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Introduction to the Thickness Planer

Posted by on August 26th, 2014

In this post you’ll learn:

- How to use a thickness planer
– Why you should consider using one
– The difference between rough cut lumber and S4S

Back in 2005 when I was building my first set of kitchen cabinets, I made an impulsive purchase and bought a used thickness planer I found on Craigslist.  I had heard from numerous carpenters in online forums that by purchasing rough stock instead of the ready-to-use wood from the big hardware store, I would save a lot of money.  It ended up working out in my favor.  When the cabinets were finally completed and installed, I estimated I probably spent around $2k-$3k for all of the lumber and hardware for the kitchen cabinets.  That number may have been a few hundred dollars higher if I bought all of my lumber from Lowes or Home Depot.

The key to saving that money was the thickness planer.  Without it, I would’ve had to purchase more expensive and often lower quality lumber.

Here’s a video I just put together where I explain the basics of using a thickness planer. If you’ve never used one or frankly, have never even heard of a thickness planer, then it’s worth a quick watch. It could potentially save you money on your next carpentry project.

An Introduction to the Thickness Planer

Link to the video is also here.

Key Takeaways

- Thickness planers can cut wood either on the face side or on an edge of a board
– S4S means Sanded Four Sides and is the finished wood available for purchase at most large home improvement stores
– Rough cut lumber is generally cheaper per board foot compared to S4S lumber
– S4S is more expensive and can also contain major imperfections like bows or curves
– Boards you plan on planing should initially be cut wider or thicker than the finished width or thickness desired
– Plan on running a board through the planer 3 or 4 times.
– You can adjust the amount of material being removed in each pass with an adjustment knob
– I use the DeWalt Model 734 (affiliate) and it’s on my Tool Recommendations page

Here’s a picture that illustrates the point further.

planed board

The board on the left has just been cut with a table saw and has a fair amount of imperfections including raised, uneven surfaces and saw marks. It would take a LOT of sanding or hand planing to clean that edge up OR a few passes through the thickness planer.  The board on the right has just finished a few passes through the thickness planer and it looks clean and perfect.

Here’s the bottom line. If you are seriously getting into wood working and have some larger projects coming up or plan on working with reclaimed wood, then consider purchasing a thickness planer.  If you are mainly into smaller projects and are just an occasional woodworker, then you’ll probably survive without one.

Any questions?

Posted in Carpentry,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Table Saw Basics

Posted by on August 10th, 2014

This week I’m back in the shop continuing to make progress on our home office built-ins.  So far I’ve got all the hardwood cut to width and length.  Next up will be a run through the thickness planer and then the router table.  If you recall, these cabinets are going to get a bead detail on the face frames.  It’s the first time I’ve ever attempted this technique and frankly, I’m a little nervous over how they’ll turn out.  It’s going to be a bit of a challenge.  Keep your fingers crossed.  I will be filming nearly all of the cabinet build for your viewing pleasure.  I hope when it’s all done you’ll get to see a quality video on cabinet construction.

In other news, I’ve put together a quick video on Table Saw Basics.  If you don’t yet own a table saw or you do but you’re not exactly sure how to use it, this video should be helpful.

Here’s a link to the YouTube video in the event the player isn’t visible.

This is not the first time I’ve discussed table saws.  Here’s a run down on most of our Table Saw related discussions.  This post then will sort of be a Table Saw Resource Page.

1.  My Tool Recommendations Page lists a couple different table saw options if you are in the market.

2.  The Table Saw Station we just built for my contractor grade table saw.

3.  An older post on What You Need to Know About Table Saws.  Worth reading along with the video.

4.  Thinking about buying a used table saw?  Not a bad idea.  Here are some tips for purchasing used power tools.

5.  In the video I mention grooves and dados.  Not familiar with those?  Check out this post and video.

I hope this post helps you get a better understanding of the table saw if you’ve never used one.  In our next video (probably next week) I’ll be showing you my thickness planer.  It’s loud and it’s awesome so you won’t want to miss it.

