Back to the Future Clock Face

A neighbor asked me to help him make a 24″ diameter clock face like one seen in the movie “Back to the Future”.  He has already built a Delorean time machine from a golf cart chassis complete with blinking lights and fold up wing doors.  I hope to post photos of the car at the end of this blog when they become available.  I hope that you enjoy reading about this fun project!

Two Rail Sweep

Using a photo as a starting point, I was able to construct a clock face with Aspire software. If you look closely at the upper right hand corner of the drawing, the little squiggle represents the moulding profile of the clock face. Employing Aspire’s two rail sweep function, the circular profile was added to the outer two circles of the drawing and became the 3D portion of the clock face.

Clock with table location

I knew that holding the work piece would pose challenges and that I would have to secure the clock face to the spoil board with screws, it was necessary to know the location of my table’s T-slots and spoil board’s hold down screws. Using the layer function in Aspire, the pink outline of the table was overlayed onto the model.

Initial Placement

My neighbor gave me a 24″ diameter pine table top as a blank. I secured the outer perimeter to the spoil board using clamps to cut the inner pocket, drill holes for the second markers, carve the numbers and cut the hole for the clock hands. Using the table outline in the previous photo, I was able to drill holes for the screw hold downs necessary to cut the outer perimeter moulding once the clamps were removed.

Cutting the Recess and Detail

The machine is cutting the detail and drilling holes.

Cutting Progress

The clamps were removed from the outer perimeter and the blank was secured to the spoil board with screws in order to cut the outside moulding.

Cutting the Perimeter

A closer look at the outer 3D moulding profile as it’s being formed.

Cut Completed

The final profile cut separated the bull nose waste from the blank. It was fragile and cracked but it was held in place with tabs so it wouldn’t become a projectile.

BTF Clock

The completed clock face ready for my neighbor to do the final finishing.

Neo-Classical Mantle Clock

I upgraded to Vetric’s Aspire CAD/CAM software because of my interest in 3D CNC carving. This mantle clock was built from free plans provided by Vectric.  I have built other items from their monthly plans and have found them to be fun and useful for learning about vector creation, component creation and tool path generation. I hope you enjoy this pictorial blog about my new clock.

Pre-finish Assembly

Here is a photo of the loosely assembled parts so you can visualize what the project is about.

Gluing Joint Bit

Many projects require gluing stock to obtain the desired width of a blank. I routinely use a glue joint bit to help with alignment and increase the surface area of a glue joint. This Freud bit is used on a router table and I have found that best results are obtained by setting the height at 1/2 the thickness of the stock plus 0.624″. It’s very important to set the fence flush with the indented cutting edge or else the joint won’t go together completely or it will suffer significant snipe at one end.

Gluing Jig

Here is a look at my gluing jig and the board edges after they went through the glue joint router bit.

CNC Carving

The front face of the clock as it’s being cut on the CNC router.

Mach3 Screen Shot

As you can see, I’m 3 hours and 46 minutes into the cut and have another 2 1/2 hours to go. I’m using a 1/16″ tapered ball nose bit for the finish cut with an 8% step over. This translates into 0.0047″ step over per pass.

Finished Cutting

Here is a look at the blanks with the individual parts held in place with tabs.

Cutting Tabs

Sometimes I use a chisel to cut through the tabs but instead I used a scroll saw for this project because I didn’t want to take a chance on splintering the wood.

Router Bit Splintering

Despite my best efforts, I did get some splintering at the cutout profile using a 1/4″ down cut spiral bit. Oh well, a little CA glue will fix this before finish sanding.

Component Parts

Here are the parts separated from the blanks ready for further processing.

Finish Sanding

I use a Dremel tool with rotary disks for much of my finish sanding on the highly detailed parts.

Gluing Sub-Assemblies

Gluing sub-assemblies for further processing. Sometimes clamps are used and sometimes weights are used as you will see in later photos.

Stationary Belt Sanding

I have several abrasive machines to help with the tedious job of rough and finish sanding. This is a combination belt / disc sander making short work of sanding end grain.

Mop Sanding

Sanding mops of 120 and 220 grits are used to remove the rough sanding ridges.

Spindle Sanding

A reciprocating spindle sander is a great tool for smoothing both internal and external curves. Here the clock insert hole parts are blended to provide a uniform cavity to accept the clock mechanism.

Staining the Parts

After finish sanding the parts, they are stained with General Finishes Pecan oil base stain.

Sub-assembly Glue Up

As I mentioned previously, sometimes clamps work best and other times weights are used when gluing parts together. I left stain off of the areas that receive glue. When possible, I prefer to stain the pieces before gluing them together because it’s easier to stain without all the nooks and crannies created by corners.

Sand Bag Gluing

A cotton bag full of sand is very useful for holding flat weights on a curved surface.

Finish Coat

Two coats of a matte clear coat finish the project.

Completed Clock

The project turned out beautiful. A quartz clock movement from Klockit completes the Neo-Classical Mantle Clock.

Precision Matthews 1022V Lathe

When I decided to replace my old Craftsman bench top metalworking lathe, I researched many options taking into consideration my budget, space limitations, weight and features of the machine.  I settled on a well known brand (hint – it’s green) and placed my order.  I was told that there would be a two month delay due to it being on back-order so I patiently waited.  Near the time it was supposed to be delivered, I received a post card stating there would be further delays.  A phone call to the company was disappointing because they could not offer a firm future delivery date.  While I was waiting, I continued looking for alternatives and now I’m thankful that the green lathe was delayed because I found Precision Matthews lathes had more features that I wanted for a little more money.  I canceled the order and then called Matt at Machine Tools Online and ordered the 1022V model.  Two days later, the lathe arrived!


Bench for Lathe

In anticipation for the new lathe, I built a very solid cabinet capable of holding the weight. Due to my shop’s space limitations, the cabinet was placed on wheels with a 1300 lb. weight capacity. This arrangement allows me to move the lathe for access to the change gears.

Delivery Vehicle

UPS has a freight division that offers home delivery with a lift gate. Since I don’t have a forklift, this was a necessary delivery option to transport the 400 lb. crate.

Moving the Crate

The UPS driver used his hand truck to move the crate from the truck into my garage where I have a chain hoist.

Secure Packaging

As you can see, the crate was not damaged, clearly marked, and very well secured with metal banding. The black bolt heads on top held the drip pan to the underside of the lid.

A Look Inside

The crate was opened revealing the contents covered with a sheet of plastic most likely to protect them from water damage.

Crate Packing

With the plastic sheeting removed, the lathe and accessories are visible. The packaging was well thought out because the contents arrived in perfect condition!

Lathe Coating

I have purchased other Chinese machines so I anticipated a lengthy cleaning process with this machine. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the lathe wasn’t coated with heavy red grease typically found on some machines.

Cleaning the Machine

The lathe was hoisted onto a couple of scaffolds so it could be cleaned with mineral spirits at a comfortable working height. Although the scaffolds are rated at 330 lbs., a couple of wooden supports under the scaffolds were added assurance that they would not buckle under the weight.


When I clean machines, I pretty much disassemble everything to see how it’s put together and to make sure that there is no hidden gunk left over from the manufacturing process.

Gear Cover Lockout

The bracket inside the change gear cover mates with a lockout switch on the machine. This prevents the motor from starting without the cover in place. I had to bend the bracket to fit a little better but that was no big deal.

Gearbox Lockout Switch

The rust colored switch near the power cord mates with the fork seen in the previous photo.

Motor Adjustment Bracket

The variable speed DC motor has a two step pully for low and high speeds. The low speed has a range of 50-1000 RPM and the high speed has a range of 100-2000 RPM. The manual suggests leaving it on the low range setting for most cutting operations. The belt tension is adjusted by the 4 bolts on the motor mounting plate.

Tachometer Sensor

The tachometer receives it’s signal from magnets embedded into the main spindle. The sensor is mounted on top. If you look closely at the writing on the drive belt, it was manufactured in the USA, a nice surprise.

Head Stock View

When the splash guard is removed, the position of the DC motor is seen. When the splash guard is in place, the motor is very well protected from flying chips. There are vents cut into the rear of the motor housing cavity for ventilation. There is no cooling fan necessary so the machine is very quiet when operating.

Tail Stock View

The tail stock has a quill travel of 2.5″ and the barrel is marked with both imperial and metric units. If you look closely at the hash marks on the imperial scale, you can see that the hash marks are in tenths instead of the usual sixteenths of an inch. In addition, the tail stock crank handle has a vernier scale as well.

Direct Mount Chuck

The chucks are “direct mounted” instead of screwing on to the spindle. The way it works is that the chuck is mounted to a plate containing bolt heads that protrude through the spindle plate and locking ring in back. The chuck is positioned and the locking ring retains the assembly which allows the bolts to be tightened, drawing the chuck plate tight against the spindle plate. The location is determined by the spindle and corresponding bore in the chuck mounting plate.

Backside of Chuck

Here is a look at the back side of the 3 jaw chuck showing the mounting studs and positioning bore.

Chuck Plate Alignment

The chuck and mounting plate are marked with “O” to make sure that if they are ever disassembled, they can be re-assembled using the same holes. Direct mounting is new to me so I’m guessing that the plates are made specifically for each chuck assuring the bore lines up perfectly with the spindle.

3 and 4 Jaw Chucks

Here are the 3 and 4 jaw chucks next to each other. The 3 jaw chuck came with the mounting plate attached whereas the 4 jaw chuck did not. Since the 4 jaws travel independently, it doesn’t matter if the chuck mounting plate is off center a bit.

Apron View

The compound slide was removed from the cross slide and the cross slide was unbolted from the screw for inspection and cleaning. I was amazed at how clean it was from the factory!

Compound Slide and Tool Post

The compound slide on the PM-1022V has an integrated post pressed in from the bottom to mount the 4 position tool holder shipped with the machine. I did not like this feature because I had an AXA quick change tool post that I wanted to use with this machine. Most QCTPs are held in place using a “T” slot machined into the compound. Precision Matthews offers a QCTP that will work with the pressed in post but I wanted to use my existing hardware. The solution can be found in the next few pictures.

