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Soup Up Your Shop


Soup Up Your Shop

The right accessories for maximizing your performance and safety.

By Dave Munkittrick

Here at American Woodworker we see a lot of tools and accessories.We’ve been impressed by how the right accessories—either store-bought or shop-made—can dramatically improve the performance, convenience and safety of shop tools.

Most of us have something we’d like to change or improve about our shop equipment.What we’ve done is assemble a list of accessories, tune-ups and shop-made attachments that solve some of the more common problems. Some are cheap, some are expensive, all work well. Look for the ones that fit your needs and give ’em a try.

Drill Press

A drill press is a common tool in most woodworking shops, but many have features that are designed primarily for metalworking. Here are a few tips that’ll make your drill press more user-friendly and effective.


1. Reduce Vibration. Do you really need 15 speeds on a drill press? Perhaps for metalworking, but not for woodworking.The only difference between a 15-speed and a 5-speed drill press is an idler pulley and a second drive belt.The pulley and extra belt can create a lot of vibration in a drill press. Reduce vibration by removing the idler pulley (they just lift right out), then flip over the pulley on the motor and add a link belt.

3. Chuck Your Chuck. Inexpensive chucks can be a real headache. If you are experiencing slipping bits or excessive run-out, replace your stock chuck with a high-quality, aftermarket chuck. Generally a few taps with a wooden mallet on the side of the old chuck will release it.Wipe the mating surfaces of the new chuck and arbor clean with denatured alcohol. Slide the chuck onto the arbor and set it with a single mallet tap.

Click any image to view a larger version.

2. Better Handles. Here’s a great tip that’s so simple and makes such a huge difference, you’ve gotta give it a try. Sometimes it’s the little things that drive you nuts, like those undersized knobs on the quill-feed levers of your drill press.Throw them out and replace them with 2-in.wooden balls. I guarantee you’ll be more than pleasantly surprised at the comfortable feel. It’s like going from a go-cart to a Cadillac.

4. Better Base. Take note of your posture the next time you’re drilling. Chances are you’re slouched a bit and your head is tilted a little to one side to give yourself a decent line of sight. Here’s a dirt simple tip that’ll straighten things out for you; just cut a couple lengths of 4x4 and bolt them to the base. Not only will it bring things up closer to eye level, but it also gives those dinky little bases a larger, more stable footprint.


A contractor’s tablesaw is the heart of many woodworking shops. It has the power and capacity to handle most projects and best of all, it’s affordable. Here are some accessories that can turn a good contractor’s saw into a great one.

1. A Better Fence. I remember the first time I used an accurate direct-read fence. What joy! No more checking each setting with a tape measure. A hairline cursor allows you to set the fence for precise cuts every time. If you’re still struggling with the fence on an older model contractor’s saw, you owe yourself this upgrade. (The oldstyle fence is best used as a boat anchor!)

3. Overarm Blade Cover. Let’s face it, stock guards on most saws are a pain to use.The new breed of overarm blade covers is the answer.They easily retract or swing out of the way when necessary and the counterbalanced basket allows for fast and easy positioning. But what puts them over the top is the built-in dust collection feature. No more irritating plumes of dust thrown back at your belly!

5. Precision Miter Gauge. The miter gauge that comes with most saws is inaccurate and difficult to set precisely.A precision miter-gauge has an adjustable bar for a perfect fit in your saw’s miter slot.The result is greatly improved accuracy. Plus, these gauges have plenty of dead-on positive stops for fast, precise angle settings.

7. Mobile Base. Most of us dream of a big shop space, but in reality we have to make do with whatever nooks and crannies we can find. A set of wheels for your stationary tools can help stretch your precious useable space.There’s a mobile base out there for just about every stationary tool, but none benefit from mobility like a tablesaw.


2. Splitter. This is one of the best accessories you can buy for your tablesaw. Unlike stock splitters that are bolted to the saw, this one snaps in and out in seconds! It also comes with anti-kickback pawls that can protect you from a kickback. Combine it with an overarm cover for the best in both safety and convenience.We know it ain’t cheap, but if it prevents just one accident, it’s worth every penny.

4. Zero-Clearance Throat Plate. Stock throat plates have wide slots that allow the blade to be set at an angle. But most sawing is done with the blade at 90 degrees, where narrow cut-offs can get stuck in the throat plate and possibly kickback.Also, the open area around the blade aggravates tear-out.

A zero-clearance throat plate eliminates these problems.You can make your own or buy one with top-accessible leveling screws plus side and end adjustment screws.

