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Larson Kitchen 1Later this fall I will be releasing an Alpha version of CabWriter. I have been working on this project with Greg Larson, owner of the New England School of Architectural Woodworking (nesaw.com). Greg, you might say, is the architect of CabWriter and I am the coder. The pictures you see here are snapshots I took of Greg’s kitchen – remodeled using CabWriter.

You may have heard bits and pieces of CabWriter if you follow me on my Popular Woodworking blog, or my personal blog or website. Today I want to formally introduce CabWriter and give you a hint of its features and show you some of the results to-date. But first there are two questions I need to answer, even before you ask them: what is an Alpha release and what is CabWriter?

What is an Alpha Release?

Larson Kitchen 1In the software world a new product is sometimes released in what is referred to as an Alpha release. The purpose is primarily to get very early feedback and suggestions. A secondary purpose is to build interest. Alpha releases are almost always free and have the following disclaimers:

  1. Functionality is incomplete or may change in future releases. That is, current functionality may be dropped or new functionality may be added in future releases. A CabWriter specific example is that it only works with inset doors in the Alpha release, but in its first product release will work with inset, overlay and frameless doors.
  2. There may be significant software bugs in an Alpha release. This is a direct tradeoff with the desire to expose a new product early. Users are asked to be patient and to take part in its improvement by reporting bugs to the developer. In the specific case of CabWriter reports should be made to me at : jpz@srww.com .
  3. The user uses an Alpha release at their own risk whether for personal use or commercial use. The very nature of an Alpha release is “use at your own risk”.
  4. Using an Alpha release is not a license to use the product release. You will need to acquire a license after product release.

Larson Kitchen 3So much for disclaimers, here is why I am releasing an Alpha version. I will be looking for help from users who want to design and build kitchen cabinets, bathroom cabinets, and office or library furniture. I want feedback in the form of constructive criticism, bug reports, feature suggestions and training needs. In return, for those who actively participate, you get the first CabWriter product license for free. If you are interested you can contact me via email and ask to be an Alpha user. You don’t have to participate to be an Alpha user, but only active participants will get a free license. I will, of course, be the judge of who has actively participated.

What is CabWriter?

Larson Kitchen Modeled in SketchUpCabWriter is a SketchUp Ruby script extension (formerly called plug-in). As its name implies CabWriter permits automatic and efficient custom cabinet 3D modeling, shop drawing documentation, cut list generation and DXF output that permits CNC milling. CabWriter is tightly connected to CutList Bridge and hence CutList Plus fx for material optimization. CabWriter takes advantage of the powerful Ruby API supported by Trimble SketchUp; its functional code is written in Ruby while the Graphical User Interface in JavaScript, HTML and CSS.

Shop Drawing in LayOut 1There will likely be two or three version with a target range from the hobbyist/weekend warrior to the professional cabinet shop. CabWriter comes with CutList Bridge. So far we have designed, built and installed four custom kitchens and are currently working on the fifth and sixth.

Shop Drawing in LayOut 2The goal of CabWriter is to be able to meet with a client at their residence and within a few hours walk away with a complete 3D design the client can sign off on, including plan and elevation views, cut list and materials list, cost estimate and even DXF output for CNC milling. In the real world of course clients will always want to make changes the next day and for a few weeks later. However, CabWriter makes it possible to complete this entire goal in just a few hours sans further changes. In the next two months we expect to demonstrate this goal including the installation. We will document the entire project from design, through CNC milling to completed installation in a video.

Shop Drawing in LayOut 3Before I show you some of the design output of CabWriter let me list some of its important features:

  1. The entire design file stays with the SketchUp model. While you may export files for Excel, OpenOffice or CutList Plus fx, there is no need to save or archive these files. They can always be reproduced with the SketchUp model file and SketchUp with extensions CabWriter and CutList Bridge.
  2. CabWriter has a large set of defaults all of which can be changed by the user. This makes tailoring CabWriter to a given build methodology relatively easy as well as assigning default material types and names.
  3. CabWriter automatically draws cabinet with any number of boxes, creates and assigns component names, part names and material types and material names. Any attribute that can be specified using CutList Bridge can automatically be assigned using CabWriter.Shop Drawing in LayOut 4
  4. CabWriter permits changing of numerous cabinet and box defaults on a per cabinet and per box basis such as number of doors and drawers.
  5. Cabinets can be edited after they are drawn to change things such as width, height, depth, material, number of doors, drawers etc.
  6. CabWriter Version 1.0 will handle face frame cabinets with inset or overlay doors, or frame-less cabinets.
  7. CabWriter automatically stores CutList Bridge attributes in each component so there is little or no manual entry required.
  8. CabWriter makes plan and elevation views a snap and automatically includes the hatching for material keys.Sheet Optimization in Vectric Aspire
  9. CabWriter is completely functional in the Make version of SketchUp for hobbyists and weekend warriors who wish to design and build their own cabinet. For professionals CabWriter makes integration with LayOut a snap.
  10. CutList Bridge comes with CabWriter and permits near instant cut list generation. Its bridging capability to CutList Plus fx saves material cost with material layout optimization.
  11. CabWriter provides CutList Bridge with the information to automatically create all the DXF files necessary to mill sheet goods on a CNC machine. These DXF file can, for example, can be imported to Vectric Aspire or Vectric Cut2D which will do sheet optimization and output the necessary G code for CNC milling. The DXF files produced by CutList Bridge fx permits use of numerous applications as alternatives to Vectric Aspire (Aspire is the application we are currently using).

