Blog posts in this category have as associated video that guides you through the subject matter.

The Restored and Refinished Leg Vice

Restoring an Antique Leg Vice

 

A workbench without vices is just an ugly buffet table.

But quality vice hardware is expensive, as you can see by visiting Benchcrafted and checking their prices. Woodcraft sells a more traditional set of hardware that will still set you back the cost of a few good chisels. I lucked out. I stopped at a local shop called Conny’s Constant Clutter and my eye caught an old leg vice rotting in the elements amidst a pile of ahem… “reclaimed” wood in front of the store.  I left with everything I needed to install a leg vice on my workbench including the metal hardware, oak jaw and horizontal guide, for ten dollars.

Of course, now I had to restore it. 

Restoring an Antique Leg Vice

Before I could do anything else I had to disassemble thevice and decide what could be salvaged. Once again I got very lucky and felt like I had struck gold, or at least struck cast iron with a little surface rust. All of the metal components were rusty but in good condition. The two wooden components, the jaw and wooden horizontal guide, were weather worn and had pretty significant twist.

I decided to scrap the wood and make something new. This gave me a chance to at a little foreign flare to my domestic hardwood bench by making the jaw out of bubinga.

I loosened and disassembled all the pieces with a little help from my good friend, WD-40.  Then it was time to clean up the screw components.

The original leg vice as I found it.

The original leg vice as I found it.

I Remember the Days When Screwing was Dirty!

How’s that for a click-bait-title?

Next I had to clean up all of the metal screw components. When I’ve got large pieces of rusted metal to clean, I use a process called electrolysis. The short explanation is that you submerge the metal in an electrolyte solution and apply electricity to the piece to be cleaned and a sacrificial piece of metal.  Through the magic of science that I really don’t understand, the rust moves from the metal to be cleaned to the metal to be sacrificed.  Yay, science! I have a video explaining electrolysis, so check that out if you’re curious.

This is what the screw looked like after going through electrolysis

This is what the screw looked like after going through electrolysis

Final Cleanup

After I removed all of the metal components from the electrolysis bath I dried them up and gave them a good polish with a wire wheel chucked onto my angle grinder.  Yeah, I know, in the video I’m not wearing gloves. What’s not seen in the video is how bad I regretted it later. Always wear hand and eye protection when using an angle grinder if you value your delicate skin and eyeballs.

I did the final cleanup of the screw with an angle grinder and wire wheel.

I did the final cleanup of the screw with an angle grinder and wire wheel.

Designing the New Jaw

I might have been able to salvage the original oak jaw on the vice, but I used this as an opportunity to add a little flair to my workbench.

I decided to make a new jaw by laminating douglas fir and bubinga, but doing so meant I needed to design and mill the new piece. The new jaw needed holes bored for the hardware as well as a mortise to accept the horizontal guide. The decision to use douglas fir on the inside and bubinga on the outside was intentional.  Bubinga is foreign, interesting, and incredibly hard. It’s a great show piece. But my concern was that bubinga is so hard that it could leave impressions in the work I lock into the vice. For that reason I laminated it along with a piece of douglas fir fitted to the inside of the jaw.

When I was restoring the vice it was still too cold outside for wood glue, so I brought the jaw pieces inside for the glue-up. A little Titebond 3, six quick clamps, and a few hours later the new jaw was ready to be cut to it’s final form.

 

Shaping the Jaw

In my design, the jaw is the same width as the workbench’s leg at the bottom and flares out to about twice the width towards the top. The easiest way I found to make that cut was to draw it out with a pencil and follow the line with my circular saw.

After cutting the jaw to the final shape I used my low angle jack plane to remove the saw marks and smooth the sides, then added a roundover to the edges the whole way around the jaw using a block plane.

Cutting the taper on the jaw of the leg vice

Cutting the taper on the jaw of the leg vice

Modifying the Leg

Because the workbench’s leg becomes the back half of the vice, it needed some modifications. First it needed a hole to accept the screw. The tricky part is that the hole must be larger at the back of the leg where a metal piece gets inserted to catch and lock the screw in place.

The way I solved this problem was to trace a line around the leg that represents the center of the hole. At the back of the leg I begin by drilling with a 2” Forstner bit to the depth of the hardware I need to install. Then I finish at the back using a 1” Forstner bit drilled to about half of the leg’s thickness.  Then I started from the front of the leg and drilled until the holes met in the middle.

By drilling only halfway from either side I limited the amount of error in my angle, and I prevent any blowout from my bit exiting the surface of the wood.

Next I needed to chop a mortise at the bottom of the leg to accept the horizontal guide. This was by far the most difficult part of the whole process and could have been made easier by dismantling the bench and working from an easier angle. I started by drilling out a rough opening for the mortise my making several holes with a ¾” forstner bit. Then I squared up the hole with chisels, rasps, and a metric crap-ton of test-fits and patience.

Modifying the leg to accept the vice hardware.

Modifying the leg to accept the vice hardware.

Installing the Hardware

It was finally time to install the hardware that connected the leg to the jaw.  I pounded the metal piece into the back of the leg that caught the screw.

I had a few more modifications to make to the leg. I drilled a hole in the front for the screw and fastened the front hardware with the original wood screws. I chopped a mortise the the bottom of the inside of the jaw which accepted the horizontal guide. I flared the mortise out at the bottom and added wedge to the end of the guide. For a better understanding of wedged mortise and tenon joints check out this Popular Woodworking article.  I thought this was a more elegant solution than doweling it into place like the designer of the original hardware had done.

After I installed the hardware into the jaw I installed the assembly into the workbench’s leg. I slipped the screw into the hole in the leg and the horizontal guide into the mortise at the bottom. It everything was cut correctly the screw would turn freely and the horizontal guide would glide through the mortise.