Underside of Compound

The underside of the compound slide shows how the tool post is pressed into the casting. A roll pin keeps it from turning.

Tool Holder Comparison

The supplied 4 position tool holder is placed over the post and my AXA QC tool holder to it’s right. In order to use the QC holder, two corrections are necessary: the base of the post required a bushing to match the ID of the AXA unit and a special hold down bolt needed to be made to reach the pressed in stud.

AXA QC Tool Post Solution

Here is the solution for using a standard AXA QCTP with the PM-1022V lathe. A bushing with very thin walls was made to go over the base of the pressed in stud to match the ID of the AXA tool holder. A long nut was machined starting with a standard 5/8″ bolt machined to match the ID of the AXA holder, long enough to engage the M8-1.25 threads on the pressed in post.

QCTP Mounted

The standard AXA QCTP mounted on the Precision Matthews lathe. It’s very solid and was accomplished without modifying any of the lathe parts so the warranty is intact.


The wiring cavities were opened for inspection and tightening a couple of switches to the housing. All connections were tight and the wires were neatly routed


The motor speed control board is easily accessible if it ever needs replacement.


Wiring to the front panel.

Guard Lockout Switch

Before moving the machine to the basement, I attempted to start it and discovered that it has another lockout switch. The switch can be seen on the left in this photo and it’s activated by a cam attached to the chuck guard. It is necessary for the chuck guard to be in the down position in order to start the machine. Fortunately if the guard is removed, the bar can be left in a position that activates the switch all the time.

Top Pad

The manufacturer supplied a nice rubber pad to fill the top cavity so you can use it to temporarily store delicate tools while working on the machine. I thought that this was a nice amenity.

Transporting the Machine

The PM-1022V lathe had to be moved into my basement. Without the proper equipment, this would be nearly impossible because of the weight. The machine was bolted to a 2×12 and then the 2×12 was strapped and clamped to a furniture dolly. I enlisted the help of a big strong man (my son George) to do the bulk of the lifting. The center of gravity was close to the bottom of the dolly so it was stable and easy to handle.

Going Down the Stairs

With the right equipment, two men can easily move the PM-1022V down basement stairs.

The Last Few Feet

Safely down the stairs, George moves the lathe the last few feet under another waiting chain hoist mounted in the ceiling joists. About 10 drops of oil spilled out of the gear boxes during the transportation process, not enough to cause any concern.

Placing the Machine

The final lift was made and the cabinet moved into position for bolting through the top. I put some Silicone caulk under the drip pan so it wouldn’t rattle when the lathe was operating.

Missing Key

One tiny little glitch was discovered when I attached the crank handle to the cross slide. It slipped and when I took it apart, I discovered that a drive key was missing from the assembly. Not a big deal because my local hardware store had some 5/32″ key stock which fit the keyway perfectly. Not shown, but a not-so-tiny glitch was the fact that I had to remove the apron and file an internal cam so the carriage feeds would work properly.

New Home

A photo showing the Precision Matthews PM-1022V’s new resting place next to a bench top milling machine. Hmmm, what should I make first?

Lead Screw Pin Removal

Update 2017: The lathe has been performing excellent for a year or so with the exception of a small, persistent oil leak from the apron gear case. It leaks about an ounce per year but I wanted to eliminate it so the following photos show how it was done. Removing the apron gear case is quite easy beginning with the removal of the pin driving the lead screw.

Tapered Pin Removal

The other end of the lead screw is held in position by a block with tapered pins. I inserted a machine screw into the threaded pin and gently tapped it to remove it.

Tapered Pin

The two tapered pins were removed followed by the hex head cap screws. The lead screw then slides out of the apron gear case.  The 4 hex head cap screws holding the gear case to the apron were removed and the gear case drops off.

Apron Gear Case

Here is a look inside the apron gear case. Notice the two blocks attached to the back side of the case. I suspected that this was the area to investigate for the oil leak. Also noteworthy is that the worm gear cradled by the brass block on the right has a mating key that falls out. Make sure to insert the key prior to replacing the lead screw on re-assembly or the apron and cross slide will not advance properly.

Underside View

This underside view also shows the drain plug and a small set screw. The set screw secures a spring and ball bearing. It was removed and given a small coating of sealant as part of the leak control measures.

Block One Removal

After removing the hex head cap screws, the block was gently tapped with a soft hammer while pulling on the block. This action loosened the tapered pins and the block came off. Notice the lack of sealant at the mating surfaces.

Adding Sealant

After the surfaces were cleaned, I added sealant to the surfaces and re-assembled.

Block Two Removal

The other block was similarly removed and it was observed that the factory didn’t do a very good job of sealing the assembly.

Cleaned Surfaces

Here is a look at the cleaned surfaces prior to adding sealant.

Sealing Block Two

Sealant was applied to the second block and re-assembled. Installing the gear case was a simple matter of reversing the steps to remove it. The leak control measures slowed the flow to about 1 drop per week instead of a couple of drops per day. I suspect the tiny remaining leak is coming from the bearing that actuates the half nut block and there is nothing I can do about it. All in all, I consider the fix a success.

Brian Law’s Clock No. 24

Brian Law’s Clock #24 is a wonderfully designed wooden clock with a gravity escapement that is fascinating to watch. This was my most challenging clock to build as of May 2016 because it required metal machining and CNC tool path tiling. Tiling was required because the clock frame was longer than the bed of my CNC router table. Fortunately, Vectric’s V-Carve Pro provided a way to accomplish the task.

Mr. Law’s design called for 1/4″ shafts turned to 1/16″ at the ends which are held into the frame using Acetyl bushings. That was his answer to minimizing friction. I used stainless steel and found that it work hardened during the turning process so I limitied my cuts to less than 0.005″ per pass. Despite this tedious process, I managed to ruin one of the parts because the thin shaft bent while turning. I managed to get through it but if I ever make another #24 clock, I will make the shafts using 1/8″ stainless steel held directly in the frame without bushings. The only exception would be the spool weight bearing shaft which I would leave 1/4″ supported by ball bearings.

Tiling First Step

My CNC router table is 26 inches square but the frame was 30″ tall. In order to accomplish this cut, I removed the end support bar from my Pilot Pro CNC giving me a way to pass a long piece through the Y axis. Notice the two indexing holes near the lower left of the work piece and the same hole spacing drilled through near the upper left. These index holes allowed me to accurately position the work piece by using wooden dowels drilled into the spoil board.

Tiling Second Step

Vectric’s V-Carve Pro has a built in tiling feature making the process easy. Well, not exactly easy the first time but now that I’ve done it, it will be easier the next time. Notice that after the first tile was cut, the part was re-indexed by sliding the part along the Y axis.

Frame Parts

The frame front and back pieces successfully cut and ready to be parted from the waste.

Clock Face

In order to conserve material and give the clock face a neat look, I used a CAD program to design an octagon large enough to cut the clock face. This view shows the face after it was V-Carved and nearly cut from the blank.

Clock Parts

Clock parts machined, cut and sanded ready for assembly.

Brian Law's Clock 24

Assembled and ticking on 6 lbs. weight. This clock as designed will run about 15 hours on a wind. Click on the photo to see it in action.

Scimitar Ticker

Since I now own a CNC router, I can easily cut complex parts if I have a DXF or DWG file as a starting point. I am fascinated by wooden clocks, escapements and kinetic sculptures. 2016 marks the year that I decided to delve deeper into how these devices are designed and put together. There is a lot of information available on the Internet about these things including plans for sale so that was my starting point. I purchased a couple of plans from Clayton Boyer, his Number 6 clock and his Zinnia Kinetic Sculpture. I cut the Number 6 parts on a scroll saw and it took me a couple of months because I wasn’t trying to set any speed records, concentrating instead on accuracy. The assembly was difficult because I had no experience but the clock went together perfectly and has been ticking away for a couple of years keeping very good time. The Zinnia was cut on the CNC and the assembly was fairly easy, check my Zinnia blog for details. Along the way, I purchased software for designing and cutting gears, then found Art Fenerty’s Gearotic 2.0. Wow, amazing software that lets the user design clocks, tickers, escapements, gears, plus a bunch of other stuff and spit out DXF files to cut the parts. Just what I was hoping to find to help me achieve my goal. If you are interested, check out Art’s website

One fairly well documented device that I made using Gearotic 2.0 was a “ticker” called Scimitar. Art Fenerty published a YouTube video on how Scimitar is constructed and can be found here. Below are some photos of my Scimitar build, I hope you like it.


Scimitar Parts

My first “Ticker” project parts cut on the CNC and ready for assembly. The project is named “Scimitar” and it is a weight driven kinetic sculpture.

Scimitar Frame

A nice feature of the software is the ability to generate proper hole spacing for the various gears and escapements. This frame has many bearings and spacers installed ready for other components.

Milling the Gold Spring

Another recent shop addition was a table top milling machine. Here it’s cutting an adjustment slot in a thin strip of brass destined to become the Gold Spring in the triggering pallet.

Gold Spring in Place

The Gold Spring is attached to the pallet so it overhangs the end by an adjustable amount. Due to it’s length and flexibility, the spring releases in one direction and stops when something hits it in the other direction. The escapement is called a recoil chronometer escapement because the ratchet goes backwards slightly (recoils) when the spring receives an impulse from one direction.

Gluing Parts

Sometimes gravity works better than clamps for gluing parts together.

Scimitar Sub Assembly

Everything except the decorative pieces on the end of the arms is assembled here. Weight is added and the process of timing the device is performed. Click on the picture for a video of the sculpture in action.

