The Kindness of Old Woodworkers

I’ve decided to teach myself how to route wood signs.  One reason is for Christmas gifts this year, and hopefully start making custom signs for customers.

I’ve been following a “how-to” video series on Youtube on how to route wood signs free-hand.  Basically you have hardboard letters that you layout how you want, you spray-paint over them, and then you route out the outline.  Here is my first attempt.

Routed Wood Sign

Not perfect, but acceptable.  The Texas was easier to cut than the letters.

The letters I used here are 3 inch letters.  I’ve been cutting letters to glue onto signs so I had a good supply.  After much debate I decided I would rather carve them with a router as I doubt hardboard will hold up to the elements (no matter how much spar urethane I put on it).

Bandsaws can only cut so small, then a scroll saw is required.  In order to get the lay-out letters I needed it would be either a lot of cash or a lot of time, neither of which I have extra of.  Even with a 1/8 inch blade I would have trouble cutting 1.5 inch and smaller letters.

Thankfully there is an elderly man in my church that shares a passion for woodworking.  He does amazing work with a scroll saw and makes and sells beautiful wind chimes.  I recruited him to cut my letters, in return I’m going to make a few signs for his Christmas gift list.

While I was over at his house he gave me a sign making kit that he had.  This one: Milescraft 1212 Sign Pro Router Signmaking Jig

Milescraft Sign ProHe said he tried using it a few times but didn’t really like it.  He still had it in the original box.

So far I’ve made a couple of signs with the Sign Pro.  Part of me sees why he wasn’t crazy about it.  I’ll primarily use the layout letters to make my signs freehand.  It’s much more flexible in styling.  However, if I’m going to make a lot of the same sign I’ll set this jig up. Here are my first signs using this jig.  I used Cedar fencing for the wood.

The top three signs have a coat of Spray Spar Urethane.

The top three signs have a coat of Spray Spar Urethane.  I used cedar fence pickets from the lumber yard.

Once you get the jig set up its easy to change out the letters.  Not having a plunge router makes it easy to nick a letter.  I’m planning on adding a plunge router shortly after Christmas.

I’m thankful for generous old woodworkers.  Everyone in the woodworking community is good at some things and bad at others, or enjoys some things and would rather have a root-canal than do certain tasks.  I love that we can trade work and help each other out.  I hope to return the favor of both the free tool and a few hundred letters.  I also plan to “pay it forward.”

Here’s a sign I made freehand using the 1 1/2″ and 1″ layout letters. This is for my brother-in-law’s desk at his job.

2014-11-14 16.42.10

I used a 60-degree v-groove bit in my router.  I only have a fixed base router right now but it’s not hard to carve letters with it.

Merry Christmas,


Twenty Gifts for Woodworkers Under $20

It’s almost Christmas!  This no doubt means that you’re looking for inexpensive gifts to get for the woodworker/carpenter/handyman in your life.  I’ve put together a list of 20 gift ideas under $20.