It didn’t. But about a half hour of fine adjustment later, the vice glided as gingerly as a young Brian Boitano. Or maybe even an old Brian Boitano. I can honestly say I don’t know what that guy is up to.

Test-fitting the leg vice

Test-fitting the leg vice

Sanding and Finish

Now that the leg vice was functional it was time to tweak the form. I removed it from the bench and sanded it to 220 grit with my random orbit sander. I used a belt sander to delicately trim down the top of the jaw to match the top of the bench, and then I used the sander to trim down the bottom of the jaw so it didn’t scrape the floor. I wiped up the dust and then I applied a few coats of teak oil, which is the same finish I used on the rest of the bench.

Final Thoughts

Like I said at the beginning: a workbench without a vice is just an ugly buffet table. It’s a workbench’s ability to hold your work in place that makes it useful, and for that you need things like vices, dog holes, and holdfasts. Installing the leg vice has literally changed the way that I woodwork. I spend far less time figuring how how to secure lumber to my work surface and far more time actually working with it.

Whether you buy a top of the line BenchCrafted vice kit, the economical version from Woodcraft, or you luck out and find a great hand-me-down vice that you can retrofit to your bench, the important thing is that you have one. And before you settle on a particular vice, I really recommend reading Workbenches by Christopher Schwarz. This is a great book on designing traditional workbenches and has a long section discussing the various types of bench vices, the pros and cons of each type of vice, and plans on how to integrate them into your workbench.

The Restored and Refinished Leg Vice

The Restored and Refinished Leg Vice

How to Make a Wine Bottle Pendant Light

Wine bottle pendant lights are one of those Pinterest projects that every wife seems to love and every husband insists he can make, but doesn’t. Trust me, I know! I heard that conversation play out a dozen times when I tried to sell some at a local event. But don’t worry–I’m here to help. This post will teach you how to make your own wine bottle pendant light. If you don’t have the time or inclination to make ir yourself, that’s no problem! We sell wine bottle pendant lights in our store as well.

Tools

Materials

  • Wine bottle (one per light)
  • Keyless Lamp Socket (one per light)
  • Rayon Retro Wire (a few feet per light)
  • 0000 Steel Wool for removing adhesive
  • Goo Gone for removing adhesive
  • 50/50 Vinegar water for bottle cleaning
  • Newspaper for bottle cleaning
  • Pot for boiling water
  • Sink or tub for soaking bottles

How to Make a Wine Bottle Pendant Light

Follow along to learn how to make your own wine bottle pendant light. If you find the process to daunting or the materials too expensive, you can always buy a wine bottle pendant light from our store.

Step 1: Get Wine Bottles

Before you can start making wine bottle pendant lights, you need to round up some wine bottles. You’ll want standard (750ml) or magnum (1.5L) bottles. Anything smaller won’t accept a light bulb. Anything larger is heavy, looks silly, and is difficult to cut.

Get Extra Bottles

You’ll want to have extra bottles available. particularly the first time you try this project. When you get to the glass cutting step you’ll find that, no matter how hard you try to score a perfect line, every so often the glass will break crooked, so having some backups available is important.

Where to Get Wine Bottles

Where can you find wine bottles? Try your recycling bin. Let’s face it: if you’re cool with having wine bottles hanging from your ceilings, there’s a good chance you like to imbibe.

If you don’t have any just ask around: we’ve all got friends who’ve discovered the wine loophole (it’s perfectly acceptable to get hammered at home alone. So long as it’s wine. Anything else and you’re a sad, pathetic drunk!) A quick Facebook message usually yields more bottles than you need.

If all else fails, go dumpster diving. Find out when your township’s recycling center is open, dawn some gloves and boots, and hop in.

Selecting a Bottle Color

What color bottles do you want? It’s up to you. I’ve found that clear glass just looks dull and brown glass is too dark.  Green bottles look great as do blue when you can find them.

Step 2: Clean the Bottles

Bottles aren’t hard to clean if you have the right  materials, and prepare them ahead of time. I created an article and video previously about how to clean wine bottles previously. The only update to that information I have is to get a bottle of Goo Gone to clean up the adhesive backing left from the stickers.

Step 3: Cut the Bottles

There several ways to cut glass bottles and they all suck to varying degrees. If bottle cutting is something you plan on doing more than once, I recommend you pick up a Kinkajou Bottle Cutter from Bottle Cutting, Inc. It eliminates much of the trial and error from the process, and they sell a bundle that has all the stuff you need to cut and smooth bottle glass. If you decide to save money and cut your bottles a different way that’s fine. Catch up with me in step 4.

I created a separate article and video on Cutting Bottles with the Kinkajou bottle cutter. Check that out here.

 Step 4: Smooth the Glass

After you cut the glass it will leave incredibly sharp edges that risk cutting your hands when you handle the bottle. The company that sells the Kinkajou also sells a kit including the Kinkajou, several flexible diamond sanding pads, and a bunch of wet/dry sandpaper. This is what I use to smooth the glass, but it does cost some money. Several grits of wet-dry sandpaper from 180 up through 220 will work just as well. Make sure you sand both the inner and outer lip of the bottle.

Step 5: The Final Cleaning

Now that the edges have been sanded smooth you’ll notice glass dust all over the bottle. This is why we didn’t give the bottle a “final cleaning” any earler. I clean glass bottles the same way I clean windows: using newspaper and warm vinegar water.

Step 6: Install the Electrical Components

To turn your bottle into a pendant lamp you’ll need two things: a keyless lamp socket (a lamp socket without an on/off switch), and a length of lamp wire that will position the lamp where you want it verticall y below the ceiling.

