I made a Dust Collector – Part 2

Curse you Wandel, for stealing my thunder!

Whatever. Nobody cares about your little website anyways.


So, at this stage of the project I had an impeller and a motor, and nothing in between.

I needed something in between.

Fortunately, my motor came with a pulley attached.



…Very securely attached…

I cobbled together a gear puller with some scrap metal, clamps, a magnet, and a coupling nut.



Now that I had removed the pulley from the shaft, I proceeded to remove the coupling nut from the pulley…

Impeller - Motor Pulley


Impeller - Motor Pulley


Over at the lathe, I began to cut away at the pulley to turn it into a hub.

Impeller - Hub

Impeller - Hub


Aaaaaaand, it’s a hub.

Impeller - Hub


I laid it on the center of the back of the impeller and marked the locations of the  holes I had drilled in the hub since the last picture…

Impeller - Mount

Impeller - Mount

Off camera, I drilled out the holes and attached the hub to the impeller and the motor shaft.

Impeller - Test

I hooked it up to a foot pedal switch and it was time for a test!


Holy crap! Time to change my underpants!


…to be continued.


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.
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.

Copy/Paste DIY

Anyone who has written a program or designed a web page knows the value of copy/paste.

Hours upon hours can be saved by a Google search and Ctrl+c Ctrl+v.

Some people say that this behavior dampens the imagination, and emphasizes productivity over effort and ingenuity.

I say “So What?”

If I hit a problem that someone else has solved, why should I reinvent the wheel?

And say what you will about this approach, it makes me more efficient and effective, whether or not I generate the solution myself.

It’s not much of a stretch for me to apply this to me projects in the garage.

Often times it is faster and cheaper (believe it or not) to find parts in a commercial product that solves your needs, rather than buying individual parts or making them yourself.

For example: my Moxon vise. Rather than sourcing ACME threads and nuts that would meet my needs, I find a cheap tool that already used these parts (a C-Clamp) and re-purposed them. A reader suggested that threaded dumbbell handles could meet the same need, and this also seems like a fantastic idea. Both of these solutions are significantly cheaper than buying the “correct” components.

While it’s true that this is not a perfect fit for my programming analogy, the lesson is the same: If somebody else is making it possible for you to save time and/or money, why not take advantage of it?

Other examples of this are:

These are a few ideas I’ve come up with (or copied), you’re welcome to share in the comments if you have others.

‘They Don’t Make ’em Like They Used To’

“They don’t make ’em like they used to.”

We hear this phrase frequently when people are discussing tools and machines.

The old tools from the 1940’s – 1970’s are generally regarded as the best of their kind. This was the golden age of manufacturing, when men were men, women were men, and cast iron was liberally applied to everything in sight.

Table saws, band saws,  milling machines, shapers, jointers, lathes, pretty much any non-portable tool, you only have to scan a few blogs to find scores of DIYers and professionals proclaiming the virtues of their old machines and descrying the inferiority of the modern equivalents (to see what I mean, just google the phrase “Chinese crap”  …   actually … on second thought, ignore that suggestion).

Some companies recognize this appeal, and work it into their product line. Powermatic, for instance, charges a premium for their tools because they DO make them like they used to (Harbor Freight, on the other hand, sells almost nothing but Chinese sheet metal).

You generally won’t hear me dissenting from this view that older is better. I have an old Rockwell table saw that I fixed up and love to use (although I bought it because it was cheap, not because it was old).

However, I have never bought into the idea fully. It just doesn’t seem possible that modern design and manufacturing techniques could have universally degraded. Granted, I do get pretty upset when tools are advertised as “improved” when all they have done is add a laser; but there must be cases in which the old tool had some deficiency and the newer tools have corrected it.

This brings me to my latest Craigslist experience.

I was browsing through the current tool postings when I came across something I had never seen: a 1940’s scroll saw.

