October 03, 2021

Hypomanic Woodworking

This post may come off as whiny, but I'm writing it with tongue-in-cheek. Writing all of this out leads me to believe I may be on the verge of a hypomanic episode. (This is also VERY long, by the way!)

I had a disaster of a week, and it's still going on. I'm not even referring to my diet/exercise, which have been right on point since my last post about it. I'm referring to the chain of events that led to my garage looking like THIS right now:

A couple of weeks ago, my garage was super clean. Usually after I finish up a project, I clean the garage well before starting another. As I wrote previously, I bought a dining set via Facebook Marketplace (for $25!) and I have to repair several spindles on the chairs before I can paint it. There were a couple of small hand tools that I needed to get for this, so I went onto Facebook Marketplace to look. And I couldn't help but look at jointers again.

A jointer is a power tool that you slide a board across some rotating blades and it makes that side extremely flat. So if you have a board that is bowed or warped, you can run it through a jointer to get one side very flat. Then you use that side as a reference to finish squaring off the board.

A thickness planer is a similar tool, but it's meant to make the faces of the board parallel, so the board is the same thickness all the way through. Once the three sides are all flat and square, you can run the board through a table saw to square off the fourth side.

The biggest benefit to a jointer, in my opinion, is that you can create surfaces so flat that you can "joint" them together with wood glue--the edges fit together so perfectly that they look like one solid piece of wood when you're done. 

There are creative ways of doing all of this with only one tool (if you ever have to choose, choose the table saw!) but using the jointer, planer, and table saw is like one sweet wood working harmony.

BUT. These tools are crazy expensive. The Dewalt planer I wanted is $550, so I was THRILLED when Shawn (my brother-in-law) traded me that planer for our lawn mower. To use the planer to its full potential, though, a jointer would have been awesome. I've been looking at Marketplace for two years(!) and while I've seen lots of them, they either have something wrong with them or they're too expensive. So, I continued to look about once a week.

Well, I finally found one that looked good! They were asking $150, which was quite a bit cheaper than the other jointers I'd seen. A woman was listing it for her father-in-law, so she relayed my questions about it and I did my research on this particular model. It's old--from 1988--but it's cast iron, super solid, and free of rust. And it runs! From what I could see online, though, $150 may have been asking too much.

I was debating whether to get it and I offered $100. I figured if they said no, then it wasn't meant to be and I'd keep looking. Well, the father-in-law counter-offered $130. I told him thanks, but I'm going to think about it some more and keep looking. A couple of hours later, he said I could have it for $100 if I picked it up that day.

Considering it's made of cast iron and incredibly heavy, Jerry went to pick it up for me on his way to work. The woman told me she'd give me her address when he was on his way (she didn't want to give it too early, I guess for safety reasons). Well, he got to the general area and she wasn't replying to my messages. Jerry drove around for 25 minutes, and then had to leave so he could get to work. Not cool on her part.

A couple of hours later, she messaged me and was super apologetic. She said if I still wanted it, I could have it for $90 because of the hassle. Jerry was going to stop by there in the morning; she was going to have it in the driveway and she told him to put the money underneath a decorative pumpkin on the porch.

Jerry was a little surprised when he saw the pumpkin because had to remove a literal CRACK PIPE  in order to put the money under there. Oh, well--I got a jointer for $90! I just hoped it would work.

At this point, one thing just kept leading to another which eventually led to what my garage looks like right now...

Now that I had a jointer, of course I wanted to use it to build things! There have been several things I've wanted to make but jointing was a necessity to make them. And I've tried building jigs for my table saw to joint wood but they always needed little hardware pieces that I didn't have and when I did try jointing, it just didn't work as well as an actual jointer would have.

The first thing I wanted to make was an extension for my table saw. I have a job site table saw, which means is smaller and portable--convenient for saving space in the garage, but it causes problems when cutting larger pieces of wood. I found plans to build an extension and I already had the wood I needed.

Before I started, though, I wanted to make a zero-clearance throat plate for my table saw--it's easiest if I show a picture:

The one that came with the table saw (on the left above) has a wide gap so that you can tilt the blade to 45 degrees. If you're just making 90 degree cuts, you don't need a gap that is any bigger than the saw blade. This is a good thing because it reduces "tear out" on the plywood I would be cutting for the table saw extension (basically just cutting cleaner edges). And it prevents thin slices of wood from dropping below the plate.

To make the throat plate, I needed a board that was 1/2 inch thick. I had a nice piece of poplar my brother gave me (I always ask for his scraps! haha) that was a good size. It was closer to 3/4 inch thick, so I had to use the planer to shave off a little at a time until it was the correct thickness (and very flat).

When I ran it through the planer, I saw some ugly lines--raised ridges. I had no idea what would have caused that. The only thing I could think of was that the blades were chipped, but I had just replaced them when I got the planer from Shawn. I spent a whole day messing around with the planer--cleaning it, inspecting the knives very carefully, and running boards through to try and locate the problem.

I assumed it had to be microscopic nicks in the blades, so I ordered a new set (I'd gotten an off-brand the first time, so this time I paid the extra $10 to get the Dewalt ones). 

