Wooden Valet Charging Station

Wooden Valet Charging Station

If there is one particular spot (perhaps among many) that tends to get a little messy in my house – it’s my nightstand. Various things just tend to build up there – watches, earrings, rings, cell phones, loose change, random charging cords, last night’s midnight snack remnants (oops).  It can all quickly add up to unnecessary mess, and, since one of the recommendations for improving your sleep is to maintain a comfortable, peaceful environment in your bedroom, I know I needed to fix this! That’s why I started to think of a way to organise the area right next to my bed into an efficient storage spot for the random items that tend to pile up there.  And thus, my homemade wooden valet charging station was born!

Wooden Valet Charging Station

There are so many examples out there – many with very similar designs – so much so that I’m not entirely sure who originally came up with this type of design, and can’t, in turn, give them credit for it.

In the end, I chose a design and modified it to fit exactly the things that most often are scattered across my nightstand:  Watches, spare change, earings, glasses and my phone/charger.

Unfortunately, I was a bit lax with photos of the build this time around, but I think you’ll get the jist! This build doesn’t require many tools and is endlessly modifyable to fit what you want!

Tools You’ll Need

Jigsaw or Coping saw

Router (if you want a tray)

Drills

Mitre, Table, or Hand Saw

Getting Started

After nailing down my design and acquiring everything I would need to begin, I cut my 19mm pine boards down to size on my mitre station.  (I already had 19mm pine on hand, but I actually wanted thinner boards so I ended up running them through my thicknesser after to end with abour a 12mm board for the front face and a 15mm for the back.)

Cutting pine boards for a wooden valet charging station

This was my first time building them, and because I was just testing out a few pine stations for myself and my partner, I measured and drew the template directly onto the boards. If I were to make future versions, I would definitely create a printable template that I could fix to the boards in order to make production much faster.

Cutting Slots

Watch Slot:

I made the watch storage slot by drilling a hole 3 inches in from the edge and 2 inches down from the top. I then popped out my trusty jig saw and cut straight lines in from the side of the board to remove the material up to the hole, creating a nice clean slot with a rounded end.

watch slots cut out with the jigsaw
The first two fronts I made, I actually cut to make the back  of the slot straight.
This was directly before I realised that I wanted the boards to be thinner and they did not enjoy going through the thicknesser with a slot already cut out of them.
Turns out that I liked the curved look better anyways, so I kept it in the V2.0.

Front Slot:

I’m not sure why, after the success of the watch slot, I decided to make this part significantly more difficult by trying to use my dado jig to cut this slot to size. My idea was that I wanted to cut an exact size slot to fit the width of the back tenon, and I thought it would be much more accurate and quick to do it this way. However, because my dado jig is made for boards much longer, and this slot was only going to be teensy weensy compared to regular cabinetry,  it took a lot of time to rig a set up that allowed me to clamp the piece and jig in place. In hind sight, if I was intent on using the router rather than a jig saw to cut these slots, I should have just clamped some straight edges and had at it. Lesson learned!

The position of this slot in relation to the bottom of the face board is important because it determines what amount of tilt the front face will sit at when the two pieces are connected. I simply eyeballed the tilt to come up with what I thought was a god compromise between ensuring things sitting on the shelf don’t fall forward, and not having a giant tilt on the back piece.


Phone Shelf: 

The premise of this valet station is that the shelf the phone sits on is something of a through tenon, which allows for the back of the shelf to prop up the station on an angle. Since I had cut the front slot first, I was able to measure the exact length of the slot to ensure that I got a good fit.

Back shelf segment of the wooden valet charging station
Segments cut out for the shelf and the holes for the wallet slot drilled

I marked out two equal portions on either side of the shelf and quickly cut out the small, rectangular chunks with my jigsaw to allow the tenon to slide through the slot in the front face and protrude a couple of inches in order to create the shelf. I then test fitted to see how it would sit, and was pretty happy with the result!

Wallet Slot:

With the above lesson learned, I moved back to ye’ old drill and jigsaw method to cut the wallet/notebook slot into the back of the vallet station. It was so much more time efficient and really didn’t look that much less accurate than the router had – or at least, certainly not enough to make up for the cost in time to set up the router and dado jig on such a small board.

Jigsaw cutting out the wallet slot

Tray:

Back to the router for this section, and it made me realize just how much I need to build a square template for routering inlays. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in the cards for this project, so I simply hot glued straight pieces of wood to my table to use as a template guide in order to route out a shallow tray for coins and loose knick knacks.

Glasses notch:

The notch for glasses or necklace storage was cut with a 22mm mortising bit on the router. I simply clamped the piece down and slowly moved the bit into the wood about halfway.

glasses notch in wooden valet charging station

Pencil groove:

At the front of the phone shelf I wanted a small groove, both as an extra stop for anything sliding off the shelf, and also to hold a pen or pencil. I used the router with a straight edge to make a shallow groove, but a few shallow passes over the table saw followed by some sanding would probably work just as well.

routing the pencil groove
To the right, on the white melamine, in this photo of me cutting the pencil groove, you can see all my test runs for the coin tray

Drilling Holes:

Dowels:

Moving back to the front piece, I drilled two holes the size of my particular dowels in the front face of my valet station, making sure to use a stop collar on the bit to ensure the same depth of drilling and then cut my dowels to size and leaving them unattached at the moment in order to make sanding easier later.

drilling the dowel holes

Cables:

For the groove and hole for the cable, I put the station together by inserting the back piece into the slot on the face piece, and quickly marked a location a few cm out from where the shelf connected with the face, and a spot directly blow this on the bottom of the front face.

drilling the dowel holes

I then separated the pieces and used a 19mm forstner bit to drill a hole into the shelf piece at the mark I had previously placed. This hole would serve to allow the head of the charging cable to access the phone. At the bottom of the face piece I used the router to quickly cut a small groove to allow the cable itself to pass behind the station.

small cable groove with a straight router bit

For the second valet charging station, I upped my forstner bit size to 22mm to allow myself a bit more wiggle room, and was more happy with this result.

Sanding and Finishing

After all the cutting was done if was time to clean everything up with some sanding. I went over each board with 120 grit sandpaper at first, rounding out sharp corners and any rough edges from the jig saw.

Moving up through the grits, I stopped at 180 and used wood glue and my mallet to fasten the dowels into the predrilled holes on the front faces, and then followed up with my last sanding at 220 grit.

clear coat on the wooden charging valet station

To finish the valet stations, I simply sprayed on a few coats of polyurethane spray – sanding between coats. And with that, I was finished!

wooden valet charging station

What would I change?

All in all, they turned out better than I had expected.

However, if I were to make them again there are a few things that I would change.

I’ve found that the depth of the tray isn’t quite deep enough for me, it works great for coins, etc, but the angle of the board is a bit high to allow for any large knick-knacks not to roll out.

wooden valet charging station

I mentioned that I made the hole for the charging end of the cord larger on the second valet charging station, but I would also make the groove for the cord itself a bit larger in order to allow for a little more wiggle room and easier pull through. And, again, as previously mentioned, I would definitely just cut all the through slots using a drill and jigsaw, as it was significantly faster in terms of setup.

Bedside organiser and charging station

Other than that, they serve their purpose and have definitely helped maintain some semblance of organisation in my otherwise messy life!

Do you have a wooden valet charging station? If so, what items do you store on it, and would you change any of its features? Let me know in the comments!

Table Saw Crosscut Sled with Dust Collection

Table saw crosscut sled with dust collection

Oh, crosscut sled! Is there anything more researched, planned and built amongst wood workers than you? I would be interested to know what it would be, if so! After so long, I have finally built my dream table saw crosscut sled with dust collection.

I’ve wanted one of these mean machines since I picked up my table saw at the beginning of last year – actually I’ve wanted one since well before I even had a table saw, but I understood that the table saw must come first.

Since I had spent so much time looking up the sleds before I even had the table saw, I had a pretty good idea of what it was I wanted my sleek, accurate, super crosscutting machine to look like.

I wanted it large enough to support panels for cabinetry. I wanted it to have tracks for hold down clamps – both on the base and on the fence for a stop block, and I wanted it to have some type of incorporated dust collection.

There are so many designs out there, and in the end, I went with simple and effective for my first build. (or, so I thought at the time, it did turn out to be a little more complicated than I had originally planned, as is often the case with my builds!)

Table saw crosscut sled with dust collection

The Base

The first step was cutting the base to size. I went with 12mm plywood for the base, as it’s what I had on hand, but I knew that this wouldn’t be thick enough for the tracks that I planned to embed in the base. So, I grabbed a piece of 6mm MDF that I also had on hand and laminated it on top of the ply. I preferred this design in the end anyways, as I was able to ensure a flat base (12mm plywood from Bunnings isn’t known for its ability to stay flat after all!) after gluing the two together on top of my table saw (the flattest surface I had).

breaking down the plywood base of my crosscut sled

I used a sanding block to chamfer the back of the MDF where the front fence would attach. This helps to ensure that dust doesn’t build up by the fence and start to affect the accuracy of your cuts.

chamfering the back of the crosscut sled to allow for dust

Fences

I cut both the back “fence” and front fence from the same sheet of 12mm ply and laminated three pieces together to end up with two fences at 36mm thickness.

glueing the fence pieces together for the crosscut sled

The back fence, since it’s used only to keep the sled together, didn’t need to be perfectly straight, so I didn’t fuss so much with the glue up.

The front fence, however, needs to be a perfectly flat reference surface for the wood to be cut against – so I clamped it to my level during glue up to ensure it stayed flat.

front fence glued to a level to maintain straightness during drying

Tracks

Once the base was dry, I was able to set about cutting the slots for the tracks to sit in.
I used my router with a 20mm mortising bit, and clamped a straight edge to guide the router.

Since I don’t have a plunge router, instead of using the tild method, I simple used a forstner bit to to remove 5mm of material in the plywood base so that I could start up the router without it being in any material. I employed my trusty buddy Kenny to do two passes, taking 5mm at a time, to end up with a 10mm deep slot which fit my track perfectly.

Routing out the slots for the t-track in the base of the crosscut sled

The same process was used for the second slot. The tracks are attached with screws through the predrilled, countersunk holes in the aluminium. I love these little tracks from  Orange Aluminum they are significantly cheaper than the ones we all see in every YouTube video sponsored by Rockler, and I think they work as well as any hobby wood worker would ever need. I usually just buy a long piece to keep and cut it to whatever size I may need for a particular project.

T-track inserted into the base of the crosscut sled
Here you can see the area that I used the forstner bit on (which will be hidden beneath the fence) as well as the t-track and chamfered edge.

Runners

For the runners, I chose two pieces of oak hardwood that I ripped to about one mm less than the width of the mitre slots on my table saw. I cut them thinner than the slots so that I didn’t have to worry about getting them to fit perfectly without any play – I would  instead address the positioning during attachment.

small black spacers placed in the mitre slots to raise up the runners

To attach them, I placed the small plastic spacers that came with my feather boards into the mitre slots on my table saw to lift the runners a bit out of the slot. I then placed shims into the mitre slot where I had a gap in order to press both runners tightly against the blade side of the slots. This meant that the runners were only referencing off of one side of the mitre slot – eliminating any play without the need to cut them perfectly to size.

