The Slippery Truth
When you are working in your shop it is important to have control of your work. Work surfaces, especially tables, should support your lumber and provide as little resistance as possible. This makes your job safer, more accurate, causes less fatigue, and just makes it more enjoyable. It is not instinctual to make your work area slick. But, in the right place, slick is exactly what you need.
For making surfaces slick there are two excellent options–one temporary and one permanent. The temporary solution is to apply something to the surface, like wax. There are also sprays available made with different compounds, but I recommend good old Johnson’s Paste Wax.
You can use wax for all of your tools with metal or wood parts. I use it on all of my fixtures and jigs where I want less friction, especially my crosscut sled. You should wax every stationary power tool table in your shop. The obvious ones are the table saw, jointer, router table and planer. I also use it on my hand power tools, including the jig saw and router. If you want the wood to glide along nicely, wax it.
The permanent solution is to use UHMW (Ultra-high molecular weight) plastic. I have found this most useful on the planer. As a matter of fact, setting up a table board with a sheet of UHMW was one of the first things I did once I got my new planer up and running. I used a sheet of 3/8″ thick UHMW plastic on top of a box made from 3/4″ plywood that is easily removed from my planer. The only adjustment to the planer was to move the bed rollers all of the way down and out of the picture. I was happy to do this because I think bed rollers are a terrible solution to the problem of boards getting stuck in the planer. No matter how they are adjusted they make the ends of the boards snipe every time. In contrast, boards never, never, never get stuck on the UHMW and having a flat bed with no bed rollers eliminates the snipe. Lumber just goes in one end and out the other with no dip on the ends.
The UHMW is available in sheets and adhesive-backed strips. The strips can be applied to fences and jigs where friction can be a problem. The strips and smaller pieces are available at Woodcraft or Rockler and the larger pieces I purchase from Regal plastics here in St. Louis. They aren’t cheap (a 36″ x 48″ pieces cost about $50), but well worth it.
Before you start your next project, wax your work surface or add a piece of UHMW plastic. You will wonder why you hadn’t done it sooner.
20″ Planers: Powermatic, Grizzly And Others All Made By Geetech. Who Knew?
Powermatic, that’s my brand. My, “If I find it for the right price, I will always buy it, even if I don’t need it,” brand. Powermatic has long been synonymous in the woodworking industry with “awesome.” In the table saw category it was always between the Delta Unisaw and the Powermatic 66 for the ultimate saw, the one that guys waited until they retired to afford. The one that made it possible to get through those last years of work, knowing that they would soon have one in their shop.
Powermatic planers are no different. If I find a Powermatic planer for the right price, I will snatch it up, knowing that I can always sell it for a profit. A few years ago, when the economy was still good, I bought a 20″ Powermatic planer for $700 and sold it on Ebay for $2,300. Good times. Real good times.
The concept is simple. Rock-solid tools, made in the USA. They sell themselves. Boy, do they sell themselves. They even sold me. Boy, did they sell me.
I was operating my shop with a 20″ planer from Sunhill machinery that I bought pretty early in my career for about $1,200. I still used it because it always worked fine for me and I didn’t want to spend the money to replace it. Until, one day, when a friend of mine mentioned that his 20″ Powermatic was just too big, and he was looking for a smaller machine. This was my chance to get the Powermatic into my shop. I worked out a deal where I would sell mine for $800 (which I did), buy him a new 15″ Grizzly for about $1,200 (which I did), and get the Powermatic for no additional money (which I did).
I had pulled it off – The “Great Powermatic Switcharoo.” I verified that it was like new, that it had a 5hp motor compared to my 3 hp and that it had faster feed rates, which meant that I would just put boards in one end and watch money fly out the other. There was no doubt that this was going to change my life… until I actually picked it up.
I walked into the shop, squinting because of the bright halo of light surrounding the machine sent from heaven. I stumbled closer, feeling my way through the maze of tools, until I could just catch a glimpse of the one and only – same damn machine I just got rid of. It wasn’t the exact same, it was painted gold instead of blue, and it did have a bigger motor and I assume a different pulley for faster feed speeds, but it was the same machine. Need I even say, it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.
Somewhere along the line, Powermatic just gave up and bought the same planer from Geetech in Taiwan/China that is sold by Grizzly and others. They did take the time to change the paint, which I am sure accounts for the extra $1,000 you will spend if you don’t buy the Grizzly machine. I was floored. It is one thing to have your equipment made overseas from your own designs and meeting your own specifications, but they just jumped on the back of their great reputation and decided to ride into the sunset, hoping no one would notice. I am sure it makes life easier. Now, all Powermatic needs is a sales force and someone to make sure Geetech doesn’t brag too much about the equipment they are making for Powermatic.
I’m really not mad. The machine worked great until I burned it up with my other tools. It was stronger and faster, and I liked the color better. I just didn’t like getting blind-sided like that. I would have been mad if I had spent the extra money for the Powermatic instead of buying it from Grizzly.
For fun, I put together a little slide show of the Geetech machine in all of its different paint colors. See a resemblance?
Black Friday Blowout Event
Black Friday Blowout took on a whole new meaning this year. Unfortunately, the black was from all of the charcoal that needed to be cleaned up and the blowout was from, well, you know, the blowout. It worked out pretty nice because Friday was like a holiday/workday/freeday, so I didn’t feel so bad about working on the mess. There was no real plan except to pull out the tools that have some scrap value and to get the wood stacked and restacked (the fire department tore the stacks apart to put out the fire). I had help from Chris Law and Mike Stevens (thank you both), as well as Mark Soest who is donating the use of his loader, and we got a lot done. By the end of the day, the wood was stacked, the scrap was loaded, and most of the building was out of the way.
The only large tool that I plan to salvage is my sawmill. It is burned badly, needs a new engine, and it is missing almost everything that melts, but it was on the edge of the fire and didn’t get as hot. All of the other tools were inside the shop and are no longer straight, if they exist at all.
I took advantage of this shopping weekend to purchase my first replacement tools; a 6″ orbital sander, a Fuji hvlp system, and a few clamps. These are tools that I know I want new. Most of the rest, especially the bigger tools, I expect to replace with used equipment. I hope to again stumble on deals like a 12″ Crescent jointer for $300, or a 14″ Delta bandsaw for $25, or a Jet 13″ planer/molder that came with four sets of knives for $300.
I am in need of a 10″ tablesaw, a 20+” planer, a 12+” jointer, and/or Crescent Universal Woodworker (the coolest power tool ever). If you know of any of these available at a reasonable price, I would greatly appreciate a “heads up”.
The plan now is to work out of my garage at home, while I work on putting up a new shop. The concrete pad of the original shop is not in good enough shape for a shop floor, but will work well for parking trucks or lumber, so I am building the new shop adjacent to the pad. Next up is to get the electric back on, since it was roasted too.
I want to thank everyone that has offered their support, help and workshop. It is nice to know that I have so many places in St. Louis that I can stop by and make sawdust. Thanks again! Enjoy the slideshow.