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I was using an unnamed HVLP sprayer to finish up a bookcase, and noticed a lot of debris was in the finish. There was one place where I had good light and, looking closely, could actually see debris being deposited WITH the finish! It turns out the air filter under the HVL P was not only very dirty, but was pulling in dirt from the floor. Even after cleaning the filter and sweeping the floor under the unit, it was still depositing junk with the finish.

The filter set up was obviously very cheaply designed. There was no sealing around it and the filter was thin and very porous.

I can see me buying a better HVLP system in the future, and one of the things I will check for is the air intake and filtration.

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Router bits, 1/4″ or 1/2″ shanks?

A  few years ago when I was really getting serious about woodworking and building out my shop, I was mystified about router bits. Not only do they come in many different profiles, lengths, and radiuses, but most were available in 1/4″ and 1/2″ shank diameters.

After using routers and just recently completing a large router project for a church display, I’ve come to the realization that my earlier predisposition to 1/2″ shank bits was totally unfounded.

1/4″ shank bits do not vibrate, and cut just as well as half inch bits. Plus the fact that my compact router, which only has a 1/4″ capability can be used with all these bits.

1/2″ shank bits do have their place. Primarily in routing large dimension boards and production work. But for my shop, which is not a full-time endeavor, that is not a consideration.

Don’t get me wrong, I do have a number of 1/2″ shank bits which I bought early on. I do not regret those purchases because my main router, a Porter Cable 890 and my router table both have 1/2″ shank capability. Plus, some profiles are only available with 1/2″ shanks.

Another advantage of standardizing on a single shank dimension, is that you often are cutting several profiles with the same router and you are constantly switching bits, as in the project below. Changing collets each time is a real pain, and I refuse to do that.

image Column has 3 different profiles cut with 3 different bits.

Now I see why many woodworkers have multiple routers, which allows you to have a router available for each set up. I plan to do that.

In conclusion, now when I go looking for a router bit I look for 1/4″ shank bits first, and 1/2″ shank bits second. Opposite of what I used to do.

I was wrong, and happy about it.

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Jessem Clear-Cut TS Stock Guides

This was a question mark when I bought it over at Woodcraft. I had a large sheet goods job coming up and I thought it would be a help in keeping the ply against the fence. The instructions are good but in many places they juxtapose front and back in the instructions and the diagrams contradict each other. Thankfully it is dead simple to install and it makes no difference in which direction the guide holes face, front or back. Here’s a few pics of the install.   The initial test was very positive and it delivered as promised. I’ve now used it for several months and it has become part of my routine for ripping long stock, and cutting plywood. The one way needle bearings have zero slop. On a couple of occasions the ply did come off the fence, binding the blade enough to trip the breaker, but the needle bearings held the ply in place. I’ve never tripped the breaker before on my 3hp SawStop. Its very easy to setup and use. Just lay the piece you’re about to cut next to the guide. Loosen the big knurled knob and set the flat bottom on the board. Tighten the knob and your done. It accommodates any width board or ply. Glad I discovered this, and will consider Jess-Ems other work holding tools. Positives: Very well engineered and made from quality aluminum and steel, and very well finished. Very easy to install, adjust, and use. One way needle bearings have zero play. Angled nylon rollers pull material to fence quickly without slippage. Increases safety of cutting plywood sheets exponentially, especially when doing so by yourself. An added bonus is that you can remove it and use it on a router table, but I don’t ever see me doing that. Negatives: This is a very well thought out tool, so there are not many. It’s not good for narrow cuts less than a few inches. I’ve now lost the top of fence storage that I had before. You have to drill holes in your fence to install it. When wheels are in the retracted position on top of the fence, they are too close to the knurled knob making it more difficult to easily grab and loosen. Instructions can be confusing. The negatives are REALLY nitpicking. I’d buy this again in a heartbeat.

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Noden Adjust-A-Bench

This is my almost ultimate assembly table. It's a Noden Adjust-A-Bench. I could NOT live without this. Why? Because it is BIG, 4' x 8' with plenty of room for everything you need and within arms reach. It's built from 2 sheets of 3/4This is my almost ultimate assembly table. It adjusts height wise from below my waist to chest height (I’m 5’11”) via a Noden Adjust-A-Bench mechanism. I could NOT live without this. Why? Because not only is it height adjustable, it’s a BIG, 4′ x 8′ with plenty of room for everything you need and within arms reach. It’s built from 2 sheets of 3/4″ ply screwed to a 2×6 frame, and it is nearly dead flat. The Noden Adjust-A-Bench legs are the better part of $500 with shipping and is built from VERY heavy gauge steel, and it’s worth every penny. If you’re worrying about wobble, there is very little, especially at the lower or mid height settings (there are about 12 height settings). You can plane on it, pound on it, put heavy lumber on it, cover it with builder’s paper and use it for finishing, etc. I use it a LOT for assembly. I built my own stretchers and added levelers and casters to save some money, but you can buy them from Noden if you like. Here’s some more photos:

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Sjöbergs Traditional Holdfast