  1. Stanley 6-In-1 Screwdriver($9.99)|  I have many 6-in-1 screwdrivers.  This one is by far the best and my favorite.  In fact this very screwdriver is probably my most used tool.  Don’t worry about if he already has one, sometimes it’s nice to have multiples of useful tools to stick in the car, the junk draw, at work, etc.
  2. 7 in. Pocket Combination Square ($7.64)| This is one of those tools that you don’t think you need.  That is until you get one and start using it.  My little combination square lives in my tool bag right next to my Screwdriver.
  3. Wood-Cased Pencils, #2 HB, Yellow, Box of 96 ($15.01) |  How do I know a big box of pencils is a good gift for a woodworker?  Because I specifically asked for a box full of pencils last Christmas.  I prefer standard pencils some prefer Carpenter Pencils.
  4. X-Acto Model KS Table- or Wall-Mount Pencil Sharpener ($10.74) | Every shop needs a dedicated pencil sharpener.  I honestly prefer the mechanical type especially since it can be mounted anywhere.
  5. Craftsman 100-PC Accessory Kit ($13.49) | Drill bits get lost, Driver bits wear out.  These kits are a must for anybody who owns a power drill.
  6. Craftsman Utility Gloves ($9.99) | A good pair of gloves are always a good gift.  I like this style because they fit nice and tight with good dexterity.
  7. Stanley 12-Inch Soft Sided Tool Bag ($9.97) | I have many of these bags in multiple brands.  I prefer to build out these bags to serve a specific job.  I have one for my gun cleaning supplies.  One is dedicated it my chisels and carving tools.  Another is for my sander.  No matter who you’re buying for this will not be a wasted gift.
  8. Mirka Gold 5-Inch 8-Hole Dustless Hook-and-Loop Sanding Disks, 10 Each of 5 Grits ($19.72) | Sand paper is never exciting.  Unless you’re me.  If I unwrapped a big box of quality sandpaper for my random orbital sander Christmas morning I’d be very happy.   This Mirka brand is some of the best paper I’ve found for my RO sander, and it is a great value.
  9. Craftsman 24in Bar Clamps ($18.96) | A woodworker can never have enough clamps.  A woodworker hates buying clamps.  Follow the link buy a clamp, any clamp, you will be thanked.
  10. Kreg MKJKIT Mini Kreg Jig Kit ($12.78)| As for me, I love my Kreg Jig.  I have the Kreg K4MS Jig Master System ($139), but if you have a new DIYer or know they don’t have a pocket hole system the Kreg Mini is a great start.
  11. Empire Level 419-48 Heavy Duty Adjustable Drywall T-Square ($20.97) |  This one does break $20 but it’s too useful not to make the list.  I use this guy for so many different things other than drywall. In fact, rarely for drywall.
  12. Cordless Rechargeable Work Light with 35 LED Lights (19.99) | I don’t own this one, but I’d like to.  Sometimes you just need more light.  This guy is cordless, which is great for working on vehicles.  It also comes with a car charger so you can leave it in your vehicle.
  13. Craftsman Evolv 5-PC Pliers Set ($14.96) | There is always a use for a good set of pliers in any shop or tool box.
  14. Craftsman  Folding Lockback Utility Knife ($14.99) |  Almost everybody has a utility knife, but a premium knife is a nice upgrade.  Not only is it safer, but it’s a joy to use over the cheap ones.
  15. Wood Magazine: Arts and Crafts Furniture ($13.22) |  Some of your woodworking friend and relatives have all the tools they need.  So why not buy them a book that has project plans and ideas for inspiration.  I like furniture, but Amazon has about every book on woodworking made.
  16. Bessey BPC-34 3/4-Inch H Style Pipe Clamp ($13.97) | Pipe clamps use metal pipe from the hardware store.  They can be made to almost any size.  If your woodworker likes making furniture having an extra 10ft pipe clamp is always nice.
  17. Rockler Glue Applicator Set (19.99) |  Glue is used on about 90% of my projects.  Having easier ways to apply it is always a good gift.
  18. Craftsman  8 pc. Standard 12 pt. Combination Wrench Set (9.99) | Tools need adjustment and calibration.  An adjustable wrench can’t get into the small spaces, and they can damage the nut.
  19. Craftsman  11pc Inch Hex Key Set with Caddy ($13.49).  Same as above.  Needed to adjust tools.
  20. Coleman Cable 04657 6-Outlet Metal Power Strip, Heavy Duty Design, with 15-Feet ($19.53) | Yep, it’s a power strip, but a heavy duty power strip.  Trust me.  I want one, or 18.

This concludes my list.  These are tools that I either have and found extremely useful, or that I want someone to get me for Christmas.  I’ve tried to stick with quality product with good reviews.  I hope this helps with your Christmas list.

Merry Christmas!  And remember the real reason for Christmas; God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to be our Savior.

Sometimes It’s Just Easier to Buy a Jig

I’m all for those of you who make your own jigs, clamps, tools, etc.  I’m always impressed to see how you made a tool for yourself that makes your work easier and more enjoyable.  In fact, I just bought a couple of 2x4s in order to make a set of clamps.

That being said, sometimes it’s just easier to just buy it.  I’ve attempted several times to make a usefull feather board for my table saw.  All without much success.  The other day I was in the store and saw a featherboard that fits in both 5/8 and 3/4 inch miter tracks.

Feather Board

Mine is a “Craftsman” branded feather board, but it’s exactly like this one from Milescraft. It’s also cheaper on Amazon.

Milescraft FeatherBoard for Router Tables, Table Saws and Fences

I figured for the price (less than $20) it was worth it.  With the time I spend trying to make one that works right, I would have well over an hour into it and if I count labor, it is much cheaper to just buy.  Also, is safety equipment something we should really skimp on?

I’m still going to make jigs and tools, I do enjoy the challenge, but for somethings like a cheap feather board it’s just not worth the hassle.

What are jigs you feel are worth buying instead of making, and vice versa?

Craftsman 10 inch Compact Sliding Compound Miter Saw Review

I’m excited about this tool.  I did a lot of research debated models price points compared similar models and finally decided on this model.

It is the Craftsman 10″ Compact Sliding Miter Saw.  It’s a relatively new model. In fact, as of this post there are only 9 reviews on Sears’ websites.  I’ll add mine shortly.

Craftsman’s ‘standard’ 10 inch sliding compound miter saw has well over 300 reviews and carries about a ‘four star’ rating.  All nine who reviewed the compact model loved it.  I initially went looking for this standard model, when I found the newer compact model.

[Side Note:  shortly after I received my saw I went to Sears.  There I saw the “standard” 10″ sliding compound miter saw.  I was not impressed.  The compact model that I bought is a much better and higher quality tool.]

What makes it ‘compact’?

