« July 2009 | Main | September 2009 »

August 23, 2009

The Gorilla Gripper makes it easy to lift and move heavy panels

If there is one thing I really dislike on a construction site it is Oriented Strand Board or OSB. It is full of splinters even when fresh off the stack. It puts out a most irritating sawdust when cut and it is heavier than it ought to be. I try to avoid it whenever I can, but in my part of the country, it is used as sheathing on the side of the house and under the roofing. Handling this stuff is just an unpleasant part of the deal when you are building a house.

Highland has a new tool that I am looking at. It is called the Gorilla Gripper and is specifically designed to work on stuff like OSB. Have you ever seen the highway construction guys moving those concrete barricades used for traffic control when the highway is being built? They put a big gripper on it which clamps the top of the block and when raised by a big enough tractor, grips tighter and tighter as the weight increases.

Gripper.jpgSame thing with the Gorilla Gripper. You just grab the middle edge of the sheet with it and the harder you pull, the tighter it grips. The trick to picking up a heavy sheet with a Gorilla Gripper is to get your hand under the Gorilla handle and fold your arm under the load while you bend your knees, and then straighten your legs to lift the material. Your hand ends up at your shoulder and the heavy sheet hangs comfortably by your side so you can walk with it.

If you are less than four feet to the shoulder, you might have a little trouble with the sheet dragging on the ground. (Someone a little taller than you could always put another Gorilla Gripper on your head and pick up you and the sheet, and if you are still able to talk, you can tell the secondary lifter where you need the sheet. If you can't talk, you still have one hand free and you can point with it to get the sheet where you want it to go.)

If your shoulder is over eight feet from the ground, then you can work from the end of the sheet rather than the side. You really big guys can even put one in each hand.

The other thing that had not occurred to me is dragging a heavy 4x8 sheet up a ladder. I watched their video and the demonstrator carried a sheet to the bottom of the ladder and then turned his hand over and holding the Gorilla Gripper at his hip simply walked up the ladder dragging the sheet behind his feet as he walked onto the roof. Works like a champ!!

All you cabinetmakers out there will love this thing too. Banging those precious sheets of 3/4 inch hardwood veneer plywood around the shop gets to be a real pain, plus they cost a lot of money and you sure don't want to mess one up. If using a Gorilla Gripper saves you just one sheet of walnut or cherry ply, this little machine will have already paid for itself.

Click over to the Highland Woodworking website and see the Gorilla Gripper video and then place your order.

August 16, 2009

Contemplating the Patternmaker's Vise

I had heard of the Emmert Patternmaker's Vise for many years. People talked about it in awed whispers with their hands cupped next to their mouth and you just knew it was something special. I never got to play with one, so the other day when Chris and I were examining the Emmert patternmaker's vise clone that they sell at Highland Woodworking, I got interested.

First, you may not know what a patternmaker is. A patternmaker is about the penultimate woodworker, called upon to make the pattern for a metal casting out of wood (or these days, plastics or other modern materials). In days past, patterns were more likely made out of wood than anything else. Since (most) metal shrinks as it cools, the pattern has to be made slightly larger than the finished product. Try to picture making a wooden precursor to all the cast metal parts in a Model T Ford, making sure they are 1.5% bigger than the finished product.

Patternmakers Vise.jpgBeing able to hold the wood securely while the pattern is being sawn, carved, drilled, filed, sanded or however else formed is the whole purpose of the patternmaker's vise. You can clamp almost any shape, then twist the vise in almost any direction without taking the piece out of the vise. Does your vise allow you to twist your work up and make it parallel to the top of the work bench — without taking it out of the vise? Mr. Emmert figured it out back in the 1880s and his company continued making them up through the 1970s.

I checked on eBay and you may be able to find an original for sale today at anywhere from $500 to $900 depending on its condition. There are several Web sites dedicated solely to the Emmert, and the one which appears most often is called "The Iron Hand". I kept trying to figure out why they called the site "The Iron Hand" until I finally had this image of a guy sitting under the bench with his iron hand holding the piece and turning the work in whatever direction you needed it to go, including laying it down flat on top of the bench. I guess if they were still making them, you would probably be able to give it voice commands by now. Anyway, go look and see what this thing will do.

When you get through looking at what it will do and you get through lusting for an Emmert, go ahead and search eBay and check deep within your soul to see if you really want to pay that much to have a secondhand original. (Its shipping weight is about 90 pounds by the way.)

After you get the answer, come on over and buy the clone at Highland. Our imported Patternmaker's Vise (manufactured nicely in Taiwan) is $299.99, and is based on the original design. It will do virtually anything any normal less-than-a-patternmaker woodworker is EVER likely to do. (Do study the installation instructions since it usually involves a fair amount of modification to whatever workbench you attach it to.)

