A Workshop’s Best Friend

The angle grinder is one of the most versatile tools in any workshop.  Part chop saw, part grinder, and part sander, there are no metal working projects in my shop that do not rely heavily on this tool.  Angle grinders come in a variety of sizes and with numerous power output and rpm ratings.  The most common sizes are 4 1/2 inch, 7 inch, and 9 inch grinders, with the 4 1/2 in being most common,  and these numbers reference the diameter of the disc, or wheel, that can be run safely by them.

Disc types for angle grinders are numerous and although some discs are multipurpose, many times specific discs are designed to perform specific functions or for specific materials, like the metal grinding disc pictured above.  Not only can other discs  be bought to cut, polish, sand, and grind metals, but wood working attachments have become more common for angle grinders as well.  With the introduction of wheels designed specifically for carving and sanding wood, like the carving attachment pictured below, the ever-useful angle grinder has managed to become even handier.

The angle grinder’s usefulness stretches even farther than wood and iron working, there are also discs sold specifically for concrete and masonry applications like the one pictured below.  Whether cutting into a brick wall, concrete slab, or mortar, this tool definitely comes in handy for those DIY stone and masonry jobs.

If anyone knows the value of an angle grinder it would have to be welders.  Primarily used in metal fabrication, the angle grinder is just as important as a welding machine itself in insuring a quality weld.  From material preparation and beveling to grinding down a weld, the angle grinder definitely beats hand filing to accomplish the same task.

For anyone looking to begin welding as a hobby or career I would strongly suggest buying a good angle grinder such as this one and learning how to use it before even buying a welding machine.  I have learned from personal experience that buying a cheaper grinder will only find you on the market for another grinder in the near future.  My DeWalt 4.5 inch angle grinder cost a little more than $80 when I bought it close to a decade ago, and after hundreds of hours of use it is still going strong today.  The cheap $35 grinder that I bought from a well known big box store prior to purchasing my DeWalt did not even make it through its first job.  I would also encourage any beginning welder to check out this article on how to get started without spending a fortune.

Below I have linked to a few useful angle grinder attachments as well as a few sources on angle grinder use and safety.

OSHA Angle Grinder Safety

How To Use an Angle Grinder

Metal Cutting Discs

Paint Stripping Discs

Metal Grinding Discs

Sanding/Flap Disc

Wood Carving Attachment

DeWalt 4.5 inch Angle Grinder

Thank you for reading!  Please be sure to like, comment, follow, and share on social media.

Jake with tool-school.com

Advertisements

Just A Spoonful Of Maintenance

I have written several articles such as this one on how and why to make your own wooden spoons and utensils.  It is a great hobby and introduction to woodworking.  Like any woodworking project, a successful spoon creation does not end with the final passes of sandpaper over wood.  To ensure that your hand crafted wooden utensils live the longest life possible, there is some very quick and easy maintenance involved.  Below is a short list of tips that will extend the life of your wooden spoons, spatulas, rolling pins, and cutting boards many years as well as keep them beautiful and more sanitary.

  • NEVER PUT A WOODEN UTENSIL IN THE DISHWASHER!!!!!
  • Wash utensil in warm, soapy water.
  • Never let it sit or soak in water.
  • Pat dry with a towel after washing.
  • Let it air dry completely after toweling.
  • Apply a light coat of cooking oil or food safe mineral oil at least once a month.

The spoons that I sell are sealed with either food safe mineral oil or vegetable oil that can be purchased at any grocery store, but walnut oil is great for sealing wooden kitchenware as well.  I avoid the walnut oil on spoons that I sell due to potential nut allergies of buyers.  If nut allergies are an issue I would recommend using the food safe mineral oil or vegetable oil.

Though most wooden kitchen utensils are undoubtedly store bought and mass produced, these maintenance tips apply just the same.  In fact, every store bought wooden utensil that I have purchased in the past few years has come unsealed from the store, leaving it completely unprotected from water damage and bacteria.  Coating a wooden spoon with oil not only seals it off from water intrusion, it also acts as a barrier to food bacteria penetrating and thriving inside of the wood of the utensil.

Aside from water and bacteria protection, sealing wood with oil often improves the aesthetic appeal of wood.  The video in this article demonstrates how oiling an unsealed spoon can really change the look of the spoon for the better.  In the video a liberal amount of oil is used because it is the first time the wood has been sealed, but for a monthly resealing of utensils generally a tablespoon or so of oil is all that is required.