Oh and last month our blog hit our 3 year anniversary.  Not a big deal at this point, but I’m going to put a post together discussing my thoughts on blogging now that we’re pretty experienced.

Thanks!

Now I want to hear from you.  If you are an experienced table saw user, what additional tips or advice do you recommend for novice woodworkers and DIYers?  What did I miss or what did I get wrong?  I honestly don’t mind negative feedback as long as it’s helpful and not mean spirited.  

If you haven’t yet used or bought a table saw, what questions do you have? 

 

Posted in Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, , ,

An Intro to Routers and Router Tables

Posted by on July 31st, 2014

Whenever I get a new newsletter subscriber, one of the first emails I send to them asks a basic question.  “What would you like to see”?  Recently, I’ve gotten at least a dozen replies specifically asking for more information on routers.  Most express an interest in simply learning the basics about them.

So, I’ve finally gotten around to filming this brief intro to routers and router tables.

I’ll be using both my router AND my router table when we make the built-ins for our home office remodel.  The face frames on the cabinets will feature a bead, which will be done with the beading bit and the joints for the doors will be made on the router table instead of the table saw.

(link to video here)

Here’s what you’ll see in this video:

- An overview of routers, collets and router bits
– Discussion on router speeds and bit sizes
– Explanation of router bases: plunge vs. fixed
– Using the fixed base router
– My router table
– Using the router table (link to the free plans)

If you’ve never used a router yet and you’re not even sure what one does or where you’ll use one, I can tell you it’s a skill and a tool worth learning.  Around our home, we’ve used the router and the router table on a number of projects.

Like our window sills in the dining room…

make a window sill

Or the cap on our wainscoting

cap wainscoting

OR the grooves in our custom TV stand

groove with a router

 

After you’ve watched the video, I’d love to hear how you’ve used your router if you own one.  If you don’t yet own a router, what project do you would use it on?  If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below.

And how about that animation??  Just had it done!

 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, , , ,

Setting Up Shop: Table Saw Upgrade Part 3

Posted by on July 28th, 2014

This past week the family and I spent a few days vacation in Cape May, NJ.  Been going there since I was a kid.  Great family town.  Lots of beautiful Victorian style homes.  Made a visit to the Cape May Brewing Company while we were down there and tried some of their delicious beer.  Got me thinking about trying to brew my own beer someday soon.  I think I may need a whole other blog for that though!  Anyway, didn’t get too sunburned so that’s a relief.  I just turned 35 a few weeks ago and I’m at the age (and hair density) where I apparently need to apply a generous amount of sunscreen to the top of my head.  Womp womp.

Anyway, was able to get back into the workshop and finish up my table saw upgrade.  Let’s pickup where we left off after our first and second posts.

The frame was all built using some scrap plywood ripped down to 3.5″ in width.  Once I was out of plywood, I finished the rest of the minor framing using 2x4s.  They were in non-critical areas so I’m not too concerned about their imperfections causing and issues with the saw.

table saw work station 1

I then screwed down a piece of 1/2″ thick plywood right where the saw will be located.  Turns out I probably could have used a 3/4″ thick board because I needed to shim the saw up some to get it flush with the table top.

table saw bench 1

The saw has to be secured in place so it doesn’t move relative to the table or fence so I just went out and bought some longer hex bolts to keep the saw where it’s supposed to be.  I also cut out a hole for the dust to be removed.  At some point I’ll hook up a dust collection system and this hole will come in handy.

table saw work station 2

table saw saw installed

The tricky part was installing the Biesemeyer fence system.  This fence was a leftover from my previous table saw and has been collecting dust in my basement for several years now.  It simply bolts onto the front frame of the table.

completed table saw table

The fence system has a built-in tape measure that I calibrate by squeezing a 3/4″ thick board between the fence and the blade and then setting the indicator to 3/4″.  Later on I’ll adjust the fence to ensure it is square to the blade.  I’ll also show this table saw station in more detail in an upcoming video.

table saw fence

table saw workstation fence

The best part of this table saw setup is it’s the same exact height as my other work table and the router table.  That means they can all be in-feed or out-feed tables for each other.  That alone is going to make cutting large sheets of plywood MUCH MUCH easier.

outfeed table

So in a few hours worth of work I’ve managed to build myself a simple work bench that compliments the other tables in the shop, adds over seven inches of width to the amount I can cut and cost me around $50 worth of fasteners, wheels and wood.  Not too bad.  This project is perfect if you’re looking to improve your table saw situation.

