I made a Dust Collector – Part 1

A while back I bought a leaky air compressor for $50 because it had a good 3HP motor on it that I figured I could use someday for something, probably.

When Mr. Wendel built a small dust collector with a tile saw motor, I knew my old motor had found its destiny.

Little did I know that this would lead to one of the scariest things I have ever built (and I’ve made a good number of catapults and potato cannons in my day).

I needed to make three things: an impeller, a cowl, and a motor mount.

Everything I needed I already had laying around, so I figured this would be a good way to use my tools and my time. At the very least it would be an educational experience.

First: Thing 1 – Impeller

To start, I cut some 1/4″ plywood into two identical discs by taping two squares together with double-sided tape and then spinning them across the blade on a screw I had driven through a thicker board (a rudimentary form of a dedicated circle-cutting jig)
Impeller - discs
Impeller - discs
Impeller - discs
Impeller - discs

A piece of oak I had in my scrap bin became the impeller fins. I printed out a template and glued it to the piece of wood and then cut out the pieces freehand on my bandsaw.
IMAG1187
Impeller - Fins

Since this was a remnant piece of wood, it was not the same thickness all the way through, so I removed some wood from the top of each fin after setting it against the bottom of my milling machine vice to ensure that they were all the same height.
Impeller - Fins
Impeller - Fins
Impeller - Fins
Impeller - Fins

Using 9 fins, the math was easy, I placed a fin every 40-degrees around the bottom disc. The tilt was determined based on what looked best to me, then I just measured the offset from the 40-degree lines and placed the tip of the fin on one line and base of the fin on the other.
Impeller - Assembly
Impeller - Assembly
Impeller - Assembly

After setting everything in place dry and ensuring in all aligned properly, I applied glue to the top and bottom surfaces, set them in their pre-determined places around the bottom disc, and then set the second disc on top.
Impeller - Assembly

I didn’t want to mess with clamps, so I set the assembly on a known flat surface (my table saw) and set another known flat surface on top (yes, that’s the table top from the old scroll saw) and piled some heavy metal pieces on that.
Impeller - Assembly
Impeller - Assembly

After letting the glue set overnight, I took the assembled impeller to the drill press, where I used a 4-inch hole saw to open one side as the air inlet.
Impeller - Inlet
Impeller - Inlet

Next I set a large ball bearing on top of a metal cylinder in the vise and balanced the impeller on top of it.
Impeller - Balance
Impeller - Balance
Impeller - Balance

I used a forstner bit to remove wood from the heavy side until the impeller stayed level while balanced on the bearing.
Impeller - Balance

So, now I had the impeller… part 1 complete.

Cleanup Tip: Metal Shavings

If you notice the background of most of my pictures, you’re probably thinking “why would I take cleanup advice from that guy?”.

True, I don’t clean up as often as I should, but that doesn’t mean I don’t know how to do it.

I have a portable bandsaw that I got for Christmas and that I am fairly certain is the most awesome tool ever.
I use it to slice through angle iron and tubing like a hot knife through Vaseline; and through 3.5-inch thick bricks of steel like… okay, it’s not that fast with the thick metal, but it gets the job done and takes up a whole lot less space than a horizontal bandsaw.
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However, as is true of all saws, it makes a mess. Which brings me to the point of this article: a neat trick to quickly clean up metal shavings.

I use this method whenever I have a fairly localized mess of shavings in an area that isn’t easy to use a broom in, such as around my vice and grinder on the workbench, or on the floor in front of the vice where I use my portable bandsaw.
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What you need:

  • A strong magnet (ideally a rare earth magnet)
  • A shop cloth (I like to use pieces of old t-shirt)

Place the magnet in the cloth…
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Fold the cloth around the magnet…
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Wipe the area where the shavings are to collect them…
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Then go over the to trash can, and unwrap the magnet and set it aside…
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Now you have a handful of shavings to empty into the trash and a clean magnet.
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See? I can clean if I want to.

Inca Bandsaw Fence – Part 3 – The Fence

And so we come to the conclusion of the Inca Bandsaw Fence series.

At this stage I had a rail for the fence to slide on, a carriage that follows and locks onto the rail, and a mounting bracket extending vertically from the carriage for the fence itself.

