Build a Sawhorse for Ripping Lumber with a Handsaw

Ripping a long board with a handsaw is no easy task. Take the amount of muscle required out of the equation and just consider the skill involved in cutting a perfectly straight line for more than a few inches, and you’ll understand why people rush to the table saw.  Yet somehow, before the days of power tools with long, straight fences woodworkers managed to make beautiful, precise masterpieces.

Enter the Ripping Sawhorse

A beautiful, precise masterpiece this project is not. It’s made out of scraps of 2×4 and plywood whereas the Fine Woodworking project on which it was modeled (and luthier who apparently had the same idea) is built from quality lumber. Personally I don’t see a point in spending a ton of money on something that is purely function, not form.

I took Tom Killen’s design and made one critical modification: I ripped the saddle down the center and reassembled it with 1/16″ filler strips at either end.  This created a top in which I could clamp my workpiece and easily saw through it lengthwise using the gap as a saw guide.

A Tip From a Tablesaw

Do you know why your table saws and circular saws all have a riving knife behind the blade (that you probably removed for convenience)? It’s to prevent the two sides of the workpiece from binding back together when they clear the back of the blade.  On a power took that binding can create a difficult situation. Binding happens using a hand saw too, but it’s more likely to just make sawing harder than it is to throw a board at your face.  To prevent binding put a nail or a shim in your saw kerf after you’ve worked far enough into the rip cut that it won’t interfere with your saw blade.

Tortilla Press with Homemade Tortillas

Wooden Tortilla Press

Tortilla Press with Homemade Tortillas

I used 2 x 4 scraps and some oak for the handle. The only thing I had to buy were the hinges. Total cost: $3.57

Today’s Edition of Brian Makes Crap out of Slightly Lesser Crap: A tortilla press made out of 2 x 4 scrap!t

I adapted instructions from another person’s video so I won’t bother to rewrite them here. If you want to make one, just check out his video and follow along.  All you really need to make one of these is some thick lumber and a table saw.  However I used my planer (to square up the 2×4 prior to glue-up), a router with a roundover bit to smooth the corners, a sander with 80, 120, 220, and 300 grit paper, and a band saw to curve the handle. The additional power tools certainly aren’t necessary, but they make the finished product a little nicer.

I made mine out of 2×4 scrap that I planed down to 1 1/4″ thickness and edge-glued the pieces together into 12″ wide squares.

I made the handle out of oak for extra strength, but that was made from scrap.  The only part of the project that cost me any money were the hinges, for a total cost of $3.57.

You can check out Steve Ramsey’s tortilla press video here.  Thanks for the inspiration!

The finished trailer from the back

The Frankenwagon

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About a month ago my uncle had the nerve to ask for his trailer back that I had been using for the last six months.  This act of audacity left me with no way to transport anything more substantial than groceries.  Fortunately for me that very same day my roommate’s coworker mentioned he had one he was looking to get off his property. (Or was it my brother’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate?)

I went over to look at it.  The deck was OSB and completely destroyed by water, but the tongue and axle were in pretty good shape.  I towed it home and got to work on the Frankenwagon.

Cleaning up the Metal Parts

The tongue and axle were in decent shape but had a little bit of rust and some spots that needed welded.  I put a wire wheel on my angle grinder and in about an hour I was down to shiny, clean metal. Since I don’t have any experience with welding I took it to work, and a coworker fixed a few joints that needed some care. (Obligatory shout-out to SUN Tech, where kids and grown-ups alike can learn to weld like a boss).

Word of Caution: it was hot out and I was using the grinder without a shirt on.  I ended up getting a wire embedded in my skin just below my nipple, and one in my knee.  They were pretty long, and as I pulled them out of my skin I felt like some sort of magician!

Finally I drilled out holes to accept the bolts I planned to used to attach the deck, and painted the entire thing John Deere Green.

Assembling the Deck

Before I actually started, I tried looking for information online about specifications and requirements for building a trailer, but came up empty.  At this point I realized I risk building something that won’t pass inspection, but I decided I’m willing to try.

Using stainless steel carriage bolts I attached pressure treated 2×4’s to the axle and used decking screws to attach the 2 x 8’s I decided to use for decking.  I planed for the deck to be big enough to hold 4×8 sheet stock when it’s finished.  I screwed the decking down at full size and trimmed it all to length with my Dewalt TrackSaw afterwards.

Building the Sides

I had a bunch of pieces of pressure treated 4 x 4’s leftover from a fence project, so I decided to use them to build sides.  I cut them to 18″ long, routed a 1″ groove in the center of them, and attached them to the deck at the corners and at even spacing along the sides. I screwed 2 x 4 rails across the top of these posts, but offset them so that the top of the slot is open.  This way if I ever need a closed trailer to transport mulch or stone, I can toss in some scrap plywood in a matter of minutes.

