ElectroBlu is the new Blue

The double-sided melamine blade from Amana Tool, and sold through Toolstoday.com

It is seriously…..blue

Amana Tool Melamine Blade

Quite a stunning looking blade, but we will get to its looks later.  Function is much more important than looks!  Good thing this blade has both 🙂

The blade is an 80 tooth, 10″ (250mm), with a 5/8″ bore.  That is what suits my saw, they also have 30mm bore, and sizes from 200 – 400mm diameter.

It has 4 straight expansion slots to minimise heat distortion, with copper plugs.  The copper plugs are used as a vibration absorption, and to block up the holes at the end of the expansion slots – both of which in turn decreases operational noise.  The holes themselves are used as a crack-arrestor as they reduce the stress at the end of each slot.

The straighter the blade, (in how it is manufactured, in how accurate the teeth are ground, and the less warping/distortion caused by heat), the better the cut.  This combined with a tooth profile especially designed for melamine results is a remarkable cut.

Clean cut

The edge, on both sides of the melamine, is as clean in closeup as it appears in the above-photo.  It is a beautiful cut, and that aptly demonstrates the quality of the blade.  Getting this sort of result on both the top and underside of the cut is remarkable, and takes a special blade to achieve this.

Crosscut Pine

The blade is also very good for crosscutting, whether that be soft or hardwood.  The finish is near shiny, and showed negligible to no breakout of fibres at the back of the cut.

Crosscut Hardwood

Ripping was harder – being an 80 tooth blade there is only a small gullet between teeth, and where that is fine for crosscutting, is insufficient for clearing waste and the long fibres created during a rip cut.  It is still achievable, but you have to cut slow (risking burning the timber, overheating and distortion in the blade).  Even so, a shiny cut was the result!  Good enough to go straight to a finish, or one final light sand.

Hardwood Rip

But why is it blue?
The blade is finished with a new process, called electro-bluing. It is a smooth coating for the blade, replacing the teflon-like finishes of other blades.  It has only been available since September 2012!  This micron-thin coating is claimed to reduce heat buildup, and the accumulation of resin.  The coating includes the teeth of the blade.  It will be very interesting to see how durable the coating is!

It is also promoted as being an environmentally friendly coating.  If that is a feature you need, this blade (and this coating) offers that, which differs from many other, more traditional coatings.
So this is the MB10800.  A double-sided melamine blade which really cuts the mustard! From Toolstoday.com

Episode 91 Amana Tool Melamine Blade

Episode 91 Amana Tool Melamine Blade

A blade designed to cut double sided melamine, by Amana Tool.
Available from Toolstoday.com

Kreg Pockethole Breakthrough

A reader’s question about pocketholes and melamine:

Dear Stu,
 
I have the Kreg master system and I am having trouble with joining 16mm melamine chipboard to get a strong and firm joint.
 
I am using the 5/8 setting on the jig as suggested for use with 16mm material as well as using  1” screws as also suggested, (course thread) as I am using chipboard.
 
I think my problem stems from the fact that I am trying to join two pieces of melamine together to make a small box.   It may also be that
I don’t as yet have a Kreg right angle clamp.  Could you please advise me as what I might be able to do to get a firm joint without the blowout
of the screws through the other side of the melamine.
 
I don’t have this problem with ordinary pine.  I have only just tried using melamine, I know it should work fine, I am just doing something wrong.

 

My response:

I have done quite a bit with pocket holes and melamine, and haven’t had a particular issue (after some fine-tuning).

Using coarse screws is correct for that sort of product, so no problem there.  It does compress more than timber, particularly when cutting into the ‘end-grain’, so some additional allowance has to be made for that (which is why your setup works for pine, and not melamine, or MDF for that matter).  I would tend to set the drill stop so it is drilling a little shallower than the suggested position.  You have plenty of capacity before the screw head ends up above the surface, and considering it is still punching through the other side, it has more than enough contact area with the material it is screwing into.  As a rough judge, you can work out how much length of screw is jutting out the other side, and decrease the stop position back that much, plus a bit more (you don’t want the melamine even bulging where the screw is)

This will give you a good purchase, allowing you to do up the screw tightly and avoid breakthrough.

The right angle clamp I do find very useful (the one where one end fits down into one of the pocketholes), but it isn’t going to help with this problem.  Fortunately, it is an easy fix 🙂

Breaking Edges

If you’ve worked with melamine or veneered sheet goods before, you are likely to have had to deal with the heat-activated, pre-glued edging to disguise the cut edge.  There is a wide range of prepared edging – melamine obviously, but also wood veneers, such as pine.  Some you have to apply glue, but quite a convenient (especially for the occasional user) form is those with the glue already applied, which is activated with heat.  I have an old iron in the workshop specifically for this purpose.

Pre-glued edging to be applied

It is always worth being generous with the amount of overhang allowed for at either end.  No matter how carefully the edge of the banding is lined up with the edge of the board, it slips so easily along as it is ironed down, so allowing some extra for this is worth saving a whole heap of grief.

Edging ironed on, with overhang

The edging is typically 1-2mm oversize as well for the thickness of the board, and this excess is trimmed off.