Runners placed in mitre slots of the table saw
Almost forgot to shim the runners against the blade edge of the mitre slot here. JUST caught myself – whew!

I placed double sided tape onto the rails and used the fence to position the sled, angling it down onto the rails and pressing firmly to ensure good tape adhesion. I could then flip the sled over, drill and countersink screws through the runners and into the sled.

Attaching the back fence

The next step was attaching the back fence. I did a woopsy earlier when I had cut some really nice curved designs in the fence, and then realized that – since I was offsetting the sled – I had cut too much off the fence, and the blade would rise directly beneath the lower curved section.

Oops. Clumsy Raff.

Luckily, I still had the piece I had cut off, so I simply glued it back on and it’s really not that noticeable in the end.

curved section of the back fence on the crosscut sled
Woops! Had to glue this section back on *facepalm*

Before attaching the fence, I also cut two slots into the face of it that would line up with the T-tracks in the base of the sled. This would allow me to drop in and later remove the bolts for the hold downs.

Attaching the back fence with predrilled and countersunk screws

I attached the fence to the base of the sled with predrilled and countersunk screws through the base, and then moved on to the front fence.

Squaring the front fence

The front fence needs to be perfectly square to the blade. So, I popped the sled into the rails and cut through the front half of the sled, stopping before going all the way to the front fence.

Partially cutting through the base of the sled before attaching the fence
For some reason this part had my blood pumping! Probably because I thought I was going to make another clumsy mistake.

I then predrilled and countersunk one screw into the right end of the fence, and used a carpenters square to roughly square the fence to the blade, before putting another single screw in the left side of the fence.

Here comes the math!

If you have never seen William Ng’s video on his “five cut” method to calculate how square your fence is – you really must watch it. It’s lengthy, but I think it really changed a lot of woodworking for me. He explains in detail how to use math to calculate exactly how off your fence is, and the method is incredibly accurate – like…. Down to .005 mm accurate. AND GUYS I CANNOT DESCRIBE HOW MUCH I HATE MATH, BUT THIS GUY MADE ME THINK IT WAS SO COOL. (There are a couple of high school teachers who shall not be named who could learn a thing or two from him.)

It’s not something I could in any way explain well enough  ( So, you should definitely watch the above video) – but essentially, because you measure for your error after you have taken a series of cuts off a panel, whatever error you may have is compounded – which means tiny errors that you wouldn’t normally be apparent become pretty in your face.

With his method I was able to get my fence down to .016mm of error over 1 metre. I think that’s pretty darn good – and definitely more accurate than anything else in my shop.

Once I got that accuracy, I clamped the fence down to ensure it wouldn’t move, and attached several more screws through the base.

Stop block and fence T-track

As I mentioned earlier, I really wanted to have a t-track on the fence that I could use a stop block on. For the track itself, I used a Powertec track that I purchased from Amazon. In a similar way to the tracks in the base of the sled, I’ve found these tracks to be extremely useful at a fraction of the price of the Rockler one.  This one even come with hold down clamps, so it was the perfect package for everything I needed to finish my sled. After cutting the track to size, it was easy to install through the predrilled holes into the top of my fence.

Crosscut sled stop block made from plywood scraps

The stop block was constructed out of two scraps of plywood with a bolt and nob, super simple!

Dust collection

Most people use their brains, with a bit of preventative safety, to put blocks at the back of the crosscut sled to ensure that your fingers don’t accidentally wander over the area of the sled that the sawblade will protrude through. Since, I was going to put a block there anyways, I decided to try to attach dust collection in this area as well.

I built a simple three-sided box with glue and brad nails, and used a hole saw to cut a hole the size of my dust collection hose.

Creating a dust collection port for the back of the crosscut sled

I attached it to the base with predrilled and countersunk screws through the base.

Dust collection and thumb protector for crosscut sled

It’s definitely not as effective as having the dust collection over top of the blade, but I do find that it keeps the sled significantly cleaner than using it without!

And then, to be extra sure that I didn’t let my errant thumbs wander in the direction of that box, I wrote a big ol’ NOPE on the top.

And with that, I was finished!

In use

Crosscut with T-track and stop blocks in use!
I love how easy it is to set up for repeat cuts! Here I was cutting the frame for my folding mitre saw station’s arms 🙂

I love this sled. Since building it a few months ago, I’ve used it on nearly every project that I’ve built.  It’s heavy, but I love how accurate it is, as well as its capability to cut larger panels. It’s definitely my most used table saw accessory! In the future, I’ll likely build a smaller version as well and I’m certainly keen to build a mitre sled accessory in the future so that I can kill two birds with one stone (my gliding mitre saw will be a bit peeved to be left out, but it needs to calm down anyways)

Hope you’ve enjoyed this build! Do you have a crosscut sled? How has it changed the way you use your table saw? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

The Best Rotary Tool Accessories of 2020

Dremel lawnmower sharpening accessory

With the seemingly thousands of options available for rotary tool users, it can be a little overwhelming when it comes to hunting down the perfect option for your job at hand. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of my personal recommendations for the best rotary tool accessories in 2020. The list includes my most used, and favourite accessories, as well as a few novelties that you might not have even known existed!

I’ve had a little Ozito rotary tool for a while now.

Ozito 170W Rotary Tool body with flex attachment
You can read more about my experience with the Ozito rotary tool here!

While I don’t have any complaints with the tool itself, in fact, I’ve actually been quite surprised by it, the accessories that it came with were a little lacking in quality. Which is why I found myself quickly upgrading them to aftermarket ones shortly after buying the tool itself.

Wait, is this a Dremel ad?

The short answer is no: I’m not sponsored by Dremel in any way shape or form, I just appreciate an accessory that doesn’t fall apart in two seconds flat.

But, be forewarned, you are going to see a lot of Dremel accessories in this list. Trust me, I have tried cheaping out and buying the large packs of other accessories – but in the end, it really didn’t save me any money considering the longevity or quality of the accessories I ended up with.

I will usually only purchase Dremel accessories now unless there is a very good deal on another brand that I would like to try. In my experience, there isn’t anything I have come across in the rotary tool accessory range that compares to the quality of Dremel. If you’re reading this and are one of the lucky ones who has found a good, cheap accessory on Amazon, please let me know, I’m all about saving the moolah!

Before we begin

If this is your first time using a rotary tool and it didn’t come with a kit of accessories, I do recommend that you get your hands on an el cheapo set like this one to begin with.

(I know, I know, I just said that I don’t buy off-brand anymore, but bear with me) For one, buying a large set of various accessories will allow you to determine what you use most (kind of like with router bits), and it will give you a standard that you can measure against the much, much better-quality accessories that you will later get.

When I originally purchased my Ozito it came with over one-hundred accessories. I quickly was able to determine what I needed better quality on, and what I didn’t use enough to justify the upgrade.

Use it properly

And one last thing before I hop right into the list, I know it seems like common sense, but please only use rotary tools in the way they were intended. This includes making sure you are using the right running speeds and materials for the job at hand! Many of these accessories will only work well if you use them in the ways that they were designed to be used. If you run a high-quality bit at the wrong speed into the wrong material and it bends or melts, that’s more of a reflection on the user than the accessory itself.

Here’s a handy list from Dremel itself that shows the correct running speeds for various bits and materials:

Source: Dremel

In general, if you see smoke and burning, your speed is too high, and if you feel the bit slowing it could be that you are putting too much pressure on the tool – if you lessen your pressure and it’s still struggling it’s a good indication that your speed is too slow.

Safety (again)

USE YOUR PPE!

Okay, one more last thing and another bit of common sense that deserves to be mentioned, rotary tools spin at really high speeds, and have a tendency to occasionally fling things at equally high speeds, remember your safety glasses. Similarly, rotary tools kick up some really fine dust and particles, so using a mask is a must as well!

With that, let’s get to it!

Accessory Categories

Generally speaking, rotary tool bits can be organised into a few categories

  • Cutting
  • Sanding
  • Material Removal and Shaping
  • Engraving
  • Grinding and Polishing

Cutting

Best for cutting metal:

Most rotary tools come with resin “cutting wheels” – if you’ve ever used one of these you know that they don’t last long – often shattering mid-project, or grinding down into nothing after one or two cuts. I’m happy to say that I will never again be going back to that relationship, because I’ve found something much better.

The best in this category is the:
Dremel Fiberglass Reinforced cutting wheel

If you’re wondering why I didn’t pick the ultra-super-duper-heavy-duty premium metal cutting wheel from Dremel well…

Fiberglass reinforced cutting wheels, such as the above, do last longer and cut better than the resin cutting disks, and they also come in packs. The pack including twenty fiberglass cutting wheels is only slightly more expensive than the single premium metal version from Dremel. While the premium metal version doesn’t have the same tendency to expand or fall apart, and Dremel advertises that it has 20x the cutting life as their fiberglass counterparts, I just didn’t find that to be the case. In fact, I found that the cutting abrasive on the wheel didn’t last as long as I needed it to in order to justify the increase in price.

The cutting speed on the fiberglass version is great and I really can’t see myself getting more cuts out of the premium cutting disk than 20 of these – which is why it gets my vote!

Best for cutting wood: 

Dremel 543 Cutting/Shaping Wheel

I love this carbide cutting wheel for slicing through small trim pieces or making internal cut outs in my projects (it’s come in great use for my caravan remodel!) As a bonus, it can also be used for fibreglass, laminate, and plastics. The tungsten carbide tipped blade lasts a good deal of time, has great cutting speed, and doesn’t seem to overheat or burn the wood in most applications.

It also has abrasive on the face of the blade, which means this cutting wheel can multitask as a shaper as well! BONUUUSSSS

Best for cutting stone and glass:

Dremel 545 Diamond Wheel

Diamond cutting wheels are the way to go when you want to be cutting ultra-hard materials. I’ve tried several different brands of these types of wheels and often found the diamond abrasive to wear away very, very quickly and/or the wheel would overheat and bend the mandrel before I could complete a job. The biggest difference that I’ve found with this Dremel bit is that the diamond abrasive lasts significantly longer.

I’ve used this bit on the porcelain tiles that I needed to shorten to install a new sink fixture and it worked fantastically. I’ve also used it, before I had a grinder, to cut away at some concrete that had shifted and was blocking the door of my shed from opening, AND, I’ve used it to cut through some carbon fibre tubing for a lightweight frame construction. It has really exceeded my expectations in all of these applications, but I suppose that my expectations were rather low after using the other non-branded diamond wheels.

It’s certainly saved me a lot of headaches, that’s for sure!

Sanding

Okay, so, if you’ve ever ordered Rotary tool accessories before, you’ll be familiar with the insane packs of sanding drums and barrels that come with an incredible 500 some pieces for 11 dollars and 23 cents or something.

