ShopTalk Sunday: Three Saw Stories, 3D Prints

This being the Fourth weekend, a lot of us – with kids too far away to visit – will be working on projects in the shop, instead.

Which begins (as many mornings) with a check of how things are coming on the 3D printer farm here.  This first project – snap of it in previous column – is a “metal look” (silky grey) filament printing a multi-fold paper towel holder.  Here’s how it evolved overnight:

Second, smaller (Creality Ender 3) is running me off a “coffee grounds box for the guest room coffee maker.  The coffee grounds are caught for recycling into the garden.  What to put them in?  There are hundreds of ideas at to check out, download, and print.  This is just a 190 mm square, 140 mm high box I cobbled up over on,  A “get started” account is free and you can do all kinds of things with it:

Kind of a translucent red and I will top it off with a florescent green top.  (Can you tell?  I need strong visual cuing?)  OK into the guts of Holiday time in the shop…

So this weekend, the emphasis is on cutting.  This is the second “industrial process” in our “Measure, Cut, Join, Finish” explanation of how even an idiot can build most things.  (Guess who I play?)

Saw Adventure #1

Harbor Freight has an interesting assortment of tools.  Some of their stuff is really good (mixed in with what we call Chineseum).  One example of a clear winner is there 12-inch compound chop saw.

Ours is probably 6 to 8 years old and was sold under the HF brand.  Closest thing offered now (marketing got involve, lol) is their 12 in. Dual-Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw with LED & Laser Guide (

Keep an eye on your Handyman magazines and even the AARP rag now and then because these do go on sale.  Just read the fine print because sometimes the sale prices don’t include the blade!  And yes, you can spend a bundle (or two) on a 40-80 tooth carbide general purpose blade.  Like $50-bucks without breaking a sweat.

This saw has done everything we’ve ever asked of it except for one thing.  It throws out sawdust all over the place. OMG…like a saw mill.

Good news is that you can download a dandy add-on sawdust catcher for your 3D printer and zap one out in about 9-hours of printing. Small printers welcome.

To install, you take off your vacuum hose and remove the blade guard and blade.  Then, simply hammer the “factory” hose attachment out (down, into the blade area).

The new dust corral I downloaded from Thingiverse here is then inserted.  Fellow named jmf designed it and except for not fitting the retaining screw on the top (it mounts from the top BTW), I inserted my pickle-green print and secured it with hot glue:

As you can tell, all that time running welding beads paid off with a good solid join on the topside. Vac hose is hot glued in, too.

On the bottom, a bit less pretty because my attempt to hot glue an additional neoprene sheet on the bottom did not end happily:

It’s not a perfect solution to the “12-inch miter saws cutting big stock makes tons of sawdust” problem.  Still, it’s on the order of a 90% reduction and that’s a damn fire start.

Just remembered something…

When 3D Printers Are Off…

When not running prints overnight, it’s NOT a good idea to leave the 3D printer line open.  They get sacked in 1 mil or thicker big bags you can buy from Amazon.

Visually, clear bags are more interesting than black 39-gallon trash bags.  But, these also work fine.  Just not as “arty”.  Where were we…oh yeah, saws?

#2 A Two Saw Review

Many of the projects around here require a small portable saw.  We got one of those high powered 4 1/2-inch saws, but setting up an extension cord is always a pain.

Here’s the answer to that one: 5 1/2″ battery powered circ saw.

Some of the basic trade-offs between these:

  • The Black and Decker 20 Volt (*left) was very inexpensive for the bare tool-only with blade.  About $50 bucks.
  • The Skil was double that but it came with a jump charger, larger 4 amp-hour battery.

Word about batteries here:  the amount of “work” that can be done by a given battery pack will be approximately equal to the battery size.

As a practical matter, both saws have good torque.  To do that, however, they are way inside their 1-hour rate.  Without going into watt-seconds and such, with the 4 amp-hour pack on the 20 volt Black and Decker, you’d cut more wood than the Skil based on battery size.

As is, either saw is adequate for most jobs.  Things I liked – and didn’t – in no particular order:

  • The B&D has a longer saw ‘shoe’ which adds to stability.  Conversely, the Skil is more than an inch shorter.  Easier in tight spaces.
  • Neither one had a built-in laser guide which is even common on $40-class jig saws.  Why not on these boggles the mind.  Both of these have metal cut-outs in the saw shoe so you can line up your cut lines.
  • Skil doesn’t stop as fast as the B&D when you let go of the trigger.  Safety issue?  The delay is small, but there.