DSCF6554
Unsealed
DSCF6560
Sealed

No trick photography or sucking in of the gut was used in the before and after pictures above, I promise.

Whether you buy a spoon from me, from your local kitchen shop, or make your own, these tips are certain to add years of useful life to any and all of your wooden kitchen utensils.  It can even extend the life of your wooden tool handles as well.  Below are links to a few products that I recommend to get the job done, the walnut oil is great when allergies are not a factor, and the mineral oil would definitely be my go-to product if they are.  There is also a link to an article that will take you step by step through making your own wooden kitchenware works of art.

Walnut Oil

Food Grade Safe Mineral Oil

How to make a wooden spoon with basic hand tools.

Thanks for reading!  Please be sure to like, comment, follow tool-school.com and share this article on social media.

Jake

Today Is Earth Day 2018!

Each year since 1970 the 22nd day of April has been celebrated as Earth Day.  Each year various events are held on this day to encourage and demonstrate support for the protection of the environment.  There are numerous ways to celebrate and honor this day each year, some of which will not only benefit the health of our planet, but could benefit the health of your wallet as well.

trash pile

Over the past 6 years I have made between $3,000 and $4,000 in my spare time by selling metals to various scrap yards in my area.  I kind of got into the practice of selling “junk” for money by chance when an in-law of mine asked me to remove a bunch of old metal from his yard and take it to sell at a local scrap yard.  I agreed and was sort of astounded when I left the recycling center with over $200 cash in my pocket.  I was hooked.

 
For probably the next two years I did not pass a piece of metal on the side of the road or at the edge of someone’s yard without stopping and loading it up in the back of my truck.  I also checked the “free” section of Craigslist daily for people offering free scrap metal for its removal.  I can not count how many washers, dryers, microwaves, and refrigerators I have loaded into the back of my truck and taken to the scrap yard, but I have counted plenty of extra money from doing so.  I have even been able to buy a brand new utility trailer using money earned strictly from selling scrap.

 
As mentioned earlier selling scrap metal for extra money is not the only perk to the practice, it is also a big help to the environment.  Recycled metal requires far less processing in order to get it into a useable state than new ores of the same metal require.  This streamlined processing results in far less energy being used to achieve the same result.  According to the American Geosciences Institute, recycled iron and steel requires about 72% less energy to refine than that of the mining and processing of raw iron ore, and there is an 80% reduction in energy use with recycled lead versus newly mined and processed lead.  The AGI also states that in 2017 the amount of aluminum recycled in the United States saved enough energy to power over 7.5 million homes compared to the amount of energy that would have been used to mine and process the metal from raw aluminum ore.

DSCF6318

Pictured above are a few metals commonly sold at metal recycling centers.  These metals are aluminum, brass, iron, copper, and batteries that contain lead.  Nonferrous metals (metals that do not contain iron such as copper, brass, aluminum, and lead) are usually the bigger money makers per pound, while ferrous metals (metals containing iron) are typically paid for by the ton.  To differentiate between ferrous and nonferrous metals simply place a magnet on the metal, if the magnet sticks to it, it is ferrous, if the magnet does not stick to it, it is nonferrous.  Magnets are attracted to iron and as stated above, nonferrous metals do not contain iron.  Retractable magnets like this one are super helpful for differentiating between ferrous and nonferrous metals.  Recycling prices of different metals can fluctuate often and vary from state to state, country to country, and continent to continent, the environmental benefits from recycling metals however is consistent world wide.

For recycling locations near you click the link to access Earth911’s recycling center database, it is a very useful resource Earth 911 Recycling Center Locator.

For the best information on the internet on how to make money recycling just about anything, click this link to Mike the Scrapper’s YouTube Channel.

Below are some recycling tools and equipment that will either help make you money, save you money, or both.

Stackable Recycling Bins

Can Crusher

400 Watt Solar Panel Kit

50 Watt Solar Panel Kit

Rain Barrel

Compost Bin

Folding Limb Saw

This hand saw is awesome for salvaging downed limbs for wood working projects.

Stainless Steel Water Bottle

Wire Stripper

This wire stripper makes recycling copper and aluminum wire much quicker and easier.

Solar Powered Cell Phone Charger


Home Windmill

Scrap Metal Business Success Book

Thanks for reading!  To learn more about any of the products featured in this article simply click the product link or picture for customer reviews and additional product information.