Zinnia Kinetic Sculpture

In an effort to understand kinetic motion drive mechanisms, I purchased a Clayton Boyer plan titled “Zinnia”.  Dr. Boyer sells plans in two formats, DXF files for CNC machines or paper plans that can be cut on a scroll saw.  I built Clayton’s Number 6 clock a few years ago and it works very well, keeping almost perfect time.  I cut my Number 6 using a scroll saw but now that I have a CNC router, I cut Zinnia on that machine.  The DXF files needed a little CAD work prior to generating tool paths because some of the vectors were open.  This is nothing that any decent CAD program can’t handle so not to worry.  Anyone interested in Clayton’s plans, check out his website

Zinnia is a kinetic sculpture that is spring driven on a single shaft that has two counter-rotating sculptures that deliver a visual moire effect. The wheels are 24″ in diameter which tax the limit of my CNC machine table.  The following photos should be of interest to people considering making a kinetic sculpture.

Small Parts

Small parts were nested based on thickness. The plans called for three different thicknesses, half, quarter and eighth inch.

Cutting the Large Wheel

The large wheels were cut from half inch thick Baltic Birch plywood using an eighth inch two flute end mill. I get good results using a speed of 32 ipm with a plunge rate of 20 ipm at 20K RPM. I used the CNC to make alignment holes, click holes and counter-bores for the bearings prior to the final profile cut. I stained the facing side prior to cutting because it was easier staining a large flat panel than staining a delicate, intricate part. A little touch-up with marking pens took care of chipping.

Screen Shot

A view of the Mach3 screen as the wheel was being cut.

Cut Nearly Complete

Here is a look at the part as the final cut is nearing completion. At my feeds and speeds, the part took about 1 hour and 20 minutes from start to finish.

Cutting the Tabs

The part is held in place using tabs connected to the waste as the cut is being made. When finished, the tabs are cut using a chisel and then cleaned up by hand sanding. This operation took longer than the CNC machine took to cut the part.

Completed Wheel

The shape of a flywheel after separating it from the waste. The sculpture is destined to be mounted on a light colored wall so the wheels were stained black.

Zinnia Mount

Fast forward to when all the parts were cut out and finished. The wall mount with the stud is shown in the photo.

Rear Wheel

Next in the stack is the rear wheel.

Motor Drive

Next comes the spring driven motor drive.

Front Wheel

The final part of the sculpture is the front wheel and cap.


Zinnia Displayed

Click on this picture to see a YouTube video of Zinnia in action.


My Hi-Torque Mini-Mill arrived from the Little Machine Shop! An 18 wheeler made it’s way through the subdivision and parked so the tail was at my driveway. The truck was equipped with a lift gate in order to get the pallet to street level. I was concerned about getting the pallet into my garage but the driver graciously used his pallet truck to push the load into the garage. Once there, I could break the load down into manageable pieces for transport into the basement. The following photos provide details on my new machine’s arrival and setup.


Delivery Truck

An 18 wheeler is an unusual sight in our subdivision. The truck was outfitted with a lift gate that lowered the pallet to street level.

Moving the Pallet

The driver used his pallet truck to push the load into the garage. If he didn’t do that, I would have had to drag it with chains hooked onto my garden tractor.

Pallet with Mill

I was impressed with the packaging, banding and internal padding with the shipment. Little Machine Shop gets high scores for properly preparing the order for transport!

The Mill

I transported the box with the mill into the basement using a furniture dolly. The mill was securely fastened to the bottom of the box with bolts. The mill was coated with light grease and I spent several hours cleaning it up.

Mill Cabinet

In preparation for the mill’s arrival, I built a cabinet with lots of drawer storage. The cabinet was engineered to support a lot of weight as the mill weighs about 140 pounds.

Mill on Cabinet

I have a chain hoist and hydraulic lift table in the basement so I was able to move the mill to the cabinet without assistance from another person. The mill was bolted to the cabinet and checked for squareness. I had to adjust the gibs and tram the vertical column using shims that I purchased with the machine. All this took a couple of hours but now it is set-up to my satisfaction ready to make parts.

Milling a Slot

The first part off the mill was a brass strap that needed a slot for adjustment in a kinetic art mechanism. The strap was only 0.25″ wide and 0.0625″ thick.

Completed Slot

Here is a look at the slot in this thin brass strip.

Brass Strip Mounted on Arm

The brass strip was mounted on an arm used in a recoil chronometer escapement as part of a kinetic art piece called “Scimitar”. Look for another blog post with some of the details about the Scimitar project.

Mill with DRO

Task lighting and a Digital Read Out for all 3 axes were eventually installed completing my installation. The DRO is accurate to 0.0005″ and is a great help when machining.

Table Leg Modification

I answered an ad on a Facebook page seeking someone to do work on a wood lathe. After a few private messages, I met with the person who was re-finishing a 100 year old table that was a family heirloom. The table legs were turned with some beads, coves and flutes but they were about 2 inches short because casters were removed so the customer wanted them extended in a motif that complimented the existing style. I accepted the job and like all things involving restoration, a few surprises occurred along the way. The following photos tell the story.


Unequal Lengths

The legs were not equal in length so the leg extensions needed to be different lengths to compensate.

Spreading Glue

First things first. Stock had to be glued up so billets could be created that were greater in diameter than the existing legs.


One of my favorite things about woodworking is watching glue dry!

Stock Ready for Milling

Glued up and ready for milling. Hard to believe there is 5 board feet of oak here.

Band Sawing

Band sawing the glued up stock.

Cross Cutting

The squared stock is next cut into individual working size billets.

Billet Leg and Stock

Here is a look at the billet, the leg and the remaining stock from which additional billets will be cut.

Facing Top of Leg

The top of the legs were not flat so I took a shaving cut on the lathe. As it turns out, this was a big mistake.

Hit a Nail

As I was facing the top of the leg, I heard a ticking sound and stopped the lathe for a look. Oh no! I hit a nail and when I checked the other legs, they all had embedded metal. Lesson learned, never turn old wood before checking with a magnet.

Regrinding Tools

I actually buggered up two tools before I noticed the embedded metal so I had to re-grind the cutting edges.

Disc Sanding

My remedy for flattening the top of the leg was to use a disc grinder. The table and miter gauge helped to keep things square.

Ground Flat

Finally, a flat surface I can work with. Notice the nasty bits of metal embedded in the wood. I have no idea why they were there because the legs are screwed into the table with a central stud. Maybe they were originally nailed to the top?

Turning Tenon

OK, back to the lathe. The billet was turned round and a tenon added for chucking.

Drilling Hole

Once in the chuck, the mounting hole was drilled through the stock.

Scribing Billet

Because the extension diameter is greater than the leg diameter, the leg diameter was scribed on the end of the billet so I knew where to terminate the bead. The idea was to make the transition at a bead because blending to the same diameter was impossible due to the condition of the legs.

Turning to Small Diameter

The billet allowed for an oversize bead to hide the glue joint. Here the actual leg diameter is established for the remainder of the extension.

Diameter and Length Cuts

Cuts were made to establish the location of the bead, the length of the part and the small diameter.

Finished Turning

The bead was formed and the remainder of stock removed to final diameter.

Finish Sanding

The part was finish sanded to 180 grit. It was then parted from the waste.

Test Fit

The extension was test fit on the leg. Looks good!

Gluing End Grain

The remaining parts were turned and glued to the legs. After the glue dried, three long screws were driven for added assurance that the assembly would remain intact under various forces.

Equal Lengths

Here is a look at how the lengths match up. The extensions will be finished like the existing legs and the table should be a lot more stable because the legs are now equal length.

Completed Job

Glued, screwed and ready for delivery. I asked the customer to provide a photo or two of the finished table to complete this blog page. She graciously agreed and the next two photos tell the rest of the story.


The legs with extensions were finished like the table. Here is a look at the new legs as seen from a dog’s eye view.


The restored table proudly sits in their home for family and guests to enjoy for another generation or two. I was delighted to have played a roll in the restoration of this family heirloom!

Recipe Box

I was fascinated with Michael Tyler’s Paradise Box project on Vectric’s website so I decided to use his design and customize it for my wife Marilyn. Michael’s plans were modified to account for thinner stock and the sides were custom carved and given a gentle arc. Additional V-carving was done on the inside lid to give it a personal touch. I’ve attached a video to the first image showing the CNC machine in operation because a lot of people have no idea what a CNC router looks like. I am very pleased with the finished piece and I’m certain that the recipe box will become a family heirloom.


CNC Routing

After the design was modified, tool paths were generated and the CNC router went to work. Here we see the back panel being cut out after the decorative V-carving was completed. Click on the picture to view it in action.

One Panel Completed

After the V-carving and cut out operations were completed, the panel is ready to be un-clamped from the machine bed.

Holding Tabs

Tabs are programmed into the cutout tool path to keep the part from getting damaged when the panel is cut through. Clamps on the waste side of the cutout hold everything secure.

Cutting the Tabs

The panel is separated from the waste by cutting the tabs with a chisel. The tab remnants were sanded flush using a stationary belt sander.

Panel and Waste

Here is a look at the panel and the waste after the two were separated.

Mortise Cleanup

The corners of the hinge mortise had to be squared by hand because the router bits are round and therefore leave radiused internal corners.

Inside Lid - First Attempt

The inside of the top was carved with a flower design and a custom inscription. Oh no… I misspelled “Recipe”. I didn’t want to re-cut the entire panel so I milled off the text and re-cut the text in the pocket.

The Fix

Here is a look at the fix to my misspelling. There is a singular-plural syntax error in the phrase but I decided not to worry about it.

Finish Sanding

All the panels making up the box required sanding to remove burrs left by the routing processes.

Detail Refinement

The intricate V-carved top panel receives a little TLC with a dental pick.

Parts Ready for Assembly

Here is a look at the part layout before gluing.

Box Glue Up

Glue was applied and the box was assembled and clamped.

Testing Various Finishes

I wanted to fill the V-carving with a contrasting color but all of my attempts failed. I cut a goofed up panel into three sections for testing and after seeing the results, I decided on a clear coat instead.

Clear Coat Finish

The box was finished with 3 coats of a lacquer type spray coating.

Perspective View 1

A closed lid view of the finished recipe box.

Perspective View 2

An open lid view of the finished recipe box showing the divider in place.

Front View

The front view of the finished recipe box. A chain was added to keep the lid from opening too far.

