The Woodwork Geek

Programmer by day, at night I become…The Woodwork Geek!

You can never have too many clamps

This may not be entirely true, but the more woodwork you do the more clamps you’ll need. I ended up with every single quick-grip and small f-clamp I own on a project a while back, and could have used a few more.

The other day I happened to be in the right place at the right time and picked up a bunch of the new 300mm Crescent Connect clamps that had been heavily discounted.  My local hardware store had them on display for many months as a new item, then reduced to half price when they weren’t selling, then I happened to be there as they hit the discount bin and I managed to talk them down even further. They are good clamps, and were priced well even at full price so I’m not sure why more didn’t sell but I’m not complaining.

This is the second time I’ve been lucky enough to pick up a large number of quality clamps at a big discount, the first time was when my local store stopped stocking Bessey brand clamps and got rid of their entire inventory. I always regretted not buying more of those so grabbed as many as I could this time around.

I also ended up with some vouchers over Christmas so added more 150mm Irwin quick-grips to my collection. I’m reaching the stage where I’ll need to build more racks, but again, I’m not complaining about that either!



and the new additions




A back for the Saw Till

I’m feeling a bit like Dr Who here, jumping back and forward in time with posts while I try and catch up. This one is actually from this afternoon, as I got a bit of time to play in the workshop today.

One of my first big workshop projects was a saw till, way back in April 2012. It’s had minor work done on it since that time, but nothing too major was needed as I got it pretty much right first time around.

One thing I didn’t do was put a back into it, even though I’d routed the frame ready for it. Here’s a picture of it emptied out earlier today. You can see the cross pieces that support the saw blades, but there’s no back and all you see behind it is ugly brick wall. I’d always meant to do it, but like a lot of things, if it ain’t broke I won’t spend the time to fix it.


What changed is that there’s been quite a lot of rain recently and as my wet car often shares the garage with my tools I’ve decided to try and close in some of the cabinets to stop things rusting. A while back I was given a few good bits of 6mm ply that happen to be perfect for the groove I’d already routed in the case and there’s enough to make a door as well, so I decided to get to work.

The first thing I had to do was make the cross rails flush with the rebate at the back, as I’d rushed installing them and they were about 1mm proud of the rebate.

Before Sanding

Before Sanding

A few minutes with a power sander fixed this though.

After Sanding

After Sanding

The next step after this was to unscrew the cleat and spacer so that I could get good measurements for the back piece. Turns out that it was 375mm x 920mm, the original box was 900 x 400 according to my original post so obviously my measuring skills were lacking back then! (actually, I just didn’t take into account the top and bottom, so it would have been 940 x 400)



I took the opportunity of the till being off the wall to remove all the old brass nails I’d used as tool hangers but no longer needed, and gave the frame and rebate a sand to clean them up.

The next step is to cut a piece of plywood for the back, so I marked up the size I needed using my saw guides like a square, and got ready to cut


Here’s the first bit done, then just do the long side after this and you have the backing piece.



My saw moved away from the guide during one of the cuts so as usual the piece didn’t quite fit at first attemp


A little work with a block plane fixed this up, but then I found that it still didn’t sit quite right. Apparently I didn’t clean up the corners of the rebate back when I originally made the till


All it took was a few seconds with a sharp chisel to fix it. Even if you exclusively use power tools in the workshop, a chisel or two (or 30!) is a handy thing to have around for adjusting and cleaning up machine cut joints like here.


Time to see if the back will fit now, and it does!



Take it out again and put some glue into the rebate and on the backs of the cross pieces.


and then put the back into place and clamp it. I only bought the grey clamps the other day and they are already coming in handy.



After the glue dried I put the cleats back on, and also put some small nails into the cross pieces from the back to make sure it was totally secure. It got a light sand at this point as well. Make sure you nail punch the nails below the surface before sanding or you’ll tear up your sandpaper and possibly sander pad.



I turned the case over, scraped out any glue that had overflowed and gave the inside a sand as well


Here is it back on the wall empty. The door will wait until another day, and I might put a small shelf back in as well up the top. I won’t oil it again until that’s done as it just makes it harder to get glue to stick.



and finally here it is with the saws back in it. It’s only a minor improvement for now, but once I get the door made it will be totally enclosed to protect the tools properly.





Pegboard for the bench

I’ve long wanted to put pegboard above my workbench, but I kept wondering if the tools would get in the road or dust cover everthing so never actually got around to hanging any, until recently that is

I wanted to put one large piece of pegboard on a wooden frame and hang it, so I went out and bought the materials. Getting them into the car turned out to be an issue though, the pegboard was 1800 x 900 and missed fitting in my boot and back seat by about 2cm. I ended up getting the pegboard cut in half  and had to join it again later on.

