Projects Include: Shaker Tall Clock, Garden Table, Garden Chair, Planter Box, Stackable Shoe Rack, Victorian Wall Shelf, Child’s Stepped-back Cupboard, Cat Push Toy, Tabletop Armoire
While I don’t wear shorts, black socks and sandals, there is something that’s making me feel a bit over-the-hill. There is a newish trend in woodworking where splintery, gray, cracked and weathered, and generally abused (some might call it rotten) lumber has become something to be desired. I see tables made from it, walls covered with mismatched chunks of the stuff, and even “fine furniture” like dressers or credenzas crafted from the landfill fodder. All I can say is that some folk’s saw blades are missing a few teeth.
I am not saying that distressed wood can’t look good as an accent. Or that, in a rustic room with cow horns on the walls and brass Frederic Remingtons on a desk, that it might not be just the thing. But fine furniture? Costing thousands of dollars? Like I said, I am feeling like I am not “with it.”
So pass me my AARP card and get out of the way of my Hoveround®.
Rob Johnstone, Woodworker’s Journal
If you’ve tried fretwork, hand-cutting dovetails or coping trim moldings, you faced the decision to buy a fret saw or a coping saw somewhere along the way. And if these activities have happened within the past decade or so, you probably considered buying one of the standard metal-framed tools — you know, those coping saws you can find inexpensively at most any hardware store — or the red-framed, aluminum fret and coping saws made by Knew Concepts. They have a distinctive truss-style frame that looks more like a bridge than a beam, making the saws both lighter and much stronger than other low-dollar options.
These “red” saws were developed by Lee Marshall, a lifelong machinist and tinkerer — but originally, they weren’t made for woodworking. Instead, they were a component of Marshall’s precision die saw, which he supplied to jewelers for making controlled, vertical cuts in metal. It was a side business Marshall puttered with while building small-scale hydraulic presses — also for jewelry makers.
“That’s how I got to know Lee originally,” says Brian Meek, who has owned Knew Concepts since last July. “(Marshall’s) company before Knew Concepts — Bonny Doon Engineering — made those hydraulic presses for the small-scale jewelry production market. They were absolutely indispensable for production jewelry.”
Meek, who holds degrees in jewelry and metalsmithing, had his sights set on being a college art professor. To help pay the bills while looking for a teaching job, he made production jewelry and helped other jewelers make theirs.
“Just as the ‘serious’ woodworking world is pretty small, and most people know each other, the ‘serious’ jewelry world is even smaller … it was basically inevitable that (Lee and I) should end up knowing each other,” Meek says. “I knew that Lee had sold Bonny Doon and was puttering around with these saws that he’d come up with, so I offered to help him with the machining for a couple of weeks while I did some job hunting. Eight years later, I’m still here.”
When the two began to work together, Marshall was making his first “Mk.1” saw entirely by hand on manual gear. Meek brought his experience with CNC machines, graphics and production design and photography to fortify Marshall’s efforts. The combination of skills helped the business grow quickly.
“We filled in one another’s blank spots,” Meek recalls, “And before either one of us knew, it was several years down the road and I was designing most of our production line.”
At first, Marshall’s goal for the Mk.I was to service jewelry makers. But, the crossover from producing a precision metal-cutting saw to one ideally suited for wood required no extra effort for Knew Concepts.
“Fret saws and jeweler’s saws are exactly the same piece of metal; it just depends on the coarseness of the blade you load them with and what you’re cutting,” Meek says.
The Mk.II Fret Saw came next, and it was the first model with a truss frame made on CNC machinery rather than by hand. The Mk.III followed in around 2010, in three frame sizes. What took that version a big step forward was that Marshall and Meek figured out a way to add quick-release lever tensioning to replace the original screw tensioner. That saw required redesigning the frame in order to accommodate the levers. The company still offers Mk.III saws today as a “light” line, with slight refinements.
“The current Mk.III saws are actually Mk.IIIk, if that gives any indication of the number of minor tweaks they’ve gone through,” Meek says.
Around 2012, Knew Concepts added its first coping saw to the offerings, when the company invested in a CNC lathe that was capable of making the claws to hold the pin-style blades for them. “Once we were making (fret saws), and discovered that there was a real hunger among woodworkers for decent saws, the obvious next step was to make a coping saw that actually worked,” Meek recalls.
Around that same time, Marshall and Meek were “fiddling” with designs for a much larger-framed marquetry saw. That saw didn’t reach a production stage, but the efforts toward its development led to a design for blade clamps that will rotate 360 degrees. That feature, plus a modified and stronger aluminum frame design, led to the Mk.IV saws about four years later.
