Help with wood joints and table saws

Discussion in 'Camera Building, Repairs & Modification' started by darinwc, Sep 26, 2008.

  1. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    Every once in a while i play with my toys.
    I have a very basic table saw, and ive had an inking to build a field camera.
    However I've had a terrible time with the joints and also the light traps of lensboards.

    it really seems like the table saw I have is just too cheap to make the precise cuts needed. However the nice heavy shop saws i used in woodshop are not really practical for me.

    Soo.. is it not possible to do the kind of precise woodworking needed for cameras using inexpensive tools?

    More info:
    I have a makita $99 table saw. I bought a nice 70 tooth blade and a set of stacking blades for finger cuts. I made a jig from a design in a book to make the finger joints.

    Problems:
    1.The guides would be fine for most cuts, but for repeating cuts like finger joints, there is too much play and I get uneven fingers.
    2. The oval thingy in the center is not flush with the table, so I have problems with small pieces.
    3. when I am making the light traps on lens boards, the blade seems to push the board up instead of cutting into it. I end up having to pass the wood multiple times to get the cut. I imagine I would have the same issue if I tried rabbit joints.

    Also, the table saw is friggin loud.
     
  2. Dan Dozer

    Dan Dozer Subscriber

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    I would bet that your table saw is not precise enough for most of the work you would need to build a view camera. While mine isn't all that expensive (Delta from Home Depot for $300) it's probably step up from yours and I don't have the problems you mention. I built my own 8 x 20 camera and relied much more heavily on a very good router and router table for the precise cutting.

    That said, Jim Fitzgerald has made two excellent ULF cameras with amazingly very little expensive power equipment. He'll probably chime in here at some point and tell of his experiences.
     
  3. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    Have a look at this site: http://www.raymentkirbycameras.co.uk/index.htm

    Click on the 'Workshop' section and have a look through all the pages there. There are some ideas there on simplifying things to make construction a bit easier with limited tools. It's also a great site to look at for inspiration.

    Also, Dan was too modest to mention the journal he has been selling on the construction of his 8x20 camera. It's worth getting hold of that for inspiration too. Most of his ideas/plans can be scaled to suit whatever dsize you want to make.


    Steve.
     
  4. bnstein

    bnstein Member

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    If time is of no great moment but cost is buy a good japanese saw with or without guides (say from lee valley) and a chisel or 2 and go hand made. The time element is the practice time you'll need to master hand cutting.
     
  5. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    The blade insert (the oval thingy) needs to be flush with the table, though that's probably not your major problem. If it isn't adjustable, then you might need to consider making one.
    If the joints don't fit, blade runout is a likely reason. A dial indicator is the preferred tool, but you can approximate with a feeler gauge and some wood clamped in the miter gauge. There is not much you can do about excessive runout. A blade stablizer might help, but it can't change it. The stablizer will help keep the blade steady though.
    The other thing to check is whether the blade is parallel to the miter gauge slot, clamp a piece of wood in the miter gauge against the blade at the front, slide the miter to the back of the blade, if the distance changes the blade isn't parallel. You can adjust some saws by loosening the motor/arbor assembly under the table tweaking it 'till it's right.
    The Taunton Press table saw book would be a good source of information. http://store.taunton.com/onlinestore/item/the-table-saw-book-2nd-ed-kelly-mehler-070552.html
     
  6. rwyoung

    rwyoung Member

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    If you can get things adjusted like Bdial and the guys above suggest then you are well on your way, even with a "cheap" saw.

    A few other suggestions:
    1) Don't worry too much if you can't built the camera out of cherry or mahagony. Pine or Poplar would work fine just make sure that you get a varnish finish on everything to minimize the dimentional changes in the softer woods. Poplar should cut fine on your saw, just not as pretty to look at. Go for an ebonized finish to hide the wierd.

    2) You can keep all your joints pretty simple. Butt, lap and rabbet will get you there. If you can get your saw tuned up and also build a small cross cut sled then cutting small pieces is pretty safe. You can build up light traps and other right-angle shapes by gluing together smaller pieces. Joints can be re-enforced with either a spline or just drill and counersink some small flat head screws. Finger joints on a cheep, wobbly saw are just going to be light leaks. You can use wood putty on the INSIDE to fill the leaks that do occur.

