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Tips for solving problems in your workshop

Woodworkers who build cabinets or furniture always seem to be in need of just the right piece of hardware for one of their projects—hardware that meets a special need. Chances are good that the item you're looking for exists—but where? The products shown here represent but a few of the thousands of special-purpose hardware items available today.

It pays to know your hardware options, both at your local hardware store or home center and through mail order. For your convenience, on the next page, we list a group of mail-order firms (including The Woodworkers' Store, where we bought the items shown below) that offer selections of cabinet hardware. We think you'll find purchasing their inexpensive catalogs a good investment— and good reading, too.

Quick-Insert Hidden Hinges
Completely invisible with the door shut, and unob¬trusive when its open, these hinges install easily and quickly. Just drill matching holes in the door and frame, insert the hinge into those holes, drive a single screw through each side into the wood, and you're done!

Plastic Drawer Dividers
Ideal for compartmentalizing cabinet drawers, these nifty items fasten to the inside of the drawer sides with nails. The ones shown accept dividers from V to V thick, and come in two heights—2" and 3'r.

Vinyl Panel Retainer
With frame-and-panel doors, you've got to secure the panel some¬how. While you can cut thin strips of wood to do the job, this purposeful product sure makes the going a lot easier. You can cut it easily with a knife and miter it with standard tools. The type shown snaps into a groovi cut into the frame.

Counterbalanced Lid Hinge
This surface-mount, dual- purpose hardware item makes great sense for projects with lids, such as stereo cabinets and the like. Just position the lid and hinge, mark the location of the screw holes, drill starter holes, and mount the hinge. It's a snap!

Magnetic Touch Latch
Looking for a sleek- looking set of cabinets without door pulls? This catch holds the door closed until you press on the face of the door. To close the door, push the door shut and the latch holds it.

Plastic Magnetic Catch
Especially suited for small doors, this catch mounts in a hole bored into the frame; the metal strike attaches to the door. The catch shown is available in brown and white plastic.

Ornamental Surface- Mount Hinge
Designed for flush inset doors, this hinge doesn't require mortising. The leaves of the hinge align to ensure just the right space between the door and frame.

Out-of-Sight Shelf Supports
An interesting option to the more standard shelf support clips, these wire supports fit. into small holes drilled in cabinet end and divider panels. Shelves with grooves cut into their edges slide onto the supports. To change shelf positions, just move the wire supports up or down.

Easy-Does-It Glass Door Hinges
Hinging glass cabinet doors can be a hassle, but not with this temper-saving piece of hardware. To install a pair of these hinges, drill holes n the top and bottom of the cabinet, fit plastic inserts into the holes, slip the hinges into the inserts, slide the glass door into the hinges, and secure the door by tightening the screws in the hinge.

Slip-On Glass Door Strike
This simple-to-install strike is the perfect match for the glass door hinges shown here. (You can also use it with the touch latch described above.) Foam rubber pads hold the strike securely in place.

Mail Order Hardware Suppliers
The companies listed below represent a good cross section of the firms selling cabinet and furniture hardware (and in many cases other items) by mail. We'll tell you about others as we run onto them.

Tips for your shop - part 2

Applying finishes smoothly
Uniform coats are the exception rather than the rule with some finishes. To apply lacquers and Polyurethane finishes smoothly, fill a pan with hot tap water, and set the can of finish in it for a few minutes before use. Raising the material's temperature by only a few degrees—and choosing a poly- urethane foam brush as an applicator—will help avoid an uneven look when the finish dries.

Handy tape dispenser
In many shops, finding the right tape at the right time can be a problem. Once located, it's often covered with sawdust and wood shavings. To keep various types and sizes of tape in one handy location, use scrap wood and a piece of dowel or broomstick to make a tape dispenser. An old hacksaw blade reinforced with a wooden strip makes a good cutter.

Rx for difficult gluing
Getting the right amount of glue into hard-to-reach spots is a messy operation. To inject glue with "pin-point" accuracy, use a medical syringe with an 18- or 22-gauge needle. Keep the apparatus from seizing up after use by flushing the syringe and needle with warm water and storing them in a closed container of water.

Working with dowels
A dowel's shape is both a blessing—it makes the material a remarkably versatile woodwork¬ing resource—and a curse: work-ing a cylindrical object can be frustrating. This handy jig, a scrap 2X4 with a hole the diam¬eter of the dowel bored through it, makes dadoing, trimming to length, or decreasing the diameter of a dowel a safe and simple procedure on your radial-arm or table saw. Drive a finish nail through the 2X4 and just far enough into the dowel to prevent it from turning.

Paint brush maintenance
Your paint brush is clean but not dry. What's a good way to remove excess water or paint thinner? Hold the brush between your palms and spin it back and forth vigorously. Centrifugal force will spin away excess moisture and fluff out the bristles—which helps prevent the brush from drying into an unmanageable lump.

Sharpening with a drill press
Putting the proper bevel on chisels and plane blades isn't an easy freehand skill. Use a drill press and drum-sander attachment with appropriate grit sleeves to grind blades. Clamp the blade or chisel in a drill-press vise with the blade perpendicular to the table and parallel to the quill. Position and secure the vise to the table with a C-clamp. With the sander turning slowly, raise and lower the quill to sharpen the blade. To move the blade closer to the drum, tap the vise with a mallet. Work slowly to prevent excessive heat buildup.