“We hired a structural engineer to run computer analysis on our frame designs to help us get dialed in on the strongest, lightest frame design we could … all three sizes (of the new heavy-duty Mk.IV) pull roughly the same amount of tension on their blades: 60 lbs., more or less,” Meek says. “So you don’t have the problem that traditional saws do of our frames getting looser and floppier the deeper they get. The 8-in. Mk.IV frame pulls just as hard as the 3-in. frame.”
Another development happened in 2012, too: Knew Concepts began to make titanium, truss-framed fret saws. The company used surplus sheeting that had been rejected by the U.S. Air Force, due to a bad heat-treating job. The metal didn’t meet spec for an F-22 fighter plane, Meek says, but it was plenty strong enough for a hand saw frame. When the company’s supply of inexpensive sheet titanium ran out, however, customer demand for the lightweight, super-strong metal didn’t. On top of that, comparable titanium was four times more expensive than the scrap material Knew Concepts had used previously, and the “flat” truss frames were difficult to nest efficiently without wasting excess material.
The solution to the problem came fortuitously and in a fit of frustration after about six months of trial and error. Puzzle-piecing a flat, titanium truss frame together, in order to economize material, just didn’t work. “Some (frames) were strong as anything but had no torsional (twisting) strength at all,” Meek recalls. The breakthrough happened when he bent a spine into a “V” shape and welded cross-members over the valley, zigzag fashion.
“Bingo! That truss didn’t bend at all, and that’s where our Birdcage Titanium Fret Saws came from,” Meek says. The company now sells them in three frame sizes, along with its Mk. III and Mk. IV aluminum saws.
Last June, after a brief battle with cancer, Lee Marshall passed away. Meek bought the business shortly thereafter. He says his plans going forward are to continue the full line of Knew Concepts saws. He also hopes to launch that earlier marquetry saw this summer at some point.
“It’s the last thing Lee and I worked on together,” Meek says. “We’re cutting parts for it now; it’s just a matter of getting machine time to get all the parts made. It will be available in three lengths of leg — 12, 18 and 24 in. — and all three sizes can pull at least 60 pounds of tension.”
When asked about the company’s most popular woodworking saw, Meek clarifies that neither a fret nor a coping saw can do every task with equal finesse — fret saws are best for intricate work and making tight turns, while coping saws handle coarse work and straight cuts better. That said, he offers the following suggestion.
“If you can have only one, get the fret saw: it can drop into the vertical of a dovetail, turn 90 degrees at the bottom and zoom straight across the waste. Coping saws need to sweep in from both sides and still leave that peak in the middle to deal with.”
Which model is most popular, you might wonder? Meek says it’s the Mk. III or Mk. IV 5-in. Fret with blade swivels. “By a long shot,” he adds.
“The 5-in. size isn’t vastly heavier than the 3-in. model, and it gives more flexibility in terms of the work it can do. If you know you’ll only ever be clearing out dovetail waste, get the 3 in. If you don’t know what you’re going to end up doing, get the 5-in.”
Aside from the forthcoming marquetry saw, Meek reveals that other new products are in the works, plus extensions and refinements to existing products. But with Marshall now gone, Meek spends more time in the office, and he misses the opportunity to get out on the road and attend more shows. That’s where he’s enjoyed meeting customers, seeing the sorts of work they do and discovering ways Knew Concepts might be able to help them do it even better.
“That’s the fundamental thing for both Lee and I: the pleasure of being able to use our unique skill sets to make our friends’ lives easier and their work better,” Meek says. “My plan for Knew Concepts is to keep figuring out ways to help as many craftspeople as I can.”
Learn more about Knew Concepts and its product line by clicking here.
What type of dust mask should a woodworker wear? If you’re protecting yourself from dust, you should always try to capture the dust at the source with a shop vacuum or dust collection system, but you should also protect yourself by covering your nose and mouth with a good dust respirator. Whether you go with a disposable dust mask, re-usable mask, or a powered dust respirator, any of these options will help you protect your long-term health in the shop. Just pick one, then do the right thing and get in the habit of using it — whenever you’re making sawdust.
New from Calculated Industries®, two versions of StudMark™ magnetic stud finders are designed to prevent the false findings, beeping, errant flashing lights and dead batteries that often are associated with typical electronic battery-operated models. Instead of electronics or battery power, these stud finders have two powerful rare-earth magnets in their bases that locate screw or nail heads embedded in wood or metal studs.
Using the StudMark is easy and straightforward: place the device flat on a wall and move it in a “Z” pattern to find a nail or screw used to hold the drywall to studs. Its magnets then snap to the exact location of the nail or screw. To mark multiple studs, place one of two green, removable magnetic markers over the spot to identify the stud’s location and then move on to find the next stud.