Single Sheet Enlargement in Vectric AspireGreg’s kitchen, shown in the previous pictures, and above as a 3D rendering, was drawn entirely in SketchUp using CabWriter. The following images are CabWriter views sent to LayOut. You can see that the drawing set is quite professional and complete. The last two images are the Aspire optimized sheet layout and an enlargement of one sheet. Shortly I will be releasing a training video documenting a complete design. I will announce it and the Alpha release in a newsletter and in my blogs. So stay tuned.

CabWriter to CNC

I would like to end this post with a short video of a CabWriter designed cabinet set cut on a ShopBot CNC machine. CutList Bridge, which is part of CabWriter, produces all the DXF files which are then imported into Vectric’s Aspire or Cut2D which in turn optimizes the sheet layouts and produces the G code necessary to drive the CNC. This video was shot on October 22, 2015 and is the first CabWriter designed cabinet set cut on a CNC machine. Much thanks to Mason Papaport of Rapaport Design (http://rapaportdesigns.com/) for the use of his Shop Bot CNC. Now pop the popcorn, sit back, and enjoy this special feature film.


Greg, on left, and students on installation day.Each year the New England School of Architectural Woodworking (NESAW at www.nesaw.com) runs a five month cabinetmaking course. The purpose of the course is to prepare students for a rewarding career in the field of cabinetmaking. Over 90% of NESAW’s job-seeking graduates find employment at architectural woodworking shops across the United States.

The industry is in dire need of skilled craftspeople, due to the record number of retiring workers and the declining number of vocational programs aimed at cabinetmakers.

NESAW LogoSign up now. Classes begin January 5th and enrollment ends on January 10th. Visit the New England School of Architectural Woodworking for details.

 

NESAW’s program teaches the fundamentals of architectural woodworking and offers students the opportunity to work directly with members of the community to design, build, and install projects. This combination of skills-building and real-world experience makes NESAW’s graduates particularly attractive to employers, since it means a safer employee, less on-the-job training and a better understanding of the entire project lifecycle.

Greg installing a sink.Students who enter the program to improve their woodworking skills or start their own businesses also gain from this approach, as they better understand how to more efficiently design and build a quality product.

The New England School of Architectural Woodworking is owned and operated by Greg and Margaret Larson. I first met Greg in the fall of 2011 through introductions made by a former student of Greg’s and mine. I wrote about NESAW in my December 21st 2011, March 29th and June 11th 2012 Chiefwoodworker’s Newsletters.

Margaret serving cake at graduation celebration.That year I taught a SketchUp class for NESAW students. During this period Greg and I spoke at length about what students were learning and the time consuming aspects of custom cabinetmaking. Out of those discussions came CutList Bridge and later CabWriter. Greg and I have worked closely together ever since our first meeting and I have spent numerous hours at the NESAW shop with his students. Each year I teach a live SketchUp course to the students. I t is with this intimate knowledge that I highly recommend visiting the NESAW website if you are interested in a career in cabinetmaking. You will find no better program or more caring people than NESAW, Greg and Margaret.


SketchUp is woodworker’s chosen tool for creating shop drawings; CutList Plus fx by Bridgewood Design is the leading tool for generating optimized sheet layouts and materials lists. These two industry leading tools don’t natively communicate. That became history with the introduction of CutList Bridge. Now CutList Bridge 4 is even more powerful and rich with new features and is ready for even better things to come.

What is CutList Bridge?

Attributes TabCutList Bridge is a SketchUp Ruby extension. It extends the attributes of components to include such things as the material type used in its milling, the species or material name, re-sized dimensions, shop method tags, the sub-assembly to which it belongs and much more. These attributes are attached to the component and stored in the model file. The user can export these attribute to either: a .cwx file, which can be opened in CutList Plus fx version 12.3 or higher; or to a comma separated value file (.csv aka CSV) and subsequently imported to Microsoft Excel, Open/Office Calc or any spread sheet application that supports CSV importing. Either of these methods will produce a cut list but CutList Plus fx will also produce a materials list, optimized cutting diagrams and project costing.

Setup TabA very important feature of CutList Bridge is that it stores all components’ material and milling attributes in the SketchUp model file. The user need keep only one file of a design and doesn’t have to worry about synchronizing other files when design changes are made. The CWX, CSV, CutList Plus fx, Excel or OpenOffice Calc files can all be reproduced in about four mouse clicks.

What’s New in CutList Bridge 4?

CutList Bridge 3 added four new fields to the cut list .csv file: Tags, Fin T, Fin W and Fin L. However, they were only available for import to Excel and OpenOffice Calc; they could not be imported to CutList Plus fx. This limitation is eliminated in version 4.0, a major release with new functionality. Some of the new functionality was added to support CabWriter, a future new extension that will add to the SketchUp/CutList Bridge/CutList Plus design process. Other functionality was added to generally improve the extension for all woodworking projects. Here is a list of the new functionality and fixes:

CutList Bridge to CutList Plus fx

1. A Legacy Mode checkbox has been added to the Extended Entity Info dialog box Setup tab. If you do not have either a Gold or Platinum CutList Plus fx license of revision 12.3 or higher you should check Legacy Mode. In Legacy Mode you will not be able to export the Tags, Fin T, Fin W and Fin L columns. Legacy Mode is unchecked when CutList Bridge 4.0 is installed.

