Learning Curve

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Blog entry by DaveLeHardt posted 12-29-2010 08:00 PM 1707 reads 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

There’s one lesson I seem to keep relearning, and that’s how much trouble I have working with sheet wood, MDF in particular. Not only is it bloody heavy, for the life of me, I cannot get a square corner cut on it, or get it cut to the right length/width. Well, I canif I can fit it on my tablesaw. And that I think is the problem. I’ve tweaked out the saw, miter gage (mostly), and fence so that I can get reliable cuts from it. But if I can’t fit the piece on the table saw, fuhgetaboutit.

This is evidenced in the case for the drawers I’m putting under my workbench. They’re part of the add-ons to a bench plan from Wood Magazine, and having some storage space under the table made alot of sense (in fact lots of storage space is needed). The bottom, top, and back were all too big to be cut on the tablesaw, so I leaned on my circ saw and a cutting guide and square. Maybe I’m missing something, or there’s some technique I’m in need of, but those parts of the case just weren’t square or as accurately cut as I wanted.

On a related tangential note, the otherlesson I keep learning is that, for me, woodworking isn’t about speed. It’s about slowing WAY down, and thinking more and assuming less at every step of the project. Things go better when I do that. Now back to my previous rant…

The sides were small enough to cut on the tablesaw, so those came out ok. I don’t want to talk about the pooched dados in sides for the runners. That goes back to the slowing down thing.

Now the drawer pieces came out great! A nice flat pine board, rough cut with the circ saw, ripped to width on the table saw and cut to final length miter saw was sweet. The one time I went to the tablesaw to cut them to length didn’t work so good (need to work on my technique there and come up with a sled/stop arrangement that is more stable…). And cutting the rabbets with the dado stack in the tablesaw worked well too (tho I really need to invest in a better quality stack – or get a shoulder plane – one or the ‘tother). Test pieces and sneaking up on the final size – check! Keep that in the woodworking clue bag furshur!

Now there’s not going to be much chance of avoiding working with sheet goods, so rather than swim against the current, getting a power boat with a hurkin’ engine would be much better! There’s a rolling storage rack/panel cutter rig I saw in another Wood Magazine issue that’s next on my shop stuff list. Having a stable platform with a dedicated and right sized cutting guide should make a world of difference. Plus it’ll free up the space where I’m now storing the sheet wood and the old bench their strapped to. All goodness methinks.

Oh and mounting an MDF case UNDER a bench. Yeesh! That wasn’t nearly as easy as the plan indicated. Ya, I needed some boards to lift it into position, but since I tweaked the height of the bench, 4 chunks of 2×6 wasn’t going to cut it. In the end, a hydraulic car jack, and stacks of 2×4 got it into position so I could secure one side, then the other. McGuyver woulda been proud.

Hopping back to the previous post about the Yule gifts. They were a HUGE hit. Altho (to me anyways) the boxes were “first project EVAR” quality, and the hole for the mirrors was too big or deep, everybody like them. My favorite was the simplest – a take on a 6 board Shaker box for my nephew (from Fine Woodworking).

Now I have two more drawer to finish, and that should be fun as they’ll fit nicely. Then some sanding and finishing, pulls to add then load ‘em up!

Looking into my Woodworking Clue Bag, there’s plenty of clues to use now. The trick will be slowing down to remember to dip into it when needed!

-- What? Me worry?!

6 comments so far

View Scott R. Turner's profile

Scott R. Turner

276 posts in 4643 days

#1 posted 12-29-2010 10:49 PM

I had better luck in cutting sheet goods square in my most recent project by (1) making a 9’ long cutting guide, and (2) making my cuts on top of a sheet of (sacrificial) hard foam insulation, so that the plywood was supported for the full length of the cut.

The guide I built was essentially this It’s useful to leave a portion of the guide on the far side of the fence as shown, because it allows you to clamp the guide without interfering with the circular saw.

View lilredweldingrod's profile


2496 posts in 4562 days

#2 posted 12-29-2010 11:47 PM

This is the jig I made to handle sheet goods. The long side goes out board and the kerf mark is 24” from the blade for measuring. I have a 48” and a 96” slide for depending on the way I need to cut.

I find that by taking my time and remeasuring to be sure of my measurements, I end up with accuracy of +/- 1/64” over 96”.
And to get the full sheet up on the saw I installed the Leg Up fixture on the right side of my saw.

And as you can see, I keep my sheet goods close at hand. With this setup, I can handle a full sheet from my wheelchair with no help. I hope this is a help. Rand

View canadianchips's profile


2632 posts in 4452 days

#3 posted 12-30-2010 12:00 AM

Take the time to make the TABLES and JIGS that will help you do the work. At the end of the day it will be worth the time. Nothing more discouraging than struggling with an over sized piece of material and not having the equipment to deal with it !

-- "My mission in life - make everyone smile !"

View rivergirl's profile


3201 posts in 4293 days

#4 posted 12-30-2010 12:16 AM

Rand, you know, I have to tell you that I as I was reading your response, and looking at the pics and thinking, wow- that is a good idea, and the pic goes with it, and sheet goods are heavy.. (and I think to myself that I could never do any of this- but it’s an interesting thing to read and think about) BUT THEN.. I get to this part… “With this setup, I can handle a full sheet from my wheelchair with no help” And I think.. HOLY CRAP…. Because I forget that you use a wheel chair. And I think.. wow Rand DOES THIS STUFF.. and so does Jamie, and etc. etc. YOU GUYS NEVER CEASE TO AMAZE ME – your talent and your pluck is incredible and an outstanding example to all of us. :)

-- Homer : "Oh, and how is education supposed to make me feel smarter? Besides, every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain."

View PurpLev's profile


8654 posts in 5104 days

#5 posted 12-30-2010 12:34 AM

I find that working with larger panels on the TS gives me less precise results than placing the panels (mdf/plywood/etc) on some 3/4” MDF subbase, and using a straightedge guide like mentioned above. I too had problems getting straight and square cuts with a circular saw until I made one of those guides that stayed put and had the precut cut line built in that made it much easier to prepare a cut exactly where I want it.

-- ㊍ When in doubt - There is no doubt - Go the safer route.

View DaveLeHardt's profile


48 posts in 4463 days

#6 posted 12-30-2010 04:48 PM

Thanks all for the ideas! A full sheet size cutting guide and something sacrificial (I like the foam idea as it’s light!) are at the top of my list to try. Rand, that is an outstanding jig! It’s clever and simple. Getting both of these set up for my next round with sheet goods is at the top my list. Again, thanks for the tips and feedback! You guys ROCK!

Not sure what variant of pine I got for the drawers, but it has rays like Oak and some wild grain like Quilt or Fiddleback Maple. It looks great finished too. Glad I was able to find more of it, as I’ve a box request for paint pen storage from my wife.

-- What? Me worry?!

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