Since StudMark stud finders use only magnets to detect metal wall fasteners, they don’t require batteries and never need to be calibrated for accuracy. Both versions include two onboard markers. The StudMark™+, however, also has a built-in bubble vial level to assist in leveling items, such as picture frames, mirrors or shelves.
Leigh now offers an economical and easy way to rout 1/2- and 3/4-in. box joint patterns in boards up to 13/16-in. thick with its Box Joint & Beehive Jig. The heart of the system is a glass-reinforced nylon template that mounts to a shop-made baseplate of MDF or other scrap material. One side of the template fingers cuts 1/2-in. joints, and the other side cuts 3/4-in. joints. Adjustable stops register the edge of a workpiece so you can begin the joint pattern with either a socket or a pin, as needed.
The template will accommodate boards up to 9-11/16-in. wide with a full joint pattern, or insert one of two step-over cams to register the jig for wider boards so you can continue routing longer patterns. Leigh’s patented elliptical e10 eBush guide bushing enables you to refine the joint’s fit incrementally with an included pin wrench.
Leigh designed this jig with beekeepers in mind for building beehive supers, but you can use it for making box joints in all manner of box projects and drawers, too. The system offers two modes of router operation: use it with a handheld router in a “template up” orientation by clamping your workpiece in a bench vise, or invert the template and cut joints at your router table instead. The package comes with a 1/2-in.-dia. carbide-tipped straight bit, step-over cams, two side stops, mounting screws, a fully illustrated guide and an instructional DVD. Leigh’s Box Joint & Beehive Jig (model B975) is available now and has a suggested retail price of $109.
What’s the best way to seal carved letters so that, when painted, the end grain won’t soak up the paint? – Kim Wales
Chris Marshall: Softwoods like pine or cedar, as well as softer hardwoods such as poplar, will be more prone to wicking up paint through the end grain than harder species. So the degree to which this will happen with your carved letters will depend on the wood you are using. But in any case, I’d do a couple of things to prevent it from happening. First, as best you are able, sand the end grain areas of the letters up to 220- or even 320-grit to help close the open pores and create a smooth surface. Then, use an appropriate primer for the paint to seal the wood. Once the primer thoroughly dries, give it a light sanding to smooth any raised grain that might have occurred during priming. The primer, acting as a barrier coat, should allow the paint to build to a smooth topcoat. You might need to apply two coats of paint, with a light sanding between coats, to achieve even coverage on both the long grain and end grain areas of the letters, but this combination of steps should do the trick.
In response to last issue’s Q&A on flattening oilstones, we received a couple of responses from readers mentioning alternative methods they have used personally. – Editor
“A number of years ago, a couple of oilstones came to me from my father’s workshop when he passed away. They had been used for many years and were badly in need of flattening. I simply went to the driveway and, moving the stones in a figure-eight pattern on the concrete surface, flattened them in a few short minutes. This removed the soiled stone and left the surfaces almost like new. Some fresh lightweight oil, and I was back to sharpening again.” – Gordon Patnude
“I have just completed reading your article on using an oilstone or stone for sharpening. Years ago, I purchased a book on knife sharpening and the information enclosed suggested never using oil or even water while sharpening. They had attached photos magnified several hundred times showing the floating grit created when using oil or water made for an uneven sharpening on the device sharpened. This may seem rather strange with items commonly referred to as oilstones but, using the advice from this book, I have for years utilized this system when sharpening knives and such by hand. I had hoped to name this book to give you some reference but apparently long ago had given it to one of my four sons. I do own a Tormek grinder and have only tried using it without water once or twice without any noticeable difference in quality of the sharpening or differential in wear of the stone but didn’t expect to notice a wear difference. While most people will not spend a great deal of time learning to put a more sharp edge on a tool or a knife, I have been pleased with the help it provided to me over the past number of years. Thanks for the many interesting articles!” – Dale Guibert
One reader helped Rob understand the background behind the “catbird seat” expression he used in his editorial. – Editor
“Included here is a very good link explaining what the catbird seat is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catbird_seat I was on an Audubon Society walk a couple of years ago when the leader heard a catbird. (You hear many birds before you see them). She then scanned the tops of the tallest trees, and there she found the catbird.” – Fred Howley
And, we heard some additional Feedback on track saws – this reader falls into the camp of “too expensive for me.” – Editor
“Hey, give us hobby guys a break about not owning a track saw. With the price of the track saw and needed accessories to use it maybe at best 10-12 times a year, the math wasn’t hard for me. To cut a 4×8 Plywood longwise, extra track runs up the price and extra track is even needed, I
believe, to cut across 4 feet. For a long time, I used my existing saw and an 8-foot long aluminum angle piece ($15) clamped down solid to guide
my Skilsaw. Most of my long cuts are 4 feet or less, and now I use my 50-inch Emerson All-In-One clamp ($41.00). I just mark where I want to cut, put a premeasured block of wood which I keep handy to account for the distance between the guide and my saw blade, lay it against the line, and place the clamp on the other side. If my volume of commissioned projects was enough to warrant $565 + for a Festool track saw, I would really love to have one, but for 4 foot and shorter cuts, I doubt if my setup time takes any longer and I think the accuracy of the cut is a wash.
