Electrical Upgrade

Make 39

I finished a needed shop electrical upgrade. I was running everything off of a single 15 amp circuit that was shared with a weird assortment of outlets/lights in the house. Not only did the breaker trip, but tools seemed underpowered. The bandsaw labored and would make the lights flicker while the table saw seemed to take a bit to get up to speed and recover under load. To make the dust collector go, I brought in a 12-3 extension cord for more power.

I had an electrician bring in a 20-amp, 240-volt subpanel to the garage and workshop. I then wired a 20 amp circuit dedicated to machines and hand tools. Then I ran a second 20 amp circuit for the dust collector and exhaust fan.  For the machines and tools, I wired four outlets around the shop and no longer need any extension cords. For lights, I’ll just keep them on the existing circuit.

I also had the electrician add a couple 20 amp 240 outlets. On one outlet I installed a 4000-watt heater. I hope to eventually put an 8-inch jointer on the other outlet.

With the upgrade, I can now run my dust collector, heater, and any machine at once with plenty of amps to spare. I don’t have enough power to run a 15 amp 240 machine like an 8-inch jointer with the heater and dust collector, but I can handle turning off the heater to use the jointer.

So, I now have enough power to run the shop, 240v electric for a jointer upgrade, better shop heat, and better organization with no more extension cords and plug/unplug stuff.

Clamp Storage

Make 38

I sort of slapped this together to wrangle my clamps. This storage system was inspired by Jay Bates’ clamp system.

I’ve got some shop reorganizing planned and dealing with my clamps is kind of a pre-requisite. Clamps piled in the corner take up a surprisingly large amount of space. This organizer sits on corner wall not utilized, so it’s not only saving space and organizing but new found space, which is the best kind of space in a small shop.

I didn’t spend too much time laying things out because I’m sure I’m not set on my clamps. Since I don’t know how my clamp will look like in the future, I just designed it to hold the clamps I have and figured room for 2-4 more clamps of each kind. I’m sure this won’t be my last clamp storage solution, so I didn’t put a lot of time into it. The brackets aren’t square, there’s a bunch of glue drip, and a few brads missed their mark coming through the back side of the board. I even managed to get one of the mounts backward.

I made this with 3/4 plywood backing board and my brackets are 1/2-inch plywood. I went with 1/2-inch because I didn’t have enough 3/4-inch ply in the shop. Hopefully, it holds up with the smaller glue surface.

I cut the brackets 12.5″ x 13″, then cut them in half at a 45-degree angle. For the smaller clamps, I trimmed the brackets down a few inches so the 6-inch clamps could hang within the brackets. Based on the size of the clamps, this tried to maximize my glue surface for mounting and the horizontal space for stacking up clamps. I have my longest clamps on the ends, then in the middle top I have my shorter and middle lower mid-sized. Ideally, I’d like the shortest clamps on the bottom for easier reaching, but I’d saved a lot of space by allowing the longer clamps hang off the bottom of the board. I compromised by hanging the organizer a little lower for easier reaching.

In the original plans, the top of the brackets were cut at a slight angle from front to back. The idea is to keep any clamps from falling off the front of the bracket. For mine, I mounted two 2/4 boards across the wall studs, then screwed the board to those mounts. My bottom board is a bit thicker than the top, so the whole board sits at a slight angle from bottom to top. That’s not as elegant, but it’s a simpler solution. I also have this mounted behind a door, but I don’t really use that door. I still can open the door, but not all the way. I can still though open it far enough to exit and get some fresh air in the summer. Generally, though I keep my workbench there so that it’s not dead space.

I’m happy with it, although it looks a little ugly. I’m really happy to have all my clamps in one spot, organized, and out of the way.