2. When using the File/Export to CutList Plus fx command a file is saved in the same folder (place) as the SketchUp model file (.skp), with the same name as the model. The file extension will be .cwx if Legacy Mode in not checked. If Legacy Mode is checked the file extension will be .csv.

3. The Tags, Fin T, Fin W and Fin L columns are now included in a File/Export to CutList Plus fx operation. In CutList Bridge 4 the command File/Export to CutList Plus fx now produces a file with the same name as the SketchUp model file but with the extension .cwx (a.k.a CWX) . Users of CutList Plus fx version 12.3 or higher can now open this file with the command File/Open. The fields are automatically mapped so the user no longer need manually map them with the Parts Import Wizard. In addition, upon installation of CutList Plus fx 12.3, the CWX extension is associated with CutList Plus fx, so the user can simply double click on a CWX file and CutList Plus fx is opened to it.

4. Fixed an issue with Add material when the material name contained the inch unit mark ("), which caused weird behavior with the list drop down boxes.

5. Some users have experienced problems with materials.csv files that contain Euros currency. This problem is solved in CutList Plus fx version 12.3.

The attached images show the new Extended Entity Info Attributes and Setup tab and a sample cut list produced with CutList Bridge 4 and CutList Plus fx version 12.3. The video below is a ten minute introductory of CutList Bridge 4 and CutList Plus fx. You can also view it on YouTube in a larger format.

 

Where can I get CutList Bridge 4?

You can purchase CutList Bridge 4 in the Popular Woodworking Shop Woodworking on-line store.


SketchUp is woodworker’s chosen tool for creating shop drawings; CutList Plus fx by Bridgewood Design is the leading tool for generating optimized sheet layouts and materials lists. These two industry leading tools don’t natively communicate. That became history with the introduction of CutList Bridge. Now CutList Bridge 3 is even more powerful and rich with new features and is ready for even better things to come.

CutList Bridge Extension for SketchUp

You can purchase CutList Bridge 3 from the Popular Woodworking On-Line Store.

What is CutList Bridge?

New CutList Bridge 3 TabsMany of you have used this tool before, but for those of you who have not, CutList Bridge is a SketchUp Ruby extension. It extends the attributes of components to include such things as the material type used in its milling, the species or material name, re-sized dimensions, shop method tags, the sub-assembly to which it belongs and much more. These attributes are attached to the component and stored in the model file. The user can export these attribute to a comma separated value file (.csv aka CSV) and subsequently import that file into CutList Plus fx to produce a cut list, materials list, optimized cutting diagrams and project costing. If the user doesn’t have a CutList Plus fx license the CSV file can be imported to Microsoft Excel, Open/Office Calc or any spread sheet application that supports CSV importing.

A very important feature of CutList Bridge is that it stores all components’ material and milling attributes in the SketchUp model file. The user need keep only one file of a design and doesn’t have to worry about synchronizing other files when design changes are made. The CSV, CutList Plus fx, Excel or Calc files can all be reproduced in about four mouse clicks.

What’s New in CutList Bridge 3?

CutList Bridge 3 now supports component numbering capability including manually by the user, automatically in alphabetical or numerical order by CutList Bridge 3 and automatically by CabWriter. CabWriter is a new SketchUp Ruby extension to be announced later this fall. CabWriter automatically draws custom cabinets using a simple and powerful user interface; see the CabWriter drawn kitchen below. CutList Bridge 3 is CabWriter ready.

A CabWriter Drawn Kitchen

A new Tags field has been added to tag critical shop operations such as adjacent component grain matching. Any shop critical operation can be tagged in this text field and can be alphabetically sorted to assist in efficient performance of these shop operations. This field will also be supported in future releases of CutList Plus fx.

Re-sizing of thickness capability has been added to the Resizing field. And now there are three new fields to export the finished or As Drawn dimensions. These too will be supported in the next CutList Plus fx release.

There are a number of internal changes that make CutList Bridge 3 ready for CabWriter as well as the next version of CutList Plus fx.
For more information on CutList Bridge 3 see the CutList Bridge User’s Guide. Below is a partial cut list of the kitchen shown in the above image exported to CutList Plus fx.

A CutList Bridge Generated Cut List Exported To CutList Plus fx

 

Where Can I Get CutList Bridge 3?

CutList Bridge 3 is distributed exclusively by Popular Woodworking. You can purchase CutList Bridge 3 from the Popular Woodworking On-Line Store.

Is there a Training Course for CutList Bridge 3?

PWUlogo_300Yes. There’s a three segment on-line course titled Using CutList Bridge 3 and given by Popular Woodworking University. Each segment is approximately one hour long and covers creating a cut list for three types of woodworking project: Furniture Pieces, Custom Cabinets & Structures such as a shed, home and home addition.


