The Do-It-All Dovetail Jig
JIGS FOR PRODUCING HALF-BLIND DOVETAILS DOMINATED the market in 1984, when Leigh Industries D1258 jig was introduced. The D1258 was a winner for two reasons. First, it created dovetails that looked hand cut, because they could be variably spaced—and it created them in a fraction of the time that hand-dovetailing would require. Second, in addition to half-blind dovetails, the D1258 could create sliding dovetails and through dovetails in stock up to 1-1/4" thick and 24" wide. In short, the D1258 could do it all.
Hand-cut dovetails are the ultimate sign of craftsmanship, but not every woodworker has the time or inclination to produce them. The Leigh D1258 and its successors (including the current D4R Pro and do-it-all type jigs produced by other manufacturers), allow woodworkers of all stripes to create dovetails with the same pleasing appearance, precision and structural integrity as dovetails that have been cut by hand.
To read about other dovetailing jigs and to see a classic blanket chest built with a Leigh dovetailing jig, visit AmericanWoodworker.com/WebExtras
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micron can be found on even the lowest priced dust collectors, and newly designed compact collectors provide state-of-the-art performance for small shops.
Even the humble shop vacuum has evolved. Some are now specifically designed to extract the fine dust from sanders and other portable power tools. Given their compact size, reasonable price, and benefits to shop and health, it's easy to see why many woodworkers have moved a dust collector to the top of their "must buy'list.
Effective Dust Collection managing sawdust has been important ever since woodworkers moved inside, and especially since the invention of power tools. The development of portable dust collectors in the early 1980s provided an attractive alternative to the traditional dustpan and broom. These early collectors were great for sucking up chips and shavings directly from the source, but they weren't so adept at capturing tiny dust particles, which are the most hazardous.
Today, filter bags capable of capturing particles as small as one
TheT-styleTablesaw Fence it's hard to imagine a tablesaw without a t-style fence.
And yet, 25 years ago, most saws were saddled with fences that were cumbersome to adjust, because they had to lock at both ends of the fence arm to stay in position. They weren't always accurate, either, so you had to keep a ruler handy.
In 1978, Bill Biesemeyer had a better idea: a fence based on a draftsman's T-square. Its head would be long enough to contain both locking points, so only one rail (of square tubing) would be necessary, and the arm, rigidly attached to the head, would be free to float across the saw table. The fence could be calibrated to the blade by a tape measure scale attached to the rail, with repeatable accuracy to 1 /64". Adjusting the fence would be as easy as lifting the lock lever and sliding the head along the rail.
Biesemeyer's fence gained national recognition in 1982 by winning the IWF Challengers Award. Six years later, Biesemeyer fences were available on Powermatic's iconic Model 66 tablesaws. Delta acquired Biesemeyer's T-Square system in 1995. And today, smooth-gliding, precisely setting, easy-locking T-style fences are the industry standard.
The Cordless Drill here's how to start a revolution: Just CUt the COrd! Battery-powered drills may be the most significant innovation of them all, because they paved the way for an entirely new class of woodworking tools that includes everything from circular saws to brad nailers.
The first cordless drills (from the late 70s and early 80s) offered limited power, ran down quickly, and were slow to recharge—but they sure were handy to have! Today's lithium-ion-powered drill-drivers are lightweight, compact, and powerful, and they come in sizes and variations for virtually every drilling and driving task, including screwdrivers, impact drivers and hammer drills.
With the improvement of battery technology, the need to keep a corded drill handy has virtually disappeared. Amazon.com currently lists nearly 200 cordless drills, with prices starting under $20. Does any modern shop not have at least one?
Routers and Accessories twenty-five years ago. many woodworkers did just fine without a router. In those days, routers were primarily used to create edge profiles, and having a router that could plunge mortises was a luxury. Today, routers are essential tools in virtually every shop.
The main reason for the router's enormous popularity is its versatility. Routers are available in all sizes and they're complemented by a huge selection of bits, jigs, router tables and joint-making machines. You can take a router to the work, or install it in a table and bring the work to it. Use the smallest router to trim laminate or round over sharp edges; use the largest router to raise entry-door panels or create architectural moldings. Turners mount routers on lathes, to create flutes and spirals. CNC machines depend on routers to make every cut.
In a small shop, a single mid-size router can be used for template routing, plunge routing, and inlay work; to create edge profiles, picture frames and cabinet moldings; and to complete complex woodworking joints such as lock miters, dovetails, mortises, tenons, and stiles and rails. No other woodworking tool, even at twice the price, can do half as much.
To see an easy-to-make fully-featured router table, visit AmericanWoodworker.com/WebExtras
The Sliding Compound Miter Saw when the first sliding miter saw appeared in 1988, the radial arm saw took a back seat. That first slider combined the convenience and accuracy of a motorized miter saw with the crosscutting capability of a radial arm saw. Its ability to cut from the top of the board improved safety and its innovative slide mechanism permitted ample cutting capacity with less travel than a radial arm saw required.
