Sunday, February 24, 2013

Drill baby, DRILL!

I am a hybrid woodworker.  I love hand tools, but I recognize the speed and convenience of power tools for certain uses.  For instance, this is my drill press.  Its nothing special.  I bought it used 2 or 3 years ago and I use it almost every time I step foot in the shop.  It is a work horse.  I use it for simple drilling, clearing out waste for mortises, and I have a couple sanding drums that I use all the time.

This is the table that came with the press.  The previous owner made it for this drill press.  It is pretty crude and simple, but it has come in handy for the most part.  However, it has a lot of shortcomings as well.  It really isn't very well made.  It isn't flat.  It does not have a fence or any good way to hold down work other than digging out some F or C clamps, which is cumbersome.

With this design, the back of the table comes right in line with the crank to raise or lower the table.  I have made crude attempts to modify it to make clearance for my knuckles, but never could remove enough material to make it clear my hand.  I can't tell you how many times I have cussed this thing after busting a knuckle.

This is the underside of the table.  As you can see, the previous owner cut the profile of the metal table in bottom layer of plywood and this is the primary method to secure the table to the metal table.  It is pretty rough and not all that tight fitting.  So usually what happens is it will move when I am using the drill press.  And I have scrapped many pieces after drilling in the wrong location because the table moved on me.  I think the previous owner wanted something quick and dirty and this is what he came up with.  I am glad he did, because it has been somewhat useful for the last few years, but it is way past time to upgrade.

So thinking about a new table, one of the things I decided I wanted was a way to hook up my shop vac to minimize dust while using the sanding drums.  I really like to use the drums for rough sanding and shaping small parts.  But as you know, sanding creates very fine dust that is not good for the lungs.  So my thought was that I could not simply bolt a new table to this metal table, because there was no air passage with that method.  I needed to create a sub-structure to raise the new table up and create an airway for the shop vac.  I used some scrap maple and created this simple "box" to sit on the metal table.  After removing about a quarter inch of material where the box contacts the table and cleaning up with chisels, the box sits tight and level and FLAT.

A couple bolts through the box and the metal table secure it nicely.  I then added a couple small pieces of quarter inch plywood to the bottom, secured with screws, sealing off the sub-structure.  Next, the hole for the shop vac attachment is cut and it is attached with some small bolts.

I am already a happy camper because my knuckles clear it just fine.  So the idea I have here is that the new table will fit snugly right over this sub-structure.  Also, I added two threaded inserts, one on each side, to help secure the table down to the sub-structure and keep it from moving.  Now it is time to build the new table.

Fast forward, and here it is!  So the table is 3 pieces of 3/4" birch plywood glued together.  Yes, that is pretty thick, but I wanted it nice and flat and stable, and figured this would help keep it rigid.  The outer skirt is 1 1/2" thick Ash with a 1/4" deep rabbet along the top where the plywood base is attached.  This is another tactic for a nice, flat table.  The corners are just mitered and it is all glued and screwed to the base.

The fence is also Ash and I installed T track on both the face and the top for clamps and hold downs.  You can never have enough T track.  Here you can also see the knobs on the sides that connect to those threaded inserts I told you about earlier.  This makes a pretty secure and rigid setup.  And look, my hand should clear the back just fine when I crank the table up and down.  Very happy about that.

It's a little hard to see, but I included a small chamfer along the bottom of the fence to help with sawdust from getting trapped between the piece I am drilling and the fence.  The finish is just a couple quick coats of amber shellac to give it a little protection and color.  It helped make the walnut dowels I used for plugs for the screw holes stand out as well.  I made up a few hardwood blocks to fit in the center cutout to help with blowouts when drilling.

With the table installed and everything bolted down, it looks like a nice tidy installation.  It's a snug fit and it is very rigid and stable.  The new dust collection works better than I hoped!

Under the hardwood blocks is a 2 1/4" diameter hole drilled all the way through the table.  This connects the air passage for the dust collection.  So I can take out the hardwood block, chuck up the drum and do some sanding.  I rounded off this piece of maple to try it out and very VERY little dust was to be found.  Again, very happy!

Now I just need to get some hold downs and clamps for the T tracks and I am in business!  I can't wait to use it on that first mortise.  I hope this is the last table I ever have to build.  It should last a very long time.

Next up, I am going to do a detailed build along.  There will be many posts along the way.  The project is a jewelry box for my niece's birthday.  She is going to be 11 and she is beginning to collect quite a bit of jewelry.  It's time for a big girl jewelry box!  It will be Mahogany and Maple and will include traditional joinery.  I will use both power and hand tools and will try to show every step of the way.  Stay tuned, the first post should be up in a day or two as I have already begun work.  Until next time, you stay classy, planet Earth!
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