Miter Spline Jig

Make 36

I made one box using simple miter joints wanted to try doing miter joints with splines. The idea is miter joints glue end grain to end grain, which is a relatively weak joint. The joint can be strengthened by cutting small cross-cuts through the joint and filling it in with a piece of wood. This introduces additional glue surface against long grain and edge grain. I also think it looks neat and decorative. You can mix in contrasting wood or simply the same wood. You can also make the different sizes and angles.

To do this, I made a jig to run a 90-degree joint across the table saw blade. You can use any size blade you wish, whether thin kerf or a dado stack. This will safely move a workpiece across the table saw and also allow for repeatable cuts. I found this design on Sketup 3D Warehouse. I liked it because it’s versatile and  I’ve also been wanting to mess with t-track. Two holder pieces are secured via knobs dial and move the width of the jig. You can lock it down and keep the workpiece between the holders secure.

To cut the splines, I cut off a narrow 3/16 or so strip of wood, then cut into small pieces. For such a narrow piece, I cut off my piece on the left of the blade from a larger board rather than trying to run a such a narrow strip against the saw fence. Rockler makes a nifty jig for this task, although you could do it with a feather board.

I had assembled the box using tape and then pulled it tight with a strap clamp. After the glue dried, I kept the tape in place and that seems to help keep the spline glue off of the box surface. Then I use a flexible flush saw to trim flush with the box. Easiest next step for me seems to just sand it down flat, but I’m messed around with chisels and a block plane too.

The tricky part is getting the saw depth right. You want to go as deep as you can without cutting through into the inside of the box. The box in the picture below is only 1/4 inch thick. Seems a good idea to do 3/8 sides. You may also want to use a flat-top blade to make a flat cut, but I just used by ATB, which creates a little V. ATB seemed to work fine.

I have two example below, Both are using the standard kerf blade. One is a bigger box with 3/8-inch sides. The finished picture below is a 1/4-inch box that’s trimmed, sanded, and complete.


Dresser Velet

Make 35

I made this dresser organizer out of cherry. For the joints, I used the Porter Cable dovetail jig again, but I tried doing the mini version of the jig since it was a smaller project. This is a little tedious and was a challenge to cut dados in pins so small. I’ll probably stick with the full sized jig as long as size permits.

Anyway, this turned out well. I finished it with boiled linseed oil and furniture wax. It’s a nice looking finish with rich color and the wax gives the wood a little shine while keeping the grain texture.

Coaster Holders

Make 34

I made this holder for the coasters project. I made two actually, one for the coasters gift and second for my set.

I thought about a few different ways of doing this. I ended up doing contrasting maple and walnut pieces and jointed them a dovetail rabbet joint. To hold them together, I made pins made of walnut. The pins are mortised through the maple and go into the walnut. It should support the joint and looks nifty. I was going to do a dowel, but a little extra work for square pins.

End Grain Coasters #2

Make 33

I had a failed cutting board that I turned into coasters. I got a request to make a set for a Christmas present. So, here’s an intentional version of a same thing. Maple and walnut. The maple has a mineral stain running through it for some interesting character.

I got a little fancy with these and added a chamfer to the edges. The bottom has a piece of felt spray glued. I finished with three coats of wipe on poly.

Box #3 – Dovetails

Make 32

This is getting practice using the Porter Cable Dovetail jig. I got the bottom right this time around. I remembered and correctly did a partial dado on the router table. One side starts inside the tails and the other goes through the pins, which is concealed by the joint. I messed up the top though. I planned on doing a rabbet to set in a simple lid, but fogged out and went through to the ends. Also, the lid was a little messed up. I tried to join to pieces together and it didn’t work out quite as planned. Somewhere along the way I also managed to get mixed up on sides and I put a dado on the wrong end. It really pays to label and pay attention.

Anyway, I’m happy with the dovetails and got the hang of the jig, which was the goal. I may use this to store router parts, although I want to make a bit storage box. I just put wipe on poly as a finish.

Tuning my Porter Cable jointer

I have a little Porter Cable (PC160JT) bench-top jointer for economies of space and cost. I was having some issues getting good square sides, so I spent some time tuning it up. I wanted to document this for myself as a reference but also hope this helps someone who is on a similar journey.

