Tool tips Print E-mail
Written by Vidar Fagerjord   
Tuesday, 11 May 2010 20:57

Here's a little guide to the tools I use while I'm building my organ console, bench and pedal board. As a general rule, I recommend that you spend a little extra on your tools - you do not need professional quality, but you get what you pay for.

Therefore, cheap tools won't last that long and the margin of error is greater than you will appreciate. As a general rule I use to say that for the critical jobs - such as cutting the wood - you should buy high-quality tools. Since the foundation in any wood-working project lies in the preparation of the raw material, the tools needed for preparation should be of good to high quality. For an organ pedal, you will ned square cuts - 90°, not 91° or 89.6°. This will save you a lot of work later on!


NOTE!!!! SAFETY IS IMPORTANT!!! Use common sense and read the instructions. Keep the documentation in your shop, and ALLWAYS think "what is the worst thing that can happen?". Check out instructional videos on Youtube and learn from others before you loose a limb! I highly recommend the Woodwhisperer video podcast - especially those covering safety.

The Table saw

(No images yet). The table saw can be used for anything, but is especially great for splitting planks and cutting angles. With a tenon jig (google that one), you can even use the table saw in ways you never would think was possible!

You should also get a power saw, which is a great tool for cutting plywood sheets and so on.


The band-saw

A band-saw is a multi-purpose tool that can be used in many, many ways. It is perfect for cutting shapes, splitting planks, slicing thin strips of wood and so on.

The blade is very thin, giving you maximum yield from your wood. Use appropriate blades for the job at hand - hardwood blades for hardwood. Otherwise, you will wear out the blade quickly, and the cuts will take longer time or be inaccurate.

Remember to have a good light source shining on the cutting area while you work. The band-saw is a dangerous tool if not used correctly. You can easily cut off a finger, or at least get seriously injured!

The table on the saw can be tilted to make angled cuts. In addition, the guide bar can be utilized to get exact cuts.

The saw has an extendable guide rail that protects you from the blade and guides the blade. The guide rail should be adjusted as close as possible to the piece being cut. This will ensure safety and a perfect cut. If the guide rail is placed too high, the blade might run away in the piece, wrecking the piece and most often breaking the blade.

To adjust the guide bar correctly, use a ruler or tape measure and check that the distance from the guide bar to the edge of the table is the same in the front and rear as it is at the blade.

Wear eye- and ear protection while working with the band saw. Small splints can be thrown around, and the blade gives a high-pitched screeching noise that could damage your ears.

Use the dust-collector option on the saw, and use breathing-protection if the cutting results in fine sawdust. For instance, Ramin (which I use for my pedal board) is mildly toxic, and can result in allergic reactions.

I would recommend buying a saw in the mid- to high price range. Make sure you have easy access to replacement saw blades - it would be frustrating if your project is delayed because you have to special-order new blades. I keep at least two extra blades to prevent this from happening (it happened once, and that's enough for me...).


The Drill press

A drill press is essential for repeated drilling of holes. Buy a good quality one! It should have an adjustable table (height, tilt and rotation around the main shaft) with slots where you can mount a vice or a clamp. The foot should also have a table with slots.

You do not need to purchase a floor model - a bench model is enough. Should you need to drill larger pieces, simply place the drill press at the edge of your bench or table, loosen the bolt that holds the top and rotate it. Then you will be able to drill in pieces up to the height of the table plus what ever the drill press height is.

The drill press should have adjustable speed (mostly done by cogwheels and a drive belt under the top casing).

It should also have a scale that indicates the depth, and should have a depth-stop of some sorts. Mine has two nuts that can be set in any position on the scale arm (by tightening the topmost, they will stay in place).

If you have the option, buy a drill-press with a wheel to control the vertical movement. Mine has three spokes, which can be impractical at times. It does work, but I wouldn't mind a wheel instead.

If the drilling results in a lot of dust, clamp the vacuum-cleaner so that it extracts the dust from the working area.

Do not use excessive force on the drill press Keep a steady pressure and let it work its way into the material.

Use an appropriate speed - for hardwood, use a slower speed so that you get more torque. And you won't burn the wood (which very quickly could ruin the drill bit).





