Wood Zealot’s Workshop Has Moved…

October 9, 2009 Leave a comment


I’ve moved this site from wordpress.com (www.woodzealot.wordpress.com) to a hosted site (www.woodzealot.com). You may need to resubscribe at the new  URL to continue to receive posts delivered to your RSS reader. And yes, I do realize that there’s been an appearance of a certain dearth of posts lately. But ummm, I actually wrote 42 posts…. ehhhh, yeah… but my groundhog ate them (ohhh Mittens, you adorable, little, post-eating rascal)… please don’t hold the actions of one mischievous creature against me. Just come over to the new site and I’ll make it up to you. I’m on me knees here people (only because it allows me to see Mittens coming sooner… I’m not ready to beg… unless it would make a difference of course).

Categories: Uncategorized

Seeing the forest from the trees… in my dining room.

August 3, 2009 6 comments

Tomorrow an appraiser will be visiting and assessing my home for a refinance. It seems that someone has run up some serious credit card debt, possibly related to tool purchases, and needs to consolidate. Sounds pretty standard right?

Well… ummmm… I’m freaking out a bit as I just took a visual survey of my home and I can envision an appraiser torpedoing the deal if they were to lack the creative vision necessary to see past how I’ve decorated the spaces. I imagine an appraiser is accustomed to seeing a dining room with perhaps a dining room table. Mine looks like this (these pics show things in a messy state… the notice on the appraisal was short leaving me little time to get organized):

Curly Maple for dinner?

Lumber buffet.

I must say that downdraft tables have long been overlooked in the dining room. Tired of having to pick up stray chips, pretzels, and cheerios from your dining table? What about trying to round up all those elusive crumbs? These nuisances instantly go away with one touch of a “start” button.

Going with the workbench motif

Going with the workbench motif

And yes, those are horse stall mats on the floor.

I’m guessing an appraiser is also unaccustomed to seeing a kitchen like this:


My spice rack. "A Dash of Stanley No. 3 sole rust makes any dish pop."


Requisite lathe for turning potatoes into fries (I actually saw that on a DVD once).

Even the living room is more like an office with a desk and light table in the middle of the room. It’s also where I store a post drill press (intended as a functional tool for the garage one day… the gears run like butta).


A living room? I probably should tidy up before taking pics, huh.


Standard living room accessory

If at any point I feel like the appraiser isn’t going to look past the current design of my home I’ll be prepared to remove him from the picture assuming the appraisal company will just send another one? Or maybe I should splatter red paint along the walls of one bedroom and just explain that “this is where I take people that prevent me from getting what I want”.

An observation that I made while writing this post it that I’m down to having exactly one chair in my entire home. Playing musical chairs when friends come over is going to end rather abruptly.

*** update: As is the norm for me, I didn’t get to publish this until a few days later. So, I can also report that the appraiser arrived and upon walking into my “dining room” exclaimed “Wow! I love this place!” and repeated that in mantra-like fashion until he left…  so I may have lucked out and am encouraged that things may go forward. My nerves are much less frayed. ***

A quick thank you…

July 17, 2009 11 comments

Some days nice things just happen (and as we know, the other 363 days what’s mostly happening is something that only a dung farmer can appreciate) and I had one of those days recently as I noticed that the kind people over at Rockler had blogrolled me. Thank you Kim for this brief lapse in judgment!

In all honesty, as each day passes, I’m just proud that the references to me out there on the web are not for something embarrassing, such as a youtube video of me being caught riding a pony completely drunk wearing only a diaper (If I wasn’t clear there, I’m the one wearing the diaper… the pony is completely drunk).

I will strive to post more on topic about woodworking. In general though, I’m just trying to have a good time here… and for me a good time is writing a post that others find amusing, then a little disturbing, and ultimately nauseating. That is the cycle of life for my standard post.

Now time to head off for the weekend and celebrate with some beverages and Rhonda (Rhonda’s my pony). Wooohoooo!

Rhonda getting ready to party

Rhonda getting ready to party

Man versus groundhog

July 9, 2009 5 comments

Mittons forraging

I was at the bench today and looked out my backyard window and saw this little guy foraging around. “Mittens”, as I like to call him, is a groundhog that lives in the bank of a stream at the end of my property. It’s hard to ever get a good look at him because, as rotund as he is, he usually skitters away before I can get anywhere nearby. But like many animals, he’s apparently susceptible to predators behind glass which is where I took photos of him.