I have three tasks in tuning the jointer. Getting the tables aligned hopefully is something that only needs to be done once or at least once in a great while. Since the blades are a consumable, the process to align blades will be done periodically. The third is the fence, and I do check this each time since it’s a simple, but essential task.


First, some background on jointers because through this I learned a few things. The primary function of a jointer simple flattens the surface of a board. The secondary purpose is to make an adjacent edge 90-degrees square. That’s it. After you have that 90-degree edge, you take the board to a planer with the jointed face down and make the opposite face parallel. Then, you go to a table saw with the jointed edge up against the fence and do a rip cut to make the opposite edge parallel. After this, you should have a board that’s square all around. Depending on the board, it could look a little weird coming off of the jointer. It may have a wedge shape or otherwise appear to have gone wrong, but if the jointed edge sits flat and is square with the jointed face, the jointer has done its job as directed by the operator. It’s now up to other tools to match the jointed face/edge.

To achieve this, a jointer has four basic components. There’s an in-feed table, out-feed table, blades, and a fence. To tune the jointer, all four must be aligned. The way the jointer works is you want the out-feed table is slightly higher than the infeed table and the cutter blades are set to the same height as the outfeed table. When you push a board along the in-feed table, the blade cuts into the wood and establishes a new surface that matches the out-feed table. By taking multiple passes, you can cut down any high spots on the board and level it off. You can adjust the in-feed table by raising or lowering it take a deeper or lighter cut. Lastly, there’s the back fence. To make a square edge, the fence must be adjusted to be 90-degrees from the table and the jointed edge of a piece of wood is pushed against it.

The Equipment

There are a number of tricks and jigs for adjusting jointers. I tried a bunch, but what worked best for me is using a dial indicator with a support base. Dial indicators are relatively inexpensive and can be valuable with other machine calibration and measuring.

The second item is some shim washers. I bought a set from Amazon that had three sets of shims in varying thickness. You can also make your own by cutting up a soda can and drilling holes in strips, but I found the shims the easiest. For me, when I made one adjustment, it affected the other three corners of the table. Controlling the thickness of my adjustments was helpful.

The Table

When working around the blades, ensure the machine is unplugged. To have full access to the table, I remove the blade guard and fence.

On a jointer, it’s important that the in-feed and out-feed tables are coplanar. This means while one table is slightly lower and adjustable, it is still parallel to the other table. If they’re not parallel, any misalignment between the tables will be transferred to the wood since that is the reference surface for the cutter. On the Porter Cable jointer, the tables are held down by bolts and that’s the only opportunity for adjustment. By placing shims between the bolts and frame, you can alter how the table sits on the frame relative to other bolt locations.

Ideally, I’d probably measure the out-feed table against the in-feed table from various points on each table, but the arm on the base wasn’t long enough to span the entire jointer. So, I did it in parts starting with the out-feed table. I placed the base on the out-feed table over each bolt and measured the table near the other three bolts. I then removed the table and placed shims under the bolts where I think they needed to be. Then I bolted back down the table, measuring again, rinse, and repeat. This can be a chore.

Once I had the out-feed table level across itself, I raised the in-feed table all the way up. I took my measurement by placing the base on the out-feed table and then measured the end of the in-feed table. Then I took additional measurements of the in-feed table like I did on the out-feed table. Then, I removed the in-feed table. I adjusted the table using the shim washers between the bolts and the frame. I put the table back on, then measured again. Rinse and repeat until I got it as best I could get. This can take some time and patience. The good thing is the Porter Cable jointer is small, so I brought it into the house and did this while watching a ball game.

After I called it good enough, my tables are 1/1000 – 3/1000th of an inch off across the span. We’ll see if this holds up. If these were cast iron, I’d guess they would be pretty stable, but not sure what to expect with aluminum tables. I’ll avoid lifting the jointer by the tables and generally not use it as a resting spot for heavy things. I’ll probably recheck them whenever I replace the blades.