1940's Dunlop Scroll Saw

It was big, heavy, had a good motor, and was only $30 so I bought it, thinking I could tune it up and replace my current scroll saw.

I got it home and started to take it apart.

The first thing I noticed, was that the blade was “tensioned” by a spring loaded plunger at the top. There was no mechanical linkage between the lower and upper blade mounts, which meant that the tool could ONLY cut on the down stroke. Which meant that many modern blades with a mix of down and up cutting teeth could not be used with this tool, and the blade had to be thick and rigid enough to not bend when being pushed through a cut.

1940's Dunlop Scroll Saw - top
This was the first setback but I continued to break down the tool still thinking there may be hope.

I took off the cover for the lower housing and saw two things:

  1. The mechanism to to convert the rotation of the motor to the raising and lowering of the blade was a heavily lubed set of slides, not the ball-bearing + rod and piston design I had expected. 
  2. The housing was full of oil!

1940's Dunlop Scroll Saw - reservoir
I couldn’t believe it! This thing was so inefficient and high-friction that it used an oil reservoir  to keep the parts from overheating and wearing out!

Either that or this was an extraordinarily rare four-stroke internal-combustion scroll saw.

As I did a little more digging and research, I found that these old scroll saws are really not comparable to the new ones.

Because the blade cannot be tensioned, the blades must be thick and rigid (relatively), so they cannot be used for delicate scroll work or tight curves which, in my opinion, are the only reason scroll saws exist.

It occurred to me that this tool was basically an upside-down, non-portable jigsaw that could not do anything my band saw could not do better, and which was unable to keep pace with my smaller modern scroll saw.

They don’t make them like they used to, and it’s a good thing (at least for scroll saws). Since it was only $30, I don’t feel too bad about picking a lemon. Plus I got a nice little motor and I can probably re-purpose the cast-iron table from the saw. Otherwise, this is scrap metal, and I don’t feel guilty about its unceremonious demise.

It lived a long life (72 years), but I cannot imagine it ever brought joy or even marginal satisfaction to anyone that used it. It’s just a miserable old tool.

May it rust in peace.

Pardon the Repetition

I have said this before, but I feel the need to make excuses for myself once again.

It has been a while since my last post, and unfortunately it was something of a cliffhanger.  I am moving at full speed towards setting up a little “machine shop” with a milling machine and a metal lathe so that I can really start to explore the metalworking world.

Oh, did I mention I bought a lathe? I had intended to purchase a new Taig lathe, with all the trimmings (power feed, headstock and tailstock risers, tooling, etc), but I happened across a larger 8.5″ x 18″ Chinese lathe from Harbor Freight on Craigslist and (somewhat impulsively) bought it instead.

Time will tell if that was a good decision, but at least, since I bought it used, I have the opportunity to turn around and re-sell it for a similar price if I find it to be lacking.

So, back to my original purpose for this post: making excuses for myself. I have continued to be very busy with my job and working on my house. My hope had been that things would calm down after mid July, but they have not.

And so updates will likely be scarce for the time being.

When I do find time to tinker in the garage, I’ll try to remember to take some pictures and tell you about it.

I Need a Machine Shop…

I have a tendency to obsess over certain things.

More often than not, these “things” take to form of projects or tools.

For example, when I came up with an idea for how to store my bicycle, I couldn’t think about anything else for the better part of a week while I waited for the weekend when I would have time to complete the task.

I made designs in Sketchup, even though I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

I even spent my Friday evening boring my friends with excruciatingly detailed explanations of exactly how I planned to store my bike (“no, you don’t understand, this is really cool because the bike will be sideways… on the ceiling!“).

I just can’t think about anything else until I complete the project or buy the tool.

Another aspect of my personality is that I am always concerned with my capabilities, and making sure that I don’t disqualify myself from doing something I might someday want to do.

I focused on getting the best possible grades in my undergraduate studies, just in case I wanted to go back to school for a master’s degree later. And then I did the same during my work on my master’s degree, just in case I decided someday to go back for a P.H.D..