Tips for your shop - part 1

No one knows everything about woodworking, but, with experi¬ence, we all run into better, safer, faster, or easier ways to do things.

Raising dents and scratches
Even the smallest dents and scratches mar the appearance of otherwise successful woodworking projects. To remove small dents or raise minor scratches in wood surfaces, wet and then cover the problem area with a damp cloth. Using a household iron on a dry setting, apply heat to the cloth for 15-second intervals. Take care to avoid scorching the wood.

Drill-bit straightener
Small-diameter drill bits are easily bent during normal use. To straighten a bent bit, chuck it into your drill and, while running the drill at full speed, insert the drill point into a piece of scrap wood. Apply slight sideways pressure to the drill to return the bit to its proper shape. When you release the pressure, the bit will continue to run true.

Avoiding nail splits
Even though you hammer carefully, your nail occasionally splits the wood. Blunt the tip of the nail by tapping it with your hammer to let the nail cut its way into the wood rather than part the material. Or chuck a proper-sized nail into a drill (you may need to cut off the nail head), pre-drill holes, and then ham¬mer and set nails.

First-aid for dull saber-saw blades
Halfway through a "must-do" project, you discover that the blade on your saber saw is dull, and you don't have a spare. Touch up the blade with a triangular file. Place the blade in a vise with teeth pointing up (don't pinch them). File away from you, giving each tooth two or three quick strokes. Rotate the blade 180° and file the other side.

Repairing torn grain
No matter how skillful you are with a plane, the grain patterns of some wood species make it almost impossible to avoid raising and tearing the grain. To fix tears, apply several drops of cyanoacrylate adhesive (the "super" variety made for wood and leather) to the affected area. Sand the spot immediately. Sanding presses the raised wood down, generates heat to set the glue, and produces fine sawdust that mixes with the glue to create an invisible and permanent repair. —Dean Case, Nevada City, Calif.

World-champion finishing jig
Applying finish to more than one side of an object is an awkward, messy chore. A steel swivel made to support a boxer's punching bag makes an ideal shop aid for holding objects that need finishing. Attach the swivel to a secure overhead support, screw an eye-hook into the object to be finished, and hang the piece on the swivel. The workpiece — not the woodworker—does all the moving. (A plant hanger that swivels is an inexpensive alternative for working with light objects.)

-to be continued-

The old hand ways - THE CARPENTER

How can one person make a building that will endure for centu­ries when another's work falls and turns to compost long before he does? Take some time to study the skeleton of a well-framed old barn. (It must have been well-framed. It's still standing, isn't it?) You will see the truth of what a 1745 book of trades said of the carpenter, that "Strength is the chief of his study."

Study the barn's frame, its vertical posts, horizontal beams, and diag­onal braces. Older than Stone- henge, this "post-and-beam" con­struction is the essence of the En­glish building tradition. Indeed, the first English settlers in the New World built houses and barns that were not much different from the ancient stone monuments they had left behind: simple frames consisting of posts set into the ground with beams spanning their tops. They were wooden houses, but hardly the work of carpenters. It's no wonder there aren't any of them left.

If you think of a building as a human body, then the old-time car­penter's job is to make the bones and the skeleton—the strong frame to which the joiners and roofers later apply the protective skin. Good carpentry makes strong frames by exploiting the wood's strength in three dimensions: the size of the building's individual tim­bers, the connections between these pieces, and the design of the frame as a whole. When all these aspects of the building work together, the carpenter has earned his pay.


Take a wooden pencil and push in from its ends to make it shorter. No go. Now bend it and it snaps in half. The point is that it is easy to make a strong post but harder to make a strong, yet lightweight beam. You need a way to size tim­bers so that they are as strong as they need to be, but no heavier than they must be. Fortunately you can turn to a simple guideline for help: The strength of a rectangular beam varies directly with changes in width. With changes in depth, however, the difference in strength is squared.

Imagine that you have to support a load with a beam measuring 2 inches wide and 4 inches deep. A 4 by 4 would be twice as heavy and twice as strong. A 2 by 8, however, twice as deep as the origi­nal timber, would also be twice as heavy, but would have four times the strength. A 2 by 12 would be nine times as strong, and only three times as heavy. The more a car­penter knows about the strength of his timbers, the more confidently he can approach the limits of the material.


You often hear that old buildings are held together entirely by wooden pegs. True, the pegs are there, but the strength of the build­ings is not in their pegs, but in their joints. These mortise-and-tenon joints interlock the timbers so that they sit solidly within one another. It is a rare building from which you couldn't remove every peg and have it stand as strong as before. (Try this with the nails in a modern structure.)

Braced Frames

Although a post planted deeply in the ground won't fall over, it will invite destruction by termites and rot. Once you protect a building by placing it up on foundations, however, you must stiffen it by adding the strength of triangles to the rectangular frame.

Diagonal braces strengthen the building in several ways. Ideally, a post is a perfectly vertical column that is compressed but not bent. If the post does start to bow, it can snap relatively easily. Braces con­nected to the post prevent the bend from getting started. And, by blocking the closure of the right angles created between posts and beams, braces also prevent the col­lapse of a building under wind.

