Side Trip, and a brush with disaster…

The holidays are past, lights and tree are back up in the attic, and I’m finally back to work. it’s easy to say that I have all the wood, plans, and tools, so all my ducks are in a row… but I suppose every journey has some side trips, doesn’t it?

First hurdle: For several years, I’ve had a Delta TP-305 planer.  It’s actually quite nice (it produces a very, very smooth surface, and blade changes are really slick), but it has a problem I never could get around.  It’s fine for most purposes, but it snipes. Snipe is a deeper cut on the ends of the board, which occurs when the board enters and leaves the feed rollers. All planers snipe to some degree, but when taking down boards for table tops or precision joinery, the amount of snipe from the Delta planer was deep enough that I had to cut about 3″ off each end of the boards to get rid of it.  The mesquite I’m using for the Stickley table is way too expensive to tolerate that; it ran about $14.00 per board foot.

The solution? New planer <sigh>.  It isn’t a purchase I had planned, but now that it’s done, I’m really glad I did it.  The new planer, a Dewalt DW734, has several features I like – including a 4-column carriage lock, that drastically reduces the movement against the feed rollers that causes snipe. The downside is weight: my old Delta planer weighed about 60 pounds, and the Dewalt comes in at about 90.  That means I can’t just store it below my workbench and place it on my assembly table when I need it.  It really needed a dedicated cart to keep my chiropractor happy. Taking care of the planer replacement had to come before I could proceed, as the first step is to dimension and square the boards.

My first inclination was to build the stand myself. There’s no shortage of plans for planer stands on the internet (and in my library). But really, it’s not the kind of work I want to be doing with my extremely precious shop time, and the only suitable material I have on hand is a sheet of expensive quartersawn oak plywood that I didn’ t want to waste on a tool stand. So I could have saved a little, but it would take up most of my weekend, and I’d still have to go buy materials. I settled on a Kobalt Universal Stand from Lowe’s, with a WoodRiver Adjustable Mobile Base from Woodcraft. I really, really like their mobile bases; the wheel locks are much easier to use and more solid than locking casters.  The planer itself is on a plywood subbase, because it’s about four inches wider than the Kobalt stand.

Second hurdle: My shop has a central dust collector, with conduits running down to all major areas, including connections for the table saw, band saw, belt sander, planer, jointer, sanding table, and workbench. The Jet DC-650RC dust collector itself (basically the biggest honkin’ canister vacuum cleaner you ever saw) is in the attic, directly over the garage.  It makes emptying bags kind of a pain, but I don’t lose any precious shop space, and I can keep it centrally located.

I love my dust collector.  Without it, the mess from the planer in particular is just unbelievable – it fills the whole place with chips. It makes shop work much, much more pleasant, and keeps cleanup time to a minimum.  The conduit is schedule 20 PVC pipe, with metal blast gates isolating the different arms.  The remote stays clipped to my shop apron, so it’s always at hand (and it reminds me to put my apron on).

The problem I’ve had is in sealing the joints. First, I used duct tape (of course), but it tended to come unstuck after a while. Then I switched to Gorilla Tape – brought to you by the makers of Gorilla Glue – and I was really disappointed.  At first, it made nice airtight joints, but in about seven or eight months, it lifted and peeled.  It also left a huge mess of adhesive. t was really the worst of both worlds: it was hard as hell to get off, but it still didn’t stick well enough to stop airflow around the joints. What appears to be a small leak can reduce airflow (and efficiency) tremendously.

The answer in this case – hopefully a permanent one, but we’ll see – was X-Treme Tape, available through Rockler.  It’s silicone tape, and non-adhesive; it adheres and fuses to itself.  It’s extremely stretchy, and conforms to the shape and contours of the joints. It seems to work very well, but it does not go as far as the ads say. The ad claims that a roll will seal about 15 4″ joints; I found it to go about half that far.

The near-disaster came late in the day.  I had retaped about half the joints in the conduits, and had disconnected the ground wire to replace some plastic elbow joints with a section of flex hose.  The system has a braided copper wire threaded through all the conduit, to ground out static discharges, and (theoretically) prevent flash fires in the dust.  Static is often caused by air passing over a non-conductor (like plastic conduit), and fine dust can be extremely flammable.   Everything was going well, when I leaned into the ladder, and accidentally hit the remote control switch for the dust collector (clipped to my apron, as always).

The result? The ground wire was sucked back into the pipe, and completely vanished.

I wound up having to cut the last two joints open and rethread the ground wire.  Could have been much, much worse… if the wire had been sucked all the way back up into the dust collector, it would have gotten caught up into the impeller fan, and I would have probably have been in the market for a new dust collector.  At the very least, I would have had to disassemble the entire thing – but it probably would have damaged the impeller badly, and might well have burned up the motor when it froze. As it was, I just lost some time (and expensive silicone tape).

Dovetail report: I’ve been cutting more practice dovetail joints, with mixed results. I changed saws, and have been working with a new toy: a Veritas dovetail saw. I found that part of the problem I’ve had starting cuts in end-grain is that I’ve been putting too much downward pressure on the saw, instead of letting the sharpness of the blade do the work.  Relaxing my hand seems to help that. I’ll keep practicing through this entire project, in hopes of having the drawers come out the way I want without wasting a lot of mesquite.

Tomorrow: I finally get back to the table, and start squaring and dimensioning the lumber.

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