The Table Sander

The table sander is a great tool for fine adjustments, shaping and other jobs that require small adjustments. Depending on which grit you're using on the band / disc, you will have great control over the result.

A good table sander should have a long belt and a disc with at least 15cm diameter. The belt should be adjustable so that you can raise it to a vertical position. It should have a guide table for the disc (most models have this board, and you can mount it to the belt as well) and a guide rail for the belt. For instance, I used the band and the guide rail to square the sharps on my pedal board - they where cut at a small angle by accident.

Remember that the table sander works WAY faster than you do, so be careful not to over-do it! Use a light pressure and let the machine do its work in its own pace.

The sanding disc is perfect for sanding edge-wood. Use it with caution though, since it can burn your wood very quickly due to the high speed. Use a "press - remove - press - remove" technique to let the wood cool off a bit.

Sanding equals much dust, so use the dust extractor option! Wear eye and breathing-protection. Ear protection might not be that important, but it doesn't hurt to be cautious...

You should buy a good quality machine. The most important is the ease of use and the accuracy of the guide bar and board.

Be careful when you use a table sander - the band and the disc runs at high speeds, and your fingers will be very close to the sanding surface! Very easy to be injured, although the damage isn't likely to be very serious if the machine is correctly designed. Blood, sweat and tears is a metaphor - not an actual requirement!




The Plunge Router

The plunge router is capable of spinning router bits at very high RPM - up to 30 000 RPM. With this tool, you will be able to make any shape and form you want.

I would recommend a router where the force required to press it down can be adjusted.

When routing into the material, do several passes with incrementing depth, going 5mm per pass. This will make the cut clean, and prevent the router from jumping.

Use the router so that the router bit cuts into the wood, not out towards an edge.

Keep a firm grip and your concentration on high alert - this beast can do a lot of damage in split seconds! Remove any jewelry or other things that can get caught by the spinning bit!

Also remember to use face and ear protection! You should also hook the vacuum cleaner to it, because it creates quite a mess!


The Router Table

This handy little table is a great add-on to your plunge router. The router can be mounted underneath it, converting your plunge router into a table router.

By adjusting the guide board, you can do exact cuts in material too narrow for regular routing (handheld router).

The yellow thingies in the picture are feather boards. They can be mounted so that they slides against the work piece, pressing it in place. A great way to save your fingers! They will also prevent kick-backs.

I mounted my table on an adjustable, foldable workbench using two strips of plywood and clamps. Worked like a charm! Perfect solution if your workshop is small.

The router table doesn't need to be top-notch, just make sure it is a sturdy construction and have accurate adjustment of the guideboard.



The Jointer / Planer combo machine

If you buy rough-cut stock, or you use stock that has been stored for a long time, the planks aren't ready for use in most cases. To ensure good quality in your work, and to prevent problems down the line, the sides need to be straight and true, parallel and the opposing sides 90° to each other. A Jointer takes care of that - you run the board with one of the wide sides till that side is straight and true (which side depends on how the shape of the board is - consult your manual or online guides). Then you run the wide side up against the guide (check that the guide is 90° to the jointer boards). The Jointers' work is done now - you can't use it to make parallel sides! Enter the Planer! I bought a combined jointer / planer - 2 for 1 saves money and space. When you've jointed one wide and one narrow side of the board, you can feed the board through the planer, adjusting the thickness to just a little more than you need (allow for sanding, etc.). Now the last narrow edge needs trimming, but that's a job for your router or the table saw.

This machine is invaluable in a woodworking shop because you can make your own bits and pieces from scrap material. Thus, you do not need to buy new material every time. Just search the pile of scrap for a suitable piece.

NB! The Planer often leaves some ripples at the end of the board. This is hard to avoid, so make sure your boards are cut longer than you need - a little over the distance between the rubber rollers inside the the planer should do it. I insert the wood into the planer by holding the far end of the piece a little too high, and support it so that the end does not drop down (causing the ripples). I let go when both rollers are engaged. Likewise, I support the board when it exits the machine. This drastically reduces the chance of any ripples.


Let's go on with some manual tools.

The Miter Saw

A miter saw is used for cutting exact angles. It has very fine teeth, making the cut clean. Great for profiled wood, skirting and so on. you can of course get an electrical one.

