DIY Cyclone Filter: Introduction and First Steps

I like the idea of having a cyclone separator for my shop vac.

Not only would it be fun to see the dust swirling to its final resting place at the bottom of a bucket, but from what I’ve read, you can significantly increase the efficiency of your dust collection by putting a cyclone en route to your shop vac because the filter in the shop vac does not get clogged with dust as quickly.

As much as I like the idea of having a cyclone separator, I have a proportionally greater dislike for paying $70 for a fancy bucket, or $50 for a fancy lid.

So I like the idea of spending $13 for a sheet of plastic and trying to make my own cyclone separator, like this guy did.

The first step was to take my sheet of plastic (clear acrylic) and roll it into a cone (or funnel, depending on your perspective).

I started out by using a heat gun to soften the acrylic as I rolled it. This worked okay at first but, as the funnel started getting taller and taller, I had a larger and larger area to heat for each increment of progress. It took me altogether too long to realize that I had a better tool for this.

A few minutes after starting with the propane torch, I had the beginnings of my funnel.

Now I needed to cut the excess bits off the top and the bottom, and so began another process of trial and error.

First I tried to cut the acrylic with my jigsaw. This immediately started to grab and crack the acrylic, and didn’t improve with any combination of coarse or fine toothed blades and low or high speed settings on the saw.

So I tried using a hacksaw, and had limited success on the small end of the funnel, but holding the piece still while cutting was difficult, and the hacksaw would be too small and cumbersome to use on the wider end of the funnel.

And so I used a cutting head on my rotary tool.

Finally! The right tool for the job.

Now that I have one of the key components to the system, I can start working on how to attach it to the vacuum hoses and the bucket that will collect the dust.

To be continued…


Table Saw Dust Collection Concept

The Rockwell 10″ Contractor saw I own has an open frame and an external motor hanging off the back, making efficient dust collection an issue because controlling the airflow is next to impossible.

I have a friend with a similar saw on an open frame, but his saw’s motor is more contained, so he doesn’t have the challenge of  plugging a hole that allows the motor to pivot as the blade is tilted to make a beveled cut.

I may still try to close off the cabinet and plug the holes to set up a more traditional dust collection arrangement, but I have an idea I’d like to try out first

Here’s what I’m thinking: I might be able to get effective collection by attaching a “fender” of sorts around the blade under the table. If I attach this fender to the arbor assembly (similar to how I have mounted the riving knife) then I can keep it in close proximity to the blade, which should make for very effective dust  collection.

I made a concept drawing in Sketchup to work through some kinks in my mind:

I like the idea, but I still need to figure out if it will be practical to mount this to the arbor assembly to have it move vertically with the blade, or if I should just attach it to the horizontal rails so that it will tilt with the blade and motor, but will not respond to the depth of the height of the blade.

I’ll keep you posted.

Hide-Away Router Table

One of the first projects I took on after buying a welder was making a router table.

I made it 36″ tall, 18″ deep, and 32″ wide with a 10-gauge steel top and an aluminum insert/adapter plate. Shortly after completing it, I realized that it was too big for my garage.

Even though it is a lot smaller than my table saw, I will not be using it nearly as much as the saw, so I am not willing to dedicate as much floor space to it.

I considered making the table short enough to slide under the workbench, but this would have made it too short to work on comfortably.

Another idea I had was to use drawer slides mounted on the bottom of the workbench, but again, this made the table surface too low once it was set at a height that would accommodate the workbench frame and the router table fence.

And so I came up with a solution: Hang the table from the bottom of my workbench and swing it out when I want to use it. This would allow me to store it away when not in use, and bring it up to a usable height for use.

Here’s the concept in sketchup:

To accomplish this in reality, I basically cut up the legs on the router table, and bolted them back on upside down, and then hung the whole thing from the bottom of the bench.

Since the table is made of metal, it’s heavy, so I added two 30lb gas springs to the back to help lift the table into position.

Once the table is raised, I have two pivoting legs that I drop into position to hold the table up at a comfortable working height.

Here is the finished product:

Table Saw Extension: Plugging the Hole

When I doubled the size of my table saw by adding a second table top from another old saw, I had a hole in the middle of the added segment where the saw blade insert would have gone originally.

I thought about making a blank insert to fill the hole, but then I thought I could make it more useful but using it as storage for my stock insert, which I will use when I need to make beveled cuts (my zero-clearance insert prevents tilting the blade, so I need to swap the insert if I need a beveled cut).

Since the stock insert is a relatively thin piece of metal, I partially filled the hole with a piece of 1/2″ plywood so the insert would sit flush with the surface.

