April 23, 2007

Setting Up Shop - Review

setting_up_shop.jpgOur workshop used to belong to someone else, so when we moved in, we pretty much kept things as they were; the workbench is against the same wall and the lumber racks are in the same place. We made a few changes and built some shelves, but nothing too severe. Well, we just finished Sandor Nagyszalanczy’s Setting Up Shop and now we’ve got some work to do. This book has opened the door to such a large array of possibilities for our workshop that we don’t even know where to begin the renovations.

Nagyszalanczy makes that point that every shop should be different in order to match the working style of its owner. But even with this difference, there are a lot of universal considerations to take into account before rolling in the table saw and having at those oak boards. This book is about those universals, some big and some small, that all come together and create the functionality of a workspace.

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April 13, 2007

Microplane Stainless Steel Sanding Discs - Review

microplane_fine.jpgMicroplane has recently come out with an interesting and innovative idea; stainless steel sanding discs for an orbital sander. According to Microplane, the discs, which are available in coarse (40 grit), medium (80 grit) and fine (120 grit), remove wood five times faster and last seven times longer than regular sandpaper. It supposedly takes 35 regular sanding discs to measure up to one stainless steel disc.

The discs are just what you would assume they would be; Borg versions of the standard orbital discs. The back of each disc has eight little Velcro pads that are placed so as not to interfere with any of the dust collection holes (the discs are compatible with both five and eight hole orbitals). The sanding side of the discs have a number of little blade protrusions on them. The coarse grit disc resembles a bullet-riddled piece of metal, while the finer two grits take on the appearance of a flattened version of Microplane's great kitchen graters. The discs attach to the sander just like regular ones do.

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April 6, 2007

Handi-Shims - Review

hs_side.jpgOne of the more interesting products we saw at this year’s JLC Live, was the Handi-Shim. We talked to the guys at the booth and they were pretty excited about their little multi-colored, reusable shims. In fact, they were nice enough to let us take a bag to test out. Well for about two weeks now, we’ve been using them for just about everything and we have to say that we’re very impressed. They are a quick, easy, and durable alternative to traditional shim shingles and because they are reusable, they make for an economic purchase as well.

The shims come in three sizes; 1/16” (red), 1/8” (white), and 1/4” (blue), and are 1-3/4” by 1-3/4” (we've also been notified that a fourth shim; green and measuring 1/32" is in the works). With such convenient sizes, just about any measurement can be achieved with a combination of these three. In addition, they are made so that you can easily snap each one into four smaller shims. This gave our bag of 30 the potential of being a bag of 120.

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April 4, 2007

Ridgid Fuego 6-1/2" Framing Saw - Review

Fuego.jpg
We were pretty thrilled when Ridgid sent the Fuego along for us to test out. It’s a unique idea, and the first of its kind: the 6-1/2” framing saw. It’s lightweight, powerful, durable, and loaded with more features than James Bond’s Aston Martin.

We’ve been punishing this saw for about a week now. We’ve cut every piece every piece of wood that crossed our path. We measured the accuracy of the bevel gauge, the depth setting, and the kerf lines, and, yes, we dropped the thing. Not a casual, accidental, elbow knocks it off the workbench onto a pile of tarps drop. Nope. Ridgid said that the Fuego’s composite plate can withstand a fall of one story, so we heaved it up to a healthy height and gave it a full-on, nose to the earth, 9.8 meters per second squared, watch it go, drop.

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April 3, 2007

Renovating Old Houses – Review

renovating_old_houses.jpgIf you’ve ever owned an old house or even known someone who has, you know that the effort involved in keeping them going is huge. The process of fixing one thing usually leads to fixing something else and who even knows where to start when everything needs fixing in the first place? It's enough to make you jealous of Sisyphus and his boulder; at least he knew what was coming at the end of each day.

But old houses are filled with a personality and a feel that you simply can’t get with a new home and, for some, those characteristics far out-weigh the time and effort needed to keep these old warhorses afloat. But, there’s also no doubt that the process can be intimidating and, from time to time, overwhelming, even to the experienced builder. What should you tackle first? How will fixing this problem affect that other problem later on? Is that sagging old roof going to fall in on me while I’m sleeping? All these questions need answers, and thank the Lord for George Nash and his book, Renovating Old Houses, because he has all the answers.