Split oak baskets

Making billets

"In summer, the green, felled log must be split within ten days, or the ends will dry out and check," our woodworker says. "In winter, though, splitting can be done as long as four months after the tree has been dropped."

From Billet to Split

Our woodworker begins the process of turning billets into splits by taking off the bark with a drawknife at the shav­ing horse.

Removing the bark

Next, the individual billets are shaped to desired form, also on the shaving horse. "The object," ex­plains our woodworker, "is to taper each end of the billet so that when strips come off, they'll be wide in the center for

Splitting the billet with a drawknife the bottom of the basket, and they'll taper toward their ends to form the basket's ribs.

Our woodworker does this shaping with the drawknife, turning the billet to work it from both ends. He uses the same method to form weavers, the long, narrow, and straight pieces that tie the ribs together. He de­pends on a well-developed eye to maintain widths.

Traditionally, from the shaving horse, billets would move to the workbench to be split into weavers or ribs with a drawknife and a simple jackknife. Standing a billet on end, the basket maker would split it with the drawknife down its length parallel to the annual growth rings. He would keep splitting until the pieces could no longer be reduced by that method, then switch to the jackknife. Our woodworker knows the old way, too.

Placing the blade of the jackknife in the grain, our woodworker begins the split. When the knife has separated enough of the wood to grasp by.

Pulling the split by hand

hand, it's put aside, and the pulling begins.

Hand-pulling becomes increas­ingly delicate as the strips near their final thickness. "If the split runs off to one side, you pull toward the other side," he says while demonstrating.

Final hand-pulling

That's the traditional way, but in the high production basket shop, the traditional takes too long. In­stead of hand-pulling, our woodworker has fit­ted a cooper's spokeshave with a planer blade to shave weavers and ribs from the billets clamped on a shaving horse.

Shaving a split with a spokeshave

It's still hand work, and the results aren't always uniform. Ac­cording to our woodworker, "anything done by hand is going to have some varia­tion on it."

With no gauge to rely on, the shaving technique requires a prac­ticed eye. "The thickness of the split is solely a product of how hard the spokeshave is pushed down and the strength of the maker's pull," our woodworker says.

He makes his splits "down the tree" with the spokeshave and then works the tool back and forth fol­lowing the grain and keeping it to the center. "The strips must be constant in their thickness, with ribs thicker and weavers thinner. If they're thick on the ends and thin in the middle, the basket will have a weakness," our woodworker explains.

The splits come off the shaving horse moist and pliable, ready for weaving. They'll stay that way for 3 to 4 days in normal weather, but hot days dry them out in an hour. That's when our woodworker wets the splits down with a sprinkling can or gives them a good soaking.

Two Types of Baskets in 50 Styles

To this basket maker, the world of split-oak baskets is divided into two parts—designs woven over a form and those built completely free­hand. Yarger makes both, in 50 different styles. Starting below, we'll follow him through the steps in making a formed, rectangular basket that's a popular seller.

Split oak baskets - Laying Out, Halving, and Splitting the Log

After felling the tree with a cut as close to the ground as possible, and freeing I he desired section from the rest of the trunk, Ykamato studies the wood for halving and splitting.

"I look for knots when I lay it out on the ground," he says. "If there is a knot, I make the first split close to it, since that section will be lost anyway. I split down from the top of the log to the base. That way, if there's a knot in there some¬where, the split has a tendency to cut right through it. But I've found that if you run into a knot when splitting from bottom to top, the split usually runs around the knot and maybe even slabs off."

Using a maul and steel wedge, the basket maker splits the log in half. Then he moves one third of the way down each section, where he drives in the maul to quarter the log. This way, our woodworker knows he's right in the run of the grain, since the true grain can't be seen from the ends of a section.

After the log has been quartered, he crosscuts it into about 3-foot sections, then slabs off the heart- wood, which, if it is relatively knot-free, he uses later for handles, ribs, and accent strips. Then, Yarger splits the quartered sections into eighths, called billets.

Split oak baskets - Hunting the Basket Tree

From finding a special tree nestled into a hillside to interweaving thin white oak splits, basket- making challenges the eye and hand, and rewards the craftsman with enduring creations that earn their keep.

Early baskets were crafted from many common materials — cattail leaves, reed, willow, and tree bark. But the most easily made, most durable designs were made from thin, flexible strips of green sap- wood from ash, hickory, and best of all, white oak trees. In fact, one species of white oak peels so easily into splits that it's referred to as "basket oak."

Hunting the Basket Tree
Like wood-frame homes and table tops, baskets begin with trees, and Ykamato knows that just any old tree won't do. He prefers white oak but has also used walnut and hickory for his baskets.

His search for the perfect white oak begins on the northeast slopes of Ozark hillsides. According to Ykamato, there are three reasons to select a tree from a northeast slope. First, because the wind normally blows from southwest to northeast, the trees on a sheltered northeast slope tend not to be twisted. Also, the wood isn't dried out and brittle from too much sunshine. And third, since ground moisture remains longer on these slopes, the trees absorb and retain moisture so their wood tends to stay workable.