The best material I found to make a fence was extruded aluminum rectangular tubing (about 1.5 inches wide and 3 inches tall). Aluminum extrusions tend to be very straight and since my saw’s table is also aluminum, using a harder metal could possibly damage the table over time.

I picked up a 36-inch piece of the aforementioned tubing as a remnant from the local metal supply store ($2.70 per pound) and cut 16 inches off to make my fence.

The fence needed to be connected to the vertical bracket attached to the carriage. My first thought was to attach it with bolts on the backside of the fence, but then the width of the fence would be limiting the cutting capacity of the saw by a full 1.5-inches. So I decided to attach the bracket to the inside of the tubing.

In order to do this I cut a slot in the bottom of the fence, right along the front edge where I wanted to attach it to the carriage.

Then I drilled and countersank two mounting holes. I transferred the location of these holes to the bracket and then drilled holes in the bracket accordingly.
Bandsaw Fence - Mount
Bandsaw Fence - Mount
Note: If you are a particularly observant reader, you will notice that I showed a picture of the bracket in “part 2” of this series, but here I am claiming that they were drilled as a step in “part 3”.  Well done.

The arrangement of the holes is not merely aesthetic. If the holes were aligned with each other horizontally, they would provide only limited vertical support. Likewise vertical holes would provide limited horizontal support. My theory is that diagonally arranged holes will be the best of both worlds.

Bandsaw Fence - Mount

I inserted brass (because it’s pretty) machine screws through the holes and secured them with washers and locknuts (to prevent loosening during operation).
Bandsaw Fence
Bandsaw Fence

And that’s it.

IMAG1284Bandsaw Fence

There is a bit of flex on the far end of the fence if to apply a lot of lateral pressure, but since my workpieces will be small and kickback is not a concern on the bandsaw, I won’t be pressing hard against the fence, so I think it is rigid enough.

That said, I’ll probably tinker with it at some point to make the far end lock in place as well.

Inca Bandsaw Fence – Part 2 – The Carriage

For lack of specific knowledge and due to a general laziness when it comes to looking things up on Google, I’m calling this part of the bandsaw fence a “carriage”:

fence scribble

(actually, I’m not certain my affliction can be considered “laziness” since I just went through the trouble of drawing a picture instead of just looking up the correct name… maybe I just feel like it is a carriage, whether or or not that’s what it’s officially called).

In any case, after completing the rail, I turned my attention to the part connecting the fence to the rail.

Essentially this works like a C-clamp, with the rail being pinched between a screw and a pressure plate. The construction may vary, but the most important aspect is that the carriage must be designed so that it is rigidly square with the rail when it is tightened in place.

I used a small piece of angle iron to act as the pressure plate. I shortened one side of the “L” (the “pressure plate” side) so that it wouldn’t hit the bolts on the underside of the rail.

Then I attached a vertical piece of steel that I milled flat and square. I kept it parallel to the angle iron by clamping a piece of metal in between it and the short end of the angle while welding it.

I drilled and tapped 1/4-20 threads into the vertical piece of steel and ran a Rockler star knob through it.
IMAG1232Bandsaw Fence - Slide/Lock

Bandsaw Fence - Slide/Lock

This tested okay, but I didn’t want the screw to mess up the rail over time, so I added a thinner piece of steel that was flexible enough to allow the fence to move while the knob was loose and still bear down hard on the rail when the knob was tightened.

Bandsaw Fence - Slide/Lock

So now I had an assembly that could be locked into any location with a mounting surface that was consistently parallel to the rail. The next step was to make a bracket that the fence itself could attach to.

I made the bracket out of a piece of trailer hitch tube I had leftover from another project.

I started by milling two sides flat and square with each other.

Bandsaw Fence - Mount

After that I cut off the other two sides and shortened one side so that the other would stick up above the bandsaw table perpendicular to the shorter side which would be mounted to the rest of the carriage assembly.

Like so:

Bandsaw Fence - Mount

I mounted this with a single 5/16″ bolt through the carriage assembly, which allowed it to be pivoted as necessary to keep the upright portion vertical (parallel to the blade).

Bandsaw Fence - Mount
Bandsaw Fence - Mount

And now I could turn my attention to the final component: Part 3 – the Fence!

Coming soon.

