I made a Dust Collector – Part 3

So… I may owe some level of explanation for waiting a year between my last post and this one…


I made a housing for my impeller by arranging several blocks of red oak on a piece of plywood and then tracing the perimeter of my impeller onto the blocks of wood.

I appear to have lost any photographic record of this step, so please view the following for reference:
Step 2 was awesome, sorry you missed it.   I then cut this line on each piece using my bandsaw. I rearranged the cut blocks so that they made the correct shape and then screwed them on to the piece of plywood. i also smeared from Bond-O on to the inside circumference to smooth out inconsistencies and plug any gaps.  I drilled a large hole into the center of the plywood to pass the motor through and made a little platform for the motor to rest on. cowling2
I found a picture!

After cutting a hole in the front piece, I slapped everything together for another test. It Sucked. But not as much as I hoped. I sat and pondered. and then got distracted. For a year. At some point during that year, I realized why my dust collected only sucked a little, but still waited a number of months before doing anything about it. Let’s play a fun game: Can you figure out what was wrong with my dust collector? ...duh.
The impeller is spinning the wrong way. To make matters worse, the motor is unambiguously non reversible.
IMAG2092So I immediately (when I felt like it) got to work. I decided to solve the problem by moving the motor around to the “front” of the assembly. This also meant that I needed to keep the impeller in the same orientation relative to the housing, and so I needed to turn the back of the impeller into the front and re-mount it on the motor shaft:IMAG2093
back coverbalancing
transferring the old hole locations to the new backplugging unnecessary holes
done now. still done.
okay, NOW I'm done.Easy peasy. I powered it up for a test run, and promptly woke my son up (I have a son, he’s almost 2 and he was asleep).


Needless to say, it was louder than I hoped.

I had recalled Wandel doing some testing around making his impeller design quieter and subsequently much, much louder to make an air raid siren. So I scoured his website and failed to find the article I was looking for, but did find a comment of his on someone else’s dust collector design where he noted that “the smaller the gap between the impeller and the housing, the louder it will be.”

So I shaved 1/4″ off the perimeter of my impeller using my bandsaw and put everything back together.

Then I waited until my son was asleep again (for maximum effect) and tested it again.
This time it REALLY sucked. And it did so very quietly. Almost Dust-Sniper quiet!

And so I set in a corner of my garage until I get time to mount and duct it.

Next June is looking promising…


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.

I Made A Ladder!

Yes, I did.

Please note that I did not title this post “how to make a ladder”.

This was for my daughter’s play set in the back yard, which has had my 6-foot stepladder leaning against it for a few weeks now.

I started by leaning a 6-foot length of redwood against the play set to figure out what angle the ladder should lean at.

This was close enough to 30-degrees, so I used 30 as my number.
I cut two lengths of redwood to length with matching 30-degree cuts on the top and bottom edges.

Then I used a tape measure to mark intervals on both pieces to note where the center of each step should be.

I used the table saw and the miter gauge to cut slots at 30-degrees to make the edges of a mortise; and then used a router to freehand cut the insides out (working carefully, the kirf of the table saw cut is enough of a buffer to rout this out freehand).

Since I’m not very good at measuring, the mortises were all too narrow, so I slapped together a little tenoning jig to trim the ends of the steps (this was easier than trying to cut all the mortises a little wider).

I successfully got all the steps installed on one rail of the ladder (glue and screws), and then realized that I was not going to be able to get all of the tenons to line up on the other rail. There were little imperfections in the wood and construction, and all together across all the steps this was enough to make it impossible to line everything up at once.

So I made a little router jig (read: “I cut a piece of plywood”) to shave a little more wood off each tenon’s width (the tricky part is that the steps were already installed on one side).

Meanwhile I was doing a lot of stepping over and around the half-assembled ladder and managed to catch the corner of a step with the underside of my knee…

REALLY?!?! Not only am I supposed to wear “close-toed shoes” in the garage, but now I have to wear pants too?!

Next you’re going to say I should be wearing gloves!
Lathe compound repair



In any case, that last bit of adjusting with the router worked, and I finished the ladder… and then put on some pants and ate dinner.