Ozito rotary tool drum sander being used to shape a wooden bottle opener

I’m here to tell you not to do it. Just don’t do it. As someone who has wasted a whole lot of time changing out sanding pads that last all of two seconds (touch it to the wood for 1.5 seconds and the abrasive pad suddenly becomes as smooth as a sheet of paper) – I am begging you to learn from my mistake. There is very little on this earth that I find more annoying than having to change out an accessory a million times on a single project. Especially when the process of changing them out gets longer and longer as the drum mandrel heats and expands and the sandpaper barrels no longer fit (can you tell I am a woman who has been slighted by the multi-packs of sanding drums? Hell hath no fury!)

If you have found a kit of sanding drums that actually works – please enlighten me, I would love to try it!

Until then, I’m sticking with these:

Oh, and, they serve a multipurpose too!  My dog, Taco hates to have her nails clipped. And I really do mean hates having her nails clipped. Put these suckers on a low speed, give her nails a little sandy-sand, and it’s not nearly an ordeal as the clippers! (As a note, this really only works for us with the Flexshaft attachment, Taco doesn’t like the tool itself near her.) 😉

 

Material Removal/Shaping

Atoplee 10 Pcs Tungsten Steel Burs

If you do any power carving or simply need to remove and shape material quickly and accurately, there is nothing like a good bur or rasp used in a rotary tool. Lower the speed and you’ll have a delicate carving tool, up the speed (but not too much!) and you have a lean, mean, material removing machine.

I’m about to do something you haven’t seen yet and declare the best value accessory in this category to be one that is not Dremel. *round of applause*

I’ve used these burs on both metal and wood and have had good results. If you do really small detail carving, these aren’t for you, as they are on the large side – but I’m really happy with the results on larger carvings and material removal for the price. I’ve used them numerous times, haven’t noticed any dulling in the blades yet, and they haven’t overheated on me. (Just make sure you use the correct speed!)

I don’t know why they mention diamond in the title (probably because they want to trick people), but it’s pretty easy to tell even from the picture that these are not diamond bits. That bit of sneaky advertising aside, I have found these bits to work well for me. 

Engraving

Okay, Okay, Okay – I love a good engraving bit!  It’s just so cool to see something delicate and accurate come out of something spinning at 25,000 rpm.

You’re going to be pretty hard pressed to do any engraving while holding your rotary tool in hand though. Which is why you’re going to need, at the very least a Flexshaft attachment, and preferably with a pencil or comfort grip. My Ozito rotary tool came with a flexshaft attachment, which is part of the reason I found the kit such great value. It’s still going strong, but if it ever falls apart, I have used the Dremel comfort grip attachment at a trade show, and it is amazing. Comfortable and well balanced, it really does feel like holding a large pen. It’ll be the first thing I reach for off the store shelf when the time comes.

As for engraving bits – for glass, stone and really anything substantially harder than wood that you want to imbue with some fine detail engraving, diamond is the way to go. As with the diamond cutting disks, I found many of the cheaper engraving sets would quickly wear out the diamond abrasive. If engraving is something you do a lot of, invest in the specific diamond bur Dremel bits that you will use often. They last much longer, (the first, thin pointed bit that I bought a year and a half ago is still going!) and will pay you back tenfold both in enjoyment and cost when you don’t have to go out and buy more after every other project. For the ones that you don’t use as often, cheaper steel engraving bits are fine!

This is the best value kit, in my opinion, as it includes a diamond wheel point pit, a diamond carving bit, four engraving bits, and four grinding bits. As I’m writing this the kit is also 30% off, another bonus!!


Grinding

I’ll be honest here. I don’t use my grinding bits very much. Occasionally, if I have a substantially dull edge on something that I don’t really care for much, I might run it over the grinding bits on my Dremel – I have done this for my garden clippers, and it worked fairly well. And, I have even tried to sharpen my 1970’s lawn mower blades as well (which probably would have worked if the blades weren’t so entirely shortened from years of people running small rocks and pebbles through them.) In terms of their other use, etching or engraving, I do use them a bit more.

There are several different types of grinding bits with various profiles and grits. Unfortunately, if you are buying cheap knock offs, it can get pretty difficult to determine exactly what grits or types of grinding stones you are getting – the colours, while a good determinate of the type of stone in known brands, don’t always match with the imported knock offs, and sometimes, I’ve even found that the stones in these knockoffs are specifically coloured in order to look
like the types of stones from say… Dremel for example.

In general though, the most popular type of grinding bit is aluminium oxide which most of the time comes in white, pink, red, brown, and grey colours. The darker grey and brown colours are the big boys around town – and they do most of the work in terms of material removal and rough re-shaping. The lighter colours – white obviously being the lightest – are typically the ones used for the sharpening itself. They will wear quicker, but create a better, more refined edge.

Silicone Carbide is the other type that is commonly seen, though less commonly than aluminium oxide. It is typically green in colour and is harder than aluminium oxide, which makes it better for etching and engraving things like ceramic and glass while the aluminium oxide is better for softer metals.

To be fully honest with you, I’m still using the original grinding stones from my Ozito set, so I can’t recommend other ones in good faith. I do trust Dremel, but given how long I’ve used the Ozito ones for, I might have been convinced to give an offbrand of the grinding bits a try, but after a thorough check on Amazon and a reference to Fakespot (my go to for detecting fake amazon reviews), I really didn’t find one that I would be comfortable potentially wasting money on when the grinding bits from Dremel are actually fairly cheap. So… I’ll be ordering  this when my current ones finally wear out:

Polishing

I never really cared or used the polishing wheels for my rotary tool until the day I did…. And now I can’t stop using them!

They are the greatest thing I have found for my antique tool restorations and I recently used them extensively for my Acorn hand plane restoration.

Wool/felt polishing wheels are my favourite, and the quality is pretty varied. I hate to sound like a woodpecker here, but I’ve ordered three different kits with 50-100 pieces in them, all three of them failed to function. To use the polishing accessories, the felt piece is basically twisted onto a mandrel that has a screw-shaped protrusion. The cheap felt polishing accessories all failed to stay on that screw within a few seconds to a half-minute of use – this is at low speeds and with low pressure.  I’m pretty certain they are all made by the same brand and are just sold from different accounts. So, look, you can get 100 pieces and use all of them for a combined average of ten minutes – or you can just get the tried and tested Dremel ones and expect them to work much longer. It’s up to you, really. I use this kit:

You will notice the difference in quality the minute you pull the felt polishing bits out of the package. They don’t shed a lot of stray strands of material, they tend to hold their shape and attach securely, and I find I can get several uses out of them. In fact, I think I got through five-tool restorations on my last conical-shaped polishing tip.

When the felt tips need replaced the 422 and the 429 from Dremel are my go to.

Honourable Mention

Garden sharpening kit:

If you aren’t keen on sharpening by hand, and you also don’t want to mess with the learning curve of bench grinders, the garden sharpening kit from Dremel is a pretty cool little attachment. The attachment holds the grinding stone at the perfect angle to the blade in order to achieve a sharp, even bevel while requiring minimal effort from the user. If you already have a grinding wheel, this isn’t much use to you, but if you don’t, this thing is a much cheaper way to accurately sharpen some tools!

If you find sharpening your gardening tools to be a process that is particularly crappy/one that you literally never do, this wouldn’t be a bad idea to try out. I will say, that the first time you use a truly sharp pair of garden snips is something of a eureka moment!

Dremel lawnmower sharpening accessory
Source: Dremel

I’ll also point out that the chainsaw sharpening attachment is a huge time saver over the conventional files.

What are your favourite rotary tool accessories?

And there you have it! The rotary tool is one my favourite, most versatile tools and I’m sure that over the next years I’ll find even more fantastic accessories for the tool that will transform it into an even handier little guy to have around.

Do you have a favourite rotary accessory that isn’t mentioned here? Let me know in the comments!

Table Saw Taper Jig

Taper jig using the table saw fence as the guide

Other than my crosscut sled, this straight edge/ table saw taper jig is the accessory that I use the most with my table saw. I love how simple it was to build, and how many versatile applications it has proved to have in my shop.

What does a taper jig do?

A tapering jig does just what the name implies. Whilst running a board through a table saw using only the fence, it is impossible to cut more wood from one end of the board and less from the other. The taper jig allows the user to cut a varying amount of wood (typically on two sides with most furniture) with the use of a movable fence attached to a sled.

Tapered table legs
An example of tapered legs on an end table

The design

There is a tonne of plans and examples of these types of jigs on the internet – from super-advanced with all the bells and whistles, tracks, clamps, and angles – to very simple hinged designs.

hinged tapering jig
And example of a manufactured, hinged tapering jig. (photo from Eagle America)

When I set out to make my table saw taper jig, what I was really in need of was a straight edge jig. Since I don’t have a jointer and I use a lot of reclaimed wood for my projects, I needed something that I could use to create a straight edge on one of my boards, so that I could then flip it and run that edge against my table saw fence to create a board with both straight and parallel edges.

So, I knew needed a straight edge jig, but I also knew that I was going to be doing some tapered legs for an upcoming coffee table build. This is why, instead of building a simple straight edge jig AND then later having to create a simple taper jig, I decided to go with a design that could accomplish both tasks.

Homemade tapering jig

I’m not sure where this particular design originally came from, as I’ve seen several people build similar designs. The most in-depth video I have found on this type of taper jig is from King’s Fine Woodworking.

If you haven’t seen his videos or checked out his site, I definitely recommend it. He has very informative and well-presented projects and plans.

It’s a simple design consisting of a base, a fence and three slots – one in the fence and two down the sides of the base to allow for a type of swiveling motion with the fence.

My jig varied from King’s design in one key area, and that is that I didn’t use a runner at the base of the sled. Instead, I used my table saw fence as the guide for the jig.

I did this for two reasons:

The first is that, because I wanted to also be using this jig to joint the edges of boards, I didn’t want to have a fixed capacity for the jig. Having the sled use the mitre slot as a guide meant that if I had a particularly wide board to straight joint, I wouldn’t have the room. Using the fence as the guide allows me to simply move the fence back in order to cut wider boards.

The second reason is due to somewhat of a laziness/cost factor. I didn’t want to purchase more metal runners, and I haven’t had the greatest luck with wood runners lasting any amount of time in the Australian weather.

The build

For the base of my jig, I chose a piece of 18mm BBC ply that I had left over from my waterfall bedside table build. I’ve seen other builds from MDF or thinner plywood – but I think the best material is always what you have on hand that will work for a project. 😉 I have definitely been bogged down on occasion with waiting to do a project until I had the ‘perfect’ material. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good, as they say!

cutting the base of the tapering sled

I wanted a good amount of length and width in order to, as I mentioned before, accommodate for various sizes of wood. In the end, the length of my sled is roughly the length of my table saw and the width is 400mm.  These are the dimensions that worked best for me, both in terms of the materials that I had on hand and the applications that I wanted to use the sled for. I have seen numerous sleds with a much thinner base in terms of width, but for the purpose of straight edge jointing, I wanted to have a wider base for my boards.