Headquarters In Warren,MEIf your experience is anything like mine you are tired of the companies that intentionally avoid human contact and feedback. I curse those telephone ladders that never lead to a human voice. When a human does answer you are speaking to someone who’s English is their second language and you have no hope of understanding them.

If you are lucky enough (some call it unfortunate enough) to make it through all that, and explain your problem with the company’s product, you are likely to be sorry you ever contacted them. You are treated to onerous procedures put in place to avoid correcting the situation. Some companies are honest enough to simply say “we don’t support our product with replacements” or “the problem is of your making and we can’t support you”.

LN's family of planes and accessories on display in the showroom.Not Lie-Nielsen. You see, Lie-Nielsen was somehow created from an old company mold; a mold I thought was broken and lost a long time ago. They talk to their customers, never fearing to meet them and listen to their feedback. In fact their factory is open to customer visits on most days (see my visit to the factory). They even have an annual Summer Open House where you can meet and talk with the entire staff including Tom Lie-Nielsen and family. And for a small fee you can enjoy a lobster bake dinner.

Not only does Lie-Nielsen talk to their customers, but they also surprise their customers with above-and-beyond support. I dropped my #5 Jack recently and broke my tote. I went to the Lie-Nielsen website to purchase a replacement. Disappointed not to see a replacement part I emailed the company. I want to share with you two emails, unedited; one that I sent to Lie-Nielsen and the return email.

To: toolworks@lie-nielsen.com
Sent: Wed 5/23/2012 5:23 PM
From: Joe Zeh [jpz@srww.com]
Subject: Jack Plane Tote

Hi,

 

I dropped my #5 Jack Plane and broke the tote. Fortunately I have a wooden floor in the shop and nothing else broke. Do you sell replacement totes?

 

Joe…..

 

From: Lie-Nielsen Toolworks [mailto:toolworks@lie-nielsen.com]
Sent: Thursday, May 24, 2012 2:41 PM
To: jpz@srww.com
Subject: RE: Jack Plane Tote

Good afternoon, Joe.

I am sorry to hear about your No. 5!  Fortunately in situations like this, we can supply you with a replacement handle at no charge.  I’ll have one sent out to your address today.

Thank you,
Kirsten

Kirsten Lie-Nielsen
Lie-Nielsen Toolworks
1-800-327-2520
www.lie-nielsen.com

The Lie-Nielsen No. 4 Bronze Bedrock Smooth PlaneLie-Nielsen didn’t simply replace my broken tote, which I freely admitted was due to my mishandling, but look at who replied, and note the cheerful and helpful voice of that reply. OK, Lie-Nielsen is not a multi-billion dollar corporation, and so you might argue that a multi-billion dollar corporation can’t afford to do these things. To that I would ask you to compare this customer’s response to Lie-Nielson in this situation to the same customer’s response to a new Grizzly G0586 8" Jointer. It is in a company’s best interest to support its customers – its peril when they don’t.

I have bought many Lie-Nielsen hand tools- and even a bench – over the years. Their trademark exceptional quality has always been present in those tools. When I told my wife about this situation she replied “Unfortunately, people need to understand that they have to buy, and pay for, quality up front instead of expecting a free replacement part for a plane they get at Wal-Mart.”.  It’s true. If you buy an object based on lowest cost you will replace it numerous times over your lifetime. On the other hand, you can buy a Lie-Nielsen plane, have it for life, and pass it on to your children and them theirs. Quality is always the best, and cheapest, investment.

A group of No 4 ½ Irons and Scrub Planes ready to be packaged and shipped.As I said, I have been buying Lie-Nielsen tools for some time and will continue to look first at Lie-Nielsen when again in the market. Not just because of their exceptional quality and customer consciousness, but they are Made-In-America. This is not a political site and never will be. But I sure wish our leaders would figure out what Tom Lie-Nielsen knows; it is in this country’s best interest to make real, physical things.

Lie-Nielsen, you have my respect and my business.


High School Push StickFor those of you who took woodworking shop in high school you are likely to remember this useful safety device. It was typically made from scrap 1/4” or 1/2” plywood and shaped to fit your hand. The High School Push Stick is most useful for pushing narrow pieces through a table saw while keeping your fingers far away from the saw blade. For this reason I prefer the narrower 1/4” version.

Anyone who has used this handy little device will agree it is invaluable in the wood shop. So I have taken to providing readers my most complex SketchUp model yet; High School Push Stick.skp. Download it by clicking this link.

Create A Template

Open the model and choose Camera/Parallel Projection. Choose Camera/Standard Views/Front. Zoom Extents and minimize the amount of white space around the model by adjusting the window size (this is necessary to print this model on a single 8 1/2” x 11” page). In the Print Setup Dialog box choose the Properties Button. Choose the Basic Tab and select Landscape. In the print Preview Dialog box uncheck both “Fit to page” and “Use model extents”. Enter 1 and Inches for both “In the printout” and “In SketchUp” (this produces a 1:1 print scale). Now choose Print at the top of the menu bar. If you have trouble printing to scale read Printing To Scale In SketchUp.

Sandwich the printout between two sheets of Self Adhesive Clear Plastic which you can buy at any office supply store or Amazon.com. Carefully cut out the template of the Push Stick and trace it onto a scrap of 1/4” plywood.