The catalog states this saw takes up 39% less space than the ‘standard’ model.  Other than that everything else is the practically the same.  (I’ve seen conflicting data on Craftsman/Sears’ website about crosscut capacity.  The standard model’s crosscut is always listed at 12″. The compact model varies from 11.5″ to 12.5″.  The box says 12.5″ so lets go with that.)

The difference is how the rails work.  On most sliding miter saws the saw head is fixed to the rails and the rails slide in and out from the back of the saw.  This makes the saw take up a lot of space.  Place this style to close to a wall and the wall will prevent the rails from fully functioning.  With this compact model the rails are fixed in place and the saw head moves along a carriage. This makes the saw always take up the same amount of space.

With the fixed rail the saw can be placed against a wall and it takes up less over-all space

With the fixed rail the saw can be placed against a wall and it takes up less over-all space

With the "Standard" rails you have to allow clearance for the saw to work correctly

With the “Standard” rails you have to allow clearance for the saw to work correctly






Out of the Box

I checked all of the adjustments and settings and found that everything was dead on out of the box.

10 inch Miter Saw Blade

  • Single Bevel:  This means that the saw only leans to its left.  It still does up to 50-degree miters on both sides, but if you need to do compound angles you have to take into account how you position your piece.  More expensive dual-bevel saws tilt to the left and right speeding up production, but cost almost double.
  • Depth Stop for Dados:  This is a nice feature though I’m not sure how much I’ll actually use it.  There is a bar that flips in and out of the way of a screw to control depth.  I work with 3/4″ stock for the most part so I set it to cut 1/4 dados in 3/4″ stock.  (The saw does not accept dado stacks, but you can cut dados by cutting a series of grooves into the work piece.)
  • Laser Guide: This was dead on out of the box but is hard to see outdoors in full sunlight.  It is in front of the saw and protected by the shield.  There are two thumb screws to adjust it.  It is powered by the plug not batteries and has an on/off switch next to the trigger.
  • 12.5″ crosscut.  3.5″ material thickness.  This is at 90-degrees.
  • Adjustable wings: I’m not sure how far out the wings go.  I do know I set the flip up stop to 16″ with no issues.  This is a nice feature, but once I build a miter stand in my shop it won’t be used much
  • Rail Slide Lock:  This prevents the saw from sliding while in storage or transport.  It can be locked in place and used as a non-sliding chop saw.
What I Like:

The saw is accurate on all of it’s settings from the box.  I didn’t have to spend any time calibrating and fussing with settings.  The only parts I had to install were the handle that swings the miter bed, the dust bag, and the hold down clamp

The “fit and finish” is good.  It does not feel “cheap” but well built and “solid.”  The saw head moves smoothly along the rails.  The miter stops engage solidly.  The miter bed pivots firmly yet smoothly with no slop.  (How long this holds up is yet to be seen).  There is a nice spring loaded lever that locks the miter bed in place.  The bevel has a stop at zero, 45, and 33.9-degrees, all are positive so you can be confident that when it hits the stop it is where it needs to be.

I like how the laser is set up and how it adjusts.  It’s protected from accidental bumps by the blade guard.  It doesn’t need tools to adjust and being in front of the blade it won’t suffer from dust build up.

The rails slide smoothly without slop.  There is enough resistance that it doesn’t fly back and forth.

Compact 10 inch Sliding Compound Miter Saw

What I Don’t Like

Honestly there isn’t much that I don’t like, but nothing is perfect and there is always room for improvement.

The laser is hard to see in sunlight, so if the next version would beef that up a little that would be great.

The saw gets in it’s own way.  Depending on the cut you want to do you have to make sure the rail is not hitting the fence or the motor isn’t going to come down on the hold down clamp.

Functionally, the hold down clamp works just fine, but it is a time consuming process to adjust.  Something with a quick release would be a welcome improvement.

Dust collection with the bag is almost pointless.  Dust Collection with a Shop-Vac is OK.  I’ve notice that if you extend the arm all the way out, then pull the head down, then push the saw back into the work piece dust collection is better than when simply chopping.  I’m don’t make a huge deal of dust collection, I accept saw dust as a fact of woodworking.  If I can create less dust or remove it with a vacuum, great! If not I just setup outside.

The saw blade is pretty decent.  It is definitely not as good as my $70 Freud Industrial Blade that is in my table saw.  But that blade is 1/3 the price of this miter saw.  As of now I have no plans on upgrading the current blade until I wear it out.  When I does wear out I will replace it with a premium blade made for sliding miter saws (like this one).


It was money well spent.  I’m very happy.  I got a tool I could afford that is good quality.  My goal for all my tools is 1) never go into debt for a tool, I pay cash for all of them 2) buy the best value I can reasonably afford, and 3) when a tool fails or wears out replace it with a better model.  Hopefully this saw will last me many years and when it is worn out I’ll be able to replace it with a “professional grade” saw.  Until then I have no doubts I can produce professional quality stuff with this saw.

Video Review

For those of you more inclined to watching a review, here you go.

Thanks for reading, God Bless,