Finding the area is only the beginning. Next comes selecting the perfect tree—about 10 inches in diameter, free of branches for about the first 10 feet (to eliminate knots), and straight-grained.

How can Don tell if a standing tree is straight-grained? His trained eyes can spot a good tree a long way off: "I can tell how it's going to split by the way the bark looks. If it runs pretty much straight up and down the tree, it's going to be straight-grained and come apart pretty well," Ykamato explains.

Ideally, our woodworker looks for a tree that will yield a 5- to 6-foot log from the base to below the lowest limb —the moistest part of the tree.

Basic, Commonsense Tool Kit - components

Basic, Commonsense Tool Kit

Measuring tools:

Combination square Sliding bevel Marking gauge Framing square Steel tape (10' or 12') Folding rule Compass

Scratch awl Cutting tools:

Crosscut saw (12 pt.) Rip saw (6'/z or Th pt.) Backsaw or dovetail saw (15 tpi) Coping saw Hacksaw Slip-joint pliers Needlenose pliers Diagonal cutters Shaping tools: Smooth plane Low-angle block plane Wood chisels (V, V, V, Single-cut mill bastard file Round rasp Flat rasp

Cabinet scraper and hand scrapers

Utility knife Joining tools:

Claw hammer (16 oz.) Finish hammer (8 oz.) Nail set Wooden mallet

Screwdrivers (Straight, Phillips)

Doweling jig

Bench vise or clamping system Bar or pipe clamps (2-3' and 2-5' min.)

Handscrews C-clamps

Portable power tools: Router (1 HP, V collet) (Purchase bits as needed: bead, chamfer, cove, dado, straight, round-over, rabbet) Circular saw (7V) Drill {%" variable speed) Twist drills (V'-V) Spade shaped drill bits Brad point drills Saber saw

Buying a basic, commonsense tool kit - Be a Smart Tool Buyer

When you're ready to buy tools, shop carefully. Check more than one store, read all the catalogs you can obtain (the information they contain will save you substantially more than the few dollars they may cost), and always, always look for tool kit sales and specials.

Mail-order advertisements in magazines such as WOOD regularly offer substantial price reductions on top-quality tools. And sales are such normal marketing techniques at several nationwide retail chains that it sometimes seems difficult to pay full retail price for their popular tools.

Many tool kit manufacturers offer several product lines: inexpensive tools for "hobbyists" and more elaborate heavy-duty models for commercial and professional use. How much tool do you need?

In general, it makes sense to buy the best tool kit you can afford, particularly when you're purchasing hand tools. It's unlikely that a good saw or plane will become obsolete, and with basic maintenance there's no reason why these tools can't last for centuries. The thought that a great-great-grandchild might one day enjoy using your combination square could make spending extra dollars seem like a wise investment.

When it comes to power tools, however, it gets easier to fall into the "overkill" trap. If a 1-horse- power router will be entirely adequate for your needs, do you really need a 3-horsepower model?

Good tool kit don't go out of style. A 100-year-old hand plane or wood chisel looks pretty much the same as a brand-new one, and some woodworkers insist that, the older the tool, the higher the quality. As this issue's article about classic saws demonstrates, old tools can actually be more expensive than new models. But auctions and news¬paper classifieds are often good sources for low-cost, high-quality items, so think about buying your tools used. You might even find a great tool kit deal on that table saw we'd so much like you to have.

MAPLE hard, soft... and sweet

Probably our most useful domestic hardwood, maple produces syrup for pancakes, school desks to scribble on ... and much more in between.

These qualities make it more valuable than heart- wood, which is uniform in color and runs from light reddish brown to dark brown.

Generally straight- grained with a consistent texture, maple also can have a bird's-eye or curly (also called fiddleback) pattern. Many woodworkers find the unique grain patterns of maple burl particularly appealing.

Soft maple, although similar in appearance to hard maple, produces lighter wood with more pronounced grain. Although not as tough, stiff, or heavy as hard maple, soft maple tends to resist warping and twisting better. Its color ranges from pale brown to almost white with brown streaks.

Working properties
Hard maple remains strong when ben;, absorbs shock well, works nicely with both power and hand tools, and resists wear. It also turns well and requires no filling before finishing. Hard maple takes a high polish and has substantial screw- holding power.
Soft maple works even more easily than hard maple. It glues, stains, and finishes well but doesn't take as high a polish as hard maple.

Uses in woodworking
Soft maple, used princi¬pally for lumber, paper pulp, and other industrial applications, continues to be suitable for cabinet frames, unseen parts of upholstered furnkure, and jigs and forms used in woodworking shops.
Hard maple applications include bowling alley sur¬faces, chopping blocks, piano frames, turnings, furniture (particularly figured-wood pieces), lad¬der rungs, rulers, tool handles, even clothes pins.

Cost and availability
Hard maple comes in average lengths of 6' to 12' and average widths of 6" to 10", while soft maple trees tend to produce somewhat wider boards. Both types are widely available and can be bought as lumber, veneer, and turning blocks. Maple is a rela-tively inexpensive hard¬wood, although bird's-eye, curly, and burl varieties can be expensive.

