Friday, February 28, 2014

The Garage

Our garage is a 12' x 18' shed, built probably in the 1920's.  When we bought our house, it had a dirt floor, no foundation, some serious framing deficiencies, no human-sized entry door, and failing siding on the south and west sides that get all the weather.  A layer of gravel, an access door into the yard, and an automatic opener for the flip-open garage door made it barely usable, and we've been parking our car and storing crap in it for a long time.

I've been talking about doing "something" about it for years, and I'm finally getting to it.  Not that I've been ignoring the situation.  I've drawn up various plans, and made two or three trips down to the city's permit office to explore the possibilities.  Building a new garage is OUT.  After all the setbacks are taken into account, it could only go into a fairly small defined area, near the back corner of the yard, and what am I going to do with the 5' setback area around it?  Pretty tough to make use of those little strips.  Then there's the cost.  Permits, demo and disposal of the old garage, and all new materials for a new garage will probably wind up costing me at least $10k, and that's complicated by the fact that we're in a flood plain area, so I'd wind up paying for an elevation survey and wind up building the lower three or four feet of the structure from all pressure-treated wood or concrete block.  $...$...$...

The one really nice thing about our old garage is that it's totally nonconforming from a zoning perspective.  It's about 2' from the back lot line, and a little less from the side lot line where the driveway is.  Those setbacks are supposed to be 5' and 13' respectively.  The downside is that the only entry ramp onto the property runs right into the garage, so I have to pull trailers, extra cars, etc. up over the curb and into the yard via a gate next to the garage.  That sucks.  Early inquiries with the city into getting a permit for another curb cut and driveway apron were the usual expensive pain in the ass.

The solution:  I'm going to have my own covered bridge.  Well, sort of.  I'm going to install a second garage door on the back wall of the garage, so I can pull through it into the back yard.  The main issue to think about is the shear strength of the structure, once there are two 7'h x 8'w doors cut into it's 12' wide end walls.  The current framing configuration definitely wouldn't survive, and in fact I'm kind of surprised the thing is still as square and plumb as it is, but some proper braced panels, bolted down to a decent concrete foundation should do the trick just fine.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mobile Base / Storage Cart for Contractor Table Saw

I have a Delta contractor type table saw.  I added a plate to the bottom to catch dust and chips years ago, but now it's time to build a proper cabinet for it.  I got four locking casters from Woodcraft, and a sheet of 3/4" cabinet plywood from Home Depot.  A couple hours with a circular saw and table saw, and I've got a box to set the saw on, with storage and dust collection underneath.

I've been using it for a while now, and I really like the dust collection.  I installed a piece of melamine-faced particleboard directly under the saw.  It slopes down toward the back of the cabinet, where there's a 5" wide cavity for the chips to drop into.  In that cabinet is another piece of melamine-faced hardboard, sloping toward one side, where a piece of 4" ABS plumbing pipe connects to my dust collector hose.  You can see the configuration of these dust-directing ramps in the photo below.  I also packed foam scraps from an old mattress pad up under the cast iron top, to limit air leakage.
View of the unfinished box from the rear, showing the melamine ramps that direct dust
to the port at the lower right side of the cabinet.
The rest of the cabinet is pretty much just a plywood box.  I put locking casters under each corner, and they work fine to hold the saw steady, at least for the way I use it.  They lock the wheel and prevent rotation of the caster assembly with one foot press.  I rarely load up big pieces of sheet goods or timbers on the table saw.  It's more for precision cuts on mid-size workpieces in my shop, so I don't need it to be totally immobilized.
I still need to fit the storage, but here's the saw mounted and usable,
with the old stock steel legs sitting on top.

EZ Deadman for the Workbench

I needed to joint the edges of some long lumber a few years ago, so I tacked together this support from some scraps.  It's been serving me (almost) perfectly ever since.  It's ugly and crappy, but it works well, and I've come to appreciate the flexibility of a standalone appliance instead of a sliding deadman fixed to the bench rails, or some other elegant, dare I say sexy alternative.

