A new-old shopvac


I was visiting my parents recently and they’d borrowed an old barrel style vac from a friend when their vacuum was playing up. They aren’t using it now and the friend was happy to part with it for the sum of $20 so it’s taken up residence in my shop/

While I’m trying hard to cull my tools I’m still keeping an eye out for things I need. Note that I said need rather than want. Removing dust from the workshop seems a valid purpose. It’s got good suction and I’ve already found it useful with the dropsaw. I will try and get the router adapter as I find it’s the worst dust creator I have.

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Oilstones and water and diamonds oh my!


I’m now halfway through ‘The Anarchist’s Tool Chest‘ and have just finished the section on sharpening. It’s a good part to be reading as part of the plan for this cold and rainy day is to build new cases for my sharpening stones.

I have a mix of oilstones from a $10 hardware store special to some cheap but good old eBay buys. I also have a combination waterstone, a set of low end diamond plates, a bench grinder and a big old tile that I use with wet & dry for flattening stones. This last item is why this particular passage has amused me

“Some wood workers flatten their stones using wet/dry sandpaper stuck to a flat surface. This is ghastly expensive. You might get only two flattenings on a sheet of paper before it’s trashed. Unless you own a sandpaper factory, burn your money on something else.”

I’m not exactly sure where he’s getting his w&d but I’ve used this method and it’s not been bad, or overly expensive. Admittedly the line in the second sentence might be a giveaway – ‘I have’ rather than ‘I use”. If I don’t get a perfect edge in a few seconds I buy something else to see if it works better. This is symptomatic of my experience with just about every hobby I’ve tried and given the content of Chris’s book I don’t think I’m alone. If I was using my stones as much as he is I might find the cost factor very different.

I’m going to break the trend today if I can, put proper boxes on my oilstones and sharpen all my chisels. I’m going to persevere until I get it right. Then and only then can I look at using other methods if needed, though I suspect if I nail the oilstone method the other gear may end up in that big plastic box of tools destined for eBay.

What do you do with your sawdust?


I don’t create that much sawddust, because I generally prefer to work with handtools and they are a lot less prone to creating clouds of the stuff than power tools are. Today though I’ve had both the router and the dropsaw going, so ended up with the pile below, and that’s only about a third of it.

If I have a clean floor and there’s nothing but sawdust there I sweep it up and mix it into the garden soil. You have to be careful with this though as it will suck out nitrogen as it breaks down, taking it away from the plants. I also remember pulling a potplant out of my grandfathers garden after he passed away only to find that the sawdust he’d used as mulch had solidified around the stem of the plant, basically waterproofing the pot which wasn’t a great help to its occupant.

You can also store some of it for filling screw and nail holes in wood, mixed with some glue it can often hide them well, especially if you use the sawdust from the same board you are filling.

I’ve also used some to soak up oil from the car then thrown it out, and I’ve known people who use it mixed in with cat litter to absorb the smell a bit. I’m sure there’s a ton of uses I haven’t thought of, and would be interested to hear from anyone reading about what they use it for, or if it just ends up in the bin.

What’s the most used tool in your shop?


For me, it’s probably the $20 garage sale drop saw I picked up a few months back. I’d just been to the library to drop off some books and saw the sign on the way back, so swung round just as they were packing up for the day. The owner had upgraded to something bigger and better, and despite having this on offer for $50 all day there were no takers. He offered it to me for $25, and I talked him down a bit more.

Since then, it’s become a mainstay of my workshop. Mark the wood to  length, throw it onto the dropsaw and cut it up, then get back to work. It’s not my favourite tool, being noisy and messy, but it does speed up my workflow considerably.

For the price, I will be happy if it gives me a few more months of work, but I know now that I’d be looking for a replacement when it dies. For a woodworker without a tablesaw I think it’s a very useful tool to have around.

Count the clamps


I was looking through my workshop pictures folder today seeing if there was anything I could share with you and found this one. It’s a leftover that I don’t think got used in the workbench build posts, but something struck me when I looked at it. It’s a perfect example of a number of different types of clamps all in use.

I’ve seen a number of “What’s your favourite tool” threads on various woodworking forums and the answer is never clamps, but where would we be without them?. There’s at least three different types in this picture – a pile of F-Clamps, the big blue corner clamp, and the vice itself which is probably the most used tool in my shed.

If I was to take a picture of every different type of clamp in my workshop I’d have C-Clamps, edging clamps, another variety of corner clamp, handscrews, sash clamps and probably a few more, plus a number of different vices that perform a similar function.

I can’t think of many projects that don’t use at least one clamping device in some way. Here’s a challenge for you, leave a comment for me to tell me how many different types of clamps are in your shed. I’d be interested to see the results.

Sydney BH&G Show 2011


I went along with my girlfriend to the Better Homes & Gardens 2011 Show in Sydney yesterday. Despite the pouring rain that stopped us seeing most of the gardening exhibits it was still an enjoyable day. Lots of free food tasting, some very nice coffee and just enough tool stands mixed in to make it worthwhile for me.

Bosch were the standout display, letting you play with a Dremel and engrave your own dremel branded dogtag style bottle opener. I’m sure a lot of people who would normally avoid power tools had a go with that and enjoyed it. They were also the best for promotional freebies.

Ryobi gave away green enviro bags but sadly all that was inside was a lanyard and a catalogue. You could line up and try to win a cordless drill but I didn’t have any luck there. You could try out some of the Ryobi One+ cordless products though so that was enjoyable.

Trojan gave away hats but the display was basically pegboard full of their tools. They needed some sort of interactive element.

There were also two people selling the Z-Vice, which was fantastic looking until they revealed the price tags, and someone drilling holes through files to show how good their drill bits were.

Here’s the haul of the tool related promo stuff for your viewing pleasure.