I like to use Rayon Antique Wire for my bottle lamps: it gives them a retro feel that looks great with the bottle. Modern Rayon Antique Wire looks like the old nylon-covered wire you can run into in old house remodels with knob-and-tube wiring, but don’t worry: under the Rayon covering it’s safe, modern, insulated copper wire.

You can order keyless lamp socket online or pick one up at your local hardware store. I use brass lamp sockets but they come in a variety of finishes. Just make sure you buy the type that fully encloses the wiring.

Cutting the Wire

Measure and cut the wire using a pair of wire cutters. Measure an extra foot to accommodate the extra wire you’ll need to wire into the electrical circuit at the ceiling and on the other end to run down the neck of the bottle and wire into the lamp socket.  I like my lamps to hang about 12” from the ceiling, so I measure 24” of wire.

Untwist about an inch of wire on either end, and strip about ¾” of copper wire using a wire cutter. The Rayon Retro Wire that I use use 18 gauge. Make sure you use the appropriate gauge when stripping your own wire.  Once stripped, choose an end of the wire to be the lamp end. You’ll take each bunch of stranded copper and twist the bunch together and then bend it into a hook to go around the terminals on the lamp socket.

Attach the wire to the Lamp Socket

Attach the copper wire to the terminals. The neutral wire (usually the one with white insulation, but not always) attaches to the silver terminal. The hot wire (usually the one with black insulation, but not always) attaches to the brass terminal. The hook should go around the terminal in the direction that pulls the wire towards the terminal when you tighten it. If that’s not the case, loosen the terminal and reverse the direction of the wire.  Ensure that both terminals are hand-tightened with a screw driver.

Knot the Wire

Next we need to tie a knot in the wire just above the lamp socket. This knot needs to be tight to the socket, and not so big that you can’t hide it beneath the lamp socket’s cap.  This knot basically prevents the wires from being pulled away from their terminals by gravity.

Finally, pass the other end of the lamp wire through the lamp socket’s cap and push the cap tight onto the lamp socket.

Install the Lamp Hardware in the Bottle

Installing your assembled lamp socket is easy. Just pass the loose end of the wire through the bottom of the bottle and up through the neck. Pull the wire out the other side and pull it tight so the lamp socket pulls tight against the inside of the bottle’s neck.

Step 7: Installation

Install your wine bottle pendant light light like any other pendant light.  Your mileage may vary! A pendant light requires a canopy to cover the overhead lighting box. If you don’t already have one you can pick one up online or at your local hardware store.

First, ensure that the lighting circuit doesn’t have power by switching off it’s breaker at the breaker box. Now you can safely install the light.

If you already have a canopy on the ceiling go ahead and remove it. Now pass the loose end of your pendant light through the hole in the center of the canopy. Make another knot in the wire above the canopy, which will prevent gravity from pulling the wire out of the connections you’re about to make.

Install the light into the circuit by connecting the neutral (usually white) wires and hot (usually black) wires with appropriately-sized wire nuts. If your wire has a ground wire, attach that too.

Re-attach the canopy to the wiring box and flip the breaker back to an on position.

Grizzly G0715P Table Saw Review and Setup

 

My last table saw was a Hitachi C10FL table saw that I bought from a contractor that went out of business. It seemed like it would be a great upgrade from my Dewalt contractor saw, but it ended up being trash that was made only marginally better by an aftermarket fence. So I made the plunge and decided to purchase a new table saw. Several local woodworkers recommended the Grizzly G0715P table saw including my friend Brian who’s a professional carpenter and hobbyist woodworker, as well as my friend Ken at Topnotch Woodworks.

Grizzly G0715P Table Saw Setup

The G0715P arrives on a pallet and weighs over 400 pounds. Do yourself a favor and pay lift service from the freight company. The cabinet is bolted to the pallet. You’ll have to reach underneath the pallet and use the provided allen wrenches to remove the bolts.

Installing the Cast Iron Wings

The Grizzly G0715P table saw has two cast iron wings that connect to the saw with 6 bolts that install using the provided allen wrenches. Before installing the wings inspect the edges for dirt, burs, and bumps, and file away anything you find that might affect the alignment of the wings. The wings are heavy. You’ll want a helping hand, or a fixture that you can rest the weight of the cast iron wings on while you install the bolts. Use a level to verify the flatness of the installation at the front and the back. It can also help to have a flashlight handy. If you can see light between the bottom of the level and the table top, you need to readjust. Take your time to make sure your wings are installed dead flat from corner to corner.

Installing the Rails

The next step is to install the front and back rails. The rails connect to the tabletop with nuts and bolts that are tightened using the provided set of allen wrenches. There’s really only one way they fit together, so it’s hard to mess this step up. The most important thing to keep in mind is that the rails need to be level with the table-top. I used a combination square to measure the distance from the top of the table to the top of the rail at one corner, and then adjusted the opposite corner to match. It’s not very important that this distance be a specific measurement: only that it’s the same at both ends.

Installing The Fence

The G0715P comes with a Biesemeyer style fence that’s very similar to the Shop Fox fence I installed on my previous saw. However the G0715P’s fence has more adjustments than the Shop Fox and it’s easier to install and dial in. Drop the fence onto the front rail align it with the miter slot to the right of the blade. The fence needs to be parallel with the miter slot, so use the set screws on the back of the fence’s guide to make adjustments until the edge of the fence aligns perfectly with the miter slot.

The fence should “float” above the tabletop about 1/16″. To make this adjustment, use the vertical adjustment set screws. This allows the fence to float above any debris that would otherwise bind it up as you attempt to move it. After you make this adjustment it’s important to verify that the fence is still perpendicular to the table top. Use a square to take this measurement. If you can see light between the square and the fence it needs adjustment which is made by making slight adjustments to one of the two vertical alignment set screws.