    3) Start simple, consider a sliding box camera design or a tailboard camera design first. No movements other than focus but everything is at right angles and keeps it simple.

    4) If you are going to cut rabbets make sure you use a sacraficial fence attached to your standard fence and raise the dado blade into the sac. fence slowly. Also, dado blades push your work UP so you can clamp a second board along your fence such that its edge holds down your work as it passes over the blade.

    5) Even throat plates without adjuster screws are adjustable. Sandpaper, rasp and a file to lower the plate. Double sided tape, playing cards and scissors to raise the plate. Get it level and snug. Look around (google for Peachtree Woodworking I think) to find aftermarket plates you can use to make zero clearance inserts. If you have a router and router table you can make your own throat plate blanks from MDF, plywood or laminate flooring.

    6) Make a simple box camera as a practice piece. Pinhole lens plate and film holder just slides into some slots on the back with a rubberband or wood wedge to hold it. Look around at www.f295.org at some of the cameras there.

    7) Go to www.woodworkingonline.com and watch the videos on table saws and joint making. Get the book mentioned above.

    7.5) There is a guy here, no relation to me, named Barry Young. He is up north of you in Oregon or Washington (I forget which). Maybe he can give you some guidance too. He makes cameras and accessories.

    8) And above all, be careful. If the operation doesn't feel safe and you can't know for sure where the blade is in relation to your fingers for the entire cut, then find a different way to make the cut. You can buy more wood. You can't buy more fingers.
     
  7. Jim Fitzgerald

    Jim Fitzgerald Member

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    Yes I've built an 8x20 and an 11x14 with basically my hand tools ( A very good Dovetail saw and carving chisel set) a Dremel and a mini table saw that I got from Harbor Freight. My construction is different than most though. I use thin pieces of Walnut and laminate to achieve my joints. I use my Dremel to trim with the router attachment to trim everything up. Takes a lot of planning but I can build in my apartment. I do have a very good plung router that is going to get a workout now. I am building my second walnut tripod. Planning is the key. Make sketches and drawings, take your time and by all means buy Dan's book on building it is great. Ask us questions as you go. I am sure we will be glad to help.

    Jim

    Jim
     
  8. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    You can accomplish a lot of work with hand tools if you set your mind to it. Also gives a real solid feeling of achievement when you finish. I've done a lot of work with the "Western" style of hand saw, especially the modern ones that cut both directions. Next time I decide to do this type of wood work, I'm going to buy Japanese saws and do things right. After that a simple mitre box and maybe something special like a decent finger cutting plane (ebay).

    I also drop back to hand rasps and files for finish work if I can't get good cuts with the saw. Yes it takes a huge amount of time and energy, but it can be done just like when camera were first made.

    Alternately, you can buy many of the pieces cut to length for not much over the price of the raw lumber.
     
  9. Jeff Searust

    Jeff Searust Member

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    You may want to also look into model making tools. Micro-Mark (www.micromark.com), Proxxon (www.proxon.com), and Preac (www.preac.com) all make tools geared toward smaller use than your table saw. I personally have some pf the Preac tools and a whole table full of stuff from Micro-Mark. I spent many years making scale wooden ship models from scratch and plans, and since then have made several medium format view cameras with the same skills and tools.

    As for finger joints, I often will use a router table.
     
  10. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    When it comes down to fine work the better table saws have the ability to be adjusted to tolerances and then holding them, and they have good fences; Then you need a real good blade. Even new saws have to be adjusted in. My brothers $500 saw out back is temporarily off for real fine work, but for construction ok. If you want the ability to work tight you need something adjustable which may require another saw. Also, a good router table setup is a nice thing to have for finger joints. If I were to start a camera project I'd prefer a good band saw and router to a table saw which I use for large cuts.
     
  11. pauliej

    pauliej Member

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    Dont forget your local library for books on woodworking, power tools, etc. You should also check with the local high school or community college, etc. to see what they may have that can help you, like adult wood working classes. Maybe they also have photography or camera classes that could also get involved, where you help them and they help you, and all benefit. Sounds like a plan to me. I hope this helps you.