Here’s my brand new holdfasts for my Sjöberg workbench with 1″ dog holes. It’s almost impossible to find any holdfasts that work, and I didn’t want to drill 3/4″ holes, nor convert the 1″ holes  to 3/4″ (yes, I was actually considering that). Here’s a short video with all the info…

Available from…

Black Bear Forge

P.O. Box 4

Beulah, CO  81023

John Switzer – Blacksmith  303-589-1767


Black Bear Forge

P.O. Box 4

Beulah, CO  81023

John Switzer – Blacksmith


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Pinnacle 151 1/2 Radius Spokeshave

Kunz #53 spokeshave

I had an old Kunz spokeshave that I recently tried to tuneup. I soon realized it was useless because there were no adjustment screws for the blade, and the blade was very thin. I could get a new blade but there would still be no easy adjustment without adjustment screws. Sorry, to the trash!

So I decided to take a look at what they had over at Woodcraft. After looking at the Wood River, Kunz, and Pinnacle spokeshaves, I decided on the Pinnacle #151 1/2 Radius spokeshave. It’s made of brushed 304 stainless steel, weighs just over 1 pound, and has all the adjustments that I felt I needed. It is, in my opinion, a thing of beauty…

Pinnacle spokeshave bottom
Pinnacle spokeshave top

While there, I went on their computer to the Lee Valley website to check out the Veritas spokeshaves. The only difference I could see is the Veritas ships with 2 shims that are placed between the blade and bed to adjust the size of the mouth. While they were about $10 less than the Pinnacle, about $94, I didn’t see a significant benefit of an adjustable mouth since I needed the spokeshave primarily for roughing out inside curves.

I later learned that Lie-Nielson spokeshaves have a cast bronze body, no shims, and no adjustment screws. Nothing wrong with that but I wanted adjustments screws. I don’t see Lie-Nielson bench planes without an adjustment screw, their spokeshaves should have them too.

After talking with some of the staff at Woodcraft, I felt the decision to get the Pinnacle made sense for me. But the Veritas did have pretty bubinga handles. 🙂 It also had an option for PM-V11 blades. 🙁

I highly recommend testing tools, if possible, before you decide to purchase them. Most tools are precision instruments, but they’re made by machines that are invariably set up and run by men, and to keep costs down and profits up, the quality control can be lacking. At least that’s what I’ve found in my tool buying adventures.

In the case of this Pinnacle spokeshave, Woodcraft had 3 in stock. The one on demo worked perfectly, and I assumed the new ones on the shelf would follow suit. Wrong! I took one, assembled it, and found out that neither of the adjustment screws would freewheel when the blade was locked down, something that I felt was incredibly important when adjusting the blade.

Here’s why, if you don’t know. With the blade locked down, you should be able to spin the adjustment screws forward or backward maybe a half turn until they stop, then you loosen the cap iron, and make the adjustment. If you’re making a fine blade adjustment that is the ONLY way to do it, otherwise you have no idea where the adjustment screw is in relation to it engaging the blade.

So I tested the second one, and only one of the adjustment screws freewheeled. So I tried the third one and both of those adjustment screws would not spin, just like the first one. Apparently either the boss on the adjustment screws were machined too large, or the body was tapped incorrectly. I suspect the jig they used to hold the body to tap the holes was not setup precisely, causing the threads to be off center. See, it’s quality control!

Since the demo Pinnacle spokeshave worked perfectly, meaning both adjustment screws freewheeled when the cap iron was tightened, I bought that one. No demo discount, though I did ask, but the demo did not have a scratch on it.

Pinnacle is owned by Woodcraft and is their upscale house brand. I called Woodcraft tech support and mentioned the issue and they were appreciative, saying they don’t find out about these problems until someone like me reports them. By the way, the body was cast and machined in China, the blade was manufactured in Canada.

When I got home I flattened the back, took about 45 minutes (A2 steel is tough), and put a nice edge on it with a 2 degree microbevel to bring it to 47 degrees. The A2 steel should hold an edge well, and it looks really nice hanging next to my Veritas router plane and cabinet scraper. Can’t win ’em all Lee Valley!

Veritas large router plane, cabinet scraper, and Pinnacle spokeshave.
Veritas large router plane, cabinet scraper, and Pinnacle spokeshave.
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DW735 conversion to Byrd Shelix head

What an amazing difference! I’ve read that if you only have one spiral cutterhead in the shop, that you should put it in your planer. After all, don’t you plane to final thickness?

Well, I finally installed the Shelix head after buying it over 6 months ago. It took about 4 hours, including several interruptions from watching and playing with my twin granddaughters. I took a few photos, but their instructions that I downloaded from their website were very clear for someone familiar with snap ring pliers and chain tensioners. Just go slow and keep track of the order you take off parts. Here’s a pic of it installed.

Before I had to wear earplugs and could only take .01-.02″ off 6″ red oak without tripping the breaker. Now I can easily take .04-.06″ without bogging down at all and there’s no need for earplugs. And the finish is glass smooth. Money well spent.