If you don’t have a Biesemeyer fence, which I wouldn’t expect you to, you can check out these picks from Amazon (affiliates): the Vega PRO, the Delta 36-T30 and the Shop Fox.

In our next post, I’ll be featuring a video on the basics of routers and router tables.

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, ,

Setting Up Shop: Table Saw Upgrade #1

Posted by on July 13th, 2014

If you’ve been following along lately, you know that we’re knee deep in our home office renovation.  In our last post, we discussed the work we’ve done to date and what work was coming soon.  We’re starting the second half our office project today by upgrading my main workshop power tool, the table saw.  For what it’s worth, you can expect a lot of workshop posts and videos in the coming weeks.

Here’s my current table saw, a Hitachi.

hitachi table saw

What I like about it… It’s a great table saw.  It’s powerful, it’s lightweight, portable and it’s perfect for most DIY projects.  (By the way, on our Tool Recommendations Page, I recommend the Bosch model instead since it permits dado blades, whereas the Hitachi does not.  So, if you are in the market for your first table saw, consider the Bosch over the Hitachi.)

Now for what I don’t like about this saw and frankly, contractor saws in general.  It’s not such a great cabinet saw, which means it’s not ideal for cutting big plywood sheets.  It’s a bit undersized, so larger pieces of plywood tend to be more of a challenge than I’d like.  The table will move or wobble slightly when I place a larger sheet of wood down on it and it doesn’t have much of an outfeed setup.  For long pieces of wood I have to walk around the back of the saw and pull the piece through once it starts hanging off the back.  I’m sure that’s pretty common for people who use these types of saws, but it’s not ideal nor is it very safe, folks.  It also only allows cuts up to around 24″ or so, which also isn’t great for wide cabinet parts.

While I’d love to buy a full blown cabinet saw, those are pretty pricey and would really only be worth my investment if I opened up a cabinet shop (not interested).  Here’s an example of what a cabinet saw looks like:

grizzly table saw

This is a Grizzly brand table saw (affiliate link).  Now THIS is a cabinet saw.  You can click the link to see how much it costs, but it’s close to $2k.  My hitachi was around $300.  Yeah.  Not interest in spending that sorta dough.  Eventually, I plan on buying one way down the road, but I’m not in any hurry.  These saws have powerful motors and huge table tops.  They are VERY heavy and don’t move a lick when you slap a board down on them.

So what to do?  Well, I’ve decided to make a sort of hybrid table saw station similar to something I saw on New Yankee Workshop years ago.  I’m building a 2×4 framed work table that will feature a melamine top and a more professional Biesemeyer fence.  My Hitachi table saw will then sit inside this workstation and have access to a larger work surface.  I’m going to build this new table to the same height as my workbench, which will be able to act as either an outfeed or infeed table.

Here’s how it’s coming together so far.

Table Saw Upgrade #1

I started the build by measuring the dimensions of my Hitachi taking into account that the mobile base it’s attached to will be removed.  I then took those dimensions, drew some rough sketches on paper and added in some length and width for the fence system.  I start construction on the top frame, since that’s probably the most critical piece.

The sides are 2x4s and the front and back are 2x3s.  A lot of this wood I had left over from our coffered ceiling framing.  I joined the pieces together using pocket screws and liquid nail, but regular wood screws through the sides would work just fine too.

table saw workbench 1

I then flipped the frame over and started adding the internal frame boards.

table saw workbench 2

table saw workbench 3

The large open space is where the table saw will be located.  The rest of the table top will be melamine.  While I haven’t finished cutting out all of the melamine, you can get an idea of what it will look like with the last piece.  I want the melamine to be recessed into the framing, which will make more sense later.

table saw workbench 4

I’m hoping to finish the legs and sub framing later this week.  This quick project will hopefully make the cabinet project much easier.

