/roof. 16" spacing is used most commonly for load bearing walls and 24" for non-load bearing walls. The small black diamonds represent a less common spacing scheme.

Rules of thumb and care for using a tape measure.

1. Don't ever let the tape slam back in when retracting. Always slow it down.

2. Try not to bend the tape against it's self. Bending the tape backwards shortens the life of the metal, and it creates slivers on the tape that will cut you when you least expect it.

3. Don't pull the tape out as far as it can go this ruins the spring mechanism inside rendering you tape useless much sooner than planned. I carry three tapes. 16', 25', 100'

4. Don't drop the tape measure on concrete. If you do measure up with someone around the job. You can bend the tip and create incorrect measurements.

5. Use a ladder when measuring in high places because an 1/8" can mean the difference between quality and crap.

6. The lock is over rated. Only use it if you have to walk away from the tape, or lay it down. this kinks and sometimes caused malfunction and the tape is useless.

7. Don't use a cut tape measure. If your blade has a tear or slice in it you need a new one. If you want to risk your own safety go ahead but I recommend against it. Too many times a job goes bad because silly tool related mistakes, and someone goes to the hospital for stitches. Is that really worth it?

For a video explanation check this out. Thank you to Tim Carter for this nice explanation.

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