Cutting the slots

After cutting the base of the sled and fence to size, it was time to cut the slots that would allow the fence to move and accommodate for hold-downs.

planning the slot layout for a tapering jig

I decided where I wanted these slots to be based on moving around the fence at various angles.

marking the slot positions on the base of the taper jig

I’m sure there are specific calculations, but this worked for me and didn’t take too long.

I marked where I wanted my slots and then used a Forstner bit to drill a hole at the start of each slot – only to the depth that I would be routing my slot. I have a fixed based router and I prefer to drill clearance holes as opposed to tilting the bit into the wood – to each their own if you would like to skip that step and opt for tilting instead.

drilling a clearance hole before routing the slots

A t-bolt sitting in the drilled recess
Just deep enough to recess the head of the bolt 🙂

I then used a straight edge piece of plywood as a fence and routed a wide slot with a 20mm mortising bit, just deep enough to allow the head of the bolt to not protrude, allowing for the sled to slide smoothly across the surface of the table saw.

Routing a groove for a t bolt

I followed this with a drill bit and put a hole the size of my bolt in the centre of this slot and completely through the wood.

Drilling a recess for the straight bit

Then, leaving the straight edge guide in place, I changed to a straight bit and routed a channel through the base of the sled.

Routing a slot in the base of the tapering jig

I then repeated this method to route the slot in the top of the fence for the hold-downs.

Routiing the slot in the fence of a tapering jig

If you don’t have a router, you can also cut these slots with a jigsaw!

And that was it! The build was complete! Talk about easy.

Taper jig with hold down clamps

If you’re interested, I used these hold down clamps from Powertec. They are relatively cheap and work great!

Using the jig

To use the jig, I simply place the sled on my table saw top just
touching the blade, then lock down the fence. Taper jig using the table saw fence as the guide

I tested on a scrap piece of 75 by 35 treated pine. Not an ideal leg piece, but again it’s what I had! I marked the shoulder of the leg where the taper would begin and then marked at the base of the leg how far I wanted the taper to extend.

cutting a taper on a table saw taper jig

I then lined up my marks, the shoulder at the top, and the taper at the bottom of the jig, set the fence, and clamped everything in place.

Aligning the bottom of the taper to the edge of the taper jig

After the first pass, I flipped the piece and unclamped the bottom of the fence in order to move it in to accommodate the newly acquired taper. Normally, a two-sided taper is done on two adjacent sides. This approach would be even easier as the fence wouldn’t need to be moved at all after the first cut. Simply rotate your leg ninety degrees so that the cut face is up, and then run your jig back through the saw. Since my test piece wasn’t a square piece, I simply tested putting tapers on two parallel sides. 🙂

cutting a taper

Easy done, two-sided taper.

For straight edges, the jig is super simple and effective. I simply place whatever wonky edged board I have on top of the jig and clamp it so that a continuous edge is hanging over the side of my sled. I then run this through the saw, remove the board from the jig and place my freshly cut edge against the saw’s fence to create a straight, parallel-sided board.

This view from the bottom of the jig shows the piece protruding over the edge of the sled.

edge jointing with a taper jig

straight edge from the taper jig
The best jig in my shop?

Well, look, my crosscut sled is probably my most used jig, but this is definitely one of my favourite jigs, and I use it all the time to straight joint boards either before a glue-up, or to clean up rough, reclaimed lumber for a project. I’m definitely glad that I spent the extra time to build a jig that could do both tapers and straight edges as it’s saved me loads of time and space in my small workshop!

Do you have a favourite design for a taper jig? Let me know in the comments!

 

Ryobi Nail Gun Review | Airwave 3 n 1

Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1

I purchased the Airwave 3 n 1, a Ryobi nail gun and stapler combo, about a year ago.

The following review and conclusion is a personal opinion derived from my use of the tool. Other’s may have different experiences, but I have tried to be as thorough as possible with the use, features, and my personal experience with the Airwave.

Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1

When I originally purchased this tool, I really just needed a brad nailer – but I was lured in by the “3 n 1” capability that Ryobi touted – an ability to shoot both C Series and C1 series brad nails as well as 6000 series staples. Did I need a stapler? No. I can count on one hand, using half the fingers, how many times I have opted for staples over nails or screws, but look, it had three capabilities in one – so why not? I’m sure I would start using staples more if I had a good gun, right?

Specs

Model Name: Ryobi 3 n 1 Brad Nailer/Stapler

Model number: RA-NBS1664-S

Power source: Compressed Air

Weight: 2.46kg

Brad nail range: 15-64 mm

Staple range: 16-40 mm

Magazine capacity: 100 x nails/staples

Working Pressure range: 4.8 – 8.3 bar (70 – 120 psi)

Ergonomics

This is not a small brad nailer. It comes in at 2.5kg, which isn’t the heaviest on the market, by any means, but for some reason I find the balance all off.

In my use, I have found this nail gun big and unwieldy for its applications. On paper, the size and weight aren’t much different to many other brad nailers, but for some reason, it just doesn’t feel easy or comfortable to use, for me. This may be because I am comparing it to other guns that are just brad nailers, and I am cognizant of the fact that this gun is trying to fit three different applications into one body.

Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1 with self-oiling connector
Note: The self-oiling connector at the bottom is an aftermarket add on that I purchased and doesn’t come with the gun.

As for the actual firing – there isn’t too much kickback and the trigger has a relatively nice, even feel when pressed.

The handle itself has a good, rubber coating that improves grip.

Features and Kit

The Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1 comes with a carrying case, a variety of brads and staples, as well as a small oil applicator. I really appreciate whenever a tool comes with a case, so that’s a bonus for me. It is also nice that it includes the small oil bottle – pneumatic guns really need to be oiled at every use!

The gun also features a depth adjustment knob which allows for a more precise setting directly at the gun when driving in your nails.

Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1 depth adjustment knob
The depth adjustment knob is easy to access just in front of the trigger

The depth adjustment works in terms of making sure the nail gets driven far enough into the wood, but it doesn’t keep the anvil of the gun from marring the wood – more on that below.

Use

As far as driving in brads and staples the 3 n 1 works as it should. As I mentioned above, the depth adjustment works well, and I find that I can set nails and staples to ensure that they don’t blow through my project. I have had no problems thus far with jams or misfires, but there is easy access through a lever at the front of the gun to allow for simple removal of jammed nails.

Jam removal on the Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1
Easy access to the top of the gun for jam clearance

The tool works well in both hard and softwoods provided you spend some time adjusting your air pressure at the compressor, the depth adjuster at the gun, and testing on some scrap beforehand.

Assembling drawers with glue and brad nails

The magazine is easy to load and allows for easy changing between staples and brads.

Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1 magazine

Because the 3 n 1 has a wide head to accommodate for staples, it is sometimes hard to accurately pinpoint where your brad nail will end up – I definitely prefer brad nailers with small noses that allow you to see exactly where you will be driving your nail into.

Wide tip of the Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1

There is one big thing that makes me regret my purchase of this nailer/stapler combo – and that is the marring of the wood from the anvil.

I believe the biggest negative for this tool isn’t specifically a problem with Ryobi’s version, as opposed to it being a problem with all types of brad/stapler combos.

When driving in a brad I have been unable, on a consistent basis, to eliminate the unsightly marring of the wood. After trying several different settings, I took to the internet to try to find a solution and was dismayed to find many people struggling with the same issue.

Staples marring in wood from the Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1
marring in the wood from the staple anvil

This seems to come down to the fact that the anvil which drives in the staple is the same anvil that drives in the brads. This means that instead of having a nice hole through which the nail has been driven, as you would in a regular brad nailer, you are left with a long staple mar in the wood.

There have been suggestions that I have found to help eliminate this – such as not placing the head of the gun directly flat on the surface of the wood and instead holding it at a slight angle to eliminate the full surface of the anvil connecting with your project. However, after trying many of the different suggestions, I’ve been unable to have a consistently good result and therefore cannot use the gun on any surfaces that will be visible. This effectively eliminates the usefulness of the brad nailer in terms of front-facing pinning applications. A small hole is easy to fill and relatively unnoticeable in the finished product – a long-staple hole, on the other hand, is a different story.

 

Conclusion

If you are predominantly working on surfaces that aren’t being seen or don’t need a fine finish, then this gun is a pretty good deal for having the capability to drive two different types of brads as well as staples.

However, if you want the true capability of a brad nailer, (ie. nice, easily filled nail holes on front-facing surfaces) this isn’t the tool for you.

If I had to go back, I would have simply purchased a brad nailer itself as opposed to the combo tool. Staplers aren’t that expensive, and I don’t find myself using them that often to have sacrificed the convenience of a good brad nailer.

In fact, I disliked the staple marring so much, that I did recently purchase the Ryobi cordless brad nailer, and am much happier with it. Look out for a coming review on that!

It doesn’t always pay off to get a tool that can do many things okay, but none of them well – and that’s the exact case with the Ryobi Airwave 3 n 1.

Do you have this tool? If so what are your thoughts? Leave them in the comments!

Modern Bedside Table with Waterfall End Grain

Modern plywood waterfall grain bedside table

I recently built two modern bedside tables to surprise my partner when she returned from a trip overseas. I wanted them to feature sharp corners with a waterfall grain and found a great plan/idea from pneumaticaddict over at buildsomething.com using plywood. Instead of laminating two pieces together, like she did, I decided to go with a thinner version using a single sheet, both for ease, cost, and prefered design.

Tools/Products I Used

1 full sheet of 18mm plywood (try to find a sheet that has a thick face veneer, and I didn’t and lived to regret it – more on that below)

Circular saw with straight edge guide/track or table saw

Pocket hole jig

Drill/driver

Wood glue

Clamps

Drawer slides

Cutting the ply to manageable sizes

I purchased a full sheet of ply (2440 x 1220) from a timber yard and needed to cut that large piece down into manageable sizes.

I was lucky to have my friend, Kenny, here for the weekend – which made moving the sheet around a lot easier.

Cutting the full sheets of plywood down to manageable sizes

Using my circular saw, I cut a piece slightly larger than my finished dimensions. I found while cutting with my circular saw, I got a massive amount of tear out. This is when I realized that I had purchased a plywood with a very thin face veneer. For the rest of my cuts, I covered the cut line with tape, which helped to minimize some of the tear out, but didn’t get rid of it entirely. After cutting a slice roughly 405 x 1350, I cleaned up the edges to their final dimension on the table saw.

Waterfall Grain

Waterfall grain refers to the grain of the wood continuing over the edge, which gives it an awesome wrap-around look. To accomplish this, instead of just cutting the top and side pieces and then giving them individual 45 degree bevels, you cut a wedge from the underside of your long panel, with the aim of removing as little material as possible from the face of the board.

Because I was making two nightstands, I experimented with two different methods to do these cuts.

Marking the cut lines for a waterfall end grain nightstand
Measure and mark the lines for the inside of the bevels

The first was with my circular saw and track. I set the saw at a 45 degree bevel angle and lined up my track with the cut line.

