Visible Means of Support

After a couple of bigger projects, I was itching to do something small and simple.  Just a weekender.  What I decided on was an older idea from Wood Magazine, called a “3-in-1 Work Support”.  It was pretty simple, and could be made from stuff I had on hand – common hardware (knobs, bolts, t-track, a handful of roller bearings), and reclaimed wood.  The plans include three different tops: a roller bearing top, a phenolic plastic glide top, and a small table top.  I only made the roller bearing top for now. I doubt that I’ll ever bother with the little table top, and I need the roller bearing top for outfeed support. I’ll probably make the glide top later.

The wood I had on hand was much softer than the project plans called for.  The plans specified maple, and what I had handy was redwood and poplar.  I really think it will do fine in the long run, but I’m a little concerned about weight. It’s extremely light, and might be subject to getting knocked over.  If that’s the case, I’ll either weight the base or scrap it and rebuild it out of something stronger and heavier.

Using reclaimed wood isn’t just a matter of not being wasteful.  I’ve seen some amazing work done from old reclaimed wood from flooring and doors.  In this case, it was simple economy. This is a work support for the shop, not fine furniture.  So free wood was perfect – build, sand, one coat of lacquer, and viola.

One major safety issue occurs using reclaimed wood.  You do not want to be running something through the table saw and hit a nail.  Seeing sparks being thrown out of your cutline isn’t something you want.  Not only can it damage your expensive blades (chipping teeth and tearing off carbide), but it’s terribly unsafe. It can throw pieces of metal, and cause your work to twist and bind against the blade, often causing kickback.  The best way to avoid surprises like this is to purchase a small hand-held metal detector. They’re inexpensive (about $20), and much cheaper than either a new sawblade or a trip to the ER.

I’ve had exactly one kickback incident. It allowed me to spend a thrilling evening in the  emergency room getting a cut on my thumb glued together.  It happened because I did an unsafe procedure that I should have known better than to attempt.  The saw threw a 5″ piece of oak at me, and it hit the back of my right thumb.  It might have actually broken my thumb; it hurt for almost three months afterwards.

If you’ve never seen kickback, don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll have time to react and prevent it.  It’s easy to think that you can stop it as it starts.  It’s so fast that you can’t believe it. I heard a loud Bang, and I realized that my thumb hurt, my workpiece had vanished, and I was dripping blood. I hadn’t had the workpiece properly supported, and I didn’t have a splitter in place. The wood had case-hardened, and closed up on the blade as the cut was made. When it touched the back of the blade, the saw fired it at me like a rifle.

I have a lot of safety equipment, and most of it is specifically for the table saw.  I’ve developed a healthy respect for anything with moving blades, but the table saw concerns me most of all.  Use of a table saw means pushing a piece of wood into a rapidly spinning blade.  If you think about it, that’s intrinsically somewhat dangerous.  Managing the risk is what it’s all about.

I’ve added an aftermarket blade guard (a Shark Guard, from LeeWay Workshop), a lot of different push sticks, jigs, and such, outfeed support rails for my Bosch table saw, and now this roller bearing work support.  It’ll spend it’s life as a humble outfeed support, but if it keeps a workpiece from flipping, or keeps me from overbalancing over the blade trying to keep something stable, it’s more than worth the day it took me to build.

Next time: Starting the Roubo Monstrosity. Stay tuned.