So what’s your table saw situation?  Do have have a contractor’s saw?  Know anyone with a cabinet saw?  

 

Posted in Carpentry,DIY Projects,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, ,

Free Router Table Plans

Posted by on April 14th, 2014

Well it’s been a couple months, but I’ve finally finished my latest set of free woodworking plans.  This time it’s my simple router table.

free-router-table-plans

I first built this simple router table when I was adding raised panel wainscoting to our dining room.  It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than those $100 tables you get from Sears or your hardware store.

Get the FREE plans for this project
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To get access to these free router table plans, simply subscribe to our free newsletter.

 

Posted in DIY Projects,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,,

Summer Rewind

Posted by on September 17th, 2013

It was a good summer.  I only got sun burned once.  Or twice.  Got to the beach a few times.  Good stuff.  As far as home improvement projects go, this summer wasn’t too bad either.  Let’s take a look back and see what we got done and what we postponed.

We started off the summer with a post on our Spring and Summer Goals where we listed around 9 projects.  We got a whopping 2 done.  It’s just like that Meatloaf song, “Two out of Nine Ain’t Bad.”  Not one of his better hits.

DIY concrete planter

The first outdoor project we attempted was the DIY Concrete Planter.  We had mixed results with the monogram, but overall we still really like the planter.  I am still planning on retrying this soon.  We’re going to double down and make two at the same time and try to make them darker.

mailbox-flowerbed

Next up was our Mailbox Flowerbed face lift.  We spray painted our mailbox, added some perennial flowers and mulched the bed.  It’s still going strong and we’re really happy with it.

wordpress theme photoshop

After the mailbox work, we shifted gears and finished redesigning and coding our own WordPress Theme.  This upgrade had been hanging over my head for months.  I really like the feel of the new theme, but there are still a number of changes I want to incorporate.

installing uv window filters

Before heading back into the garage, we installed some UV window film to prevent further sun damage in our entryway.  It was tricky to install, but it will probably end up saving us hundreds of dollars worth of damage to our stained wood.

organized garage

Finally, we finished work on our garage improvement.  That alone was around 9 or 10 posts.

side-flower-bed-

So what did we skip? For the most part, landscaping.  We still need to clean up our side flowerbeds (see the hot mess above).  One is heavily overgrown and the other needs a tall shrub or tree to anchor the layout.  In order to get it done now though, we would have to rush through it.  So, we’re punting it until the spring.  Womp Womp.

We have a lot of exciting Fall work lined up and we’ll be building some new furniture shortly.  So stick around!

How much summer work did you get done?  What did you skip?

 

Posted in Garage and Tools,Outdoors and Landscaping. Tagged in ,,

Garage Improvement Wrap-Up

Posted by on September 15th, 2013

It’s finally starting to get a little chilly around here.  I’m not calling it Fall yet though.  I’ll wait until the official start of Fall before I give up on summer.  I have one week left.  I’m going to enjoy it.  In the meantime, we finally finished up our garage improvement series that we started way back in the spring.  Here’s a complete recap.

We attempted this less than glamorous effort because we’re in and out of this space a few times a day and we couldn’t stand the clutter, the bugs and the general grime.  I’ll openly admit that all of the junk in the garage was mine.  All of the car stains on the floor were from my Jeep and all of the crap on the workbench was left over from finished or unfinished projects that I started.  This was my problem.

It was pretty ugly.

garage unorganized

unorganized garage

Yes, that IS my high school letterman jacket.  I lettered in Cross Country, thank you.  No, I don’t wear it.  Not sure how it ended up on my workbench.

Here’s where we are today.

organized garage

clean garage

Let’s go down the list of all the projects we knocked out to get us to this point.