I have since concluded that I will not be pursuing a P.H.D. (I dropped out of my second Master’s program), but I don’t regret removing the limitation that low grades would have presented.

These two facets of my personality have recently collided… again.

I have often said, in partial jest, that I need a machine shop (actually, very often).

As far as woodworking is concerned, I have all the tools I need to make pretty much anything I would want to make; but, although I have a welder, a grinder, and a hacksaw, I don’t really have the ability to make something out of metal.

I had come to terms with this fact, and concluded that I would probably never have a machine shop, since I would never be able to afford one.

Then, one fateful day, I found a small metal lathe on Craigslist for $200. At first I was dismissive, but since it was fairly inexpensive I decided to do a little research on the make and model. It was a Taig Micro Lathe, and although it was small, it seemed like a very capable and precise little machine, and a fun way to get into metalworking.

Of course, by the time I convinced myself I wanted it and got permission from my wife, the lathe was already sold. But the obsession had taken root, and there was no turning back: I had just discovered that I could start my machine shop for less than $500, and I couldn’t think about anything else.

While researching small metal lathes and their prices and capabilities, I came across a site offering extensive input and reviews (mini-lathe.com), which in turn led me to it’s companion site on mini mills.


I had seen small mills on the Harbor Freight website, but I had no idea that they were actually respectable machines with a large and active community of hobby machinists.

It turns out that a Chinese manufacturer called Sieg makes a generic line of small milling machines and metal lathes that are re-branded by Grizzly, Harbor Freight, and others. These mini mills have steadily improved in quality and are often regarded as the standard mill for hobbyists and amateur machinists.

This triggered the perfect storm of my tendency to obsess over tools and my desire to remove limitations: I had in front of me the possibility to have the “machine shop” I never thought I would have, I could someday soon be able to make anything.

But now I had a problem. The Lathe would cost me around $500, and the Mill would cost around $600, but how could I justify spending $1100 on a set of tools I’ve never used before?

I shared this dilemma with my wife, and we came up with a solution: If I sold my motorcycle (a Honda Rebel 250), I could use the money however I wanted.

We had this conversation last week… and now I can’t even sleep.

Every night I’m tossing and turning, dreaming about the pros, cons, and prices of the Sieg x2 and the x3.

Instead of nightmares of showing up to work in my underwear, or forgetting about a final exam, I’m waking myself up with all the unanswered questions…

…How much money should I allocate for vises and tooling?

…If I don’t sell the motorcycle for enough money to buy both a lathe and a mill, which should I buy first?

…If I sell the motorcycle for more than I expected, should I only buy a milling machine and accessories and upgrade to a better machine?

…Should I buy new or should I wait for a deal on Craigslist?

…If I find a used commercial milling machine that I can afford, do I really want one that weighs 1000lbs?

Why won’t my motorcycle start?!?!

<to be continued…>

How To Shop At Harbor Freight

If you are unfamiliar with the Harbor Freight retail chain, hopefully you know of a similar concept near you with unbelievably cheap tools that are frequently dismissed as “Chinese Junk”. If this is the case, substitute each reference to “Harbor Freight” with the retailer of your choice, because the basic assumptions and principles will likely hold true.

If the concept of such a retailer is completely foreign to you, you should still read this post, because I am sensitive to rejection.

If you are extremely familiar with Harbor Freight, you can skip the next two paragraphs, and save yourself a few seconds.


Harbor Freight is a remarkable store. All manner of tools can be purchased for absurdly low prices, and there are always sales and coupons for even bigger discounts.

It’s a wonderland for the budget-conscious Do-It-Yourself-er in pursuit of a well-stocked garage. I have clamps, angle grinder blades, earmuffs, safety goggles, a vice, a bench grinder, magnetic tool holders, air hoses, a small hydraulic shop press, a tap and die set, bi-metal holesaws, a gas motor, and a flux/mig welder, all from Harbor Freight, and each is serving its purpose admirably.

