Electrician’s Tool Pouch

Occidental Leather Electrician’s Tool Case

Perfect Mechanic’s Tool Kit

Perfect Mechanic’s Tool Box

There’s a story behind this tool box. When I spent time on my grandfather’s farm he let me run wild. This usually ended with me breaking something. He had a lot of patience; it amazes me. What I remember most was his ability to grab his go-to tool box and fix anything I broke. It was perfect…magical.

I inherited that tool box and, although it’s not quite perfect for me, it served him well and I cherish it. It inspired me to make my own “perfect” tool box. Below is the list of tools, including the box itself, that I came up with:

Cabin Cabinets (2-Door Base)

2-Door Base Cabinet

Construction on one of the 2-door base cabinets is complete. It took me a little longer than I would have liked because of so many other projects interrupting me. I still need to build another 2-door base and a 1-door base to complete all the cabinets for the cabin.

I’m about halfway through construction of the second 2-door base cabinet. I’m happy with the results of this first one and I believe the rest will be fine as well. I’ve learned a few things along the way that I will implement into my workshop cabinets. Nothing major, just small design and construction things that come with experience.

Finishing these cabinets will, of course, trigger other projects for the cabin but that’s the whole point. It really, really, needs to be completed and I’m building up momentum. Don’t want to lose it now.

Rotator Machine v2.0 Prototype

Rotator Machine v2.0

Version 1 of the Rotator Machine hasn’t stood up well to even normal use. It bothers me to see something I design / build underperform. So, I spent some time on the McMaster-Carr web site and picked out some parts to use upgrading the design for a more robust machine.

In the picture above you can see a prototype assembly of the parts I purchased. This new design offsets the shafts of the motor and rotator to avoid having to get perfect alignment and reduce binding. Initially I considered using a universal joint but they cost more than all the other parts put together and it’d be difficult to pair up the different diameter shafts.

Instead, to transfer the power from the motor shaft to the rotator shaft, I used gears with matched pitch, etc. The main rotator shaft is 1/2″ diameter and the motor shaft is 5/16″. The rotator shaft is held in place with mounted low-profile bearings. Everything is adjustable for fine tuning after assembly.

The motor is a geared, “high torque” motor (higher torque than the microwave motor I used in version 1). This motor is much better suited for this purpose but presents a few more design considerations. In trying to keep the design as small as possible I’ll have to fabricate a cowling for the motor.

The cowling will keep the electrical parts safely away from the user while allowing airflow to cool the motor. I’ll also mount the switch in the cowling so it’s accessible and easy to use. I’ll need to cover the gears to keep the user from getting fingers or clothing caught in them, too.

All-in-all it looks pretty good and I’m sure it’s functional at this point. Hopefully I’ll be pleased with the final results once I get the cowling, etc. completed.

Rotator Machine

Rotator Machine

My wife is using epoxy to encapsulate decals she makes and applies to different items like water coolers and cups. To keep the epoxy smooth—without drips—she needs to keep the item rotating until it sets up.

She was manually rotating the items for long periods of time to the point that she was sore from the effort, not to mention how time-consuming it was. I decided to build a machine to take over for her. What I came up with is in th picture above.

It uses a full-voltage (120V, 10 RPM) microwave oven motor to rotate a shaft. The shaft is held in place by two “bushings” made from Baltic Birch plywood mounted to a base made from the same material. Below is a photo album showing the build process:

Rotator Machine build photo album.

C-Clamp Storage

The clamp storage wall.

“You never have too many clamps” is one of the most common phrases woodworkers told me when I asked for tool advice. Over the years I’ve collected more and more clamps; good and bad.

Once the realization that there are good and bad clamps sets in, it become important to purchase only good clamps. After some experimental purchases and usage the valuable clamps prove themselves. That’s when it becomes important to store them properly so these expensive clamps last a very long time.

There are a lot of different ways to store clamps but, not having a lot of room I tend to put them on the wall of my workshop. I don’t have room to roll a clamp cart around and, since it’s a small area, I don’t really need to. The picture above shows most of my clamps on the clamp wall.

I just added the C-Clamp Storage today because I finally decided to stick with a particular type of c-clamp. The clamps are 4-inch and 6-inch Quick Adjustable C-Clamps with Rubber Handles. They’re heavy so I only put (4) clamps on each rack.

It’s nice to have good storage for good c-clamps. Below is the album of build photos:

C-Clamp Storage build

Still Learning

Comparison of the cuts in acrylic by different blade types.

It shouldn’t be surprising to me when I learn something but I always get a thrill when something new takes root in my brain. Recently I read the book Every Tool’s a Hammer by Adam Savage of Mythbusters fame. In the book he gives a lot of cool advice in a “tricks-of-the-trade” manner.