First I put the two pieces face down on sawhorses. Make sure that if you had to use two pieces that you line them up as well as you can so the rows of holes are even. I used 20 x 45 pine for the frame because it’s nice and cheap, about $2.50AU for a 2m length. The pegboard was $25 so the total project not including consumables cost about $40, and took about 3 hours including drying time.


Measure two pieces for the ends at full width, then two for the sides taking the width of the end pieces off the length. Dry fit everything to make sure your measurements and cuts were right and adjust anything needed.



Run a good amount of wood glue along each piece and clamp in into place. It’s on this sort of project that you realise that you don’t have enough clamps, so I made sure I picked up another packet of the quick-grip clamps the next time I saw them on sale after running short here. It’s also a good idea to put glue on the endgrain of the long pieces and clamp them so that they join not just to the pegboard but to the end pieces of the frame as well.



After the frame had dried all that was left was to find the wall studs and hang it up. This bit is a two person job so enlist a helper if possible. I’ve just secured it with nails through the frame, but you could use screws if you wanted to.




It’s a little longer than my bench, but there was space spare behind the drill press anyway so that’s fine. I moved a lot of my more commonly used tools over to this pegboard leaving room on the other walls for less used tools to be stored.

It’s actually amazing how much extra storage this gives you, and it really helped me tidy up the garage a lot as well as letting me work more efficiently.




A Router Planing Jig

Sorry it’s been so long since my last post. A combination of a new job and lots of other things to do has eaten into both my woodworking and blogging time, but I’m going to try and add a few of the missed projects over the coming weeks.

A few months ago I built a jig I’ve been meaning to do for a long time – a router planing jig. Basically it’s a framework to allow you to use a router to plane a surface dead flat. It’s made up of two parks – a use shaped base that you put the wood to be planed into, and a sled that runs over the rails and contains the router. Because it’s on the rails the router always cuts parrallel to the base, letting you flatten warped pieces easily.

First I cut a bit of plywood to size. It’s only about 5mm thick, if I had to start over I’d make it thicker just to avoid any chance of it flexing


Then I cut two bits of hardwood to the same length as the ply. You want to use hardwood as a softwood like pine will wear too quickly with the sled running over it and this could leave you routing uneven depths.


Then I glued one to each side, to make a U-Shaped channel. Once the glue is dry, nail these on as well from underneath.


I cleaned up the sides with a block plane before sanding them as well


Then I made sure the sides were dead flat and level with each other, because the more accurate the base of the jig the more accurate the result when you use it to plane a workpiece



Now for some reason I don’t seem to have taken pictures of the sled being built, so here’s one from today showing the router mounted in the sled. I waxed the rails of the sled so I can slide the router side to side as well if I want to, which is great for when the wood being planed is almost as wide as the base so you need to be careful not to cut the base as well. All you need to do is put the wood to be planed into the sled, and then lower the router bit to the desired depth. If the wood being planed is too thin for the bit to reach, just put a piece of scrap underneath to raise it up. I usually use a piece of rubber drawer mat underneath whatever I’m planing to keep it from moving.


I thought I’d share an interesting blog I’ve been reading, The Slightly Confused Woodworker. He’s at odds with most of my normal favorite authors, but that can be quite interesting. Well worth a read.

The Drill Press (finally!) gets a table

The weekend before last I made some circular saw guides. I included a picture of the small one in action, repeated below


That board is actually two bits of MDF laminated together to form a thick board to use as a drill press table. I was given the drill press by my lovely wife last Christmas but up until now it’s been used with scrap clamped in place as a table, and I had always wanted to put a proper one on it.

You might wonder what benefit a wooden table has over just using the metal one that it comes with, or with a vice added to it. Well, there’s a number of benefits

1) You can make it larger, giving you room to support larger workpieces

2) The exit point of the hole you are drilling is supported by the table, making the hole cleaner and less jagged.

3) You can add a fence to it so you can secure the piece being drilled, making the operation safer and more accurate.

So how did I get it to stay on there?. My original plan is below. I was going to have rails either side then underneath so the table could slide on and off.



Once it was glued up and I realised that the sides of the metal table aren’t parallel that idea went out the window. I decided that I really wanted the table on the drill press so just went with drilling holes and putting heavy bolts in. The photo is from underneath the stand so is a bit blurry.



and here’s the finished product. All that is left is to make a fence for it. I got to use it on the very next project I built, and it was very helpful have the table secured there.


