In Projects, Shop Blog, Techniques

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Soup Up Your Shop

The right accessories for maximizing your performance and safety.

By Dave Munkittrick

Here at American Woodworker we see a lot of tools and
accessories.We’ve been impressed by how the right
accessories—either store-bought or shop-made—can dramatically
improve the performance, convenience and safety
of shop tools.

Most of us have something we’d like to change or
improve about our shop equipment.What we’ve done is
assemble a list of accessories, tune-ups and shop-made
attachments that solve some of the more common problems.
Some are cheap, some are expensive, all work well.
Look for the ones that fit your needs and give ’em a try.

Drill Press

A drill press is a common tool in
most woodworking shops, but
many have features that are
designed primarily for
metalworking. Here are a few
tips that’ll make your drill press
more user-friendly and effective.


1. Reduce Vibration.
Do you really need 15 speeds on a drill
press? Perhaps for metalworking, but not
for woodworking.The only difference
between a 15-speed and a 5-speed drill
press is an idler pulley and a second drive
belt.The pulley and extra belt can create
a lot of vibration in a drill press. Reduce
vibration by removing the idler pulley
(they just lift right out), then flip over the
pulley on the motor and add a link belt.

3. Chuck Your Chuck.
Inexpensive chucks can be a real
headache. If you are experiencing
slipping bits or excessive run-out,
replace your stock chuck with a
high-quality, aftermarket chuck.
Generally a few taps with a
wooden mallet on the side of the
old chuck will release it.Wipe the
mating surfaces of the new chuck
and arbor clean with denatured
alcohol. Slide the chuck onto the
arbor and set it with a single
mallet tap.

Click any image to view a larger version.

2. Better Handles.
Here’s a great tip that’s so simple and
makes such a huge difference, you’ve
gotta give it a try. Sometimes it’s the little
things that drive you nuts, like those
undersized knobs on the quill-feed levers
of your drill press.Throw them out and
replace them with 2-in.wooden balls. I
guarantee you’ll be more than pleasantly
surprised at the comfortable feel. It’s like
going from a go-cart to a Cadillac.

4. Better Base.
Take note of your posture the next
time you’re drilling. Chances are you’re
slouched a bit and your head is tilted a
little to one side to give yourself a
decent line of sight. Here’s a dirt simple
tip that’ll straighten things out for you;
just cut a couple lengths of 4×4 and
bolt them to the base. Not only will it
bring things up closer to eye level, but
it also gives those dinky little bases a
larger, more stable footprint.


A contractor’s tablesaw is
the heart of many
woodworking shops. It has
the power and capacity to
handle most projects and
best of all, it’s affordable.
Here are some accessories
that can turn a good
contractor’s saw into a
great one.

1. A Better Fence.
I remember the first time I used
an accurate direct-read fence.
What joy! No more checking
each setting with a tape measure.
A hairline cursor allows you to
set the fence for precise cuts
every time. If you’re still struggling
with the fence on an older model
contractor’s saw, you owe
yourself this upgrade. (The oldstyle
fence is best used as a boat

3. Overarm Blade Cover.
Let’s face it, stock guards on most saws
are a pain to use.The new breed of
overarm blade covers is the answer.They
easily retract or swing out of the way
when necessary and the counterbalanced
basket allows for fast and easy
positioning. But what puts them over the
top is the built-in dust collection feature.
No more irritating plumes of dust
thrown back at your belly!

5. Precision Miter Gauge.
The miter gauge that comes with most
saws is inaccurate and difficult to set
precisely.A precision miter-gauge has an
adjustable bar for a perfect fit in your
saw’s miter slot.The result is greatly
improved accuracy. Plus, these gauges
have plenty of dead-on positive stops for
fast, precise angle settings.

7. Mobile Base. Most of us dream of a big shop space, but
in reality we have to make do with
whatever nooks and crannies we can find.
A set of wheels for your stationary tools
can help stretch your precious useable
space.There’s a mobile base out there for
just about every stationary tool, but none
benefit from mobility like a tablesaw.


2. Splitter.
This is one of the best accessories you can
buy for your tablesaw. Unlike stock
splitters that are bolted to the saw, this
one snaps in and out in seconds! It also
comes with anti-kickback pawls that can
protect you from a kickback. Combine it
with an overarm cover for the best in both
safety and convenience.We know it ain’t
cheap, but if it prevents just one accident,
it’s worth every penny.

4. Zero-Clearance
Throat Plate.

Stock throat plates have wide slots that
allow the blade to be set at an angle. But
most sawing is done with the blade at 90
degrees, where narrow cut-offs can get
stuck in the throat plate and possibly
kickback.Also, the open area around the
blade aggravates tear-out.

A zero-clearance throat plate eliminates
these problems.You can make your own or
buy one with top-accessible leveling screws
plus side and end adjustment screws.