Banksia Nut Vase

The Banksia tree grows in Australia and produces unique looking nuts.  The nuts are harvested and sold as exotic blanks for wood turning.  I have seen these in various woodworking stores so I thought that I would give it a try.  I was surprised when I cut into the nut so I took a few photos of the process.


Preparing the Blank

When I cut the ends off at the band saw, a lot of reddish, brown fuzz flew out of the nut.

Cut End

Here is a close-up of the band saw cut revealing the hidden fuzzy stuff and the beautiful grain pattern of solid material.

Emerging Fuzz

When I started turning the nut I was impressed with it’s hardness. My chisels are very sharp yet I had difficulty cutting the Banksia nut. You can see the layer of fuzz just under the surface.

Layers of the Nut

A tapered slice reveals how the nut interior is arranged. Under a scaly surface the reddish brown fuzz is hidden in a thin layer followed by solid material. The seed pod holes go nearly to the center. The fuzzy stuff lying on the lathe bed and banjo flew nearly 15 feet and made a huge mess in my workshop. I used local dust extraction and a powered air purifying respirator to protect my lungs.

More Layers

Here is another progress photo clearly showing the layers of the nut.

Completed Turning

Here is a look at the completed turning before re-mounting it to finish the base. I tried using carbide insert tools during the turning process because the nut was so hard. It took a lot of smoothing and sanding to get it to this point.

Finished Banksia Nut Vase

The completed turning was given a few coats of spray lacquer for the finish. I must admit it has eye appeal but I probably will not turn any more of these beasts.


Our great nephew Rylind suffered a vicious dog attack recently so he is home recuperating. Like most 5 year olds, he is fascinated with dinosaurs so we wanted to provide something for him to do while recovering. The CNC router came to mind because I know of a website that has hundreds, maybe thousands of models that can be cut and assembled. A dinosaur search uncovered the “Spinosaurus”, a 31 piece project perfect for his age. The project was brought into Vectric’s V-Carve Pro and after a little work assigning dog bone fillets (hows that for irony) to the inside assembly vectors, the tool paths were generated and the job was completed in less than 1/2 hour. I used a 1/16″ bit running at 22000 RPM fed at 32 IPM with a pass depth of 0.06″. I guessed at the feed and speed and they were spot on. The following photos tell the story of how it was cut. We sincerely hope that Rylind likes the gift and that it helps him in his recovery.

Cutting the Puzzle

The Spinosaurus parts were cut from 1/8″ plywood. Because this thin material doesn’t lay uniformly flat, the Z axis was zeroed using the table surface instead of the top of the plywood. The cutout tool path was set to the exact thickness of the plywood and it cut perfectly.

Separating the Pieces

After the sheet was cut, it was sanded on both sides and the parts were removed by cutting the tabs with a very fine pointed knife.

Ready for Assembly

Here is a look at the parts before testing the assembly instructions.

Completed Spinosaurus 1

I’m impressed with the quality of the part fit. The model is free standing with no glue.

Completed Spinosaurus 2

A closer look at the completed Spinosaurus model (oops, the tail is on upside down). If Rylind’s parents provide a photo of him after he assembles it, I will post it below.

Rylind Opening Package

Rylind shows off the contents of a package he received in the mail. I think he likes it!

Rylind Assembling the Puzzle

It didn’t take long for Rylind to put the puzzle together. This guy is really concentrating on the assembly. Unlike me, he even put the tail on correctly!

Thumbs Up

This photo sums it up! His mom said that Rylind will dismantle the puzzle and re-assemble it with glue. Good job Rylind!

Memorial Bench Repair

A neighbor and active member of Daniel Boone Conservation League commissioned a replacement back for a memorial bench on the club grounds. The original bench back appeared to have been laser engraved but suffered severe weathering to make it unreadable. A V-Carved back was selected for the replacement because even if it becomes weathered, it will still be readable.

Shellac Coat

A 2×12 Douglas Fir board was milled to 1″ thick and two coats of dewaxed shellac were applied before carving.

CNC Setup

The bench back was longer than the bed of my CNC router so shims were used to elevate the work above the Y axis machine components.

V-Carving Bench Back

The design was completed using Vectric’s V-Carve Pro software and the back was carved in three separate operations.

Jerry Holding Carved Back

Jerry poses with the completed carving. The letters and graphics were filled with black ink and HVLP sprayed with 3 coats of spar varnish.

Existing Bench

Here is a look at the bench that had weathered.

Removing Rain Cap

Jerry removing the rain cap from the old wood.

Support Beams

The stone sides have embedded 2x4s that support the bench back.

Attaching the New Back

Mark attaches the new back to the 2x4s using outdoor rated hardware. The rain cap was then put back in place.

Completed Repair

A look at the new bench back. Hopefully the back will last several years before needing replacement.

Dutch Clock

As I gain more experience with the CNC router, I am trying different projects both as a learning tool as well as making interesting items. This blog details some of the steps in the manufacture of a Dutch clock mimicking the style of Tole painting. I downloaded the free project from Vectric’s website and modified some of the vectors at the bottom of the clock to include the names of the recepients, my niece and her husband. The clock was their wedding gift and the date was carved below their names. If you are interested in the actual project instructions, they can be found here.

Routing the Clock

Both the top and bottom pieces were CNC routed using the plans and tool paths provided by Vectric.

Gluing the Clock Components

The clock is 3 dimensional consisting of front and back pieces. Here they are aligned and glued to each other. The holes in the pieces are dimensioned for an exact fit of a clock insert.

Detailing the Clock

The clock was made of select kiln dried pine so the router V bit left some fuzzies that required removal with a dental pick.

Spindle Sanding

Spindle sanding the concave curves of the clock.

Drum Sanding

Some contours were better sanded on small bench lathe using a soft drum sander.

Applying the Finish

I used a slightly modified finishing technique from that described in Vectric’s project instruction sheet.

Dutch Clock

The completed clock ready for delivery to the newlyweds.


Old Sawhorse

My old sawhorses had seen better days so it was time to build new ones.

I built my old sawhorses about 40 years ago using 2x4s and metal sawhorse kit brackets. They held up well but they were always wobbly. Over the years, the wobbliness (is that a word?) got worse so I decided to build new ones. Why? Because I’m retired and can spend some time on this sort of thing plus I now have the tools to make the angled cuts necessary for my design. The old sawhorses were a nice size and height so I took measurements from them as a starting point. There is nothing critical in my numbers, just the way I wanted the wanted the sawhorses to look. The new sawhorses will never wobble because all the components are glued and screwed. The following set of photos shows my new sawhorse construction.

Raw Lumber

The cross pieces needed to be flattened in order to make a sound glue joint with the legs.

Flat Cross Members

A little jointing and planing and now I have something I can work with.

Leg Angle Jig

The most challenging part of sawhorse construction is affixing the leg to the cross piece because it requires a sharp angle cut on the face of the 2×4. I constructed this jig to accomplish the task.

Leg Jig with Clamp

The hole in the jig accepts a Rockler fence clamp to hold the leg in place while cutting the steep angle.

Leg and Jig before Cutting

Here is the leg clamped to the jig before running through the band saw.

Cutting the Sawhorse Leg

The jig rides the fence of the band saw and the result is the exact angle I wanted for my new sawhorses.

After the Cut

This photo shows the result of the cut using the jig.

Determining Leg Height

The cross pieces were securely clamped to the table using 4x4s as guides for all subsequent measurement and assembly steps.

Determining Height

I cut a little off the end of the steep angled cut on each leg then clamped the leg to the cross piece and measured for a 30 inch height.

Cutting to Length

Each leg bottom was angle cut to rest flat on the floor and provide the 30″ vertical rise.

Attaching the Legs

The legs were aligned using the 4×4 as a guide. Glue was applied to the leg, held in place, and nailed to the cross piece. 4 screws were then driven to complete the attachment.

Attached Legs

Here is a look at the attached leg with the screws.

Final Leg Attachment

To complete the attachment, the top of each leg was sanded back so the cross piece sits high. Next, braces were cut and attached with glue and screws to the legs making for a very strong and stable configuration.

Added Feature

As an added enhancement to the sawhorse, a slotted riser block was constructed to provide height adjustment when needed.

CNC Router

The adventure begins by building infrastructure for the machine. A solid, flat table was built, a dedicated computer was found and an old computer case was scavenged to house the isolation board and motor drives for the machine. A new 120 volt outlet was installed and a network wire was routed to the area. The first couple of pictures show the infrastructure progress and subsequent photos will detail the actual machine build. I expect this blog will be lengthy because I will take several build photos so others can see whats involved if they decide to build a CNC from a kit. In case you’re wondering, I’m building a Pilot Pro 2626 DIY kit from PDJ Inc. My options included a control pendant, limit and home switches and an isolation board. Software includes VCarve Pro and Cut 3D from Vectric, and Mach3 from ArtSoft.

Building the stand

A neighbor had a pair of steel workbench legs which he graciously gave to me. Two hours of wire brushing and then a little welding and painting made them look like new. Some angle iron was cut to support the top and wheels were added for mobility. Next up, a cabinet needs to be built below to house the control modules.

Completed Bench

A week later, the bench is ready to accept the Pilot Pro CNC. The box has built in ventilation using filtered air from front to back. Inside will house the computer and control circuitry that will drive the machine. The computer screen shows the Mach3 post processor dialog.

Motor Drive Cabinet

I managed to piece together a complete motor drive enclosure from 2 old desktop PCs. Lots of fans will provide rapid air movement to keep things nice and cool.

Measuring Runout

I purchased a set of precision collets for my Porter Cable 690 router not only for the precision, but also for accommodating bit shank diameters from 1/8″ through 1/2″. My TIR (total indicated runout) at 1″ was less than 0.001″ which is pretty good for woodworking.

Control Box Components

PDJ sent the components for the control box in advance of the machine components so I could get a head start with wiring. Here we see the power supply, motor drivers, the control pendant, limit switches, UC100 USB adapter and the ISO3 Mach3 board.

Fitting Components in Enclosure

I cut a piece of masonite to fit inside an old computer carcase for mounting the control components. The parts were placed to accommodate wiring and air flow.

