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Newbie on Board, red alert! I will need some friendly help!

4480 Views 8 Replies 5 Participants Last post by  JamesEMc
Hello Gentlemen, thank you for allowing me to post on your board. Just a couple of quick introductions, skip this paragraph if you don't care :D I was a pretty shoddy carpenter until my late 20s at which point I learned patience and became decent. Today I am 38 and have become serious about making some nice stuff. I have accumulated lots of tools over the years, built some awesome picture frames as gifts and etc. blah blah blah. I generally have made boxes, boxes inside boxes, crown molding trim work, ugly dog houses, structural carpentry, and some decent hand carvings. Today I need you because I have a new goal for a part time living.

I have recently begun building a small end table of oak/slate to match a set we bought when we furnished our new house and a friend has offered a nice commission for building a show quality saddle rack. (Table): After building a rough knockout from studs and left over slate from the previous owner I was actually quite impressed, but my joints stink. I went and bought a carbide bit (14 degree Bosch dovetail) but have not bought a jig yet. I have several routers, each 1.5 hp running around 24,000 rpm. I have been considering just making finger joints with my table saw, but have never done that either. Templates, templates, templates?

So here are my questions:

1) I see a Rand dovetail jig on ebay for about $30 made of aluminum and used Craftsmen for less than $50. When using a 2x4 piece of wood, there is no problem cutting the half blind dovetail, correct? Half blind means it doesn't go all the way through? (forgive my newbieness to this). What are the drawbacks and if you were going to join a 2x4 in a square, how would you do it? Finger joints on a table saw look reasonably easy if the proper jig were employed? I get tired-head from the endless stuff I need to make one cut and I need the easy step by step instruction of the brainless newbie. ;)

2) I want to route a star inside a circle (route the circle, leave the star raised) and don't have the metal working material to cut the jig. Is there a source for things like this?

3) Do the bushings in the kit from Home Depot do the job on jigs with the router? Is (Rockler) or somewhere else a better place to get these types of tools? The home centers just don't offer a lot of options. Plastic and routers have never been a good combination in my life.

I have so many questions, but from reading the things posted here, you guys sound like really nice folks with the same passion for creating beautiful things that I have. Thanks again for letting me post!

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As soon as you join it's your forum too. Welcome!

question 1) I personal have never seen dovetails cut with at router done on 2 x 4's I guess I'd have to see what your are building and how to say if that is something that makes sense. Joints are done for strength and looks so you end up with a lot of options in doing them.... antique stores are a good place to look at tables or chairs or what ever to see how they were made and how well they held up the last hundred years or so..... also good books on joint making at the library or book stores will give you somemore ideas.

2) Don't use metal..... plywood, hardboard, masonite all make good things that are easy to cut with woodworking tools and will work for jigs.

3) As long as they fit the router you have most of the bushings work about as well as anyone elses. I like brass ones and the ones but have had good luck with the better "plastic" ones as well.

Now you should see several more people posting ideas for you too so take what you like from them and get out and give them a try.... we always like to see pictures of projects too.

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Most of the cheap router dovetail jigs are not made for material thicker than 3/4". The porter cable guide bushings at home depot for about $30 will definately do the job with jigs. For the circle and star thingy, cut th estar out of something like 1/4 hardboard (Masonite), and attach it on the piece where you want it located (You can use a drop or two of glue, or double sided tape). Next find a circle cutting jig for your router, and cut out a circle with the diameter you want, and fasten it in place around the star. Install one of your new guide bushings in your router, and a straight cutting bit, or a (pattern cutting bit with a guide bearing) and remove the material between the two patterns. Remove your two pattern pieces. You might need to touch things up with a carving knife etc. If you,re looking for strength, and not necessarily a decorative joint, looking into mortise and tenon jointery for your butt joints.

Good luck,
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Welcome to the forum Trav! For making your star in a circle you can use a circle jig but will have to hand chisel the star shape. To build your circle jig get a piece of 1/4" Masonite(hardboard). When using a guide bushing here are things to remember: The cut you make will be the thickness of the router bit. You have to add the difference between the bit and the guide bushing twice to the size of your circle. By way of example: You want to make a 3" OD circle. You will use a 1/4" plunge cutting straight or spiral bit. Say you are using a 1/2" collar. The difference between the bit and the guide bushing is 1/8" (on one side of the bit) and you add that for both sides of the circle (1/4"), so your template must be a 3-1/4" circle. Draw and cut out your circle making sure you have nice smooth edges. Fasten your template to the wood using double sided carpet tape and route your circle to the depth you want. Hope this helped.
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Very good information, thanks all! I will be back later and thanks again for the welcome.
So Jeff, you are saying my circle and star would be two pieces and I guess that's groovy, but for stability would one piece be better or would the two sided tape hold fine? For a one piece jig I am guessing I would have to take the time to really do one exactly perfect.

I am pumped about finding this site, I am a long standing member of a music BBS, but it got too political for my tastes and everybody forgot about the art they started going there for in the first place and just wanted to argue with each other.

My mentor (a master luthier) used plexi for a lot of his really fine work jigs and would build the jig big enough to clamp outside the area he intended to use the router. He would clamp the workpiece, then clamp the jig. For the circle and star, I can see him using a very small router (even a Dremel) and a plexi jig with the jig clamped flat to a much larger work area with other blocks built for the purpose. I don't think you can overrate the design of your work area for this kind of stuff and since moving, I just haven't built one.

He would drill a hole, insert the bit and get after it with grace I wish I possessed. He was the man, but he is no longer with us and I miss his direction. I can see I need to start by figuring out what I will be building the most of and take the time up front to create the jigs I will use again and again. I figured as much, but everybody has too little time and with this as anything, if you want it nice, it takes time. If I am off base, please slap me. :rolleyes:

Can anyone recommend 4 or 5 must have bits? At $8-25 a pop, I don't want to miss.

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Trav, Woodcraft has the 10 most commonly used bits in a set. For March the set is $59.99. These are decent quality bits, available in 1/4" or 1/2" shanks and come with the Woodcraft 100% satisfaction guarantee.
My thought about the two pieces is that you are starting out with a flat piece of board. In order for this to work as I was thinking, both pieces of the template should be at the same plane, so that the router base will span the distance. That way it is very stable. I may not have envisioned what you were wanting to do though.
Strat Builder, I may be of limited expertise, but I can offer the advice that the more you make joints in woodworking, the better they become. Practice, practice, practiced. And BTW, I pride myself in having a reasonably good vocabulary, but I had to look Luthier up. You've added a word to my knowledge base. Thank you.
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