6. Storage Wing.
More than any other machine, the
tablesaw requires a lot of paraphernalia.
Various blades, a wrench to change the
blades, the miter gauge, inserts,
featherboards, jigs; the list goes on. Here’s
a great do-it-yourself project that’ll keep
all that stuff together and at your
fingertips. Just bolt a piece of plywood
between the base and the saw to create
a platform for storing and hanging all
kinds of tablesaw stuff.

8. Link Belt and Pulleys.
Are vibrations in your machine giving you
the jitters? Consider this simple solution.
Replace your old V-belt with a link belt.
Normal belts develop a memory as they
sit idle on your machine’s pulleys. Once
the machine is turned on, the out-ofshape
belt causes vibration. Link belts
can’t develop a memory because they’re
built like a bicycle chain.
If that doesn’t solve the problem, try
aftermarket machined pulleys that are
precision balanced and perfectly round.


A bandsaw is an incredibly versatile
machine. From slicing thin veneer off of
solid stock to cutting intricate curves in
scrollwork, the bandsaw can do it all. Still,
there are a few things we wish all bandsaws
came with. Here are a few of our favorites.

1. Magnetic Tool Holder.
Epoxy a couple of rare-earth
magnets onto the back of a 2×4
that’s customized to hold your
tools. It can hang on any metal part
of your machine.

3. Cool Blocks.
A set of Cool Blocks is an inexpensive
way to raise your bandsaw’s performance.
Made of graphite-impregnated phenolic
resin, Cool Blocks allow you to bring the
guides much closer to the blades without
worrying about excess friction.They’re
particularly useful for 1/8-in. and 1/16-in.
blades, which can be completely
trapped—teeth and all—between the
blocks.You can achieve almost scrollsawlike
curve cutting.

5. Add a Dust Port.
It is notoriously difficult to collect dust
from a bandsaw.The small port under the
table gets maybe one quarter of the dust
thrown off by the saw.The rest gets spun
around the lower wheel creating a dust
storm while you work. Solution:Add a
larger port to the lower wheel door.
Trace the outline of a 2-1/2-in. dust port
onto the lower door. Drill a series of
1/4-in. holes for the dust to pass through
and screw on the dust port.

2. Quick-Crank.
Working on cars, I’ve often cursed the
engineers who seem to have a knack for
putting bolts in the most awkward places.
I have the same reaction working the
tension knob on my old bandsaw.Then
along comes a product like the Quick-
Crank. It’s such a simple solution you
wonder why no one thought of it before.
A Quick-Crank transforms your bandsaw,
allowing you to quickly change and
tension blades so you can get back to
productive work without skinning your

4. Auxiliary Table.
Tired of the balancing act you must
perform on an undersized bandsaw table?
You don’t have to put up with it any
more.A simple 24-in.-square plywood
table with a blade slot can be mounted to
your stock table. Just drill mounting holes
right through the cast table. Cut the blade
slot on a tablesaw so it lines up with the
one on your bandsaw and bolt on the

Dust Collector

Most dust collectors should be thought of as a kit.They often
aren’t ready to do the job we expect right out of the box.
Inadequate bags, leaky joints and poor seals can turn your dust
collector into a dust spewer.These tips are sure to keep your
shop and lungs cleaner.

1. Felt Bags.
The bags that come with most dust collectors
aren’t designed to filter out the fine dust.A bag
made with 10-oz. felt that’s triple-stitched together
is a huge improvement.The filter bag on top should be sized
to handle all the air flow from your collector.A lower bag
made of durable cotton duck lets no air through, but it can
handle the rigors of being taken on and off the machine.The
folks at American Fabric Filter Co. will custom-design the
right size bags for your collector.

3. Seal the Leaks.
Seal off leaks around welds with caulk. It’s a
quick but effective fix.

5. Remote Control.
Can you imagine life without your TV
remote? You’ll feel the same way about
this dust collector remote the first time
you use it. It requires no additional
wiring, just plug it in and go. No more
running back and forth between the
collector and a tool. Of course, just like
the TV remote, it’ll mean less exercise for
you. Is there such a thing as a shop

2. Weather Strip Dust Seal.
A tight seal around the bag flange is
crucial. Small kinks and folds in the bag
create escape routes for dust particles, no
matter how hard you tighten the clamps.
For a better seal, make your own gasket
with some closed-cell, self-stick weather
strip, available at home centers and
hardware stores.

4. Better Impeller.
Has your shop outgrown your 2-hp
collector? Before you buy a 3-hp
collector, consider upgrading the
impeller on your old machine. An aftermarket impeller from Oneida
Air Systems will fit most 2-hp collectors
and improves cfm by 30 to 80 percent. In
testing,we found the more you load
your collector, the greater the benefit.
The large fins offer greater surface area
to move more air. Plus, these impellers
are statically and dynamically balanced so
they run truer and help extend the life of
your motor.


Here’s a host of simple
upgrades that’ll make an
open-stand lathe more
stable, more comfortable
and more versatile.