With these Shelix heads and the Wixey electronic digital readout, it’s the perfect setup for a home shop!


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DMT Extra Extra Fine Dia-Sharp Diamond Stone

Just picked this up at my local Woodcraft. For about the same price as a Norton 4000/8000, it has a dual personality in that it is more aggressive than a 4000 stone, yet gives an equivalent edge to the 8000 Norton.

I must say that it does not give the polish that an 8000 Norton stone does, but diamond stones have to be broken in for a while. Since this is my first diamond stone, I’m not sure how long that will take, and may end up using the rest of my Norton 8000, or a strop, until that time comes.

One thing I really like, other than that it never needs to be flattened, is that I can use it wet or dry. Wet seems better as its really abrasive, so the water is a good lubricant. I may try a bit of soap in my spray bottle though.

I’m also looking forward to sharpening my carving chisels without worrying about wearing grooves in my water stones. Of the couple I’ve sharpened so far it works great.

I plan on a sharpening day in the shop soon. Something I’ve never done before because of the amount of time it would take to sharpen every edge in my shop. Hopefully that will help break in my new sharpening friend!

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Lee Valley Veritas cabinet scraper

Hey, never had one of these before. Wow, is it handy! This is the Lee Valley Veritas cabinet scraper. It is sharpened differently than a chisel or plane blade, but it’s really easy. Plus it has two burrs, once you go thru one, you have another ready to go.

Here’s a few pics and it being used on zebrawood for a morning bar top. Gets rid of any tearout very nicely and leaves the surface ready for a card scraper or sandpaper. I like it much better for flat surfaces because the bottom registers flat, as opposed to a card scraper. I actually like it better than my smoother because it’s fast.

It’s important to follow the instructions carefully, as they get you off to a great start in understand the sharpening process. Here’s a link to a great video on Fine Woodworking by Phillip C. Lowe about the use of cabinet scrapers, scraper planes, and hand scrapers.

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iVac Blast gate review

You’ll never know how valuable and time saving this new product is until you actually use it. Well, you don’t actually “use” it because it’s totally automatic! Once set up and getting familiar with the options, I couldn’t be happier. That’s because I no longer have to open blast gates when I go to a piece of power equipment, and I no longer have to remember to close a blast gate when I’m done. Here’s what the blast gate looks like hooked up to my planer.

Blast gate
iVac Pro blast gate (Open and Close labels are mine)

I’m a big fan of all the iVac accessories. I started with the iVac switches a couple of years ago that automatically turned on and off my Rikon 1hp dust collector. Below is one of the original switches, which has been relegated to my shop vac that’s hooked up to my router table and chop saw with 2.5″ lines and manual blast gates. iVac doesn’t have blast gates for 2.5″ yet but if they did I’d get them.

iVac Switch Tool 110v
iVac Switch for 110v router table and chop saw.

More recently iVac came out with the Pro line which accommodates the blast gate shown above. After having difficulty sourcing them, I found them on the Lee Valley website at an introductory price. It was between $200-300 for a two blast gate setup if I remember correctly. Nowadays they are available most everywhere, and sometimes on sale. You simply plug both the dust collector and machine power cords into the switch, and viola, when you turn on the table saw, on comes the dust collector and the gate opens.

iVac Pro switch
iVac Pro Switch for dust collector

When the table saw is turned off the dust collector continues to run and shuts off after the lines are cleared, then the blast gate closes. The optional blast gates work in sync with the equipment and the dust collector.

What a time saver, and dust saver, and I can focus on woodworking instead of having to deal with turning on and off a dust collector and opening and closing blast gates! For a small shop like mine this is a dream, and for a larger shop it accommodates up to 4 iVac Pro systems, each capable of handling up to 8 tools.

Below are 2 iVac Pro 220v Tools that control the dust collector and blast gates for my Grizzly GO490X 8″ jointer and Saw Stop table saw.

iVac Pro Tool 220v
iVac Pro 220v Tools

There are numerous ways to customize the entire system to your needs, from setting the delays for the dust collector and gate closure, to even making sure that one gate is always open when your dust collector is on. There is a remote switch, and the customer service has been very good.

The only issues I had are the plugs on the 220v switches and tools had to be replaced to fit the 220v outlets I had installed in my shop. In order for iVac to get UL/CSA approval they had  to use NEMA 6-20 plugs and receptacles. A quick trip to Home Depot fixed that and I replaced the plugs with plugs compatible to my outlets. Also, for a short period of time I had issues with the blast gate not staying open during the entire time a Tool was on. I was told there can be interference in the wireless signals from the various components with wireless phones, etc. This happened only a couple of times many months ago but I’ve had no problems since.

iVac was willing to swap out the Tool for the dust collector which was out of warranty for a very reasonable price but the problem resolved on it’s own and has not happened since. Another small annoyance is that you have to run 120v power to the blast gates via a small gauge transformer wire which is easy to snag and pull out from the blast gate. But the signals between the Tools, Switches, and blast gates are wireless digital rf.

Jump in with both feet, and get both the iVac Pro system and blast gates, you won’t regret it.