Cutting Small Items on Tablesaw

Sometimes you need to have a way to cut those very small pieces of wood that don't involve your fingers in any way!

This is a small table saw sled I made with a long threaded rod on a toggle clamp. Play around until you get the rod to press down as it also pulls in toward the fence. You might even sharpen the end of the rod or put some sort of rubber tip on it. The two plywood pieces are for setting the length and backing up the cut to prevent chipout. The last image shows my sled stop (red arrow) - just a bolt in a hole in the outfeed table



45° Miter Jig

We cut a lot of 45 degree miters so rather than changing the saw blade angle it makes much more sense to make a carrier for your wood. Use stable plywood and 2x4's for backing up the basic plywood base. Make everything you fasten adjustable so you can fine tune it occasionally. I guarantee you will be adjusting it - maybe only once a year but you will. That's the only problem with using wood. Of course you need the saw blade to be exactly 90 degrees and the best way to get that is to buy one of the digital angle finders - one of the best inventions in years. I have an original Wixey Digital Angle Gauge but there are many out there now. Another great invention is the Bessey Auto-Adjust Toggle Clamp in the photo below.  One semi-permanent one at the backed up edge and an adjustable one (using an inlaid T-Track) at the leading edge. Where the blade exits the wood I have attached a block of Wenge or other dense hardwood to help prevent splintering. Eventually it wears out and needs to be replaced.

This jig is sized for our boxes. I can see a use for one that is much larger. The clear piece of plexiglas is an adjustable stop. I cut all the pieces for a box to the correct length and then cut the miter - the stop is adjusted so the cut leaves a razor edge and the length stays the same.  A standard crosscut blade with small stiffener plates is used.

Of course the entire jig is fastened to a track that slides in my tablesaw miter gauge slot.

So long old lacquer, hello new lacquer

Well, we've done it. Made the switch from old school nitrocellulose lacquer to water-borne lacquer as the finish for our wood boxes, cabinets and actually, all our work. It was getting difficult to buy lacquer off the shelf. Deft has disappeared from Home Depot or paint stores. We THOUGHT we had made the switch a month or two ago when we sprayed our first batch of boxes and were horrified by the results even though we had done some testing...apparently not enough. Had to actually sand down the finish and start over with our old Watco/Deft routine. (Yes, you can apply Deft over Watco. Makes for a beautiful rich finish.)

Anyway, since then we have been testing Target Coatings EMtech EM6000 Series Water-Based Production Lacquer. It's available only in larger cities in the Pacific Northwest. A day's drive for me so I order from The Finishing Zone. Usually $52/gal but if you sign up for specials you recieve fairly discount notices fairly often. Then you have to pay shipping - this is not a cheap finish.


The first thing we decided was to go with gloss over semi-gloss as we had with Deft. Semi-gloss contains a dulling agent that can, well, dull the clarity. I didn't notice this effect with Deft lacquer but, boy, did the water-borne finish obscure the wood. Not only cloudy but a strange tint too. 

The reason we used Watco Danish Oil as a first coat was it helped to pop the color and I suppose acted as somewhat of a sealer. To reproduce that effect with the water-borne finish took a while to achieve. We tried Zinsser SealCoat (shellac) instead of oil but the result just wasn't rich enough. We tried a tinted coat of finish but found it is just not the same as "oil enhanced" I guess you could call it.

We finally came up with mixing our own shellac. sells flake shellac in several grades and colors. We mixed up a small batch each of Orange Amber and Garnet in a 2 pound cut. Dewaxed shellac has superior clarity and can be used under virtually finish. We also used Klean Strip Green Denatured Alcohol which is a higher grade denatured alcohol than your big box store carries. Using an old electric coffee grinder we quickly made the flakes almost a powder for faster dissolving in the alcohol. In an hour or so we had a nice amber shellac and a very dark shellac. A 50/50 mix of the two is perfect for us.  Applying it with a small cloth to the wood surface takes a bit of practice as it dries very fast. You needn't build a thick coat though. It dries so fast that you can very lightly sand with 800 paper and be ready to spray very quickly. We ran tests on many different woods from maple to bubinga, leopardwood and zebrawood.

And that's it. A very close match to our old finish. Not as forgiving though. EM6000 rubs out about the same although it's not as soft and easy. It can be buffed if needed. Dries quickly and of course cleans up with water. And no more toxic vapors drifting around the neighborhood! No odor either. Doesn't mean you needn't wear your vapor mask. It dries harder than nitrocellulose lacquer and, once dry, repairs to dings or scratches  are not easy to make. Acetone and lacquer thinner doesn't touch it.

My Favorite Sawhorses

This is repeat of a post I made several years ago on my old website. I love these sawhorses. I've made three sets of two over the years. The first set finally fell apart - they were doweled and sat out in the Idaho weather too much. The second set I gave to some friends. Maybe not the most muscular in the world but plenty strong for my uses. Pretty cheap too. Each sawhorse takes a couple of hemlock 8 foot 1x4's and five hinges. Floating tenons are quick enough and durable but many other joining techniques could be used. I use my Multi-Router and it's a snap. Use Titebond III (waterproof) and you are good for many years. The only caveat is the top two hinges are somewhat vulnerable to eating a circular saw blade if you're not careful. The hinge wouldn't survive it very well either so be careful. Actually it would be rare that you'd be cutting toward them anyway. The best thing about this sawhorse design is that they close perfectly flat with a quick upward thrust - the top and middle stretcher hinges close and it collapses. Use a kind of opposite motion to snap them open. If your hinges are stiff or misaligned this won't work as well.