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Woodworking FAQ's

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Woodworking FAQ's


1. What is the better buy- a Table Saw or a Radial Arm Saw?

2.  What is the best type of Dado Blade to Buy- The Dial (Wobble Type) or The Stacking (Chipper Type)?

3.  What is the best way to get rid of "Glue Squeeze Out"?

4.  What are some finishes that are non-toxic and can be used for Children's toys or Food Surfaces?

5.  What Size Drill Bit should you use for a Wood Screw?

6.  What's the best Saw Blade to Buy?

7.  What is the difference between a Fixed Router and a Plunge Router?

8.  What is the difference between a Wood Screw and a Pocket Scew?

9.  What are some of the common defects in wood?

10.  What is the difference between a Router Table and a Shaper, and Which is better to use?

11.  What is the difference between a Brad Nail and a Finish Nail and which one should I use?

12.  What is the safest technique for cutting Wide Boards on a Table Saw?

13.  What is the best way to fix deep gauges in a wood floor without having to completely replace the floor panel?

14.  What is a Sanding Sealer, and when should I use it?

**More helpful tips for woodworkers from woodworkers.**

A.  What is the better buy- a Table Saw or a Radial Arm Saw?

The type of Saw really depends on what you will be using it for the most. Both Saws can be used for Ripping and Crosscutting. Table Saws work best for Ripping, and Radial Arm Saws Work best for Crosscutting, but are limited by their arm’s length. The Radial Arm Saw is more adaptable for non-sawing tasks, and many Radial Arm Saws have attachments available for overhead routing, surface planning, and drum sanding. Most Table Saws have disk sanding attachments available.

It is more difficult to do Ripping on a Radial Arm Saw because it requires one to push the lumber under the motor housing. Using pushsticks and hold-down wheels can really help. Also, Maximum rip width is usually limited by the length of the arm. This problem can be fixed. You can rip wider pieces by building a secondary rip fence on the other side of the table from the column, but doing so limits the off-cut piece width. Radial Arm Saws are more prone to overheat during rips in thick wood because the teeth stay in the cut longer. You can try to alleviate this problem by cutting substantially into the tabletop, but even then there is no place for the sawdust to exit. Radial Arm Saws are best used for Crosscutting.

Table Saws are much better for ripping than Radial Arm Saws, but can be difficult when doing crosscutting. The problem that is often faced when trying to crosscut with a table saw is that it is difficult to keep a board much longer than 4 ft. square to the blade. Building a good sliding panel cutter can really help with this problem. Many new tablesaws have built-in sliding tables, and there are also sliding table attachments available for most table saws. Some Table Saws even have sliding arbors which allows them to work as inverted Radial Arm Saws, but the arbors don’t typically slide as far as the length of most Radial Arm Saws.

Both Saws are capable of making very accurate cuts. Radial Arm Saws have a cantilevered arm attached to a cantilevered column, which tends to make them less rigid than the Table Saws which usually have their Arbor Trunions bolted to the table in a wide pattern. The cut can be greatly affected by worn arm bearings in Radial Arm Saws, and by a change in the miter gauge in Table Saws.

Both Radial Arm Saws and Table Saws need to be aligned properly to make accurate cuts. Radial Arm Saws can be more difficult to align as there are more tasks to be performed when aligning than in a Table Saw. Radial Arm Saws also typically require more frequent realignment than Table Saws.

Radial Arm Saws require less surrounding space than Table Saws to perform the same tasks. Radial Arm Saws only need space on the right and left of the saw whether making crosscuts or rips. Table Saws need space or clearance in the front and back when Ripping and to the left and right as well when crosscutting.

Many people feel that Radial Arm Saws are more dangerous because the blade is exposed above the work surface, and because the blade’s location varies as the cut progresses. Angled Crosscutting is particularly dangerous since the blade is cutting where one would normally hold the work piece. Also, The spin direction of the blade tends to lift the work off the table when ripping, and can result in binding of the saw blade or serious injury to the operator if ripping in the crosscut position. A safety blade has a shoulder in front of each tooth, limiting the amount of pull and often preventing these types of accidents.

With a Table Saw, the blade is concealed which can cause a safety issue, but typically doesn’t as the blade is always in the same spot on the table. Also, the spin direction on the Table Saw tends to keep the work piece down on the table, but can also throw the work piece and off-cuts back at the operator. All machining and saws are very dangerous and should always be handled with great attention and respect.

As with all large buying decisions, you should take into account what you will be using the saw for the most and choose a saw that will be best suited for those applications.

** Tenryu and Popular Tools make quality Table Saw Blades and Radial Arm Saw Blades for a great price. 


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A. What is the best type of Dado Blade to Buy- The Dial (Wobble Type) or The Stacking (Chipper Type)?