Polespear Upgrades Update

After my previous modifications resulted in a slow spear that kept maiming and releasing fish, I went back to the shop and made it better.

To increase the speed, I ordered a 1/2-inch diameter band, but that turned out to be so stiff that I could barely stretch it, and if I did it bent the spear, so, that didn’t work.

Then I tried just adding a second band to the spear.

This actually worked quite nicely. I had effectively doubled the power without making it too difficult to stretch.


Now to solve the problem of the fish wiggling off the spear.

I wanted to add barbs to the spear tips, so my first thought was to use a file. After looking at my file assortment, I realized that this would remove too much metal, and the barbs would really just be notches, they wouldn’t extend beyond the diameter of the tip, so I’m not sure how effective the would be.

So I instead cut slots at an angle with my hacksaw, and then was able to bend the metal outwards to form a proper barb.

Done, and Done.

I went out to test it later that evening.
I didn’t see many fish for a long time, which is always a limiting factor in these tests.

But then, as the sun was going down, I saw a decent sized black perch and squeezed the trigger.


The extra power made all the difference and the fish never knew what hit it… because it’s a fish.

The barbs were probably unnecessary in this case, since the polespear nearly blasted straight through the cute little fishy, but they certainly made the fish more difficult to remove from the spear, so I consider them a success as well.

Too bad I don’t like the taste of perch.

I gave the fish to the cats on the jetty and went home with a puffed chest and a bounce in my step.

I’m beginning to think of this design as a poor man’s speargun.

I like it. It’s simple and effective.

But now it has me thinking of other ways to make a cheap speargun…

Stay tuned…

Funting with a Polespear

I have recently added a new hobby to my life.

The timing couldn’t be worse, really.

I already have a 2 year-old daughter, a baby boy due any day, a full time job, a wife, and a large number of unfinished projects, but now I have to accommodate the compulsive urge to kill fish with pointy objects.

I grew up in the Seattle, Washington area and always enjoyed fishing, but somehow, since moving to San Diego 10 years ago, I haven’t found to time to go fishing.

I guess the problem is that I’m pretty busy with many other areas of my life, and it’s hard to justify spending a few hours on a weekend sitting and  waiting for a fish to commit seppuku with a hook on a string.

Then I discovered spearfishing. Spearfishing is different, it’s like snorkeling with a purpose. It’s not just sitting around waiting, or even just swimming around and looking, it is hunting. Fish hunting. Funting. 

I’ve gone twice now, and I’m mildly obsessed.

As is the case with most of my hobbies, it’s not enough for me to just participate in spearfishing, I have to improve on it, customize it, make it better, or at least make it my own.

To this end I modified the tried and true polespear to add a trigger mechanism.

The polespear design is simple: it’s a spear with a rubber band attached to the base. To kill a fish with it, you hook the rubber band with your thumb, stretch the band toward the tip of the spear, and then grab the spear shaft near the tip in order to hold the band under tension. Then you point it at a fish nearby and loosen your grip, allowing the spear to lurch forward; ideally impaling the fish in the process.

The idea to modify this weapon came to me when my friend complained about his hand getting tired from swimming around holding the polespear cocked and ready to shoot. 

I decided that the polespear would be better if it had a trigger, and came up with this design:

Then I built it…

First I took a piece of stainless steel and shaped it into a snug-fitting collar that I attached near the tip of the spear with a spring pin.

Then I glued together a few pieces of wood (something like teak that I had laying around from old patio furniture), drilled a hole through it (slightly large than the spear shaft), cut it to and arbitrary shape using the bandsaw and affixed a little latch (also made from stainless steel) to hook onto the collar.

To keep the spear from traveling too far, I added a collar at the base with some soft rubber tubing to act as a cushion when the spear is stopped (I think the piece of rubber is an in-sink garbage disposal adapter).

To use the spear, I hook the rubber band through the wooden handle, and then slide the handle up the spear till it latches onto the collar at the tip.


And then I fired it at a piece of plywood.