At one point he excitedly mentions how he learned from Jamie Heinemann (his boss at the time) that cutting acrylic on a table saw requires a special blade to get good quality results. He goes on to describe the blade with less than exact or explicit terminology. The words he used didn’t match the verbiage used by the saw blade manufacturers but he provided enough information for me to find the blade he was describing.

It’s understandable that he didn’t get overly technical describing the blades, that’s really not the point of his book. What is strange is that in all of the woodworking/DIY publications I’ve read, never once have I seen it mentioned that there is a special blade for acrylic/plexiglass. The authors always used a standard carbide blade.

Diablo by Freud Plastic-Cutting Blade

Armed with that narrow spectrum of information I always tried to make a General Purpose blade work when I cut acrylic on my table saw. As you can see in the picture above (left piece), that produces less-than-satisfactory results. On the right side in the picture there’s a piece of acrylic cut with the, Plastic (and Non-Ferrous Metal) blade.

With the new blade there’s no chipping or melting of the plastic. This is going to make cutting plastic so much easier! Plus the blade is designed for cutting aluminum (and other non-ferrous metals), too. That ought to be interesting.

Spring Clamp Storage

A woodworker never has too many clamps. Trouble is, they have to be stored properly. Otherwise you either can’t find them when you need them or you’ll be tripping over them and moving them all the time; it interrupts the workflow.

Also, I’m working under the new mindset of de-cluttering my workspace. It’s the only way I’ll ever finish building out my workshop. So, with that mindset, I started working toward finding a place and means to store all the new spring clamps and c-clamps I have.

It should have been a quick and easy process of collecting the clamps, looking them over and building something to store them. The spring clamps and 2-inch c-clamps went well; quick and easy. Neither are heave or too bulking so there wasn’t much to figure out.

Then I got to the 4-inch and 6-inch c-clamps. They are heavy. To store them requires that I build something substantial but also as small as possible. I went through prototype after prototype trying to get a design that would work. It took the majority of my weekend.

I was in the workshop Saturday and Sunday and built a lot of things I can’t use. Lots of screw-ups. This is a new way to work for me because I usually design things in 3D with Sketchup then build to the drawings generated from the 3D models.

Freeform prototyping has worked on a few things but this weekend it cost me a lot of expensive materials. I’m frustrated by that and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be any good ideas for c-clamp storage on the Internet.

There’s a solution to this and I’m sure I’ll be happy with it when I find it. This is probably one of those things that, when someone visits my workshop I’ll take them to my c-clamp storage and proudly point out my greatest achievement which will cause them to wonder about my sanity.

Drill Press Vise Cabinet

Drill Press Vise Cabinet

The drill press vise in my woodworking shop sits on the base (near the floor) below the drill press table. Since most of the work in the shop is woodworking, the vise ends up getting sawdust caked in the grease on its acme screws.

The situation is a less-than-optimum for keeping the vise in good working condition. Plus I have a new workshop philosophy to keep things stored away so they don’t get dusty and caked up. Having things in cabinets makes it much easier to clean the workshop, too. So I needed to build something.

There was some leftover Baltic Birch plywood from my Cabin Cabinet build so I decided to make a small cabinet for the drill press vise. The 3/4″ bottom of the cabinet is seated in dadoes on the side panels and the 1/4″ back panel is seated in grooves on the side panels. The top of the cabinet seats in rabbet joints on the side panels.

The door is frame and panel construction using some 1″ x 4″ clear pine for the rails and stiles with 1/4″ Baltic Birch for the panel. The hinges I used are 170º full overlay European style hinges that were left over from a past project.

Finally, I applied some Minwax Clear Satin Wipe-on Poly to seal and protect the wood. It’s easy to apply and dries fast so it suits my purpose for shop cabinets, etc. very well.

Pictures of the build.

Keepsake Wine Box

Keepsake Wine Box

My son, Clinton, asked me to build a Keepsake Box to put a bottle of wine in as part of his wedding ceremony. On their 1-year anniversary, he and his wife will open the box, retrieve the wine, and read the letters they wrote to one another (also sealed in the locked box).

I agreed and immediately began researching the how to build the box. Boxes are “easy” but this one needed to look special (no pressure, it’s just for the wedding). I wasn’t too concerned with being able to construct the box, mostly what concerned me was the finish. Finishing makes or breaks a project. After looking through hundreds of publications in my woodworking library, an article by Mac Wentz in issue #105 (January 2004) of American Woodworker caught my attention.

The box(es) in the article were attractive, buildable, and the author suggested finishes that were simple but elegant. The proportions of the American Woodworker box scaled well to my wine box requirements (not quite Golden Ratio, but close). It also accommodated a lock which would be used to seal the box at the ceremony.

Every weekend and evening I could spare went into the construction of the box to get it finished on time. I’m happy with the results and glad I was able to get it completed on time. I learned a lot. It’s great to build things for people you care about; they can have this for the rest of their lives.

Pictures of the build process.