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The Milescraft pantograph is primarily designed for making signs and plaques. You can trace anything on a printed page and reduce it by 40,50 or 60%.

A pantograph is a simple device. The sign is wedged between two alignment boards.The stylus Is connected to a pivoting frame that carries the router.The router copies your movements.

In addition to letters, you can copy drawings and images-anything that you can print out from a computer or draw freehand.

The pantograph can make a sign that's quite large. Begin by taping together individual sheets of paper to create the full pattern.

It's simple-well, almost

The Milescraft Router Pantograph incorporates a universal base that secures the router with two clamps, and is sized to fit most routers up to 3 hp. In addition to your router, you're going to need a work surface [I used a 2 x 4' sheet of plywood) and two additional alignment boards (Photo 1) to hold the signboard in place.These boards should be no thicker than your sign, so the router's base doesn't bump into them.

The pantograph reduces your image by 40,50 or 60% (Photo 2). I wondered why It wasn't set up to make a full-size copy, but I discovered the answer when I started to use it.Starting with a larger image on paper gives you more control over routing a sign's details. Using a 50% reduction, for example, means that when you move the stylus 1",the router only moves 1/2".Pin-point control really comes in handy when routing complicated images, rather than just letters (Photo 3).

To make a sign of a particular size, it's best to use the 50% setting. It keeps the math simple, since your pattern will be twice the size of your routed design.

What wood? What bit?

It wasn't a big surprise, but I found that the type of wood I used made a big difference in the sign's quality. Some woods, like fir, chipped out quite a lot, while others, such as maple, cut quite cleanly. I used MDF for practice. While it required very little physical effort to rout, it wasn't an ideal material. Small, non-routed portions of letters (like the inside of an O) tended to chip out, MDF is fine for a sign with large elements, though.

I had a lot of fun experimenting with bits. I started with a 1/4" straight bit, but I also tried V-groove bits, core box bits and straight bits of various diameters. All worked fine, but made very different-looking signs.

Setting the right depth for the router bit is crucial. Like many other woodworking lessons, I found this out the hard way. Set the bit too deep, and you end up routing holes through your sign.i did this by accident once, and when I got through kicking myself, I thought- this might actually make an interesting design!The ideal depth, though, is about the same as the bit's diameter. If you're using a 1/8" bit, for example, the depth-of-cut should be no more than 1/8"

Alignment counts

There are three rods on the pantograph that contact the work surface:

www. Ă„mericanWoodwo October/ November 2009

To rout a wide sign, you'll need to reposition your board and pattern after every few letters.To make the change, stop at a corner of a letter and turn off the router.

Next, remove the wedges that hold the sign in place. Move the router and sign together, to the left, by sliding them along the top alignment board.The stylus follows along.

Wedge the sign in place again, then move the pattern so the corner of the letter you selected falls under the new position of the stylus. Keep the sign and pattern parallel to each other.

After routing, spray paint the entire sign.Then run the board through a planer or over a jointer to remove the paint from the board's surface.This really makes the lettering stand out.

the stylus, a fixed pivot and a moving pivot (Photo 1), You'll need to adjust the height of all three bolts so that the router's base sits flat on the sign. If ail your signs are the same thickness-no problem, it's a one-shot deal. If your signs vary in thickness,you'll need to adjust these bolts each time. In addition, the router needs to be in line with the fixed pivot point and the stylus.

While these alignments don't have to be spot-on for the pantograph to work, accuracy does make a difference.The better the alignment, the truer your final product will be to the original image.

Centering the words or image on a sign proved to be a challenge.To be honest, the first few signs I made were a bit lopsided, with unequal margins. I fixed them on the tablesaw, by taking a bit off one edge and one side. Eventually, I found it best to position the sign so the router begins in the sign's center, and then center the paper pattern under the stylus.

Be creative!