I will hopefully get to use this to kill a fish this weekend, if my son doesn’t disrupt my plans by being born.

Update: I used this over the weekend and probably killed a few fish. I say “probably” because I didn’t actually “catch” any fish.

The rubber band I used is the standard light-duty polespear band, and the added weight/drag of the collar seems to have slowed the spear down just enough to really damage a fish but not actually skewer it. The result is that there are an number of disabled fish hobbling around the waters off the San Diego coast, if they are lucky. The unlucky ones died slowly Saturday morning, trying to figure out why I feebly stabbed them with a dull piece of metal.

The trigger itself worked beautifully, and I’ve ordered a more powerful band that should many little fish fatherless when I next enter the waters.

Plywood Door – Part 3

Continued from Plywood Door – Part 2 

After the assembly was complete, I turned my attention to the hinges. Since the door was heavy (a full sheet of plywood and a large pane of 3/8-inch tempered glass), I bought four commercial-grade 4-1/2-inch hinges for the job.

Plywood Door - Hinges
In order to flush-mount the hinge I had to cut mortises in the door and the “jamb” (the 4×4 post the door would hang from).

I planned to use a 1/4-inch straight bit with a brass template bushing in my router to cut the mortise, so I needed to make a template that was slightly larger than the hinge itself to account for the diameter difference between the bushing and the bit.

Plywood Door - Hinges

Plywood Door - Hinges

To accomplish this I measured the diameter of the bit and the bushing and then divided the difference to get the difference in the radius (what’s the plural of radius? Radii? Radiuss?).

Plywood Door - Hinges

I traced the hinge on a piece of plywood (hanging the pin side over the edge by the same amount I wanted it to protrude when installed), and then marked a second line with the radius offset on all three sides.

Plywood Door - Hinges

Plywood Door - Hinges

I cut the offset line out with my scroll saw because it makes narrow, precise cuts and leaves a clean edge that requires no sanding or cleanup.

Plywood Door - Hinges

Plywood Door - Hinges

I measured out arbitrary locations for the hinges along the door and marked the center line of each location. I also made a note of the distance between each center line so I could reproduce it on the jamb to hang the door.

Quick tip: In order to keep the door stable while working, I used Rockler Clamp-Its as feet while marking and routing the door:

Plywood Door

Because the glass was already installed, I didn’t have a wide enough surface for the clamps to grab to hold the template in place, so I clamped a plywood strip to the face of the door and clamped the template to that instead.

Plywood Door - Hinges

Plywood Door - Hinges

Cutting the mortises went quickly and smoothly, I just lined up the front edge of the template with the face of the door and made sure the center line of the template was in sync with the hinge location marking, but I wished I had a wider base on the router to hold it more securely in the parts of the cut furthest from the template edge.

Plywood Door - Hinges

Plywood Door - Hinges

I spent a few seconds on each mortise with a chisel to square up the corners and then installed the hinges.

IMAG0189Plywood Door - Hinges

Plywood Door - Hinges

I measured and marked the hinge locations on the 4×4 jamb (offsetting by the distance above the ground I wanted the door to swing) and followed the same process there, reusing the same template.

It occurred to me that I didn’t want bare wood underneath the hinges, so I removed them from the door for painting. I didn’t paint the edge of the door opposite the hinges (facing the ground in the below picture), because I planned to fine-tune the fit after hanging the door, and didn’t want paint to gum up the tools I would use to accomplish this.

Plywood Door - Paint

Plywood Door - Paint

Plywood Door - Hinges

After painting the door and the jamb, and giving everything a day to dry, I installed the door.

Did I mention that this door was heavy? As far as I know I’m not at risk for a hernia, but if there was ever a time that I came close to popping out an organ, it was while wrestling this door into place on top of a pile of shims to balance while I got the first screws in.

Surprisingly, once it was installed, the door didn’t seem all that heavy any more. I had expected an unreasonable amount of inertia, and was worried that the door would be prone to removing fingers and wrecking any latches I would use to secure it, but it actually feels very nice. Just like a good, solid door.