6. Storage Wing. More than any other machine, the tablesaw requires a lot of paraphernalia. Various blades, a wrench to change the blades, the miter gauge, inserts, featherboards, jigs; the list goes on. Here’s a great do-it-yourself project that’ll keep all that stuff together and at your fingertips. Just bolt a piece of plywood between the base and the saw to create a platform for storing and hanging all kinds of tablesaw stuff.

8. Link Belt and Pulleys. Are vibrations in your machine giving you the jitters? Consider this simple solution. Replace your old V-belt with a link belt. Normal belts develop a memory as they sit idle on your machine’s pulleys. Once the machine is turned on, the out-ofshape belt causes vibration. Link belts can’t develop a memory because they’re built like a bicycle chain. If that doesn’t solve the problem, try aftermarket machined pulleys that are precision balanced and perfectly round.


A bandsaw is an incredibly versatile machine. From slicing thin veneer off of solid stock to cutting intricate curves in scrollwork, the bandsaw can do it all. Still, there are a few things we wish all bandsaws came with. Here are a few of our favorites.

1. Magnetic Tool Holder. Epoxy a couple of rare-earth magnets onto the back of a 2x4 that’s customized to hold your tools. It can hang on any metal part of your machine.

3. Cool Blocks. A set of Cool Blocks is an inexpensive way to raise your bandsaw’s performance. Made of graphite-impregnated phenolic resin, Cool Blocks allow you to bring the guides much closer to the blades without worrying about excess friction.They’re particularly useful for 1/8-in. and 1/16-in. blades, which can be completely trapped—teeth and all—between the blocks.You can achieve almost scrollsawlike curve cutting.

5. Add a Dust Port. It is notoriously difficult to collect dust from a bandsaw.The small port under the table gets maybe one quarter of the dust thrown off by the saw.The rest gets spun around the lower wheel creating a dust storm while you work. Solution:Add a larger port to the lower wheel door. Trace the outline of a 2-1/2-in. dust port onto the lower door. Drill a series of 1/4-in. holes for the dust to pass through and screw on the dust port.

2. Quick-Crank. Working on cars, I’ve often cursed the engineers who seem to have a knack for putting bolts in the most awkward places. I have the same reaction working the tension knob on my old bandsaw.Then along comes a product like the Quick- Crank. It’s such a simple solution you wonder why no one thought of it before. A Quick-Crank transforms your bandsaw, allowing you to quickly change and tension blades so you can get back to productive work without skinning your

4. Auxiliary Table. Tired of the balancing act you must perform on an undersized bandsaw table? You don’t have to put up with it any more.A simple 24-in.-square plywood table with a blade slot can be mounted to your stock table. Just drill mounting holes right through the cast table. Cut the blade slot on a tablesaw so it lines up with the one on your bandsaw and bolt on the plywood.

Dust Collector

Most dust collectors should be thought of as a kit.They often aren’t ready to do the job we expect right out of the box. Inadequate bags, leaky joints and poor seals can turn your dust collector into a dust spewer.These tips are sure to keep your shop and lungs cleaner.

1. Felt Bags. The bags that come with most dust collectors aren’t designed to filter out the fine dust.A bag made with 10-oz. felt that’s triple-stitched together is a huge improvement.The filter bag on top should be sized to handle all the air flow from your collector.A lower bag made of durable cotton duck lets no air through, but it can handle the rigors of being taken on and off the machine.The folks at American Fabric Filter Co. will custom-design the right size bags for your collector.

3. Seal the Leaks. Seal off leaks around welds with caulk. It’s a quick but effective fix.

5. Remote Control. Can you imagine life without your TV remote? You’ll feel the same way about this dust collector remote the first time you use it. It requires no additional wiring, just plug it in and go. No more running back and forth between the collector and a tool. Of course, just like the TV remote, it’ll mean less exercise for you. Is there such a thing as a shop potato?

2. Weather Strip Dust Seal. A tight seal around the bag flange is crucial. Small kinks and folds in the bag create escape routes for dust particles, no matter how hard you tighten the clamps. For a better seal, make your own gasket with some closed-cell, self-stick weather strip, available at home centers and hardware stores.

4. Better Impeller. Has your shop outgrown your 2-hp collector? Before you buy a 3-hp collector, consider upgrading the impeller on your old machine. An aftermarket impeller from Oneida Air Systems will fit most 2-hp collectors and improves cfm by 30 to 80 percent. In testing,we found the more you load your collector, the greater the benefit. The large fins offer greater surface area to move more air. Plus, these impellers are statically and dynamically balanced so they run truer and help extend the life of your motor.


Here’s a host of simple upgrades that’ll make an open-stand lathe more stable, more comfortable and more versatile.

