Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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DIY Fret Tang Nipper Jig/Tool

I have a guitar to be refretted waiting in the wings. It has binding on the fingerboard, which looks great, but presents a problem for refretting.

On a guitar with no binding on the neck, the frets can run the full width of the fingerboard. However, on a guitar with binding, the tang (the vertical section with barbs which is pressed into the fingerboard) has to be cut short so as to not interfere with the binding, while the crown of the fret is not cut so that it overlaps the binding.

You can see this on the picture above. The fret crowns lie over the binding. The tang is cut short to clear the binding. It's a great look, but it takes a little finesse to accomplish it.

Stew-Mac and LMI sell tools to trim/cut the fret tang. The Stew-Mac tool appears to be a variation on metal nippers. I went to buy one, but it was out of stock. The LMI tool probably works well, but it appears to be complicated to set up and use. Plus it's really pricey.

One suggestion I've read is to modify a snipping tool to suit cutting the tang. I have a small metal snipping tool, and I tried modifying it with a slot to hold the fret, but it's just not sharp enough to make a clean cut on fretwire. It just bent it.

So after that, I did a search on the Interwebs and found a video from Highline Guitars on a DIY tang nipper. What an ingenious, clever approach! So I went about making my own.

In the spirit of log-to-jig, I grabbed a hunk of sycamore left over from the TMD log-cutting day from a while back. (That link goes to a TMD's page showing what he did with that wood. Prettier than mine and more fun to play with).

Laid out the marks for the 3 pieces.

Here are the three pieces that will make up the jig. The top piece is the largest, it's 1 inch wide by 3 inches long and 1/2 an inch deep.

The bottom is also 1 inch wide and 1/2 inch deep, but it's about 2 3/4 inches long.

And the block is 1 inch square.

I actually drew up plan drawings to work from, but they're too embarrassing to show here.

The idea is that the jig/tool will hold a Dremel tool vertically, clamped into a hole in the bottom piece.

The bit of the Dremel will come up through a hole in the top piece, and the bit will be flush with the top surface.

Then the fret is fed into the bit, cutting off just the tang.

Above you can see that I drilled a 1/2 inch hole in the top piece where the bit will come up.
Then I used a 3/4 inch Forstner bit to make a hole in the bottom. This hole will hold the Dremel in place.

In order to be able to tighten the bottom hole around the Dremel, we cut a slot from the hole to the edge of the piece. Then we drill a small hole through the piece.

This hole is for a screw to tension the piece around the Dremel. It will make more sense momentarily.

This hole needs to be accurate, so I used the drill press rather than a handheld drill.

Here's the bottom piece with the screw run through it. The screw is a 4-40 x 1 1/2 inches.

The Dremel's 'neck,' with the plastic collar removed, will go into the hole. Then the screw will enable the piece to be tightened around the Dremel.

You can see I have a wing nut on the screw to make for easy adjustment.

Then I glued the three pieces together.

Note that I also radiused (about 12") the top piece at the end. The idea is that it will help the fretwire follow the slot we'll create for feeding the fret into the Dremel bit.

Turns out the slot I cut wasn't wide enough. The hole wouldn't squeeze down enough to firmly hold the Dremel.

So I...used my Dremel to widen the slot.

Note that I've removed the collar on the Dremel. See the threads there? That's the part that fits into the hole.

Now we cut a fret slot on the top piece from the edge to the hole.

Here's the jig assembled.

It was suggested in the video to run some screws into the block to help hold the top and bottom pieces together.

It was plenty strong enough with the wood glue, but I ran the screws in anyway. It gave me a chance to countersink them. I love countersinks!

I also put about 6 coats of Tru-Oil on it to protect it and make the nice grain pop a bit.

Time for a test run.

I procured a tungsten carbide bit for the Dremel. Your local big box hardware store probably won't have this...I got mine online.

Here it is set up.

I just stuck the Dremel in a vise for safety. You can see how the bottom fits around the Dremel tool.

Nice grain, huh?

The key part of this process is to ensure the top of the bit is flush with the top of the jig. If it's too low, it will not cut all of the tang.

Conversely, if it's too high, it will cut into the fret crown.

I just used a straightedge to set it up.

I realize I've been referring to the fret tang and you may not know what I mean.

The pencil is pointing to the tang - the barbed part of the fretwire that is hammered or pressed or glued (sometimes all three...) into a fret slot.

Here we go. I held the fret down into the slot and fed it slowly into the rotating bit.