Control Box Nearly Complete

The ISO board is wired to the stepper motor drives and the 48 V power supply feeding the drives in in place. Two noteworthy items if someone is building a PDJ kit: a male serial port from the ISO board is not included so you will have to find one, second, the ISO board relay is rated at 10 amps maximum. My Porter Cable 690 router is rated at 11 amps so I added a relay (lower right in the picture) to take care of the current draw. The only thing left to do is wire the motors and limit switches but I have to wait for the final parts shipment!


The CNC machine’s sides are connected by a 3″ tall plate so I decided to add risers to the table. Another layer of particle board will be fastened to the risers and T-tracks will be secured to it. Finally, a layer of MDF will be added so that the top will clear the plate by 3/16″ and the top of the T-track will be recessed 3/8″. The rational is that I will surface the top with the router leaving 1/4″ above the plate. I should be able to re-surface it a couple of times before replacing the MDF. Everything else stays put.

Pilot Pro 2626 DIY Parts

The parts have arrived, at least most of them. A few of them are on back order and UPS managed to break a package and a linear bearing fell out. Oh well, these will keep me going for a while.
My first impression is that the Pilot Pro 2626 DIY parts are very substantial and high quality. The parts are nicely labeled and the stepper motors are pre-wired. The Z axis is assembled and ready for mounting.

Base Layer

Three pieces of 3/4″ particle board were screwed to the risers to provide a platform for the T-tracks and spoil board.


Next, the T-tracks were screwed through the particle board and into the riser blocks.

Finished Spoil Board

Finally, strips of 3/4″ MDF were screwed into the particle board base. The surface sits 3/16″ proud of the Aluminum plate that ties the sides together and all the fasteners were counter bored 3/8″. My rational for this set-up is the spoil board can be surface planed and still have a good 1/8″ that can be surfaced a couple of times before the MDF strips need to be replaced. The hole pattern is symmetrical so parts are interchangeable. The T-track spacing was determined by the X axis limits and the reach of the hold down clamps. There are no dead spots that a clamp can’t reach on the spoil board.

Spoil Board Complete 1

An unobstructed view of the built up spoil board

Spoil Board Complete 2

The spoil board showing height relationship to end plate

Beginning the build

The CNC machine build begins with lightly knocking off any high spots on shim parts 11A using 320 grit emery. Subsequent photos will closely match Phil’s YouTube assembly videos but will show greater detail.

Labeled Hardware

Hardware included in the Pilot Pro 2626 DIY Kit was clearly labeled.

Shim-Rail Assembly

The shims are sandwiched between the linear rails and the 8020 beams. No washers are used here. Notice that the linear rails are marked with arrows. Although no mention was made of this and although the rails look perfectly symmetrical, I mounted all the rails with the arrow pointing upward. A nice feature of the T-nuts is the spring loaded ball bearing that keeps the nut in place inside the cavity after the parts are slid into place.

Shim-Rail Assembly

A photo of the shim and rail with the T-nuts in place before sliding into the 8020 side support

Table Mounting Brackets

The T-nuts for the table mounting brackets are shaped differently than the linear rail T-nuts in that they can be inserted through the track instead of sliding in from the end.

Table Mounting Brackets 2

I took off the end plate to slide the table mounting brackets with T-nuts attached before I realized that this was not necessary. These T-nuts can be inserted without sliding in from the end.

Lead Screw Support

The lead screw support gets mounted so part of the support extends beyond the edge of the 8020 rails.

Linear Bearing Mounting

The linear bearings have the little black “keeper” installed with the bearing. Simply line up the bearing with the track and slide the bearing unto the rail and the “keeper” drops out and can be discarded.

Linear Bearing Positioning

Whereas the Y axis linear rails are mounted to the sides of the 8020’s, the gantry rails are mounted to the top of the 8020’s. The above photo shows the Y axis bearings – notice the two different size linear bearings, the longer mounted toward the front of the machine.

Gantry Rails

The gantry 8020’s with the linear rails mounted to the top. When the 8020’s are attached to the gantry mounting plate, they are turned 90 degrees so the linear rails face forward.

Gantry Mounting Plate

The gantry mounting plates are milled on one side. They are mounted with the milled side against the linear bearing blocks. The plate with the stepper motor mounting holes is on the left side of the machine.

Gantry Installed

The two 8020’s are mounted between the gantry mounting plates with the linear bearing rails centered. The above photo shows three of the 4 bearing blocks installed because I’m waiting for a replacement for the one that UPS managed to lose when they smashed my package.

Z Axis Assembly

The Z axis assembly is mounted to the bearing blocks as shown in this photo. It’s important to watch the PDJ Inc. YouTube videos on the screw tightening procedure so everything slides properly.

Movable Lead Screw Brackets

The moving lead screw brackets are secured to the ball bearing with the screw hole recess pointing toward the bearing.

Lead Screw Ends

The ends of the lead screws differ. The left shows the motor (rear) end and the right shows the forward (front) end of the screws. One axial ball bearing is installed on the front and two on the rear.

Front Stop

The front stop is installed about 1/4″ from the end of the linear bearing. The remainder of the space is an allowance for the router which is mounted on the forward face of the Z axis.

Lead Screws Installed

Installing the lead screws is very easy. The motor sides have two axial bearings and the thrust washer is tight against the support. The other end gets one bearing and the thrust washer is adjusted to apply a slight amount of tension to the lead screw. “Slight” is the operative word here because if too much tension is applied, the axial bearings will prematurely fail.

Super PID

I purchased a Super PID to control the router speed. The enclosure has MDF sides, a plywood back and a clear plastic front because the Super PID has a digital readout. The heatsink was scavenged from a computer motherboard. A fan will be mounted on the back and draw air into the enclosure from the filtered air supply inside the cabinet below the CNC machine.

Completed Machine

The final parts arrived and were installed. A little software tweaking and Wahlaaa! a working CNC router. The above photo shows the completed machine with my first V-carving of a Celtic knot in a piece of MDF.

Close-up of Celtic Knot

Here’s a closer look at my first carving with my Pilot Pro CNC router. Lots of potential here so now I have to work on design and marketing.

Table Revision

After using the CNC for awhile, I decided to remove the risers under the spoil board in order to give me more Z axis travel. For the times I want to make a long Y axis piece, I will either add a temporary riser or remove the end plates for an unobstructed flat surface.

CNC Setup

This job was longer than my Y axis bed so risers were used to elevate the work above the machine ends.

Updated Spoil Board

I decided to make the spoil board the same size as the cutting limits of the machine. This allowed me to take a surface cut across the entire bed assuring it is in perfect alignment with the gantry. It’s interesting how the design of this machine changes with experience.

Cooling Fans

The stepper motors get extremely hot when operating so I added an 80mm CPU cooling fan to each motor. PDJ offers the fans as an option but I purchased these from Amazon, strapped them on with wire ties and powered them from a 12V tap off the power supply. I inserted a thin piece of wood between the fan and the motor as a standoff and heat buffer because it seemed to be the right thing to do. I cut a 1/2 hour job and the fans really kept things cool. Five minutes after the job the motors were luke warm – fantastic!

New Stepper Motor Standoffs

I decided to make new standoffs for my stepper motors because the post type were cumbersome when removing or mounting the motors. I added a thin piece of gasket material between the machine and standoff to act as a vibration damper but I’m not sure it does any good. This mounting method is the best of the three I’ve tried and it’s a keeper.

Gecko 540 Drive

After owning the Pilot Pro for nearly two years, I decided to replace the PDJ motor controls with a Gecko 540 drive unit. I had some Y axis racking issues and limited rapid travel speeds that I simply could not resolve despite hours on the phone with Phil at PDJ. His support was excellent and I will continue to recommend the PDJ Pilot Pro to anyone looking for a solid CNC router. When I made the switch to the Gecko drive, I also replaced all of my motor control cables with shielded wires and took special care to ground everything properly. Since I made the conversion, I have not had any racking issues and I can run the machine at virtually any speed I want without problems. NOTE: I built the original control panel with parts purchased from PDJ using their wiring schematics. In fact, I sent the entire control panel to PDJ for evaluation during the time the problem was occurring and they could not reproduce the symptoms on their machine. It is possible that I had a noise issue that was resolved coincidentally when I replaced the non-shielded cables along with the Gecko drive. PDJ has many machines running perfectly with their control panels so I guess my situation was the exception.

Bud Vase

A great joy of wood turning is to see what’s hidden inside a log, branch or a piece of firewood. Tom, a long time friend, gave me a branch from a walnut tree that he had stashed in his shed for a few years. The timber was dry, punky in several areas, cracked and it had several worm holes, in other words, perfect for a bud vase! Below are some pictures of what emerged from this humble branch.

Raw Timber

Here is a 7″ piece of the walnut branch mounted on the lathe between centers ready for roughing.


The branch had just enough moisture content to make the roughing process easy.

Roughing Complete

The timber was brought to round and was fairly well balanced so the speed could be increased significantly.

Turning the Tenon

Next, a tenon was turned to mount the timber in a chuck.

Rounding the Bottom

With the timber mounted in a chuck, the bottom was rounded a bit.

Finishing the Bottom

A cavity was turned in the bottom and a few decorative rings were cut before reversing the timber in the chuck to drill a hole to accept the flower.

Roughing the Shape

With the bottom cavity held in the chuck in expansion mode, the live center was positioned in the flower hole and the shape was roughed out.

Refining the Shape

The shape was refined using spindle gouge.

More Shaping

This is where the vase emerges from the log. I like this part of the process because the vase takes on the personality of the turner.

Turned and Sanded

Satisfied with the shape, the vase was sanded through 600 grit.

Finishing the Vase

High blend friction polish was applied and melted into the timber.

Final Polish

A few coats later, the vase gets it’s final polish.

Completed Bud Vase

Here is the completed bud vase ready to add a flower. I’ll bet Tom didn’t know this beautiful vase was hidden inside the branch!