Thanks for your magazine, weekly emails and ideas.” – Ben Dady
Several readers also expressed concern about the safety of the process employed by the subject of last issue’s Today’s Woodworker article. – Editor
“While the subject article is interesting and illustrates some of the magnificent artistic effects fractal burning can produce, I found it appalling that there was so little emphasis on the extreme danger of using this process, particularly with DIY equipment. Here in Washington state, there have been at least two electrocution fatalities associated with using this process. It is also my understanding that some of the nationally recognized woodturning organizations have banned the use of the process for embellishing turned objects.
“I, personally, have witnessed the use of this process, which indeed is fascinating and is capable of producing spectacular results. However, handling extremely high voltage equipment by persons not trained in the use of such equipment, without the use of certified high-voltage protective equipment, is a fatality waiting to happen. I have seen some of the YouTube videos of this process by people using home brew DIY equipment and have been appalled at the cavalier attitude toward the dangers of the extremely high voltages used in this process. Many of them treat these high voltages as being no more dangerous than dealing with the 120/240 VAC residential service in their homes. Mr. Blomquist is very fortunate not to be on the list of fatalities. He cites the voltage of his DIY equipment as 2000VAC — I would not be surprised if it is between two and five times that much, especially since he noted that he used multiple transformers to increase the voltage!” – Paul M. Stoops
While dust collection isn’t woodworking’s most riveting topic, few of us will argue against its importance for both a clean shop and long-term respiratory health. Trouble is, most conventional dust collectors are louder than we’d like them to be, and their efficiency at capturing the really fine, harmful dust is dubious.
Its silver, twin cylinders on top are where most of the machine’s high-efficiency separation happens. When dirty air enters the G700’s 6″ inlet, it passes through two levels of separation. First, an internal double cone slows down the air so that heavier debris and dust can drop down into a preliminary separation container. Then, the finer dust particle stream that remains is pushed through a turbine-shaped cone with aerodynamic vanes. This fixed turbine increases the air speed to over 4,000 rpm to separate 99.9 percent of the remaining dust particles, Harvey reports. It’s a process they call “axial centrifugation.” That finer debris drops into a secondary container. Any molecule-sized dust that’s left enters two pleated filters on the right end of the machine that trap it. Inside each filter, a brush can be manually agitated with the red knobs on top for quick filter cleaning. That dust falls into two capped cleanout pipes on the bottom right end.
Where some dust collectors promise to trap particles down to around .5-micron, the GYRO G700 beats the European standard in testing by 50 percent, with an air emission cleanliness level of .05 mg/cubic meter. In other words, once dust enters the machine, Harvey Industries’ goal is that none at all will escape.
GYRO operates at a noise rating of 61 to 72dbA — about conversation level. The company credits its quieter operation to locating the 12″ cast-aluminum impeller inside a cabinet and to the efficient airflow offered by the turbine design. Other conventional dust collectors generate more air noise because their impeller housings are more exposed, and they smash dust into the walls of the filters and collection bags rather than channeling it more smoothly.
A 2hp (three-phase) induction motor powers the system; it’s controlled by a Siemens inverter that switches incoming 220-volt single-phase power into three-phase. This improves electrical efficiency over a standard single-phase motor, and it enables the G700 to have variable-speed control. You can dial the suction up or down to suit the demand at hand. While the machine develops an unrestricted airflow of 1,110 cubic feet per minute (CFM), its maximum airflow through a 4″ hose is about 700 CFM. An included clear Y adapter enables both a 4″ and 2″ hose to be connected to two tools simultaneously.
Once the machine fills up, it turns off automatically and a buzzer sounds. Then, cleaning the divided bin is easy: just open the front cabinet door, flip a lever and roll it out on wheels; the container holds 32 gallons of debris in removable plastic bags.
GYRO’s horizontal design is meant to be compact: it measures 56-1/4″ long, 23-1/2″ deep and 33-7/8″ tall. A top handle on one end and heavy-duty casters make it easier to roll around, despite the fact that the machine weighs 445 pounds, empty.
The GYRO Air G700 Dust Processor sells for $3,495 and is available now. Learn more about it at the website harveywoodworking.com.