Lukewarm Drill Press Bench

Space is a premium in small workshops and there are many ways to overcome the limitation space has on tool sizing. One way to fit big tools like my drill press in my garage work space is to make them mobile so they’re available when needed and can be stored when they’re not.

 

Finished Drill Press Table

Finished Drill Press Table

This project has been in the back of my mind for quite a while. You see, I have a small bench-mounted drill press that is very useful and, for some projects, necessary. The problem with it is that in my garage workshop, I don’t have a bench to mount my bench-mounted drill press to. So, every time I use it, I have to pick it up off the ground and set it up on a small portable bench, then tear it all down again when I’m done. Even if I just built a bench for it, I don’t have any wall-space left, so the bench would have to sit in the middle of the workshop taking up valuable floor space that I will probably need for something else. It’s also to my advantage to design my workspace so it’s reconfigurable since my projects range from small-scale electronics and widgets smaller than a credit card to furniture-sized constructions. What that means for a drill press is that sometimes, I may only need to have the working space of the table (that’s the suspended platform below the spindle and chuck) and other times, I’ll need several feet of space on either side. The key to make all of these things possible without turning my garage into a logistical nightmare is to make the drill press bench mobile.

I’ve made a few workbenches before and the easiest and most economical materials I know are 2x4s and plywood. As long as you have some basic dimensions in mind, 2x4s and plywood make building a bench so easy I feel like it practically builds itself. In fact, this build was made even easier because it’s based on the plans for a drill press bench I had built previously. If you have the skills, I suggest you make a sketch of the final version of anything you build because you never know when you will want to rebuild it or use the design for something else. As for the mobility portion of this design, I knew the bench would have to lock into place when I went to use it. In the planning stages, I decided against using locking casters since there is quite a bit of movement you can get out of them even if they are locked. Instead, I opted to have wheels on one side so I could tilt the bench to wheel it into place, then tilt it upright to set it down. The original plan was to put a steel rod through some of the 2x4s, hold it in with cotter pins and buy some harbor freight wheels and hold them on with washers and more cotter pins. This plan didn’t pan out because to buy the materials for that idea would only be slightly less expensive to build it myself than to buy a dolly on sale. Honestly, buying the dolly feels a little like cheating, but in spite of what you might think while reading my blog, sometimes it’s just better to let someone else do the work.

Table with Dolly Attached

Table with Dolly Attached

One of the big parts of designing this table is that the drill press is top-heavy and so I can’t make the table too narrow otherwise it’s at risk of falling over. To overcome this risk, I performed a tilt analysis as part of my design. Using geometry, you make some educated guesses about where the center of gravity of the table plus drill press is, then make some more educated guesses about how far the table should tilt before it falls over, then make a footprint that matches those two conditions. Because this table is designed to tilt to move, I used a scant 10 degrees as the maximum tilt angle and assumed the CG was pretty high, justifying the 24″ base.

The build process is fairly straightforward. Measure and cut the 2x4s and plywood, then make like the Avengers and assemble. I used a circular saw to make the cuts, but a chop saw would work, too if you have one. One trick when cutting lengths of material down is to cut the pieces in order from longest to shortest. In this way, if you make a mistake, you can cut the mistaken piece into the smaller pieces and still minimize waste. During assembly, I try to predrill as much as is practical. In this case, the 3″ drywall screws work best when you predrill the lumber nearest the head of the screw with an 1/8″ hole. The pilot hole allows the screw to go through at the angle exactly how you want it to and the two boards will squeeze in tight as the screws are tightened to make a solid structure. Rather than constantly swap the 1/8″ drill bit for the phillips screw attachment in my cordless drill, I had my 120V corded drill set up with the screw attachment and the cordless set up with the drill bit. It went way faster that way, but the corded drill was severely overpowered and it made the bit skip in the screw head. In retrospect, I probably should have had those two reversed so the right tool was used for the right job. Primitive Pete strikes again!

I made a lot of missteps on this build. I started with the plan to build the square top and the shelf borders first, then secure them to each other with the legs and finish with the plywood tops. As I built, I changed my mind and decided that it would be best to try to build the whole table from one side to the other starting with two legs and one quarter of the square top and shelf borders. The idea was that when the top and shelf were 3/4 built, the plywood could be put in and clamped in place with the last quarter of the platform. Instead of being the elegant solution I thought it would be, it was a disaster. Finally, I reverted back to the original plan which ended up working much much better.

