Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Workbench, Part 1

I designed a workbench based on the plans in Uncle Dave Gingery's Shop Notebook, but adapted to the space and materials I had available. Dave used plywood for the "slide members"—the ends of the storage area under the bench that brace the legs and hold the drawer slides—but why buy materials when free materials will do the job just as well?

In my neighborhood, people buy a lot of ready-to-assemble particle board furniture. It's designed to not be repaired, so when one part breaks, they drag the whole thing to the curb. There's usually not much damage—one or two broken panels, maybe a caster, a drawer pull, or some other piece of hardware broken off—and the other panels almost like new. Perfect for building something, just not the same thing. Apparently they can afford to keep replacing their furniture, and most of them don't mind my picking up their cast-off pieces. Sometimes they even help me load them. So I have free pallets, free particle board, and occasional pieces of dimensional lumber people put out with the trash.

I was cutting slide members from free particle board, but my cuts with a circular saw weren't very straight, and my miter saw only has 8 inches of travel. Add the portion of the blade that extends into the slot in the table, and you can make a cut of about 13 inches—fine for cross-cutting shelves or dimensional lumber, but rather limited for cutting large rectangles of panel products. I don't have money or space for a table saw, and I wouldn't use it all that often anyway. While looking at panel saws, track saws, and various DIY options on the web, I found this:

The two boards on top guide the circular saw, the hardboard indicates the exact location of the cut and width of the kerf, and the bottom two boards provide an edge to hold the work perpendicular to the cut while holding everything together.

I sketched out some ideas based on what I had on hand and what I wanted to do. A 4 foot cutting length would handle anything up to a half sheet, more than enough for this project, but a set of shelves 6 feet tall turned up on a curb, so I used it. 


Right Side

8 feet would be enough to cut full sheets, but if I ever need to do that, I can build another one. This jig / track / whatchamacallit stands against a wall in my shed, and fits through the doorway vertically. Since I use it outside, the panel I'm cutting can extend as far as it needs to in either direction.

I thought it would be good to post a CAD file. I read blueprints at work, but my last drafting experience was a paper and pencil class in 1990. Mwmkravchenko from Gingery Machines Main Group recommended starting with LibreCAD. So here's my first-ever CAD drawing: Track Saw. Let me know if you find errors.

ETA: I forgot to allow for the length of the shoe ahead of the blade so I could cut all the way to the bottom of the stock. I added a board 3" x 5/8 " x 30" as a spacer. I had assumed it would be easy to clamp the stock in place, but that didn't work very well. Wedging scraps of hardboard between the panel guides and the stock worked better.

Friday, July 7, 2017

...and the One Before That

Since my furnace was on hold due to weather, I decided I needed a proper work bench. All I had in my shed was a shelf (built by the previous occupant) that could barely hold itself up, let alone support any work. I'll need a sturdy bench to work on and to bolt the lathe to.

"Uncle" Dave to the rescue! "Uncle" Dave Gingery's Shop Notebook I contains a collection of projects and ideas he accumulated in his notebooks over the years, and includes workbench plans and a discussion of how best to adapt them to your needs that are well worth the price of the book.

The best kind of wood for this sort of project is free wood, and I can get broken pallets from work for free. I already had a circular saw I could make quick cuts (but not particularly straight cuts) with, and a miter saw I'd picked up at a too-good-to-pass-up sale price from Harbor Freight. But I was tired of propping my saw or my work on sawhorses or laying it out on the floor. Miter saw stands were expensive, and didn't look any more stable than sawhorses. It looked like I needed a workbench for building my workbench. I adapted Uncle Dave's workbench plans to fit my saw, my shed, and my pallets.

Here's the basic table. The base, legs, and top are salvaged pallet wood. The sides are fiberboard, and the drawer slides are 1x2s, both left over from another project. The pallets stacked next to the table provide an additional work surface and lumber storage. Salvaged pallet boards slide neatly into the space between the upper and lower surfaces of the pallets. I adjusted the height of the stack until I found the most comfortable working height for me—36 inches. Note that the table is lower than the pallet stack so the height of the saw's work surface will be equal with the pallets. There's another stack of pallets at the other end of the shelf for additional storage and to support especially long boards for cutting.

Dave's plans called for grooves in the sides, front, and back of the drawers to hold the drawer bottoms. I could set my saw to the proper depth for the grooves, but it didn't have enough travel to cut a groove the full length or width of the drawer. Jenn at Build Basic had the answer: 3/8 x 3/8 square dowels glued and nailed along the bottom edge of the sides, front, and back support the drawer bottom.

I used 1/2" finishing nails. Okay, call them "Bright Wire Brads". The important thing is that they're long enough to hold the dowels in place, at least until the glue dries, but short enough they don't come through the other side of the boards.

I knew it was important to make the joints square, but I didn't know how. I tried improvising with Legos, but the results were not good.

Again, Jenn had the answer: "Simply place a block (make sure it has a truly square corner) into the corner and clamp it tightly to each side." I'll do that when I build the big bench.

Because my drawers weren't square, it took several tries to cut and fit each bottom. Next time, I'll use a framing square, like Jenn recommends. Note the sides extend beyond the back. That's Uncle Dave's idea, so you can pull the drawer out far enough to expose all the contents without dropping it on the floor.

The drawer front is taller and wider than the sides. It serves as a stop when you close the drawer.