Jun 27 2008

Building the 5-Gallon Thien Separator for your Shop Vacuum.

Adapting the Thien Separator Baffle to a 5-gallon bucket isn’t hard, and overall; it is going to reduce a lot of the suction clogging dust that gets to the filter of any shop vac. I feel it is a worthy addition to the shop vac portion of your dust collection system, so here is what you need to know.


This may seem a little over detailed for some readers and I apologize, but there was some engineering involved regarding the measuring and layout, so I will detail my approach, and leave you to decide your own approach. You are welcome to blaze your own trail or follow mine. For my part, I am very happy I did it, and feel it can benefit anyone who is inclined to make one, so I am sharing how to with you.

I am glad you are interested in Shop Vacuum dust collection and cleaning. I am too! I have continued to pursue the improvement of dust collection and general cleaning with the Shop Vacuum. Please have a look at a recent article I’ve written about this by following this link right here.

First you will need to obtain a 5-gallon bucket, which is available from most any hardware store, and the Woodcraft Mini Dust Collection Separator Lid. (part# 143868), which is of course available from Woodcraft. Once you have those; please take not of the following critical measurements, and double check them for yourself.

The bucket will not be perfectly round, but on average, at the rim, it will be 11-1/16th in diameter, at the least if the bucket is held to nominal roundness. If you find the bucket is deformed beyond this roundness, I would reject it, and get a different one. This is easy to check with something like a telescopic pointer, or magnet, if you have one. Those handle inside measurements really well, and then simply compare them to a steel ruler or tape measure.

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May 17 2008

Improving Shop Vac Dust Collection

Like most of us in woodworking, the shop vac is generally a rather central figure, and pulls the short straw on helping keep dust and waste collected in the workspace. The shop vac’s primary design is based around vacuuming smallish sized particulates, usually dirt into a canister, with a motor drawing air through a filter while trying to evacuate that air from the canister. Overall, the design works pretty well for most of the uses asked of it. They will even vacuum up liquids.


When I think about it, I have made it possible, directly or indirectly to be able to use a number of my power tools with my shop vac. Specifically, I have a 1/4 sheet palm sander adapted, 5 inch Random Orbital Sander, PC Saw Boss circular saw, DeWalt 621 plunge routers with a no longer available Leigh RVA1 router vacuum attachment, Hitachi chop saw with vac port in the hood, router table fence, 10 inch band saw, even the drill press, all with the ability to utilize the shop vac for dust and chip collection.

I am glad you are interested in Shop Vacuum dust collection and cleaning. I am too! I have continued to pursue the improvement of dust collection and general cleaning with the Shop Vacuum. Please have a look at a recent article I’ve written about this by following this link right here.


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Then, there is the general clean up from all the woodworking activities that do not have the direct ability to collect dust. Drilling, jig saws, all the various hand tools and since I consider all the power tools to be efficient with shop vac DC in the 85-90% chip and dust collection range, there is all the waste that escapes that needs to be cleaned up there as well, So you see, without even discussing the high volume uses on the full sized dust collection system, The shop vac is really carrying a lot of the load here.

Woodworking materials present a different challenge to the shop vac. The woodworking tool industry has adapted many tools complete with proprietary adapters to operate with a shop vac hooked to them directly. Sanders, in my opinion, should not be operated without a vacuum attached to them or some form of DC in operation during the sanding process. The atmosphere in your shop will become very unhealthy if you don’t, to say nothing of the mess. Sanders are the generator of some of the finest particulate sizes you deal with in the shop, but the saws and routers create particles in many sizes at a relatively high volume. All dust collection is doable, but there are trade offs that occur and decrease some efficiency.

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May 09 2008

Creativity in Hardware Storage: Altoid Tins.

During the evolution of a woodworkers development… A development which never ends by the way, a person observes design, considers various methods of joinery, acquires the tools that coincide with their preferences for the various methods of work, develops a style they enjoy as they continue to grow, and accumulates a TON of hardware along the way.


Back in the 30’s, 40’s 50’s and 60’s of the last century, woodworkers commonly used containers named “MJB”, “Hills Bros”, and “Folgers” for the proper containment of “hardware”. The proper methodology for sorting the “hardware” was to sort through the top inch and a half of the can, and then up end the contents on the bench for a closer sort of the needed hardware at the bottom of the can.

A higher tech solution was to use mason jars, commonly used for canning, and errr, other handy and imaginative uses, and all you had to do was deny knowing anything as to where the canning jars were when it came time to put up preserves, and the high tech part was that you could see in advance that the “hardware” you were looking for was at the bottom of the jar.

Advances in baby food preserving had the Beech-Nut Corporation putting 13 varieties of food into glass jars, beginning in 1931, and the resourceful woodworker in fatherhood found this as a boon to “hardware” storage. The thing was you see, the integral lids could be mounted to the bottom of shelves, making use of otherwise unusable space, and the woodworker could simply look from underneath and see the needed hardware at the bottom of the jar, and not have to spread as much on the bench to sort for the needed pieces. Continue Reading »

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May 03 2008

The Challenges to Squareness

Yup. The Challenges to Squareness.