15,000 Visits

The blog hit the 15000 visit mark this week, even though I haven’t been giving you much new content to read for a while. I’d just like to say a quick thank you to everyone who has visited, commented and liked the blog. I really enjoy writing it and hope you find it helpful. Please feel free to post comments and suggestions on any of the projects shown, I’d love to hear from more of you.


A pair of saw guides

I finally bought myself a circular saw a few weeks ago. I’d managed without one until now, using either handsaws or my jigsaw to break down sheet material. I found that I never quite got a perfect edge with them though and I wanted to improve my accuracy for some breadboards I’m making so spend a bit of birthday money and bought a cheap saw.

To go with it I decided to build a pair of guides, based on a design I’ve seen a number of places. Basically it’s a giant benchhook with a strip of wood to guide the saw running down the middle. You clamp it in place with the edge on your cut line and it keeps the saw straight.

To start with, I had a couple of bits of ply that were about the right size. If they hadn’t been you could have just clamped a bit of wood to the sheet and used it to make the base.


I measured my saw base and then marked a square line either end to align the piece of pine that I was using to guide the saw


A generous bead of glue


Then clamp it into position. This is where it got a bit interesting, I didn’t have a clamp wide enough to clamp the middle so I used a bit of scrap to bridge the gap. I think this bit of wood is called a caul but whatever the name, it worked great.


I wandered off to do other projects while the guide dried in place, then flipped it over and glued a short piece of scrap across the guide. This serves as both a stop and to make sure the guide stays square to the board being cut. If you want to make an angled cut it still works fine, you just have only part of the stop touching the board.


Once that was dry the final step was to turn it over, and use the guide to trim itself to width. This just means making a cut along the guide so that the base is cut to width.

I had decided that I was going to make both a long and short guide, so made that one up as well Here’s the end results, though they still need a bit more sanding to remove the excess glue and maybe a coat of oil


I took a few photos of the short one in action for your viewing pleasure. Mark your cut, then align the guide so that it sits just on the edge of the line. Clamp it in place, making sure that the clamps won’t interfere with the saw’s motor otherwise you won’t be able to make the cut (yes, I learnt this when I went to trim them to width!)



Then after the cut. Just about perfect, and all for the price of a bit of scrap wood and a few minutes work.


What a Mess (Part 2)

I’ve been back in the workshop again, and started work on the messiest corner. This is what it looked like before I started


This is what it looks like after a couple of hours work. I started by pulling out all of the wood, sorting it and getting rid of some that wasn’t useful. Then I cleared the other shelves, put what I could away elsewhere and moved the wood to the lower shelves where the longer lengths sat better. I’ve still got to sort out the top but it’s better than it was and now my power tools are stored neatly and not just lying around.


What a Mess! (Part 1)

I’ve finally caught up on most of household and garden chores that went by the wayside while planning our wedding, leaving me some time the past few weekends to finally get back into the workshop.

The whole thing was in a pretty neglected state so I’ve had to do some cleanup work to get it usable again. The bench was covered in bits and pieces from unfinished projects and things I’d taken out of my car boot and dumped there, the drill press stand was a catch-all for any tools I’d been using in my infrequent pre-wedding workshop visits and hadn’t had the time or patience to put away, and a thick layer of dust that had blown in from the open garage door covered everything. Every other corner of the workshop was just as bad if not worse.


I decided to start small, and tackle one thing at a time. I started by taking everything off of the workbench, throwing away any discarded packaging and putting loose tools where they belonged. Then I gave it a good sweep. I took the same approach to the drill press table and before long it was looking much better. I gave it a final cleanup with a small air-mattress pump I use for cleaning the garage and you can see the results below. The only things on it now is my mitre saw, sawbenches, a few breadboards and a stool for a friend that I’m building.


Next up was the woodpile in the other back corner. It had all fallen over and tangled in the sawhorse legs, and looked more like one of the three little pigs cottages after tha wolf got to them than a self-respecting workshop’s sheet goods pile.


Again I pulled everything out, worked out what needed to be kept and got rid of anything that didn’t, and put the rest back neatly. I’m gradually working my way through it as well so after time there shouldn’t be any spare on had and I can just buy what I need for each project as I go along. The air pump did another good job on this corner while everything was pulled out as well.


The day was getting late so I finished off by given the rest of the workshop a clean with the air compressor and then a good sweep, but that couple of hours work was enough to make it start to look good again. My workshop is a single car garage that does actually house a car most of the time, so I’ve got to keep it tidy or it’s totally unmanageable.  An elderly friend once told me “A place for everything and everything in its place” and it makes perfect sense in a workshop. If everything has a proper home and you make sure it goes back there as soon as you’ve finished using it, you don’t end up writing blog posts like the one you’ve just read.

The rest of the story is yet to come, as the next two corners will need more than a quick tidy…




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