Sunday, August 2, 2020
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Shop Organization – French Cleat Wall

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If there is one theme among the folks that I’ve spoken with regarding what their number one need is, it would have to be Shop Organization. I must admit there’s nothing I enjoy more than entering a clean and organized workspace. Unfortunately, those days have been few and far between! French Cleat Wall project to the rescue… let’s hope.

French Cleats… what’s that about?

The French Cleat has become a very common method for hanging everything from picture frames to kitchen cabinets. But where in the heck did this term come from? The history behind the French cleat as it turns out is a bit unclear. Many believe the French Cleat was invented sometime during the 1800’s by French ship builders who used long wedge shaped wooden pieces to mount items to the walls of their ships. The wooden wedges or cleats prevented the items they hung from them from falling off the walls as the ship navigated rough seas. While there are other theories out there, it’s this one that resonates with me as the most likely.

So what’s wrong with Pegboard?

Several people I’ve talked to have asked me why I would replace my Pegboard with a French Cleat system. It’s really a tough one for me, as I am sure it might be for some of you as well, since I’ve had pegboard in my shop since for close to 30 years. What I can say for sure is that I will not be removing the pegboard in my entire shop. There are definite advantages of Pegboard for hanging and storing certain items. As someone who lives a bit further out, stopping in the middle of a project to run in to town for something tends to take the wind out of the sails of productivity. As a result, I often pick up items I might need when I am in town. Given the nature of the packaging, pegboard works out quite well to store those items until I need them.

One of the main disadvantages from my perspective is when it comes to hanging heavier items. I have had the Pegboard hooks bend. I’ve seen the Pegboard bow over time and in some cases had the hooks break through. Heck, I have even managed to break a few hooks while bending them to compensate for the sagging over the years.

French Cleat Advantages

Given that the cleats themselves are anchored directly to the studs, hanging heavy objects is of little concern! The cleats themselves are easy to make by simply ripping a board at a 45° angle. Generally speaking you can remove the item you hung without first taking everything off or out of it. If after a bit of use you realize there’s a better arrangement to fit your needs, it is super easy to move things around. Just about anything can be hung up by adding a corresponding cleat to the back of the item. If adding a cleat directly is not an option, you can throw together a quick and dirty holder of some sort that you can put a cleat on!

Summary

After having built the French Cleat Wall in my shop, I’m really glad I finally took the plunge. I’m having a good time thinking about, researching and planning the organizers that will eventually find their way on the wall. Heck, I am even thinking about creating a few organizers out of some of my old Pegboard hooks just to try it out! What kind of holders or organizers have you found useful in your own shops?

Axe Block Build

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This is a must have item for anyone who uses an axe... period.  I wish I would have made one of these years ago.  Unless the only reason you are using an axe is to chop down a tree or splitting firewood, then this little wonder is a must have.

Adding a Crosshair Laser to my DIY CNC machine

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 This project is one I've had on the books for a very long time.  I designed my motor mount specifically to hold the laser module 3" away from the center of the router.  The most daunting part of this project was creating the custom screen set for Mach 3.  In the end, google was my best friend... or as I often refer to it as "Mother Google".

 

I found and utilized a free application called MachScreen to modify/customize the standard 1024 screen set that comes default with Mach 3.  The other thing that mother google provided was help figuring out how to write a script to tell Mach 3 what I wanted it to do upon pressing the button.

 

Here's that bit of code for any that are interested:

Xmove = -3 'adjust this for X move distance
Ymove = 0 'adjust this for Y move distance

Code "G91 G0 X" &Xmove & "Y" &Ymove ' makes an incremental move the distances that you set
While IsMoving () ' waits while that happens
Wend
Code "G90" 'goes back to absolute moves
DoOEMButton (1008) 'zeros the X and Y DROs
DoOEMButton (1009)

Panel Mover build

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Working alone most of the time, I often struggle with moving sheet goods into my shop.  Perhaps if our driveway were concrete or asphalt, but alas we have a stone driveway.  A few years ago I purchased a product called "The Troll" which claims to allow you to easily move up to 300 lbs around a job site.  I suppose the job site they were referring to were all comprised of hard surfaces. 

 

My solution was to build my own version using some steel scrap from a local steel yard and a couple of Harbor Freight tires.  While it is not an exact copy of the troll, it obviously bears a strong resemblance.  My version not only holds the weight of the other, but has no trouble traversing rough terrain and soft soils.   

Log Arch

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About a year ago we had 2 American Ash trees that were killed by the Emerald Ash Borer.  Shortly after I attended my first green woodworking workshop where we used Ash logs as well.  Based on the size of these 2 trees, I wanted to save the wood for use in my woodworking.  My deli-ma became how to move these large logs around without hurting myself in the process.

After a bit of research, I found the answer to be that I needed a log arch to move these logs without the need for a tractor with a front end loader and a set of forks.  Looking further I quickly discovered that to buy such an item would be more expensive than I thought it was worth.  At least to me...