The Wobble or Dial Type is very simple to use and has infinite settings that range between approximately ¼” and 3/16”. Because of the it’s design the dial type does not produce true right angles. Many people still prefer it because they believe it is easier to set up.

The Chipper or Stacking Type doesn’t have the ability to give you infinite settings for width like the wobble type, but you can achieve nearly any thickness you want by adding shims in thicknesses of 1/32”, 1/64”, 1/128”, etc. Chippers will cut square bottom on the dado, but because the blades are slightly larger than the chippers, it will also leave two grooves on the edge of the dado. The larger blades are meant to reduce splintering. They can be reground to the same size as the chippers, but this may result in increased splintering. Many people leave the blades a little larger and find benefit in the grooves, as they can provide relief for gluing joints.

**Oshlun sells 6 Tooth Chipper Dado sets for a great price.   Shop for 8" Dado Sets or 6" Dado Sets from Oshlun.

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A. What is the best way to get rid of "Glue Squeeze Out"?

The obvious solution is to use the right amount of glue, but if you are afraid of a “glue starved joint”, here are some ways to get rid of excess.

You should wipe off excess glue immediately with a damp sponge or paper towel. Some people are more leery of this technique, claiming the water-glue mixture will soak into the wood and show up when the piece is finished. Others feel that this technique works just fine. The effectiveness of this technique depends mostly on the type of wood and finish being used.

Another way to get rid of excess glue is to allow the glue to harden a little (1/2 – 2 hours), and then chisel or scrape off the excess. Some recommend removing the glue after it begins to film over.

Either finish the pieces ahead of time or apply paste wax. This should prevent the glue from sticking. The only problem one might face is removing the paste wax prior to finishing.

Another technique you can use is to cut a plastic drinking straw at 45 degrees to scoop the glue out of the inside corner. You can trim the straw as it fills up with glue to keep a clean surface.

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A. What are some finishes that are non-toxic and can be used for Children's toys or Food Surfaces?


If you want a finish that is non-toxic and safe for kids or food surface here are some products that you can use:

    1.  Behlens Salad Bowl Finish. This product has been approved by the FDA for use on objects that will come in contact with food. It produces a nice, semi-gloss finish. This finish is safe for food contact after the appropriate drying time.
Any vegetable oil can work, but vegetable oil can become rancid after a period of time.
Walnut Oil. Walnut oil reacts with the air and hardens into a true finish. It works particularly well when the oil is heated and the item is dipped into the warm oil. You can find walnut oil at health food stores or some large grocery stores.

    2.  Mineral Oil or Vaseline can also work as a finish.

    3.  Water Based polyurethanes. These are new products which are very different from the more familiar oil based polyurethanes. They are non-toxic, dry quickly, and have no strong odors when applying.

   4.  Pure Tung Oil. It is essentially a vegetable oil, but produces a nice finish that will not go rancid. It has no driers or solvents. Be sure to use only Pure Tung Oil.

   5.  Some people believe that Shellac is also safe once it has completely dried. This has not been proven or verified though.

   6.  Watco claims its oils are suitable for food or baby use if they have been allowed to dry for at least 30 days. The thirty days are needed for it to reach full polymerization.

   7.  Paint. Some paints claim to be non-toxic once they have completely dried.

   8.  The last alternative is to simply leave the work pieces unfinished. If you have any doubts this may be the safest way to go.

If you are unsure about any finish you plan to use, you can always contact the manufacture and request the information you want. You can also ask for a MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet).


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A. What Size Drill Bit should you use for a Wood Screw?


Here is a chart to reference for picking the right drill bit for a wood screw:

Screw Gage    Shank    Shank     Pilot     Pilot
   Number        Hole    Size      Soft Wd   Hard Wd
       0         1/16    .060      1/64      1/32
       1         5/64    .073      1/32      1/32
       2         3/32    .086      1/32      3/64
       3         7/64    .099      3/64      1/16
       4         7/64    .112      3/64      1/16
       5         1/8     .125      1/16      5/64
       6         9/64    .138      1/16      5/64
       7         5/32    .151      1/16      3/32
       8         11/64   .164      5/64      3/32
       9         3/16    .177      5/64      7/64
      10         3/16    .190      3/32      7/64
      11         13/64             3/32      1/8
      12         7/32    .216      7/64      1/8
      14         1/4     .242      7/64      9/64
      16         17/64   .268      9/64      5/32
      18         19/64   .294      9/64      3/16
      20         21/64   .320      11/64     13/64


**Find quality Drill Bits from Triumph Twist Drill or Southeast Tool.  


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A. What's the best Saw Blade to Buy?