1.  Garage Shoe Rack:  Completed last Fall, but instrumental in adding some organization to the space.

2. Workbench Pegboard:  Helped add some visual interest to the wall above the workbench.  Gave me spot to hang my air hose and extension cables.

3.  Bug Proofed the Windows:  Probably my favorite garage project next to the epoxy floors.  Our windows are STILL bug free today.

4.  Compressed Air Pipe:  Allowed me to relocate our large air compressor to the basement without giving up access to the air source.

5.  Workbench Outlet:  Provided some much needed juice for our power tools.

6.  Charging Station:  Organized my power tool chargers.

7.  Epoxy Floor Paint:  Biggest impact to the space.  Garage looks worlds better with it.

8.  Wall Hooks:  Got a lot of my gear off the floor and onto the wall.  Feels a lot less cluttered.

I’m getting tired just looking at that list.  That’s a lot of projects for a garage.  We’re not completely done yet either.  Lisa still wants to paint the door and the steps black.  Not sure if we’re going to paint the trim black as well.  I may try to wiggle my way out of this one until the spring.  TBD.

In our next post, we’ll wrap up our summer outdoor projects.  Also, look for a reader survey shortly.

 

Posted in Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,,

Tips for Cleaner Trash Cans

Posted by on September 12th, 2013

This post stinks.  Well, our trash cans do anyway.  Before we wrap up our garage improvement series, I felt I needed to go where no home blogger has gone before and talk about the trash.  There are two types of people out there: those that keep their trash cans in the house and those that keep them in the garage.  We’re the latter.  A couple months ago, Lisa went out to the garage to throw a bag into the trash can and came back in the house shrieking.  Apparently, there were maggots all over the rim of the bin and she wasn’t going anywhere near it.  That got me thinking.  What’s the best way to keep our trash free from odors and insects.  I came up with these tips for cleaner trash cans.

garbage-can-tips

Some of these tips will be supremely obvious, but others you may have ever occurred to you.

1.  Don’t Throw it, Place it.  I have a habit of opening up the trash lid and then heaving my bag full of discarded slop right into the bin without a second thought.  Why that’s a bad idea: If the bag isn’t placed right side up, it can leak out its contents right from the top of the bag into the bin.  That liquid mess then becomes a Golden Corral for a hoard of house flies.  Even if you manage to toss the bag into the bin right side up, you risk tearing the bag open from the impact.

2.  Double Bag the Nasty Stuff.  We have two little kids.  On any given day, we are knee deep in  dirty diapers.  Every week, it seems I need a fork lift to deposit all of our kids’… deposits.. into the garbage can.  Now, if I can smell the odor through the bags, chances are our 6 legged friends can too.  I like to double bag those diaper hauls, but I don’t merely drop one bag into the next, I cover the top of the first bag with the second.  That way, it’s pretty impossible for a fly to make it into the inner bag OR for a … deposit… to make its way out.

3.  Deodorize.  I’m sure somebody somewhere makes a deodorant for exterior trash cans.  A quick and cheap option is to poke some holes in a box of baking soda and duct tape it to the bottom of the bin.  If you don’t tape it, it’ll get tossed with the rest of the trash.

4.  Compost and Dispose.  Since we have a septic system and not a sewer, we don’t have an in-sink garbage disposal.  Consequently, everything that can’t be recycled needs to be tossed in the trash.  That’s a bummer for us, but if you do have a garbage disposal, you can greatly reduce the amount of waste that gets put in the trash.  That’s a good thing for garbage odor.  Additionally, if your township allows it (some actually don’t) you can start a compost bin for food items that are safe to compost.  Lisa and I will be starting a garden sooner or later so we need to get on that.

5.  Wash it.  Maybe once a year, it can’t hurt to hose and scrub down the bin.  I use a scrub brush on an extension rod and clean the whole thing down with liquid dish washing soap and then follow it up with deodorized powder laundry detergent.  It’s still a trash can, but it smells a whole lot better.