1. 4-Jaw Chuck. Tired of gluing and screwing bowl blanks onto faceplates? A 4-jaw chuck is a great upgrade for your lathe. It allows you to quickly and easily mount anything from bowls to miniatures to goblets—any work that’s not held between centers. There’s a wide variety of accessory jaws available for special applications.

3. Sealed Bearing Live Center. Stock live centers have open bearings that inevitably fill with dust and wear out. If yours has bit the dust, check out a premium aftermarket live center. Some have the capacity to self-center any kind of work up to 3-1/4-in. diameter, including round or square spindles up to 3-in.

5. Cushion the Lathe. A rubber floor mat kills two birds with one stone. It helps prevent user fatigue and it levels slight imperfections in your shop floor. A gap as thin as a piece of paper under a leg of your lathe will magnify vibration. Cut squares of floor mat material and slip them under each foot of the lathe. The mat material is stiff enough to take the weight but gives enough to even out small irregularities in your floor.

2. Effective Dust Collection. Sanding on the lathe creates clouds of dust.You need something that’s adjustable in height and can be positioned around the lathe for optimum collection. Here’s a commercial hood on a stand that’s very convenient, but a variety of shop-made solutions work very well, too.The simplest is a length of flexible aluminum dryer duct that can be bent to reach different locations.

4. Raise the Bed. The correct height is critical for comfortable and safe lathe operation. Many lathes are simply too low.Try this test: bend your arm and measure the distance from your elbow to the floor.Your drive center should be the same height.Add stacked plywood blocks where the bed of the lathe joins the stand.

6. Weight It Down. Vibration is the turner’s biggest enemy. Unless you own a big industrial monster, your lathe is probably top heavy. For a few bucks you can buy a few bags of concrete, wrap them in plastic lawn bags to prevent spills and stack them on the shelf under the lathe.The extra weight at the bottom counterbalances a top-heavy lathe and absorbs vibration even from a spinning blank.


(Note: Product availability and costs are subject to change since original publication date.)

Drill Press

Woodcraft Supply, 800-225-1153, Link Belts, #25N67. 

Rockler Hardware,, 2-in. hardwood balls, # 214935 (other sizes available).

Woodworker’s Supply, 800-645-9292, Jacob’s Chuck, #954-539. (If your drill press has a Morse Taper, you’ll also need an arbor, #954-539.)

Dust Collector

American Fabric Filter Co., 800-367-3591, 10-oz. felt filter bag; #8 cotton duck lower bag.

Oneida Air Systems, 800-732-4065, Aluminum fan wheel for most 2-hp collectors.

Penn State Industries,, 800-377-7297, Long Ranger III remote control, #LR110-3 for 120 volt; #LR220-3 for 220 volt.


The Woodturners Catalog,, 800-551-8876, Oneway Stronghold Chuck, (various threads available to fit most lathes).

Woodcraft,, 800-225-1153, Floor Stand Suction Head, #812399.

The Woodturners Catalog,, 800-551-8876, Oneway Revolving Center, 130-2100, #1MT, or #130-220, #2MT.

Grizzly Industrial, Inc.,, 800-523-4777, Anti-Fatigue Mats, 27 in. x 36 in., #G3817; 27 in. x 60 in., #G3818.


Highland Woodworking,, 800-241-6748, 40-in. Home Shop Fence, # 78-931; Excalibur Telescoping Overarm Blade Cover, #EXBC; Leecraft Zero-Clearance Throat Plates (sizes to fit most tablesaws).

Tools On Sale,, 800-328-0457, T-Square Anti-kickback Snap-in Spreader; Delta Mobile Base, #DL50-277; With extension. #DL50-285.

Penn State Industries,, 800-377-7297, Penn State Tablesaw Dust Collection Guard, #TSDG1.

Woodhaven,, 800-344-6657, Woodhaven Miter Gauge Deluxe Starter Kit.

Incra Precision Tools,, 972-242-9975, Incra’s Miter Gauge 2000; Also check out Incra’s 1000 series.

Woodcraft Supply,, 800-225-1153, Contractor’s Saw Performance Package (includes link belt and pulleys); #25N66 for pre-1988 Deltas; #25N68 for 1988 and up Deltas; #25N69 for pre-1991 Sears; #25N70 for 1991 and up Sears.


Lee Valley Tools,, 800-871-8158, Rare-Earth Magnets, 1/2" x 1/8", #99K31.03, (Other sizes are available); 2-1/2-in. Dust Port, #03J61.10.

Highland Woodworking,, 800-241-6748, Quik-Crank Bandsaw Tensioner, #08.60.85; Cool Blocks, #.08.60.01 (other sizes available to fit most bandsaws).

This story originally appeared in American Woodworker December 2001, issue #91.

December 2001, issue #91

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