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Watching shows about Alaska makes me realize how much of a wimp I am. Life looks rougher and a bunch colder there than where I live, but I’m fascinated by some of their tools. And the custom-built V8 sawmill I saw on Alaska: The Last Frontier was pretty damn sweet.

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Shopsmith is the Swiss Army Knife of woodworking. They do almost everything you might need for a woodworking project and a friend of mine has wanted one since the 80′s. Recently he got tired of waiting for the cash to get a new one and began searching for a used Mark V. Ebay wasn’t really a help for completed units, but Craigslist listed about 10 of them in the area in various conditions and states of inactivity — so we started shopping.

One that was freshly hauled out of a local garage showed up in the listings, sporting a price tag of $200. With a heavy dose of skepticism we went to check it out. It was quite obvious this machine had seen better days. There was minor rust on the legs and casing and heavy gunk on the tubes — plus the right base was cracked from someone leaving it in drill-press mode for what looks like decades. All of it needed a good going over. Those were the negatives. But the motor sounded great and there was a giant box with all the pieces, connectors, hardware, belt sander, and scroll saw in it.

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A disclaimer up front for this week’s video find: After all the difficulty I’ve been through in the last few years — and the far, far worse crap I’ve seen friends and others go through — I freakin’ hate conspicuous consumption. Seriously; there are FAR better ways to express one’s identity than buying some damn expensive and unnecessary item. So please forgive the absurdity of paying $200k+ for a car that doesn’t functionally do much more than a Malibu.

I chose this video not because of the product these people are producing — but rather because the individuals who produce them and the surprising facts about the way the cars are made really caught my attention. Specifically, Bentley factory staff tells us in the video that woodworking represents the most complex task in building the cars, and therefore is the first task they start when building a car. (Apparently all Bentleys are custom-order, not built on spec.) Despite the assembly-line appearance of the factory and the application of automated tooling whenever possible (note the CNC laser-cutting of veneer, for example), Bentley employs a ton and a half of skilled woodworkers to craft the interiors of their 7,000 cars made each year.

Those look like interesting people. I’d love to meet them.

Have a good weekend, and drop us a line if you get a chance to let us know what you’re doing out in the shop or on the jobsite.

 

We love our random orbit sanders. Like hand-held circular saws, they’re on our essential list of basic home woodworking tools. Now Makita, in service to the never-ending quest to expand cordless lines, offers a battery-powered model. On one hand, this seems pretty impressive, considering the amp draw most sanders produce. But is it worth your cash? And will it stand up to the corded models? We haven’t tried one in person, but we take a close look at the specs and the above video to find out. Read on for our take, and don’t forget to share yours with us (and other Toolmongers) in comments.

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Over the last few years I’ve developed a love for making furniture out of wood. I’ve built almost every kind of furniture one might put in a traditional home, incuding tables. I’m not a pro woodworker and certainly not a master of anything, but I’ve felt for the last few years like I had a good bead on things…until I saw this DB Fletcher automated table.

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Last week IKEA announced that they’ll soon sell furniture featuring an “integrated HDTV.” That’s right: You can now buy a TV stand complete with TV, BluRay player, and stereo for around $950. That’s the 24″ version.

But wait a minute. The local BuyMore offers a (complete with 1080p display) for $170. (I’m not, by the way, recommending this TV. It’s just the first one I came across. I found lots of them in this price range.) Brand-name BluRay players start around $65. And even though the IKEA offering only offers 2.1 sound, you can buy a pretty nice smallish 5.1 system for under $200. I’m not a math genius, but that adds up to around $435. So you’re essentially paying $515 for a crappy melamine-covered MDF cabinet and the loss of stereo component selection.

Maybe it’s just me, but this screams DIY.

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I have a lot of books. No, really. A lot of books. And up until recently they’ve been piled around my house in all sorts of places. Sean and I started building bookcases back closer to when I first moved in, but we ended up getting involved in other things (like starting TM, for example). Between lack of time and lack of funding, I never really got enough built to hold even half of my book stash. So a few weeks back, I decided to go for broke and just slap whatever I had to on the walls to hold up shelves (and books). To that end, I posted here asking TM readers .

Of course, TM readers are way smarter than that.

TM reader David chimed in instead with a suggestion that I build what he called “Hungarian shelves,” complete with a link to an Instructable on the process. Others chimed in on the Hungarian recommendation, so I gave it a look — and I was shocked. What a great idea! Basically, these Hungarian shelves consist of vertical pieces notched to hold notched shelves. The verticals screw to the wall through the notches, then the shelves fit in place with a little help from shims as needed. Result: extremely strong and stable shelves with no visible fasteners. As a bonus, you can easily build them with cheap dimensional lumber and almost no tools. Above you see a pictured of my project, adapted from the Instructable concept.

Yep, that’s a 10′ x 10′ set of 10 shelves that cost me a grand total of just under $200 and was damn easy to build.

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I may write for the web, but I collect things in print. Lots of things. Craptons, actually. I have more books than some small-town bookstores. Sadly, most of them are in a big pile in my spare bedroom keeping me from using said spare bedroom for anything except raw book storage. I’ve intended to build some nice bookcases for years, but the truth is I just don’t have the time. (Not only do I write here and elsewhere, but I also work full time and am a recently-returned full-time student.)

So recently I decided to just find the cheapest shelf brackets possible, screw ‘em to the studs in my family room, cut and tung-oil up some cheap-ass shelves, and convert a 15′ section of wall into 10′ tall book storage. Shelves are easy, but the trick to keeping this whole project within my pretty much non-existent budget is finding the cheapest shelf brackets known to man.

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The road to bunkbed build completion was actually pretty quick on the carpentry side of things. Getting to this final stage of awesome completion did take a little in the way of staining, though. Okay, a load in the way of staining. But more of that later.

Retaining trim was added to receive the head and footboards. Since this wouldn’t be a structural piece, just gluing them in and popping a few brads home did nicely.

With the slots in place for the boards, the rest of the build happened in a matter of a few hours of work. The headboards were driven home and a roll guard was added to the front of the top bunk so restless little ones don’t face plant from a 5-foot drop.

The ladder assembly was a simple one that allows the climber to get on the bunk at the lowest point possible by making the ladder part of the foot board. Bigass carriage bolts held the ladder rails in place.

Slats were cut from a pile of white oak that had been left outside for a while and, due to cracking, wasn’t really great as full plank material anymore. It was, however, perfect for the 16 slats of 3″ x 1″ material needed to hold the mattresses. The slats were later planed, routed, sanded, and sealed. This wasn’t a quick process, but anything times 16 tends to be a while.

Next the hell that is finishing time arrived. I won’t bore you with details, but this process takes longer than most anybody who hasn’t done it will ever recognize. Five coats of tinted shellac went on to make a nice, lively, and warm red color that managed to hide the fact that four different types and shades of wood were used. It sucked, but turned out nice in the end.

Final install was of course a happy time for all concerned (except when they were made to hold still for pictures) and much little girl screaming could be heard among the climbing and shuffling of little feet.

 

Building things to make life better around the home is almost what woodworking was created for. There is often no better way to make things happen than putting some timber together. In this case, Reader Litcritter has fixed his daughter up a way to get in and out of bed with ease.

It’s not only that the project looks great or that it will last a long time — it’s that Litcritter has made everyone’s life a little easier with time in the shop and a few tools. The ladder hooks over the bed frame and lets the little one run in a out of bed without fear of falling and without running down other furniture as a makeshift step-down. It’s a win for all concerned.

Well done!

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