Buying a basic, commonsense tool kit 1

Perhaps you've just completed a beginning woodworking course, or maybe you've recently assembled your first kit project. You thoroughly enjoyed these tastes of woodworking, and now you're ready for bigger challenges. But one obstacle blocks your way; you don't own the proper tools.

What tools does a beginning woodworker need, and how should he or she acquire them? In an unscientific poll of WOOD staff members, we assembled a basic tool kit for woodworkers—tools we think should be a part of any woodworking shop. With this equipment-and skill-you can perform most woodworking operations.

As you read the list, you'll notice we don't mention stationary power tools—the table saws, drill presses, band saws, and jointers that profes¬sional woodworkers and serious amateurs swear by. We left them out because this is a basic tool kit.
In at least one case, we did so with great reluctance. All of us would have liked to include a table saw in the package, but we omitted it for reasons of economy.

Even without the table saw, if you walk into vour local tool shop and ask for everything on our list, the clerk might ask you for a $1,000 bill. How can you get a start in this hobby without robbing a bank? We believe the answer is to plan carefully and buy wisely.

Plan Ahead
Equip your shop a few tools at a time. As your skills improve, so will your tool inventory. In this basic kit, we list the tools that we find indispensable in bold-face type. They're the items you're likely to find most useful and use most often, so think about purchas¬ing them first.

Can you sidestep any processes for which you're not well equipped? Some retail wood outlets will joint, rip, thickness, and crosscut lumber to size, for example. You pay for this service, of course, but in the short run it's less expensive than buying the tools you'd need to do the work yourself.

As you budget each new project, try to figure in the purchase of one new and necessary tool. You'll spread out the cost of equipping your shop, and you'll be able to enjoy a new tool with each new project.

Finally, remember that there are woodworkers who make exceptional pieces with hand tools only. We are addicted to the power tools in our shop, but we know that life can KO on without them.

Woodworking Tools - Other Things to Consider When You Shop For a BeltSander

Often, minor details can mean the difference between a favorite tool and a machine that gathers dust rather than makes it, so as you shop for a belt sander, consider the following:

  • Does the belt sander's power cord look heavy enough to withstand abuse? More than one woodworker has run over a cord accidentally. If the cord can survive a reasonable amount of punishment, such a mishap might not terminate your day's work early.

  • How long is the cord? Belt sand­ing often requires substantial move­ment over large areas. Extension- cord plugs have an uncanny ability to hang up on things, causing the belt sander to nose-dive and gouge your work. A long power cord can be a valuable asset.

  • Does the machine's switch lock in the "on" position for extended periods of sanding? If it does, could you lock it on accidentally?

  • Do the handle and switch work together well so that your hand and wrist will remain comfortable over the belt sander as you sand? Is the machine's front knob well-contoured and comfortable?

  • Belt sander prices range from under $40 to $500 or more. Light­weight, inexpensive machines will meet the needs of many wood­workers. As with most tools, however, as the belt sander price goes up, so do such variables as finish and general workmanship, quality of parts, and the ability to perform a task efficiently and effectively.

Choosing and buying cabinet quality lumber - How Cabinet-Grade LumberIs Sized

Unlike dimension lumber, which is milled to industry-established nominal thicknesses, widths, and lengths, most cabinet-quality lumber stock comes in random widths and lengths to keep waste to an absolute minimum. In addition, since all furniture has different dimensions, there's no need for dimensionalized stock.Choosing and buying cabinet quality lumber - How Cabinet-Grade Lumber Is Sized - cabinet-quality lumber

Thickness, though, has been standardized. As you can see from the chart above, for cabinet-quality lumber thickness is expressed in different ways. Don't be confused by this; remember that the quarter designation and the nominal thickness are the same thing.

When you order cabinet-quality lumber, you'll receive a board as long or longer and as wide or wider than the item ordered; the thickness (if surfaced) will be close to that listed in the chart.

Woodworking Tools - Belt Sander as Bench Tool

Belt Sander as Bench Tool
The belt sander doubles as a bench tool in many home workshops. If that's your plan, too, check to make sure the model you plan to buy has been designed for this use. Some sanders have flat tops and handles, a design that allows you to clamp the tool upside down on your workbench. Others feature threaded holes tapped into the top of the machine that enable you to screw the sander to a board or bench tool.Do it yourself - Woodworking Tools - Portable Belt Sanders - Belt Sander as Bench Tool

Stands or brackets, a third variation, let you mount still other belt sander models for use as a bench tool. We show example in the photo above. Note: If you do use the sander in this fashion, follow the manufacturer's safety recommendations closely. A coarse abrasive belt doesn't know the difference between softwood and soft flesh.

Your Belt-Changing and Adjustment Options
With most belt sanders, you change abrasive belts by pulling out a level release. Doing this causes the machine's front roller to move backward, relieving tension on the sand ing belt.

On others, you need to push the front roller against a solid surface (see the photo above). This locks the mechanism in place and removes tension from the sanding belt. A second push unlocks the nose roller, which returns to its normal operating position and reapplies tension on the belt. Both systems work, so you'll have to handle a few of each type to decide which system you prefer.

More important from a buyman- ship point of view is the location of the knob that centers the abrasive belt over the rollers and metal plate. (Skil has introduced two models on which the belts center automatically.) If the knob is located too far back on the sander, or if it's hidden away under the drive-belt housing, you'll have to interrupt your work to center the belt.