It was hitting the jamb opposite the hinges in some areas, but this just took a few minutes to fix with a little Rockwell power plane I have. No wonder these are a favorite of door installers, this thing was perfect for this application, and now I have a nice even gap along the length of the door and it all works beautifully.

I installed the latch up high to keep it out of reach of kids, and higher than required so that the pin was not sticking out at eye-level (no point in adding adult-hazards for the sake of child-proofing).

My daughter was thrilled with the result.

Plywood Door - Install

Plywood Door - Install

Time will tell if there is any deficiency in plywood as a door material, but as far as I can see, I’ve got a beautiful, sturdy door that serves its purpose perfectly.

Plywood Door – Part 2

Continued from Plywood Door – Part 1

I picked up a sheet of multi-ply from home depot for $40. I like the Araucoply more than the “cabinet grade” plywood because it doesn’t have a delicate veneer layer that is prone to chipping during cutting and blistering when exposed to the elements; instead it has full-thickness layers front to back, making a more durable product for my purposes.

I cut the sheet down, according to my Sketchup plans, into strips wider than necessary for the final product.

I stacked and cut the similar sized pieces all at once on my 12-inch sliding miter saw; it was perfect for the task.
Plywood Door

Plywood Door

IMAG0117Plywood Door

Then I laminated the pieces together with waterproof glue and left them overnight.
Plywood Door

Plywood Door

Plywood Door

A quick tip: Buying a gallon of glue is cheaper than buying the small bottles for a project like this that requires a lot of glue. To dispense the glue during the glue-up, I just poured it into a disposable water bottle with a slot in the lid and threw away the bottle when I was done.
Plywood Door

After the glue dried, I cleaned up the squeeze-out with a block plane and ran the new 2-1/4″ thick plywood timbers through the table saw once on each side. cutting them down to final dimensions.
Plywood Door

This is an important step. I could have theoretically eliminated the need for this by cutting the plywood strips to the final dimensions in the first place, but it is nearly impossible to prevent a little slipping between the pieces during glue up, and after the glue dried I would have to even out the edges and ended up with a board that was narrower than intended.

Next I cut the ends at 45-degree angles and ran them over my router table to cut a 1-inch deep slot 3/8 of an inch wide down the length of each piece to accept the glass pane.
Plywood Door

This was my second time using the spiral cutter on my router table for a major project, and I must say I love it. I always got a significant amount of chatter on all but the shallowest cuts with a standard straight bit on all but the shallowest cuts, but the spiral cutter handled full-depth (1-inch) cuts smoothly and without complaint.

Quick dry-fit to make sure I hadn’t done anything stupid… all clear… this time.
IMAG0126Plywood Door

I cut 4 squares and notched one of the corners on each square about 1-inch.
Plywood Door

These notched squares would act as something between a tenon and a biscuit (or possibly a spline) to hold the corners together. The notch was needed to act as a continuation of the slot the glass would set in.

I attached three sides together, leaving one side open to later install the glass (the below picture shows the final side in place, but it is a dry-fit to keep things aligned while the other end dries).
Plywood Door

After the glue dried, I temporarily clamped the fourth edge in place and routed a decorative bevel around the inner edges of the front and back. Since I routed after assembly, I had to define the corners in a second step with a cabinet maker’s rasp.
Plywood Door

Plywood Door

You may be thinking: “why didn’t he use the router table to cut the bevel before assembly? Then he wouldn’t have had to clean up the corners…”

This is true, but at the time I would have routed the bevel prior to assembly, the baby was sleeping, so I decided to take advantage of the time doing the quieter assembly activities, rather than waiting till the next day to make any further progress.

Once the bevels were cut, I applied a small amount of silicone caulking to the inside of the slots in the frame and slid the glass into place.

The glass didn’t seat as deep in the slot as I hoped and so I had to dredge the slot in the final piece by another 1/8-inch on the router table to get everything in position to glue the frame segment in place and complete the major assembly.
Plywood Door

Coming Soon: Hinge Mortises, Paint, and Lynching!