The Blades

The table hopefully is something that only needs to be done once, but the blades are something that will be a regular maintenance item. The dial indicator works great for this. The Porter Cable jointer has two blades in the head. Each blade is held by a bracket and that’s secured by four bolts. Each blade also has two adjustment screws. The adjustment screws raise and lower the blade inside the mount. To replace blades, you take off the bolts and remove the blade from the bracket. To adjust the blades, you loosen the bolts, make the adjustments with the screws and then tighten it back down. One other item of note is there’s a blade lock painted red.

So, the objective here is to get both blades coplanar with the tables and set at the same height as the outfeed table. If the blades are not coplanar you’ll have uneven cuts. If the blade is above the outfeed table, it will snipe off the end of a board. Snipe essentially is taking a deeper cut on the last inch or so of a board. If the blades are set below the outfeed table, it won’t cut evenly or at all. So, this is a precision adjustment that’s perfect for a dial indicator.

First obviously ensure the machine is unplugged. You’ll also need to take great care while working with the blades because blades are sharp.

My process for aligning blades is, first if not already done, I remove the blade guard and fence. You’ll need hex wrenches to remove the guard, loosen the bracket bolts, and adjust the screws. Then, I move the cutter head to expose the first blade. I then loosen the blade holder bolts. I move the head further to lock the head in place with the safety lock. Since there’s some play in the lock, I push the head clockwise just to have a consistent measurement of both blades.

Now it’s time to measure. I measure the blade at the set screws, so I first take a measurement on the out-feed table in-line with the set screw. I turn my dial readout to set it to zero. Then, I move the dial on to the blade. I push the probe over the blade until I find the highest point. Once the indicator starts to fall over the edge of the blade, I back off. I then turn the adjustment screw until it reads zero. I repeat the process for the other side of the blade with the other set screw. Then I unlock the safety, turn it, then tighten the blade holder bolts. Then I turn the head back, lock the safety down, then verify my settings. If needed, repeat for any further adjustments. I then repeat the procedure for the other blade.

I always take the measurement of the out-feed table at the spot of the blade measurement to ensure the blade is both coplanar to the table and level with that spot on the table. If I’m finding the blade is moving around on me between adjustments, I’ll split the process per blade into two parts by loosening only two the top two/bottom two blade holder bolts and only one set screw at a time.

Then I unlock the blade safety and replace the blade guard.

To verify everything, I lay a piece of wood across the blade and manually turn the head. It should push the wood back a short distance. You can measure this distance if you wish, but this is just piece of mind thing that the blade isn’t too low.

There’s a lot of words there, but it’s a pretty simple process. I can replace and adjust both blades in about 10-15 minutes.

The Fence

This one is pretty simple. I take a 6-inch combo square and set it on the table and against the fence. I adjust the angle of the fence until it’s 90-degrees. With this set, my jointed surface will be 90-degree when pushing against the fence.


Once all the adjustments are made, I plug it in and try jointing a scrap board. I should get no sniping and end up with a face and edge that is 90-degrees square down the length of the board.

This little jointer is running well enough for the price and the size is convenient. One issue I run into is over time as the blades wear, it doesn’t cut well. The jointer cuts at a taper with the trailing end missing the knives. This seems the symptom of the outfeed table higher than the knives, which makes sense if the blades lose their edge. To compensate, I’ve been raising the knives about 1/1000 above the table rather than dead even, which seems to fine without any snipe. It seems I occasionally need to adjust the knives, which can be a bit of a pain. This wouldn’t be a problem if the jointer’s outfeed table could be adjusted.

One other thing, which I’m still working on, is getting the jointer tuned is only part of the equation. Technique plays a big part in results and I’m still learning. It’s much easier learning though knowing the machine is tuned up and running well.