Plans, projects and how-to's for home machinists

4×6 Bandsaw Cart

This is the roll-around stand I made for my late 80’s Taiwan-made 4×6 bandsaw, which is almost identical to the one Harbor Freight sells.  It uses a Harbor Freight 3-shelf service cart with the top shelf turned upside down.  I was a little worried about it being top-heavy so I replaced the original 5-inch casters with 3-inch ones mounted on outriggers made from pressure-treated 2x6s.  Now it’s much more stable because the wheels are farther apart and it has a lower center-of-gravity.

The 16×30-inch steel cart was on sale for $50 and I used one of HF’s easy-to-find 20%-off coupons to save another $10.  The casters were also on sale.  I think they were $4 a piece.  My scrap bins provided the wood and the 1-inch aluminum angle I used to fabricate the brackets that attach the saw to the risers.  I splurged about $8 on a tube of Minwax “Crimson Red” Express Color stain so the wood would compliment the red color of the cart.  The stain was a lot quicker and easier to apply than paint.  I still need to find a suitable hook I can attach to the cart to store its extension cord.  As you can see there’s lots of room on the middle shelf for a coolant pump and reservoir, if I ever decide I need to add one.

The sheet-metal stands these saws come with are a major source of grief, so putting the saw on a another stand is a popular modification.  I learned about using one of these carts on the Yahoo 4×6 discussion group.  Another popular method is to mount the saw on top of a 2-drawer filing cabinet that has been mounted on casters.  If you browse the group’s photo archive you’ll also find some nifty designs for welded steel stands.

I’d wanted one of these bandsaws for a very long time but I didn’t think I had room for one.  For years Harbor Freight regularly had them on sale for $160, but of course once I needed one I found the sale price had gone up to $230.  I was ready to pay that but I decided to check Craigslist one more time.  I couldn’t believe it when I found this one for $50, which included a brand new Lenox blade which was probably worth at least $30 by itself.  I had to replace the power switch but it works great and I get very square cuts with it. Continue reading 4×6 Bandsaw Cart

CNC Router Build – The Stand

The stand for my Solsylva 25×25-inch CNC router is made from 1×4-inch pine boards. Two of the supports are hinged so you can fold the router down so it takes up less storage space.

Building the stand for my Solsylva 25×25 CNC router was pretty simple.  The hardest part was attaching the hinged support.  I also had some trouble finding straight lumber for it and the rest of the router.  David Steele’s instructions and drawings are excellent and are easily among the best I’ve ever seen.

The stand supports the router and it provides you with a work table to build it on.  It can be put on casters so you can easily move it around and it’s designed so the CNC router can be tilted down to take up less storage space.  It’s a pretty good design but I wish I’d just built a table out of 2x4s instead, because the fold-down feature doesn’t really save much space and it may never get used.  Such a table would be stronger and unlike David’s design you could add shelves to it for storage, or compartments for a computer and/or dust collection system (shop vac).

The Plans & Design Goals

There are 109 pages of instructions and drawings that are very well written and drawn.  David Steele doesn’t just provide you with some drawings and general instructions and then leave it to you to figure out the rest.  He breaks the entire construction process down into a series of small steps that almost anyone can follow, even someone who doesn’t have a lot of experience building things or working with tools.

He designed this CNC router so it could be built with very basic inexpensive tools and so you can buy most of the materials at your local lumber yard or home improvement center.  Those are huge advantages for many.  But the downside is the router isn’t as good as it could be if were designed to be built with better materials and by someone with more skills and access to better tools.

I hope that someday David will offer an “advanced” design or add more options to his current plans, such as an extruded aluminum or welded steel frame.  In the meantime you can learn about modifications and upgrades by reading about what other builders have done. is one of the best places to do that and you can find some great builder’s logs there.  Unfortunately, the best message threads have often grown to contain dozens or hundreds of messages and it can be very time consuming to read through them all.

Buying Wood

It’s really important to use the straightest boards with the fewest knots you can find, especially for the router’s frame and gantry.  It seems that lumber quality is getting worse because of “factory forestry” and I spent almost two hours patiently sorting through entire piles of lumber to find the best boards.  At one point I thought I might have to come back again or go somewhere else to find enough good 2x4s and 2x6s.  I’m glad I purchased extras because when I got home I found that some of them weren’t as good as I’d thought.

Continue reading CNC Router Build – The Stand

Heroic Mop Sacrifices Self to Save Grill on Memorial Day

"Here, the rescued charcoal grill once again stands tall, thanks to its newly donated and professionally fitted prosthetic leg. The grill appears fully ready and even eager for handling yet another full summer of seriously grilling many more delicious meals."