The trigger safety isn’t particularly comfortable with either.  The Skil has a press-down tab while B&D chose a press in approach.

If you plan on doing a lot of depth changes, the cutting depth on the Skil mimics the lever-action on their corded products.  Fast and reliable.  Black and Decker uses a twist knob and while it works fine, it’s not as fast to hold the depth and slam the lever and move on.  More like hold the depth, then twist-twist and then move on.

Since I got the B&D as a bare tool, no sign of an Allen wrench to remove the blade.  Sure glad on a bare tool someone saved 10-cents!  On the other hand, Black and Decker’s blade is more reliably centered on the shaft.  The Skil uses a smaller bolt to hold the blade on.  Both are reverse-threaded.

Skil supplied the Allen wrench and a magnetic holder on the saw body.

Which Battery Family?

Will they meet the needs here?  Hell yeah.  I have 10 of the B&D 20-volt packs from other B&D tools.  Cultivator, weed whacker, electric chainsaw, work light, and more.  There was already a zip saw, drill, and impact driver on the workbench for the PowrCore12 series.

It’s still faster to grab a saw and a handful of battery packs than it is to run hard wiring out for things like the deck.  There are exceptions (Milwaukee HoleHog comes to mind) as a high current draw tool where AC power is needed to get all the work done quickly.

As always, as soon as I got these two, the Metabo (formerly Hitachi) went on sale for $119 (Bare tool, but looks like they toss in an Allen wrench).  Got drill and impact driver of that line, too.

So Much for Standards

Notwithstanding, I have allowed myself to get into (the stupid) position of doing what I advised you never to do:  Mix manufacturers of batteries.  What happens is you end up supporting a whole line of chargers and batteries.

Problem is like gun collecting.  We decided long ago that to keep life easy we would standardize on sensible rounds:  So .22 LR, 9 MM Lugar, 12 gauge, and 7.62 x 39.

Same logic was attempted with shop tools.  Unfortunately, though, there are just some tools that are great – but they mean another battery pack.  Like the recently added DeWalt gyroscopic electric drill.  Grab it, twist your wrist, and it goes that way.  Really nice.

BUT it was another battery family. See how this works?

Guess that’s what marketing to tool sluts is all about, huh?

Ham Radio: 13 Colonies

With a fresh load of Kona blend, I will be firing up the ham radio gear nas this morning’s next project to maybe “bag a certificate” from this year’s 13 Colonies ham radio special event.  Details over at The Annual 13 Colonies Special Event (I told you this was coming, but reminders for those of us over 70, ahem…)

No, I do not run any of the linear amplifiers when the 3D printers are laying down filament.  Just too much chance of some stray RF getting into the CPU-board on the printer and ruining what’s now 12-hours of printing and $5-$7 bucks worth of filament.  QRP is when a good antenna pays off, though.

Elaine and I will be doing a (saved up money for it) dinner:  A rib roast and baked potatoes.  Maybe some squash from the garden which has been a very miserly producer this year.  Too wet.

Lawn on the other hand looks like a golf course…another topic for another morning, I ‘spose…

Write when you get rich,

25 thoughts on “ShopTalk Sunday: Three Saw Stories, 3D Prints”

  1. I always enjoy participating in the 13 Colonies event. It took me a couple of days but I have all the states and WM3PEN so far all on SSB. Now looking to work the last two bonus stations on phone and like you, I don’t have or use an amp.

    • So far (while working in office) have logged
      K2K NH
      K2L SC
      K2J NC
      K2G GA
      K2B VA
      K2M PA
      K2J NY

      Plus K1P – a special events station marking the 250th anniv. of Peru MA. (Who knew?)

      3 on voice, the rest on CW

      But only toying for 90-minutes on it so far…still, another piece of paper for the wall, lol

  2. There has to be some sort of screwball reason for all these odd blade sizes! I only use plug in circular saws for now since I can’t find a battery powered unit that’s 7 1/4″. I’ve built buildings and a lot more with just two of them. It would be nice to set up a table saw for ripping, but even a regular circular saw can do that in a pinch. Most of my projects are under the sky or inside and away from a shop, so shop based wood tools are not as useful to me.