Circle Cutting Jig

Cutting circles using a bandsaw is easy with a jig designed for the task. There are commercial jigs available and many variations of home made jigs can be found on the Internet. As far as I can tell, my jig is unique in the way it is constructed and uses materials commonly found in lumber and hardware stores. The idea behind all circle cutting jigs is to position the work on a pin at the center of the circle and slide the jig parallel to the cutting blade so that the pin is aligned with the front of the bandsaw teeth. Once in position, the jig must be secured in place and then the work is rotated around the pin until the cut is complete. By adjusting the pin to blade distance, different radii can be cut.  Dimensions for the jig are determined by your bandsaw table.  My jig uses the miter slot in the table.  If your table does not have a miter slot, add left and right side rails to hold the jig parallel to the cutting blade when sliding the jig into position.

Materials for my circle cutting jig are:

  • 3/4″ particle board for the table
  • 3/4″ x 3/8″ plastic miter track insert for table guide
  • T-track for the sliding pin holder
  • T-bolt and thru knob to hold the sliding bar in position
  • Threaded insert and mating knob with bolt to clamp table in position
  • 3/8″ bolt used for adjustable stop when positioning table
  • Misc pieces of hardwood to make stop/clamp assembly
  • 1/8″ diameter steel rod for circle pivot point


Jig Overview

This is a view of the circle cutting jig in position to make a cut. The work must be in place and the bandsaw running before sliding the jig to this position.


Starting with a square blank, the entry cut can be seen on the upper left. Once the jig is in position and secured in place, the work is rotated to complete the circle. The T-bolt used to hold the T-track securely in the dado slot is shown next to the work.

Pin-Blade Position

A dado is cut in the top side of the jig table to accept a T-track held by a T-bolt from the underside. Note that the pin is exactly in line with the front of the teeth when the table is slid into position.

Dado and T-track

A piece of hardwood was cut for a press fit into the end of the T-track. An undersized hole was drilled through the T-track and wood to accept a pin that was also press fit.

Stop clamp assembly

A hardwood block slightly less than the cast iron table thickness was glued and screwed to the jig table. This block was drilled and tapped to accept a 3/8″ bolt that can be adjusted to hit the table for positioning the pin relative to the blade. A hardwood clamp is held to the block using a tapped insert screwed into the block bottom. Note also the plastic piece that rides in the bandsaw table miter slot. It was positioned in a shallow dado and secured in position using countersunk flat head screws from above.

Underside view

This view shows the clamp block assembly in it’s final position. The slight gap between the block and the table is the 3/8″ bolt butting up against the table for fine adjustment.

Underside view 2

Another view of the underside of the jig showing holes drilled in the exact center of the top dado slot allowing the pin to be positioned without any “dead” spots.

Jig in action

My first project for the circle cutting jig was for a semi-circular shelf. This view show the work supported with auxiliary roller stands because the cut had a radius of 20″, far exceeding my bandsaw table.

Completed cut

To be on the safe side, I enlisted the help of Jerry, my neighbor and friend. Jerry helped insure that the work stayed on the pin and that the scrap didn’t hang up on anything as the cut was being made. I think that I can cut these large pieces by myself in the future but it’s always best to be on the safe side when attempting any tricky shop operation especially the first time.

Acorn Lidded Box

One of the great things about wood turning is the variety of things that you can produce on the lathe. Each piece is unique because you, not a computer, control the tool. The way the wood is mounted in relation to the grain determines the tools used to accomplish the task. Lidded boxes are end grain hollowed vessels, typically with tight fitting lids and they can be made in a variety of shapes. I purchased some training DVD’s from Ron Brown whom I have seen on the Woodworking Show tour in Milwaukee. He is an excellent teacher and all around nice guy making a living with a wood lathe. Below are a couple of photos of my first attempt at making an acorn lidded box using Walnut for the nut and Russian Olive for the crown.

Fitting the Lid

The lid is drilled with a Forestner bit so the sides are perfectly parallel. When the nut is hollowed, the lid is fit by creeping up on the tenon until a suction fit is achieved.

A Perfect Fit

The cap fits perfectly so the nut can be parted off.

Completed Acorn

These little acorn boxes are fun and easy to make. Who knows what treasures can be hidden inside?

Captive Ring Tool

There are many ways to cut captive rings and specialty tools are sold to accomplish the task. I decided to make my own captive ring tool from an Allen wrench, the tricky part being the shape of the grind. I tried many different shapes without success before hitting one that worked. The various grinds were tried using a grip lock pliers to hold the wrench while proving the design. I cannot give exact details on the tool other than show you a close up of the cutting edge. The tool is capable of cutting captive rings extremely close to the stem and the under side of the ring is nicely radiused.

Closeup of captive ring tool

Here is the shape of the grind that works excellent as a captive ring cutting tool.

Captive ring tool with handle

The captive ring tool is held in a Maple handle with a copper ferrule.

Captive rings on a goblet

A completed wedding goblet with a couple of captive rings made with the custom tool.

Engagement Goblet

One captive ring, this goblet made of Cherry signifies engagement.

Carter Log Mill

Preparing turning blanks at the band saw from logs can be dangerous because the log wants to roll when the blade enters the timber. I have broken a band saw blade trying to cut a hand held log and fortunately was not injured in the process. Carter Products makes a log mill that I have seen demonstrated at woodworking shows so I decided it was time to invest in another shop item that will help me stay safe. After using it the very first time, I know that it was an excellent choice in terms of quality and safety. Below are some photos showing how the contraption works.

Carter Log Mill

The log is held securely between very sturdy adjustable clamp jaws on a heavy steel fence attached to a base that rides in the miter slot of the band saw table. The length is limited to about 20 inches and the diameter to the height of your band saw.

Log Mill First Cut

Here’s another look at the Log Mill as the first cut is about to be made.

Log Mill first cut completed

As you can see, the first pass yields a perfectly flat surface on the log.

Second pass setup

After the first cut, the flat surface is rotated 90 degrees and is placed against the base of the Log Mill where it is again secured with the clamps.

Second pass completed

After the second pass, you now have a log with two flat surfaces at 90 degrees.

Making blanks

At this point, the Log Mill is no longer needed and the standard band saw fence can be used to safely cut blanks.

More blanks

Bowl and spindle blanks can be made to make the best use of the log.

Completed blanks

The Log Mill shown with some turning blanks cut safely with the device.

George & Stephanie’s Kitchen Remodel

March 30, 2014 marks the day we started cutting wood for the kitchen remodeling project. Oak was selected for the wood to somewhat match all the moulding in the house. Stephanie directed the design phase by establishing storage requirements for her cookware. Additional cabinetry will be added to the kitchen area to increase the overall storage space. We hope you enjoy looking at the progress photos.

Old Cabinets

The existing cabinets had seen better days so it’s time to replace them.


George enjoyed working with Sketchup to design the cabinets, taking into consideration Stephanie’s storage requirements.

Oak Stock

Oak left over from my kitchen remodel project provided material to start the project.

Miter Sawing

Taking measurements from Sketchup and a spreadsheet, a cutlist was prepared. Here George is sizing stock for panel glue-ups.

Sawing to Width

The stock was dimensioned to width at the cabinet saw.

Preparing the Edge

The edges were milled flat at the jointer then milled with a glue joint bit at the router table. This bit provides alignment and more surface area for a superior glue joint.

Panel Glue-up

The panels were glued using a jig designed for the task.


After cutting the pieces to the proper width, they were drum sanded to a uniform thickness.

Dimensioned Lumber

Pieces cut to rough dimension waiting for additional milling and assembly.

Drilling Dowel Holes

The face frame incorporates dowel joinery. Here George is using the Dowelmax jig for precisely locating the holes on the rails and stiles.

Inserting Dowels

Gluing dowels in place for face frame assembly.

Cope Cut

Coping the door rail ends using a coping sled.

Panel Raising

Door panels were milled in about 5 passes. The back cutter was removed to mill the drawer faces.

Cutting Dovetails

Cutting dovetails using a Dovetail Wiz jig on the router table.

Sanding Door Panel

Sanding a door panel

Sanding panel end grain

A Fein Multimaster with sanding attachment makes quick work of sanding difficult end grain on a raised panel.

Gluing a raised panel door

Father teaching son the finer points of gluing up a raised panel door. To avoid confusion, the father is the guy with the gray hair.

Toe kick notches were cut using a jigsaw and temporary fence for alignment.

Toe kick notches were cut using a jigsaw with a temporary fence for alignment.

Sanding a face frame

The face frames were finished sanded to 220 grit.

Carcase glue up

All carcase members were glued together using tongue and groove joinery.

Gluing Carcase

Gluing the cabinet carcase parts to the face frame.

Door Hinges

Drilling the cup hole for European style door hinges.

Drilling Shelf Holes

The holes for the shelves were drilled using a jig.


Stephanie and Grace were a big help with sanding and tacking prior to staining. Here Stephanie is teaching Grace how to tack a piece of moulding.

Spray Finishing

George got an opportunity to apply the Urethane top coat using an Earlex HVLP sprayer.

Drying parts

Every square inch of garage space was utilized for staging and drying parts between coats of finish.


Finally! The cabinets were loaded up in the trailer and transported to George and Stephanie’s house. I get my garage and workshop back and Marilyn gets her craft area back to use on other projects.

Last Look

The old floor was removed and here is one last look at the old base cabinet before demolition.


Stephanie had a blast using a Sawsall to cut through the old counter top.

More Work

You never know what you will find when an old kitchen cabinet is removed. Here we have water damage and a rotten sub-floor. The drywall and sub-floor must be repaired before proceeding with the installation.


George cut out the rotten sub-floor and found leaves and other debris under the floor. He also found bad joists that needed attention.

Repairs Completed

Everything was repaired and re-insulated in preparation for the new sub-floor and drywall.


Installing new drywall.

Everything Patched Up

New drywall and sub-floor ready for sanding and painting.

Install Upper Cabinets

The upper cabinets were installed by finding the high spot on the floor plus 54″ using a self leveling laser. Since the base cabinets with counter top sit 36″ above floor level, the space to the base of the upper cabinets becomes a standard 18″.

Another Upper Cabinet

George attaching the doors to the upper refrigerator cabinet.