I had to drill out the plywood under the insert’s holes because the underside of the insert is bent downwards around these holes (basically the negative of the countersink in the top of the insert) causing the insert to sit a little too high.

After drilling the holes, the insert sat a tiny bit too low, so I shimmed it up with a few pieces of duct tape.  I also used a Sharpie to color the wood under the openings in the insert, just to make it look a little better when it’s all put together:

Now I have a place to keep my stock insert, and I don’t have a big hole in my table saw top:

So pretty.

Now I need to make something with the saw…

Table Saw: Support and Storage

My table saw is huge… but unstable.

I noted near the end of my previous post on the topic, that I would need to revisit the saw, since it is top-heavy and in danger of tipping to the right due to a lack of support under the expanded table top. So that is how I spent my free time this weekend.

I wanted to continue using my table saw’s mobile base, so I needed to find a way to extend it to support the far-right end of my table. I decided the best way to do this would be to install a plywood floor in the mobile base and then install a support from this floor to hold up the right end of the saw.

For some reason I thought 1/2″ plywood would be sufficient, so I measured out and cut the necessary pieces with my circular saw (I used an offset straight-edge to guide the saw).

I was planning to use some angle iron to extend the mobile base frame, but was having trouble figuring out how to attach it to the existing frame without having to redesign the whole thing.

I was also starting to realize that the 1/2″ plywood was far too thin to make a stable floor for the saw, as it would bow significantly in the middle (the mobile base only supports the corners).

To solve both of these problems I figured I needed a rigid floor that I could simply attach the ends of the mobile base to, instead of trying to make the mobile base itself support the length of the floor.

I happened to have a piece of 3/4″ plywood on hand that was about the right size, and I screwed it to the bottom of the 1/2″ piece I had already prepared. This alone was pretty sturdy, but I decided to further reinforce it by attaching the angle iron to the sides.

This made for a very solid floor that did not bend at all when I attached the mobile base ends to it and tested it by standing in the middle.

After wrestling the saw onto the base, I secured it by clamping it down with pieces of plywood screwed to the main floor.

In order to support the right end of the table, I built a box out of the 1/2″ plywood to act as a single leg.

I glued and brad-nailed the box together and installed it with a combination of glue and brad nails on the bottom and an angle iron bracket on the top.

The table saw is now fully supported and the extra space on the right side is perfect for housing my compound miter saw (I had considered putting my shop vac here, but then I bought the compound miter…). I’ll probably put a shelf above the miter saw to keep other miscellaneous tools and scraps, but that can wait. For now I am happy that I have sturdy table saw with enough surface area and fence capacity to do anything I need to (and plenty of things I don’t).

Note: In the pictures the saw appears to be leaning to the right, but this is mostly an optical illusion, and partially because I should adjust the feet of the mobile base, but a slight tilt toward the fence won’t impact performance or stability, in fact, it might help both.

Craigslist – The Last Hurrah

Hi, my name is Andrew, and I’m a Craigslist Addict.

I have been clean and sober for 24 hours.

But I had one last find before I quit:

This is a 12″ Makita Sliding Double-Bevel Compound Miter Saw with work light and laser guide; the ultimate specimen of the tool that caused contractors and homeowners to abandon the Radial arm saw in droves (have you seen how many Radial Arm Saws there are on Craigslist?)

The Makita that I bought was originally $600 new, if you got a good deal. The guy I bought it from had two, because his work was replacing their 20+ saws with new ones and scrapping the old saws (it’s a Union shop, it doesn’t have to make sense). So this guy grabbed two of them and sold one to me for $125.

You can see in the pictures that it’s missing the retractable blade guard and the safety switch (the little button that you push to pull the trigger). I found a safety switch online for $10, and can buy the blade guard for $20 + Shipping, but I’m still on the fence about that, since the saw seems like a very safe piece of equipment (at least as far as power saws go), and the guard won’t keep you from cutting off your own finger if you’re truly determined to do so.

You can also see in the pictures that the saw was dirty. It had been used primarily for cutting aluminium, so the mess on it was grease, cutting oil, and aluminum shavings.

Mixed together they make this:

This cruft was caked into every crevice of the saw and partially filling the blade cover and dust port.

After a couple hours of disassembling, cleaning, reassembling, and aligning the saw, I considered my acquisition complete. This is my new saw:

Before I bought the saw, I had  told my wife: “This is really the last power tool I need to be able to do anything I would need to.”

