Wood Square - Easy to Build

wood square, make, build, woodworking, tool

Youtube Video - How To


I have lots of tools in the workshop, but sometimes you don't know how much you need a tool until you use something new.  One case of that is a small 90 degree square.  Not a big framing square and not a metal speed square, but a small wood square to quickly check corners as you are working.

Speed Squares
tools, square, framing, cheap

Framing Square and Drywall 'T'
framing square, t square, drywall

So i decided to make one out of wood.  This time instead of using a cheap piece of pine, I used a nice piece of oak that i had since building my TV stand.
cheap oak, oak board, lumber

Rough Cut
wood square, make tools

Ripped the 3/4" oak in half to for the part extends out and left it full width at the handle.  I figured that the best way of securing it to the handle would be to use the table saw to cut a groove in the top of the handle.  For that i needed to use the small table saw sled that i made earlier in the year.

I plan on doing a write-up of the sled later on.
table saw sled, how to make, plans, size

Pieces Fit Together
how to make tools, wood, shop, workshop, dewalt

I also used a wood block as a brace to hold the board vertically.  With it clamped in, i used the table saw to remove the bulk of the groove in the handle.  The remainder i removed with a wood rasp.

Next i glued the extension board to the handle with wood glue.  As it was setting up i checked the 90 degree angle several times, then rubbed sawdust into the glue to fill the gaps.  And clamped it all together so that it wouldn't move.

I sanded everything down with sand paper and rounded over the sharp edges and rounded over some of the corners.  I used the big homemade disc sander to flatten out the handle and made everything flush with each other.
diy disc sander, disk, sander 10" 12" sander

I added cherry stain and then instead of polyurethane i decided to use wax.  After the wax dried i wiped it and added a second coat.

I wanted to make a simple tool that does 1 job and does that 1 job well.  It turned out to be a neat little project and a tool that i hope to have for a long time.


Tour of Shop - Basement Workshop Organization


For several years i had half of the basement as my workshop.
basement, workshop, woodshop, organize

We spent a good part of last year refinishing the basement to make a play area for our son and nieces and nephews.  I didn't really take a lot of pictures while we were building it, but i plan to make a quick blog post talking about what we did and why we did it.
basement remodel, house remodel, plans, designs, how to
Since the area that used to be my workshop is now carpet and a couch, that meant that i now have the only 1/4 of the basement near the furnace and sump pump.  It used to be filled with paint cans, boxes, stacked chairs and stuff we didn't know what to do with.  At first it was a little like fitting 2 pounds of junk into a 1 pound bag.  I moved my work benches, table and shelves over there, but everything else like wood and tools just got piled up and there was nowhere to walk.  But slowly i was able to organize everything, and make places for things to be hung up and out of the way.  It's constantly a work in progress but here's what the shop looks like now.
workshop organize, organize basement, house, basement, tools

Organized Chaos
home organization, sort, shelves, table

I'll go over some key points that have given me room and helped me stay organized:

Hang From Ceiling

This is where i feel like i'm really saving space.  I have been able to hang extension cords, air hoses, paint cans, clamps, lights, and saw horses from the ceiling.  It's all within arms reach but still out of the way.
hang from ceiling, rafter hook, make joist hanger

Air Hose
how to sort tools, keep parts out of the way

Extension Cord Reel
extension cord reel, make, diy, how to

hang clamps, wood clamps, irwin, store, sort, glue clamps


You need to have some shelves in a workshop to store all the stuff you don't know what to do with.  I like to use milk crates to sort of compartmentalize everything.  That way i can pull out the milk crate labeled "Electrical" and it has everything i need to do electrical in it.
basement tools, on wheels, storage, sort

Big Tools on Wheels

The table saw, big table, and compact miter saw stand are all on wheels.  This is essential because i am constantly moving things in order to make room.  The table saw and miter saw get tucked in next to the furnace so that they are as out of the way as possible until i need them.
compact miter saw, make miter saw, miter saw stand

Table Saw on Wheels
table saw on wheels, saw on wheels, table saw, craftsman 10"

Close Up view of Saw Stands
tools on wheels, basement tools

Organizer Cart

This is something i built a few years ago and it has been perfect for organizing small parts.  Being able to quickly get nuts, bolts, and all sorts of things has saved me hours.
organizer cart, organize parts, harbor freight

Tools on Pegboard
I'll write up a separate blog post for why i like to use pegboards.  I think it's the best way to go in terms of being able to quickly grab tools and to visually see what tool is the best for the job.
pegboard storage, tools

Other Pegboard
first order reliability, tools on wall

Storage Under the Workbench
tool storage, under table, shelves

Hanging Drivers from Bench
pvc shelves, drill, driver, battery, how to, make, workshop

Attic Storage

I've found that for some pieces of wood like baseboard, crown molding, chair railing, etc.  It's a good idea to store that in the garage attic.
attic storage


Strip Sander - Easy Free Build Plans

Let's start with the finished product:
strip sander, belt sander, 1"x30" sander, diy sander, wood tool, make tools

And here's the Youtube video i did of the sander.  I go into a lot more detail about what i did and why i did it.