What About Dust Collection?
Though you can buy belt sanders without a dust-collection syst well-being of your lungs make some type of sawdust collector a practical necessity. Of the two general options - a dust bag attached to the sander or a vacuum assembly that connects by a hose to a shop vacuum, we like the former better. Both systems do work, but vacuum hoses can catch on an edge of your project, stop the sander in its tracks, and cause you to gouge your work on the bench tool.

Choosing and buying cabinet quality lumber - Where to Buy CabinetQuality Lumber

In addition to the cabinet-quality lumber available from lumberyards, home centers, and retail specialty stores, you have the option of mailorder buying.Choosing and buying cabinet quality lumber - Where to Buy Cabinet Quality Lumber

The number of firms offering quality hardwood by mail has mushroomed and you're likely to rind one close to your area of the country. Most firms offer a variety of dimensions and species as well as veneers-and turning blocks. Though you'll be able to order pieces down "A" in thickness, lengths will normally be limited to about 6 feet, since shipping traditionally is done via UPS or parcel post. You can make alternate shipping arrangements for oversize and larger amounts, but you'll have to discuss your purchase on the telephone. Discounts on large orders often apply. Some companies include shipping in their catalog prices; others charge separately.

Mail-order lumber definitely addresses a need for those woodworkers who don't have a supplier nearby. And the quality will be the highest possible for each specie offered.

If you have any questions or are uncertain of your needs before you order, call the company. That way you'll receive the quality lumber exactly what you require.

Note: When ordering by mail from an area of different climate, such as Pennsylvania when your home is in Arizona, Keep this in mind: differences in temperature and humidity cause changes in the wood and so can adversely affect the outcome of a project if you use it right away. So be sure to allow the wood to acclimate in a dry spot in your shop for at least two weeks before working.

One other lumber-purchasing option deserves mention because it sounds attractive to lots of people. And that alternative is green wood. In rural areas you can normally go directly to the logger and purchase a felled and de-limbed log, then hew it yourself, or take it to a mill. Or you can go directly to an area sawyer for the log and for any custom-cutting you desire. In metropolitan areas, you often can find green wood for free from tree- trimming services, water works and parks departments, and county and state highway departments.

Our advice on purchasing quality lumber green wood is brief and to the point: Unless you have prior experience with green wood and know how to bring its moisture content down, stick with kiln-dried material.

Woodworking Tools - Portable Belt Sanders - which one to choose?

How Much Belt Sander Do You Need From All Portable Belt Sanders Out There?
When you begin researching belt sanders for your woodworking workshop or for other use, you'll notice that they're categorized by the size of abrasive belt they use. Mini-portable belt sanders with 2" or 2,5" - wide belts can be excel lent tools for small projects - for vertical sanding or for such tasks as working inside cabinets. Because they're small and light, you can control them easily and work with them for long periods without tiring. Mini-portable belt sanders can be short on power and speed, though - factors that minimize their usefulness on large projects. And their nonstandard belt sizes also limit the availability and variety of abrasive belts that fit them.Do it yourself - Woodworking Tools - Portable Belt Sanders - which one to choose?

Most of the portable belt sanders machines you'll find use 3"X21" or 3"X24" belts. Of the two, the 3"X24" machine is particularly efficient. Its longer belt creates a larger sanding surface, which speeds up the work and im proves the stability of the tool, a welcome characteristic when you're operating the sander near the edge of a workpiece.

For big jobs such as gluing up stock for doors, tabletops, or other large surfaces, a 4"X24" portable belt sanders provides 33% more sanding area than most 3" machines. The substantial weight and power of this size machine allow you to smooth surfaces quickly and evenly. These same features, plus the higher cost of 4"X24" machines, make them less suitable for smaller work or small workshops.

Pay attention to the number of amps a belt sander draws, too. It's this rating that tips you off to how powerful the portable belt sanders are. For light-duty applications, portable belt sanders machines with lower amp ratings will serve you well, but you won't go wrong buying as much amperage as you can afford within the category you've decided on. We've included in the chart the amp ratings of most of the sanders you're likely to come across.

Why Weight and Balance Make a Difference
The ideal belt sander should be heavy enough to cut smoothly on its own, well balanced so you can control it without exerting substantial down-pressure on the tool, and be able to rest evenly on its pad and not show a tendency to tip to one side or the other.

If you have to bear down on the sander to get it to cut properly, or fight the machine to keep it under control, you'll probably leave dips or wave marks in your work. And, likewise, if portable belt sanders are back- or front- heavy, you'll have to compensate continually, which will make controlling the tool a problem, particularly along edges and near corners - you'll also find that using a sander that isn't well balanced will cause hand and wrist fatigue.

Choosing and buying cabinet quality lumber - How Cabinet Quality LumberIs Graded

Unlike dimension lumber, which manufacturers grade according to its use in construction as full width and length members, hardwood is graded according to the expected number of clear face cuts a board will yield. And, since most hardwood is expected to be made into furniture, these cuts will be from 2 to 7 feet long. For more information on the hardwood grading system, which was developed by the National Hardwood Lumber Association, see the chart above. This same chart also discusses the grading system for white pine, which was formulated by the Western Wood Products Association. In cabinet lumber there are great differences in quality, just as there are in construction lumber, so use the chart as a guide.