Wow! It works great! The bit cuts the fret tang very easily.

It does have a tendency to want to yank the fret sideways. I think if I did a second version, I'd make that hole for the bit smaller. It might make it easier to align the fret with the bit.

But as it is, it works like a champ.

The other thing I would change is the bottom piece. I'm not sure why the original design made it shorter than the top - maybe just for access? But my screw is very close to the end of piece, and as a result, it's starting to crack with the stress. For now, if it gets me through one guitar, I'll be happy.

I can make version 2 later. I have one other kooky idea to try.

Here's the trimmed tang.

Is that perfect or what? I think the cut won't need to be so long in practice; obviously this was a test.

But you can see how the fret will fit in the slot. The tang will butt (ha ha I said 'butt') up against the binding, and the crown will lay over the binding.

A few swipes with a file to take off that rough edge and it will be perfect.

I'm really tickled this turned out so well. Thanks, Highline Guitars for the inspiration!

Oh, check out the countersunk screws!


RIkon 10-325 Bandsaw Upgrades and Mods, Pt. 3: Carter Blade Guides

Ok, let's review: new tires, check. Wheels now coplanar, check.

The last thing to do on the saw is to install new Carter blade guides. I was pondering this upgrade for a while and I'm glad I did it.

The Carter people assume you have a brain and can figure out how to put the new guides on. I say that because the new guides don't come with any instructions. Or at least mine didn't. And there isn't anything on their web site about installation.

But to be honest, anyone who is a tad mechanically inclined will figure it out. And again, honestly, if you're playing with a bandsaw and can't figure it out, maybe you shouldn't be playing with a bandsaw.

On the left we have the old Rikon upper guide with a new Carter guide (this happens to be the lower one) on the right.

The difference in build quality is like night and day. The Carter guide is heftier, and the roller adjustments are much smoother.

Plus they are a very cool color.

You have the option of leaving the hex head screws on the rollers, or you can swap them out for tool-less thumbscrews. I opted to put the thumbscrews on my guides. Adjusting the old guides, which also had hex nuts was a pain in the neck.

The rollers on the Carter guides are substantially smoother than the Rikon guides.

The two new guides ready to go on the saw.

Notice the solid new bracket that will mount the top guide to the saw.

The top guide attaches to the new bracket and then the bracket bolts to the machine.

Note the two screws on the back of the bracket - they allow you to fine tune the mounting of the guide to ensure it's square. 

Once I had the thing attached, I just used a square to line it all up.

This is one place where I could have used some guidance (ha ha...GUIDE-ance), but it was fairly obvious how everything worked.

On the attention to detail front: note the slot in the black bracket on the saw. There is a corresponding 'tongue' cast on the Carter bracket so it lines up exactly. It's nicely engineered for this specific saw.

One small issue I had on my saw was that the blade guard interfered with the new guide. You can see where I'm pointing to the area with the silver pen.

I adjusted the bracket as much as possible, but I didn't quite have enough clearance here.

(Sorry for the bad focus...low light camera shake).

It was easy enough to cut the guide as needed to clear the guide.

Now it's a nice custom fit.

The bottom guide just slides right in to the trunnion bracket on the saw.

The fit was pretty good, but there was a little more play than I liked, so I ran an M5x35mm screw into the side of the bracket. This hole was already threaded, so it was an easy addition.

I put Loctite blue (removable) thread locker on this screw to ensure it will stay put.

Now I put a new 1/2 inch Lenox blade on.

Here I'm using my custom-made blade tension gauge. I got this on eBay from a machinist in Lee-see-ann-uh who makes these. Clever design, and beautiful workmanship. I sprung for the option of a vintage Starrett gauge.

Comes with instructions on using it to measure blade tension. A wonderful tool.

Adjusting blade clearance on the new guides.

It is SO much easier with the new guides! They're much more accurate for one thing. With the old guides, after using the stupid wrench to loosen the roller nuts and then setting the clearance, I'd find the adjustment would then SHIFT as I retightened the nuts! Virtually impossible to get accurate clearance.

The Carter guides are much better. I recommend the no-tool adjustment, no wrench. And the rollers keep their adjustment when tightening them back up. 

One word of warning: since you're tightening the rollers' adjustment screws by hand, you won't be able to apply as much torque as you could with a wrench. I had a couple spin loose over time - so now I just do a quick check every time I use the saw.  For me it's a small tradeoff in order to have the convenience of adjusting them by hand.

Now we test it, yes?

Wow. Really smooth, solid, no bad vibration and the blade tracks well.