Installing the Blade and Blade Guard

Blade installation is easy. Use the blade depth dial to raise the blade arbor to maximum height. Remove the nut that secures the blade to the arbor, slide the blade onto the arbor, and tighten the nut.

One of my favorite features of this saw is that it comes with both a blade guard and a riving knife, and swapping them is a breeze. There is a button you complete and release to lock and unlock the blade guard or riving knife which is accessed by an opening in the rear of the throat plate. Push the button in, swap in the desired guard, and release. It’s so easy to add or remove the blade guard that woodworkers might actually use it!

Optional Step: Converting to 110

My shop is depressingly under-powered which is one of the reasons I chose the G0715P.  The saw comes pre-wired for 220 but can be converted to 110 easily. The instruction manual provides the details but essentially you open the cover on the motor that hides the wiring, rotate two silver jumpers, and then close it back up. Then you need to pop open the switch box, replace a breaker, and replace the plug with one for a 20 amp socket. Just remember to order the breaker and the replacement plug ahead of time so you don’t end up waiting for parts to arrive.

Tension the Belt

Somehow I managed to miss the step. It might even be missing from the manual but I’m not entirely sure. When  first started the saw the blade “shimmied” but didn’t actually rotate. I quickly realized the belt must not be tensioned. Open up the cabinet and you’ll notice a bolt to the top left that fastens the motor to the cabinet. Pull the motor down to a point where the belt feels good and tight, and then tighten the bolt.

Grizzly G0715P Table Saw Review and First Impressions

My first impressions of my new Grizzly G0715P table saw are incredibly positive.

The fact that the saw comes with both a blade guard and riving knife and provides an easy way to switch them shows that Grizzly understands the reality of woodworking and wants to provide a convenient way to use the blade guard’s safety features when it doesn’t make a particular cut impossible.

The saw also comes with two throat plates: one for cuts with a standard or thin-kerf blade and one for making dado cuts. This might be standard for higher-end saws: I don’t know because I’ve never owned one.

The G0715P has a conveniently placed switch and safety features. The On position is recessed so it’s difficult if not impossible to turn the saw on accidentally. There is also a locking feature. You can insert a pin that prevents the power from being engaged accidentally. I really like that the switch is located at knee height, and turning the saw off is as easy as a quick bump. You don’t even have to reach down.

The rip fence is terrific. As I said it’s similar to the Shop Fox fence I installed on my last saw, but the G0715P fence provides more adjustments made with the included allen wrenches. Using a square and maybe some finger gauges it’s a breeze to get the vertical and horizontal alignment of this fence dialed in.

The vertical and angle adjustments are smooth. On many saws it takes a some effort to dial in these adjustments. The G0715P is smooth and easy to adjust. I also love the angle gauge. My previous saw didn’t have an angle gauge. Not only does the G0715P feature an integral angle gauge, it actually seems accurate.

The Grizzly G0715P is quiet. This saw is a will not offend your ear-holes in the way that others do. In fact, it actually runs quieter than my bandsaw.

The G0715P has integral dust collection. There’s a 4″ port on the side of the cabinet.

The manual provides projects to make the most of your saw. I was really impressed to see that the manual includes plans to help you make the most out of your new toy. This includes push sticks, sleds, featherboards, and more.

How to Cut Bottles With the Kinkajou Bottle Cutter Masthead

How to Cut Bottles with the Kinkajou Bottle Cutter

[one_full last=”yes” spacing=”yes” center_content=”no” hide_on_mobile=”no” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” hover_type=”none” link=”” border_position=”all” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” animation_type=”” animation_direction=”” animation_speed=”0.1″ animation_offset=”” class=”” id=””][fusion_text]This is my second article in a series on making crafts with glass bottles. If you haven’t read it already, check out my first article about cleaning and removing the labels from wine bottles. Once you’ve got a clean bottle to work with, you’re ready for the Kinkajou bottle cutter.

Why Cut Bottles?

There are tons of projects you can make out of bottles.  You can make wine bottle lamps, drinking cups, planters, automatic plant feeders, decorations… you get the idea. Some people call it “upcycling.”  I call it “making slightly better shit out of other shit.” Language aside: if you enjoy making useful things from landfill fodder, then wine bottles will provide you with endless entertainment and free material.

But all of the projects I mentioned require you to cut wine bottles. So how do you make a cut around a circular piece of glass? A quick search turns up about 50 different methods of bottle cutting. I can promise you that I’ve most of them numerous times, and that none of the methods you’ll find are anywhere near as easy or as safe as the one successful take the author posted to YouTube.

Enter the Kinkajou Bottle Cutter.

What is the Kinkajou Bottle Cutter?

The Kinkajou Bottle Cutter is a special-use tool that does one thing very well: it cuts round bottles. It essentially works the same way as a pipe cutter: the tool clamps around the bottle and rotates around it. In the case of the Kinkajou, it actually doesn’t cut the bottle completely: it scores the glass which is then separated by applying extreme temperatures to the score line.

Bottle cutting is hard and error-prone. Or at least it was until the Kinkajou Bottle Cutter came along. I’m going to teach you how to use the Kinkajou, along with a couple of secrets I discovered along the way to get a perfect cut, every time.

How to Cut Bottles with the Kinkajou Bottle Cutter

Cutting bottles with the Kinkajou is pretty simple, but you’ll need a few things to get started.

