Dubuque Bar Clamps vs. Harbor Freight Bar Clamps

I needed two more 48″ clamps on my current project and because it’s just a simple carcass I thought I’d give Harbor Freight’s a try.  I already have some Dubuque clamps so I’m able to compare the two.

Sidewall Thickness Comparison

As you can guess, the Harbor Freight clamps are a lot shittier, just look at the sidewall thicknesses above.  On the HF clamps the whole assembly twists while you’re putting them in place and none of the other components are as well-made.

However for the purposes of this particular project they work just fine.  Once you have them lined up and tightened they can hold a cabinet together just as well as much nicer clamp.  And their light weight makes them really easy to maneuver into place unlike my heavy 48″ Jorgensen Cabinet Masters.

So while I don’t think I’ll buy any more of these they can service lightweight assembly jobs just fine.

Tormek SVD-186 Gouge Jig Review and Comparison to the 185

I just got Tormek’s SVD-186, the newest version of their gouge jig.  Having both the SVD-185 and 186 on hand I was able to compare them and weigh in on if it’s worth the $100 upgrade.

Some highlights:

  • The wider body would nice if you have really wide gouges but unless you’re doing hand-carving with bowl gouges this probably isn’t an issue
  • The fixed clamping bar is appreciated, no more having to hold the spinny brass one in place with your thumb.
  • Shame on Tormek for not using detents on the 185!  They make switching jig settings as easy as you would expect
  • The casting metal is different, it has a textured surface and is heavier.  The new jig weighs 12oz as opposed to the 185’s 7oz weight.

Here’s a video review where you can the two jigs.

But in the end if you already own a 185 I don’t think it’s worth the cost to upgrade.  The 186 is certainly easier to use but $100 could likely be put towards more useful shop upgrades.

4-in-1 CBN Wheel Review

I recently upgraded the wheels on my Rikon slow-speed grinder to a pair of Woodturnerswonders 4-in-1 CBN wheels.  Half of the reason for the purchase was curiosity and the other half was frustration at my Tormek’s constantly glazed-over wheels.

I got a pair of 80/220 wheels and am really happy with them.  They grind cool, leave a great edge, and best of all don’t need any maintenance.

Example 220 grit grind
Example 220 grit grind

Here’s a short video review on the wheels where I talk more in-depth about those positives as well as how I got them trued up to within 1/1000″ side-to-side runout.

Midi Lathe Stand inspired by Alan Lacer Design

A few months ago I made a new stand for my Jet 1221VS based on Alan Lacer’s article in Popular Woodworking.  I liked the design because it had a small footprint, space for sand weight, and solid construction principles like doubled-up plywood and canted legs.  It’s worked out really well for me.  It’s very solid delivering a stable work platform without a lot of bulk.

Some quick facts about it:

  • 29 ½” high
  • The top is 13″ x 38″ and is made from three layers of ¾” MDF

Here she is:

As you can see I didn’t deviate much from the design in the article, but some key points are:

  • I used cross-dowel nuts (13-CD040 from Woodpeckers) instead of copper pipe.  They worked very well.
  • MDF for the top because I had some left over from my old bench
  • Dimensional pine lumber for the cross-members
  • The tool shelf was secured with bolts / cross-dowel nuts instead of wood screws into end grain
  • I added a tailstock caddy
  • The tool shelf is made from pine lumber (two pieces jointed together)

My bench is shorter than the one in the article in order to accommodate the spindle height of my lathe and my elbow height.  This unfortunately squished the shelves closer together which compromised the opening above the tool shelf and also limited me to two sand bags.  I didn’t want the sand shelf to be too close to the floor such that it would hinder cleanup.

So if you are on the hunt for lathe bench designs this is a good one to consider.  I will say that it does require some degree of skill and accuracy to build.  Your 5° angles all need to match one another.  The bolt and cross-dowel holes are tricky to get aligned just right; The cross-member with ugliest dowel holes went to the back on my stand!  If you are using lumber in the build you will need it to be S4S.

JDP-17 Review

I recently upgraded my drill press to Jet’s JPD-17 model and am pretty happy with it so far.  I wanted something with at least 5″ of quill travel and a laser guide and this one fit those specs and my budget.  The woodworking-oriented table is a plus, too.

My drill press works exactly as it ought to.  It was simple to assemble and everything fits together as intended.  The foot is adequately sized and it feels safe free-standing although I do plan on bolting it to the floor at some point.  Operation is smooth and quiet.  The depth stop works well not feeling at all “mushy”.  There is a distinct clunk when you hit bottom.  My only (minor) complaint is that there is a bit of paint overspray on the top surface of the table.

Out of the box the table is pretty darn close to square with the quill in both axes.  One of the lasers was just a tiny bit off, I don’t think that I really needed to adjust it but I did it for fun.

Dave’s Workshop on YouTube did a great overview video of the tool:

About the only interesting fact I can add to the discussion  are some details around the T-slots on the table.  The manual states that they are 1/2″ wide by 5/8″ deep.  This is pretty close to accurate, here are the measured dimensions.

T-slot dimensions


For your fences and other jigs, note that a 5/16″ hex-head bolt fits nicely and won’t turn while a 1/4″ bolt will turn within the slot.  I don’t have any t-slot bolts to try out.

5/16″ hex nut in place

Bowl Turning Tips

While roughing out a bowl I recorded two short videos.  In the first I try to provide some detail into how to do bowl hollowing cuts, and specifically the entry thereof.  When I started this hobby I had a really hard time figuring out the best way to do it despite watching lots of videos and reading books.