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March 27, 2007

Skil Octo Multi-Finishing Sander - Review

octo_full.jpg
Sanding is a very zen experience. It's the woodworker's moment of contemplation; the cutting, gluing, and fitting are all done and the piece is almost finished. The only thing left is to apply some stain and your hand-crafted piece of art is complete. It's a time to run your hands over the wood, to consider the process that got you here, to experience a communion with the piece, and to gently work out any small imperfections in the hope of achieving something that is without fault. A peaceful last breath before it is all over.

Garbage.

Pure garbage. And anyone who has ever done a woodworking project knows it. Sanding is a tedious, and at times, frustrating process. Orbital sanders take some of the pain out of the procedure, but there are always areas, little rabbets, nooks, and cut-outs, that you simply can't get to, not even with a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a pencil or taped to a stick (we know you've done it, we have too). If you're like us, you look forward to, and actively seek out, anything that makes sanding easier.

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March 22, 2007

Bosch Fine Cut Power Handsaw - Review

bosch_finecut.jpgBosch has proven to be one of the most innovative tool companies out there. Just look at the miter saw they released a couple years ago. They not only put all of the bevel controls up front, but they added a great micro-adjust feature. The innovations are so conceptually simple that it’s surprising that it’s taken someone until now to come up with them. Along those same lines comes their Finecut Power Handsaw. You’re telling us that no one’s ever done this before? Why wasn’t there a major market release of this tool, like ten years ago?

It’s a moot point because it’s here now and judging from what we experienced, it’s going to be around for a while. In fact we’d be shocked if a few of the other big companies didn’t follow suit with similar tools in the next few years.

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February 28, 2007

Bosch Colt Variable Speed Router - Review

bosch_colt.jpgWe are big fans of Bosch tools. They're durable, they look good, and they're incredibly precise. That said, it comes as little surprise that the Bosch Colt Variable Speed Router is an outstanding tool and is now our go-to router for all small and medium sized jobs.

This little machine has some serious power behind it (one horsepower), and the ergonomic grip is far superior to anything we've ever seen on a router of this size. The adjustments, knobs, and on/off switch are all in the right place, making the operation of the Colt feel natural and easy.

The Colt's other perks include a soft start, a 1/4 inch collet, a nice carrying case, an edge guide, and a variable speed dial. Bosch does sell a version of the Colt that is single speed, but having the option to set the speed is worth the additional cost.

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February 27, 2007

Complete Home Wiring - Review

CompleteWiring.jpgUPDATE: This book has been recalled after nine years on the shelves. More information here.

With Complete Home Wiring, Sunset Books and editor Scott Atkinson have put together a solid reference for any one attempting a home wiring project. From a brief course on electricity to troubleshooting complicated problems, virtually every topic is covered.

The information is conveyed with clear writing, easy to understand drawings, and helpful pictures and charts. Topics covered include:

Low voltage wiring
How and where to run wires
Planning new circuits
Recessed lights, ceiling fans, and wall sconces
Electrical tools
The correct way to strip a wire
And on and on...

Because it is so thorough, it is a great reference to have sitting on the shelf for use when needed. There are a lot of basic electrical guides out there and we think this one stands a bit higher than the rest.

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February 22, 2007

Gorilla PVC Cement - Review

gorilla_pvc.jpg

We were pretty skeptical when we came across Gorilla PVC Cement, simply because it was so different from other glues we’ve used in the past. It doesn’t stink, it’s only one bottle, as opposed to the traditional 2 part PVC glue systems, and it says it’s Earth friendly. There’s no way it can work. Right?

Boy, were we wrong. This stuff is great, and, without question, worthy of the Gorilla Glue name. We found that each of the characteristics listed above made it our go-to PVC glue for standard plumbing repairs. With no primer, it’s easy to use, and without the fumes, you don’t get that ‘White Rabbit” feeling after spending an afternoon gluing pipes under the kitchen sink.

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