1. 4-Jaw Chuck.
Tired of gluing and screwing bowl blanks
onto faceplates? A 4-jaw chuck is a great
upgrade for your lathe. It allows you to
quickly and easily mount anything from
bowls to miniatures to goblets—any
work that’s not held between centers.
There’s a wide variety of accessory jaws
available for special applications.

3. Sealed Bearing
Live Center.

Stock live centers have open bearings
that inevitably fill with dust and wear out.
If yours has bit the dust, check out a
premium aftermarket live center. Some
have the capacity to self-center any kind
of work up to 3-1/4-in. diameter,
including round or square spindles up to

5. Cushion the Lathe.
A rubber floor mat kills two birds with one
stone. It helps prevent user fatigue and it
levels slight imperfections in your shop
floor. A gap as thin as a piece of paper
under a leg of your lathe will magnify vibration.
Cut squares of floor mat material and
slip them under each foot of the lathe.
The mat material is stiff enough to take the
weight but gives enough to even out small
irregularities in your floor.

2. Effective Dust Collection.
Sanding on the lathe creates clouds of
dust.You need something that’s
adjustable in height and can be
positioned around the lathe for optimum
collection. Here’s a commercial hood on
a stand that’s very convenient, but
a variety of shop-made solutions work
very well, too.The simplest is a length of
flexible aluminum dryer duct that
can be bent to reach different locations.

4. Raise the Bed.
The correct height is critical for comfortable
and safe lathe operation. Many lathes
are simply too low.Try this test: bend
your arm and measure the distance from
your elbow to the floor.Your drive center
should be the same height.Add
stacked plywood blocks where the bed
of the lathe joins the stand.

6. Weight It Down.
Vibration is the turner’s biggest enemy.
Unless you own a big industrial monster,
your lathe is probably top heavy. For a
few bucks you can buy a few bags of
concrete, wrap them in plastic
lawn bags to prevent spills and stack them
on the shelf under the lathe.The extra
weight at the bottom counterbalances a
top-heavy lathe and absorbs vibration
even from a spinning blank.


(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)

Drill Press

Woodcraft Supply, 800-225-1153, Link Belts, #25N67. 

Rockler Hardware,, 2-in. hardwood balls, # 214935 (other
sizes available).

, 800-645-9292, Jacob’s Chuck, #954-539. (If your
drill press has a Morse Taper, you’ll also
need an arbor, #954-539.)

Dust Collector

American Fabric
Filter Co.
, 800-367-3591,
10-oz. felt filter bag; #8 cotton
duck lower bag.

Oneida Air Systems, 800-732-4065,
Aluminum fan wheel for most 2-hp collectors.

Penn State Industries,, 800-377-7297, Long Ranger III remote control,
#LR110-3 for 120 volt; #LR220-3
for 220 volt.


The Woodturners Catalog,, 800-551-8876, Oneway Stronghold Chuck, (various
threads available to fit most lathes).

Woodcraft,, 800-225-1153, Floor Stand Suction Head, #812399.

The Woodturners Catalog,, 800-551-8876, Oneway Revolving Center, 130-2100,
#1MT, or #130-220, #2MT.

Grizzly Industrial, Inc.,, 800-523-4777, Anti-Fatigue Mats, 27 in. x 36 in.,
27 in. x 60 in., #G3818.


Highland Woodworking,, 800-241-6748, 40-in. Home Shop Fence, # 78-931; Excalibur Telescoping Overarm Blade
Cover, #EXBC; Leecraft Zero-Clearance Throat Plates
(sizes to fit most tablesaws).

Tools On Sale,, 800-328-0457, T-Square Anti-kickback Snap-in Spreader; Delta Mobile Base, #DL50-277;
With extension. #DL50-285.

Penn State
,, 800-377-7297, Penn State Tablesaw Dust Collection
Guard, #TSDG1.

Woodhaven,, 800-344-6657, Woodhaven Miter Gauge Deluxe Starter

Incra Precision Tools,, 972-242-9975, Incra’s Miter Gauge 2000;
Also check out Incra’s 1000 series.

Woodcraft Supply,, 800-225-1153, Contractor’s Saw Performance Package
(includes link belt and pulleys);
#25N66 for pre-1988 Deltas;
#25N68 for 1988 and up Deltas;
#25N69 for pre-1991 Sears;
#25N70 for 1991 and up Sears.


Lee Valley Tools,, 800-871-8158, Rare-Earth Magnets, 1/2" x 1/8",
#99K31.03, (Other sizes are available); 2-1/2-in. Dust Port, #03J61.10.

Highland Woodworking,, 800-241-6748, Quik-Crank Bandsaw Tensioner,
#08.60.85; Cool Blocks, #.08.60.01 (other sizes
available to fit most bandsaws).

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker December 2001, issue #91.

December 2001, issue #91

Purchase this back issue.


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Here are some supplies and tools we find essential in our everyday work around the shop. We may receive a commission from sales referred by our links; however, we have carefully selected these products for their usefulness and quality.

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