Today's sliders make simple and compound cuts well beyond 45' in both directions and provide 12" crosscut capacity for stock that's well over 2" thick. The best models feature user-friendly controls, easy-to-read scales, and automatic blade guards that completely enclose the blade. Compact front-to-back footprints require less space behind the saw, a consideration when space is an issue.
Sliders are portable, so they don't require permanent shop space. However, many woodworkers build dedicated stands with fences and support for long stock, to maximize their saw's efficiency. Several manufacturers offer stands that provide support, roll to a jobsite, and collapse for storage. Given the accuracy and portability of sliding miter saws, it's no wonder the radial arm saw is now virtually obsolete.
eTo see a do-everything miter saw stand, check out AmericanWoodworker.com/WebExtras
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The Small Lathe
BENCHTOP WOOD LATHES HAVE BEEN AROUND FOREVER, but in 1986, Bonnie Klein's mini lathe started a trend. Designed to create jewelry and other small turned objects, it was compact and portable. Suddenly, turning wood didn't require a large, expensive piece of machinery. Heck, it didn't even require a shop. The notion of creating interesting items on a tiny, affordable lathe kindled new interest in woodturning, and when pen-turning kits were introduced in the late 1980s, mini lathes really took off. According to industry sources, there are currently tens of thousands of active pen turners in the U.S.
The latest trend is for greater capacity, to allow turning bowls and vessels up to 12" in diameter in addition to pens and other small objects. So, most mini lathes have bulked up. These new "midi" lathes typically feature cast iron construction, increased swing capacity, induction motors and electronic variable speed. Bed extensions can be added to many of these lathes, giving them the spindle capacity of a full-size machine.
By combining portability, ample capacity and low cost with the chance to complete cool-
looking projects in a day or less, today's small lathes offer a tempting opportunity to add woodturning to your woodworking skills.
OTo see a workshop dedicated to pen turning, visit AmericanWoodworker.com/WebExtras
Abrasive disc system
Abrasive disc system
WATER STONES FIRST GAINED NATIONAL ATTENTION in the early 1980s, when they were featured in Popular Science magazine. Before then, sharpening chisels and plane irons was a time-consuming process. Manufactured by combining abrasives with a binder (usually clay) to create a porous, friable surface, water stones simplify sharpening by cutting much faster than oil stones.
In 1972, Sweden's Torgny Jansson pioneered sharpening systems by combining an electric drill, a water-cooled grindstone and a simple speed-reduction mechanism to create the first Tormek slow-speed wet grinder. With the introduction of an electrically-powered version in 1994, Tormek's slow-speed wet-grinding system simplified sharpening for woodworkers of any skill level, and its success has spawned a number of similar designs.
The newest sharpening systems eliminate the stone altogether, in favor of abrasive discs. Like slow-speed wet grinders, these systems make sharpening easy. The big difference is that these abrasive disc systems create keen edges significantly faster.
For sharpening tips, reviews of abrasive disc and wet grinding sharpening systems, and to browse a huge selection of water stones and power sharpening machines visit AmericanWoodworker.com/WebExtras
THERE'S NO DENYING THE ENDURING APPEAL OF TRADITIONAL JOINERY, such as draw-pinned mortise-and-tenon joints. First developed for utilitarian purposes, these joints eventually became symbols of expert craftsmanship. While machines have replaced most of the handwork, traditional joinery still governs most furniture construction.
But the times are a-changin', thanks to innovative new joinery methods. Lamello's compressed wood biscuit and biscuit joiner revolutionized building with plywood in the late 1960s. But it wasn't until twenty years later that low-cost biscuit joiners made the technology widely available to woodworkers. At about tn the same time, in 1986, the Kreg Jig was introduced. This tool simplified pocket screw joinery and made it available and affordable to all woodworkers. The most recent addition to the "new joinery" group came just five years ago with the introduction of Festool's Domino system, which combines many of the benefits of dowel, loose tenon and biscuit joints.
While traditional joinery isn't going away, in many situations, these new methods provide useful and practical
Domino alternatives. We'd love to be around 100 years from now, to report how the innovative new quantum mortiser will surely replace the old-fashioned laser mortiser that has been a shop mainstay since the 2050s.
REGULATIONS LIMITING VOC (VOLATILE ORGANIC COMPOUND) EMISSIONS FIRST APPEARED ABOUT 20 YEARS AGO. Finishing companies responded with the introduction of water-based finishes, which are complex emulsions of solvent-based resins, water and other chemicals that make the oil and water "get along." These new finishes proved convenient for their soap-and-water clean up, quick recoat time and low odor.
Woodworkers, however, gave them mixed reviews. Typical concerns were that early water-based finishes were less durable and failed to impart the amber color characteristic of most solvent-based finishes. Finishing companies were listening though, and have continued to improve the working characteristics of their water-based finishes to more closely match solvent-based finishes. In fact, they've made huge strides. Durability is up and amber-toned water-based finishes are now available. Sand-ability, another concern, has also improved. As a result, the newest water-based finishes work well for all but the most demanding applications.
The availability of solvent-based finishes has already been restricted in some states and VOC regulations are likely to become increasingly strict. That means it's a good idea to try out the newest water-based finishes and tell the manufacturers what you like and dislike. Your input will lead to even better finishing products.
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