Having completed my first metal fabrication project with scraps I purchased from a local metal supplier's drop bin, I was up for the challenge of building my own.  I happened to have a couple old lawn tractor tires, so all I needed was to buy the steel and come up with some sort of plan.

The overall goal was to create something simple.  A U-shape piece with some round rod for axles, a long tube that could be hooked to my riding lawn mower and some way to secure the log.  I decided that I needed to include a bit of adjust-ability, so I made sure that I found one tube that would slide inside of another tube.  Being able to slide one tube inside of the other allows me to expand the length for longer logs.

The last element was to be able to secure the log to the arch using a couple lengths of chain.  For that I decided to mount a couple of plates with a series of slots that could hold the links of the chain.  Looking back I could have just as easily purchased a few hooks and welded them in place.  They may have worked a bit better and looked nicer, but I would still have needed to weld on the plates that I did and they seem to be working out well so far.

Be sure to check out the videos that I posted on my log arch and let me know what you think of this project!

New Spoil Board for the CNC

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When I first built   my Gatton CNC (based on his Shoestring CNC), I wasn't sure what type of a top I should use or how to affix it.  The one thing I did know is that I wanted to use t-tracks for clamping and holding my pieces.  I looked online for the best prices I could find on 3 foot long t-tracks and ended up purchasing the Incra brand tracks.  Another CNC Youtuber I watch had a video talking about his spoil board.  He used MDF and glued it down.  I remember him commenting something to the effect of, "when the time comes I simply surface the table and glue another piece of MDF on top."  It sounded good to me at the time and so that's what I did too!  The first time I surfaced my table top is when I realized the error of my ways...  The table that my CNC is built on and the CNC Top are not the same thing.   They cannot be the same size!  You have to take into account the gantry and the locations the cutter has access to.

Fast forward a couple of years to where I had surfaced my table for the last time.  Now came the ultimate delima, how to get this MDF top that was glued down off without totally damaging the CNC table.  First I tried a flat scraper and mallet; hoping to be able to pop all but a thin layer off.  Then I resorted to using the CNC with a trusty V-bit to cut channels all the way through to the top of the plywood base.  I followed that up with chipping away at the pieces using the mallet and flat scraper.  Once I had completed the majority of the table, I was left with that pesky area where the gantry parked and the cutter could not reach.  Out came the scrub plane and finally my old #3 Stanley plane.

Once the old MDF top was gone, I was left with a top that was riddled with "war wounds" as I called them.  I had to break out some wood filler and try to make the table top reasonably flat and smooth.  By this point I already had a plan in my head for what I would be putting in its place.  I'm calling it the best spoilboard ever!  Yeah, I know... but what can I say, I'm partial to my own design.  I started out my design by learning from my mistakes... and I made several.  I'm sure by now you have realized the first mistake was gluing down the spoilboard.  Which meant that this time I would be mounting the spoilboard using screws and threaded inserts.  The second was having a spoilboard that was the same size as my CNC Table.  So this time around I found the overall cutting area of my machine and made my spoilboard to fit that area.  My third was the number of t-tracks I used across the width of my table.  There were simply not enough, which made for some complicated clamping situations and having clamps that were either too short or too long for what I needed.  I decided that I would make my MDF pieces 6" wide by 24" deep and then determined the number of t-tracks based on those figures.

Once the new spoilboard and t-tracks were in place, I broke out my 2 over 2 surfacing bit from Amana tools.  This was one of the first bits I purchased from Toolstoday.com.  I have to say I absolutely love this bit as it makes surfacing the spoilboard go much faster due to its sheer size.  Add to that the cutters are replaceable and able to be rotated 3 times before needing to be replaced.  The last step was to layout a 2" x 2" grid carved using a 30 degree v-bit across the entire spoilboard.  The grid has to be by far one of my favorite parts to the new spoilboard.  There's no guesswork needed to align your project material squarely to the CNC.  Since all of these lines were "drawn" by the machine, you are guaranteed your material will be aligned as long as you line up your piece with the grid.

Be sure to check out my project video on this project as well!

 

Indianapolis 2018 Woodworking Show

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 This year's annual Indianapolis Woodworking Show will be held on February 2 - 4 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.  I plan to be there Friday and Saturday this year!  Be sure to say hi if you happen to see me there!  I'll also have stickers with me to share as well. 

After the show on Saturday a group of local makers are sponsoring a meetup at 7 PM at the Free Spirits Sports Bar on 86th Street.  I plan on being there as well, so if you don't see me at the show come on out and have a drink afterwards so you can hang with harv!

The Free Spirit Sports Bar 
6155 East 86th Street
Indianapolis, IN 47625
(317) 842-0200

Green Woodworking

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Here in the area we are fortunate to have what is considered a living history museum known as Conner Prairie. Not only is it a neat place to visit, but they also offer classes for both youth and adults. I recently attended one such class offered through their Prairie Pursuits series on Green Woodworking. 