Paring off the overhang

There are a number of tools to help accurately remove the resulting side overhang, but I haven’t gotten around to getting one – not working with laminated materials enough.  Instead, I use a heavy plane blade, and a downward shearing action to cut the overhang off as precisely as I can.  Melamine is sharp when bought to a point, and especially if the cut isn’t perfectly clean there could still be some tiny overhangs that can either feel sharp, or worse catch, causing a chip.  When I first came across the concept of a tool that breaks the edge, not only was it intriguing, but I had the impression that a 45 degree chamfer would result in the core material being seen.  Turns out that I didn’t take into account the minimal amount of material the tool would remove.

Breaking the corner

The tool I was using is the FastBreak XL, sold in Australia by Professional Woodworkers Supplies. It is a pretty simple, and effective concept.  A piece of fine grit sandpaper mounted at 90 degrees, so that both edges are sanded at the same time, at 45 degrees.

Working surfaces

Spare sandpaper is stored behind the end cap, secured with the brass knurled knobs.

Resulting corner

The photo doesn’t show up the resulting edge very well, but one thing is immediately obvious, even with a good amount of sanding the core has not been revealed.  The edge feels smooth, even slightly radiused to the touch (guess it depends on how you use the tool).

Drill Press Table Drawer

When I first added the Pro Drill Press Table, I found I had a (minor) issue with the height winding handle hitting the tabletop (or having to mount the top further out from the main upright than I wanted).  My solution was pretty simple – I placed some spacers under the table to raise it up above the handle.

Effective? Yes.  Elegant? No.

Michael (who is loosely affiliated with Professional Woodworkers Supplies (who supply the Pro Table)) saw my solution, and came up with one that was blindingly obvious – instead of boring (and useless) spacers, why not put a drawer in there?

Once I had finished kicking myself, there was no question but to do the same to my table.  After all, the extra storage for all the drill bits, clamps, keys etc was something I desperately needed.

I have documented the build in a video, but here are a couple of photos of the resulting unit, made from melamine, and pockethole joined together.

Drill Press Table Drawer

Drill Press Table Drawer

The video shows a 2 drawer unit, but once I had put it in place, I decided that it was just too high, and so cut it down to a single drawer.  One of the benefits of the pockethole joints is not only are they very strong, they are very easy to disassemble too.  You can’t actually see them in these photos – with the caps in place they have blended in a bit too well!

You can see the drawer unit sits forward of the back of the Pro Table – this is to give the handle the space it needs.  At some stage, I’m very tempted to extend the handle to make for easier access.

Talking of handles, the drawer handle was chosen very specifically.  Because I work up against the unit occasionally, and especially when moving past the drill press, I wanted a handle that was unlikely to catch on clothing etc. And it looks the part. (And because it attaches with 2 screws, it is more able to cope with a heavy drawer).

Contents

Contents

No sooner had the drawer been built, than it started filling with drilling paraphernalia.

At least now it is all in one place, and easy to find.

(Yes, that is a set of Triton drill bits you can see.  Bit of a collector’s item these days, along with the Triton countersink.  What – never heard of a Triton countersink?  I have one.  And some Triton branded carpenter’s pencils!)

Edgebanding Melamine

I’ve been working on a drawer unit for the drillpress (from an idea I got from Professional Woodworkers Supplies).  The basic plan can be seen in a podcast/video recently (the sketch), and I have since completed the unit (the subject of another video around here somewhere – coming to an iTunes store near you shortly).

I’ll have another post with more details tomorrow.

As part of the construction, I decided to use melamine (to fit in with the Pro Drill Press Table). Of course, once you cut melamine, you are left with the core showing (either particle board or MDF, depending on the cost), so covering that is definitely required.

You can buy iron-on melamine edging typically from where you buy the melamine itself, and it isn’t particularly expensive.  It has a heat-activated glue on the back, and that is where the household iron comes into play.

Iron-on Melamine Edging

Iron-on Melamine Edging

FWIW, the same technique is used when using veneered sheets – edge banding in all sorts of different timbers can be purchased.

Here I have cut the edging slightly oversized (lengthwise).  The banding is already wider than required for the project, so that makes ironing it down easy (when hot, the banding can slip and move easily, so it would be easy to end up with the banding not matching on an edge if you were not careful).  Once stuck down (I use the iron up pretty hot, with steam turned off), it sets in a few seconds.  You are then able to trim the banding to the final size.

First, I trim the ends to length, using a sharp hand-plane blade.  Next, I run the same blade down both sides of the melamine to cut the banding to the right width.

Plane Blade

Plane Blade

I use a slight shearing action, so rather than chipping at the banding, the action is slicing.  I also always do the stroke towards the body of the melamine (rather than up towards the edge), to prevent any tendency of the banding to break out.

Slicing Action Along the Edge

Slicing Action Along the Edge

This I find produces a very clean cut, and flush finish.  There are actual edgebanding trimmers available commercially, but I find this process very quick and easy anyway, and produces a finish that would rival the commercial version.  I tend to hold the blade flat against the side (as seen here), but have, on occasions, held it at 45 degrees to produce a chamfer on the edge.