While I waited for those to arrive, I decided to clean my miter saw and make sure it was squared up. This is the thing that drives me the most crazy about tools--the slightest imperfection for making cuts can make projects super frustrating because then boards don't line up and they look sloppy.

My miter saw is also old (I got it on Marketplace). When I was making test cuts while squaring it, I noticed how bad the edges looked. I don't know why it never occurred to me, but this problem with the planer blades made me realize that I probably needed a new blade for the miter saw. I ordered a blade for that and held off on squaring it up until the blade arrived.

While I waited on blades to arrive, I decided to mess around with the jointer and see if it worked (and learn how to use it). I watched a ton of YouTube videos about how to joint correctly and then I gave it a try.

Oh, man. It was terrible! It looked like I'd taken an axe and hacked away at the bottom of the board. It was also harder than I expected to push the wood along the blades. And at one point, the blades threw the board across the room!

I thought maybe the blades weren't set properly, so I went through all the steps of adjusting the blades and the table. This took TWO DAYS. I'm not kidding. I had no idea how hard it would be to fine-tune them. I was so frustrated. Finally, I got them lined up to where it was working--kind of--but the edges looked terrible. Definitely not at the point where I could joint them to other boards.

When the planer blades arrived, it hit me again--maybe the jointer needed new blades! So, back on Amazon I went, ordering new blades for the jointer.

I made sure to be extremely careful when installing the planer blades so that they were lined up perfectly. I tried it out and it looked so much better! All of the ridges were gone, so the problem had clearly been with the blades. Unfortunately, by the time I ran the poplar through the planer a few more times to fix the flaws, it was only 3/8-inch thick and not 1/2, like I needed. So I just decided to use a piece of 1/2-inch plywood.

And I finally got the throat plate done and it worked perfectly. Thankfully! (It's the one on the right in the side-by-side comparison of the throat plates.)

When my miter saw blade arrived, I swapped that out (that's a very simple process) and I couldn't believe I hadn't done it two years ago. It made a HUGE difference! Check this out--the before and after:

Next up was the table saw extension. I cut the plywood pieces I needed for that, but in order to complete it, I would need to make another jig. And that jig required me to use a jointer. Gah! I was dreading switching out the blades on the jointer after it had taken so long to adjust them. It took me about four hours, but I finally got the new ones properly installed.

I tried it out on some scrap wood and I couldn't believe the difference! It cut through like butter--so much easier and after squaring up the fence that sits perpendicular to the blades, I had perfectly square cuts. I was so excited!

Once I got that working, I started looking through my scraps for the wood I would need to make the jig. I was digging through boxes and couldn't find what I was looking for. This led to me thinking that I really need to organize my scrap wood. I had a huge box of scraps in the corner that made it impossible to find what I needed. And I had 3-4 other small boxes that were pretty unorganized.

As I was thinking about how to organize all of the scrap wood, I realized that I needed to get a bunch of clutter out of the way. And the most annoying thing in the garage at the moment was a wheelbarrow full of our shovels, rakes, and things like that. Those are things people normally hang on the wall somehow, but I never got around to building a rack for them when I drywalled the garage.

I put that on my list of things to do this fall, so I decided I was going to finally do it. After thinking about how I best wanted to hang them, I bought some PVC rings (for 78 cents each) and I used a couple of scrap 2x4's for the rest. The idea with the PVC rings was to slide the pole handle through to keep it in place while it's propped on the wall. It's easier just to show pictures (this is before I cleaned all the sawdust!):

For something like the snow shovel, with a large handle that won't go through the PVC ring, I just boxed in a small section. To keep it adjustable for other items in that spot, I figured we could use bungee cords to hold them in place. I cut out little circles along the bottom edge to hook the bungee cords on after wrapping them around the tool.

I had to use PVC rings on the bottom as well; at first, before I added them on the bottom, the poles slid around and just made a mess of things.

Once I got that done, I started pulling out all of my scrap wood to begin organizing it. I don't want to buy a sheet of plywood in order to make a cart of some sort (what most people seem to do for scrap wood) so I'm going to have to get creative. I'm thinking of connecting some five-gallon buckets together, side-by-side, and standing the wood up in that. But then I have to figure out something for all of the wider pieces and the plywood.

Anyway, that was a REALLY long story of little to no importance! But it's what I've been doing in my spare time all week. All of this started because I went on Facebook Marketplace to look for a couple of hand tools to fix the dining chairs. And I never even got to that part! Hahaha. Once I get all of the wood organized, I'll clean up the garage and then get to work on the chairs. 


  1. But stories that seem of no importance are the best stories. Because - life! This is really what’s it’s like. You always amaze me with all you get accomplished! Keep on keeping on.

  2. Katie, you are so talented and creative! I love reading about your woodworking and DIY adventures. I know what a sharp knife does in the kitchen, so I'm not sure why I was surprised at the difference a new blade makes, but WOW! Glad you have your planer and jointer too. As my mom would have said, "Use them in good health." :)

  3. HOLY COW!! That's a crap ton of work, and yes. Perhaps hypomanic, but that tool holder alone is worth it all. You are crazy talented.


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