Materials

  • Wine Bottles, Beer Bottles, etc.
  • The Kinkajou itself
  • Rubber Bands (included with the Kinkajou)
  • Abrasives for Smoothing the Cut (diamond files that come in the Kinkajou kit, or wet/dry sandpaper)
  • Eye Protection
  • Gloves
  • A pot for boiling water
  • A coffee pot or other container to pour boiling water
  • Spacer blocks (blocks of equally sized scrap wood)

Clean the Bottles

Your bottles need to be free of debris inside and out before you start cutting.  Debris, such as bottle labels or dried up wine can make cuts go off center, or make the glass break jagged instead of straight along the scored line. For a quick and easy way to make your bottles spotless and ready for cutting, check out my previous post about how to clean wine bottles.

Clean your wine bottles well inside-and-out before you try to cut them. Both grime and labels can mess up the cut later.

Clean your wine bottles well inside-and-out before you try to cut them with the kinkajou bottle cutter. Both grime and labels can mess up the cut later.

Start Boiling Water

Towards the end of the instructions, you’ll need boiling water. Start heating the water now so it’s ready when  you need it.

Reset the Kinkajou

The Kinkajou Bottle Cutter looks more complicated than it is. Start by “resetting” the Kinkajou. The device has a threaded rod on each side. Spin the nuts all the way to the bottom of the threaded rods so the Kinkajou is open as far as it can open. Then make sure the cams on top of the threaded rods are in the open position. Make sure the cam that lowers the cutting wheel is raised as well.

Reset the Kinkajou by twisting the nuts on the two threaded rods to the ends, then opening all three cam clamps.

Reset the Kinkajou by twisting the nuts on the two threaded rods to the ends, then opening all three cam clamps.

Setup the Spacer Blocks

Spacer blocks are the special sauce that I used to get a perfect cut every time I used my Kinkajou.  First decide where you want to cut the bottle.  Then acquire a couple of scrap pieces of wood that you can use to raise the Kinkajou to that height. The important part is that you need the same height on either side of the bottle, so plywood is an excellent material for making your spacers, because it’s very uniform thickness.

Setup your spacers on either side of the bottle.  The projects I’ve made recently required cutting off the very bottom of the bottle, so a 3/4″ plywood spacer on either side worked perfectly.  Now lower the Kinkajou around the bottle and rest it on the spacers.

Use spacers made of plywood or dimensional lumber to ensure that your Kinkajou bottle cutter makes a perfectly horizontal cut.

Use spacers made of plywood or dimensional lumber to ensure that your Kinkajou bottle cutter makes a perfectly horizontal cut.

Tighten the Kinkajou Bottle Cutter

Tighten the nuts on the two threaded rods evenly. That is, give them roughly the same number of spins so that the tool is equally tight on either side. Tightening one side more than the other can result in  an uneven cut and jagged break. Tighten the nuts until you can’t easily pull the bottle out of the Kinkajou, but it still spins within the tool easily. Now, rotate the cams at the top of the threaded rods to fully engage the Kinkajou. At this point you should not be able to pull the bottle out, but it should still turn easily. If not, adjust the nuts until the tool has a satisfactory grip.

Finally, making sure that the tool is firmly against the spacer blocks, turn the cam to engage the cutter.

Score the Bottle

At this point I do things a little bit differently than the Kinkajou’s official instructions. Use one hand to hold the Kinkajou firmly down against the spacer blocks. Use your other hand to turn the bottle inside the tool. You’ll have to listen to the tool to know when you’re finished. When the cutter has made a full rotation you’ll hear a “click” when it returns to the beginning of the cut.  Stop rotating with you hear this.

Making a second score around the bottle is unnecessary, can cause a bad break, and puts unnecessary wear-and-tear on the blade.

Score the bottle by holding the Kinkajou bottle cutter tight against the spiders and rotating the bottle with in.

Score the bottle by holding the Kinkajou bottle cutter tight against the spiders and rotating the bottle with in.

Apply Hot and Cold Water to the Score Mark

To separate the glass, we’ll apply successive treatments of boiling and cold water.

First, wrap the two rubber bands that come with the Kinkajou around the bottle at levels just above and just below the cut. The rubber bands help limit the effects of the extreme temperatures we’re about to apply.

Transfer the boiling water to a coffee pot or other receptable that can easily pour it without burning you.  Hold your bottle over the sink and drizzle the boiling water on the score line as you slowing rotate the bottle.  After you’ve heated the bottle for about 20 seconds, stop pouring, and run cold water from the link over the score line. The score line should become visibly lighter, which is an indication that it’s close to breaking.

If it doesn’t break on the first round, that’s OK! Sometimes it takes two, three, or even four applications of hot and cold water. But eventually your glass will break.

Separate the two sides of the cut using alternating hot and cold water. This step can take time, but with patience you'll persevere!

Separate the two sides of the cut using alternating hot and cold water. This step can take time, but with patience you’ll persevere!

Sanding the Glass

After the two sides separate, you’ll need to sand the glass down so it’s safe to handle. I shelled out the extra cash for the Kinkajou kit, which comes with two diamond files in addition to several grits of wet/dry sandpaper. The diamond files make quick work of knocking down the sharp edges.

Whether you use the wet/dry sandpaper, diamond files, or both, don’t rush through the step. Make sure you round over both the inside and outside edges, and test them yourself to make sure you’re not passing on a dangerous edge to someone else!

Some Parting Words of Advice

I’ve got a lot of bottles and I’ve learned a lot along the way. And I’m going to repeat myself so you can avoid the frustration that might just make you give up on bottle cutting completely.

