Recent projects: printer table and marking gauge

My back yard this morning

The weather seems to have been the biggest factor in my available shop time in recent weeks–we’ve had some warm days here and there, and then winter expresses itself again (we had another inch or two of snow last night after a couple of days of 50’s and 60’s).  But in between cold snaps and snow, I’ve had some time for a couple of little projects.  My lovely wife was away on Saturday for a meeting out of town, and I spent pretty much the whole day in the shop, making sawdust, sweeping up, listening to basketball on the radio, and having a great time.

I needed to make a small table for a printer in my office at the church where I work–this particular printer (which is used to print labels on printable CDs) shakes so much when the printer is working that I’m afraid the printer will just shake right off onto the floor some day, so I scrounged around my shop for some suitable scrap lumber and made a table.  It’s made from bits and pieces of dimension lumber (2x8s, 2x4s and also some wood from a packing crate)–I milled it, glued up a top, cut mortise-and-tenon joints all around (16 of ’em), added a cross-brace underneath, and now I’ve got a table that I’m pretty sure won’t move much at all when the printer gets a-printin’.  Best part of all: all I had to buy was some hardware to fasten the top to the apron.

Printer table, made from shop scraps

I couldn’t find any of those little figure-eight jobs that you might normally use for this purpose, so I bought four small (2″ long) mending straps with a hole on each end, mortised them into the top of the apron, and screwed the top on with the remaining holes (sorry I don’t have photos of this).  It was easy, and cheap.  Today I bought a can of polyurethane (it still needs a finish), which added a bit to the cost, but it will be enough for several projects, so the whole thing cost maybe six bucks.

I had the final dimensions in my head when I started–beyond that, I just made it up as I went along.

When that was done, there was still some basketball and daylight left, and it wasn’t too cold yet, so I finished up something I had started a few weeks earlier–I made a marking gauge.  My first attempt had been admirable, but a failure, nonetheless–I used some scrap maple, but I had a hard time chiseling the maple into the square shape I needed for the sliding bar.  Since then, I purchased a drill press that made it possible to drill at a perfect 90 degrees, and I made a new block out of some scrap mahogany (which I salvaged from a built-in bookcase that I removed from my house years ago for a remodeling project).  I added a threaded insert and a thumbscrew, and bada-bing, bada-boom–a marking gauge.

Marking gauge, maple and mahogany

There was only one remaining problem–the thumbscrew was marking the wooden bar.  So I scrounged through my little set of small-parts drawers and found one of those little plastic screw-cover caps that came with a cheap knock-together bookshelf–it was thin enough to fit between the bar and the block, and the little part that sticks up (to snap over the screw head) fits up into the hole for the thumbscrew and when the bar is in place, it seats firmly, forming a nice little pad for the end of the thumbscrew.  Works great.  I used a wire brad for the marking tip–just filed it to a nice point.  After my first failed attempt, I bought a marking gauge from Rockler (they had a great sale price on one), but the first time I used it for a project, I realized why I’ve seen so many shop photos with multiple marking gauges on the wall–it’s really handy to have more than one.  So now I do, and this one cost me about $1.50 for the insert and thumbscrew.

Good times, good times.

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