    Is there a reason you couldn’t 3D print and/or build a couple of battery converters to bypass the manufacturer’s crossover limitations? I’m thinking it’s possible if done carefully. I just don’t have time to research it properly. It seems that most battery packs are 18650 cells with a battery management unit attached and a pair each of sense and power wires to the tool.

  3. Cool 3d printed stuff. I would like a 3d printer.

    I might start cruising estate sales for used testing equipment, oscilloscope and dc power supply. Experiment on the cheap. Maybe I’ll find old notes in the box describing something interesting.

    • Get a ham radio license! The folks at the local ham club will teach you tons about electronics and unless you’re looking to repair electronics (which I happen to enjoy) then it will be a waste of money unless you go into such endeavors well=equipped both between the ears and with the real basics like a SMT air/reflow workstation and an assortment of electronics better bought new (and cheap!) on Amazon.

      Just my opinion, of course!

    • There are cheap add-ons for a PC or laptop that function as oscilloscopes and spectrum analyzers. I’m sure they’re bandwidth constrained to a degree, but they are cheap. Check Ebay and Amazon. Just don’t use them on a valuable computer since you might fry it if the isolation is limited. I’ve not tried these things yet but might if I get “spare” time.

      One “problem” locally for me with estate sales is that there are too many retired engineers cruising for a bargain in tools and electronics. That can drive prices up beyond what I want to pay.

      • And it’s easy to get sucked into the bidding frenzy..
        I usually do a silent bid then walk away..

    • Steve, RESA (in Marysville) has dumped a bunch of test equipment and electronic diagnostic equipment over the past several years. So has SVSU in Saginaw…

  4. HF is more fun than Lowe’s because they have so many odd-ball tools you’ll not easily find any where else. I have to limit my visits like I do to the sporting goods stores.

    I would be careful about their pumps as I bought a trash pump long ago and didn’t take it out of the box for something like 3 years. When I got it out to use it I could never get the engine to run fast enough to pump anything. Carb problems I guess. Still have it so one day I’ll tinker with it since returning it was never an option after 3 years on the shelf. Wound up getting a Red Lion at Tractor Supply that I’ve been using quite a bit for several years and has withstood a lot of abuse.

    I did get a 90 degree cut-off tool at HF that has worked wonders when cutting corrugated tin sheets to fit the shower walls (ear plugs required) when I was rebuilding the bathroom out at the ranch house and an 800 or so watt inverter that I’ve used out in the pasture many times.

  5. Comrades of the Republic:

    Happy Birthday! Wishing Lady Liberty many more to follow. Of course it’s always grand to read of the citizenry chasing up those 13 Colonies on the wireless.

    It was quite the “thar she blows Moby” event with the holiday weekend underwater aquatic explosion in the Gulf of Mexico courtesy of Pemex. Greta is angry. According to Wikipedia, nitrogen was being pumped into the fading Ku-Maloob-Zaap fields at a rate of 15000 psi? Pass the torque wrench!

    Meanwhile across the pond, msm sets a new tone for HRH The Prince of Wales as “the future king”, and what makes him want to get up and dance. Sorry, Johnny Rotten’s “No Future” did not make the cut, but if you chose the Welsh king-crowning toe-tapper hymn “Tydi a Roadist”, please collect winnings from your bookie. One remains uncertain which Royal will be representing The Firm at Wimbledon’s trophy presentation. The royal dot UK future engagements webpage is blank for the next 8 weeks. One imagines it will not be The Duchess of Sussex with Lady Oprah of Malibu.

    PS – Book of Biden thought for the day:
    “Rules are Rules”.


  6. Happy 4th, I am quoting and I wish I had a better sound system to enjoy this.
    “Celebrate America WITH US!!! Kentucky All-state High School Choir singing the national anthem in this stunning acoustic environment. The choir finalists, discovered it by accident one year, when in their downtime the vocalists began singing, and has remained a tradition. Appx 650 students spread throughout the hotel, and on every floor, giving the performance a stunning prayer experience, and now an enjoyed annual tradition.”

  7. one of my last hopes . nouriel roubini has now joined the facist guru greed set . probably having a big night out with dagolio and mick moriarty feedin him stories . nobody left on this side of the boat now , i can stretch right out and have a beer

  8. Happy 4th !!! Dunno but not much enthusiasm there . Remember the founding fathers have beers and ribs for them!!!

  9. And agin !!! Smash the USD on the 4th . Farken terrorists. Treason . Scum . Rot in hell for crimes agin USA

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