I finished the table with some gray paint that I randomly chose at the hardware store. I wanted to use a neutral color that wouldn’t be overly dark or light so marks would show. I didn’t go to the store with a plan and decided while there that the middle gray color the store had chosen for their display bases was just right. All the way home from the hardware store, I wondered if I had made the right choice, but the color has worked out pretty well, so far. If I find I don’t like it as time goes on, I can always repaint it. I also used some chrome corner caps to keep from bashing knees because the top of the table is at the perfect knee-bashing height.

I’ve mounted the drill press and I’m letting the table settle into the garage space, but I don’t think it is a huge success. I think I misjudged how large the top of the table needed to be and so it takes up a considerable amount of room. Much more room than I expected. I’m seriously considering cutting it down to be much closer to just the footprint of the drill press.

UPDATE!

Since the original posting, I’ve reduced the size of this table from the original 27″ x 27″ to a much more modest 14″ x 19″. At that size, the dolly is just the right width and there’s just enough room underneath for my toolbox. I’ve used it a couple of times so far and I’m really happy with the height and how easy it is to move around.

That's Much Better!

That’s Much Better!

That was my project day!

If you liked this project, check out some of my others:

Wooden Time Machine

A Twist to Build a Dream On

Growing Projects One Dimension at a Time

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Hot Rod Red Robot Controller

I’ve always believed in working harder by working smarter. So when I do a task more than once, I take a minute to consider if I could make life easier for myself by making a tool, gadget, or program like this controller that will keep me moving forward instead of being stuck in the doldrums.

When I’m working with my PicAxe, Arduino, Raspberry Pi, or even just PLCs, I keep finding myself building the same kinds of prototype circuits over and over again. Circuits like switches, buttons, and potentiometers as voltage dividers or as current limiting devices come up all the time. I’m sure if you’re electronically-oriented, you have had the same happen with you. Instead of having these parts clutter up my solderless breadboard, I decided to make a controller that would house the devices that I could simply wire into my prototypes… and do it with style!

Since I’ve been building prototype circuits with these components for years and it’s mostly straight connections it didn’t take any effort at all to make the electrical plan. The real challenge of this project was planning out how the components I wanted would all fit on a single panel. On one extreme, I could make it a big, obnoxious contraption with everything I could possibly ever need, but completely unwieldy or on the other end of the spectrum, something so small and specific that it’s not useful. Aside from the use / aesthetic spectrum, I also have more than enough prototyping components, so one self-imposed limitation was that I didn’t want to go nuts buying all new stuff. That brought the challenge that I’d have to build the project around these two massive industrial joysticks that I have. If space is such a premium, then why two joysticks you ask? “To control robots”, I would answer.  In the end, the limiting factor for the every dimension of the panel was the size of the joysticks. I managed to fit two switches, two potentiometer / rotary selector switch knobs, and five push buttons in the space between.

Enclosure Base Complete with Unused Hinges

Enclosure Base Complete with Unused Hinges

The build started off as a box with feet and a hinged lid which the components would be mounted to. That was going to give me the flexibility to easily open the cover and make changes, if needed. The hurdle with that design is that the lid, being made from very thin aluminum, would need to be reinforced so it didn’t flex every time you touched it. Also, there are the pointy corners to consider. Every iteration of a supported lid that I came up with was either clunky or complicated or both, so I decided that a fixed lid was the way to go and I’d just have to deal with reaching through the controller to make changes. Between the easy-to-manage handy panel siding and the square material used for bracing and the legs, it took very little time to build the enclosed bottom of the controller. The hardest part was visualizing interacting with the controls and planning where to put them and how to plan for the possibility of changes in the future. For this project and any others you might have dealing with sheet metal and drilling holes, I recommend you buy a set of step drills. Not only do they make much larger holes than you can practically make with general purpose drill bits, but they will also debur the hole after they cut it.

Finished in Shiny Red

Finished in Shiny Red

After I had the enclosed base fitted with the aluminum plate, I test-fitted all of the parts to make absolutely sure everything fits and painted the whole thing with red automotive paint. It’s not by best paint job, but it gets the job done. I may repaint the base or the plate with a different color to give it some personality.

Going forward, this will be great for prototyping. If I need a joystick in a permanent build, though, I think I’ll go for the mini joysticks available from Parallax or others instead of using a joystick almost as large as the robots I build.

That was my project day!

If you liked this project, check out some of my others:

Instant Parade!

The ThrAxis – Our Scratch-Built CNC Mill

Give Aging Technology a Chance

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Set your Creativity Adrift

If you like the beach like I do, here’s a way to literally bring a piece of it home… and not look like a packrat. Also, you can make a nice decorative piece for your mantle, coffee table, or end table.