Cutout The Push Stick

There are three straight-line cuts that should be made on a table saw. They are: the 8 1/2” long line, the 1/4” short line and the 1” line. The three lines are perpendicular to each other. Cut these first. Next, use a jig saw, scroll saw or band saw to rough out the curves. Finally, with an edge sander and oscillating spindle sander (or just your hands) sand the curved edges to final shape. That’s it -  you now have a very handy and safe High School Push Stick.

Using The Push Stick To Shape Mullions & Muntins

Mullions Have A Through Mortise You can make a career out of searching for the correct definition of mullions and muntins but don’t waste your time. Suffice it to say they are both parts of a window or door, and they frame its lights. I think of mullions as the more complex of the two which has one or more through mortises and two tenons.

Muntins Have No Through Mortise Muntins on the other hand are less complex with no through mortise and two tenons. Definitions you will find on the internet vary all over the place; some even give the mullion a structural meaning similar to a stile. The tenons on a mullion usually fit into a stile or rail while those of a muntin fit into the through mortise of a mullion. Ok, with that as the definition for mullion and muntin let me demonstrate how the push stick can be used with both the router and table saw to shape them.

Feeding Narrow Stock Through A Table Saw The most often used application for the push stick is to feed thin or narrow pieces of stock through a table saw. In the picture at left I am cutting two rabbets in a muntin by holding 3/4” stock against the fence with a feather board and feeding the stock with the push stick. Notice my hands and fingers are well clear of the red area and at least six inches from the blade. (There are numerous feather board designs that can be used allowing for taller and still narrow stock.) In this case the push stick is merely feeding the stock, but not assisting in holding the stock against the fence.

The Push Stick Feeds & The Feather Board HoldsAnother application for the push stick is to feed narrow stock through a router. In the picture at right I begin the feed with the push stick held vertically and pushing the stock while my fingers hold the stock against the fence. The feather board does not engage until the stock leaves the cutting area. Because I don’t want my fingers to encroach the area above the metal plate I am limited in the length of stock I can shape with the router. These pieces are about minimum size.

The Push Stick Feeds And Assists The Feather Board As the feather board engages I tilt the push stick to about 35 degrees and assist the feather board in holding the stock against the fence. Here my fingers also help out. They have encroached on the area above the metal plate, but only after the stock completely surrounds the router bit, in essence shielding my fingers.

Shaping mullions and muntins are one of the more dangerous operations in a wood shop and for that reason many woodworkers build windows and doors that have lights using imatation mullions and muntins. I applaud that choice and understand it completely. But the push stick and feather board can go a long way in reducing the risk and making this operation much safer.


A reader wrote me in the comment section of one of my blogs and asked how I like the Performax Pro 22-44 drum sander. He was considering purchasing one and wanted my opinion. I replied “I can’t say enough good things about the Performax Pro 22-44 drum sander”, and I can’t. So much so I thought I would write a post just about this invaluable tool.

This is not a power tool that gets used only on occasion – no sir. Nearly every board in my shop goes through it during at least one process step. Mostly immediately following the planner. I use it for final thicknessing of all parts using 80 grit paper. I may also use it for finish sanding of panels and other parts with 220 grit paper. This is especially true for stock that has grain direction changes that would cause tear out with a hand plane.

Bringing Door Stiles & Rails To Final Thickness My thicknessing process starts with the planner where the stock is brought to within 1/16” or 1/32” of final thickness. If the stock is figured wood such as tiger maple or blistered maple I may even leave the stock 1/8” over sized because tear out on figured woods can be excessive. I will then bring the stock to within 1/32” or 1/64” with the 80 grit paper on the Performax Pro. Depending on other factors, I may even bring it to final thickness with 220 grit drum paper.

The drum sander has five significant advantages over the planner for final thicknessing. First there is negligible to no snipe at the ends. Hence you can save two to four inches on rough stock lengths.

Second, small nicks in a planner or jointer blade leave noticeable ridges in the wood. This only happens on a drum sander if you have a burn in the paper from clogging (generally caused by pitch pockets). But the latter is extremely rare while the former is quite common.

Third, with fine paper you can attain the final thickness while also leaving the stock with a finished surface.

Fourth, you can finish figured woods with no tear out, which is nearly impossible on the planner.

Thicknessing A Wider Than 22" Panel After Glue Up Fifth, and this brings me to another feature of the Performax Pro in particular, is that you can thickness wide panels. The 22-44 in its name means you can sand panels as wide as 22” in single passes, or up to 44” in two passes. Note in the picture on the right that the panel hangs out the edge of the drum sander. Simply turn the panel around to sand the remaining portion.

This can be a little tricky on long and wide panels, for example, 30” wide and 72” long table tops. You must be careful to keep the piece moving and prevent it from drooping over the edge due to its weight. It helps to have a helper in such situations.

A Simple Leg Taper Jig One of the things about a drum sander is that it is relatively safe. You might get pinched if you are not careful but it is very unlikely that you would lose a digit or suffer a significant cut. In fact, if you use your imagination you can use the drum sander to de-risk otherwise risky shop operations. For example, tapering table legs can be a risky operation, particularly on a table saw. But you can taper legs on a drum sander very safely.