Many people will try to save some bucks by buying a cheap blade, but this may not be the best route. A cheap blade will wear faster, and may need to be retipped or replaced more frequently than a more expensive Blade. The cost of sharpening and retipping a blade can add up and get pretty expensive so it is often more cost effective to just buy a better and more expensive blade in the first place. Not to mention buying a cheep blade, or using a blade for a job it is not intended for can be very dangerous.

A good Saw Blade is a blade that has been tensioned. A tensioned blade may be more expensive up-front, but will run truer, longer than a blade that has not been tensioned.

Carbide Saw Blades last longer and wear better than steel blades, up to 60 times longer in fact. If you are looking for a blade that lasts even longer than a carbide saw blade, a cermet blade may be a good choice. These blades are tipped with a special material that is both stronger and tougher than carbide. They last up to 10 times longer than a carbide Saw Blade. 
LongLife Saw Blades are tensioned and made with these special cermet tips.


**SystiMatic sells good quality carbide saw blades that are still reletively inexpensive.  If you are looking for something high end that will last a long time between sharpenings try out one of our Cermet Tipped LongLife Saw Blades- they last up to 10 times longer than carbide!


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A. What is the difference between a Fixed Router and a Plunge Router?

A fixed base router has a motor that is "threaded" (like a screw) into the base. You loosen the lock nut and twist the motor and you have fairly precise control of how far out the blade protrudes from the base. You can still plunge with these, but the plunge mechanism is your arms. One way to Plunge with a fixed base router is by tilting the router on an angle and setting a corner of the base on the wood to be routed. Start the motor, then tilt down until the bit enters the wood and the base sits firmly on the wood.  If you are new to using these tools or like to be cautious, this may not be a good technique to use. You should always make sure you are comfortable with the router you are using and keep in mind that routers are safe when you take charge and handle them firmly and with respect.

Plunge routers have springs built into a pair of columns that support the router. You can set the router base on the wood, start the motor, then push down on the spring loaded plunge system and have very precise control of the actual plunge. Getting the depth right, however, depends on setting up the stops on the router very carefully.

Both router types are capable of producing the same executions in your work if used correctly, but there are some plunge bits and plunge operations that can be better controlled with a plunge router.  Both Plunge Routers and Fixed Base Router are capable of  doing fine work regardless of the base.  The main obstacle that may prevent you from using a plunge or fixed base router is size.  Some of these routers may be too heavy or large to do certain jobs.

You should choose your router based on the type of work you will be doing.  It may be best to have two routers- one small and one large router for shaping operations.  If you are going to be working on raising panels, or using really large coving bits, a larger router with more horsepower and variable speed will be a better buy.  In this case, the base may not matter at all as it may be better to remove the base so that it can be fitted to a router table with the motor alone.

If you are just starting out, or have more use for a smaller router, it is best to make sure it is sized to perform free hand operations without being to heavy, and may be best to get one that has the option to change the base so that you can use a Plunge Base or a Fixed Base.

**Shop for Router Bits from Fine Woodworking Magazine's Top Rated Router Bit Company- Whiteside Router Bits.  Also try out Southeast Router Bits- Quality Router Bits Competitively priced.

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A. What is the difference between a Wood Screw and a Pocket Scew?


A pocket screw essentially is a wood screw. Wood screw com in many forms, but the more common ones are: oval heads, washer heads, flat head, and bugle head. They can also have varying tips. A pocket screw is a type of wood screw, usually has a washer head, and can have an auger tip. Generally the thread type, pitch and blade side are the same as other wood screws.


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A. What are some of the common defects in wood?


The more common defects are caused by drying and environmental factors. The drying defects fall into three basic categories. The first is checking or cracking which is occurs in the ends or surface of the board and is caused by stresses placed on the outer edges as they tend to dry faster than the inner region of the board. The second is discoloration which can be caused by chemical (if the kiln is too hot or the process is too slow), fungal, or shadowing (also known as sticker stain). Shadowing (sticker stain) can be caused by either chemical or fungal and occurs due to the physical contact between the board and the stickers used to separate the board from neighboring boards during the drying process. The third drying defect is warping.
There are several different types of warping in wood. The wood can be bowed, have a crook or curve, be cupped, or have a twist. There is also oval warp where the straightening of the growth rings due to drying will turn round stock (like a dowel) into stock with an oval cross-section.
Some other defects include knots, insect damage, animal damage (like birds packing), bacteria damage and fungal damage.


**If you found this article interesting check out our article on Wood Allergens.
Over 370 types of wood that can cause health problems.


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A. What is the difference between a Router Table and a Shaper, and Which is better to use?


A shaper tends to cost more and uses knives which are more expensive to replace. Shapers are also much more dangerous. They are meant for cutting bigger stock faster, and work well for large production runs of the same moulding. The Shaper machines do not take up a lot of room, but require more room because you run larger pieces of stock through them.

