The Workshop of Wonders

(As in Wonder if I'm gonna finish any of the stuff I'm planning)

Nice thing about living alone in a 2000 square foot split entry house is that the upstairs represents a 1000 Square foot three bedroom apartment, entirely adequate for ordinary living, while the entire bottom half of the house, on a concrete floor, unfinished, represents the potential for the ultimate workshop.

The trick is managing to realize that potential. Only just now have I gotten past the financial shock of essentially buying a house on my credit card - well, the down payment - and can start accumulating the cash needed to really work the place over. And it needs it. The first thing will be a re-do of the entirely inadequate electrical system, along with phone, video, and network lines.

But while I'm still planning these things, I can still work on stuff, and do the most important thing - BUY TOOLS!

(If you wanna see some of what I've done so far, jump to the Projects section.)

Recent Acquisitions

Porter Cable Model 557 Biscuit Joiner

Excellent Biscuit joiner. (Bisquick is a muffin mix!) I highly recommend though that you go to the Fly By Night Copper Company to get the alignment shim. Porter Cable was forced by a patent suit to downgrade the otherwise perfect fence. Fortunately, these guys sell a $10 shim that reverses the "correction" and gives you a tool without par.

Incra Miter 2000

Imagine a Miter Gauge with a precision length stop, and absolutely accurate and repeatable angle settings to half a degree. That's what you get in this box.

Jet X-Acta-Lift

Absolute precise control of the vertical height of the router bit. The perfect compliment to the Incra Jig.

Incra Jig Ultra

This is the ultimate router fence. Okay, if you're not a tool-head, that might not mean much to you. But what you are looking at is $275 worth of the highest precision Aluminum extrusions known to man. This device is for Woodworkers who wish they were Machinists. Combined with a good router and bit, you can make any kind of joint perfectly. You can also attach it to a table saw for cuts controlled to one thousandth of an inch, or use it with a drill press. Now if only wood itself were such a precise material....

Oh, it's attached to the workbench THIS way because I was assembling it. I need to build a better router table first, but it was time to use my birthday money from Mom and Dad, and my 10% birthday discount card from the local Woodcraft store.

The Hobart Handler 135 Wire Feed (MIG) Arc Welder.

And a SpeedGlass Utility electronic welding hood.


The hood isn't cheap, $145, but well worth it. Compared to using a regular hood, there's no going back. When there's nothing going on, it's a shade 3, about like a good pair of sunglasses. When there's a spark, it goes to 11 (say it!). And when it's turned off, it is shade 6, perfect for torch welding.

The welder itself is taking a little getting used to, but it works very well when my technique is right. It handles everything from 22 gauge sheet metal to 1/4" steel plate. (I also welded an Altoids box shut for poor Flinthoof (Then I welded another, see Altoids below.).

Projects, these are in a sort of reverse chronological order.

Two years ago, the gate by the side of the house blew down. The big 4x4" post split, in part, because the Previous Idiot (as I call him) drove in the big hinge screws without pre-drilling. But it wasn't much of a gate anyway, held shut by being wedged together and a hasp with no latch, with the boards screwed on with drywall screws which aren't meant to be outside (big black streaks from the rust). It took me a while to replace it because I hate doing a half-assed job (so I often do nothing).

First, I found this great big chunk of angle iron at the steel yard. I figured out how to take the Galvanizing off the hinge parts with Hydrochloric acid (marked Muriatic Acid on the bottle) and welded them to the angle iron. Which I then primed and painted to make it rustproof.

I installed the other set of hinges in the old pole. It was set in cement, like the remains of the broken pole (Which you can see the base of the angle iron lag-bolted into) so it was easier to use than replace.

I went a little nuts and ran every board in the fence through my planer. It made those ordinary planks look SO pretty. I was inspired and arranged them in a gradient pattern. Be sure to click on this first picture to get the full impact. On the back, you can see that I made perfect lap joints with my router for strength. I also got a 4" pipe nipple which I set in concrete under the rocks for the Cane Bolt.

While I was at it, I also dug out the old drain/catch basin which was half an inch higher then the driveway (Which led to big puddles) and replaced it with this one. It drains nicely. The grate is perfectly fitted too. I coated it with wax before I did the concrete, so I could pull it off, and melt off the wax afterward. It works well. Also, since I happened to have a flagpole, I bought a really nice flag the week before Memorial day. I was the only one to fly a flag, but within a week, there were five more on my block. Patriotism is catching.

If you've seen the Steel version of Altoids Denied, you might like this plastic version. My first project in acrylic.

This project resulted from buying the Incra Jig Ultra. Doing a kick-ass router table required top of the line everything. So I got the Router Lift and the Incra miter, and other stuff. For the full-blown construction article, hit the picture.

Here's a welding table I made shortly before I got the MIG. I removed the firebricks to show the structure. Been collecting milk jugs for rifle targets. Haven't been shooting in a LONG time.

Okay, that first welded Altoids box started a rush of people adding to the sealed Altoids Tin collection. One person gave him one with a padlock, and someone else ran a line of pop-rivits around the top. This, I think, is the ultimate one-upsmanship on that grounds.