New Kreg K4 Pockethole Jig

There are many different techniques for joining to pieces of timber, both traditional and modern.  One that is proving quite resilient is pocket hole joinery.  It is a modern development of the more traditional “glue and screw” method, and using a fundamentally simple concept, produces a surprisingly strong joint, even when glue is not used.  Although I call it a modern joint (with Kreg developing the modern pockethole jig in 1986), the ancient Egyptians were using a version of it, inserting a dowel through the angled hole, then cutting it flush with the surface.

The pockethole is created by drilling a partial-depth hole at an angle into one member of the joint.  It stops short of cutting all the way through, and the drill bit is profiled so the hole drilled has a flat bottom.  This provides a good square surface for the flat-headed screws to press against.  The clever part of the drill bit, is it has two diameters.  The main diameter cuts the slot, and the flat bottomed hole.  In the centre of this hole, another is cut that is just larger than the diameter of the screw itself, so it acts as a pilot hole to control the direction of the screw as it is tightened, and helps prevent splitting.

Pockethole Drillbit

Pockethole Drillbit

The drill bit depth is controlled with a metal sleeve that has a grub screw to set the depth of hole. Readings on the jig itself allow you to set the correct depth based on material thickness.

Setting bit depth

Setting bit depth

The screws can be any brand that is suitably sized, and has a flat-bottomed head, but the ones that are most commonly used are the Robertson Screw.  Instead of having a Phillips, or flat drive, they use a square drive that actually predates the Phillips headed screw.  This type of drive provides a number of advantages in this scenario, but it boils down to one thing.  Ease of use.

Robertson Square-Drive Screw

Robertson Square-Drive Screw

Ready to Drive into Pockethole

Ready to Drive into Pockethole

The K4 is the latest offering in the range of Pockethole Jigs from Kreg. It appears to fit a useful niche between the comprehensive, (and accordingly priced) K3, and the Kreg Mini Pockethole Jig, and provides the basic components that would be used for a vast majority of pockethole joinery jobs.

Kreg K4 Pockethole Jig

Kreg K4 Pockethole Jig

The thing that strikes you very quickly when using the Kreg, is just how easy it makes creating the necessary pocketholes.  It is very simple to set the jig up to suit the thickness of the materials being joined, and only a few seconds are required to cut the pocketholes.  As is provided with the K3 Master System, the K4 jig comes with an integral toggle clamp which is partly why the jig is so fast and convenient to use.  Another aspect is the hardened steel drill bit guide, so the bit is accurately guided, hole after hole.  When two holes are needed close together, the fact the jig has three guides in close proximity means that both holes can be drilled, without the need to reposition the jig itself.

Drillbit Guide and Toggle Clamp

Drillbit Guide and Toggle Clamp

Setting Guide Height to Suit Material Thickness

Setting Guide Height to Suit Material Thickness

In some situations, it is not convenient, or possible to use the jig in its standard configuration, and so the drill guide can be removed and clamped directly to the workpiece.

I don’t use pockethole joinery in every project – because of the size of the elongated oval slot caused in the surface of the workpiece, I tend to use pocketholes in situations where this cannot be seen.  There are fillers available, in a variety of timbers (and white plastic for melamine), and you could conceivably use a contrasting timber to produce a visual effect, but it wouldn’t be something you’d do often.  On the other hand, it would be hard to find another joinery system more suitable for joining melamine, MDF and other materials that tend to have a very weak end-grain glued joint.  This is particularly true for carcass construction for cabinetry, and building kitchen melamine (MDF or particleboard cored) cupboards.

Clamping Material Ready for Pockethole

Clamping Material Ready for Pockethole

Drilling the Pockethole(s)

Drilling the Pockethole(s)

Resulting Pocketholes

Resulting Pocketholes

The Kreg K4 System is an excellent investment for people who are not expecting to want to use pockethole joinery all the time (and therefore don’t want to invest in all the accessories), but want to be able to quickly and easily produce this sort of joint when the need arises.  I will stress however, that just because you haven’t invested in the comprehensive kit, you haven’t compromised in the quality of the material or jig construction.  This kit provides all the core components needed to start pocketholing in style.

90 degree Clamp

90 degree Clamp

There are other accessories you can optionally get.  I like this one – the 90 degree clamp.  One side of the clamp has a normal swivel base, while the other side is a thin diameter, flat-bottomed point perfect for clamping into the pockethole itself, so you can put a screw into the other pockethole.

For joining boards together flat, there is the more standard Kreg clamp.

Kreg Clamp

Kreg Clamp

First Pockethole Screwed

First Pockethole Screwed

Pockethole Plugs

Pockethole Plugs

There are various plugs designed to hide the pocketholes, including these for melamine.  Others are different wooden dowels so you can either closely match colour to disguide the joining method, or contrasting timber to accentuate it.  I still normally will design projects to hide the existance of the pocketholes.

It is perfect for picture frames, cabinetry (and on and on).

This pockethole jig (and accessories) were sourced from Carbatec, who carry a lot of the Kreg range.  The K4 will be available in Australia in the very near future.  I don’t have a price at this stage.

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