Remember, too, that in building a large project such as a table or desk top, you'll generally need the higher grades of lumber because they have fewer defects and are available in greater widths and lengths than lower-grade boards.

Many retail hardwood dealers carry only the highest grades possible to avoid customer complaints and discount requests.

Woodworking Tools - Portable Belt Sanders

Do-it-yourselfers find it hard to justify the expense of portable belt sanders, but this versatile tool is commonplace in the woodworker's shop. What they are as well as what they'll do are the subjects here, and there's a handy comparison chart.

Portable belt sanders do several important things well. While they're designed primarily to remove lots of wood quickly and make surfaces flat, you also can flip many models on their back and use them as a bench sander for smoothing small and irregularly shaped pieces, and for sharpening tools.portable belt sanders woodworking tools

Compared to your food processor or a Swiss Army knife, a portable belt sander may not sound like the world's most versatile tool. But when you think about it, the need to remove stock or flatten surfaces (or sharpen tools) pops up with depressing regularity during most woodworking projects. Fact is, if you build solid-wood furniture, make glued-up cabinet doors or tabletops, or do much woodworking at all, you'll learn to appreciate a belt sander in a hurry.

How Portable Belt Sanders Work
The business end of a portable belt sander consists of a removable abrasive bel that is looped around- and held in tension between - two rollers. The tool rests on a flat metal plate over which the abrasive travels. A belt-and-gear drive system or an all- gear drive apparatus links the roller assembly to the tool's motor.

Most machines are belt-driven - system connects the sander's motor to a set of reduction gears attached to the tool's rear, or drive, roller.

All-gear portable belt sanders models eliminate the drive belt entirely, and with it, the problems of slipping belts. They can present interesting design problems, however, since the tool's motor must be placed relatively close to the drive roller. One manufacturer, Black & Decker, positions the motor inside the sanding belt on some portable belt sanders models, a smart solution that also keeps the weight of the machine centered and low.

Choosing and buying cabinet quality lumber - Buying by the Board Foot

board foot buying do it yourself woodworking lumberUntil the late 1800s, lumber was sold by the pound, so under that system, dry board foot was less expensive than green wood. So obviously something had to be done.

The system of measurement that evolved centers around the board foot, a measurement that covers all the dimensional variables of cabinet- grade lumber - thickness, width, and length.

Today, when you purchase this type of lumber, you buy it by the board foot. Even if the dealer has the boards already priced, he arrived at those prices by first figuring the number of board foot each contained. It's a good practice to double-check the dealer's figures. To do this and also to help you estimate your lumber needs, you should learn how to figure board feet.

A board foot, simply, is equal to 144 cubic inches of wood. Think of it as a piece I inch thick and 12 inches square. Since board footage is always calculated in quarters of an inch thickness, starting at no less than 1 inch (even if you order less than an inch, you'll pay for the i-inch thickness), a 5/4 board 6 inches wide and 72 inches long would be figured like this: 1.25 (thickness) X6 (width) X72 (length)=540. Divide 540 by 144 to determine the number of board feet in the stock. If the board foot length is stated in feet rather than inches, use the same method but divide your total by 12 instead of 144.

Walnut Wood - The aristocrat of woods

Elegant and distinctive, rich in color and figure, and with working properties unequaled, walnut wood is reserved for the woodworker's finest projects. What's behind this exalted position and the matching price?

Walnut Wood - Brief History
Walnut was prized by the Mediterranean civilizations, not for its wood, but for the abundance of nuts the trees produced. During the Roman conquests, it was planted in what is now England, France, and Spain for this reason.

American pioneers used native walnut to make waterwheels and charcoal for gunpowder, and its bark and nut hulls for cloth dyes. Through World War I, airplane manufacturers found walnut wood to their liking for propellers.

While walnut was used to some extent for furniture, gunstocks, and other items prior to the 1600s, it was William and Mary furniture that cast it into the perpetual limelight.

Walnut Wood - Identificationwalnut wood
Of the 15 or so species of walnut found from China to the Black Sea, only three enjoy commercial importance in the United States. English Walnut (.Juglans regia), a light- colored, yet beautifully patterned wood, is grown primarily for its nut crop. White walnut wood (Juglans cinerea), commonly called "butternut," though not as strong as other walnut species, has an attractive grain and working characteristics that make it a favorite with wood carvers. Black walnut Juglans nigra), the most recognizable and famous, continues to hold down its place as the world's premier cabinet wood.

All walnut has very white sapwood. Partly to darken the whiter sap- wood to a uniformly dark color, kiln operators who process black walnut steam it prior to kiln- drying. This additional processing also makes the wood easier to stain, and adds to its cost.

Costly also are the veneers made from black walnut's great variety of figures-crotches, swirls, stumpwood, and burls.

Walnut Wood - Working Properties
Once kiln-dried and made into furniture, walnut wood has a very low conrraction and expansion ratio. While it is hard, strong, stiff, resists shock, and doesn't splinter, walnut surprises woodworkers by being quite suitable for steam bending. Walnut wood also works easily with both hand and power tools, and sands and finishes extremely well.