You didn’t actually think this was going to be easy did you? Well, it isn’t always, but I think the endeavor of overcoming some of these challenges can make things better, especially if you like taking good to great. Knowing what some of the issues can be, and how to overcome them when and if they arise, can help our results better match our desires.

We learned in The Constructs of Squareness article that geometrically speaking, a right angle is 90 degrees, and if it isn’t 90, then it isn’t a right angle. Everything can be represented perfectly on paper, in CAD drawings and in theory, but in building, milling, and manufacturing there are a number of factors, which can affect the quality of accuracy. Some we have to accept, some we can learn to work with, and knowing the difference is how we approach closer to fine, if fine is the goal.


Things that affect the accuracy we use to build do vary. Goals, philosophy, materials and tooling all play a part.

Goals affecting accuracy are often production oriented, cost oriented, or what the intended use of a final product is. If the Goal is to build a doghouse, it needs done quickly, and the price of materials and labor needs kept low, then, the accuracy of squareness need only be relative. If the goal is to make a jewelry box, where scale is small and appearances will be highly scrutinized, then the accuracy of squareness becomes much more important, because the philosophy behind jewelry boxes is seeing how far craftsmanship can be taken. Close tolerance fit and finish is a very large part of how this type of work will be evaluated. Continue Reading »

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Apr 29 2008

The Constructs of Squareness

Published by under Layout Strategy,Metrology

The prevalence of the right angle in engineered structure is probably second only to the straight line in order of importance. Engineered structures in wood are often using plane geometry to help describe and document what they are and how to build them.

Much of the way we think about civil engineering, architecture, woodworking, and even some metalworking, call it flat work if you like, is based on previously understood, maybe even taken for granted, notions about geometry.

Every line that goes in a given direction without variance to that direction is straight, all points that lie upon a line, line segment, or ray can be thought of as congruent. At any point on a line, another line, line segment or ray can intersect, begin sharing a common end point, and create an angle.


There are four ways we look at angles… The most basic angle is the right angle, the angle of 90 degrees, which when measured, corresponds to a quarter of the 360 degrees in a circle, or some thing other than a circle that circuitously begins and ends at the same point. The other ways we describe angles are of angles smaller than 90 degrees which are “acute” and angles larger than 90 yet smaller than 180 degrees, which we call obtuse. If the angle is greater than 180 and less than 360 degrees we call it a reflex angle. When working in terms of squareness, we are only concerned with the 90 degree, or right angle. Continue Reading »

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Apr 22 2008

Edge Tool Sharpness and Flatness, The Fast Track.

…Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Honing. 😀

Ok, this is a little longish, but there is no substantial way to provide a sharpening primer in a sound bite. I’ve tried to write about what will work well overall, without getting too focused on too many particulars in any sharpening media. No matter which way you choose to go ahead with sharpening, this advice should be helpful to you overall. It’s a reasonable primer that will put you on the road with usable sharpening skills. So grab a snack and a drink, and settle in for a bit. If you really want to learn to sharpen, reading this will likely be worth your time. Your Questions and Comments are invited as always!

When it comes to sharpening, abrasives are abrasives the world around. They may have particular idiosyncrasies you need to pay attention to, but they all abrade metal. Once you choose the abrasives you feel will work best for you, you will establish your own routine for working with them. All paths are means that will lead to a similar end. Waterstones, oilstones, ceramics, particulates, sandpaper, various styles of machine sharpening etc. The steel does not care; the abrasives don’t care either, as long as the grit equivilents of abrasiveness are appropriate to the goal. Sharpness.

For the sake of this discussion, I am referring to the abrasive grits, as they correspond to the grits common to waterstones. I do this simply for the reason that waterstones are very popular, but I am in no way advocating that waterstones are the best abrasive. Most all abrasives will sharpen, and it is up to the end user to investigate the pros and cons of the various abrasives to determine the best paths for themselves. For cross-reference please refer to this cross reference chart to derive the equivilent grit for the media you choose.


It is important to keep in mind that the goal of sharpness has stages.

Coarse grits are for grinding, heavy material removal, bevel forming, flattening. Initial flattening and bevel angle forming are the biggest jobs and to aid getting the job over with, the coarsest grits should be used to get the bulk of these tasks done.

Fine grits are for honing and polishing. Once you have established bevels and flatness on the backs, you will want to polish it. Removing coarse scratches in steel with finer ones is what creates finer sharpness. Sharpness actually is where the intersection of the two planes formed by the bevel and the back meet. The finer they are polished, the sharper they will be. the act of creating the wire or feather edge happens when the bevel side of the iron or blade is abraded until the dullness has been honed away. This is required to establish a fresh edge on the tool, and can be done with any number of the different honing or grinding grits.