To learn more about Earth Day and its history click this link to the EPA’s Earth Day Website.

It would be great if you would like, comment, follow, and share tool-school.com posts on social media!  Have a great week!

Turn Your Old Cooler Into A Portable Air Conditioner

A few years ago I was fixing up an older Jeep Cherokee XJ and when she was finally up and running a problem was realized.  It was June in South Louisiana and the Jeep’s a/c system was leaking Freon.  With no room in the budget for a/c repair or replacement I took to the internet to see what could be done for me to drive my baby without sweating bullets.

My first stab at staying cool was by purchasing the RoadPro 12V Tornado Fan.  Though it was pretty loud, the fan was quite strong and very impressive.  The conditions inside the Jeep were definitely improved, but I knew that I could do better.

Back to the internet I went, more specifically to YouTube, and this is where I found my second, and final temporary solution to my Jeep a/c issue.  I discovered that you can make a portable air conditioner using only a fan, a cooler, ice, and some PVC pipe.  I happened to have all three laying around so I was good to go.  Below are the tools I used to make my portable a/c and the steps involved in the build.

TOOLS

Jigsaw or Oscillating Multitool

Hole Saw

Electric Drill

Silicone Adhesive

THE BUILD

At the end of this article I have posted a link to the video that inspired my portable a/c build.  I put my own spin on the project by using different components than the one seen in the video due to the fact that it was what I already had on hand.

DSCF6648
Trace the outline of your fan onto the top of the cooler.
DSCF6637
Using a jigsaw or multi-tool cut out the hole for the fan.
DSCF6647
Using a hole saw or multi-tool cut out a place for your PVC pipe.

This is where the cool air will exit the cooler.  If this particular cooler had enough area on the lid to put a PVC 90 degree elbow on top I would have place it there, but I put the pipe on the side due to the smaller size of this cooler’s lid.  If you put your exhaust pipe on the side of your cooler do not put it too low, as the water from the melted ice could leak out through the exhaust pipe if it is too low.

DSCF6645
I used a rubber gasket and silicone to seal the exhaust pipe then added two screws for good measure.
DSCF6646
The silicone is really all that is needed to seal and hold the pipe in place.

Your new portable a/c is practically done.  Just place some ice in the cooler and the fan in its hole, plug it in, and enjoy the constant cool breeze.

DSCF6642
Your portable air conditioner is complete!

I will be the first to admit that this is not the sexiest contraption in the world,(it was not always this dirty) but it is literally a very cool project that is a lot of fun to complete.  I was skeptical at first but this thing rode in my passenger seat and worked great.  Believe it or not I actually had temperature readings in Fahrenheit ranging from the upper 40s to the lower 60s exiting the pipe.  The large variance in temperature was due to the amount of ice and type of ice used (packs vs. cubes).

Chances are you have everything you need to make your own portable a/c already laying around your house as I did, but if you do not but would still like to undertake this fun little project I have linked to some affordable components below.

48 Qt. Ice Chest

110V Fan

12V Vehicle Fan

Oscillating Multi-tool

Or you could just splurge for a store bought portable a/c unit like the Black and Decker 8000 BTU Portable A/C.

Here is the link to the YouTube video that inspired my own portable cooler a/c build.  Portable A/C Video

Thank you for reading.  Be sure to like, comment, follow tool-school.com and share this post on social media!  Have a great week!

Jake with tool-school.com

DIY Two-Ingredient Wood Stain

DSCF6634

As I was sitting down to write this post my wife made it home from work just in time to burst my bubble, the explanation follows.  I have written several articles like this one discussing spoon carving and make quite a few wooden kitchen utensils.  Though I enjoy the natural look of the wood when finished I have seen spoons that have color added to them that look great and wanted to figure out a food-safe method of adding color to some of mine.  After researching and experimenting with homemade vinegar-coffee stains, I decided to get creative and make my own type of stain by subtracting the coffee and using a vinegar-food coloring mix to stain wood.  After testing my creation I felt brilliant.

DSCF6593
Piece of Pecan with all four colors applied to it.

Being the humble creative genius that I am I allowed my wife to dwell inside of our home upon returning from work about two and a half seconds before bragging about my ingenious concoction and you know what she politely said?  “Oh cool, that is how you make Easter egg dye.”  Womp-Womp.  Even though I am not that bright, or aware of how the most popular food coloring agent in the history of the world is made, I spent too much time and made too much of a mess to not share this process with you regardless.

