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Archive for December, 2010

Woodworking Basics: Ripping and Crosscutting

Friday, December 31st, 2010

If you’re a new woodworker, it helps to understand the basics between a rip cut and a crosscut. Though there is a difference between these two cuts, both are made pretty much the same way, whether you’re using a circular saw or a table saw. The difference lies in what direction you are cutting through the board.

To understand the difference between the cuts, you first need to know about wood grain. It almost always runs lengthwise on a board.

Soak and Finish
A rip cut is made in line with (parallel to) the wood grain. That means a rip cut trims a board to a narrower width
Soak and Finish
A crosscut is made across the grain of the board to trim a board to a shorter length.


Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers
Online Editor, Workbench

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A Greener Funnel

Friday, December 24th, 2010

Rather than rinse the toxic chemicals in a funnel down the drain, you can make disposable funnels from plastic jugs. Once you’re done using them, just take them to a hazardous waste disposal site with your other paint and chemicals.

Green Funnel

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Solving the Cordless Drill Dilemma

Friday, December 17th, 2010

If you’re unsure of whether you should pick up one of the new Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) drills or a standard Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) drill, here is an overview of what to look for.

Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) powered drills are becoming much more common now. Though their prices are coming down, they still can cost up to twice as much as a similar drill that’s powered by Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) batteries. The question is whether the extra money is worth it. To answer that, you need to understand the performance differences between the two types of batteries.

Weight — Oftentimes bigger is better, but not when it comes to batteries. Li-Ion batteries are smaller and weigh less than NiCads. You can see the size difference in the Photo at right. That equates to a tool that won’t wear you out as much if you use it for a long period of time.

Fade-Free Power — If you’ve used NiCad-powered drills, then you know that as the battery runs down, the drill gets slower and slower until it eventually stops. Li-Ion batteries deliver fade-free power right up until they need to be recharged. That means, at least in theory, that you can drill holes and drive screws with the same strength from full charge to discharge. Of course, the drawback to this is that you may not know if the battery is getting weak and needs recharged, which is unhandy if you’re just starting a job. That’s why most Li-Ion tools have a fuel gauge built in that shows you how much charge remains in the battery.

Low Discharge Rate — NiCad batteries also tend to weaken considerably as they sit idle. Leave your drill sitting for a few weeks, and you may find it has little or no battery power when you pick it up. And the last thing you want to do when you need the drill is wait for it to charge. Li-Ion batteries, on the other hand, discharge very slowly when not in use. That means you can let the drill sit for weeks or months, and it will still be charged when you need it.

Cost — Of course, the advantages of a Li-Ion battery come with a cost. So you’ll want to weigh how you’ll use the drill before making the purchase. If you plan to use it often and can swing the extra cost, then go for the Li-Ion. For occasional use, the NiCad is probably fine as long as you keep the battery charged between uses.

Cordless Drills
These 18-volt drills clearly show one key difference between Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) and Nickel-Cadmium (NiCad) batteries. The Li-Ion (at right) is about half the size and half the weight.


Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers
Online Editor, Workbench

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Simple Steps to Replacing a Window Screen

Friday, December 10th, 2010

If you have old wood windows that are in good shape but have worn screens, it’s easy to replace the screens rather than replacing the entire window. That’s because the screens are just stapled onto the frame. The screen edges and staples are then hidden with thin wood retaining strips, often called screen molding.

Soak and Finish
Use a cat’s paw or small pry bar to remove the old screen molding. Don’t be surprised if it breaks as you pry it up.

First, you need to pry up these molding strips. Just insert a putty knife under each one to loosen it, and then pull it up with a flat pry bar (Photo, above). The strips can be fragile, especially on old windows, so lift gently and only around the nails that hold them in place.

Even with caution, though, you’ll probably break some of the strips, but that’s okay. You can buy screen molding at a hardware store or home center and then cut it to size.

Once the molding strips are removed, pull out the staples that hold the screen in place.

If the screen frame needs paint, now is the perfect time to put on a fresh coat. It’s a whole lot easier without the screen in place. Paint the screen molding, as well.

To install the new screen, just lay an oversize piece of screen fabric over the frame. Then staple it in place along the top edge, making sure to place the staples where they’ll be covered by molding.

Soak and Finish
Clamp the screen taut as you work your way along one side. Then staple the other side, pulling gently as you go.

Wrap the other end of the screen fabric around a narrow board or a dowel, pull the screen taut, and then clamp it in place to keep it taut. Then staple down one side of the screen (Photo, above). Now pull gently by hand as you staple the other side and finish up with the bottom.

Next you can install the molding strips using small brads. To prevent the molding from splitting, pre-drill holes for the brads using a small bit or a nail.

Soak and Finish
Trim the screen using a utility knife. Fiberglass screen cuts easily, but aluminum may require making several passes.

Finally, trim the screen flush with the outside edges of the strips (Photo, above).


Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers
Online Editor, Workbench

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Find the Right Solution for Brass

Friday, December 3rd, 2010

If you’ve grown tired of your old brass hardware, you can “age” it to create weathered or antique brass. This is possible with brass aging solution, an acidic solution that oxidizes solid brass, giving it a more appealing look.

Soak and Clean Soak and Finish Stop the Oxidizing
After soaking hardware in lacquer thinner, scrub each piece with a brass brush to remove the lacquer. When soaking the hardware in the solution, you can use the screw as a handle for holding it safely. Run the hardware under water to stop the oxidizing. Then rub it with Scotch-Brite to create a brushed look.

Before aging your hardware, the first thing you need to do is remove the protective lacquer coating. Then fill a jar with the aging solution, and drop in the hardware. (This is pretty caustic stuff, so make sure you’re wearing heavy rubber gloves and a protective mask and working in a well-ventilated area.)

The solution works surprisingly quickly, and if you leave the hardware in too long, it can actually turn black. So watch the hardware carefully until it turns the color you desire. For example, with the brass knobs we aged, the hardware took on the “antique” brass look in about four minutes. In 10 minutes, it looked like the “bronze” sample.

Once you get the look you’re after, remove the hardware from the solution, and rinse it under hot water to stop the oxidizing process.

The brass should now be a solid dark color, but you can add interest and create a “weathered” look by brushing the surface with a fine piece of steel wool or an abrasive pad (like Scotch-Brite). Then you can preserve the new look and add sheen by spraying on a few coats of lacquer. Just choose glossy or satin lacquer, depending on what type of sheen you want.

Knobs

Brass aging solution is available from a number of hardware supply catalogs and online sources, such as Rockler (800-279-4441, Rockler.com). There’s also a nickel aging solution if you’d like to change the appearance of your nickel hardware.

Have a nice weekend,

Wyatt Myers
Online Editor, Workbench

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