Cutting a channel in wood dowels

Discussion in 'Wooden Boat Building and Restoration' started by troy2000, Dec 16, 2018.

  1. troy2000
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    troy2000 Senior Member

    This isn't specifically about boat building per se; it's more of a general woodworking tip. But it might be a handy trick for people finishing out wood cabin interiors to know...

    A friend of mine named Mark built a shelf unit out of nominal 1x12 pine, and wanted to cap the sides with wood closet pole stock (1 5/16" diameter Douglas fir). But he had no idea how to cut the necessary channels. So he handed the problem off to me, with a promise of some good craft beer in return.

    I was stumped for a bit. Part of the problem is that like most closet pole stock, the pieces he supplied were a little warped. I got around that by using a piece of 2x4 to support them the entire length.

    First, I trued the 2x4 with a jointer and thickness planer. Then I used a dado stack in a radial arm saw to cut a groove in it to wedge the pole stock tightly into. I handled the warp by turning each pole until the ends were rising, clamping them down, and toenailing them in place with small screws set below the depth of cut.

    I set the dado blades to the exact width needed (I have a good set that includes shims), clamped a feather board in place to hold the 2x4 bed firmly against the fence and keep it from kicking back, and cut the channel in each piece. It should go without saying that I made several passes, instead of trying to dig that much wood out in one fell swoop. I used a push stick to keep my hands out of the action, and set a roller stand to support the work past the saw table.

    Things worked out very nicely. Mark got to finish his project; I had fun coming up with a workable solution to his problem; and we shared some very nice Russian imperial stout. I didn't take pictures during the actual job, but I'm including one with a piece of scrap dowel set into the 2x4 bed.

    add: yes, I'm working on my boat. But so slowly that I'm saving pictures and comments until I have enough to be worth posting...

    20181216_120657.jpg
     
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2018
  2. troy2000
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    troy2000 Senior Member

    Another picture of the setup from the other side...
    20181216_120712.jpg
     
  3. fallguy
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    fallguy Senior Member

    Hot glue roundstock to a board as well.
     
  4. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    Good stuff Troy. I'd have done pretty much the same but on the table saw instead of the radial arm saw. I suspect

    that the table saw would have been safer but what the hell, you did get the job done.
     
  5. troy2000
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    troy2000 Senior Member

    I didn't use a table saw because I'd have had to box the dowel in deep enough for the 2x4 bed to ride on the table. I would also have had to use at least a little downward pressure to keep everything from rising up as it passed over the dado blades, which is a potential invitation to trouble; I don't have a hold-down on my table saw. Whereas with the radial arm saw everything was held between the fence on one side, the feather board on the other side, the table below and the dado blades above, and it was going nowhere but straight through. Also, having the dowel and dado stack in plain sight made centering the cut a lot simpler.

    I think people have gotten a little over-fixated on how 'dangerous' radial arm saws are for anything but cross-cutting. I've been around them my entire life, and definitely respect them. But if you tune a good one properly so there's no slop or play anywhere in it, use feather boards to prevent kickback, and use push sticks instead of stuffing your hand into the blade, they're reasonably safe - and very useful for this sort of work. Like most power tools the basic safety rule that applies to them is, "don't get stupid..."

    The saw in the pictures is a 10" Craftsman that I put together this summer out of two vintage basket cases, and it's rock solid. I also have a 9" DeWalt, circa 1955, that I've owned and loved for almost forty years. I've been given younger, 'modern' radial arm saws twice in the past, and threw each of them away as soon as I could politely get away with it; they were garbage.
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2018
  6. troy2000
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    troy2000 Senior Member

    I like that idea, especially for smaller stock. I'll stash it in my bag of tricks...
     
  7. fallguy
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    fallguy Senior Member

    Also how to rip pvc...
     
  8. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    I defer to your argument Troy. If you can make the round part stable then moving the saw rather than the part is probably safer than the table saw method. The Craftsman radial that I once had was not sufficiently rigid to make precise cuts with the dado or standard blade.

    I am a veteran machinist tool and die maker and no doubt I could have made the radial far more precise but.....well there is the lazy thing that is unimaginative. I am sometimes guilty of sloth.
     
  9. troy2000
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    troy2000 Senior Member

    I was still moving the part. The powerhead was locked in place on the arm, and I was sliding the dowel on its bed. But having it captured between the dado stack and the table was similar to running a board through a thickness planer instead of a jointer.

    I'll admit that initially setting up and truing a radial arm saw is a royal pain, if you expect any precision from it. The Craftsman manual I downloaded for my vintage model has a 6-step process for doing so on a new saw, with each step being useless unless the procedure before it is done correctly. And unless there's enough cast iron and steel in one to make it rigid, you're wasting your time anyway.