The Planer

A good, long planer is a basic and key tool in any workshop. With a planer, you can smooth surfaces, adjust thickness, remove those nasty marks from the band saw... Make sure you get a high-quality one. By proper maintenance and care, a good planer will last you a lifetime. New planers would need to get the sole planed before use (done by wet-sanding on a plane board).

Taking measurements

A square, a protractor and a caliper plus a good tape measure will get the most job done for you. The square is great for adjusting the boards on your table sander. The protractor finds any angle for you, and can be used to mark where to cut as well. It can also be used to check that your square is 90°. The caliper can be used as a marking tool as well as a measure tool. I would recommend that you buy these puppies from the high quality line, and only made from steel or aluminum (steel is better). Your measurements are critical for the end result. Some might think using a caliper might be over-kill when working with wood (you will probably never get that exact parts anyway, since wood is a "live" material), but my opinion is: If the measurements are precise, the end result will only be better and more accurate!

This is NOT the tools you want to save money on!

Shaping and forming

Files are part of the basic tools you will need. Get a few different shapes and sizes with soft, rubbery handles. This makes them better to work with. The one in the image with an orange handle has a file on one side and a rasp on the other side - great tool! The rasp is used to remove a lot of material quickly, and the file to smooth and fine-tune everything. You clean a file by using a metal brush (preferably bronze, which won't damage the "teeth"), following the lines in the file.

Another great tool is the square piece of steel in the picture. I don't know the english name for it, but you use it as some form of a scrape. It will smooth the surface very nicely - sanding might not be necessary at all! Also a great tool for removing sharp edges on the work piece, as long as you go WITH the wood.

The basics

Hammer, screwdrivers, sanding paper, glue, assorted screws and nails, a good workbench, a handsaw, some clamps (one hand clamps are great, but get the "screw on" type as well) and a set of carving irons will get you a long way. And of course a good DIY (Do It Yourself) book. If the book looks like it was made in the sixties, it is probably good! For some reason, the typical woodworker seems to be an ex-hippie with beard and the standard routed flannel shirt...

You will also need a sharpening stone to keep your tools ready. Nothing worse than dull edges when you want to carve your mother-in-law's face in your latest toilet lid!

PS: Remember one thing: drill bits for wood are flat with a sharp tip and sharp edges (looks like an E). Do not use metal drill bits, since they easily will get out of course. Metals are uniform, wood is not!

El Cheapo, my dear old friend - I love you!

How to save your hard-earned cash? Look out for bargains like a suitcase full of different drill bits. The quality might not be that good, but they will do the job for you - and are cheaper than dirt! For some special needs, you might want to consider top quality though. But if the drill bit is 7mm when you need a 7mm drill bit, then there's nothing wrong with it.

Do not throw away any wood! You never know when you need some. You can make a wedge from some scrap pieces - even saw dust can be used to remove spills. The word cheap is not a negative word in a workshop!

Are your clamps too short? Let them hold hands, and they will reach farther!

And last, but not least - a true DIY'er can MAKE his/her own tools in a lot of cases! A few scrap pieces of wood can be turned into almost anything.

A great example: All my power tools have different sized dust collector ports. I could buy a dedicated dust collector, but space and budged prevents me from doing that at the moment. Instead I make my own adapters - from plastic soda bottles! Some tape to get the correct dimension for the vacuum cleaner, and some strong glass fibre tape to secure the bottle top to the dust collector port!

Simple, crude, effective and CHEAP!


Here's a few keywords you can google for more information:

Tenon jig, woodworking, turning wood, DIY wood

Woodworking tips - lots of great info here!

Here's a neat software (free) that ensures you get the most yield from your material! No waste, money saved...

And the best tip I can give you: Find a large discussion board / forum where you can register and talk about your wood with other woodpeckers around the globe! Share your hobby and your creations, share your knowledge, your mistakes and your pride. This is a hobby, not an income - and as I've said many times: Any hobby tastes best when you share it with others!

Good luck, my friend! I did not know anything but the very basics when I started building my organ pedal board, but a few months later - I've learned a LOT and managed to transform a pile of crooked, raw-cut planks into something (in my eyes) quite beautiful!

From this:

to this:

Not bad for a rookie, eh?

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 May 2010 21:02
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