Cutting  45 degree bevels with a circular saw

After this first bevel was finished, I flipped the board over, lined up my track and cut the bevel in the opposite direction. Cutting the 45 degree wedge out for a waterfall end grain

You should end up with a nice wedge out of the back of your board (I made sure to save this wedge – as it will be useful later!). I continued by cutting the next two bevels for the other side of the top and the right side of the table.

When finished, if you flip the boards and line them up, there should be very little interruption to the grains.

Showin g the perfect grain match on a waterfall end grain cut
Perfect!

For my second nightstand, I decided to try my table saw. It was essentially the same steps, but instead of having to line up the circular saw track, I simply was able to visually line up the bevels on the blade and run the board through next to the fence.

Cutting a 45 degree bevel on the table saw

Both methods worked fine, but I think the table saw was easier and less time-consuming.

Success!

 

Cutting the shelf and back support

Now that I had the top cut out, I could take the interior dimensions and measure for the width of the shelf and cut it to size. The depth will be the same as the sides and top, but the width will be measured to the inside of the bevel on the top piece

I just laid the rough cut shelf on the underside of the top and marked the inside of the bevel, then crept up on the cut until it was perfect!

Marking the inside of the bevel to get the width of the shelf

I also cut the back support/drawer cover at this point and put pocket holes in both this and the shelf for attaching later.

Pocket hole joinery for a shelfPockethole joinery on a nightstand shelf

Sand

Always a good idea to give your pieces a cursory sanding before attaching them together. This allows you to get to all the sides without having to deal with annoying, tight corners, etc.

Glue-Up

I’m about to do something controversial here. I’ve seen many people join beveled edges with splines, biscuits or pocket holes, but I opted not to use any hardware and to trust the glue, along with the back structural panel and shelf to hold this baby together.

I’ll let you know in a few months if that was a good idea, but it’s been three weeks and I have been knocking the hell out of the drawers (because I am generally an absentminded and rough person) and have observed no movement in them.

Before gluing, I taped up the seams to minimize glue mess and took the wedges that I had saved from the waterfall cuts to use as clamping cauls.

Taping up the seams before gluing

I put tape down on both the surface of the nightstand and the caul and then used super glue to bond the two together, once the superglue is dry, I can then use a clamp on the cauls to bring the beveled corners together.

Home made corner clamping cauls

I also have these nifty right – angle clamps that were super cheap on Amazon and actually work great for these types of glue-ups!

Cheap corner clamps that work well

Since I was avoiding any joinery, I made sure to put a healthy layer of glue on both pieces, then waited a few minutes for it to soak into the end grain before putting even more on. I wanted to make sure that there would be no areas left untouched by the glue.

45 degree bevel glue up

I then placed the corner clamps on and lightly tightened them to hold everything in place while I situated the clamps on the cauls. Before tightening everything up, I placed the shelf in its position, squared it up, and clamped it in place to ensure that the entire structure would remain square while the glue dried. Once the shelf was in place – I tightened everything down and left it overnight.

Annnddd unfortunately, I got distracted around this time of the day with a couple of beers and forgot to snap a pic with all the clamps on…. Typical Raff

Attaching Shelf and Back Support

The next day I was able to take the clamps off and easily attach the back support and shelf. I had been a bit nervous that when I screwed the support, as well as the shelf in, that I would see some movement in the bevelled corners – but I have been (so far) right about the strength of the glue, as there was no movement in the joined edges at all.

Using pocket hole joinery to attach nightstand shelf Using pocket hole joinery to attach back of nightstand

Filling and Sanding

If there is one thing I would change about this build, it’s the plywood that I chose to build it with. The face veneer on the plywood is so thin that it chips very easily and takes very little sanding to break through.

Luckily – there is such a thing as wood filler.

Chips in plywood
Chips in the back of the nightstand support
Chips in plywood being fixed with wood filler
Covered with wood filler
Chips in plywood fixed with woodfiller
After filler has dried and been sanded

I gave both nightstands a good once over with the filler in all the cracks and chips. It isn’t perfect, but it does look much better after it drying and getting a good sanding.

Varnish

After finishing with the filler and giving everything a nice sand to 220 grit, wiped the surfaces down and chose a nice satin water-based varnish to finish it with.

Adding acrylic paint to water based clear coat to tint

While water-based varnish isn’t supposed to amber as oil-based finishes do, the ply itself does tend to yellow over time. And, the water-based varnish isn’t known for making the grain pop at all – so I have found that adding a slight tint to the varnish with acrylic paints a good way to lighten any yellowing and really make things look great. I simply placed a few drops of red and blue acrylic paint into the varnish and gave it a good stir.

Using waterbased varnish to seal a nightstand
I got all set up outside and then quickly realised it was going to be too windy. The dining room table served well, and I was lucky my partner wasn’t home to see it, aha!

I love the clean, white appearance of the varnish on the plywood when finished – the tint really does mellow out any yellowing!

I put two coats on each nightstand, sanding to 360g between coats.

Drawers and Rails

While the varnish was drying, I was able to start on the drawers. I carefully measured the inside dimensions of both nightstands and chose a relatively shallow drawer of 75mm depth.

Cutting drawer side with Bosch mitre saw

After cutting the pieces to size, I cut grooves for the drawer bottom in each piece on the table saw. My drawer bottom was going to be 6mm MDF (something I conveniently had lying around, or I may have chosen plywood), so I only needed two passes on my 3mm kerf blade to have a perfect slot.

Cutting grooves for bottom of drawer on the table saw

With everything cut, I was able to assemble the drawers with glue and brad nails, attaching three sides before sliding in the drawer and attaching the fourth.

Assembling drawers with glue and brad nailsDrawer bottom in slot

For the drawer front, I used a white spray paint and gave it several coats, with the last coat being a finishing coat of clear spray.

clear coat on painted white drawer fronts

I then finished the drawers themselves with the same varnish as the nightstands.

Plywood and MDF drawers

Drawer rails

Now all that was left was to install the drawers! I installed the slides on the drawers and nightstands, careful to keep everything both horizontally and vertically in line.

attaching slides to a drawer

To attach the face of the drawer, I used plastic spacers to align it with about a 3mm gap at the top and 2mm gaps at the sides. I then clamped the drawer in place, predrilled, and countersunk screws from the back of the drawer into the face.

Handle

I’m still up in the air about whether I want to build a handle for them. I like the clean white look of the drawer face, but perhaps it could look even better with a handle to tie the drawer into the rest of the stand.

Let me know your thoughts! Handle or no? Circle or rectangle? Wood or metal?

Modern plywood waterfall grain bedside tableModern plywood waterfall grain bedside tableModern plywood waterfall grain bedside table

Antique Hand Plane Restoration | Acorn No. 4

Fully restored vintage acorn no 4

Little Nut is finally finished and in operational order!

Before photo of an acorn handplane being treated for rust with vinegarFully restored vintage acorn no 4

I purchased this little gem of an Acorn no. 4 hand plane several months ago at a swap meet. He didn’t look great at the time – severely rusty and completely unusable, but I was determined to see what lay under the grime and dirt, and perform a complete hand plane restoration on the little guy. I’m definitely happy with what I found!

You can read more about the research I did and Little Nut’s history here

Taking it apart:

Several of the components of Little Nut were severely rusted in place, and as such, I needed to figure out a way to remove them without damaging the soft metal of the screw heads.

I began by spraying them down with WD-40 in the hopes that it would soften some of the grime and rust and make for easier removal. It took several coats and lots of waiting, but eventually, they did loosen enough to remove without too much damage.

Removing the fitting screws from an acorn no 4 hand plane

Rust Removal

The next step was to remove the rust.
For this hand plane, I decided to try good ol’ fashioned white vinegar. I knew that a rust removing agent like Evaporust would be easier and potentially quicker in the long run, but I had never tried vinegar on a tool this rusted and was curious to see how it would work in comparison.

To remove the rust, I took the components of the hand plane and gave them a good scrub with a wire brush to remove some of the dirt, grime, and the easily removed large flakes of rust. I then soaked them in a plastic container filled with white vinegar. I left them overnight and came back the next morning armed with steel wool, sandpaper, and some wire brushes.

I was pleasantly surprised with the results! While it definitely took more effort (ie. manpower) to remove the rust, it did slough off fairly easily after the vinegar soak.

Vinegar rust removal for an antique hand plane restoration

With the components of the hand plane now more visible, I was able to assess the actual condition of the parts. Again, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the frog, chip breaker, cap iron, and plane iron were in a condition that would be easily salvageable. I had been concerned about pitting given the severity of the rust across the plane parts, but I was happy to see that there hadn’t been much corrosion to the metal itself and the pitting was minimal.

You can read more on rust removal and pitting here.

Painting

The Japanning, which is a type of paint often seen on older hand planes,  was in poor condition, with it chipping in sections and being entirely gone in other sections. I knew I would have to remove the remaining japanning and repaint it.

I wanted to remove most of the original jappaning in order to get a good surface for the new paint to adhere to.
I used a chemical paint stripper to help with the process. This stuff was harsh! I ended up having to double up with a pair of surgical gloves as well as rubber kitchen gloves while removing the paint. It did its job though, and I was left with a mostly raw metal surface to add paint to.

Prepping to repaint the body of an acorn no 4 hand plane

While there are ways to re-japan the body of the plane, they often require several thin coats and then weeks of allowing the paint to dry. If this was a hand plane that I wanted to restore as closely as possible to the original, I would be keen on those methods, but I wanted to get this thing working as soon as possible! The reason that jappaning was used on plane bodies in the past was because it was a hard wearing type of covering that protected well from rust. These days we have enamel paint that does much the same thing.

Painting the body of an acorn no 4 handplane

I ended up choosing a black Rust-oleum enamel spray paint for the body.

After taping up everything that I didn’t want to paint, I sprayed several coats onto the body of the handplane. From my research, traditionally the front sole of the handplane is painted, but the back was not. I kept this detail in Little Nut, as I did want it to look as close as possible to what it would have orginally been. I also chose to paint the base of the frog at this point as well.

repainted acorn no 4 hand plane

The sole

For the sole of the plane, I took a known flat surface and used adhesive spray to attach a heavy grit sandpaper to it. I then ran the sole of the plane over the sandpaper several times in order to flatten it.

To check for flatness, I drew a crosshatch pattern on the sole of the hand plane before putting it to the sandpaper. After a few passes on the sandpaper, I could then check to see which areas were registering off the sandpaper and which weren’t. When I drew my last pattern on the base, sanded and checked, no marker should remain. At that point, I could start sanding at higher grits until I got a nice, polished sole for the plane.

Flattening the sole of a hand plane

Since I wasn’t planning to do any shooting with this hand plane I wasn’t too concerned with the sides of the hand plane body being perfectly square or flat. I simply gave them a light sanding on the flat surface until they were sufficiently polished.

Lever Cap

The lever iron on the Little nut was either chromed or nickelled and the remains of that coating were in poor repair. It took me a long time to try to remove what was left of the cracked chrome, but once finished I took 240 grit sandpaper and worked at the metal until I was satisfied that it was sufficiently smooth. I then proceeded to move up in grits until I settled on the last sanding with 600 grit.