It is up to the sharpener to determine how dull the tool is, and select the coarseness or fineness of abrasive grit needed to restore the edge to sharpness the fastest way. This means, it comes down to how much steel needs to be removed on the bevel side to form the wire, or feather. You must determine the condition of the edge, and the fastest way to restore it. If only a lttle honing is needed to restore the edge, don’t select coarse abrasives when you begin. If a lot of honing is needed, don’t select fine abrasives when you begin, but realize you will have to polish all the way up through the grits to the fine abrasives to restore the sharpness.

It is important to get a feel for the finish your honing equipment will give you as a finish result at each stage of the work. It will aid you to learn to evaluate what is needed, where to start, how long to hone, and when you have reached what was needed. Knowing this simplifies the task and helps you save time. This is experiential– it is learned by using the sharpening tools you have on your edge tools. It is getting to know one another. Call it sharpening intimacy if you will. Continue Reading »

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Apr 13 2008

Improve your Sharpening with a Portable Sharpening Station

Lets face it, sharpening can be a big undertaking. Many edge tools we bring in our shops will benefit from having a flattened back and the optimum bevel angle for the task it is meant to do. Streamlining the process is possible, and most of that comes from organizing the honing gear so it can work the best with your applications.

Sure, That is a very large amount of application options. There are variables such as steel types. Cast steel, hand forged, high carbon, O1, A2, and D2. There are sharpening options. You have scary sharp, water stones, oilstones, and diamond stones amongst your choices for abrasives. There are a number of different sharpening methodologies, various jigs, freehand, even machines.


I use a portable sharpening station designed for use with stones, with both jigs and freehand manner. This helps facilitate the process, contain the mess, protect other shop furniture from damage and helps keep the honing tools organized. It can be used in a couple configurations, and can be moved out of the way when necessary. It is simply stored when not in use. Continue Reading »

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Apr 06 2008

The Utility of the Straightedge

Precision refers to the amount of dimensional accuracy or incremental refinement used when something is made, and can be attributed to the quality of the layout, workmanship, or machine set up.

Accuracy refers to the confirmation of dimensional tolerances.

Dimensional tolerances differ with the various types of projects a woodworker will commonly undertake. The set up of shop machines and precision hand tools often requires the precision of accuracy to be at the thousandth of an inch level, however most woodworking projects require accuracy at a level which is commonly referred to by fractions, and is often referred to in the 1/32nd (.031) to 1/64th (.016) range.


The quality in our craftsmanship is inherent in our understanding of these constructs, and our personal stake in setting for ourselves, a level of tolerances. These tolerances are the differences between woodworking, and fine woodworking. Continue Reading »

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Apr 02 2008

The Woodworks Library

Amongst the many dilemmas facing the woodworker, just a few are what to build and how to build it, but even as those questions seem like early ones in the process, the earlier ones considered are even more elementary.

The nature and ways of wood, joinery, adhesives, and style are all things that need to be dealt with in the “what” to build and “how” to build it. Is it furniture, casework, cabinetry? Will it involve carpentry, as a built in as many elements of Arts and Crafts styling will? will it include some metal work or upholstery? Other leading questions like, will I have the appropriate tools, and can I properly fixture the work for all the different elements of construction? What finishes are most appropriate, and how best to apply them?

You see, it is a lot of questions. Fortunately there are a lot of answers. The art and craft of woodworking is age old, in fact, even our great grandparents and grandparents knew a lot about it, and lucky for us, even as much of an undertaking it was to publish books back in the day, the understandings of the woodworking trades, the methods and the how to with hand and power tools was something they authors of that period wrote about quite articulately. There was a want for future generations to know these things, and there was a lot they understood. Continue Reading »

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Mar 31 2008

Understanding Fractions, The Key to High Accuracy When Measuring.

Published by under Metrology,Skill Development

I want to have that little talk with you about, Fractions. Yeah. But the plan is, if all goes well, that it won’t hurt – as much as it did last time. Working in sub inch territory usually involves the use of little buggers. The problem many people have when working with fractions, is that they relate the use of the common fraction to their math education experience when they were in school as children.


Our school systems scared the bejeezus out of everyone by forcing us all to learn a series of mathematical exercises, which evolved around fractions that we would never use again in our entire lifetimes. For many, this often created mental blocks to the entire notion of fractions, even the simple useful ones, because after that harrowing experience, it seemed that nothing pleasant could possibly come from the manipulation of fractions at all. In fact, when people are faced with dealing with fractions, they generally feel some panic along with it. A panic that rates up there with the sound of high speed dental drills and root canals, and it is most likely from their harrowing experience in math class. Folks remember what all the wonky practice of solving mismatched fractions was really like, and relate that it was way, way too similar, and maybe even the diabolical preparation, for diagramming English sentences later on during their high school education.

I hope I can help make this a lot more user friendly! Continue Reading »

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