It's a scrap of 3/4" plywood, about 12" x 8", with a 2x6 post attached via some long screws through the bottom of the plywood.  I cut the post so the top is just below the edge of my workbench, and I clamp various fixtures to it to support my work.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Home-made Bicycle Work Stand

I'm my own bike mechanic.  Shocking.  Yes, and for years (decades?!) I've been mostly either just leaning the bike against something, or flipping it upside down on the handlebars and seat to work on it.  I've looked at the commercial clamps a few times, but they're just a little too much for me to justify.  I looked at DIY work stands on the web, and saw some ok ones, but mostly they looked kind of kludgy and like more hassle than they are worth.

Well, I bought a new bike last weekend to replace one that was stolen a few months ago.  First order of business is a set of fenders and a rack, but I also took a look at the work stand they were using in the store.  The mechanic was nice enough to let me take a photo of the clamp head, even.  It looked like such a simple, straightforward design...

Efficient Velo Tools bike workstand clamp

So my new bike sat in a corner in the basement all day on Sunday while I put this together.  It works great, and it only cost me about $10.  It's two pieces of oak scrap I had, about 7/8" thick, 1-3/4" x 12".  I clamped a ~1/2" scrap of cedar between them and used a 1-1/8" forstner bit in the drill press to bore a hole down the middle.  That made the two halves of the clamping saddle.  I glued some thin leather to the inside of the clamping part with silicone, to improve the grip and prevent marring on the bike.

A thin piece of cedar between the oak arms makes it easy to form a perfect pair of curved jaws with a Forstner bit
Then I screwed a block to the back of the clamp, to provide a fulcrum point, and tied a small piece of elastic bungee cord into a loop to hold the back together.  The clamping mechanism is just a 3/8" x 4-1/2" carriage bolt installed through the clamp halves 4-1/2" from the saddle end.  I reamed out the hole through one side by rocking the drill back and forth, to provide clearance for the bolt when the clamp halves pivot apart.  I used a 1/2" flat washer to spread the load at the head of the carriage bolt, and a 5/8" dia. spring in between the two clamp halves to move it open when I loosen the nut.  On the outside, I used a long 3/8" coupling nut to tighten the clamp, and got fancy with a turned handwheel made of poplar.  I cut a drilled hole into a hex shape in the handwheel hub with a chisel, and then epoxied it onto the coupling nut.  Having the long nut stick out of the handwheel is really handy, because you can pinch it and spin the assembly quickly into position when there's little force on the clamp, and then use the large diameter of the handwheel to torque it down.  Go easy, don't clamp any aluminum frame parts or anything carbon.  Aluminum seat tubes are cheap to replace, and pretty beefy anyway.
The seatpost is the safest place to clamp
To mount this clamp head, I drilled a couple of small holes and attached one arm to a 12" piece of 3/4" iron pipe with two 1/4" carriage bolts, lock washers, and nuts.  I made a couple of oak saddles for the pipe, by drilling a 1" hole in the middle of a small block of wood, and then cutting that in half.

The pipe is mounted into a 2x4, and fixed with a C-clamp for now.  I drilled a 1-1/8" hole near the top of the 2x4, and then cut a slit about 12" down the center of the board, splitting the hole in half.  The C-clamp at the top squeezes the two halves of the board together and tightens the pipe in the hole.  It's a solid connection, but it allows me to rotate the clamp head to any angle by loosening the clamp.  The 2x4 is also the weakest part of the whole assembly.  With a bike mounted in the clamp, the 2x4 will twist under pressure and allow the bike to wiggle - which is fine, for the most part.  If things are too solid, you could bend the bike, so I'd rather have the weakest section in the stand somewhere.  That said, I do want to improve the support post and clamp to make it easier to use.  Plus I need my C-clamp for other things.  Update:  I used a 3/8" x 5" carriage bolt, some washers, and another coupling nut through a 7/16" hole through the top of the 2x4 to replace the C-clamp.  It's basically the same mechanism that tightens the seatpost clamp.  It works great.  Much more powerful than the C-clamp, because of the finer pitch threads.
Pipe clamp is essentially the same as the seatpost clamp mechanism
In use, I clamp the 2x4 post into the big vise in my work bench, so I don't need a separate stand, but it would be pretty trivial to make one out of either steel pipe (especially if you don't care about the rotation clamp) or wood.  Now, time to install some crap on my bike.
Bike clamp in use