Strip Sander - Make Diy Build Plans 

This is a project that i have wanted to make for a while now.  It actually started because i wanted to buy the 1" x 30" strip sander from Harbor Freight.  But when i went to look at the sander in person i changed my mind.
harbor freight strip sander, coupon, free, review, make, build, improve

I've been meaning to make a flow chart on how i decide whether to buy a tool from Harbor Freight.  I'll have to post one in the future.  But the strip sander they sell would have failed miserably.

The strip sander wasn't cheap, i did plan on using it a lot, it's electric and got it got bad ratings.

I didn't think it was a tool i could make, the idea of a 1" strip of sand paper spinning perfectly centered on wheels i mounted seemed beyond my skill level.  It wasn't until i saw Mathias build his version of the sander that i got excited again.

His sander has 3 wheels and therefore needs sandpaper around 36" in length.  His 3 wheel design is similar to Harbor Freight's in that there is space in the middle to sand large objects.
mathias sander, strip sander

I knew i couldn't build something that complicated.  I didn't have the time or the ability.  Also i felt that i didn't need to build it that way.  I thought a 2 wheel version would work perfectly well, again the more basic, simple design is better.

So i looked online and found that knife sharpener designs looked like they would be perfect.
knife sander, knife sharpener, belt sander
They were my inspiration, i liked how basic they were, a wheel at the bottom attached to a motor, and an adjustable wheel at the top.  A platten in the middle behind the paper where the thing you are sanding/sharpening can push against.
simple knife sander, strip sander

Another super basic design that i really liked.  
make sander

It reminded me of the adjustable knife sharpener that Adam Savage has in his shop.  I couldn't fine a picture of his exact one, but it looked similar to this.
adam savage sander, knife sander, tested strip sander, belt sander

My version would be along those lines but include a small sanding table surface.  As always i drew up many many different versions on paper.  The hard part was getting rid of pieces, trying to minimize the design down to it's basic parts.

Then i realized that to go farther i had to decide on a motor.  And this is where i made an important decision on how the sander would operate.  I have several motors on a shelf in my basement and i could have easily used a big 1/3 HP motor for the sander.
westing house electric motor for tools

But that is the total opposite thing i wanted.  The purpose of this sander was to be small, simple, compact, and used for sanding little intricate parts.  The bigger electric motors would be overkill.  That's why i decided to use a tiny electric motor from a cheap box fan.

walmart box fan motor, motor for sander, sander motor

To find out if that motor would actually work i decided to do a quick mock up of the sander.  The motor was nice because it had 4 mounting points where it bolted to the old box fan.  Those were perfect for bolting onto a wood frame i made.  I ripped a 2x4 in half on the table saw, traced the shape of the motor onto the boards, ripped grooves around the motor, then drilled holes for the bolts.  I was really happy with how the mounts turned out.  You can kind of see here how i had to fit it around the motor.
how to make a strip sander, belt sander, sander, free tool

Starting to take shape.
make wood sander, tool, cool ideas, free tools

Next i got out an old roller blade wheel from a milk crate of wheels i had, put a bolt through it and attach it to a board.  The roller blade wheel was perfect for size, width and it already had a great bearing in it.  Also the inside of the bearing fit a bolt perfectly.  Then i clamped that "arm" to an upright and clamped that to the base.  I was happy with the basic shape of the sander.  Then i had to cut out a bottom wheel, i just traced a roll of duct tape i had onto a board, cut it out on the bandsaw and drilled a hole in the middle.  Later on i put a convex bevel on the wheel to keep the sand paper centered.  The 1"x30" sandpaper was the only thing i really had to buy to make the sander, the rest of the stuff i already had in my basement.

I bought some 1" x 30" sand paper from Harbor Freight for around $3.50.  
harbor freight sand paper, 1" sand paper

Or you can get the stuff from Lowe's which is $5.

Lowe's sand paper, sandpaper, 1" x 30" sand paper, strip sander

When i put the sand paper over the wheels i had to tension the sand paper and clamp it down.  
strip sander tool build, make, mock up

Here's another picture of everything just clamped together to see if the thing would actually spin.
testing the new sander


Seeing the sand paper spinning around and not falling off, gave me such confidence to keep going.  Before that i wasn't really sure, or wasn't sure if i wanted to build it.  But after seeing it working i knew that it was going to be great.

From that point i kind of designed it as i went along.  I didn't really have dimensions, and if i did, i kept trying to make it smaller and more compact.
box fan motor mount, sander motor mount

I got a piece of plywood and marked where i thought the motor mount should attach.  I pre-drilled holes then glued and screw it in place.  Then i cut and attached the vertical board with glue.
strip sander frame, wood frame, tool

I tried to make the base as small as possible.  With the small base i had to also make a small sanding table.  It basically acts as a platform to pivot the piece you are sanding.  I could have made a pivoting table for sanding angles, but again the goal was to be simple and i'm glad i made a fixed table.  Sanding angles can be done by just tipping the piece up or down.