Restored Acorn no 4 hand plane lever cap

Chip Breaker

The chip breaker was thankfully in pretty good condition! After the rust had been removed, I worked it through the sandpaper grits to bring it to a shine, and then put a new edge on it.

Restored Acorn no 4 handplane parts

Plane Iron

I was also super thankful that the iron itself seemed to have a lot of life left in it. It did have some pitting at the top, but largely inconsequential. After removing the rust and working at it with sandpaper to bring the shine back, I was able to see the original stamp. “Made in Sheffield Vanadium Steel” – Awesome!

Plane Iron Pitting

All that was left then was to grind it down to remove the single chip at the blade, and then give it a nice, sharp, new edge.

Now he really ZINGS!

Polishing

Another use for my little Ozito rotary tool! I used the soft cotton wheel with a polishing compound to really buff up the brass rear tote nut and the depth adjuster. They were so shiny you could barely look at them in the Australian sun after I was finished!

Totes

There were luckily no severe cracks or repairs in the front and rear totes. All that was needed was a good sand and several coats of boiled linseed oil to bring the life back into them.

Acorn no 4 hand plane totes being refinished

Finished!

As I mentioned at the start, I am super stoked with how this project turned out! It’s hard to believe that Little Nut started out so filled with rust that I could barely remove the fixtures or see any markings, and now he really shines.

Fully restored acorn no 4 hand plane

And he works too! Little Nut is light in the hand and really works in every way a little number 4 hand plane should.
Not a bad $25 spent at the swap meet I would say!

Restored acorn no 4 hand plane

If you want to read more about the advantages of old tools and where I personally find my vintage tools, you can read about it here.

Fully restored vintage acorn no 4

Thanks for following along on Little Nut’s adventures! If you have any questions or just want to complement Little Nut on his glow up, leave a note in the comments 🙂

How to Install Wood Laminate Flooring

wooden laminate flooring

The days of having to spend exorbitant amounts of money to hire a professional to install your new flooring are over. These days you can give yourself a beautiful brand-new floor in a day with the proper tools and knowledge at your disposal. I’m going to give you the knowledge today by walking you through the steps of how to install wood laminate flooring, what tools you need, and some tips and tricks along the way. Settle in, because, after this, you are going to have the confidence to get out there and do it, and then YOU are going to give yourself a huge pat on the back while sitting on your gorgeous new flooring with a well-deserved cold bevy in hand. Because you are a DIY star!

wooden laminate flooring

But, first, story time!

Before I begin, I’ve got a little story for you about the guy I first learned how to lay floors from, and a bit of the wisdom he passed on to me regarding DIY. So, if you want to skip ahead to the how-to, by all means, we’re all busy people, but I would be remiss if I shared the steps to install wood laminate flooring without also telling you all about Stole.

Several years ago, while I was living in Vancouver in a tiny basement walk-out on 13th and Cambie, I heard several loud noises coming from the upstairs apartment and outside. Naturally, being the nosey early 20 something year old I was, I went outside to investigate and found my landlord, along with an elderly, Eastern European man, unloading a truck full of wood laminate packs.

The Eastern European man was named Stole, and he was going to be completely gutting and renovating the upstairs apartment. Now, Stole was 76 years old, and I am not intending to be rude when I say that he also looked 78 years old. The upstairs apartment was accessed by a set of narrow stairs, essentially three floors up. I wondered how he was going to get along with doing everything himself, but figured if my landlord had hired him, he would be fine.

At this time, I was already dipping my foot into the DIY bug and had recently built a cabinet unit, along with several other pieces of furniture, specifically fitted to my tiny, basement apartment. Avu, my landlord, had seen these pieces and was aware that I loved crafting things. Several hours after hearing the noise outside, I got a knock on the door.

Avu, my landlord was there to ask if I might lend Stole a hand if he needed it during the renovations. Avu had known Stole for several years and had hired him for all of the repairs and renovations on Avu’s properties, but, he knew that Stole was slowing down, and this project might be a bit too big for him to manage himself.  I was, of course, game to get my hand on any tools and learn a thing or two.

And that is the story of how I first got to work with Stole.

At first, I was a bit nervous, I had been on several worksites before and, being a young, 5 foot 2 female, often suffered the brunt of jokes (at the best), a complete distrust for my capability to do the job at hand, or downright abuse (at the worst.) I didn’t know how an elderly gentleman would react to being helped by a young woman, in what has historically been a man’s field. But, I was wrong to worry, in fact, after my first day working with Stole, he told Avu that he needed to pay me more.

While working with Stole, ripping up floors, painting, grouting, cutting trim, and laying new floors, I got to hear his stories of how he ended up working as a handy man. He told me, in his slow, heavily accented English how he had immigrated to Canada in his mid-twenties sometime during the 1960s with his wife. He related how he didn’t know anything about the trades, and spoke very little English, but started off accepting small jobs from people here and there – fixing a doorknob, painting railings, etc. If he was asked to do anything he didn’t know how to do, he told me he would always accept the job, and then go to the library and research until he knew how to complete it. What a guy!

After the third day working with Stole, he brought me three books on carpentry, electric wiring, and plastering. He told me that these were books he purchased early on and read several times. Turns out, Stole taught himself everything he knows and recognised the same drive to learn in me. I still fondly remember at the end of the day, when Avu would drop by to see the progress on the apartment, and Stole would excitedly walk around the apartment, proudly showing off the things “Raiff (this is how he pronounced my name) did today.”

It is amazing what having someone who believes in your potential can do for you.

Stole ended up being one of the seminal influences in my life in regard to DIY, renovations, and general outlook on life, and I still regard the several weeks that I got to work with him as one of the most enjoyable work experiences of my life. And my favourite piece of his advice?

Please read this in the best Slavic accent you can:

“Ifv you don know how to do sumpsink – go to tha library ahnd find a boook to learn how to do it.”

Of course, I mostly use the internet now. 😉

So without further ado, here is everything Stole taught me on how to install wood laminate flooring!

Why wood laminate flooring?

Laminate has come a long way in the last several years. No longer the tacky, peeling, cheap-looking stuff that was plastered on kitchen floors, you can now find quality “snap and lock” laminate flooring that looks incredibly realistic and beautiful.

Here are some great reasons to choose laminate flooring:

  • It’s relatively cheap – in comparison to other flooring options, high-end laminate regularly comes in cheaper than higher-end carpet, and well below natural wood flooring. Furthermore, having the option to install it yourself, can save quite a lot as well!
  • It looks good! Laminate has come a long way in the last several years. It is no longer the tacky, peeling, cheap-looking stuff that was formerly plastered on kitchen floors, you can now find quality “snap and lock” laminate flooring that looks incredibly realistic and beautiful.
  • It’s hypoallergenic, easier to clean and isn’t prone to stains or mold
  • Quick and easy to install – no need for professionals, and the job won’t take you too long either!
  • It can last a long time – a high-quality laminate flooring can last between 15-25 years. Furthermore, if you manage to damage one piece, it is possible to replace the single piece without having to replace the entire floor.

Some quick tips before you begin

  • Once you have purchased your laminate flooring packs, place them in the room where they will be installed and allow at least 48 hours for them to acclimate before installing. This helps to avoid a surplus of movement after you have installed them. All laminate will expand or contract but allowing this time before installation decreases drastic movement.
  • As you lay the flooring, take panels from various boxes to vary the colour and allow for a more randomised, natural look.
  • Door jams
    • Instead of trying to awkwardly cut your laminate panels to fit around the jamb of a door, cut the door jam to fit overtop of your panels. To do this, place a piece of your underlay down on the floor with a piece of your laminate over top. Take a flush-cut saw or jam saw and simply cut through the jam and remove the piece. Your laminate will now slide beneath the jam and create a more finished, professional look than had you tried to cut the panel itself to fit.
  • Drop and Lock vs Angle Angle
    • There are two main types of floating laminate floors: the drop and lock and the angle angle. The difference between the two is the way the joints connect – and depending on which type you have, the installation will be different.  I will touch on the different ways to install the two types when I get to how to attach the rows together further on in this article. The important things is that you know which type you have, which should be listed in the product documentation or on the box.

The Process

What tools do you need?

  • Utility knife
  • Rubber mallet
  • Circular, table, or jigsaw (or handsaw if you truly want to work)
  • Tapping block
  • Pull par

If you don’t have these, there is a good package on amazon with a pullbar, tapping block, rubber mallet and a whole slew of spacers here :

Prepare the room

In terms of setup, you’re in luck if you have anything other than carpet as your current flooring. That’s because laminate can be placed over any substrate except for carpet.

If you have carpet, you’re gonna need to rip the ol’ sucker out – but do it with glee, because if you are replacing the carpet it’s probably high time it got chucked, amiright? And imagine how much easier it’s going to be to keep your new floors clean!

Clean and prepare the subfloor

Your floors need to be free of all the dirt and debris before you place the floor – laminate doesn’t do well with irregular surfaces so give it a good clean, and if you have any serious dips or irregularities, fill them with a leveling agent before continuing.

removing nails from subfloor

Trim removal

If you have trim, remove it before laying the wood laminate down. Use duct tape or some type of soft covering over your pull bar to avoid damaging your wall as you remove the trim.

If you are adamant that you don’t want to go through the hassle of removing it, you can also simply lay the laminate down and attach a quarter round trim to the existing trim after – it’s the arguably easier, but more expensive option.

Plan your layout and measure your room

There is a bit to think about when deciding the orientation of your panels. Generally speaking, the panels, if possible, should run parallel with the long wall in the room, or the direction of the light source/focal point when entering the room. This creates a long, uninterrupted look which makes the overall end result more pleasant to the eye.

If possible, it’s also best to have the panels running in the direction of the main doorway in the room. If all of these factors aren’t possible; however, just go with the panels running parallel to the long side of the room.

Once you’ve decided on the orientation of the panels, measure the width of the room from wall to wall, accounting for a 10mm gap on both sides (we’ll touch on this gap later, but it’s best to check the installation instructions for your specific laminate to determine what size gap is necessary for expansion. 10mm is generally enough, but some products suggest more.)

When you have the width of the room + the gap, divide this number by the width of your laminate panels. This will give you what the width of your last row of panels will be.

Ex – 600cm room width / 17.5cm width of panel  = 34.29 rows

Therefore: our last row will be .29 of a panel or 5.08 cm.

If you find the last row of your floor will be less than around 6cm, I would add the width of the last row that you got in the above calculations to the width of your panel and then divide it by 2.


(17.5 + 5.08) / 2 = 11.3cm

This will give you the width you should cut both your first and last rows to, which will create a more uniform look and allow you to avoid trying to lay a tiny sliver of flooring as your last row.

Put down the underlay

Underlay is essential for laminate flooring that doesn’t come with attached padding. It provides an even surface for your “floating” floor to sit on, gives support for the tongue and groove lock system, and helps with moisture control and reducing noise.

For concrete subfloor

If you are installing over concrete you will need to lay down a vapor layer as well as an underlay, some underlays come with a vapor barrier, and if so you only need the one product.