A router Table is much more practical for most small shops. A router allows you to run small stock, and is much more versatile as you can remove the router and use it freehand. Routers are also less expensive, and can do any job that one would use a shaper for.

Unless you will be needing to mill several hundred linear feet of stock, a Router is probably the better choice. Shapers used to be more important before there was such a surplus of different types of router bits, but now router tables can do just about any job a shaper can and are much better for smaller pieces of stock.

**Shop for Edge Profile and Molding Router Bits from Whiteside and Southeast Tool.


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A. What is the difference between a Brad Nail and a Finish Nail and which one should I use?


Brad Nails are usually 18 gauge or lighter and range in length from 3/8” to 2”. It is important to note that most brad nails over 1” in length must be air driven as the shank is too thin to support repeated blows from a hammer. A finish nail is usually around 15 gauge (this equals out to be a hundredth on an inch thicker) and ranges in length from 1” to 2 ½”.

Both nails will work well for applying mouldings, doing interior trim, cobbling together makeshift jigs for quick machine setups, and holding together pieces while glue dries.

Some key differences are that brad nails tend to be much cheaper, and are smaller making them a better choice for smaller jobs and smaller pieces of material. Also, if you make a mistake, brad nails are much easier to cover up or remove. Brad nails have a smaller head, making them less visible when used on mouldings and furniture.

A finish nail can do just about everything a Brad Nail can, but a finish nail is to big for craft projects or small furniture, and a finish nail is too big for nailing a small strip onto a jig as a guide - it will split small pieces.

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A. What is the safest technique for cutting Wide Boards on a Table Saw?


Using a standard miter gauge on a table saw will work fine in most situations, however if the board is large enough that it extends over the edge of the edge of the table saw, cutting can become dangerous.

Consider creating a special jig for cutting large boards.  A special jig known a sled makes is possible to cut larger pieces since it helps guide the larger boards through the table saw.  You should start with a rectangular piece of plywood or particle board.  Then fasten a piece of hardwood along one edge at a right angle.  This piece serves as the gauge when cutting.

On the other side, attach a strip of wood that will act as a runner.  The runner should be the same width and depth as the groove on the table portion of the table saw.

With the runner placed in the groove, the sled slides very easily on the saw, making it possible to cut wide boards that overhang the back of the table.

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A. What is the best way to fix deep gauges in a wood floor without having to completely replace the floor panel?


You can replace the boards, but ther are other options that may be much easier. Using a wood filler to fill the gauges may solve this problem just fine. Wood fillers come in tubes, making using them even easier and more convenient. All you would need to do is squeeze an appropriate amount directly into the groove. Once the filler has dried sand it flush with the wood surface using 80 grit or 100 grit sandpaper. Once the filler is completely dried it should sand very easily. Once this is done, you can apply a polyurethane finish so that it blends with the surrounding wood. For additional touch-ups, you can use a stain marker to hide the wood filler or scratch.


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A. What is a Sanding Sealer, and when should I use it?


Sanding sealers are actually just a thin-bodied finish. Think of it as a thin coat of polyurethane. The advantage to using sanding sealer is that it dries very quickly. If you're in a hurry, you can apply sanding sealer first, then a coat of polyurethane after just a few hours. If you're not in a hurry, apply two or three coats of polyurethane, skipping the sanding sealer. Regular polyurethane takes longer to dry (usually a full day per coat), but provides better protection.


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Some more helpful hints from various woodworkers:

Tip - When working with biscuits, apply glue to the joints first and the biscuits last. Wet biscuits that are allowed to stand will expand and become difficult to insert.

Tip - Most epoxy can be colored black or just about any color by adding Sheffield Tints-All® (928-119). Keep your mixture lean since these colorants are very concentrated. We suggest making a test sample by mixing about 2-5 drops of colorant per ounce to achieve a satisfactory color. Jot down the maximum amount used per ounce to arrive at a ratio for larger quantities. Too much color can affect drying, so any time you change a color ratio, always check a test ounce for any drying problems.

Tip - As a general rule, when changing the color of any dark woodwork to a lighter shade, the old stain and finish must be removed unless you are painting. The dyes would probably not have much effect on the dark color since it probably also has a finish over it. Once the old stain and finish are removed and lightly sanded, you should be able to start on a "blank canvas" to create your new colors. It is more than a bit of work, but we have had to do this many times and the results are well worth the effort.

Tip - Dye must penetrate the wood or be added to an additional coating for it to be effective - applying it over an existing finish will not really work. The original finish will repel the color. However, you could add dye to a lacquer or other finish and recoat the wood with very good results.

 Tips and hints taken form woodworker forum:


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