I used the justly famous Toy Making Dad log sled to hack up some Japanese Maple from a tree I had to cut down a year ago (it had died unfortunately).

The saw cut through the maple like a scalpel.

The end result: a big hunk of  Japanese maple.

The Carter stuff isn't cheap, but it lives up to its reputation: it will improve the performance of your saw.


RIkon 10-325 Bandsaw Upgrades and Mods, Pt. 2: Coplanar Wheels

Now that we have new tires on the bandsaw wheels, we can take a stab at making them coplanar.

Basically this means making sure the wheels are running in the same vertical plane. We'll use some shims to adjust the bottom wheel out if needed to get it to align with the top wheel.

This whole idea of the wheels being coplanar is a bit controversial. Some folks insist it's not critical, while others believe it's important for good blade tracking. I have a couple of books that recommend it, and it seems to me to be logical that if the wheels are in the same plane, the blade will ride in the same place on both wheels. In other words, if the wheels aren't coplanar, the blade might ride in the center of one wheel and the edge of the other.

My new tires (and I believe most tires) have a crown. It just seems to me that you'd want the blade to ride at the same place in reference to the crown on both wheels. This also follows Alex Snodgrass of Carter Products' setup suggestion on having the blade ride on the crown. If the wheels (and tires) aren't coplanar, the blade can't ride the same way on both wheels.

To check the alignment (coplanaredness?) of the wheels, you need a straightedge that is long enough to touch the rim of both wheels. I have a drywall T-square that's long enough, but because of the way the frame of the saw juts out between the wheels, I had to cook up a spacer so the square would clear the frame.

This is what I did, primitive but reasonably acccurate. See the picture on the left, just two wood blocks 1.5 inches thick held onto the straightedge with rubber bands.

Here's how I used my fancy coplanar gauge.

Put one wood block on the top wheel, touching the rim.

You have to be sure to keep the straightedge exactly vertical/plumb or it won't be accurate. My T-square is aluminum, so it wants to flex. I just let it hang and checked it with a bubble level.

Again, a bit primitive, but it worked.

And this is the bottom wheel. I may have taken this shot after I put the shims on, as it looks like the block is touching the wheel.

When I first measured, the bottom wheel was back from the block about 1/4 of an inch (about 6mm)! I was surprised it was off that much.

If you have a 1/2 inch blade tracking on the wheel, and the bottom wheel is back 1/4 of an inch, that's a lot. The blade would be riding on the outside of the bottom wheel...not a good thing.

I mentioned shims. I used some 316 stainless steel washers from McMaster-Carr. You won't find these at the Despot. I went with stainless because I figured they would be strong and wouldn't corrode over time.

On Asian-made saws such as this one, the bottom wheel is the one to adjust. On U.S.-made saws, it's the top wheel.

Here's my stack-o-shims installed on the axle of the lower wheel. I lubricated them with "Super Lube" light grease. Just a thin coat - I don't want to attract sawdust and dirt.

The axle shaft is just long enough that the wheel will still mount with no problems using the retaining c-clip.

I checked the alignment after I put the shims on, and it was good.

So I put the wheels and the blade back on to test the saw, and found the drive belt kept slipping off after a few seconds.

After pondering this problem, I realized the motor pulley was now out of alignment (duh) with the pulley on the wheel by the amount I had shimmed the wheel out by.

So I just undid the pulley retaining allen screw  and slid it out to align. You can see I had to use vise-grips to hold the pulley while I loosened the screw - it will rotate otherwise. The belt doesn't jump off now that it's aligned. Also note the tension pulley above the motor pulley. It's wide enough that the belt still rides on it with no problem.

Next time we'll get the Carter guides on and take the bandsaw for a test run.


Rikon 10-325 Bandsaw Upgrades and Mods, Pt. 1: Urethane Tires

I'm back doing more work on semi-big machinery.

The drill press restoration is on a bit of a hiatus right now while I reorganize the space it will live it. But in the meantime, I made a couple of upgrades and mods to my trusty Rikon 10-325 14 inch bandsaw.

Upgrades are new Carter urethane tires and the famous Carter blade guides, while the mods are an attempt to make the wheels coplanar as well as an improvement to the dust port.

I took on the tires first.

Removing the wheels is straightforward. The retaining screws take a hex wrench - I believe it's 8mm but don't quote me on that.

This is the lower wheel; the upper comes off the same way. You'll see an internal circlip (aka c-clip), but that doesn't need to be removed to get the wheel off - it holds the wheel bearing in place. (You can see I took the clip off before I figured this out).

