Portable Soldering Station

Following up on getting the new hobby desk and organizing the room, I needed something for all of my soldering tools. A lot of the stuff on these shelves needed to be easy to pull out and use at the desk.

The portable soldering station Adam Savage built gave me some inspiration. I could make something to live in the closet when not in use and being portable would allow me to take it to the basement if needed. I measured how much floor space I had available in the closet and hauled everything down to my woodshop.

I cut up some shitty scrap plywood and started playing around with ideas.

Being able to see things in space really helped with my design process. When I had something I was happy with, I made a sketch with rough details.

When I saw it on paper, it reminded me of a wood toolbox with a handle. Makes sense, I guess, since that’s essentially what I was building. I still have a large pile of old oak flooring, so I spent about two hours milling a few pieces down to 3/8″ thick boards. Then I glued some pieces to make panels for the sides, bottom, and shelf.

I picked up a piece of 1″ (it’s actually 1 – 1/8″) oak dowel from Menards for a handle. After letting the glue dry on those panels for a few hours I cut them to size, designed the side profile, and made other pieces. I realized I need to glue up two other panels for the small shelf bottom and a cross piece on the back. I think I only had to recut one small piece that was originally the wrong size. Eventually I had all of the parts.

I sanded all of the faces with 80 grit and then used glue and a pin nailer for assembly. Since nothing here need to support a lot of weight, I went with simple butt joints.

After a quick fit check for all of the tools and supplies, it was obvious I need some way to organize the power cords, so I made a cord wrap from some scraps.

With a palm router I softened the edges everywhere and did a final sanding. Originally I was planning to use a dark stain to match the hobby room’s trim, but after seeing this put together I really liked the lighter colors and the wood grain. I skipped the stain and applied three coats of Minwax Water Based Polycrylic, sanding with a piece of paper bag after each.

I’m really happy with the decision not to use stain. The pieces I selected for the side panels have some great coloring and grain.

All of the tools and materials are easy to access and the station fits well in the closet.

New Air Tools and More Storage

Yesterday I picked up a used 23 gauge pin nailer. I also used a mini die grinder for the first time, which had been sitting on a shelf in the package. Both tools needed places to live, so I made spots on my air tool wall.

I stopped at Harbor Freight and bought 3 sizes of pins for the new nailer. I also had some unopened boxes of various brad nails sitting around. I took the opportunity to reorganize my bins and more than doubled capacity. Seemed like a good place to move all of the regular nails too.

I love when everything in the workshop has a home.

New Table Saw Switch

Now that I’ve been in my workshop again, it’s time for some table saw upgrades I’ve been wanting to do. The bigger project I had planned for yesterday couldn’t happen because of part damaged during shipping, so I went with the easy one. Here’s the old switch on my saw.

It worked fine, but I wanted something cooler and safer, so I ordered one from Amazon for about $13. The hardest part was finding an electrical box to would work with the location where I wanted to install the switch. Then I built a simple scrap wood box around it and wired everything.

The START button is recessed and you really have to push it, so there is almost no chance of accidentally turning on the saw. The STOP paddle is a big target and at knee height, which will make it easy to turn off the saw without moving my eyes or hands if an operation becomes dangerous.

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.

hf-dust-collector

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.

table-saw-drawings

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.

table-saw-cart-model-final.png

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.