Reporting by Blabbermouth Bobblehead
DP – (Disassociated Press – No News At 11)

While pictures of the heroic rescue and salvage operation were unfortunately unavailable for publication, DP reporters were able to obtain exclusive images of the miraculously salvaged charcoal grill, which appears ready to stand tall through yet another summer of heavy cooking use and abuse thanks to its custom new prosthetic leg, shown below.  This leg used to be a mop handle, and was made available by the tired old mop, which had selflessly signed a permission slip authorizing medical authorities to use any such body parts as may be of use to help others when it passed away.  It died peacefully of old age in its sleep just as the need to use the grill arose, and so authorities wasted no time in putting together this rescue/salvage operation.

Both a 4×6 metal cutting bandsaw and an X2 mini-mill volunteered their services for this emergency grill rescue, although the X2 mini-mill humbly downplayed its part in this miraculous salvage operation, referring to itself as only being used as just a “precision drill press” in the resuscitation efforts.  The 4×6 bandsaw offered no comment, preferring to stand quietly in its corner of the garage, out of all the hubbub and excitement, just waiting to cut something, anything, hopefully soon.

The 4×6 bandsaw cut the metal tubing mop handle to length, and the rubber handle end was cut down just a bit to remove the hole in the end that was previously used to hang the mop up on a hook on the wall.  This was deemed to be too structurally weak for grill leg duty and so was simply removed, leaving the remaining rubber handle to act as a foot.

Here some of the details of the X2 mini-mill’s efforts can be seen, with 3 pretty close to identical sheet metal screws being dug out from a scrap box and used to attach the prosthetic leg inside the top mounting end of the grill’s original leg. Three screws spaced roughly equidistantly apart now hold it securely in place:
And of course, the former rubber mop handle is shown now doing duty as a grill foot.  Note the surgical marker pen line showing roughly where to drill the hole for the grill rack, at about so-ish an angle, like so:
The grill’s owners were unavailable for comment, with a family spokesman only commenting that the grill had already BBQ’d up 5 delicious steaks and a full pack of hot dogs, and the family was presently engaged in enjoying their Memorial Day meal.

Further investigation by this reporter revealed that it is common for grills of this type to rust away and weaken at the spot near the base of their legs where they are drilled through for the bottom grill rack to mount into.  What eventually happens is this spot rusts, weakens, and finally the bottom of the leg breaks off.  This makes the grill become prone to falling over and unsafe for further use. Often such afflicted grills are retired and salvaged out to metal recycling plants.

Thanks to the selfless gift of life from the now dearly departed old mop, and of course the tireless and skilled efforts of the 4×6 bandsaw and X2 mini-mill, there is at least one charcoal grill that is not going to go out that way just quite yet.  Lots of life to live and grilling to give left in this old beast, for at least another long hot summer, maybe two.

DP – Disassociated Press. All Rights Reserved.

John Z. can be found offering excellent advice in a number of machining and metalworking discussion groups. – Editor

Bracket for towing a lawn roller

This is the bracket I made last weekend so I can tow my ancient hand-pulled lawn roller behind my riding lawn mower.  I usually don’t roll my lawn because the soil has so much clay it strongly resembles concrete when it dries out in July, but parts of it really needed it.  I know it’s not a very interesting project but I had fun making it, it gave me a chance to practice welding and I also got some more CAD/CAM experience out of it even though it never got near my CNC mill.


I wanted to cut out the bracket with my CNC mini-mill.  So I drew it using a CAD program.  Then I took the time to learn how to use some very useful new features (tabs, pocketing and ramping) that were just added to my CAM program, D2NC.  (Feb 2017 – I’ve long since switched to Vectric’s Cut2D and I may soon start using Autodesk Fusion 360’s built-in CAM)

Then I simulated running the G-code D2NC created on my office copy of Mach3, the software that controls my mill.  That’s when I had my Homer moment and realized the part was too big for the mini-mill’s Y-axis.  It was also a little too big to cut properly with my 4×6 bandsaw.  But by tipping the metal in the vise I was able to cut all but a few inches, which I finished with a hacksaw.

Useful safety guard for an angle grinder

The metal came from a very over-sized piece of ¼-inch thick steel that was under a support post in my basement.  I’d cut a piece off it the night before to make room along a wall for a heavy-duty shelving unit that’s going to be part of my new “winter” workshop.

That task was made much easier and safer by the $8 Harbor Freight Safety Guard (#61680) that I purchased because I thought it might come in handy someday.  It fits on a 4 or 4-1/2-inch angle grinder to protect you while using a cut-off disc or diamond saw.  It kind of turns your angle grinder into a small circular saw.

It’s not a great design but it did allow me to make a nice straight cut by pushing the grinder along a heavy steel bar I used as a straight edge.  It also allows you to control the depth of the cut.  Which is more useful with a diamond saw than with a cut-off disc that is constantly getting smaller as it wears down.

By the way, I used an inexpensive Harbor Freight welding blanket to help protect my house from catching fire from the sparks.  Yes it’s true.  I spend a lot of time in my local Harbor Freight store. Continue reading Bracket for towing a lawn roller

Random Quote

If you have any more than three priorities, you have no priorities.

— Maggie Fox, Entrepreneur