<those of you already familiar with Harbor Freight, resume reading here>

However, my relationship with the company has not always been so symbiotic.

My first experience there was terrible.

This was several years ago (seven, I think), during a  trip to visit my family in Washington. My dad was looking for a certain type of wrench, and I was looking for parts to make a potato cannon.

I was immediately struck by the amount of JUNK merchandise on the shelves.

“There’s no way a $10 angle grinder will last more than a week…”

“For a tool store, I sure am seeing a lot of plastic…”

I didn’t end up finding what I was looking for, and vowed never to darken the door of a Harbor Freight store again, or a Walmart (same family visit, different story).

I held this view and kept my vow for four more years before my heart started to soften. This thaw was precipitated by a change in circumstance followed by a sudden realization:

Circumstance: I bought a house with a garage

Realization: Harbor Freight sold a welder… at a price I could justify to my wife


I had been looking at welders and wandering through cyberspace reading rants and reviews, and my initial dismissal of all references to Harbor Freight gave way to a remarkable fact, people were buying these welders and were giving them good reviews.

This fact deeply disturbed my worldview.

No longer could I make character judgments upon hearing the statement “I bought it at Harbor Freight”.

No longer was the term “Happy owner of a Harbor Freight tool” a laughable oxymoron.

Up was down, down was up… what was left that I could know was true?

I bought the welder.

Once I got used to the basic principles of welding and worked through a few projects (such as my router table), I could confirm that this was a very usable welder that turned out good-quality welds that looked clean and were plenty strong for my purposes.

After buying an auto-darkening welding mask from Harbor Freight which also worked without any issues, I began to wonder if  my initial assessment, and the widely-held sentiment, of the retailer’s inferiority was completely erroneous.

I found some coupons and went back to the store and bought some F-clamps and a bastard file. The F-clamps worked great. The bastard file was useless.

So I started forming a more accurate picture of Harbor Freight’s merchandise: some of it’s great, some of it’s junk.

I continued to make selective purchases, and slowly developed a series of guidelines and bits of wisdom to keep in mind while shopping at Harbor Freight:

  1. If you need precision, buy elsewhere, and don’t be stingy, tools with tight tolerances are NEVER cheap
  2. If the cheapest version of a tool at Home Depot is unreliable, the Harbor Freight tool will be just as bad, but not worse
    • A cheap air tool or rotary tool will probably die young, wherever you buy it
  3. Don’t buy anything with a lot of moving parts
  4. Don’t buy power saws (Circular saws, reciprocating saws, compound miter saws), the motors and the bearings they use tend to burn out prematurely
  5. If the tool is simple, blunt, and made of metal, the Harbor Freight version should be okay
  6. Subscribe to Popular Mechanics
      • Aside the fact that they often review Harbor Freight tools, they, like many magazines, contain a regular Harbor Freight ad, with a “20% off anything” coupon


This is not a foolproof system, or universally correct, so if you are considering a particular Harbor Freight tool that you cannot afford to have fail, check reviews online and consider buying the extended warranty.

Even after taking the above guidelines into consideration, some of you (as I once did) may have a bit of an ego to swallow before you enter Harbor Freight, let me help you with that:

Of course, that being said,  your first choice for the majority of your tool purchases should be Craigslist… and I’ll still never shop at Walmart.

Coming Soon: Something.

While I doubt there are many people out there on the internet compulsively clicking “refresh” on garagesandals.wordpress.com, wondering when the latest content will arrive, I thought it might be a good idea to let everyone known why I haven’t posted anything lately, and when I will start posting again.

First excuse: I’m busy, leave me alone.

I have been busy with work, being a dad to my nearly 1-year old little girl, and a husband to my beautiful wife.
But that’s nothing out of the ordinary. In addition to this, I have been helping a friend weld together a new bumper for his jeep, and I had been planning a camping trip with some friends that took place last weekend.