In the picture above left I have rough cut tapers on four legs using the band saw in free hand style (this is not a necessary step but one that makes things go quicker). No need to be accurate, just be sure to leave the taper line. Stay an 1/8” away from it if you are not confident about your free hand cutting ability with a band saw; or skip this step all together and do it all on the drum sander.

Tapering Table Legs With A Simple Jig & Drum Sander The jig is simple; use either 3/4” plywood, or as I have here, a Formica covered piece of particle board. Using double sided sticky tape place two pieces of 3/4” wood in the direction perpendicular to travel through the drum sander. Space them for the correct taper by sliding one board closer to or further away from the other until the taper lines are parallel to the jig surface. Place the rough taper legs as I have in the photo with one piece keeping the legs from moving beyond the end of the jig and the other providing the correct taper. You may wish to tape the top ends of the legs together to keep them from slipping sideways. Start with 80 grit paper and finish with 220 grit paper and feed the legs through while monitoring the taper lines. See photo at right above.

Finished Tapered Legs - No Sanding Necessary The finished legs are shown at left; they are completed and require no final sanding. I have found this method to be not only safe, but the final product is more accurate than when cut on the table saw. In addition there are no burn marks from the saw blade which is particularly troublesome with cherry. Lastly, any significant grain direction change is no problem for the drum sander, but might be for even a hand plane. These legs were made for an Office Table which you can read more about by gong to http://www.srww.com/office_table.htm.

Flattening A Panel After Glue Up Glue ups can create wide panels and no matter how careful you are the individual boards do not align perfectly. I generally leave panel stock 1/16” to 1/8” thicker than finished width. After the glue is dried I scrape any excess squeeze out from the panel and then draw numerous parallel lines on each side with carpenter’s crayon. I sand one side keeping an eye on the disappearance of the crayon marks. As soon as they are completely gone I turn the panel over and bring the opposite side to parallel. With 220 grit I then bring the panel to final thickness. See the picture at right.

Two things you need to know about this tool: One, you must have dust collection connected and running at all the times when you are using the Performax; Two, feed the material at half speed, using 1/8 turn on depth adjustment for each pass and don’t let the material stop. I have ruined several pieces of cherry when I first used the Performax Pro until I understood these issues.

One last piece of advice. If you do buy a Performax, it comes with a drive belt that moves the material which is similar to a sandpaper belt. Optionally they sell a rubber surfaced belt. Buy it. It’s worth the extra cost. The grip is better and it doesn’t mar your surface.

As you can see, the Performax Pro 22-44 drum sander is an invaluable and frequently useable tool. Not only does it do a better job in many situations, but it is often more accurate and safer. Its snipe free operation can result in less material used. And it can handle wide boards and panels that the planner cannot. It is the only tool that can handle figured or difficult wood without any chance of tear out. Even my trusty hand planes cannot guarantee that. This machine has been a workhorse in my shop and it is rugged and reliable. I wouldn’t hesitate a second to buy another if I found it necessary to do so. But I have a feeling this one will last so long that buying another will never be an option.


On my most recent project, the American Chippendale Mirrors discussed in my last post, I was forced to choose between using a table mounted router or a shaper. Specifically, was how to shape the picture frame molding which was complicated by the use of tiger maple hardwood.

Tiger maple is notorious for tear out whether hand planing, jointing. thickness planing or shaping. I have described in this blog numerous times how I thickness plane the final 1/8” to 1/16” of tiger maple using my Performax Pro 22-44 for just this reason.

CMT 855.902.11 Traditional 1/2” Shank Router Bit The bit used to shape the molding in this project was a CMT 855.902.11 Traditional 1/2” shank bit. Its overall cutting length is 1 5/8” and its overall diameter is 1 1/16”, rather small for even considering a shaper.

The primary decision making criteria between using a router and shaper is the bit diameter. Bit RPM being equal, large diameter bits have a higher tangential velocity compared to small diameter bits. Large diameter bits remove more material requiring more horse power. This is where routers and shapers differentiate themselves (portability is another but not applicable when comparing table mounted routers to shapers).

Routers generally spin at higher RPM, typically 10,000 to 21,000 RPM and range from fractional horsepower to 3 1/2 horsepower. Hence they are useful mostly for small diameter bits. Shapers generally have two or three speeds to select from, usually 8,000 and 10,000 RPM and start at 2 horsepower and range to in excess of 5 horsepower. Hence applicable to large diameter bits.

RPM are directly comparable, but not all horses are equal; a 3 1/4 HP router is not equal to a 3 HP shaper, the latter being much more powerful. I should also mention that shapers tend to be much more hazardous than routers, so special attention to safety is required.

Molding Picture Frames On The Shaper This all being true one would normally mount this bit in a table mounted router and shape away. I started that way and quickly realized I needed to consider the shaper. Even though I was using a 3 1/4 HP variable speed router with speeds selectable from 10,000 to 21,000 RPM I couldn’t achieve a tear out free finish, no matter how many light passes I made. I put the same bit in my shaper and selected 10,000 RPM and discovered I could make tear out free finishes if I cut the molding in five light passes and proceeded slowly and smoothly on each pass. I can’t explain this rationally but I can demonstrate it quite clearly. If someone has a technical explanation I would certainly like to hear it.