Partial Installation

Father and son in front of installed base and upper cabinets. The microwave oven gave us a little problem with door swing interference so we had to move the upper left cabinet over 3/8″ to correct the problem.

Project Complete

A photo of the completed project. George and Stephanie installed a ceramic tile floor by themselves to add the final touch to their kitchen remodel.

Breakfast Bar

After the cabinets were installed, George & Stephanie wanted a breakfast bar so the old man made this cabinet to finish the project. Unfortunately they were only able to enjoy their new kitchen for a short time because they sold their home in 2016. Goodbye cabinets!

Charging Station

Over the years, we have accumulated several electronic devices that require frequent re-charging. My office desk looked like a snake pit with wires lying all over so I decided to make a dedicated charging station that would tidy up the place. The box has a removable top with partitions to hold several devices, the interior fits a couple of power strips and the required transformers, and the box has ventilation to keep everything cool.

Unsightly Wires

The snake pit of wires messing up my office desk.

Box Construction

The back of the box was left open near the top for ventilation. Additional holes were drilled in the sides to facilitate air flow.

Completed Charging Station

Several partitions were glued to the removable top and wires held in place were labeled to avoid confusion.

Completed Charging Station 2

Another view of the charging station with several devices being charged simultaneously.

Gluing Jig

I have made various gluing jigs over the years but never one specifically for pipe clamps. I have several of these versatile clamps but sometimes they are unwieldly because the handles hit the table, they are hard to align and they like to tip over. I saw an article in a magazine about a guy that used broom holders to solve these problems so I made a couple of them with evenly spaced spring clamps and they work like a charm.

Gluing Jig 1

Four foot lengths of plywood and Oak formed the base holding the broom spring clamps. Each rack can be moved to accommodate pipes of varying lengths and the racks can be clamped to the assembly table for stability. The risers are high enough so that the clamp handles do not contact the base.

Gluing Jig 2

The racks clamped in place with a strip of wax paper placed where the glue joint will be located to prevent staining.

Gluing Jig 3

Some strips of Maple and Walnut being clamped together for a cutting board.

Gluing Jig 4

Easily adjustable lengths of the pipe clamps make this jig useful for many gluing projects. When not in use, the racks can be stored with a minimum of space.

Kitchen Backsplash

After the kitchen remodeling was completed, Marilyn wanted a backsplash behind the stove and stove counter tops. Off to The Tile Shop to learn all about tiling.  They have an enormous selection of tiles in a wide variety of materials and all of the stuff to make them stick to the wall.  They also have free “how to” classes every Saturday at 9:30 AM.  We selected natural stone tiles and with some design help, we created our own focal point using a smaller tile pattern surrounded by double pencil tiles.  I like the new look and it adds a touch of class to a successful kitchen renovation.



I drew up the layout using Sketchup to help visualize the pattern scheme. Here we are laying out the tiles according to the plan.

Wet Sawing

The part I hated most was wet sawing the tiles because it’s messy and we had to do it indoors since it was sub-zero outside. The splatter was fairly well contained with plastic sheeting. A friend lent us his wet saw so we didn’t have to rent or buy one. I figured that I could do all the sawing in two days but it took closer to four without rushing the project.

Final Layout

The final layout with the focal point cut. The reason the wet sawing took so long is because there were a lot of picky cuts.

Protecting the counter tops

The counter tops were masked, then a layer of plastic followed by a layer of red resin paper. The floor between the counters was protected as well.

Closeup of Focal Point

The focal point is cut and ready for installation. A ledger board was attached to the wall for the bottom pencils to rest upon.

Installing the focal point

Installing the focal point using thinset morter.

Focal point installed

The focal point went up smoothly and we let it dry overnight before installing the larger tiles.

Installing large tiles

Installing the larger tiles.

Tile installation completed

It was a lot of work but well worth the effort! We let the tiles dry for two days before grouting.

Sponging the grout

After grouting, the excess material was removed with a damp sponge. Several wipings were necessary to adequately clean the tiles and level the grout below the surface of the tiles. The grout will cure for three days before applying a sealer.

Completed Kitchen Project

View of the completed project with the appliances moved into position.

Tormek – First Impressions

Before I purchased the Tormek T7, I studied YouTube and manufacturer videos, read discussion forums, looked at PDF documents and the like to be certain that I wanted to make a significant investment to have sharp tools. I have enough experience with my wood lathe to know the importance of sharp, reproducible gouges, skews, parting tools and scrapers. Prior to the Tormek, I used One Way’s Wolverine sharpening jigs and have to say that they work extremely well for obtaining edges off a dry grinder. Since my tools were initially shaped on a dry grinder, I decided to get Tormek’s BGM-100 universal mount for the dry grinder to take the burden of shaping off the Tormek’s grindstone. If anyone is considering the Tormek system, I highly recommend that you do the same because Tormek excels at sharpening but is very slow at shaping.

The following photos show how I did with an old, cheap wood chisel that I used to practice. I didn’t have the BGM-100 for the grinder yet so the shaping was done on the Tormek and although the chisel was close to the proper angle, it was painfully slow to bring it into spec. Several Tormek website forum participants made comments about having difficulty with one or more aspects of using the Tormek but my impression is that anyone can successfully use it if they have any experience with sharpening.

Beat up chisel

Old, cheap chisel that has been abused.

Flattening Back Side

The back side of the chisel was flattened against the side of the stone. It takes some re-positioning to get the feel of where to hold the chisel and at what angle to the axis of the stone.

Grading the stone

The stone was first trued using the diamond then graded with the roughing stone to obtain sharp granules.

Setting the sharpening angle

Tormek uses specialty gauges to set grinding angles. The ability to replicate is one of their strong points.

Holding the chisel

Tools are held in a variety of holders depending on the size and shape. The holders work with the universal support to present the tool to the stone in a controlled manner.


Sharpening the chisel with significant direct pressure applied near the edge being ground. There was absolutely no heat detected with the water drenched stone.


After the edge was defined, the front and back sides were honed with the leather wheel.

Chisel backside

Following honing, the back side of the chisel looked like a mirror.

Chisel top

The top side of the chisel after honing. With some shaping, grading and sharpening, my first attempt took about an hour. I learned that shaping is best done on a dry grinder with the final edge left to the Tormek. Is it sharp? Like a razor! I sharpened 7 more wood chisels and built a storage box because with edges this keen, I didn’t want the chisels to contact one another like they do if thrown in a drawer.

Table Saw Modification for Zero Clearance Inserts

My cabinet saw’s stock inserts are metal castings with 4 set screws used for leveling the insert with the top. I like to make my own Zero Clearance Inserts (ZCI) made from 1/2″ thick MDF which rests a tad below the surface of the table when resting on the tabs supporting the insert. I made a ZCI and copied the hole pattern which meant that it must be leveled the same as the stock inserts so when it comes time to change it, I need to go through the leveling process with each new replacement ZCI. This is a pain in the butt! Why not level once and be done with it? My solution was to drill & tap set screw holes in the tabs supporting the insert and locate them so that they wouldn’t interfere with the stock inserts. It works just great and making new ZCI’s is a lot easier because there are 4 less holes that need to be drilled.


This is what the stock insert looks like on the reverse side. The set screws rest on the tabs which are part of the table saw’s cast iron top.


The tabs were large enough to locate 10-32 set screws without interfering with the stock insert leveling screws.


Here’s a closer look at where the hole was drilled and tapped. You can see the wear spot where the stock insert leveling screws rest.

stock and new ZCI

Here’s a look at the underside of the stock insert and the new ZCI without leveling screws.

Sawing the ZCI slot

Here’s a neat trick for safely drilling the slot for a new ZCI. Rest the new ZCI on spacers so that the insert is a few thousandths below the surface, clamp it in place (here I’m using a feather board), turn on the saw and raise the blade through the new insert. I had to extend the slot to the rear using a scroll saw to accommodate a riving knife. This method works much better than lowering a new ZCI onto a spinning blade.

Kitchen Remodel – The Details

It’s been nearly a year since I began the design phase of our kitchen remodel project. The summer was consumed with cabinet construction and finishing and the fall was spent doing demolition, reconstruction and shopping for floors, counter tops, lights, plumbing fixtures, and hardware. With any large scale project, you run into surprises that must be addressed if the job is to be done correctly and this project was no exception. I ran into rotten drywall, squeaky floors, and ventilation issues. Speaking of drywall, if I never hang another piece, it will not break my heart. It seems that gravity kept throwing drywall mud in my hair and on my face, not to mention a few pounds on the floor. Grossly uneven 2×4’s meant elevation mismatches that required shimming and multiple coats of mud to even out. Despite sectioning off the kitchen from the rest of the house with plastic sheeting, drywall dust is everywhere.

Another observation is that everything is connected to something else. Translation – where does the project end? We realized that the carpeting in the adjacent family room looked crappy next to the new kitchen floor so we decided to replace it even though it’s not technically part of the kitchen. Oh no, the hallway carpet needs to be changed as well because it matches the family room carpeting. The family room walls need repair and re-painting, but that’s for another time, we had to stop somewhere. So here are a lot of pictures detailing the largest project we have ever attempted. Overall, it turned out quite nicely and we saved tens of thousands of dollars doing the cabinetry, demolition and construction ourselves.

I will be adding more pictures to this post as the project unfolds so stay tuned for more!

Beginning point

Where to start? In the corner by the patio door! Out you faded, sun burnt floor. I decided to rip out the entire old floor including the luan because I did not want to change the elevation when the new floor was installed.

Floor removal

Here’s how the floor removal proceeded.

Pulling staples

The old luan was held down with 8 billion staples which Marilyn meticulously pulled.

Old cabinets

The old cabinets had seen better days and the uppers were hung below a soffit. Ugly dated Z Brick was applied to the walls which meant that they too must be removed.

Kitchen ventilation

The ceiling had a ventilation fan which served as a makeshift cooking hood. The new plan called for a real hood above the stove so it had to be removed.

Removing the old uppers

It was fun getting rid of the old cabinets but I was not looking forward to dealing with the walls.