That’s where this happened:

Second excuse: … actually, I think the first excuse pretty much covers it.

I do plan to start generating some content again very soon, but I may not be regularly updating until I get through July, due to the nature and quantity of calendar entries between now and then.

Some of the things I will be working on when I get back into the garage are:

  1. completing the cyclone dust collector
  2. figuring out a workbench layout that will hold my tools AND allow me to use them without them interfering with each other
  3. taking apart and re-purposing this thing I bought on craigslist (yes, I fell off the wagon)

So please be patient, and if you don’t want to be stuck clicking “refresh” for the next 2 months, just click “follow” and you’ll be notified when I’m able to do something interesting in my garage.

DIY Moxon Vise

I am now finally following through with my previous plan to build a Moxon vise for my workbench that looks and works like the Benchcrafted vise, but costs about 5% as much.

The key to my design is to base it on a pair of C-Clamps as a cheap source of strong ACME threads. I picked mine up at Harbor Freight for about $7 each.


The first step was to disassemble the clamps.


I then cut the frame of the clamp about 1 1/2″ from the internally threaded portion.



I had a couple hand wheels from my second table saw, that I repurposed as the handles for the vise. I had all the necessary parts ready and started with the build.


First I drilled holes in the internally threaded segments in order to mount them to the inside of my workbench frame.


In order to get them to sit flat against the workbench frame, I had to shim up the area with the screw-holes, to keep the screws from pulling this section too close to the frame.


Next I drilled holes in the workbench frame about 26″ apart where I wanted to install the vice, and then attached the internally threaded C-Clamp portions directly behind these holes so that I could screw the threaded rods into them through the bench frame.


This gave me plenty of room in between the screws to hold anything I could (practically) want to in the finished vise.


The hand wheels needed some work before I could use them. They had unwanted (for my purposes) handles sticking out of them, and the center holes were too small to fit the threaded rods.


I used my shop press, which I bought to replace the bearings in my table saw arbor, to press out the handles.

I then measured the threaded rod end and found the nearest size drill bit I had.


…Yes… the nearest size bit I had was a paddle wheel bit…but it worked (the hand wheels are cast aluminum).

Moxon Vise - Drilling out the Handwheel

I then drilled and tapped a hole to insert a set screw to hold the threaded rod in place.

Moxon Vise - Handwheel with Setscrew

I decided to use pieces of white oak that I had leftover from another project as the back and front of the vise. With the wheels attached to the end of the threaded rods, I placed the back piece on the top of the threaded rods and marked the center of each rod on the board.

Moxon Vise - Measuring

Moxon Vise - Marking for Center

Then I extended the marks to the center of the board where I wanted to drill the holes.

Moxon Vise - Marking for Drilling

I clamped the two pieces together (with the measurements on the top piece) and drilled a 5/8″ hole through both boards for each of the threaded rods.

Moxon Vise - Drilling the face and Back

I clamped the board in place during installation. The threaded rods had a nearly perfect fit in the 5/8″ holes, so I had to loosen the screws holding the internally threaded clamp sections on the back of the workbench frame, and then re-tighten the screws after threading in the rods through the attached oak board; otherwise things didn’t quite line up, and the threads would bind.

Moxon Vise - Installing the back

Moxon Vise - Assembled

That’s it! I now have a Moxon vise! Since I already had the wood and the hand wheels, it only cost me $16.

I will probably spend a little more money on a thicker piece of wood for the front piece, just to give it a bit more rigidity, or maybe I’ll just reinforce it with some scrap metal, but it works quite well for now.

Moxon Vise - Complete

I tested it with a 24″ wide piece of plywood:

Moxon Vise - Test

I took some time to summarize the project in a video for those of you (us) who are reading-averse, but I’ve buried it at the bottom of the article to make you read the whole story before you realize you could have just watched the video: