Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Wooden Post Thumper

We planted a new tree and wanted to stabilize it with three posts, so it won't blow over in a storm, while it is still young.  It turned out that planting the tree was the easy part.  Hammering the 2.5 meter support posts into the ground, was a whole 'nuther problem.

One cannot use a sledge hammer on a tall post, since climbing onto a ladder and swinging a heavy weight around, two meters above ground, is sure to cause a rapid, unplanned descent from the ladder.

The safe solution is a pile driver - a heavy pipe that is closed at one end.

I could not find a pile driver at the local hardware store and in any case it would cost around 65 Euro, so I took some scrap wood and a two hundred year old sledge hammer and there we go.  The only expense was a handful of screws.  

The thumper works remarkably well.  It took longer to make the thumper than to set the three posts, but now I can also use it to drive in a sand point shallow well for the garden.


Start with a 15 cm piece of a square fence post - larger than the diameter of the stake that you want to drive in.  Build a box around it such that you have a channel of at least 50 cm below the block.  Strap a heavy weight above the block and there you are.  It doesn't have to be ridiculously heavy.

Obviously a steel thumper will last forever, while a wooden one will eventually wear out/split, but a wooden one like this, will last long enough for use by ordinary mortals.

Do sand the wood down to avoid getting splinters in your hands while using it.

Make a mark 50 to 75 cm from the tip of the post so you can see when to stop!

Put the top of the post into the thumper, then stick the point into the ground and raise it up.  Bonk the post in by raising and dropping the thumper 30 cm or so.  Wedge the post with your foot to help it go vertical.

Removing the thumper from the post can be tricky, since it is unbalanced with the big weight at the top, so it will likely drop onto the ground as soon as you clear the top of the post - try not to drop it on someone's foot! 




For driving a Sand Point Well Pipe into the ground, I built a tripod gantry with two pulleys, to make it easier to lift the thumper.  

 Here is a picture of the pipes about 2 meters into the ground:




 Only 5 meters more to go...



I'm sure the neighbours will be happy when I reach the end of my pipe.



Speaking of heavy stuff. I built some heavy gates and needed to drag them about 20 meters from the garage to the corner of the yard and my back was getting sore.

So, I re-invented The Wheel!

Two wheels close together, roll better over bumpy paving stones, than a single wheel.

It only has to work twice.


The above wooden wheels turned out real good, so I made a couple more, to clamp on and drag random heavy things around, such as my work table - which is an old recycled kitchen table with strengthening around the legs.

Now I can tip it over and then just need to balance it a bit, when I drag it off to the storage area.  I may cut another pair of wheels and screw them to the table permanently.

For something that won't get hundreds of miles of use, scrap wood wheels are great and cost nothing - OK, you need a screw and two washers also, but that won't break the piggy bank.



A little wooden wheel, cut with a 50 mm hole saw, can make a nice low friction Garden Gate Support:

The roller and block (with a rounded corner) lifts the door a few mm, so that the sliding bolt lines up perfectly, making the gate easy to open/close.  Don't glue the block - use two screws instead.  When the system needs adjustment, unscrew the block and reposition it.


La voila!


Sunday, May 8, 2022


Simple Table Saw

To me, much of the fun of woodworking is making my own tools and jigs and then using them in a project.  Jigs made of wood do not last very long, since they either wear out, or warp (or both!), so making new jigs is a constant process.  The trick is to keep it simple, so that any worn or damaged guide piece can be replaced quickly with whatever is in your scrap wood bin.

Table Saw With Guide

When machining large pieces of wood, it is best to keep the wood still and move the machine, so a hand circular saw is a must have.  However, when working small pieces of wood, it is best to keep the machine still and move the wood, so a table saw is also a must have.  A table saw can however be rather expensive and a cheap, inaccurate, wobbly one, costs 3 times more than a hand tool.

Table Saw Saw Guide

Making your own table saw with an upside down hand saw is not difficult and it also has some advantages, notably that cutting through the table results in a zero clearance blade slot, which helps to reduce tear-out.  I set the blade to 90 degrees and leaves it that way.  I never cut at an angle with a circular saw, since it much increases the danger of a jam and kickback, which can hurt very badly.  I rather use a jigsaw for fancy cuts.

When selecting a circular saw, compare the different models on display and select the one with the sturdiest guide plate chassis.  The biggest problem with DIY tools is wobble.  Makita saws are very sturdy, while my other cheap American saw is rather wobbly, so I learned from the experience.

I made an Ikea scrap wood MDF box with a top and no bottom, to house the saw.  To adjust the blade height, I tip the box up to get to the lever and since there is no bottom, saw dust falls out and doesn't build up in the box.  However, it is a good idea to cut a hole in the side for a vacuum cleaner nozzle, to reduce the dust flying up into the air.


Upside Down Table Saw

When using the table saw, I clamp a piece of wood to the back of my work table, to keep the saw box from sliding off.   That works well enough.

Simple Saw Guides

The top overhangs the sides of the box by 5 cm, to enable the use of simple guide blocks and clamps.

The saw rip guide (Yankees call it a fence) slides along the front side, wraps around the table edge and clamps in place.  The guide ends at the middle of the blade.  At that point, the wood is cut, a longer guide doesn't help anymore and could cause the wood to jam between the guide and the blade and get flung back at high speed, which will hurt badly, so I keep the guide short.  American table saws have guides that go all the way to the back of the table - that is not a good idea.   

When you make the rip guide, glue the pieces, then clamp them to the blade and the front edge of the table.  By doing that, the guide is guaranteed to be perfectly parallel to the blade, even if the table edge is not. Once the glue set, you can add a couple of screws if needed.

Yootoob is full of fancy saw guide designs.  If you make a fancy guide, then when it breaks and/or warps, you need to spend a lot of time making a new one.  So I keep it simple, don't make fancy sliding slots in the table top and use a G clamp to secure my saw guides to the table edges.  A saw guide could be as simple as a piece of junk wood that was lying around, or a plastic rafter square.

To use a saw rip guide, clamp it lightly with a G clamp to the table edge and adjust it with a rubber mallet, then tighten the clamp.

I cut with the blade set much higher than the wood thickness.  This directs the cutting force mostly into the table and not at me, which reduces splintering and also reduces dangerous fly-back of wood pieces. It is a good idea to use a smaller size circular saw (a 5 to 7 inch blade is enough) with less power.  You will never be sorry if your puny little 5 inch table saw jams and stalls - while you will be very sorry for yourself if your saw goes Whump! and throws the wood piece back to you at 100 miles an hour.   

A ten inch table saw is a killer - A bigger table saw isn't better! 

Table Saw Cross Cut / Mitre Jig

A table saw cross cut sled is very useful.  I made one from scrap wood, that fits over the table saw box, guided by the edges.  

Table Saw Cross Cut Jig

When you glue up such a jig, put two layers of masking tape on the edges, to ensure that after you glued it, it will not stick to the table and there will be enough clearance to slide smoothly when you remove the tape.  Some wax will also help to make it move and keep it from warping as soon as you want to use it.

For miter cuts, I clamp a triangle to it.  For multiple cut offs, I use a G clamp with a stop block.

Hand Saw Cross Cut Sled 

Another jig I use a lot, is a cross cut sled for my hand saw.  The guide rails are left over oak edging.  Put some wax on them.

Cross Cut Sled

If I need a 45 degree cut, I simply clamp a plastic rafter square to the base.  Don't ever use a steel square as a cutting guide.  I would not like to accidentally cut into a steel square - the result of tungsten saw teeth binding into a steel tool won't be fun at all.  This sled has seen heavy use over the past year.

The Simplest Jigsaw Guide Ever

There are many videos on Yootoob showing how to turn a jigsaw with a long flexible blade into something resembling a band saw, by using a wooden overhead arm and ball bearings.  You don't need any of that.   

Simply buy Professional quality blades. It is the same type of blade you always buy, but with a P at the end of the part number.  Those blades are thick and stiff.  They don't flex and they cut straight!

Jig Saw with Dust Port and Professional Blade

Here is a picture of my little jigsaw, with a professional blade and a conical PVC rubber adaptor for the little 21 mm dust port to fit a vacuum cleaner hose.  You can get the conical widgets on Amazon in packs of 2 to 5.  Do yourself a favour and buy a bunch of them.

La voila