Like many newly-married couples, my wife and I are working on dressing up our home. We’ve decided that the front room should reflect the lifestyle we admire and enjoy (and secretly wish we had); beach houses. We really enjoyed seeing driftwood sailboats and decided that they were a décor element we wanted to include in our living room. There are innumerable variations of driftwood sailboats all over the internet, interior design magazines, and in high-end beach décor stores. In those stores, they charge as much as $35 each for a large one. Obviously, I’m not going to pay so much for a decorative bauble, so I decided I’d give making some a shot before I shelled out so much cash. I also couldn’t make only one because a single boat would be a show-piece, so every flaw I didn’t cover (and couldn’t because I’m using raw natural materials) would be obvious, but several boats would be a collection and the flaws on one piece aren’t so obvious.

I based my design on the basic and most common features of the sailboats I’ve seen: Driftwood hull, simple mast, and cotton cloth sails. My designs started with some driftwood I had collected from the beach (just waiting for the right project). Rather than make a boat design and then try to make the driftwood fit the design, I figured it would be much easier to make the driftwood look like a boat if I used the features of the wood to imply boat-like features. Allowing the shape of the driftwood guide the design of the sailboats is a very straightforward concept, but if you, my reader, aren’t familiar with planning out projects before just going for it, then this might be an important detail that gets overlooked. Driftwood for the hull will probably be the hardest material to get, but it’s also the cheapest if you live on the coast. Finding some wasn’t so hard for me because I had a small collection I made while beach camping last year. I decided that, for simplicity, the masts would all be the same diameter across the three boats, but the position and angle would distinguish them from each other. I also didn’t want the design to be too complicated, so I gave them all triangle sails with holes reinforced with eyelets and held up by small screw eyes with craft string rigging.

Sanding Facets in the End of the Mast

Sanding Facets in the End of the Mast

The build process was actually pretty straightforward. I started by cutting and preparing all three mast-dowels. I sanded the tip of the mast that you’d see in such a way that it looks roughly faceted with the intention that it would make the wood match the driftwood better. Next, I drilled the holes in the tops of each driftwood hull for the mast and the pilot holes for the screw eyes. The masts were then glued into place with Elmer’s wood glue and after it dried, I used the mast as a handle to help me sand the bottoms of the driftwood flat so they would sit upright on a table. It took a few tries to make them sit upright well enough, but save yourself some time and don’t worry if they don’t sit perfectly, the angle will change when you add the weight of the rigging string, screw eyes, and sail. Putting one screw eye at each end of the boat, on the tip of the mast, and at the base of the mast finishes the boat.

Masts and Screw Eyes In Driftwood

Masts and Screw Eyes In Driftwood

I made the mistake of trying to trace the outline of the sails directly to the cloth by laying the boat on top of the cloth and marking the corners. If you try something similar, I recommend you trace the shape of the boat on a scrap of paper, make the sail shape there, and use the paper as a stencil for the cloth. Also, the lack of stitching in the sail means that as soon as you start cutting the cloth, you’ll need to be very wary of unravelling, so try to handle the cloth as little as possible. Immediately after cutting the cloth, I set it down on some scrap paper and laid a small bead of fabric glue around their perimeters to keep the edges from fraying. After the fabric glue dried, I cut slits in the cloth, cutting between threads to (you guessed it) keep the unravelling to a minimum. Seat the eyelets and you’re done. I had to tie and untie the rigging without the sails many, many times before I could figure out what looked right, so don’t give up until you get it just right. After you get the whole thing assembled, don’t forget to sand the bottom a little more so the boats sit upright. Honestly, you can’t forget because the boats will probably fall over.

Making Sails

Making Sails

I had a lot of ideas about how to assemble the hull, rigging, and sails, so rather than try to figure out which version was the very best and make all three identical and boring, I made each one unique. For example, one boat has no sails. On another, the sail is secured to the mast by the screw eyes instead of by the rigging. The third has the rigging sandwiched between the sail and mast unlike it’s counterpart which has the rigging in front. Also, on one I decided to set the mast at an angle in the assembly stage, just to make it different.

None of These Boats is Quite Like the Other

None of These Boats is Quite Like the Other

So, in summary, you get some driftwood, pop a hole in it, then glue a stick in the hole, drape some cloth on it, and you’re done! The fun of this project is figuring out how YOU want to make it.

That was my project day, how was yours?

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