In this video I show a marking jig for a set of chuck jaws.  It lets me draw a circle for either the recess or a tenon.

Grizzly G0700 First Look

Update: In the late summer of 2015 Grizzly discontinued the G0700.  However this information is still valid when applied to their other 10″ sliders.

If you google “Grizzly G0700 review” you’ll get a few press releases and the saw’s page on grizzly.com.  Well I took a gamble on it and got one anyway.  I’m happy that I did, it’s well-made and fits into my small basement shop.  The sliding concept appealed to me because the sliding table would seem to replace many of the sleds I see others using on traditional cabinet saws.  We’ll see!  In the meantime it’s worked just fine for me.  I’m upgrading from an old Craftsman contractor saw so a 5HP machine with a fresh blade cuts like a dream.

In the meantime I did a short video showing the details that you can’t see on Grizzly’s website.

I A few things were different from the product page from my saw which was manufactured in January of 2015:

  • Clear blade guard
  • A scoring blade was included, whereas the product description says it doesn’t.
  • Miter gauge is a thick, cast piece of metal instead of a thin stamped piece.  It’s the same setup as seen on the G0623X.
  • The miter fence does not have the end support for long pieces

Here are a few photos I took when I received the saw.  In order to get it down into my basement I had to remove the cast iron  which also afforded me a view of its guts.

Trunion and Belts
Trunion and Belts

The view through the motor cover hole.  No the cabinet does not have a floor.

Dust hose leading to blade shroud, and no floor.
Dust hose leading to blade shroud, and no floor.
Shipping Crate
Shipping Crate

Stir Crazy Turbo Oven Roasting Process

I’ve had success with a very simple, cave-man like approach to roasting coffee with my SCTO setup.  Success to me means that roasts are very predictable and that I enjoy the coffee.  As an aid to other roasters that might be having trouble wit this setup I recorded a roast session.

In it I talk about pre-heating, temperature control (or lack thereof), and the cooling process.

Moving a Power Tool into the Basement

EagleHasLandedSo I recently got a 12″ jointer/planer for my basement shop.  It weighs 500 pounds, 600 shipped.  Getting it down there was tricky but I managed it after some planning and deliberate, slow work.

I used three simple machines to help out: wheels, levers, and incline planes.

Lever: A harbor freight 1-ton shop crane to lift the tool

Wheels: Furniture dollies to move it around

Incline Plane: Sturdy, stable ramps over my basement stairs

I left the tool crated during the entire move because jointers are top-heavy and have small bases as compared to their overall dimensions.  I figured that a large rectangle would be easier to maneuver than a jointer, and also damage would be reduced if I messed up and it tipped over.

Shop Crane

The shop crane was the key to this whole thing because it let me lift the crate.  The legs of the crane do not allow the center of the crate to be moved below the hook so I extended its reach.  I sandwiched two 2×6’s around the arm, using 3/8″ threaded rod through existing holes in the arm.  I used three rods, the first in the hook bolting point, and the second and third in the fixed part of the arm.  To maximize leverage I used the holes on each end of the fixed arm segment.

A test lift
A test lift

Even with its arm 4′ or so beyond its original length it had no problem lifting the 600 pound crate.  As you can see I did have to add counter weights in the form of 60 pound sand tubes.  At the crane’s maximum stock reach its rated at 500 pounds (1/4 ton).  I realized that I’m far exceeding this by having the load so far out, but in my opinion the crane is very over-engineered.  This is a smart choice on their part because it’s involved in a inherently dangerous operation.

For lifting the crate I used two 1200 pound working load ratchet straps.


To move the crate from the garage to the basement door I built a large dolly with 4″ caster wheels.  It worked nicely over the pitted, rough cement on the way there but I probably would have gotten away with regular furniture dollies for this.

Two of the small Harbor Freight dollies did a fine job rolling down the ramp and for moving the crate around the basement.  I simply cinched them onto the belly of the crate with two of those ratchet straps acting like big belts.

HF Dollies
HF Dollies


Using two 2×10’s side-by-side I made ramps over the stairs.  They are supported from the bottom in three places: top, bottom, and in the middle.  The middle support isn’t visible in this photos but I just wedged two vertical boards under there.  I screwed all three supports in place from the top.  If the ramp shifted I didn’t want the supports to roll out from under it.

The cross-piece is attached to the ramp and is wedged against the door frame.  Its job is to prevent the ramp from sliding.

ramp2 ramp1

Moving it Down

I positioned the crate by the door and then used the crane to lift up over the threshold.

Lift over the threshold
Lift over the threshold

Next I used another Harbor Freight product, their 1200 pound winch puller to lower the crate down the ramp.  I anchored it onto the crane, and as you can see I buttressed the crane legs against the house using sand bags as pads.  I made sure to put the anchor rope low on the crane in order to avoid tipping forces.

Crate, Winch Puller, and Anchor
Crate, Winch Puller, and Anchor

From here it was just a slow process of lowering it down the ramp one ratchet notch at a time.  The winch has a really short cable length, 3.6′, so twice I had to take the tension off the winch (again with a ratchet strap), wind the winch back in, and add rope between the crate and winch.

WheelClearance LiftAsAnchorPoint GoingDown2

Crate, Winch Puller, and Anchor
Crate, Winch Puller, and Anchor


The eagle has landed!


Once I got the crane centered on the ramp it went straight down.  However if I do this again I will add short railings to the sides of the ramp just to prevent the dolly wheels from ever slipping off.

So in the end this little project went really well, I was able to safely move a heavy tool down a narrow, awkward space.  I don’t think it would have been doable with just human power because of the small space.