Workbench Weekly eTip

Archive for April, 2007

Drill Straight Holes Simply

Friday, April 27th, 2007

An easy way to drill a straight hole into the end of a board is to use a simple guide block. It’s just a block of wood with a hole drilled in it that’s used to guide the drill bit. A piece of hardboard attached to the block lets you clamp it to the workpiece. Then, just line up the hole in the block with the layout line for the hole in your workpiece, clamp the guide in position, and drill the hole with a handheld drill (Illustration, right).

Have a nice weekend,
Wyatt Myers
Online Editor
Workbench Magazine

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Super-Quick Sharpening Tips

Friday, April 20th, 2007

Sometimes when you’re working on your house, you need to resharpen a
chisel in a hurry. Here are four easy ways to do just that.

Emory Cloth — One inexpensive method is these shop-made “sharpening
blocks.” They’re just MDF blocks with emory cloth attached to the
surface with either spray adhesive or double-sided tape.

The type of emory cloth most readily available comes in 3/4"-wide rolls
at automotive supply stores (right). Putting two strips side by side creates
a large sharpening surface for wide chisels and plane irons (see Photo, below).

It helps to have three blocks around on the jobsite: 180- and 320-grit blocks
for a quick two-step sharpening job, and an additional 80-grit block to remove
nicks from the blades. The MDF blocks are only about 2" x 8", so
they’re lightweight and easy to tote around in a tool box or bucket.
Just put them in a plastic bag to prevent them from getting dirty.  

The sharpening blocks can be used just like diamond stones to sharpen a chisel
or plane iron quickly, but you’ll want to use a spritz of WD-40 to lubricate
the block before you sharpen. As with the diamond stones, a non-skid pad keeps
the block from sliding.

Belt Sander — Sharpening a chisel or plane iron with
a belt sander may seem a little unnerving. But many carpenters swear by this
technique as the fastest way to get a sharp edge.

Before letting the sparks fly, though, there are a few things to be aware
of. First, sparks can cause a fire if they land in a pile of dust and chips,
so remove the dust bag and set the sander on a clean surface like a concrete
floor. And second, set the sander on its side so the belt is on the left and
running away from you. This way, the chisel won’t tear the belt.
Start with the belt sander turned off. Then, find the bevel just
as before, and hold it flat against the belt. This is important, as the sander
sharpens so fast that you only have one chance to get it right. Now keep the
chisel (or plane iron) locked tightly against the sanding belt and give the
trigger a pull (Fig. 1). A few seconds is usually all it takes. Then,
remove the burr (Fig. 2, below).


Fig 1.
Hold the bevel flat against the sanding belt, get a firm grip, and pull
the trigger. A few seconds should do the trick.
Fig 2. To remove the burr, turn off the sander. Then set the back of the chisel flat against the belt and pull it across at an angle.


Edges in a Pinch — When speed is of the essence, these
two tips will give you a sharp edge in just a few seconds.

Micro-Bevel — A micro-bevel is simply a steeper angle
ground onto the tip of the bevel where it meets the back of the chisel. Less
material is being removed, so the sharpening goes much more quickly (Photo,
below left).

Drill Bit — Another technique is to use the shank of
a high-speed steel twist bit like a burnishing rod to “crisp up” the
cutting edge of the chisel, as shown in the below right photo.


Fig 1. To create a micro-bevel, first find the
bevel. Then, raise the chisel just a hair, and make a few quick passes
over the stone.
Fig 2. The shank of a twist bit can put a quick edge on a dull chisel. Rub the shank firmly against the cutting edge, sliding it across both the bevel and back of the chisel.

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers

Online Editor

Workbench Magazine

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Finishing Tips for Windows & Doors

Wednesday, April 11th, 2007

Staining the vertical trim around windows and doors can prevent a number of challenges. Luckily, there are a few simple steps to end up with great-looking results.

The first challenge when staining windows (and sometimes doors) is the glass. Glass can actually absorb stain, so it’s a good idea to apply strips of painter’s tape before you begin. And be sure to remove the tape right after completing the project to avoid disturbing the finish.

Also, carefully remove, label, and store locks, latches, and pulls to decrease the possibility of leaving runs and drips.

Conditioner — Many woods absorb stain unevenly, leaving blotches. To prevent this, first sand and remove the dust, and then apply a liberal coat of pre-stain wood conditioner with a foam brush (Photo, above).

Gel Stain — Let the conditioner sit for 10 to 15 minutes, and then — before it dries — apply a coat of stain. I recommend a gel stain for windows. It’s a thick, heavy-bodied stain that is less likely to run or drip than liquid stain. The use of pre-stain wood conditioner will lighten the stain color, so test the conditioner/stain combination on a scrap piece to make sure it’s what you want before applying it to the windows.

Apply the gel stain with a foam brush, working from the top down (Fig. 1). Let the stain absorb for one to ten minutes, depending on the darkness you desire. Then wipe the surface with a clean rag.

Fast-Drying Poly — The stain should dry in eight hours, after which you can apply finish. For protection, durability, and easy application, I suggest fast-drying polyurethane. Apply it in thin, even coats with a natural-bristle brush, and shine a worklight on the wood to detect runs before they dry (Fig. 2). Twenty minutes after each coat, open and close the sash to ensure the finish doesn’t bond the window shut.

Spar Varnish — The windowsill takes a lot of abuse from water and sunlight. For that reason, use spar varnish to finish it. This type of finish has UV inhibitors to make it more resistant to peeling and fading (Fig. 3). When it dries, the varnish matches so well that no one will realize you used two different finishes to protect your windows.

Have a nice weekend,
Wyatt Myers
Online Editor
Workbench Magazine

View a free online preview of Workbench magazine

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Keep Rain Out Under a Deck

Thursday, April 5th, 2007

You can add a lot of functionality to the area under a deck by shielding it from water that runs down between deck boards. You might not be able to catch all of the runoff, but you can certainly stop enough of it to make the space suitable for storage or additional outdoor living space.

Products Available

A number of companies make products designed to catch and manage water that drips through deck boards. Marketed under names like DrySpace, RainEscape, and Dry-B-Lo, they’re mounted under the deck joists so they pitch away from the house and channel water toward the outside. There, the water can run out or flow into a gutter attached to the deck.

The biggest problem with these commercial systems is cost. Depending on the system and the complexity of your deck, you may spend $4 or more per square foot, even if you install the system yourself.

Homemade Solution

You can create your own deck drainage system using corrugated roofing material (Illustration). It’s available in a variety of sizes and materials, including metal, fiberglass, and PVC. In my area, I found 48″ × 79″ sheets of PVC roofing for about $13 each. They were available in several colors.

To install corrugated panels, start by cutting spacer blocks from 2x stock. Place a spacer about every two feet along each joist if the roofing panel runs parallel to the joists, or on every joist if the panel runs perpendicular to them. Each spacer should be slightly taller than the last to establish a pitch of about ¼″ for every 4 feet.

After cutting the spacers, screw them to the bottom of each joist. Then secure the panels by driving screws through them and into each spacer. Seal each screw with a dab of silicone caulk.

At the outside of the deck, you can hang a skirt board to cover the exposed ends of the panels, as shown. Or mount a gutter inside the rim skirt board, and pitch it toward a downspout located on one of the deck posts.

Happy home improvement,

Wyatt Myers
Online Editor, Workbench

View a free online preview of Workbench magazine

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