For padded laminate

If the laminate you are installing comes with padding – the underlay is unnecessary and will actually hinder the proper laying of your floor. However, extra care needs to go into preparing the surface that the laminate will lay on if you aren’t using underlay, as any irregularities can potentially cause the floor to not float properly and buckle at the seams.

Laminate floors with padding that are being installed over concrete will still need a vapor barrier – but make sure that you are installing just the thin vapor barrier and not an underlay with a vapor barrier included.

To put down the underlay, unroll it and run it in the same direction that the panels will run. Allow a bit of excess to run up the wall and use one of your laminate panels to press the underlay into the corners. Use a utility knife to cut off the excess against the wall. When your first row of underlay is down, immediately secure it by starting to lay your panels. As you lay your panels and begin to reach the end of your first row of underlay, unroll your second row. Make sure not to overlap the two layers as any unevenness can cause the laminate panels to buckle. You can join the two pieces with duct tape or another thin layer of tape.

Installing the first row

If your calculations during the planning of your layout require you to rip your first row to a certain width, you should do so now. When ripping the panels to length, cut so that the tongue side of the panel is the waste on each piece. Make sure you are cutting the same side on each piece! The tongue side, unlike in regular woodworking, is actually the side with the shorter extrusion.

For your very first panel, you should also cut the tongue off the short side of the panel that will jut against the wall.

Place your first panel with the cut side towards the wall and begin to assemble your first row. To attach the second panel at the ends, hold the panel at an upwards angle and insert the tongue into the groove of the first panel. Once the joint is snug, press the panel down to secure it in place. Continue building this row until you reach the last panel, ensuring there are no gaps in your joints.

Spacers

You have your first row of panels put together, minus the end piece. Now you need to place your spacers. Because all laminate expands, you need to leave a gap along all the edges to account for movement – if you don’t do this, your floor will buckle and the joints won’t sit properly!

Some packs of laminate flooring come with spacers, but if they don’t, check to see the manufacturer’s recommended expansion gap and use this size of spacer. Most laminate flooring that I have installed calls for at least a 10mm gap. The spacers can be strips of wood, plastic, store bought spacers or anything that fits the measurement.

At this point, take your spacers and place them at the starting end (the short side) and along the length of the wall, press your first row into place and measure the distance from the end of the row to the wall including the spacer. Cut your last piece to this dimension – but again make sure you are cutting the right end off! (can you tell that I made this mistake a few times? I am clumsy Raff, after all)

Your first row is now finished!

Offset your joints

If your offcut from the end of the first piece is longer than 25 cm, you can use this piece to start your next row. If not, cut a piece longer than 25cm to use as the beginning of your second row – ensuring that you cut off at least more than 25cm!

Installing Laminate Flooring

The length of this piece is important as you don’t want the joints in your rows to line up, and you want a large enough overlap. Part of the stability in floating floors is provided by the offset of the joints. Without it, your floors won’t have the same amount of strength to withstand buckling.

It also just creates a more natural look once the floor is completed – so don’t allow your joints to line up!

Start your second row

Slide the tongue of the second-row panel into the groove of the first row’s plank at an upwards angle, mimic how you attached the pieces end to end on the first row. Ensure there is no gap in the seam and press down to lock.

The second piece can be a bit more finnicky, and this where the installation differs between drop and lock vs angle to angle laminates.

For angle to angle, first attach the short side of the second panel to short side of the first panel using the same angle method as you used in the first row. Get the corner of the second piece as close as possible to the first row, and before placing the panel down, line up the long side seems. After placing the panel down, you’ll have to lift the panel slightly to close the gaps along the seam in the long side panels, tapping with your palm as you go if necessary.

For drop and lock, instead of attaching the short side first, you slide the long side of the second panel into the groove of the first row – then position the short side over top of the groove in the first panel of the second row and simply lock it into place. I think drop and lock is an easier installation, but it isn’t as common as angle angle.

Use a tapping block

If the seam still has a gap, some laminate panels require a tapping block.

Sometimes manufacturers will include a tapping block with the laminate panels – if they do, take advantage of it, as they will often be profiled to fit the grooves of the panels to minimize damage! In fact, if you don’t want to make a tapping block yourself, I would recommend purchasing one from a laminate floor supplier or Amazon – they aren’t expensive.

 

If you really have the DIY bug though, you can make a tapping block yourself by taking a scrap block of wood and creating a rabbet along the side that is slightly larger than the groove on the laminate panels. Align it along the long side of the panel over top of the groove so that you aren’t tapping on the groove itself.

To use the tapping block, place it next to the panel and gently tap it with a mallet until the seams close. You can also use this method on the short ends of the panels. Take care not to damage the grooves of the panels as you tap, gentle tapping is all that you need!

After tapping, go back to check that your spacers haven’t shifted and your gap is still sufficient

 

Keep going!

Continue this process, row by row, until you reach your last row, making sure to check seams as you go to make sure nothing has shifted out of place. It’s difficult to fix a seam three rows in if you progress without fixing it as you go!

Install the last row

If you did your calculations right, you should be able to cut your panels to the same width as your first row. Measure the width including the spacers to make sure, and then cut the groove side off of these panels.

Place your spacers and use the same methods as before to attach your last row panels to the previous rows, using a pull bar in the gap instead of the tapping block to pull the seams together.

Reinstall trim

The process of laying the floor is finished! You can now reattach your trim using finishing nails or, if you didn’t remove the trim, install round molding to the trim to cover the gap.

Make sure you are attaching the trim to the wall as opposed to the floor itself – otherwise all your hard work to account for expansion will have been for nothing!

Lastly, attach a piece of floor transition trim in the doorway, and you are good to go!

You’re done!

You’ve done it! Have a lie down on your brand new floor, crack a beer, and pride yourself in a job well done with your own two hands!

 

 

How to Paint a Sink

It is incredible how a bit of paint can transform something old and ugly into something looking brand new. Today’s article is on something that you might not immediately think of when you are looking for things to spruce up with the old paint bottle – a sink!

Read on for how to paint a sink in 4 easy steps!

My mother-in-law is currently in the process of trying to sell her house, and as every day goes by, she seems to come up with new, incredible, sometimes absolutely hairbrained ideas for sprucing the place up.

From using double-sided tape to fix her cinderblock wall (“I promise it will work, Raff”) to wanting to spray paint her floor – she is constantly looking for quick fixes, often ones that I have to desperately try to persuade her to avoid.

Recently though, she was adamant that she wanted her stainless-steel laundry sink spray painted. I was hesitant at first, based purely on the wearability of spray paint and how well it would hold up in the future, (and also because I didn’t think the sink was that bad in the first place) but I was persuaded, because, look, you don’t mess with your mother-in-law.

So, today, I’m going to walk you through the 4 easy steps to paint a sink, and the results we achieved, so that you can decide if it’s the right option for you!

Step 1: Clean it!

It’s surprising how much dirt, grime and grease can build up on a sink, so it’s important to remove all of these things before going any further in the painting process.

But look, a simple soap and scrub isn’t going to cut it here, buddy.

Methylated spirits used for degreasing a sink

Many stores sell cleaners with the specific purpose of degreasing, but methylated spirits (denatured alcohol for those of your in the US), which is also used in the automobile industry for degreasing metal parts and cleaning tools, will arguably provide just as adequate results for this purpose. I gave the sink a good scrub down with spirits and a scouring pad then wiped with a rag soaked in mineral spirits as well.

To be honest, after the clean, I thought it looked spruced up enough to leave it at that aha!

Paint prep for a stainless steel sink

Step 2: Scuff it up

Stainless steel is notorious for not being an easy surface to paint. This is because the shiny, smooth surface of stainless steel makes it difficult for the paint to fully adhere to it and causes chipping over time.

In order to help that stubborn stainless steel really bond with the paint, we need to scuff up the surface.

Scuffing up stainless steal with sandpaper before painting

I used a 240 grit sandpaper and went to town on the metal of the sink. Using a circular motion with the sandpaper, I ensured that I gave the entire surface a thorough scuffing. When finished it was much less shiny – which is exactly what we want.

Step 3: Prep Time

I always tell people that your prep time when painting (depending on the size of the job) is often greater than the time you spend actually painting – it’s good to expect this and be prepared for it. As it happens, my mother-in-law is impatient and didn’t see why it was so necessary, so it was a fight to even get the edges of the sink taped up, much less cover the walls and cabinets.

However, I stood my ground and insisted on the tape job – albeit a rushed one.

Prepping the surrounding area before spray painting

Spray paint isn’t ideal indoors, both from the overspray angle as well as the ventilation issue. I made sure to cover the surrounding areas in plastic, newspaper, and cardboard – opened the door, and aimed a fan for some ventilation.

Once everything was taped up, I gave the sink a quick vacuum and wiped the it down once more with mineral spirits to remove any dust or debris that had settled there. A tack cloth would also work for this stage, but I didn’t have one on hand.

Step 4: Spray it!

Spray paint can look amazing. The outcome, when done properly, settles into a smooth, uniform surface that looks like something factory-made. However, it can be a bit finicky! Which is why, if this is your first-time spray painting, I recommend grabbing a piece of cardboard, a scrap piece of metal, or anything you don’t mind getting ruined, and practicing on it first.

My recommendation for a project such as this is Rustoleum 2x Ultracover. This paint is advertised as a primer and topcoat in one and can bond to metal, wood, and plastic. I have always found good bonding from this product without having to use a separate primer – which significantly decreases the time spent on a project! For this project,  my mother-in-law went with a glossy winter grey colour.

Rust-oleum 2x Ultracover used to paint stainless steel
This is a can I had around the house, not the colour we used, but I forgot to snap a picture at while there, doh!

When spray painting, you want to ensure that you keep the bottle at an even distance from the surface being painted throughout the entire process. I find about 20 cm to be a good distance if no wind is present, but again, you should test first!

Remember: It’s in the body, not the wrist! 

Move with your body instead of your wrist as moving from the wrist will change the angle and the distance that you are spraying at. Instead of holding the nozzle down throughout, practice stopping the spray at the end of each stroke – this helps to avoid over spraying in the same spot.

spray paint

As always with spray paint, you want to do several thin coats as opposed to one thick coat. Because spray paint is so thin if you do a heavy coat you are bound to get runs – something that should be avoided at all costs!

Check the directions on the back of your bottle – but generally around 20 minutes, or after it is touch dry, you can add another coat.

I ended up doing three thin coats all within an hour and half of beginning the project.

Step 5: Clean Up

After the paint is dry to the touch, remove any tape and coverings. If you have any overspray, now is the time to try to clean it up with mineral turps. Ideally, you won’t have any if you have done your prep properly!

Results

I have done a fair amount of spray painting in the past, and so I’m aware of how great it can look, but I’ll admit that I was surprised by just how great the sink looked when finished. It came out beautifully, looks spiffy, brand new, and definitely helped to spruce up the room.

Spray painted stainless steel sinkSpray painted stainless steel sink

It remains to be seen how well the spray holds up to the sink being used and abused – but I think it will do nicely at least until a new sink can be procured.