  • Using clean bottles is a must. Clean the bottles inside and out before you cut them. Make sure the labels and adhesive are off, or at least nowhere year where you plan to cut the bottle.
  • Use spacer blocks. The spacer blocks essentially force the tool to make the entire cut in the same horizontal plane. If you don’t use them, the tool can swerve during the cut. At best you’ll have more sanding to do later, and at worst so jagged you can’t sand it flat.
  • Batch out your work. That is, plan ahead and do one thing at a time, so you’re not wasting time moving around materials and setting up tools. Setting up and adjusting the Kinkajou is the most time-consuming step, so cutting all like-sized bottles at once will save you tons of time in the long-run.

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Learn how to clean wine bottles and remove the labels the easy way!

How to Clean Wine Bottles

 

I’ve recently started making some projects out of wine bottles. Don’t worry: the bottle craft tutorials are coming soon! But in the meantime I’ll be approaching bottle-craft in bite-sized chunks by going over some of the tools and techniques you’ll use in every project. Every project starts with clean bottles, which can be easier said than done.  So in this article I’m going to explain how to clean wine bottles.  If there’s a better way, please let me know and I’ll be happy to update the content (and give you credit).

How to Clean Wine Bottles

Cleaning the inside of a wine bottle is pretty obvious: use a bottle brush and hot, soapy water. But cleaning the outside of the bottle can be a real chore.  I have a pretty good method that I’d like to share that is quick, easy, and only takes a few materials and tools you probably already have on-hand.

Tools and Materials

Step 1: Pre-Soak the Wine Bottles

Start soaking your wine bottles in water an hour or so before you’re ready to clean them. You can use a sink, a tub, or even a five-gallon bucket. The important part is that both the front and back labels are fully submerged, so let the bottles fill with water so they submerge.

Step 2: Remove the Label By Peeling or Scraping

Plastic labels will peel off pretty easily. Lift a corner using your fingernail, or a putty knife or chisel. Gentle pull back the label until it’s free from the bottle.

Paper labels won’t come off in one piece after soaking, but they will scrape off easily.  Using a putty knife or an old chisel scrape away the label and as much of the adhesive as possible.  Don’t forget to clean your tools when you’re done to avoid rust.

Step 3: Remove Adhesive with Hot Vinegar Water and Steel Wool

Removing sticker adhesive is usually the hardest part of cleaning a wine bottle, but it’s actually easy if you have the right materials on-hand.  Mix equal parts white vinegar and hot water in a spray bottle, and apply the mixture to your wine bottle. The cleaner will loosen the adhesive, which you can then easily remove by scrubbing the bottle with super fine steel wool. Repeat until you don’t see any traces of the adhesive.

Step 4: Final Cleaning

Spray the bottle one more time with the hot vinegar water. Then wipe the bottle down with recycled newspaper for a streak-free finish.

How to Save Kale Seeds Featured Image

How to Save Kale Seeds

 

Kale is a biennial green-leafed plant that has come to be known as a modern super food both for it’s nutritional properties, it’s hardiness, and ease of growth.  It’s also a plant that’s easy to propagate year-after-year by saving kale seeds, and it takes very little time.

Step 1: Grow Kale!

It’s hard to save kale seeds if you don’t have plants.

Grow some kale. Alternatively you can befriend another gardener that already grows kale and–once you’ve lured them into a false sense of security–chloroform them, huck their body into a wood chipper, them assume their identity and ownership of their kale plants. Mwahahaha!

Don’t be shy about harvesting leaves from the plant throughout the growing season, but as you approach the fall season select the plants you feel had the best production, and let them run wild and “go to seed.”

Step 2: Collect the Pods

As your kale matures it will form pods called siliques: structures that holds the seed until they  become viable. That’s fancy-talk for “capable of growing a new plant.” At the end of the season the pods become brittle and eventually break open, allowing the the seeds to escape and find a new space to grow in.

The pods are ready to remove after they’ve become brown, dry, and brittle but before they’ve cracked open and lost their seeds.  Basically if the pods are still green it’s too early, but if the pods no longer exist it’s too late.

When the seeds are ready to harvest, just snip them off with scissors or shears and catch them in a bowl as you go.

Step 3: Separate the Seeds from the Chaff

We need to separate the seeds from the chaff, or seed casings. There are a lot of ways to do this step, but I’ve found that winnowing works very with kale seeds.

Crush the Pods

First locate a pillowcase, an old sheet, or any other thin cloth. Dump the pods you collected into the center of the cloth and fold it in half.

Next you need to crush the pods, and there are a lot of ways you can do this.  You can use a rolling pin, a wine bottle, or anything else round and heavy and just roll it over the pods until the crushing sound stops being so obvious.  You can also just walk back and forth over the cloth full of pods and eventually achieve the same result.

Winnow the Seeds

Winnowing is the process of blowing air over across the seeds to separate them from chaff.  It works because the chaff is larger and easily caught by the air, while the seeds are too small and aerodynamic for a light breeze to have much affect.

Move your crushed-up pods from the cloth into a bowl. Shake the bowl in a circular motion. The seeds will naturally start to separate to the bottom. As you shake the bowl, blow a light current of air into it. Start very lightly and gradually increase the air pressure until the broken pods begin to take flight and leave the bowl.  Eventually you’ll be left with what is almost entirely kale seeds!

Step 4: Cleaning and Storage

You can clean your kale seeds but it’s not necessary.  If you’re concerned you might also be saving garden germs or plant viruses from year-to-year, soak your seeds for about 20 minutes in 120 degree water. You’ll probably render some of your seeds no longer viable, but you’ll also kill off most of the  nasties that could be clinging to them.

Once your seeds are dry, store them in an air-tight glass or plastic container and save them in the freezer until next year. I like to label a paper envelope, put the seeds within it, and then put the envelope in an air and water-tight plastic container.

 

A secret compartment book I made in about 10 minutes using a custom tool.

