43%

I finally got a new dehumidifier for my basement workshop. It has a built-in pump so it’s easy to have it drain to the shower that is down there and I won’t have to worry about emptying it. When I plugged it in last night it was reading 66% humidity so it’s already dropped a lot in less than a day. Should help to save all of my tools.

Saturday Surprise

We got slammed with storms last night and about 20 gallons of water came in by one of the basement windows. Really glad all of my big tools are on castors.

Workshop Dust Collection 2.0: Modding a Harbor Freight 2 HP Dust Collector

I’m going to warn you, this post sucks!

In 2017 I made my own cyclone dust separator with a Ridgid 16 gallon vac. It worked pretty well, but left me wanting something better. Some of the things I wanted in a new system are:

  • More power
  • Larger container
  • Stationary unit
  • Better filtration

What I needed/wanted was something around two horsepower and the clear winner in that category is the one from Harbor Freight. Nothing else even comes close to their price, especially after using a 20% or 25% coupon. In order to make it work really well it needs a lot of mods though.

I looked at some of the complete solutions available and they cost at least a grand. I spent about $540 and could have saved around $100 by going with a cheaper hose and getting creative with connectors. Here’s what I bought:

Sucked my wallet dry!

This is a common project in the woodworking community, so Google can show you to a lot of variations. This 2010 post on lumberjocks.com is almost exactly what I was going for, including the trash can Thien cyclone separator baffle.

Before I get into it, here is the what the Harbor Freight dust collector looks like when it’s assembled and not modified.

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I took a few photos during my build. First task was some knolling.

I installed the cyclone kit on the trash can cover and made a Thien baffle.

A very ugly cart was made using scrap wood. The only 2x4s I had were extremely twisted.

I wasn’t sure how the stand was going to support the weight of the motor. Does fine though. I can make it lean if I push on it, but it’s not going to fall over. Most of the time it’ll be sitting in a corner also supported by the trash can under it.

These risers combine with a makeshift wedge, propping up the trash can to mate with the motor.

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Here’s the “wedge” platform. I made a design change after the stand had already been built, otherwise it could have been much shorter.

With the trash can and motor jacked up, these layered blocks raise up the bag holder and filter.

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Two coats of black spray paint.

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Turned out great, but it takes up a lot of space!

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How is the performance though? I hooked the hose up to my table saw and it started pulling old sawdust out of the saw body. I could actually see things swirling around in there. Huge improvement!

As usual, this project ended up being more work than I expected. I’m really happy with the end result and how well it works. Another upgrade I could make in the future would be to install a larger Rikon impeller for even more airflow.

I’ll have to create some adapters for tools with dust ports smaller than 4″, though the hose kit did come with some for use with 2.5″ ports. Now that I have a system with enough power I can build something around the miter saw.

DIY Table Saw Cart

Following up on fixing my table saw crosscut sled, I decided it was time to build a new cart for the saw. The mobile base kit I used from Harbor Freight seemed like a good idea and worked ok in the beginning. Over time, the weight of the saw seemed to bend the base. With only two small swivel castors and the other two wheels being stationary, it became a real bitch to move around the shop, especially as I filled out the space with more tools.

I took a lot of inspiration from the Mobile Table Saw Cart by Woodworking for Mere Mortals. This is actually what pushed me to create the jig for the pocket hole jig, since I’d be using it a lot in this build.

The solid wood came from the cabinets I rebuilt, the plywood (except the one 3/4 piece) is from a truckload I got for free, the drawer is the same as the ones I upcycled for the sanding station, and I think I paid $10 for the casters at a garage sale.

Here are some planning measurements and sketches. Other than trying to keep the same height for my saw, the dimensions were based on the drawer.

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I took those and most of the plan from the mobile table saw cart I linked above to make a model in SketchUp. You can grab the plans off GitHub if you want them.

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Creating a model really helps me find measurement errors and think about the assembly order. The Cut List extension in SketchUp is a huge time saver too.

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Note that the cut list above isn’t the final one in case you want to make this. I made some modifications along the way. The Sketchup model should be pretty close to what I made though.

I really liked the assembly process for this build, which made it easy to square everything up. Makes a huge difference being able to move the saw around the shop better.

Of course I had to add one of the free Harbor Freight magnetic strips. Much better plate to store the tape measure and splitters than with magnets on the fence.

 

While I was at it, I attempted to seal up a bunch of gaps in the saw’s body with spray foam. What a mess! I also made covers for the front and back that’ll stay in place except when I need to make a bevel cut.

I ended painting them black to blend in. Hopefully these little things make a big difference with dust collection.

Within Reach

When I built my my workshop table I put a magnet tool holder on each side, but haven’t really used them. Finally making use of them with a 6′ tape measure and a pencil with a magnet glued in. I also used a nail for hanging a speed square there. Both sides of the table have the same setup.