I wasn’t lying, I have a table saw for rip cuts and precision work, a scroll saw for intricate curves, a band saw for large curves and light resawing, a circular saw for portable work and large work pieces, a jigsaw for potable curves and small cuts in large work pieces, a drill press, a random orbit sander, a router table, a standalone router, a bench grinder, an angle grinder, flex-shaft grinder, a power drill, a cordless drill and impact driver, a handheld power planer, a tile saw, and a wire-feed welder. Adding power tools to this would, most likely, either be for very specific purposes, and thus have very infrequent use, or would significantly overlap capabilities with something I already own, and so add less value.

But then I saw someone liquidating their workshop on Craigslist because they were moving. The thing that caught my eye was a top-of-the-line Makita 12″ surface planer for $100. What the heck?!? It’s as if Craigslist knew I was considering quitting and threw everything it had into stopping me (insert South Park Wal-Mart reference here: “Stan! I Can’t! Go on without me; I have to buy these screwdrivers!”)

With much support (questioning and harassing) from my wife, I passed on the chance to make the planer my own. Practically speaking, I’ve never milled my own lumber or built fine furniture, true I would need the planer if I decided to do these things, but I don’t have enough time for my current projects, I’m unlikely to add more projects any time soon.

I then closed my continually-refreshing Craigslist tools query, and deleted the Craigslist app from my phone.

I feel empowered!

I feel free!

I feel depressed.

But what’s done is done: Until I start a project that absolutely requires a power tool that I don’t own, I will not search Craigslist; I will not buy any more power tools. That’s what my wishlist is for.

Inca Band Saw Part 4: The Tires and the Cut

Based on my first experiment, having replaced nothing but the guides and thrust bearings, I was concerned about the performance of the saw, but was reserving judgement until I replaced the blade and the tires, since both of these can make a big difference in the cut quality.

After hunting around online for a while, I found several recommendations for the Olson MVP blade (72 1/2″ x 1/2″) and the urethane tires from Peachtree woodworking (11″ x 3/4″)

Before installing the new tires, I had to replace the old ones, which were glued in place. I took off the upper wheel since it was only held on by a snap ring.

I had to cut off the tires, which I did by scoring the same line over and over with an X-acto knife, being careful not to score the aluminum wheel.

It was then just a matter of peeling off the old tire.

I thought about really trying to clean up the surface of the wheel, but decided that it would ultimately be more work than it was worth, since any small irregularities would be smoothed over by the new tire.

The urethane tires do not require glue as they are held on by the friction due to a tight fit.

I’m not sure how tight the fit is normally, but wow! I had quite a wrestling match to get the tires on. I used a clever strategy composed of pinched fingers, teeth, and a neck cramp, and was successful at installing both tired.

Now I re-installed the wheels and aligned them before mounting the blade.

Because the Inca band saw has flat wheels (no crown) the blade is not centered on the wheels, but is rather run along the front edge of the tire, with the teeth extending beyond the front of the tire to prevent them from damaging the tire.

I got everything beck together and made a test cut on some 3/4″ white oak.

Wow. That made a difference. I have mostly used cheap 9″ saws in the past, so I cannot say how this compares to a finely-tuned top-of-the-line saw, but it was by far the straightest, most effortless cutting I have ever done with a band saw.

I also free-handed a little bit of resawing on a piece of red oak about 4-5 inches thick and was able to easily shave off a 1/16″ slice. The wood didn’t slow the saw down at all, but the surface of the resawn piece was a little wavier than I’d like, but I have little enough experience with band saws that I’m not sure what a purpose-built resaw machine would produce, so I’ll be happy with the fact that I could easily control the direction of the blade and make a thin slice off a relatively thick piece of wood.

My next improvement will be to make some sort of fence for the band saw, but for now, I have the most usable band saw I have ever worked with.

The Incredible Expanding Table Saw

I have mentioned, in the past, my addiction to Craigslist. At this very moment I am waiting to hearing back about a JET pen lathe… but I’ll write about that if the seller calls me back.

This post is about my table saw. I picked it up originally from a Craigslist seller in semi-working condition for a mere $50, figuring it was worth the investment even if all I got was a pastime for a week or two trying to get it into shape.

More recently I noticed someone posting the same saw (well, the Delta version of my Rockwell saw), in much worse condition, without a motor or a fence, and missing its stand, for $300.

This was an absurdly high price, so I just laughed about it. A couple weeks later it was reposted for $200; and then again in a similar amount of time for $150.

At this point I decided to reply to the add, telling the seller about the deal I had gotten and that he would probably need to lower his price to move the saw. His reply: “$50 and it’s yours”.

At first I just laughed about it. I didn’t want the saw, I was just trying to help the guy out. But the more I thought about it, I began to feel like I might actually buy it. My rationale was this: It had its original stamped steel extensions, which I like better than the aluminum ones, and what if I could use the second table top as an extension as well?