Now that I think about it, I did have a previous, odd encounter with Mittens a few years ago. I was detailing my now estranged Mustang, “Sally”, and all of the sudden I see this huge mass of an over-sized, rat-like creature blazing towards me. I jumped back about 5 feet and yelled for a particular matriarchal family member as the rush of life and death encounter with nature consumed me.

After calming down and changing my pants (people who know me, know I have a tendency to piddle during such events) I get on all fours and look under to see it’s just Mittens chilling under my car. I had never seen him in front of my home so I guess he got a little lost and as it was an extremely hot summer day he was probably just ducking for cover and catching his breath. So I resume detailing the car assuming he will leave at some point.

Not the case… as I finished up, I got back on all fours (my standard workplace position) and tried to talk him out… he went with the “if I don’t move, he can’t see me” tactic and continued to lay there, motionless. I started nicely with “hey, little buddy, time to go”, then shouting “boo!” and lastly, in desperation, tried your momma insults such as “your momma is so ugly everyone thinks she’s a possum”. Not even an acknowledgment of my existence (Mittens win).

A Hot Mittons is an unhappy Mittons

A Hot Mittens is an unhappy Mittens

Needing to move my car and having little desire to get his innards all gummed up in there, I switch to plan B and try to poke him with a stick. It got him to move, but he would just continually move out of poking distance (Mittens win). Time for plan C, I get in the car and lay on the horn like there’s no tomorrow. Amazingly, no signs of retreat or surrender by the groundhog, just a few cross-eyed glances by passers-by as they just see the unstable individual honking at his garage door (Mittens win).

A disinterested Mittons

A disinterested Mittens

Finally with plan D there is success. I grabbed pepper spray and a stun gun…. kidding PETA, I just squirted him with a hose and he ran away defeated by the more intelligent species… or he ran away thinking “it took that idiot till plan D to figure out that I just wanted to be hosed down to cool off” (I win?).

Coy Mittons

Coy Mittens

Why is common wildlife so amazing to me? Well, I live in NJ (exit 3, so you don’t have to ask). While NJ is nicknamed “the Garden State”, as decreed by our license plates, the only thing we seem to be growing anymore is condos. In my backyard is one of the remaining 56 49 (I originally wrote this a couple months ago) trees in the state. So when I see some wildlife in my backyard, it always intrigues me…. along with the natural curiosity if I could capture and kill it for sustenance in a survival situation.

Mittons being Mittons

Mittens being Mittens

Making a .001 clearance insert

June 28, 2009 13 comments
Padouk Insert

Padouk Insert

Tired of closing my eyes as I trim boards, fearful of the offcut falling between the blade and the stock insert and being launch back at me,  I decided to make one of these high-falootin gizmos called a zero clearance insert. These inserts are a panacea… they protect you from the aforementioned offcut falling between insert and blade and also improve cut quality by backing the material, reducing tear-out. Beyond that, they are known to get rid of warts and make you more virile. Ehhh maybe not all of that, but we live in age of over-hype and unsubstantiation so I’ll ask you kindly to not question my claims.

I have a bit of a history with zero-clearance inserts or ZCI’s as we call them in the biz ( the “as we call them in the biz” is there simply to annoy). You see,  I’ve previously mauled an HDPE,  which is High Density Polyethylene aka “space plastic”, version. Ideally you’re able to just stick a blank insert in throat, clamp a sacrificial board over it, and raise the blade to cut the kerf. No such luck with my Craftsman 22124 (Steel City clone) as the blade sits to high and prevents the insert from sitting flush for the operation. So I aligned my fence with the throat and pushed the blank insert over the blade to create the kerf in the right spot. It seemed to work but when I installed the new ZCI it just bound up my blade and made the belt whine like a Guantanamo detainee (What?? Too soon? I don’t condone torture, I just make fun of it so we can all heal… and by “all” I mean those of us that weren’t tortured of course… I’m guessing those guys are scarred for life). I tried to make the insert work but I ended up just making a mess of things… so I just declared “mission accomplished” and walked away.