Below are some pictures of pine that I stained.  The left is unstained, the right is stained.  Each stained piece is just a mixture of a liberal amount of food coloring and white vinegar.

DSCF6629
Blue
DSCF6627
Green
DSCF6625
Yellow
DSCF6624
Red

DSCF6597

DSCF6599
I tried the homemade stain on different types of wood just to make sure that it would show up well on more than just pine, and it did. Pictured from top to bottom is Elm, Oak, and Pecan.
DSCF6630
Unbeknownst to me at the time, this is probably my only semi-original stain idea. This is a mixture of paprika and water that turned the wood a pretty orange color.

Whether you use food coloring and vinegar or paprika and vinegar to stain wood it can definitely add a nice colorful flare to your woodworking projects, especially those projects designed for child or kitchen use.  From spoons and cutting boards to kids blocks and wooden toys, it is nice to be able to add color to projects without sacrificing safety.

If you do not want to reinvent the wheel as I did, you can just opt for some Easter egg dye and call it a day.  I honestly did not know that vinegar and food coloring, when combined, enhanced woodworking projects as well as the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.  I learn something knew everyday.

Below are a few more nontoxic options for staining and finishing wood.

Food Safe Wood Stain

Butcher Block Oil & Finish

Easter Egg Dye

White vinegar

Food Coloring Variety Kit – 12 Pack

Thanks for reading!  Be sure to like, comment, follow, and share on social media.  To learn how to make your own wooden spoons check out my tutorial How to Carve Spoons With Basic Hand Tools.

Coolest Homemade Hybrid Ladder

Have you ever thought about what makes a tool great?  Chances are descriptions like reliable, consistent, easy to use, and convenient come to mind, but the ability to serve multiple functions across a wide variety of builds and projects is the one thing that can make almost any tool seem great.  Multi-functional tools are great, but tools that have multiple uses that you dream up and create yourself, now those are the best.

I have a large shop across the street from my house that was included in the purchase of our home.  I have always dreamed of having a large shop and truth be told, we more than likely would not have purchased our home and property had the shop not been there.  Eager as I was to begin my numerous projects in my new shop upon moving I had to complete some much needed set-up and maintenance first.  All of the light ballasts that were attached to the 14ft high ceiling were bad and I needed to install a storage platform to get all of my junk out of our new dining room.  So to kill two birds with one stone, I combined the projects and built this…….

DSCF6342

What is this you ask?  Simple, it is a ladder/scaffold/storage platform/lookout tower/elevated stage hybrid……..On casters.  Before I built this bad boy I knew that I would have to figure out a safe way to change the light ballasts so I quickly began to research rolling ladders and quickly realized that I was not able to spend the money for one at the time.  My next bit of research was done on scaffolding and I quickly found out that I would not be getting a scaffold either.  Lastly, I logged on to check out the price of 14 ft A frame ladders and started to sweat as I was running out of options and could not work in the dark.

After finding out I would blow my storage platform budget on an A frame ladder to change the ballasts a light bulb went off (my shop remained dark though).  I ran to my computer and googled giant wooden rolling platforms (not my exact search term) and to my surprise, nothing.  A few wooden scaffold builds were found on various sites and YouTube, but I could find no evidence of anyone being dumb enough to try and make an 8x8x10ft tall wooden platform roll.  So with no instruction or guidance from the world wide web of information I headed to the home improvement store to get the materials needed to make my dumb idea a dumb reality.

DSCF6343
A look at the platform structure underneath.

The platform build was a piece of cake, it is just an 8×8 platform framed with 2x6s with joists 16″ on center.  The legs are 4x6x8s and were physically tough to attach to the platform with no help and not being cemented or bolted for stability, but other than having to get creative when bolting the platform to them, it was not exactly brain-busting.

The mental strain came with trying to figure out how I would attach the heavy duty casters to the bottom of each 4×6.  I could not lag screw the casters to the bottom because the bolt pattern on the caster’s steel plate was larger than the bottom area of the 4x6s, not to mention I am certain that all the weight on the lag screws would only strip them out and split the wood quickly.  I needed a way to bolt the casters to something that could support the bottom of the 4×6 and then be bolted through the 4×6 posts.  Below was my solution.

