Collecting Dust


The dust collector is on wheels, but permanently installed in this location. The ductwork running along the floor–definitely not ideal–runs to the table saw.

Shortly after opening up the shop, I realized that dust was going to be an issue. After a day of work, psychosomatic or not, I could feel the day’s dust, dry in the back of my throat. I tried paper dust masks, but they were not only uncomfortable, they fog up glasses, which I wear both for safety and for vision—trading lung health for clear eyesight (and a potential accident). For loud operations, I found myself donning the mask, glasses and ear protection, which looked and felt ridiculous.

Towards the end of fall, I switched from the dust masks to a full-on respirator, which was clumsy, but more comfortable—and it didn’t fog my glasses. Still, I wander out of my shop on occasion, and with the respirator, I’m sure the neighbors were beginning to wonder just what was going on behind my shop doors.

Finally, about a month ago, I broke down and bought a two horsepower dust collector and a truckload of ductwork from the local big-box home improvement store. I drew up a plan, got out my tinsnips and set to work.

The ductwork to the planer and bandsaw is much more elegant. The wye behind the bandsaw will eventually lead to the router table.

The ductwork to the planer and bandsaw is much more elegant. The wye behind the bandsaw will eventually lead to the router table.

Most of my larger tools were made at a time when dust collection meant a broom and dustpan. After running ductwork, I fabricated collection scoops for the table saw and planer. (The bandsaw has two built-in 4″ ports that hooked right into the system.) After a few modifications, virtually all of the shavings produced at the planer are caught by the collector. (To the disappointment of my dogs, who saw those shavings as strangely flavorless treats.) The table saw still spits quite a bit of sawdust at me during operation, but at the end of the day, cleanup is far easier. I rigged up my sliding miter saw to accept the hose from my shop vac, but like the table saw, only some of the dust is collected.

As the shop expands, so will the system. I’ll be building a proper router table after the first of the year. After that, I’ll install a downdraft table in my workbench to help collect dust from sanding operations.

I had no idea what a difference this change would make. After the system was up and running, I realized I had been putting off tasks to avoid the hassles of safety gear and cleanup. Now, despite having to open and shut blast gates, I find myself moving breezily from one machine to another, even for small tasks, improving my production significantly.

Changing a (Bandsaw) Tire

I’ve got a Grizzly 17″ bandsaw, which I acquired used earlier this year. While I’ve used bandsaws in the past, this is the first time I’ve had to actually maintain one. The machine is simple, really: two large wheels that propel a continuous blade past an adjustable table. There are guides for the blade to ensure that it tracks straight while making a cut; they are fairly straightforward to understand and adjust.

Besides those basics, I’ve also had occasion to adjust the blade tension, change the blade and change the blade speed for various applications. I realize there are folks out there who love setting up and calibrating woodworking machines, but I’m not one of them—I’d rather be cutting wood than fiddling with the saw.

The lower bandsaw wheel with the new tire just installed.

The lower bandsaw wheel with the new tire just installed.

So, I was dismayed a few weeks back when suddenly the blade on my bandsaw kept slipping off the top wheel (scarring a workpiece in the process). On investigating, I saw that the wheel is wrapped in a neoprene tire that helps to grip the blade and keep it tracking true. On mine, the tire had worn, hardened and stretched; it was slipping on the wheel itself, making the blade fall off.

Replacement tires are pretty cheap and come in packs of two. I figured the new tire would slip on as easily as the old one came off—hilarious in retrospect. The new tires, in fact, are very difficult to stretch and install.

I looked to the internet for advice and discovered that most people faced with a tire replacement for the first time assume that the tiny tire they’ve received is for a much smaller saw. My thoughts exactly.

As far as advice was concerned, those experienced with the  procedure suggested warming up the tire, usually in a bucket of hot water, to make it more flexible. The warm water does make the tire easier to stretch, but it also makes it slippery. When I tried to install the hot wet tire, it just slipped off the back of the wheel at the point of greatest tension, smashing knuckles and sometimes worse.

It would be helpful if the wheel was easy to remove. In that case, it could be mounted on the bench, away from hazards, and the stretching done without the fear that the entire machine may be pulled over. In the case of my saw, however, a special puller is required to remove the wheel from the axle. I has already waited days for delivery of the tires, and I couldn’t wait another week for a puller to finish the projects in the queue.

It was an effort, but after half an hour or so, the upper tire finally slipped on, which got me back into production. I hung the second tire on the wall “for another day” and went back to work.

Yesterday, though, I was changing the blade and realized the lower tire ought to be replaced before it fell off and ruined another workpiece. It’s easier to get leverage on the lower wheel—I could sit on the ground and use my feet to push against the machine. About five minutes in, though, I hit on the idea of zip ties to hold the back of the tire in place while I made the final strech. It wasn’t a perfect solution (I still had to take care to keep the tire from slipping.) but it shortened the job considerably.

I am cautiously hopeful that the replacement tires will last me the life of my saw, but at least now I know the trick to making the job a little easier.

Setting up Shop

Though I have been working with wood and metal since I was able to swing a hammer, it was some twenty years ago that I began to acquire the tools and skills necessary for cabinetry and furniture making. I made a few pieces back then, notably some kitchen cabinets, but life took over and the tools sat dormant for a decade or so.

The Shop on Day 1Recently, though, space and time permitted me to set up shop once again. I cleaned the layer of patina from the table saw and jointer, added a few new tools (notably a band saw and a far-more-useful-than expected miter saw), and built a few workbenches. Hand planes and chisels—not yet antiques—have been sharpened and placed within easy reach.

The first project, of course, was organizing the shop, utilizing the space I have while creating an easy workflow. The table saw is the centerpiece of the workspace, located near a roll-up door to accommodate long workpieces and equipped with a large outfeed table so I can work safely without an assistant. An auxiliary workbench at the back of the shop sits near the band saw and drill press. A planer and jointer fill in the open space, with plenty of room to work on both sides of these machines.

As I got the tools in position and began to set them up, I took on some smaller projects: refurbishing some old adirondack chairs, repairing household items and creating some small pieces, like these phone stands. More complex pieces are in the works