Recently I got the nerve to try it again. Pretty much forgetting my first experience, I went ahead and repeated most of my mistakes… and yes, I interrogated the hell out of that blade and belt again. This time I made the insert out of some padouk, a rather dense and stable hardwood. The stable part is the important word there… a zero clearance insert needs to not move… especially if it wants to expand and become a negative clearance insert, or NCI as we call it here in the biz. Actually, I would think “zero” clearance insert is a bit of a misnomer as well, as it would imply that that the entire insert is always in contact with the blade.

We should probably be calling these things .001 clearance inserts or something, as presumably one tooth is going to be set fractionally further out than all other teeth and/or slight variations in blade path as the arbor is raised enlarge the kerf, etc. This strikes me as potentially being on the anal side of things so I will not mount a substantial campaign to do so. Anyways, back to my incompetence. First off I half-assed the making of the insert after bandsawing it to shape… no, wait… I half-assed it well before that by jointing only the top surface since set screws are the mating surface on the bottom to the machine (since it’s hardwood, everything should probably be uniform to ensure that there’s no impetus for that sucker to move).

After bandsawing I doubled-down on my half-assedness (achieving overall full-assedness) and brought it to finally shape with a spindle sander instead of using a router with a bearing to follow the exact shape of the stock insert. I guess I just wanted to see how well I could do it freehand and frankly I just like playing with the spindle sander as it’s just one of those tools you can get into a zone on…. especially with that woooo-waaaa, woooo-waaa sound that I find so soothing (yes, I just dropped some onomatopoeia on ya… and how come that sounds dirty?). I’m half tempted to replace my white noise machine in my bedroom with this sander.

This is where I cut the kerf in exactly the same way as I did previously. They say it’s a sign of intelligence to repeat things that don’t work with the expectation of a different outcome (still waiting for my invite Mensa… hint, hint). My table saw was kind of enough to make sure I got the message this time by tossing the insert back at me… I think I even heard it say “No soup for you!” at the same moment. I didn’t get the reference but was still offended. I finally grew a brain cell and carpet taped the new insert to the top of stock insert, clamped a board on top and proceeded to raise and lower the blade 418 times. The insert no longer grabs the blade.

Lastly I replaced the stock safety guard/splitter with a slightly more compact home made version.


For the short-term I’m going to use it. Shortly after making that decision, however, I found myself engaged in further debate of the idea. The conversation (with myself) went something like this: You know that you are still a relative newbie to this woodworking thing don’t you? Well, duh, your point being? Do you really want to always have the question in the back of your mind “is this insert going to blow up because I didn’t know what the hell I was doing” every time you use this inherently dangerous tool? No, no… you make a good point… and um… nice pants, by the way. Thanks! I didn’t think you noticed any more. [end scene] So with that I ordered a phenolic insert.

When I started writing this I was concerned that there wasn’t much to say about it and thus removed my tangent muzzle…. begs the question, overcompensate much??? Wait, are you talking to me again? Seriously?? You’re going to take a shot at me after I complimented you on your pants, wtf? [And with that I’ll take this conversation offline as it’s about to get heated up in here]

On a separate note, I think it’s time that I start educating my viewers with short educational videos covering the more complex and nuanced aspects of woodworking.  First up, how to properly chuck a bit:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “How to chuck a drill bit. on Vimeo“, posted with vodpod

I will certainly endouver to continue sharing my woodworking knowledge. Please be patient as I’m sure you can understand that these videos take considerable time to storyboard, shoot and produce. I mean getting the gaffer(me), key grip(me) and best boy(me) on the same page is a nightmare.

Categories: Power Tools

Taking you to the mat!

May 23, 2009 1 comment
Semi-close up of mat

Semi-close up of mat

I saw that the good people over at Popular Woodworking took my suggestion to give horse stall mats a try to battle hard-floor fatigue. I think these mats are one of the best secrets out there. I became aware of these back in the day when lifting was the current obsession (there are two laws that govern my life… one, I’m always obsessed with something and two, I will research the subject of that obsession to death). So, deep down in the lifting forums people talked of actually getting gym flooring thicker than a 1/4 inch and costing less than a million dollars a square foot as is the case in any sporting goods store. The stall mats, at 3/4″ thickness, are so far superior in both quality and value it’s not even funny.