The best extension wings you can buy are precision ground cast iron, so why not bolt a precision ground table top to the side of my existing top? Plus there was the chance I might need a replacement part at some point in the future… who knows?

So, I bought it.

It was in pretty rough shape, very rusty, but the wings were still straight.

I started working away at the rust with steel wool, but quickly moved to 150 grit sand paper on my random orbit sander.

I can hear you wincing and judging me. After all, the people on the woodworking forums all say that you’ll screw up your top with anything more than light wet-sanding with 400+ grit sandpaper.

However, on the metalworking forums, they seem to think you have to be very intentional to screw up a cast-iron surface significantly; and I wasn’t about to invest several weeks of elbow grease (yes, elbow grease is measured in time-based increments) in a cast iron top that I had picked up for $50.

I am happy to report that the sandpaper did not do any measurable harm.

The rust on the other hand…

The surface is definitely pitted and etched, but I think that it is acceptable over all: wood moves across it easily and stays flat and stable.

I treated the extension wings to the same process and got the same results.

So I had a usable set of extension wings and a second table for very little money and a few hours of elbow grease.

If you have read my post regarding my New table saw fence then you’ll recall that the space between the flush-mounted front and back fence rails was too narrow to fit my old extension wings. It was also, apparently, too small to fit the new extension wings and the new table top. This is due to my Rockwell table having a small “step” inwards about 1/2″ below the surface.

So even though the actual surface size is identical on the Rockwell and Delta saws, the fence mounts differently. So I removed the fence rails and re-installed them with a couple of washers stacked beneath each mounting bolt. This brought the fence out to the right width and allowed me to install the “new” extra wing and table top after drilling holes that lined up with the mounting holes in my fence rails.

One additional modification was to drill out the threaded mounting holes on the new table top. This was to allow me to pass a bolt through them and into the extension-mounting holes on my saw top (luckily these lined up perfectly)

The end result:

I’ll be making a blank insert to cover the hole for the non-existent insert on the second top. I had also thought about filling the extra miter slots with some aluminum bar stock I have, but I’ll wait and see, I can imagine it being useful to have extra miter slots.

I will be building a plywood cabinet underneath the new table, just to make sure it doesn’t tip over, and I’m thinking this may be a great place to house my shop vac.

So it’s not quite this:

But it’s as close as I’ll get with $100 worth of Craigslist purchases and an aftermarket fence.

Oh, and the guy emailed me back about the JET pen lathe: he already sold it to someone else. (I should have been checking Craigslist more frequently)

Inca Band Saw Part 3: The Guides

When I was first examining the guides on my saw, I noticed that they were unlike anything I’d ever seen before.  Actually, they seemed to be a mismatched set.

The guides on my saw are the type that have an asymmetrical pair on each the top and bottom, with one coming from the left, perpendicular to the blade, and the other coming from the right at a 45-degree angle.

I have seen this configuration before, but what was new here was that the perpendicular guide was a small wheel, with a groove on the outer circumference that the back of the blade would ride in; and the 45-degree steel guide wasn’t touching the blade at all.

After digging through the manual, I found that this wheel guide was the “fretwork guide”, meant to support the back of a blade too narrow to be held by the steel guides. This meant that I was missing the horizontal steel guides that I would need for a regular (3/8″-1/2″) blade.

I started looking online for information about Cool Blocks and ceramic guides, having heard that these were the best for guiding the blade and keeping it from overheating due to the friction of the guides rubbing against the blade, however, being a relatively rare European saw, I would have to order custom blocks, which would be tedious and expensive.

I am a regular reader of, and had seen an article regarding using hardwood blocks as guides. This seemed cheap, easy, and reversible, so I thought it would make a worthwhile experiment.

Wanting to do a little more research on this concept and general bandsaw theory, I bought The Bandsaw Book and found a couple interesting facts: 1.) Wooden guides can provide excellent support for the blade, although they wear out quickly; and 2.) Steel guides do NOT cause blades to overheat (the wood being cut generates far more heat, and the guides are only making contact with a very small portion of the blade).

Armed with the confidence that I could do no harm; I cut out a set of guides from some white oak I had laying around, saturated them with Johnson’s Paste Wax, and tested the cut.

It was terrible! The blade immediately started cutting at what must have been 20-degrees from parallel to the table.

I started to worry about whether the guides would work, but then I remembered: I’m using a saw with chewed up tires and the cheapest Craftsman blade that fits, I should probably address those problems before I start trying to fine-tune the cut.

<To be continued in Part 4: The Wheels and the Blade>