How to Make a Secret Compartment Book

I’m definitely not the first maker to do a tutorial on how to make a secret compartment book. But I do think my way adds something a little bit special to the mix: specifically, speed.  Most tutorials suggest cutting out the compartment with an X-acto knife. It’s sharp and it’s accurate, but it’s also slow. I’ll show you how to make a secret compartment book using an oscillating multi-tool.

What You’ll Need

  • A book that’s big enough to store whatever you want to put in it, with a few pages leftover in the front and back.  Note: hardcovers work best!
  • An oscillating multi-tool. Brand is pointless.
  • A rigid scraper blade or, better yet, the custom blade I make in this video.
  • An X-acto Knife for fine-tuning the cut.
  • Glue.  I used thinned wood glue and it worked well. You can also try a special book-binding glue.
  • Clamps
  • Wax paper, for preventing the glue from binding the front and back of the book.
  • Wood scrap, metal scrap, or some other thin object you can slide between the pages to prevent your tool from cutting too far.  Don’t use anything more than 1/4″ thick.
  • Wood scraps slightly larger than the book. You’ll use them as cauls to clamp around the book so it dries in the proper shape.
  • Optional. A wooden block cut to the width and length of the compartment. You can use this as a template.

How to Make a Secret Compartment Book

Making the book should only take 10-15 minutes using my method, but it does has several distinct steps.

1. Select a Book

To make a secret compartment book you first need to find a book.  First of all: I don’t suggest cutting up books that are still useful, or enjoyable by someone, somewhere.  But many books (especially encyclopedias) do eventually run out of useful life.

Choose a book that’s a) no longer useful or b) has a special meaning in general, to you, or to the person that will receive it. The only hard-and-fast rule is that it must be big enough to make a useful secret compartment. Dime bags are small, but you never know what else they might to shove in there!

2. Find your Start and Stopping Points

Once you’ve selected a book you need to decide where you want your secret compartment to start and stop. You can get a little bit clever with this step.  You might choose a page with your favorite passage, or with a code-word like “secret” or “this book is totally not where I store the 8mm film of me beating up that hobo without mercy.”  The only requirement is that you leave something at the beginning of the book to cover the compartment, and you leave something at the back of the book to provide a backing.

In the book featured in this video I left 20 pages at the front and back.  Hardcover books make better secret compartments.  You can hollow out the entire book and just leave the solid covers intact.

3. Setup the Cut

Open the book to the page where you want the compartment to stop and insert the wooden scrap you’re using to prevent your tool from cutting too far. Make sure it’s pushed in far enough that it covers the entire area of the page where the cut will be made.

Next, Open the book to the page where you want the cut to start, and fold the beginning of the book as far as you can without damaging it so that it’s safely out of the way.

Clamp the book down to your work surface.  Check that the edge of the pages are still as close to straight as possible.  If your pages are arched back your compartment will be too, and your book may not close right after glue-up.

Now you can setup your cut. Either by “eye-balling it” or by using the optional template block, use the X-acto knife to cut a guide line into the top of the book.  If you do decide to make the cut without the aid of a block, just remember that the tools blade is wide and straight, so cutting a compartment with graceful curves using this method is not really an option.

Sever the first few pages with the X-acto knife.  This should provide a good visual distinction that will let you guide the multi-tool by eye so you don’t need to keep the guide block on the pages and in the way.

4. Cut the Compartment

Plug in your multi-tool and begin the cut.  Keep your blade as close to vertical as you can, and don’t take it too fast.  Using the custom blade the tool will sink straight through the pages. This is excellent for the length of the 4 sides but mind the corners.  You want to take it slow there and try not to cut outside of your guide lines.

When you reach the bottom of the cut you’ll know it. You’ll feel the tool no longer sinking through material, and when you feel that it’s time to move the tool.  Continue as such around the entire compartment.

Don’t feel like you need to completely remove every single page with the multi-tool. Remember, you still have the X-acto knife for precision, so use it to cut the corners without the risk of your multi-tool blowing through the guide lines.

5. Glue-up

Once you’re compartment is cut and you’ve cleaned it up as much as you desire with the knife, it’s time to glue up your book.  Tear off a sheet of wax paper and put it between the pages where your compartment begins. This will prevent the front and back of the book from sticking together and give the book a “hinge” action that opens it up to the compartment.

Mix up your glue.  If you chose to use wood or standard white glue, you’ll need to thin it down with water.  Make about a 3:1 mix of glue and water, and stir it until the texture is consistent.  Use a small paint brush to spread the glue around the edges of the book.  Be generous with the glue application, but try not to let it pool on the wax paper or it will cause it to stick to the book.  Apply to the edges of the top of the book as well as the bottom where the compartment is located. Before moving on, wipe away any excess glue on the covers of the book with a damp cloth.

Once the glue is applied it’s time to clamp it.  You’ll make a sandwich the materials in the following order: wooden caul, wax paper sheet, book, wax paper sheet, wooden caul.  Then clamp the book at the outer edges and allow it to dry for several hours.  If you used thinned-down glue, I’d recommend waiting overnight.

6. Touch-up

After the glue is finished drying, remove the clamps and gently peel away the wax paper. If the wax paper got stuck to the book, use your X-acto knife to delicately separate them from each other.  Gently open up your book.  If the front and back are stuck together at any point, once again use your X-acto knife to resolve the problem.

7. You Put Your Weed In It! (Or You Know, Whatever)

Congratulations! You made a secret compartment book!  Now stuff it with your filthy secrets and vices.  Don’t worry.  I won’t tell.

A custom blade I made to hollow out a secret compartment book. It cuts through hundreds of paper pages with ease.