The class started out by selecting a log from the pile of available Ash logs. The logs were between 14" - 16" around and roughly 42" long. After everyone had their log, we were instructed to split our log down the center using large steel splitting wedges and a sledge hammer. Once the 2 halves were separated, I selected the half that I wanted to become the seat and the other half was then split into 4 additional pieces.  These pieces would then get taken to the shave horse and turned into rounded legs.  

The process of turning the semi square pieces of my log into round legs had to be the most satisfying part of the overall process.  There is something about using a drawknife on a piece of green wood locked in a shave horse that I find gratifying.  On top of making the legs round, there needed to be a tenon at the end that could then be fit into a 2" hole that would eventually get bored into the underside of the bench.

Once I had the legs ready, but before I created the tenons on the ends... there needed to be 4 holes created using an old T-handled auger bit.  Of course, be that could be done I needed to first remove all of the bark from the bench.  Sure, it wasn't 100% necessary and I'm sure some might prefer the bark on... that's just not the look I was going for, so off came the bark using a hewing axe. 

With the bark off and the holes made in the underside of the bench, I set off to create tenons on the ends of each leg.  Having marked a 2" circle on the end with a pencil I had no problem getting the tenons created using my trusty drawknife.  I made sure to stay outside of my lines so that I could sneak up on the perfect fit.  Remember this is green woodworking and the wood will shrink a bit, so a tight joint is desired.  Even though a tight joint was the goal, there are a couple factors to keep in mind.  First, you 

do not want it so tight that it will cause the seat portion to crack or split.  Second, we are counting on the round mortise to shrink forming a 'death grip' around the tenon, so it doesn't have to be perfect for it to work.  

With the tenons fit to each of the holes, the legs were gently tapped into place with a sledge hammer.  The bench was then flipped over so we could complete the legs.  Using a block of wood and a pencil, a level line was drawn all the way around each of the legs.  A traditional western saw was used to then cut the legs along the lines.  The result was a bench that sat flat on the floor with good contact all the way around each of the legs.  

The final step was to take a scrub plane and flatten the top of the bench only enough to make it pleasant to sit upon.  I don't know about you, but I absolutely enjoy taking 'nothing' and turning it into something.  This green woodworking class really showed me how enjoyable it can be to work with some of these old hand tools.  It just so happens that I have a few ash logs at my house that are begging me to turn them into something!  Stay tuned as a shave horse is on my list of projects yet to come on Hangin with Harv.

Good coaches are hard to find and difficult to part with

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A friend of the family approached me regarding their need for a special gift for a coach who was retiring. Instead of just purchasing something online, they wanted something from a local craftsperson. I was honored that they chose me for this task. After kicking around some ideas, I set about working within Vcarve Pro on my designs. Generating renderings of the finished product has to be one of the best features of this tool. It makes the job of gaining the customer’s approval a snap.

The base of the plaque was going to be in the shape of a shamrock given the school’s nickname is that of a shamrock. The wording was provided to me by the client. The swimmer and other details were ones I added for some additional flair. I think it came out well in the end… but I must admit, I did take 2 versions of these signs all the way to completion. In the end they both looked good, but I let the customer decide which one they preferred.

A gift for a deserving Scoutmaster

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As my son and his friends were nearing the end of their scouting journey, the mothers of the 3 boys got together to plan their Eagle Scout celebration.  Having started out together in Cub Scouts and going all of the way through to Boy Scouts together and earning their rank of Eagle Scout within a month of one another ( 2 in August and 1 in September), the group felt it was only fitting that they celebrate this prestigious achievement together as well.

I will never forget one of the first things the Scoutmaster said to us parents.  "My goal as Scoutmaster is to try and get each boy to the rank of Eagle Scout before the 3 W's hit them."  Of course we were all asking ourselves... so what are these 3 W's?  He proceeded to clarify that the W's stood for Women, Wheels and Work.  It was definitely a lot of work for the boys... pardon me... young men... to take on in only 4 years, but it would not have been possible without the efforts of the parents and the leadership of the Scoutmaster.

With that I set out to create an award that the boys could present to their Scoutmaster that summed up just how import of a role he plays in helping to shape boys into young men.  As we are in the great state of Indiana, the hoosier state, I began with our state as my canvas.  From there an appropriate quote was found and modified to fit the situation at hand.  The name of the Scoutmaster, the troop number and the 3 Eagles were placed next.  Feeling I needed to add a bit more of a scout motif, I pulled in a previously vectored image of the Boy Scout emblem and added a pair to balance things out.  I then topped it off with some black paint to pull out the details,  6 coats of Formby's Tung Oil and a custom easel style stand.

I think it goes without saying that the Scoutmaster was extremely grateful and a bit choked up by the gesture.  I felt simply blessed to have been able to be a part of their celebration.