This is not the first time I discovered this about tiger maple. In fact, on almost every project requiring tiger maple molding I end up on the shaper. I always try to avoid the shaper because of the long setup time required, but in the end I succumb. So this time I committed to design a fence for my shaper that will allow fast setups, flexibility, and safety. Designing such a fence may take a while but will pay large dividends in the end.


The Supreme Drill Press Table Mounted On My Delta Drill Press In March of this year I found myself wishing I had a drill press table with a fence to aid in accurately drilling a series of holes. My first thought was to build one; then my long standing rule of “using my time and efforts to build furniture and not jigs or fixtures” kicked in. So with the help of my large collection of woodworking catalogs and the internet I researched drill press tables available on the market. I settled on the Supreme Drill Press Table from Peachtree Woodworking Supply, Inc. (http://www.ptreeusa.com) shown left attached to my Delta drill press. The table is 15” deep by 24” wide and 1 3/8” thick. As shown there are two 22” fences which are closed to produce a 44” fence. These can be fully extended to form a 72” fence. It comes with two hold downs and two UHMW stop blocks. There are also two inserts to plug the hole in the center of the table that is provided for drill through.

Drilling A Series Of Holes Aligned By The Fence Since March I have used this table on numerous occasions leaving me to wonder how I ever worked without it. T-tracks on the bottom allow you to fasten the table to the drill press and provide plenty of travel front to back. The hold downs are secured in T-tracks that run front to back and are great for securing single thickness boards or boards with backing as shown at right. The star knobs allow for quick adjustments between drillings while providing plenty of clamping power. This is particularly necessary when drilling large wholes with a drill or Forstner bit.

Shaker Clock On Drill Press Table With Supporting Rollers I recently completed a wall hanging Shaker clock. The clock doors are held closed with magnetic catches which are secured in the sides by recessing them in shallow holes. I didn’t want to drill them by hand for fear of drilling them off vertical alignment. Further, I wanted to control the depth of the holes very accurately. After pondering this for a few minutes I wondered if my new drill press table could do the job. In order to get the sides under the Forstner bit I had to bring the table completely forward which caused me to think the setup might be unstable. Also the clock is about 4 feet long and holes had to be drilled close to one end, creating another potentially unstable situation. The former was no problem at all and the latter was solved with the use of adjustable roller supports shown left above.

Bessey Bar Clamps Are Used To Hold The Clock In Place For this operation I removed the fence and centered the holes in the side by eye. I adjusted the depth of the Forstner bit and locked it in place. Then I simply slid the clock along between drillings. Though it may not have been necessary, given the weight of the clock, I used Bessey Bar clamps to it in place while drilling.

I probably could have completed this operation without the use of the drill press and table. However, it sure made me feel at ease knowing I wouldn’t screw up this last step, which surely could have ruined my whole day. My brother-in-law, Winter Bargeron, calls these critical steps, with their potentially disastrous consequences, the “money cut”. Well, this table costs about $250 and is worth every penny.


Veritas Bevel-Up Smoother PlaneMuch has been written about the relatively new bevel-up (aka low angle) planes from Veritas and Lie-Nielsen – most of it complimentary. In particular, two woodworkers I admire, Chris Schwarz and Lonnie Bird, have been outspoken about the advantages of bevel-up planes. This month’s issue of Popular Woodworking (August 2009 #177) had a great article called The Case For Bevel-Up Planes by Lonnie Bird. Anyone trying to decide between bevel-up or bevel-down should read this article. My experience with bevel-up planes, however, has been quite different. I offer the following account to present a different view.

The Lie-Nielsen Low Angle LN-164 Smooth PlaneIn December I bought my first low angle plane, a Lie-Nielsen LN-62 jack plane, largely on the strength of an article by Chris Schwarz. In March I bought a Veritas bevel-up smoother plane for a class I was to take at Lonnie Bird’s school. This was my first non-Lie-Nielsen plane and I felt like I was cheating on my wife when I purchased it. Somewhere in between I bought the Lie-Nielsen LN-164 smooth plane. In the intervening months I spent a lot of time tuning and using these babies, all along comparing them to my bevel-down Bedrock planes.

Lie-Nielsen No. 4 1/2 Bedrock Smooth Plane As an engineer by education and profession I am no stranger to design analysis. When I analyze the design of bevel-up planes I am convinced they will perform better than Bedrock designs, cost less, set up easier and are more flexible. Yet, my side by side usage and comparison over the last six months have left me wanting to stick with the Bedrock design, what Lonnie calls the “antiquated” design.

Veritas Bevel-Up Smooth Plane ComponentsSo why the disparity between what technically seems true, what the leading woodworkers say, and what my experience tells me? Part of this I believe is due to my (perhaps too long) learning curve. Perhaps I haven’t used bevel-up planes enough yet. But I am convinced that the disparity is in large measure real and physical.

Components Of The Lie-Nielsen Low Angle  LN-164 Smooth PlaneI agree with Lonnie Bird that bevel-up is the way of the future for all planes; largely because they have fewer parts, hence cheaper to manufacture and easier to tune. Both the Veritas and the Lie-Nielsen bevel-up planes have only three simple components; the body, blade and cap-iron (the Lie-Nielsen actually has four components if you count a small spacer). Compare this to the Bedrock design which has a body, frog, blade, chipbreaker and cap-iron. Also, you can buy one bevel-up plane plus two or three additional blades ground to several bevel angles and essentially have the equivalent of three or four planes.