Have you ever spray-painted a sink? If yes, or if you have any questions, let me know in the comments!

The Low Down on Rust | Best way to remove rust from tools

Rust on iron

If you have tools, you’ve encountered rust! Here’s the low down on what’s causing your beloved tools to rust, the best way to remove rust from tools, and the best way to prevent them from prematurely rusting in the first place.

You pop out to the shed, pick up your favourite chisel and see shocking red stains across the previously shiny metal.

You reach for your beautifully repaired hand plane and see perfect replicas of your fingerprints in a rusty shade of orange – marring the once polished sides of the sole.

Your trusty adjustable wrench no longer moves with ease because the shifter is gummed up with those dastardly, dusty, and grainy flakes of red.

Any of this sound familiar?

Rust is something every owner of tools will struggle with at some point, but there are ways to lessen the struggle and save ourselves from some of the frustration!

How does rust form?

When we say “rust” what we are actually referring to is an “iron oxide.” Iron oxide occurs when iron is exposed to both oxygen and moisture. This exposure starts an electrochemical process which changes the material at a molecular level – essentially the metal fuses with oxygen molecules and creates the new material – Fe2O3.

Iron oxide weakens the bonds of the metal – which is why when rust is bad enough, you can literally break a once solid iron bar with your bare hands.

Rust on iron

An interesting side note: When iron oxide is created it takes up more volume than the original iron, which causes it to expand or “puff out” on the original piece. If you’ve ever seen cracked concrete that has metal rebar exposed, it likely occurred because of the expansion of the metal as it rusted. This is called “oxide jacking.”

How long does rust take to occur?

The first thing that comes to mind for many of us when we observe a heavily rusted item is “wow, that must be old.” This is why it is surprising the first time you return to your workshop and see a brand new tool already working its way towards looking like you picked it out of a box of your great-uncle’s old tools.

But, the reality is rust doesn’t take a long time to form. If you leave your cast iron table saw top unprotected with a piece of green wood on it overnight, you can expect to come back the next morning and see a thin layer of rust already formed! (oops… again)

A great video from the Canadian Conservation Institute shows how quickly flash rusting can occur when exposing a simple iron putty scraper to moisture over a period of 4 hours.

Two types of rust that I watch for

In the case of my tools, and antique restoration, there are two types of rust corrosion that I usually look for to distinguish how much I can expect to be able to restore the tool to usable order.

The first is surface rust. This is the orange, dusty rust that can easily be brushed or scoured off with minimal effort. While some discolouration of the metal beneath the rust often occurs after surface rust is cleaned away, it rarely affects the strength of the underlying metal to a high degree.

Surface rust on iron

Unfortunately, the only way to know for sure if it is surface rust is to brush it down to the bare metal.

The second type of corrosion is the more nefarious type – pitting. Pitting is a concentrated type of corrosion that forms holes or ‘pits’ in the metal.

To really understand the process that causes pitting, let’s go back to what causes rust in the first place and dig a little deeper.

In order for rust to develop it requires an anode (for us, a piece of iron that gives up its electrons), an electrolyte that can move the electrons (water, humid air, etc), and a cathode (another piece of iron that accepts the electrons.)

In the case of pitting, the corrosion is caused by a lack of oxygen in a particular area of the metal, which causes this area to give up its electrons more readily (an aspect referred to as anodic), and the surrounding areas, which have a bit more oxygen, are readily accepting of these electrons (cathodic). Since rust already requires the above exchange of electrons, this localised form accelerates the progression of the rust in a very concentrated area.

Because pitting occurs in a localised area instead of over the entire surface of the metal and extends deeper into the metal, it is often harder to detect and much more damaging to the integrity of the piece.

The results of rust pitting on a cleaned up plane iron
This photo of my Acorn hand plane iron shows the effect of pitting after all the rust has been cleaned away. Notice all the pockmarks in the metal!

Unfortunately, once pitting has occurred the only thing that can be done to “fix it” is to remove the rust from the holes and then fill them with epoxy or weld.

This isn’t the greatest option for our hand tools – but depending on how special/expensive your tool is you might be apt to try it.

Rust removal strategies

There are many ways to remove rust from your tools – from harsh chemical removers to regular household cleaning products, to more in-depth procedures like electrolysis.

Great: Vinegar

For many of my tool restorations, I have used plain old white vinegar. That’s right, the same stuff you have in your cupboard for salad dressings, or beneath your sink for cleaning is also phenomenal for rust removal.

To use vinegar as a rust remover, I believe the best method is soaking the tools in a tub with pure white vinegar. Some people add salt to the mix, but I have never found this to be any more effective than just vinegar – which means it’s just an added, unnecessary step for me.

I’ve left rusted tools in the vinegar anywhere from a few hours to a couple of months (I got distracted, okay?).

Vinegar used for rust removal on hand plane parts after two months
Two months of vinegary goodness

A couple of months was TOO LONG (oopsy). While the acid in the vinegar softens the rust and makes it easy to remove, it also eats at the metal – so it’s important to check your soaking tools regularly and remove them when the rust is easily scrubbed off with fine steel wool or an abrasive pad.

The metal on a plane iron eaten away by vinegar
You’ll notice the edge of this plane blade has lost a lot of metal from the acid.

After removing the tools from the vinegar and giving them a scrub, it’s important to thoroughly wash them to remove the acid from the vinegar. I’ve given them a good rinse in water as well as a dip and scrub in baking soda/water solution. The water itself works fine, but the added baking soda helps to neutralize any excess acid and the bubbling also works at getting beneath any areas of flaking that were left over.

Before photo of an acorn handplane being treated for rust with vinegar
Before and after photo of my Acorn hand plane after the metal parts went through a vinegar treatment.

After photo of rust removal using vinegar on an acorn handplane

I’ve soaked my tools in vinegar several times and always have good results (except for the above mentioned time when I got distracted and left them for too long) – granted it might take a bit more scrubbing after the fact than the following methods, but it’s cheap and readily available.

Better: Chemical rust remover – Evaporust

There are many chemical rust removers on the market, such as CLR and naval jelly,  but the one I have personally used and observed others using with good results is Evaporust.

There are a load of great things about Evaporust, but my personal favourite is that, unlike the vinegar and many other products, it doesn’t use acid to remove the rust. Therefore, I’m not going to run into the same problem of it attacking the metal itself if I leave it a bit too long. It’s also reusable, which means I can use it for several tool restoration products without worrying about too huge of a cost. And, it’s not as toxic or harsh as many of the other products on the market – I still wear gloves when I use it (because I’m paranoid), but Evaporust itself states that gloves and eye protection are not necessary.  If you’ve ever used other harsh chemical removers before, you know how caustic they can be – so this is a great bonus.

To use it, I simply give my tools a cursory scrub to remove loose flakes of rust and dirt – I mostly do this so that I don’t have to spend time afterward trying to really filter out the liquid before storing it for my next use. I then place the tools in a bucket of the Evaporust, put a lid on, and wait. I’ve never had to wait longer than 24 hours for fantastic results. It does leave a dark residue on the tools, but some quick polishing removes it.

Does the added cost make it worth it over the plain old vinegar? If you’re only doing a few rust removal projects here and there, don’t mind waiting longer for results, and putting a bit more work into scrubing after the soak, then I think the vinegar is more than adequate for your purposes. For me, the Evaporust has saved a lot of time and hand power in my restoration projects.

Best: Electrolysis

I’m convinced that electrolysis is the ultimate rust removal method. While I’ve only gotten to see the results of this procedure twice in person, I am excitedly awaiting the day when I can pick up a battery or charger and am able to use it for all of my rust removal purposes.

The process of electrolysis for rust removal requires passing a small electrical charge through your rusty metal. This charge stimulates an exchange of ions while the tool is submerged in an electrolyte liquid, effectively stimulating the exact opposite chemical reaction seen in rusting.

diagram of electrolysis for rust removal
Please enjoy my artwork

I was initially turned on to this process when I was lamenting some very rusted auto parts that I was dealing with, and my mechanic pal, who had all the necessary materials, told me to come over to see some magic. Jeeze Louise, it was magic. The rust just sloughed right off my headers and oil pan. I was immediately hooked.

You’ll need a car battery charger, a plastic or glass bin or bucket, washing soda, and a strip of metal to attach to the positive electrode.


WARNING:

It’s very important to have a well-ventilated area for your electrolysis procedure, as the process creates hydrogen and oxygen gas, which are highly explosive if ignited. Ensure that no sparks or open flame are anywhere near the setup, and that no spills of water can come into contact with the battery.

Rust Prevention

So, we’ve cleaned all the previous rust off and our tool is shiny and clean and ready to go right? You set it down on the table and turn around for two minutes only to find a thin layer of rust already developing!

After rust removal, the bare surface of the metal is especially vulnerable to flash rust. That’s why it is important to immediately protect it from further rust.

Fully restored Acorn handplane
After fully removing the rest and restoring this beauty, we definitely want to make sure we keep it that way!

We know that the combination of moisture and oxygen with the metal is what causes rust to occur. So, in order to prevent that, adding a protective layer to the metal that stops moisture and oxygen from contacting it is necessary.

My go-to when finishing the rust removal process is to wipe my tools with Camellia oil. I apply the oil on a rag which I store in an old, metal Altoid box – this makes it easy to grab and use whenever I am finished with using my tools. Camellia oil, unlike other machine oils, doesn’t have the tendency to stain the wood that you’re working with, which is a huge plus! After using any of my planes or chisels, I always clean them off and then wipe them down with the oil-soaked rag before storing them.

For my table saw surface, I avoid the use of oil as it easily attracts dust, instead, I thoroughly clean the surface with mineral spirits and then apply a dry, silicone-free spray such as Bostik’s Top- Coat or Boeshield T-9, I’ve used both with good results that tend to last longer than a paste wax. After spraying, I give it a good wipe down with a paper towel and I’m good to go!

Proper storage of your tools is another good rust-preventive strategy. Ideally, your tools would be stored in an area with very little moisture exposure. However, since I live in an area with heavy humidity and no environmental control in my shed, I’ve found the silica-gel packs (those little packs that come in the packages of many products and have “do not eat” written on them)  to be a good way to prevent moisture from getting at your tools if you are storing them in boxes– toss a few in with them and the packs will suck up the moisture in the air.

The silica gel packs lose their effectiveness over time, but I find they work well if being changed out on a semi-regular basis, or after “reviving” the packs by heating them in the oven to dry them out once they have lost their effectiveness. Give it a try!

If storing your tools in the open air, I find the best way to keep them from rusting is to hang them – while trying to keep them from touching any raw wood – raw wood just loves to seep moisture out onto your vulnerable metal tools!

You can kick rust to the curb

Rust is something as a tool user that you will always be trying to keep ahead of.  But, now that you know the strategies to prevent it, and the ways in which it can be removed, you have the power to keep your tools shiny and clean for years to come!

If you’ve found this information helpful, or have any questions or comments on rust removal and prevention, please leave us a comment below!