You’ll most likely find these mats in tractor/farm supply stores. Expect to call around a bit as these stores may not have an online storefront.  I purchased mine in 2006 for $40/mat from a local Agway. The store owner had a wry smile as she looked me up and down and said “you don’t have horses do you.” I was impressed by her profiling ability and wondered if she had previously served in law enforcement.

I guess I was perhaps a bit luckier than the Popular Woodworking folks as the mats supplied at my Agway were of the non-stinky variety. While all of these mats come from recycled tires, apparently the manufacturing processes vary… some involve adding sulfer while others do not as noted here in the faq of this stall mat manufacter. I have mine inside my home and no aroma issues to mention. So this may be the one thing to be mindful of if you look to purchase.

Getting these mats to their final destination from the store will undoubtedly rank as my greatest achievement in life. My spacious Neon could not accommodate the mats in the flat position so I had to roll them up which is not something they like to do naturally. I expected to have to make two trips but with some manipulation I was able to get all 4 in the car. My car turned into a true low rider with the extra weight.

When I got home I carried all 4 up a flight of stairs to the gym. A hundred pounds and much more awkward than a dead body, each mat was a real test of determination. I then cut them to fit the room. Started with a box cutter and found that a linoleum knife did the best job. You can get one 4’x6′ mat and cut it into pieces for several stationary woodworking machines.

The mats have since been repurposed to my woodworking shop as I sold my power rack which I believe was defective as the weights rarely moved themselves while I watched TV. Using these mats has definitely reduced fatigue and joint discomfort that I used to experience during longer hours on the feet and thus have made woodworking more enjoyable. No more aching feet, knees, and back for me! You don’t have to take my word for it… it seems to be working out for Chris Schwarz and that means go buy it in my book!

Categories: Buying Tools, Deals

Warning: Attractive minds may cause harm

May 20, 2009 3 comments

I had a brain MRI recently and while flipping through the pre-MRI questionnaire I had to pause when one of the questions was “do you grind metals?”

Like anyone else, on occasion I’ll grind on some metal if I’ve had one drink too many… especially if it’s particularly shiny or in the form of dancing robots (as in the video below). But nothing out of the ordinary and I wondered how this was even relevant in the first place?

On second thought I realized that they most likely meant abrasively removing metal which of course I do all the time on the grinding wheel and even most recently sharpening carving tools on a belt sander.

Wanting to get the MRI done, my eyes dart left and right, and my mind thinks “nobody knows… I can do this”. Thinking it through a little further, my brain does me the favor of envisioning my head inside a massive electromagnet with metal floating in my veins and what the resulting experience may be like.

So without further hesitation I do what I have to do and quickly grab the nurse… she’s offended… I figured what did I have to lose? My metal-laden melon is about to explode so I might as well get a cheap thrill first (plus, in all the educational videos I’ve ever watched the nurse always seems receptive). Anyways, it turns out I can still do the MRI if a head x-ray called “orbits” comes up clean which it does so I’m green-lighted.

Since I’m claustrophobic my anxiety level was already on the high side as I know my head is going to be strapped down and my body inserted into a tiny canal (I almost made a phallic analogy here but I realized I would represent the huge penis in it). The technician gave me some blinders to wear which really helped… have to say though, after being harnessed in and blinders put on I was waiting for someone to feed me an apple out of the palm of their hand as I felt like a horse being broken. I just went with it and whinnied whenever I felt nervous, which is to say every moment.

While inside the machine, I wondered how large a metal particle needs to be in order to be spotted on the orbits x-ray? I mean I use 15 micron silicon carbide belts on the sander which make super fine metal dust. Are particles smaller than the resolution of the orbits scan not going to be pulled through vein walls and into my virginal gray matter? In theory, my heart was beating during the MRI so couldn’t have some of these particles decided to take the road trip from the lungs to the brain during the scan?? I guess getting answers to these questions would have been prudent before doing the MRI.

Trust is both a wonderful and dangerous thing. I guess there was no damage done, although I have noticed that I now tend to face polar north when standing idly.

In the end, I survived the MRI and the results come back negative which was rather deflating… I was so hopeful that they would finally confirm the existence of a brain after all these years. Oh well, time to go oil my joints (a reference to the brainless Tin Man, not a euphemism for self-pleasure (this time)).

Note:  certain artisitic freedoms were taken in this post and it should be noted that no robots or nurses were actually inappropriately grabbed or grinded upon.


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