I loosened the wheel screws with the blade still on and under tension, otherwise the wheels will just spin as you try to turn the nuts.

With the screw removed, remove the blade and the drive belt.

The wheel will slide off the axle. You may need to wiggle it back and forth as I did, but it will come off easily.

Here's the lower wheel after removal. You can see the naked (!) drive pulley and tensioner. The other pulley is part of the lower wheel.

Note how dark it is in this part of The Dungeon...I needed a work light for extra illumination!

Then it's over to the workbench to remove the old rubber tires. They came off fairly easily - I slipped my paint tool under the tire and wedged it off.

The real fun was cleaning all of the old glue off the rim of the wheel. Yes, friends, the whole thing is not a "rim," it's a wheel. And the rim is part of a wheel.  A wheel is not a rim. And a rim is not a wheel!

Anyway, I used lacquer thinner, Goo Gone and Simple Green along with a wire brush to get the glue off.

The new urethane tires seem quite 'stretchy' compared to the rubber tires. I figured they'd just easily slip over the rim. Ha! Was I wrong!

I learned a few things about mounting the tires: first, heat them up in hot water, it helps them stretch more.

And second, you need to clamp down each section you mount. You can see how I used a combination of clamps and dowels to mount the tires. I used dowels rather than a putty knife to avoid scratching the wheel.

Took a few tries on the first wheel, but I was a pro by the second.

One of the nice things about the urethane tires is that they install without glue. They'll also wear much better than the rubber tires, which is why I decided to install them while I had the saw apart.

And they're a really cool color.

Back over to the saw for Mod #1. This is the plate that's welded over the dust port. I saw how it blocked the port, and read online that removing it would help with dust removal.

To be honest, I mentally debated about removing it. Was it there to stiffen the frame? After pondering this for a few days, I came to the conclusion that no, it really wasn't doing much.

My only guess is that the idea was to create a sort of venturi effect to speed up the vacuum through the port. But the plate blocks the port!

So armed with my angle grinder, I cut the welds. Made a lot of sparks!

I should note that I did start out with my Dremel, but no way that thing would cut through the welds.

Here I am removing the plate after the welds were cut.

The plate is not real heavy - it has a fair amount of flex.

And now the port is unobstructed.

You can see how sawdust gathered in here before, but after I removed the port, the vacuum was substantially increased to the point where I don't see any sawdust in here after I cut.

A must mod for this or similar saws, I think.

I had an area of bare metal after I cut the plate off, so I masked it, and hit it with primer and some sort-of-matching paint to protect it.

Next time we'll adjust the bottom wheel to make it more coplanar, and put the new Carter guides on.


Finishing the Base: Craftsman King-Seeley 103.23141 Drill Press Restoration, Pt. 6

After painting the base, I brought it down to The Dungeon to unmask it.

Unmask, Dungeon...bwhahahha.

I figured I'd have some places where I didn't mask the edges fully. I'd rather have some paint to remove than try to get that rough edge covered exactly.

So had had to sand some of the paint off. Which led me to thinking - never a good thing.

Long story short. I still wasn't happy with the way the milled surface looked, so I went over it again, this time manually with my big sandpaper block (see the earlier post).

Started with 40 grit, then went up through 60, 80, 120, 220 and 320. It's better, but it will never be perfectly level unless it's milled again. At least it's presentable.

Then I coated it with Boeshield T-9 to keep it protected.

Now to reinstall the nameplate.

I wanted to match the look of the original rivets as closely as possible. I searched for something appropriate and didn't find rivets that would have the same nice rounded heads of the originals.

While searching on the incredible McMaster-Carr site, I discovered drive screws. They look like rivets, but are semi-threaded. You drive them into a hole and they fit tightly.

I matched up a drill bit for size with the shafts of the screws (3/32 of an inch) and ran it through the holes to clean up any paint that might be in there.

Set the nameplate into place, and lightly tapped the drive screws with a lightweight hammer to get them started.

Then I used a nail set to drive them in all the way.

Looks pretty good I think.

The drive screws look like rivets!

I had sprayed the decal with a clear paint to protect it. Unfortunately, it made the decal crack. Oh well, not losing any sleep over it. From 2 feet away it looks great.

Here's the finished base. Looks good.

Now I'll start rebuilding the motor and the head.

In case you don't remember, this is what the base looked like originally before restoration. Yikes. Came a long way, huh?