For a finishing touch I made some trim that I attached around the bottom of the deck.  I routed the top of the trim as well as both top edges of the railing.


I picked up this lite kit and as soon as I opened the package realized it would need some adjustments. The lights ground themselves by being screwed into the metal parts of the trailer. Unfortunately my design didn’t really allow that. I bought longer screws, attached the lights to the trim, ran additional ground wires, and fastened them to the frame with self-tapping screws.


Yesterday I took the first flight of the Frankenwagon.  It’s not street legal yet, but I’ll do an update about the process of getting it there.  The trailer rides fine and the lights work great, and I’d say the total cost of the project was about $300.

My New Fence Gate

After months of having zero desire to spend time in my wood shop due to the weather I finally had a few days to complete a project I’ve had in mind for months: a new gate for the fence around my yard.  My dog isn’t thrilled that he can no longer agitate the neighbors at will, but I’m as happy as can be.


I made my gate out of stuff I had sitting around.  The frames are made of 2 x 4 and the slats are made from some leftover fence material.  I’d like to stress at this point that Lowe’s 2 x 4 stock sucks.  Their lumber is just too warped for something like this.  I bought my lumber at Mifflinburg Lumber and Building Supply. Their prices are competitive and their lumber always seems to much straighter than what the bigger stores offer.

The fence that I cannibalized for the center slats was similar to this one.

Preparing Stock

The first thing I did was cut everything to length, then planes and jointed all of the pieces. As a beginner in woodworking I can’t stress enough how much easier your tools will work and much simpler calculations and assembly becomes when you take the take to ensure that your material is actually square.

I decided to put a decorative edge on the frame using one of the bits from my MLCS 8377 15-Piece Router Bit Set.


My original plan was to finally make use of my Dewalt Biscuit Joiner to assemble the frame.  I put two biscuits in each corner to stiffen up the miter joints, after the fact I decided that a couple of screws might be necessary.  I put a single 2″ exterior screw in each corner and hid the holes with plugs made from dowel rod.

The slats were an interesting problem. Each slat overlaps the one beside it by about 1/4″, which left about 2″ of open space in the groove cut into the frame.  This was going to result in water pooling in that area which would destroy the bottom of the gate in no time at all.  I decided to solve the problem by gluing in filler-strips.

The four pieces of hardware that hold the board used to “lock” the gate are simply 10″ strips of pine 1 x 3 glued to 2″ of 1 x 3 and fastened to the gate with stainless steel hardware.


For the finish I ended up using stuff I already had on hand: Minwax Early American Wood Stain and exterior polyurethane. The hardware is all stainless steel.  I’d like to paint it black and I do have some touch-up to finish on the gate where I removed the old hinges, but overall I’m really please with the way this turned out.



The Busy Homeowner Guy, Part 1

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Holy crap have I been busy.

Last we talked I recalled the tale of a vicious beating I took at the hands of a 12 foot sheet of drywall that fell off the lift I neglected to understand prior to use.  Since then I’ve gotten a lot accomplished and I’ll be posting my progress over the next several days as I recover from a pulled muscle in my lower back and get absolutely nothing of a physical nature accomplished.

Hanging the Drywall in my Office

During the remodel of my bedroom I learned a couple of things that I took into account when prepping for the office remodel:

  1. The more you glue the less you screw, and that makes finishing your drywall that much quicker.Use LIQUID NAILS or another construction adhesive on the back of your sheets and then stare in amazement as they hang with excellent stability with three or four screws per row instead of 5 or more.
  2. Plan for the least number of joints, especially butt joints. Think about your room dimensions ahead of time and order drywall lengths and widths that will minimize the number of joints you need to finish and, ideally, will eliminate butt joints completely.
  3. If your house is old or otherwise horribly studded, use 2×4 scabs and furring strips to square up your room and simplify hanging. My house is more than 150 years old and nothing is square so this step is pretty important for good results.

During the hanging and finishing in the office I learned a few more lessons, some the hard way:

  1. I’m not so sure about collared Phillips Bits anymore. Though it worked fine on my first room I ended up having to go over about 50% of the screws in my office and sink them just below the paper. I’m not sure if this was user error or the fault of the bit, so the verdict is still out.
  2. Get a Drywall Pole Sander. A combination of a pole sander with a fine grit paper and a foam sanding block made quick work of the sanding.
  3. Do a level 5 finish (skim coat). After I finished sanding I watered down my remaining compound to the consistency of pancake batter and applied it with a paint roller. After it dried I gave it a very light sanding. I can’t find a single imperfection in my walls or ceiling (here’s a video showing how). Three coats and a sanding are probablygood enough, but a skim coat definitely gives your drywall a professional feel.