Removing uppers above the sink

Across the room, more upper cabinets were hung from a soffit above the sink. The plan called for complete removal of the cabinets to open up the space leading to the family room.

More upper removal

The upper cabinets came out fairly nicely but the drywall underneath suffered water damage from a leaky roof so it all had to be removed.

Drywall removal

The old soffit needed extensive repair. The old drywall had to be removed.

Drywall removal 2

Down to the insulation. It was an extremely messy job because the attic insulation was revealed. Luckily it stayed in place long enough to staple new insulation below it.

New insulation

New insulation was pushed into the rafters and secured with staples preventing the existing insulation from falling down.

Wall demolition

Back on the other side of the room, Marilyn was removing the old wall behind the stove.

Goodby Z Brick

Marilyn holding a portion of the old Z Brick to which she bid a not so fond farewell.

Soffit removal

Mark went after the old soffit with a Sawsall. Lots of fun!

Insulation removal

Not so much fun was removing the old insulation contained in the soffit.

Insulation mess

Much of the old insulation fell to the floor when the soffit was removed.

View into the attic

Some of the old insulation stayed in place between the rafters but some fell through revealing a look into the attic. Cold air was pouring in so the holes needed immediate re-insulation.


New insulation was stapled into place keeping the cold air in the attic where it belongs.

Island counter removal

Back on the other side of the room, the island sink counter gets it’s first cut in the removal process

Goodbye plumbing

We are now without a kitchen sink because the plumbing has been removed.

Island cabinet gone

A dramatic change in appearance without the kitchen island cabinet.

20 Yard Roll-off

We rented a 20 yard roll-off for the debris and literally filled it up to the brim. It saved a lot of effort because I didn’t have to cut the old cabinets into small pieces. We struggled with the old cast iron sink because lifting it over the top edge tested our strength to it’s limits.

Drywall 1

Not exactly in sequence, the following couple of photos show the fun we had with drywall, NOT!

Drywall 2

Taping and mudding seams.

Drywall 3

Overhead mudding. Now I know how the expression “Here’s mud in your eye” originated.

Drywall 4

Taping, mudding, sanding, sanding, sanding, sanding, remudding, sanding, sanding, sanding, etc.

Drywall 5

Starting to look like a wall!


After the drywall was completed, the ceiling and room were primed and painted. We had the ceiling paint tinted to the same color as the walls but a lighter tone.

Cabinet Assembly

Meanwhile, the cabinet carcasses were being glued up.

Cabinet Drawer Slides

Hettich self close, soft close, full extension drawer slides rated at 100 pounds were installed in the cabinets. Marilyn wanted all drawers in the lower cabinets instead of doors for ease of access to her kitchen stuff. 14 drawers total were constructed in the three lower cabinets.

Stove Cabinets

Here are the two cabinets on either side of the stove fully assembled awaiting installation.

Finishing the doors

The 8 doors for the upper cabinets and the 2 below the sink were stained and finished with three coats of polyurethane applied by HVLP. There was still a lot of hand sanding between coats but spraying saved an enormous amount of time and provided a superior finish.

Drawer finishing

The drawers were finished with 2 coats of lacquer applied by HVLP.


Because the weather was turning cold, the doors were carried indoors to dry between coats. It was challenging just moving around without tripping.

Upper Face Frame

The upper face frame was constructed in the garage because there wasn’t enough space in the basement for an object this large. I wanted the upper cabinets to be a single unit to give the completed project a built-in look.

Face frame sanding

We took every advantage of the weather to sand and finish outdoors.

Upper Face Frame Storage

The upper face frame was nearly 12 feet long so we had to store it in our hallway before attaching the carcase.

New Flooring

The old floor was completely removed in order to fix squeaks and preserve the elevation. Here new luan is being installed.

Leveling the luan

After stapling the luan to the subfloor, the floor was leveled similar to the way drywall is mudded and sanded.

New vinyl rollout

Rolling out our new vinyl floor.

New floor installed

The new floor installed and drying overnight to seal the seam. The color of the floor was chosen to compliment the cabinets, counter tops, stainless steel appliances, carpeting and wall color. This gave the kitchen a completely new look!

Sink Cabinet Assembly

Due to it’s size, the sink cabinet had to be assembled near it’s final position.

New Sink Island Assembly

Another sink cabinet assembly photo. Although it’s one piece, the side facing the family room is a book case.

Completed Sink Cabinet Carcase

The sink cabinet as it appears from the family room. Raised panels similar to the doors were incorporated into the design of the cabinet side. The cutout is for an electrical outlet.

Upper Cabinet Assembly

Like the sink cabinet, the upper cabinet carcase had to be assembled in the family room because of it’s size. Although I don’t have any photos of the installation, my son George and his friend Ron lifted the completed assembly unto cleats attached to the wall and held it in place while I drove screws through the nail rail into wall studs securing the cabinet.

Test Fitting the Upper Cabinet

The upper cabinet had to fit between a wall and a chimney chase. The right stile was left off the assembly in order to fit and scribe to the final size. Notice the temporary cleats attached to the wall holding up the cabinet. This line is exactly 54″ above the highest point on the floor as determined by a story stick and a self leveling laser. Once this line is established, all other cabinets are leveled and after the counter top is installed, the distance between the upper and lower cabinets is a standard 18″.

Door Hinges

Blum bluemotion soft close European style hinges were selected for all the doors.

Door Hinges 2

Each door needed only two hinges despite the fact that the large doors were 41″ in length.

Installing the cabinets

Here’s a nice picture of my butt as I’m doing some work leveling the cabinets and getting the anti-tip bracket installed for the stove. As you can see, a new Broan hood was installed into the cavity of the upper cabinets above the stove. The hood is ducted outdoors which required several trips into the attic.

Completed Kitchen Project

View of the completed project. The last step was the natural stone backsplash.

Cutting Board

My favorite sister is moving to Henderson, NV so I wanted to give her a little gift with a Southwestern design. Using Lamination Pro software, I made a design using white maple, walnut and blood wood. The software is amazing and allows designs up to 5 generations. The strips were cut and glued together to form the initial lamination which was then cut into strips and every other one was flipped and re-glued to form the first generation. This assembly was cut 9 times lengthwise down the center into eight 1/8″ strips which were flipped to form the Southwest design. All of the pieces were re-glued, sanded flat, trimmed square and a 1/8″ walnut border was glued on and again trimmed square before adding the maple outer border. After the glue dried, the assembly was again sanded flat and the hand hole was cut and the edges were routed with a quarter round bit. Butcher block oil was used as the finish.

Starting Point

Strips of maple, walnut and blood wood were cut to specific widths and glued to form the initial lamination.

Sanding Flat

Several times throughout this project my drum sander was invaluable. Here the initial lamination was sanded flat in preparation for subsequent steps.

Laminate Cut

The lamination was cut into strips at a specific angle to make pieces for the first generation assembly.

First Generation Pieces

Here you can see the pieces cut from the lamination and the design effect by flipping every other piece.

Gluing Jig

Aligning the pieces during the gluing process is critical to the quality of the finished design. I made a gluing jig to help me keep things from moving around when clamp pressure is applied.

First Generation Cut

The first generation cut must me made perfectly down the center.

First Cut Completed

Looking good! The first cut was perfectly centered.

Alternate Design

It’s fun to play with the pieces. Here a slide of 1/2 unit pops a diamond pattern into view. This was not my plan so onto the next step.

Cutting the 1/8" Strips

You can see how close the blade is to the fence for the 8 pieces that must be cut for the design.

Pust Block

I made a sacrificial push block for the narrow strip cuts to be safely made on the table saw.

Design Assembly

The gluing jig was used for the sub-assemblies of the Southwest design.

Final Design Emerges

Here’s what the final design looks like before being sanded flat and trimmed to accept the outside borders.

Completed Assembly

The borders were added and the hand hole was machined. All edges were eased with a quarter round bit on the router table.

Finish Applied

The cutting board was sanded to 320 grit and butcher block oil was applied for the finish.

Happy Sister

Ginni was pleased with the gift as I gave her a farewell kiss.

Machining Dovetails

I wanted half blind dovetails for my kitchen drawers because they convey craftsmanship in addition to being a solid joint. Every time I use the Porter Cable dovetail jig, I have to check the manual because setup and orientation are critical for success. Once I have cut a few, orientation becomes second nature and the project proceeds smoothly. I constructed a total of 14 drawers of varying sizes for the kitchen cabinets and at the end of the process, I was glad to put the jig back on the shelf.

Positioned for Cutting Dovetails

The drawer fronts and backs are positioned horizontally on top of the jig and the drawer sides are in the clamp positioned vertically. The pieces are offset by a stop so they go together properly after routing the dovetails.

After the Cut

Here is what the dovetails look like after the routing operation has been completed.

Cutting Dovetails View 1

Cutting Dovetails View 1

Cutting Dovetails View 2

Cutting Dovetails View 2

Cutting Dovetails View 3

Cutting Dovetails View 3

14 Drawers

Here is the stack of drawers dry assembled to test the fit. The next steps are cutting the dado to accept the drawer bottom and machining slots and holes for the under drawer full extension soft close slides.

Pin or Tail? Identifying Dovetails

Call me slow but it took a long time for me to figure out the difference between a “pin” and a “tail” when looking at half blind dovetails.  When I look at the outside corner of a drawer, the pins and tails look identical in shape, so which is which?  After years of study, I now understand the difference and I want to share my knowledge with my website visitors.  I use a Porter-Cable 4216 Dovetail Jig and the drawer fronts and backs (pin boards) are always positioned in the top clamp horizontally.  The drawer sides (tail boards) are always positioned in the side clamp vertically which means that the tails are cut completely through the board (duh!).  Other ways to identify the pins from the tails are shown below.


Looking at the corner of a drawer, the shape of the pins and tails are identical so which is which?

Pin - Tail Identification

Looking at the dovetail cuts from the inside surface reveals the difference between the pins and tails. The pin cuts are blind and have parallel sides. The tail cuts go through the board and have the dovetail shape.