DSCF6338

I went to my scrap metal pile and grabbed some 2×4 rectangle tubing and some 7 inch channel iron and went to work.  I cut the channel iron and welded two pieces of it together so that it fit snuggly around the bottom of each 4×6 then I drilled three bolt holes through each.  I then traced the caster bolt plate pattern onto the 2×4 rectangle tubing and drilled the bolt holes in the tubing.  I welded the channel to the top of the rectangular tubing, bolted the casters to the bottom, and installed my brackets onto each one of the 4x6s.

DSCF6339
I ran out of correct length bolts for the last bracket, that explains the eye bolt haha.

It has been a few years since I completed this build and I have plenty of junk piled up on my ladder/scaffold/platform, but it is holding up great.  I do not roll it around very often but every time I do it works great.  Changing the ballasts and bulbs at 14ft is a piece of cake when you have the comfort of a 64 square foot area to work on.

I am not suggesting that you attempt to recreate this build, but if you do or know someone that does here is some info and advice, I am not responsible or liable for any accidents, brace the crap out of it,  and please send me pictures when the build is complete.

I do suggest however, that if you are building a rolling  work bench, table, or  platform that is much closer to the ground, you check out these casters that I used for this project.  Each caster has its own brake and each individual caster is load rated for 1000lbs.  They have held up great and I consider them to be a steal at under $60 for all four.

For more product information, reviews, pricing, and specs on these casters click here. 

My ladder/scaffold/storage platform has served me very well and saved me money on having to both buy a ladder and build a storage platform in my shop.  I know that it is not beautiful, but it is super multi-functional, and that was the goal I was looking to achieve.  below are a few more pictures of the beast.  Thanks for reading.

Please be sure to like, comment, share on social media, and follow tool-school.com.

DSCF6337DSCF6340

DSCF6341.JPG

Thanks again for checking out my site!

Jake with tool-school.com

Derelict Dagger: Make a Knife from Trash

DSCF6570

Before the knife pictured above became the knife pictured above it was an old lawn mower blade, some scrap aluminum rod, and old wood flooring.  Admittedly the knife is not perfect, but the whole is so much more than the sum of its parts.

Talking to my buddy that owns a lawn service one day he mentioned that he goes through a lot of lawn mower blades each year and instead of throwing the old blades in the trash he had begun to save them to use in various welding projects.  I was impressed to learn that he had some me in him by saving something hoping to later find a use for it and asked him if I could have a spare blade to make a knife with.  He brought me one about a day later.

DSCF6572

Lawn mower blades are hardened steel but are often frowned upon by knife-makers due to a lack of knowledge of the exact metal composition.  I am not a professional blade smith so I was just eager to have some metal to practice my skills with.  It made a clean, very sharp blade.

Since mower blades are already hard I did not heat treat the metal after shaping the knife, I just made sure to keep from overheating the metal when grinding, filing, and sanding the metal so I did not compromise the integrity of the metal.

DSCF6575.JPG

The handle is made from a one foot piece of old oak flooring that I pulled up during a flooring project a while back.  I should have thrown it away or burned it, but I knew a use for it would come to me some day.

DSCF6573.JPG

The process I used to make the knife was as follows:

  • draw knife shape on mower blade
  • use angle grinder to cut out rough shape
  • bench grind sides of knife smooth to get knife shape, constantly dipping knife in water to keep cool
  • File in edge profile
  • belt grind edge bevel
  • cut flooring to handle size/shape
  • drill holes into handle scales and knife tang (metal handle of knife)
  • apply epoxy to tang and wood scales
  • insert pins through handle scales and tang
  • peen pins to mechanically secure wood scales to knife tang
  • clamp and let dry

You can check out the tools used to make the knife using the links below.  In reality I just needed the angle grinder, files, and one belt sander to make it, but the other ones were convenient.

DeWalt Angle Grinder

Wen 1″ Belt Sander

Wen Bench Grinder

Chicago Electric 1″ Belt Grinder

Skil Drill Press

Round File

Flat File

I know that this knife would not win any beauty contests but it is very satisfying to know that I was able to turn things that should have been sent to the landfill long ago into something that looks good and has a practical use in this world.  It was not the first or last knife that I have made, but it was one of the most enjoyable.  With just a little time and patience you never know what you can do with an old pile of scrap.

Thanks for reading.  If you found this article to be educational, informative, or entertaining please be sure to like, comment, share, and follow tool-school.com.  Have a great day!

Jake with tool-school.com