    By the way, I have an old book around here somewhere that portrays radial arm saws as the Swiss army knife of power tools. There are scary things in it; the author got carried away. For example: in one picture the powerhead is at the end of the arm, with the exposed blade turned flat a few inches above the table. The guy's cutting a full sheet of plywood by leaning it up against the saw on end, and sliding it along the floor. I kid you not.

    I set my Craftsman up like that long enough to take a pic, in case you're having trouble visualizing it. But I drew the line at digging out a sheet of plywood and turning the saw on. I may be nuts, but that doesn't necessarily mean I'm stupid.... :p

    20181217_203242.jpg
     
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2018
  10. messabout
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    messabout Senior Member

    You are neither nuts nor stupid Troy. Over time you have shown us some pretty good work while using really basic materials......Like the Bateau or whatever that skinny boat was that you did a while back.

    Hang in there and keep your fingers out of the spinning blades. I beseech you to do so, advisedly, because I have been there and done that..........Well not with the radial arm saw but with a Jointer who, without my permission, removed the first joint of my right hand first finger in one microsecond. That was many years ago but I have certainly not forgotten. Be suspicious and respectful of those damnable machines Troy ,and all my other virtual friends out there.
     
  11. LP
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    LP Flying Boatman

    Hi Guys,

    I agree that radial arm saws are useful. I owned one before I owned a table saw. I quickly figured out that they are not the best for little fiddly pieces. Fingers too close to a rapidly spinning, toothed wheel didn't suit my sensibilities. Jigging a fixturing is a definite requirement. I had an early digital Craftman. After owning it and having the electronics go bad, I was definitely wishing for old style scales that didn't rely on electrons for their livelihood. It was great though for many things. One of my favorites was cutting scarfs in strip-plank stock. A square piece ply clamped to the table and the arm set to the angle for the scarf and you could whip out scarfs with almost no effort.

    I am fortunate to still have all of my digits (knock on wood). I worked as a trim carpenter in one of my life times and the guy I worked for wasn't quick so fortunate. He caught me with my fingers on the underside of my hand power planer one day and layed into me. He has since passed, but every time I am working sharp things under power, I always think of him and and the respect he gave me for power tools.

    Always know exactly where your fingers are when working with powered tools.

    Good discussion guys. Mays our days and digits be many! o_O
     
  12. troy2000
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    troy2000 Senior Member

    I still have my original consignment of digits, but they aren't all as originally configured.

    I boogered one on the wrestling team in high school, when one of my fingertips got jammed in the seam between two mats and my opponent's chest landed on my hand with his full weight. The fingertip broke into three pieces, and the chip with the tendon attached slid partially over the joint before it healed. I can't straighten that fingertip past about 45 degrees.

    Years later I was ripping a piece of 1x pine one-handed with a Skilsaw, using a thin-kerf finish blade (stupid...), and when I came up on a spike knot the board snapped shut on the blade. The saw launched itself into the air clear of the wood; my left thumb got in the way; and the blade chewed halfway through the bone. By some miracle it didn't sever either tendon, but it left me with no feeling in most of my thumb for several years. I'm not complaining, though. Because when I asked the doctor how long it would take for the nerves to regenerate, he actually laughed and said it wasn't going to happen.

    Two or three years after that I was nailing joist hangers into place, and my hammer deflected off a previously installed joist. The hammer smashed my right thumb onto the end of the joist hanger, cutting me to the bone. I was left with no feeling in that thumb too, for a couple of years that overlapped the recovery from my last boneheaded stunt. I can tell you that carpentering with two numb thumbs is an interesting experience... I had to learn to fish nails out of my nail pouch between two fingers, because if I used a thumb I couldn't tell whether I had hold of the nail.

    A few years after that, I stuffed a fingertip into the blades of a power plane. To be honest I'm not even sure how I managed to do it, but the results were pretty dramatic. The doctor who sewed me up basically hooked one side of the damage with his stitches, looped over the mess to the other side, and pulled the stitches tight to pack the raw meat together. He told me, "I know this looks Mickey Mouse, but I've had pretty good luck doing it." Can't argue with that, because I don't remember which finger it was and can't tell by looking at them.

    I haven't done anything stupid with power tools lately, but that might be because I've been out of construction for almost twenty years. :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 22, 2018

  13. SamSam
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    SamSam Senior Member

    I did that with a power plane also. I unboxed the planer, scoffed at the guard, cursed, laughed and spit on it and left it in the box. After the first cut I figured I better use two hands and reached for the forward knob and
    I think the gyroscopic effect of the motor and cutterhead in the air rotated the thing enough to put the blades where the handle was supposed to be.
    I saw something white deep in the cut, clamped it shut with my other hand and said "Nononono****nonono#### #### #### ****nonononono" for awhile and eventually peeked. There was just a little blood, not much pain. I wrapped it tight with some bandaids and never paid the expected price for an event like that. The cut was so clean (brand new blades) it just seemed to glue itself back together. Turns out the guard works pretty good too.
     
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