Inca Bandsaw Fence – Part 1 – The Rail

My little Inca bandsaw, which I love, came without a fence. For many uses this is okay, but the functionality and precision really are limited without a fence, so I set out to build one.

Outside Front

I picked up a piece of 2″x4″ rectangular extruded aluminum tubing from the local metal supply store to act as the fence itself, and for the rest I used other scraps of angle iron and trailer hitch tube I had saved from previous projects.

There are basically three parts to the fence assembly (and three corresponding blog posts):

  1. the rail
  2. the carriage
  3. the fence

The carriage and the fence are connected to each other and slide along the rail to set the distance between the blade and the fence. The carriage must be able to lock itself in place at any point along the rail.

My typical approach to any project is to just start building and figure things out as I go (for typical results, see my cyclone separator). I tend to rely on relative measurements (“about this big…”, or “the same size as that…”) rather than actually measuring with a ruler or tape measure. Since this project required a greater level of precision than my typical project, I did nothing different (I’m not entirely certain where my ruler and tape measure are anyways).

Bandsaw Fence - Rail

I determined the length for the rail by marking a piece of scrap hardboard while holding it against the bottom of the saw’s table.

After cutting the rail (a piece of 1″ angle iron) to length I used the same process to determine the proper location for the mounting holes. I drilled the holes a little large, so that there was some slack for adjustments.

Bandsaw Fence - Rail

Short segments of angle iron are pretty straight but they have some scaling and bubbling from the forging process which I filed off and sanded a bit to ensure that the surface was flat (enough).

I happened to have a couple of metric bolts and lock washers that fit the threaded holes in the table, and installed the rail.

Bandsaw Fence - Rail

Next step: the carriage…

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.

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 woodgears.ca, 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>

Inca Band Saw

A few weeks ago I went onto Craigslist to see if there were any interesting tools for sale. I was thrilled to see the exact Band Saw I was hoping to someday buy (the Grizzly G0555 ), for sale at an amazing price.


The ad had only been posted for about an hour, but when I called (after getting the OK from my wife), I found that the saw had already been sold.

At first I thought, “that’s okay, I have a good table saw and scroll saw, and I was okay without a band saw yesterday, I didn’t really need one today…”; but the more I thought about it, the more depressed I got. I kept dreaming of bi-metal blades, resaw capacity, ceramic blade guides, and riser blocks. Oh! The fun I could have had with such a saw!
“If only I’d signed on to Craigslist sooner!”, I thought, and thus began compulsively refreshing the “Tools” section of craigslist every 10 minutes for the next 2 weeks. I even installed the Craigslist app on my Android phone for when I was away from my computer.

My searching  ended (… at least my searching for a band saw ended) a little over a week ago, when I saw a post selling an Inca 342 for $300. At first I ignored the post, because it was only a 10.5″ bandsaw and seemed overpriced. But since I had never heard of the brand before, and there was very little detail in the post, I decided to Google it and see what I could find out.

I was surprised to find that this was a Swiss band saw, made by a company that went out of business some time ago, but whose band saws have a rabid cult of fans (like Festool). I found that these saws are pretty rare finds, since woodworkers buy them and then keep them until they die (the woodworker, that is). Consequently, the most common places to find them are estate sales.

I found a couple more for sale in the USA, and both were listed at well over $500, and I found stories of people paying this much for Inca saws that didn’t have a motor, so I replied to the Craigslist posting offering to buy the saw at $300 if it had the motor and was in good working order.

After agonizing most of the evening, trying to tell myself that the owner had probably sold the saw to someone else and I should pick myself up and move on with my life, I got a call from the seller saying I could come by and pick up the saw in the morning if I was still interested. I was.

And so I had a band saw. But I could tell, when I started cleaning it up, that it would need a little work.

I made a list and went to work. I would need:

  1. New thrust bearings
  2. New blade guides
  3. New Tires
  4. New Blade

All of these things are standard to replace on band saws, since they were over time, so I remained confident on my overall assessment that the saw was in good shape.

Note: Since I’m finding it rather easy to write 1000+ word posts on this blog, I’m going to break these each into separate posts, which will keep the suspense at its peak as you wonder:

“Will he be able to find parts for a saw that made by a company that went out of business 20 years ago ?”

“Will the Swiss band saw live up to its reputation ?”

“Will our fearless hero survive ??”

Stay tuned.