James Hamilton, also known as Stumpy Nubs to his throng of online fans, is an advocate for constantly finding new and innovative ways to streamline workflow in the shop. Whenever a problem arises or something seems like it should be easier he frantically eats a donut and then sets his mind to finding a solution (at least that sounds like the process from the conversations we’ve had with him while editing his new book). Stumpy’s book, “The Homemade Workshop: Build Your Own Woodworking Machines & Jigs,” is an excellent companion to all of the great content you can find on his web site and offers 12 fantastic projects for improving your shop. He also includes some great general tips to keep in mind for improving the way your shop works and adding versatility and functionality. Here are a few excerpted tips to give you a taste of the kind of great ideas “The Homemade Workshop” has to offer.
You Need a Good Pilot
Never drive a screw without first drilling a pilot hole, especially in the edge of plywood! Not only will it prevent splitting, but it will prevent the screws from wandering as they make their way between the plies. Properly positioned pilot holes are also critical when installing T-tracks or drawer slides (which are used for many of the machines and fixtures you’ll find in “The Homemade Workshop”).
Alignment is Fundamental
Any homemade machine requires a high measure of precision. Always check your parts for proper alignment before securing them in place. Pilot holes are essential because a poorly driven screw will force your part out of alignment. And remember: Always take your time.
What’s on Your Plate?
Commercial router plates are usually aluminum, and often expensive. But you can make your own! All you need is a piece of material that’s about 1/2″ thick and very stiff. Acrylics are a great option. You can buy 1/2″ clear acrylic from glass sellers. Another option is Corian, the material they make solid-surface counter tops of. Some retailers sell cutting boards and pot trivets made from the stuff in just the right size. You can also check with countertop dealers and kitchen contractors for scrap pieces. Make yourself a cardboard pattern to ensure proper positioning.
They Aren’t Just for Sliding Your Drawers
I use ball-bearing drawer slides for all sorts of stuff around the shop. They’re smooth, durable and accurate enough to create sliding mechanisms for woodworking jigs. You’ll find them in a lot of home centers, cabinet suppliers and woodworking outlets. I like to keep a couple of sets of different lengths on hand because I’m always finding new uses for them!
A great place to get bearings for homemade machine projects is from old pairs of in-line skates. You can find them at yard sales and flea markets for a few bucks and one pair of skates will yield 16 bearings (two per wheel)! The size of the hole in the center may vary, but if you use flat-head machine screws, the taper beneath the head will center the bearing as you tighten it. You may have to cut through the wheel to get at the bearings inside. These bearings are useful for all sorts of projects so whenever you see a cheap pair of skates, grab them!
For other great ideas, as well as complete step-by-step instructions for a range of amazing homemade machines including a multi-function downdraft table, a benchtop jigsaw, a 24″ band saw, and many others, check out “The Homemade Workshop” by James Hamilton, available now at shopwoodworking.com