If you could just figure out a way to use your new vise to hold the bench while you install the vise — well, you get the idea.

August 13, 2009

Why Woodworkers Love our Wood Slicer Resaw Bandsaw Blade & our Woodturners Blade

085272.jpgHere are a couple of unsolicited testimonials praising our legendary Wood Slicer Resawing Bandsaw Blade and our Woodturners Blade:

I have a 12" Jet bandsaw that I absolutely hated. It couldn't cut a straight line on a piece of 1/8" ply. A friend told me to check out your Wood Slicer resawing bandsaw blade. I went to your site to check it out. At first I kind of choked when I saw the price of the blade. I then read your testimonials and decided to give one a try (you do guarantee that I will like it). The first piece of wood I cut was a chunk of mango. It went well, but then again, it is a softer wood. So I decided to try a piece of Koa as it is a bit harder.....cut like butter. Being the skeptic I am, I decided to put it to what I considered an extreme test. I have a large chunk of desert ironwood that has been sitting around for a while (because I just can't cut it). In previous attempts, I could barely slice a 2" section. The results were not pretty, it took forever and a day to cut, and the dust was incredible. I figured what the heck, I am going to make this blade cry, so I put a four inch thick slab on the bandsaw, turned it on and it cut through it without a problem.. There was no smoking, no dust clouds, and the finish on the cut side of the wood was unbelievable. Bottom line....I will NEVER buy another band saw blade other than this one. It is everything you said it was. Please feel free to use me as a reference. I would love to be able to help other woodworkers discover this blade. On a side note...I no longer hate my bandsaw. -- Thank You, Rick G.

183482.jpgHello Highland Woodworking,

Recently I purchased some of your Woodturners Bandsaw Blades, plus a few new items to help rebuild my 15 year old Delta 14" bandsaw. As a professional woodturner-studio artist I just wanted to pass along my observations : namely, these are the absolute BEST bandsaw blades for woodturners. Over my 25+ years of woodturning I have tried them all, every brand, every configuration including carbide tipped (very expensive but nice) ... but these are incredible. I just mounted one and began trimming a fresh chunk of green ambrosia maple, very wet and heavy. The blade never stalled, never even whimpered ... and I am sometimes a bit aggressive. Add to this the rapid response time from your store and the fast delivery, and you can mark me a VERY Satisfied customer. Please feel free to use this as an endorsement or recommendation or whatever. I have already passed along the info to several other woodturners I know and I expect some of them to also switch to your blades. Keep up the good work! -- Dick G.

August 3, 2009

Sell That Stuff

You keep making all this stuff and it keeps piling up in the dining room and all your family has more than they want, but you just have to keep making it because it's what you do and who you are. What do you do now?

Here's one answer. Put it up on line and sell it. I tried it and it works. You will be constantly amazed at what people are willing to purchase from you (no offense to either party) and if you work at it some, you will be able to sell more than you can make.
For instance, I am shipping today a bag full of cedar shavings swept from the floor of my shop from a bowl off my lathe, (a beautiful Oneway 1640 from the High by the way), to a lady from Illinois who uses them to make little cloth cedar pillows to put in stinky tennis shoes. She is paying $30 plus shipping for two quart bags of shavings I was going to sweep into the dust collector and use for mulch. She turns around and sells the bags for $15 per set and both of us giggle on the way to the bank.

There are several choices on line for selling, but my choice is a site called "Etsy". www.etsy.com) pronounced like Betsy. They only allow handcrafted and vintage items and it is really simple to use. First you have to pick a name nobody else is using; "www.thewoodshop.etsy.com" is taken by the way. (See me sneak that one in. Look at my new shop sign from Highland.) If it is clear, then just walk through the steps and put your stuff up there. Get a digital camera and upload some good pictures, decide on a price, write up a description using words like "found lumber', "recycled", and "green" , check your shipping costs and go for it. It costs something like twenty cents per item to list it and then something like a 2% commission when it sells.

Set up a PayPal account, which is really simple to do and people will pay you through PayPal before you ship. On top of that PayPal will print out a shipping label with two clicks and take the postage out of your PayPal account leaving you with the net. Call the Post Office and they will pick up the box off your back door steps. How cool is that?

I average a sale a month and there are things on my site which over 300 people have looked at, including people from England, France and Afghanistan. My record so far is a large salad bowl for $ 105 to a lady in California who gave it as a wedding present. Go for it!! Get that stuff out of the house!! Make some more!! Buy more tools from Highland!!