Next was the design of the cantilever spring arm.  Back to pen and paper to draw out 20 different versions, with how they were going to pivot and how the spring would attach.
cantilever arm, sander, tension

Early stages of the 3 "alignment bolts".  More on those later.  But you can see part of the tension spring in this picture.
sander alignment bolts

I found a spring that would attach at the back and provide the right belt tension.  The spring attached to the end of the cantilever arm and then to the middle of the upright.

Again in keeping with the theme here, i wanted the table to be small.  
sander table

From this point i could have made the table any size i wanted though.
build, make, how to, diy, sander, belt sander, strip sander, wood tool

Here's the board cut out and gluing up to the uprights.  Some people might say, "why don't you make the table adjustable so you can sand different angles?"  And i actually thought about that originally.  But i figured it would be unnecessary and i could always hold whatever i'm sanding at an angle.  Again, keep it simple.
compact sander

Next was time to make the platten.  I decided to use some bars of aluminum because it's easy to work with, easy to drill, easy to cut, and light weight.  

The hard part was figuring out how to mount it.  But i eventually realized that i could attach it to one of the table uprights.
adjustable platten, bolt

You can see that i used a bolt with a thumb tightener so that i could adjust the platten so it is aligned with the sandpaper.
sander platten

To make it i just riveted 2 pieces of aluminum together.  
aluminum rivets, platten

Here's the front side.
join aluminum with rivets

Next i decided to try and improve the roller blade wheel.  It probably would have worked fine how it was but i wanted to make more surface area where it came in contact with the sand paper.  That way it wouldn't have all the force just on the center of the paper.  So i cut the wheel on an angle on the bandsaw.
cut roller blade wheel, cut wheel on bandsaw

I bolted the wheel on to a board, then clamped the board to the bandsaw table.
how to cut roller blade wheel, skateboard wheel

This turn out terribly.  Instead of "cutting" the rubber, it just kind of melted the rubber and it got all gummed up in the bandsaw blade and wheels.  It took a long time to get the rubber out.

Then i cleaned it up and made more of a bevel on the big disc sander.
add curve to roller blade wheel

It ended up working well.  I'm glad i didn't just use the roller blade wheel as it was.
upper wheel on cantilever sander

To keep the sand paper on the wheels you need some way of alignment.  The bottom wheel can't move so the roller blade wheel on the cantilever arm had to adjust.  I could have come up with a more elegant design but i figured that having 3 bolts push on the side would work.  So i drilled and "tapped" the bolts through the upright.  Applying tension of the 3 bolts would move the arm in and out and also angle it to keep the sand paper centered.  To easily turn the bolts i cut some washers in half and welded them on to the heads of the bolts.  Kind of like a wing-nut to turn with thumb and fingers.
weld washers for bolt thumb screw

Up to this point i always turned the motor on with the 3-speed switch from the box fan.  I wanted to make it simpler with just an on/off switch.  But i didn't want a huge outlet box on the side of this compact sander.  So i looked and looked until i found a little box that would just fit a switch.  From there i cut out a part of the box, cut a slot for the switch itself, screwed it to the side of the sander and then wired the switch.  I kept the 3-speed adjuster knob and just screwed it to the side near the bottom.  Kind of out of the way but still accessible.  I didn't really get a good picture of the switch i made.  But you can see here that i was still using the 3-way switch, which would have been fine.
cantilever sander

Almost near the end.
how to make a 1"x30" strip sander, belt sander

Once i was happy with how it was working it was time to take it all apart.
pieces to make a sander

Close-up of some of the pieces.
how to build make a tool

It was time to sand everything down, stain and seal it.
easy tool to make, ideas, wood, workshop

Another view of the pieces.  You can see the original motor mount here too.
fun tools to make for your shop

Instead of polyurethane i went with wax.  Maybe in hindsight i would have polyurethaned it, it would have made it a little stronger of surface.  But the wax looks fine and should hold up ok.

All Done...then.... uh oh.

I went to sand something and realized that the piece kept hopping up as i pressed on the sandpaper.  The motor was spinning the wrong way.  Somehow i missed that the entire time i was building it.  It wasn't the end of the world, it still would have worked, but i wanted to see if i could get the motor to spin the right "downward" direction.  
reverse single pole electric motor, how to

Long story short, i got it to reverse its direction by taking the motor apart and flipping the spool of copper wires around.  There might have been an easier way but the motor was pretty delicate and glued and roped together.
how to reverse an electric motor, box fan motor, walmart

Finally all done for good.  You can see the switch i added here.  
free, easy, tool, sander, belt sander, strip sander, wood

I always love using this sander when i need it.  It is so convenient to just take out from under the workbench, plug in and use it.  It can be a pain to have to clamp it to the table top, but other than that it's great.