Make a Tool for Hollowing out a Secret Compartment Book

 

I just got married, and as is tradition I needed gifts for my groomsmen. I didn’t have the time to get fancy, but I wanted to give my guys something that felt like I was thinking of them when I bought or made it.

I decided to buy a small gag gift and an engraved pocket knife, and present it hidden away in a secret compartment book (or hidden compartment book, or “you put your weed in here” book) that I chose specifically for each of them. I’ll be uploading the video and instructions for that shortly.

Most instructions for making a secret compartment book recommend hollowing out the chamber with an Xacto knife. The process is slow but it’s accurate. The claim is that using any other tool–particularly a power tool–would be too imprecise and leave a ragged edge on the paper. Those folks just haven’t found the right tool yet! My solution was to make a custom blade for my oscillating multi-tool that would handle the task.

What You’ll Need

Make the Secret Compartment Book Cutting Tool

Making a tool for hollowing out a secret compartment book is pretty easy if you have the right tools, and should take you no more than ten minutes.

Step 1: Grind off the Teeth

The first step is to use the coarse wheel on your bench grinder to knock the teeth off the edge of your blade, and create an edge that’s as close to straight as you can.  Be safe!

Step 2: Grind the Edge Smooth

We’re only concerned with the flatness and sharpness of about the last 1/16″ of the blade.  Move to the finer wheel on your bench grinder and continue to grind your blade flat. Be sure to check it for straightness before you finish the grinding step! You don’t want to make a blade with peeks and valleys, or it won’t evenly cut your book.

Step 3: (Optional) Sharpen the Edge with a Traditional Sharpening Method

At this point your blade is sharp enough, but you’ll get far better results if you use a traditional sharpening method to bring the cutting edge to a razor-sharp finish using a traditional sharpening method.  I use the Scary Sharp method, since it doesn’t require a lot of expensive tools to get started. All you need is a flat surface and a few sandpaper grits from 200 – 1,500 or higher.

Secure the sandpaper to a flat surface. Wet the paper with a spray bottle, then proceed to work the tip of the blade on each successive grit. The end result you’re looking for is a tip with a mirror finish that cuts the hairs on your arm.

Step 4: Make a Secret Compartment Book

Now that you’ve made the blade, you’re ready to use it to make a secret compartment book. That process is worth its own article, so stay tuned! But your new blade will slice through paper like a warm knife through butter, saving you hours of tedious work with an Xacto knife.

Propagating Raspberries, Part 1: Digging out Suckers

If there’s one thing I love, it’s cheeseburgers.  But if there are two things I love, it’s cheeseburgers and fresh fruit! I can’t raise cows in town, but the good news is I’m pretty sure I can grow raspberries.  And if I can’t well… who wants to live in town anyway?

Last year I planted raspberries around one of the sides of my picket fence.  They’ve really taken off and the fence looks great covered in vegetation, so I’d like to extend that look around the rest of it, but I’d like to propagate the plants that I already have rather than drop a bunch of cash at a nursery. I did some research, and I found that there are a number of ways to grow/popagate/duplicate your raspberry plants, and today we’re going to talk about the easiest of those options.

Propagating Raspberries

Propagating raspberries can be accomplished a number of ways .  If you’ve got the patience of a saint, it’s possible to propagate raspberries from seed. But those of us with things like jobs who just want to nosh on some fruit need a better way. So let’s talk about suckers.

There’s a Sucker Born Every Minute

Well, if there were, we’d be eating a lot more raspberries.  A sucker is a shoot that grows from the base of a plant.  Raspberries propagate just fine on their own by sending out suckers a few inches or more from the base.

So let the plant do the work for you! The simplest and least labor intensive way to grow more raspberry plants is to either let the suckers mature into fruit-bearing plants, or dig them up and plant them in a more desirable location. Just be sure to include enough root to get them started in their new home!

The full library of wood grain materials (fills) for Sketchup.

Wood Textures for Sketchup

The full library of wood textures for Sketchup.

The full library of wood grain materials (fills) for Sketchup.

 

Wood textures for Sketchup are pretty limited by default (they’re called materials in Sketchup Land), and if you spend a lot of time in the program you’ll soon be bored and annoyed with them. The limited variety makes it difficult to add visual appeal to your drawings that accurately represents your work. Sketchup is great at conveying shape and dimensions, but not so much a wood grain finish.

Fortunately someone took the time to make a pretty decent library of wood textures (ahem… materials) for Sketchup.  You can download them at the Sketchup 3D Warehouse.  I did not create them.  A user named Edward F., converted them to the most recent Sketchup format and uploaded them to the Sketchup Warehouse.  Alan Bennet at sawdustroad.com created the originals. Thanks to both for making Sketchup even better for woodworkers!

It’s important to follow the instructions to load them into Sketchup. If you have trouble, feel free to ask for help!

Wood Textures for Sketchup 2014 or Above

The instructions on the page above are for older versions of Sketchup. If you’re using a newer version (2014 or higher), follow these instructions to add wood textures for Sketchup:

  1. Download the file from the Sketchup Warehouse.
  2. Go to File > Open and select the SKP file you just downloaded. If you get a message about the file being created in an older version of Sketchup, just press OK.
  3. If it’s not already open, show the Materials window by selecting Window > Materials.
  4. There is a drop down menu that lets you select Materials collections. Click the dropdown menu and select In Model.
  5. Click the Details button (the arrow next to the drop down menu you just clicked), and select Save Collection As…
  6. You’ll be asked to browse to a folder.  Select your My Documents Folder, then click Make New Folder and name it “Wood Species”, or whatever you want your new Materials Collection to be called.

More Wood Textures for Sketchup

As I find them, I’ll post additional wood textures for Sketchup here.