Tips & Tricks: Issue 18

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This article is from Issue 18 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Don’t Knock It

When it comes time to assemble or finish a project,  I find that there’s always a desperate shortage of clear work surface in my shop. To solve that problem, I used to lay a hollow-core door atop a pair of sawhorses, instantly creating a large table surface that’s dependably flat. 

But I recently upgraded this solution by permanently attaching a set of folding tubular banquet table legs to the door. To provide a solid target for the screws attaching the legs, I glued squares of ¾" plywood to the underside of the door. Adding a handle at the midpoint of one edge of the door makes it easy to carry the table wherever I need it. When it’s not in use, the table stores flat against the wall in my shop, taking up almost no floor space.

If you prefer a shorter table height, it’s easy to hacksaw the legs and replace the plastic tips over the cut ends.  

— Frank Sagio, Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Code Red, Pink and Beige

Drilling pilot holes used to involve finding the screw chart to remember the right size, then squinting at the bits until I found the right size. 

Now I use a simple color coding system so I can instantly grab the right bit and get to work. I borrowed three shades of nail polish, and painted the tip of my bits. Don’t glop it on too heavily or you could clog the flutes of the bit. One color identifies each size I use most: 3/32" for no. 6 screws, 7/64" for no. 8, and 1/8" for no. 10 screws. 

Tape a piece of white paper with the color key to the inside lid of your drill bit box so you’ll remember the code. 

— Jack McGraw, Tampa, Fla.

Space Ball Is a Down-to-Earth Router Fix

I learned early on that you should never let a bit bottom out in the router. That’s because tightening the collet nut tends to force the bit deeper, so you need to provide some room for the bit to move or you won’t be able to snug it properly.

When you can lay a router on its side, the procedure is fairly easy. But when you’re changing bits in a router table, it’s easy to run out of hands. 

I solve the problem by dropping a single Space Ball down the router’s collet. (You usually use these .026"-dia. resilient spheres along the edge of solid-wood door panels to prevent rattling and to accommodate seasonal wood movement without cracking.) I can then drop the end of the bit right onto the ball and tighten the nut. The rubber easily compresses under the pressure, allowing the collet to fully tighten. 

—Phil Thiemann, Wilmington, Del.

Shades of Difference

FOR years, every time i machined wood in my shop – sawing, planing, sanding – my open-base cabinets and wall-hung shelving units became dust depositories. Emptying the contents of these to clean them out was a chore I never looked forward to, and yet, if I didn’t do it, smaller items would get buried in layers of dust, making them impossible to find. I didn’t want to make doors of varying sizes to enclose the units; I needed something quick and simple. 

While pulling down a common window roller shade in one of our home’s bathrooms, it occurred to me: Why not use roller shades to cover the cabinet openings in my shop? They’re dirt cheap; a 30" vinyl roller shade at Lowe’s runs $2.17. Better still, you can have the shades cut to whatever length you need. Since the shades are designed to cover sizeable windows, length should not be an issue. Simply secure the shade using the accompanying hardware to your cabinet’s face frame above the opening. 

— Jim Harrold, Norwalk, Iowa

Drive Belt Memory Is a Thing of the Past 

Ordinary motor drive belts develop a “memory” of their shape around pulleys whenever the machine isn’t running. Starting up the motor moves these humps rapidly, creating noise and accuracy-robbing vibration in a table saw, bandsaw, drill press, and any other drive-belt tool. 

I recently replaced the old-fashioned drive belt on my table saw with a link belt, and noticed an immediate reduction in both noise and vibration. And I’m sure it’s not my imagination that my cuts seem smoother. The link construction made it easy for me to match the length of the new belt to the old one. When you have the old belt off, use a straightedge to check the alignment of the pulleys on the arbor and motor. Move one pulley or the other to ensure that they are parallel and in the same plane. Be sure to replace all belt guards after the installation. 

— Audrey Beers, Parkville, Mo. 

Block Router Table Sag

Over the years, my old router table surface had sagged, and it finally got so bad it was unusable. I recently upgraded the top and insert, and I wanted to make sure that my new investment stayed flat.

I figured that the constant weight of the router led to the dishing of my old table, so now I elevate the router on a piece of scrapwood when it’s not in use. This takes the pressure off the table surface so that it’s much less likely to sag. If your router table doesn’t have a surface below it for the block, simply remove the router insert assembly and store it on a shelf. 

— Richard Huck, Minneapolis, Minn.


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