Lie-Nielsen No. 4 1/2 Smooth Plane Components For example, Veritas offers a 25, 38 and 50 degree blade. Their planes have a 12 degree bed. Hence a resulting 37 degree low angle configuration for end grain, a 50 degree York configuration for well behaved grain and a 62 degree high angle for highly figured hardwoods. Three planes in one. In the Bedrock design you have to purchase multiple frogs to achieve this. Even then it is difficult to get a 62 degree cutting angle, which appears optimal for highly figured woods.

Sharpening A Lie-Nielsen Bevel-Up Blade Requires A Jig Like The Veritas To Maintain A Right Angle All of that is true yet, call it feel, call it human engineering, call it whatever you want, but bevel-up designs are at least two generations away from getting it right in my opinion. While the Bedrock design has more parts and is more difficult to tune, like many woodworkers I have a number of planes tuned for specific purposes. This means I tune them once and avoid reconfiguring them so that I don’t have to tune them again for quite some time. What’s left after tune up is minor blade depth and lateral adjustments – and that is where the Bedrock design excels. The human engineering of the Bedrock design is such that you can make either a blade depth change or a lateral adjustment between strokes while returning the plane to the starting point of a pass. Both adjustments are right there at your finger tips. No hunting required, no need to turn the plane over or change hand position to make an adjustment. Also, both adjustments are silky smooth on the Lie-Nielsen Bedrock designs, and both are like vernier adjustments that give precise results.

Lie-Nielsen bedrock Tote (Front) & Veritas Bevel-Up Tote - Note Difference In Angles Contrast this to the Veritas and Lie-Nielsen bevel-up planes. The Veritas seems to be the most clumsy of the two manufacturers. The adjustment mechanism for both depth and lateral adjustment is a knob that is placed too low for the thumb or index finger to access without moving your hand from the handle. You can see this in the picture at right. Further, I find that if I tighten the lever cap to a degree required to keep the blade from shifting on its own the lateral adjustment is too tight to operate smoothly.

Lie-Nielsen Bedrock Tote (Front) & Lie-Nielsen Low Angle Tote - Note Difference In Angles The Lie-Nielsen low angle design doesn’t require a lateral adjustment relying instead on a tighter machining of the bed alignment to the edges of the blade. However this requires that the blade be ground and honed precisely at 90 degrees to the edges, a task that is easily performed, ironically, with the aid of a Veritas honing jig. The Lie-Nielson’s depth adjustment seems slightly better human engineered than the Veritas. Neither come close to the ease, smoothness and controllability of the Bedrock.

One of the features of the bevel-up design that is far superior to the Bedrock is mouth adjustment. Both the Veritas and the Lie-Nielsen planes make this easy. Simply loosen the front knobs, adjust the mouth and retighten. In the Bedrock design you have to move the frog position requiring the involvement of three screws. It is quite difficult. However, like I said, in practice this adjustment is rarely required if you dedicate your planes for specific configurations.

The Lie-Nielsen No. 4 Bronze Bedrock Smooth PlaneTuning a Bedrock is second nature to me since I have been doing it for so long. I can achieve wispy thin and wide shaving with very little effort. For some reason I can’t explain other than a learning curve, I can’t achieve a tuned state nearly as quickly with the bevel-up planes. This is puzzling to me but I can only hope it is not a permanent condition.

The last part of this comparison is a somewhat nebulous factor, let’s call it feel. The Bedrock feels right in my hand. It’s beefy (those extra components have a benefit), the grips (tote and knob) are just right and everything is in reach without moving my hand from the grip. I can easily get in a zone and plane away effortlessly even with the 55 degree middle pitch.

Mouth Adjustment Is Easy On A Bevel-Up PlaneThe bevel-up planes, on the other hand, seem too light; my hand and arm extension seems wrong; I find myself fighting the lower angle which is tiring. Look at the two pictures above comparing the totes of the Bedrock design versus the totes of the bevel-up planes. Notice that both Lie-Nielsen and Veritas bevel-up planes have a lower angle tote forcing your bodies forearm and shoulder lower. I suspect the designer’s rationale was that for steep pitch configurations you need to be pushing more behind the plane to compensate for the increased force required. That makes sense, but it’s unnatural; and you have to pay this price even for mid and shallow pitch configurations, which are the pitch configurations most often used in the shop.

Lastly, in this nebulous category called feel, the bevel-up controls require me to break my planing stride. I usually approach a smoothing task, especially for figured woods, with the blade slightly retracted. On each pass I extend the blade ever so slightly until I am taking that wispy thin cut I want. During this time I also make lateral adjustments. With the Bedrock I do this on the fly. I can’t do this with the bevel-up planes. It’s stop and go with each adjustment

Maybe I am just too biased to allow for a new feel, I don’t know. But I have been at this comparison for nearly six months and still haven’t achieved the advantages my engineering analysis, and the woodworkers I admire and aspire to be, say I should. So for now I’ll stick with my Bedrocks thank you.


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