Are you an inside the garage person or an outside the garage person?  If you don’t have a garage or are a city dweller, how do you keep it from getting out of hand?

Posted in Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,, ,

Garage Floor Epoxy

Posted by on September 8th, 2013

With our summer winding down and the fall quickly approaching, it’s finally time to do something about our garage floor. A few months after we moved into our current home three years ago, I applied a grey, 2-part epoxy paint to the garage floor. We had mixed results. In some areas, the epoxy seemed to go down smoothly and in others it looked liked it could’ve used another coat or two. It was almost as if the concrete absorbed some of the paint in some spots without really building up any protection. Of course, a couple of those poorly covered areas just happened to be right below my old Jeep’s engine.

garage floor stains

garage epoxy

Not looking so hot there. A proper epoxy coating should prevent oil, water and other crap from permanently staining a garage floor. No amount of scrubbing was going to remove that eyesore.

Here’s the catch with epoxy paint, it’s a chemically hardening coating that cures within a few hours (regular paint air-dries) so second or third coats aren’t an option unless you want to buy a whole other kit. Moreover, kits can range in price from $50-$90. Yikes.

I managed to spot this kit from Valspar at Lowes on sale for $58 last weekend, so I grabbed it. I also picked up a gallon of concrete bonding primer even though the epoxy kit doesn’t require its use, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.

garage floor epoxy kit

Initially, I had some concerns with applying a second coat of epoxy paint over a floor that had already has epoxy paint. Wasn’t sure it would adhere properly. The directions in the kit though, say as long as the paint isn’t peeling up or chipping, it’s good to go. Sweet.

First thing I did was give the floor a good thorough scrubbing with soap and water. I used a squeegee to push the water back out into the driveway and let it dry overnight.

The next day, I primed a couple spots with the concrete bonding primer. I stuck with the discolored areas and anywhere I had some of the epoxy lift up from tire marks. The primer dries clear and must be followed up with the finish paint within 1-4 hours or it needs to be re-primed.

garage floor tire peel

The epoxy kit is available in a variety of colors, but the most common are tan and grey. We stuck with grey for this one. In the kit box, there is a can of hardener, the base coat, a small container of paint chips and a bottle of floor cleaner/etcher. We skipped the paint chips the first time we did the floor, but we wanted to add them this time. I also skipped the etcher since this isn’t a bare concrete floor and it’s also a pretty nasty chemical. Oh, but they do give you a stirring stick! Jackpot!

epoxy kit components

To get started, the hardener is dumped into the base can and stirred. Once it’s all blended, it has to sit for maybe 20 minutes or so. The instructions recommend the epoxy first be applied along the perimeter with a wide brush. It’s then rolled on with a regular paint roller. I would roll down 3-4 feet of epoxy going the width of the garage and then stop and shake out the color flakes. It seemed like I was throwing down a ton of flakes, but after finishing for the night, I still had maybe half of the container left.

The kit is sized for a one car garage, but I easily could’ve finished nearly our whole two-car garage with just the one kit. I plan on picking up another kit to finish the rest of the garage later this week.

I also have a workbench, storage locker and other crap that I didn’t want to remove completely from the garage to do this upgrade, so the plan is to shift them over to the finished side later this week to give me access to the unfinished side.

In the photo below you can see the stark contrast between the newly finished and previously finished floors.

garage floor epoxy

Here’s a wide shot of the before…

garage floor epoxy before

and here’s the after…

garage floor epoxy after

Couple of things to be aware of… I would use gloves and a mask. This stuff stinks!! In fact, we left our garage door open all day Sunday to just air it out. It’s epoxy paint, so getting it off your hands isn’t going to be fun either. If you need more color chips, they are sold separately at Lowes in a variety of colors if you want a more custom look.

We’ll show you what it looks like when it’s all done. We’re also going to be painting those small foundation walls with our next kit. Fun stuff. Fun stuff.

Has anyone else used this epoxy paint? How did your results turn out?

Posted in DIY Projects,Garage and Tools. Tagged in ,,