Olly Writes

Woodwork, writing, walks, DIY and more!

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Strangely, I found this ply much easier to cut when you're following the 'grain' direction.

On Wednesday afternoon, I went to my local timber merchant (Staddons) to pick up a sheet of plywood for some ‘workshop furniture’. I was hoping to save some money and get a sheet of 18mm shuttering ply – it’s not the best quality, I’ll grant you. But, it’s generally fine for storage in the workshop. Now, I was hoping they’d be able to cut this sheet down for me so I could get it in my car. Unfortunately, I discovered that they will not cut shuttering ply on their saws – something to do with the glues and resins between the laminations ruining their saws [I’m sure she meant ‘blades‘!]. Not only that but, this, being the cheapest of all plywoods, is rarely ever even close to being flat, which could again cause problems on the saw. So, instead, I had to pay an £10 (approximately) for a sheet of 18mm exterior-grade. To be fair, she did give me a small discount as a means of compensation (thanks again, Avril!).

Back at my workshop, I was faced with the ever perennial problem of how I was going to cut these sheets down to size. In the past, I’ve been happy enough to do this on the drive way with a hand-held circular saw and ‘saw board‘. It was raining outside and, having recently sold my 190mm Makita saw, my only other option was the 235mm Hitachi, which I find a bit bulky for anything other than solid timber. Not only that but, I only have a coarse 20t blade, which would probably leave breakout on the face veneers.

While this method gives a good finish, a table saw would save so much time...

Instead, I decided that I would cut everything by hand and then clean the edges up with a router. This works well and there are a couple of neat tricks to master but, ultimately, it’s a slow and painful process to go – perhaps even more so than using a skil saw – when all you really want to do is bash a couple of simple cabinets together in half a day!

This has bought me to an awkward time within my woodworking world… A time where I may have to admit that I was wrong to try and ‘make do‘ without a table saw… I still believe a bandsaw is perfectly suited to rough cutting sawn timber, when space is an issue. However, I feel that I should be working far more efficiently with sheet materials, which is why I’m now viewing the table saw as a necessity in my workshop!!

You can use a bearing-guided cutter to create two identical sheets.

Using a bearing-guided cutter, you can create identical panels.

It’s probably got something to do with the fact that I am regularly spoiled by the large panel saw we have at college (and, yes, there is a part of me that ‘needs’ a wide belt sander as well!!). Still, I cannot think of a better way to accurately dimension plywood and MDF, once you’ve downsized them in to more manageable sections.

Do I really have the space for a table saw?

Rebating the edges for a stronger construction.

Well, I’ve never really believed it before. But, with the rate at which space within my workshop almost seems to be growing[yes, I must remember to do that Workshop Tour…], I believe the idea will become conceivable, once I’ve added a storage space in the roof above. This would spell the end of days for my mitre saw station. Where previously, I was looking to sell my Bosch and replace it with a “more accurate” model, I’m now contemplating the idea of replacing that machine altogether. For, as much as I value the SCMS for roughly dimension large section timbers to length, a medium-sized table saw would offer me so much more…

With my wallet securely tightened at the minute, this current dream is a long way from coming in to fruition. Back to the plywood cabinets…

Castors, bolted to scraps of MDF which are then screwed to the ply.

It’s hardly necessary in most circumstances but, I often like to rebate the edges of these kind of carcases. It does add to the strength of the construction (even without glue) and it also makes it easier to line things up for assembly. I used carcase screws here which are ideal for this job and require a pilot hole that is 4mm in diameter!  Because of all this routing, my workshop floor is covered in a carpet of fine saw dust – don’t be too surprised if a new tool purchase should arrive before the end of this week! All the inner faces were sanded to 120g and given a coat of Liberon’s Finishing Oil before assembly. To the extractor stand, I added for castors for manoeuvrability while the main unit is simply bolted on through top.

At last! Somewhere to store those power tools! I'm glad I don't own a taller extractor!!

It came as no surprise to me when I realise that my ADE1200 extractor is now a little more awkward to manoeuvre around the workshop than before, with the weight of the motor high up on a unit that now stands at a high considerably greater than my own! This does make bag-changing less tiring on my knees though and I’ve also found the 2m length of 100mm hose is less inclined to get in my way when I’m on the planer/thicknesser. As for the drawer carcase though, I still intend to lip the front edges with 6mm brown oak, mitred at the corners.

Elsewhere, I got the electrics sorted on my mortiser and, following a Friday-night trip to B&Q (anything to delay the horrendous drive home from college!), I’m fighting back against the threat of infestation and Makita 3612CX router now has much longer fence bars – though, why they couldn’t sort this back at the drawing board, I’ll never know!! It is, for me, the one major flaw in this otherwise excellent router. Makita do seem to have sorted this with their latest model though. They’ve also added an LED light which illuminates the area around the cutter. As smart as I think this idea is though, it’s not enough to tempt me in to another upgrade with several other items already on the bill.

B&Q only had aluminium tubing in 12mm diameter so, this will have to do for now.

I'm hoping to kill off any eggs before they have a chance to hatch. The beetles are long gone. I'll add a couple more coats during the week.

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