I’m always trying to make things more efficient.

A New Table Saw Sled Fence

I built my crosscut sled for the table saw just over a year ago and one thing always bugged me. The piece of plywood I used for the original fence had a slight bow to it, so the cuts weren’t perfectly square. While it had served me fine for building shop furniture, it wasn’t going to work when building a couple of cabinets.

To fix the problem:

  1. I cut an old piece of 2×4 to length.
  2. Using the jointer, I flattened the front face and squared the bottom.
  3. I also cleaned up the top and back on the jointer.
  4. On the router table I added a chamfer to the bottom edge of the front face. It gives sawdust a place to go instead of getting in the way of the work piece.
  5. All of the top, left, and right face edges also got the chamfer for comfort when handling the sled.
  6. I went over all of the chamfers with a sanding block.
  7. Then I attached the new fence to the sled, making sure it was square to the blade slot.
I like the look of the solid wood much better.
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I hadn’t cut through the fence yet, but here you can see the chamfer at the bottom.

I should have fixed it a long time ago, especially since it was only a 30 minute job.

Sanding Station Drawers

I didn’t think I’d use all of the drawers in the sanding station, but I did.

Various hand sanding items and a sanding disc/belt cleaner

 

Discs for random orbital sanders and 1/4 sheets of sandpaper
Sandpaper sheets
Random scraps of sandpaper and pieces for a Black & Decker Mouse detail sander (really good use of the largest drawer)
Sanding drums for a drill and belts, discs, sleeves, and accessories for sanding machines
Random orbital sanders
Other hand sanders

Upcycle: Sanding Station

In the summer I snagged an old Craftsman workbench (model 706653800) for $30. I thought it would make a great sanding station for my workshop. Here is a before and after of just the table (near the end is a photo with my sanding machines attached). I’m really happy with how it turned out!

One of the first tasks was to make use of the right side. I started by cutting a couple of plywood panels and screwing them in.

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If you look back at the post where I took out a couple of walls to open up my workshop, you can see a unit with five drawers. When I dismantled it, I saved the drawers and slides. This was the perfect project to use a few.

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The drawers were too wide, deep, and tall, so I had to resize them in every dimension. Thankfully glue wasn’t used in the original assembly, so they were easy to break down.

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It felt like I measured and checked my calculations 10 times before cutting anything to size. I didn’t want to rush it and cut too much from any pieses, so I ook my time and the assembly went well. Putting the drawer slides in was tricky, but I made everything fit.

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I cut a plywood base and attached it to the frame. Then I screwed in some locking casters ($4/each at Harbor Freight). I drilled holes for the drawer handles before taking both sets of drawers out and removing all of the slides. After two coats of a glossy black on the body and base, I was finally able to move it to the basement and free up the space in my garage.

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I sanded the wood drawers, wire brushed the original drawers, and cleaned all of the drawer slides with Brakleen. The faces got two coats of glossy white and the handles were sprayed with metallic aluminum.

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I’m really glad I decided to paint everything. Having this and the lathe stand in more of a finished condition makes the shop feel much nicer. I might have to paint some of my previous shop projects.

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I gave the galvanized metal top a good scrubbing with a soft brush according to what I’d read and it was still in rough shape. So I used a wire brush and a wire wheel on a drill. It ate up the rust, but went through some of the galvanizing. I found a product made by Rust-oleum to resurface the metal that looked promising for less than $5.

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I did 3 good coats, screwed the metal back to the MDF, and attached it to the stand. Looked pretty sweet if you ask me!

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I gave the galvanizing a full week to cure. I’d read about people having mixed results with it scraping off.

My original plan was to make some kind of hinging platform for the larger belt/disc sander so I could flip it on the side to use the belt for edge sanding. It couldn’t come up with a layout to make it work though, especially making sure I still had access to all of the dust ports. This configuration should work just fine.

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From left to right:

  1. Craftsman 4×36″ belt and 6″ disc (Model 137.215360)
  2. Ryobi oscillating spindle (Model OSS500)
  3. Craftsman 1×30″ belt and 5″ disc (Model 137.215150)

I bought all three of these used and paid $25, $50, and $30. The smaller Craftsman sander was still sealed in its original box. If you buy the Harbor Freight versions of these three machines, the new prices are $70, $145, and $85 respectively or $56, $116, and $68 with 20% off coupons if you make separate trips to the store. I love buying used tools!

All of the power cords run along the back and then over to the right side where there is a power strip (free from Harbor Freight) and an extension cord ($9 at Harbor Freight) so I only have to deal with one plug.

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My shop feels infinitely more organized without the three sanding machines scattered across the floor. All that’s left now is to fill up the drawers with my hand sanders, sand paper, and accessories.