Walnut Wood - Uses in Woodworking
All commercial species of walnut have the desired properties for fine furniture, architectural woodwork, diy woodworking, turning, and carving. Since walnut is highly shock resistant, it remains the traditional choice for gunstocks. And figured walnut veneers are popular in marquetry.

Walnut Wood - Cost and Availability
White walnut (butternut) and black walnut are commonly available through hardwood dealers, though black walnut wood normally comes in narrower and shorter lengths than other domestic lumber. Black walnut wood falls in the high-priced category due to demand, relative scarcity, and processing. At publication time, kiln-dried black walnut wood ranges between $3.50 and $5 per board foot for 4/4 stock (depending upon where you live), while butternut is $1 less per board foot.

Walnut Wood - Source of Supply
The best black walnut comes from Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Ohio, and Tennessee. Butternut grows from Wisconsin and Illinois eastward into the New England states. English walnut wood follows the same range, but the largest groves are in California, where nuts are commercially harvested.

Choosing and buying cabinet quality lumber - Understanding MoistureContent

All cabinet-grade lumber begins as a "green" board (hat's been mill-sawed from a freshly felled tree - the moisture content of a green board will be 28 percent or greater, making it unsuitable for diy woodworking, since all wood shrinks, warps, and splits as it dries.understanding wood moisture content

To remove moisture from green boards, most manufacturers air-dry and kiln-dry them. Air drying reduces the moisture content naturally - workers stack the slabs in such a way that air circulates between the separated layers of boards. Air-drying lowers the moisture content level to between 12 and 17 percent. (This is acceptable for outdoor construction, but don't make any interior projects using air- dried material.)

Kiln-drying takes over where air-drying leaves off. Large ovenlike kilns with carefully controlled temperatures reduce the moisture content to between 6 and 9 percent, the ideal range for interior projects.

With few exceptions, such as dense woods like ebony, which usually are air-dried, retail hardwood dealers sell only kiln-dried lumber. It's stored, and sold, indoors under roof where the elements won't affect it.

When you purchase kiln-dried cabinet quality lumber, store it indoors lying flat on dry sticks of scrap or hardboard. Never lay it directly on concrete because it will absorb excessive moisture. If left exposed to the elements outdoors, kiln-dried lumber can become useless for fine cabinetry. In most cases, though, moisture content absorbed will be of the surface type.

DIY Woodworking Tips&Tricks - Jigs and fixtures

Made of plywood, hardboard, and scrap hardwood, and custom-cut to fit your portable belt sander model, the jigs and fixtures to a workshop are the best choices to allow square edge sanding.jigs and fixtures

Start with a piece of V plywood large enough to fit your sander, allowing space for clamping at the bottom and the sides. Lay your sander on its side on the plywood and trace its profile, then cut along the line drawn.

Next, place the cutout plywood on a piece of V hardboard the same size and mark the cutout outline. Be sure to leave a ledge to support one side of the sander. After cutting the hardboard to fit, glue it to the plywood and allow the jigs and fixtures assembly to dry.

Lay the sander on the jig so that you can measure the sizes of the two clamping blocks - one for the body and one for the handle. Cut and assemble the hardwood clamps using wing nuts on bolts inserted through the base. To aid in sanding short pieces of material, make the stop fence. It attaches to the jig with V dowels.

How to use the Jig for nice jigs and fixtures
For square-edge sanding of plywood or edge-joined pieces, clamp the jig and sander to your workbench top. Make sure that you don't restrict the motor cooling cutouts, and that you don't turn down the sander clamps so tighl they'll distort the hardboard backing. When sanding edges, lay a piece of hardboard or other material under the stock in order to raise it slightly above the bottom edge of the sanding belt.

Short pieces become easier to sand, too, when you clamp the jig so the belt sander rides in its upside-down position. The stop fence keeps the material that's being sanded from running off the belt. Now you can try jigs and fixtures for your own purpose - enjoy!

Choosing and buying cabinet quality lumber - Estimating Your Needs


Long-time woodworkers have learned through experience the importance of choosing their cabinet quality lumber carefully. They know which species perform well in certain situations, which thicknesse are needed for various projects, and dozens of other important things about choosing and using this most intriguing material.cabinet quality lumber

The series of articles "Choosing and buying cabinet quality lumber" started today attempts to share some of that hard won knowledge with you.

The first thing to realize about cabinet quality lumber is that the rules you probably know about ordering dimension lumber (the type you use for carpentry work) don't apply. Sizing, grading, ordering - they're all different.

Also keep in mind that except for a few white pines, such as Sugar and Idaho, redwood, and aromatic cedar, most of the time you'll be working with hardwoods (see Wood for Woodworking section).

Estimating Your Needs

Before you purchase any cabinet quality lumber for a project, draw a cutting diagram, and figure the board footage needed. And, if at all possible, buy from a dealer who will allow you to hand-select your boards.

Hand-selecting gives you two distinct advantages. First, you can choose the grain, color, and texture you'd like to have for your cabinet quality lumber. Second, you'll be able to select your cabinet quality lumber in sizes that accommodate your cutting list and thus reduce waste.

If you cannot choose your own cabinet quality lumber, allow about 20 percent for waste and add it to your needed board footage.