Don't hesitate to tackle a sign that's larger than an 8-1 /2" x 11" sheet of paper.The Milescraft pantograph is versatile enough to handle a sign of virtually any size. 1 tried making a long sign, for example, by taping together two 11" x 17" sheets of paper (Photo 4). It took a while to figure out how to shift the paper image and sign as I went along, but it worked just fine (Photos 5-7).

Materials for making paper patterns are everywhere: magazines, newspapers, clip art, computer fonts-even your own sketches. Kid's coloring books, which are full of simple, oversize line drawings, are a gold mine. Whatever the source, the trick is to remember that the image you trace needs to be larger than the final sign. While a plain old routed piece of wood doesn't look like much, when you add paint (Photo 8), it can look great!

The bottom line

After a couple of trial runs, I felt pretty confident using the pantograph. 1 got it; it's a simple mechanical device, not an electronic black box. You'll probably start out copying just a few words, as I did, but I bet you'll soon want to tackle intricate designs- they're definitely more fun. Sure, you'll never be as fast or as precise as a CNC, but a sign that shows the hand of the maker is fine by me.

Source: Milescraft,, (847) 683-9200, 3D Pantograph, #1298, $49.99, octodes/novembeb j o o 9 www. Americ an Woodworker, com 31

Sand lightly, using fine paper, a soft block and very little pressure. Although the goal is to remove the raised grain from the damaged area, it's Important to sand the entire surface to maintain consistency.

WATERING A POTTED PLANT CAN BE DISASTROUS if the plant lives on top of something made out of wood. We've all seen the white spots and black rings that can result when water seeps through the pot. And if you've ever tried to sand out these marks, you know it's a tough job that can leave telltale depressions on the surface. Fortunately, in many cases, this type of damage can be almost magically undone by treating the wood's surface with oxalic acid.

Oxalic acid removes the gray color from oxidized wood, without changing the wood's natural color. That's why it's commonly used as the active ingredient in deck cleaners, and why restorers use it to remove gray or black water stains on furniture (see"Oxalic Acid Undoes Rust," below, right). Oxalic acid is also used In some household cleaning products for removing hard water stains, and it has many industrial uses as well. Although it is found as a natural ingredient in some vegetables (spinach and rhubarb), oxalic acid is quite toxic if ingested in concentrated form.

Identify the stains

Every finish repair job is unique, of course, so the first step is to thoroughly examine the problem.The chest lid shown here has both whitish marks (also called blushing or bloom),and dark gray and black discolorations.White marks are usually in the finish; dark discolorations from water indicate more significant damage, because they're down in the wood.

To help formulate a plan to repair this finish, I dampened the entire lid with mineral spirits (paint thinner),This testing method is useful anytime you want to look closely at either old dry finish or bare wood.The look of the paint thinner-dampened surface is similar to how it would look if shellac or a clear oil based finish were applied. In this case, dampening the surface makes the whitish marks temporarily dis-

Start by thoroughly cleaning the surface. First, wipe it down with mineral spirits, to remove polish and other crud that's greasy or waxy. Mineral spirits also shows what the damaged areas will look like with a clear finish applied.

When the mineral spirits has evaporated, complete the cleaning process by wiping the surface with soap and water, using a soft cloth, to remove water-soluble residue, Allow the surface to dry completely.

Sand lightly, using fine paper, a soft block and very little pressure. Although the goal is to remove the raised grain from the damaged area, it's Important to sand the entire surface to maintain consistency.

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Wood Working for Amateur Craftsman

Wood Working for Amateur Craftsman

THIS book is one of the series of Handbooks on industrial subjects being published by the Popular Mechanics Company. Like Popular Mechanics Magazine, and like the other books in this series, it is written so you can understand it. The purpose of Popular Mechanics Handbooks is to supply a growing demand for high-class, up-to-date and accurate text-books, suitable for home study as well as for class use, on all mechanical subjects. The textand illustrations, in each instance, have been prepared expressly for this series by well known experts, and revised by the editor of Popular Mechanics.

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