    Paul
     
  12. Andrew Moxom

    Andrew Moxom Subscriber

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    Wayne, I would advise you use the table saw for rough cutting only and use a router table for finer cuts. THe router table has so many options configurable for jigs to make joints, and for use as a shaper/jointer to true up wood prior to making fine precision cuts. In actual fact, I do not have a table saw and use a small 10" Delta bandsaw for my cutting of camera parts. I rely solely on the router for making the precision cuts. A router table is also easily made yourself from parts available at www.rockler.com or www.woodcraft.com or even cheaper if you make it from scratch.

    The biggest investment for me was an INCRA fence system. That is where the precision comes in that allows repeatable finger joints to be made within really fine tolerances. Here is a work in progress on a small view camera I am making to utilize RB67 backs. The joints are pretty tight in that the friction fit is sufficient to hold them together without anything shifting. Then just a small amount of glue and I'm good to go. The bigger box is going to be two rear standards after it's cut into two, and you can see one front standard already completed. The rear has 1/4 inch box joints, and the front 1/8 inch finger joints. Easily done on the router table.

    Hope this helps??

    Andrew
     

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  13. Colin Graham

    Colin Graham Member

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    Invest in a decent block plane and learn how to sharpen it. It will true up blade chatter, burn and out-of-square edges from even the worst of table saws. A rabbet block plane is particularly helpful because the blade is the entire width of the plane body which make it great for truing up, well, rabbets (rebates). It is also big enough to shoot, square and surface the relatively small areas of camera parts.
     
  14. bliorg

    bliorg Subscriber

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    I do almost all my joinery on a shop-made horizontal router table, and virtually none on a tablesaw. Much more precise.
     
  15. phfitz

    phfitz Member

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    darinwc,

    "1.The guides would be fine for most cuts, but for repeating cuts like finger joints, there is too much play and I get uneven fingers."

    If you have a router table they do make locking joint cutters for it. If you don't have a router table you can cut 45# joint and glue up the box. Once set up you can glue corner molding into the inner corners, it will hold fine.

    OR

    You can make a V-block carrier for the box to ride against your fence and install an offset tab into the bottom. Cut the first joint and move it onto the offset pin and cut the next joint, repeat as needed. All of the faux finger joints will be identical. Now insert and glue wood tabs, trim and finish. Yes it is cheating but it does work well.

    Good luck with it.
     
  16. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    You can get more accurate cuts with a cheap router & router table than with a cheap table saw. Check craigslist & pick up a lightly used router for $20-30. Not something used by a pro. Practice using it by building a router table & go to work on the camera bits.
     
  17. darinwc

    darinwc Subscriber

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    Thank you everyone for your help!
    The first thing I will do is see if I can improve my table saw.
    Looks like I will be keeping my eye out for a router.

    Regarding hand tools: This is an interesting prospect as my daughter has been aching to do some woodworking, and this would give me an excuse to invest in some hand tools and get some father-daughter quality time.

    Some of the suggestions I dont know what they are, but I am sure a quick google search will enlighten me.

    "Sarcasm is wasted on the young." -DarinWC
     
  18. Colin Graham

    Colin Graham Member

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    Darin, have you looked around at box-joint jig plans online? You can make many joint-cutting sleds with your own custom-fit runners, so you'll be able to bypass some of the chintzier aspects of inexpensive table saws, and can really get some fantastic results. I've never had a decent saw, so have learned to make do over the years with jigs and fixtures. I can provide some info and pictures if you're unable to find anything searching.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 27, 2008
  19. Greg_E

    Greg_E Member

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    Japanese hand saws work on the pull stroke which I find gives me better control. They normally have smaller teeth and little kerf and are thin blades since you don't need to support a push cut. I often use my metal hack saws with the blade on the pull stroke for better control.

    Since your daughter is interested it might be worth the investment in some good hand tools and taking the time to learn to use them. It also has the "olde world charm" of building something with your hands, allowing the amount of precision that you have learned to provide. It is also much more quiet than power tools and don't throw sawdust everywhere so clean up is easier.
     
  20. Fred Aspen

    Fred Aspen Member

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    In parallel with the discussion here, are plans available for the projects or are you guys building from scratch using another camera as a guide?

    I have all the equipment, both power and Japanese hand tools, but no camera for a guide. Is there a website that has some plans/sketches?

    Thanks!

    -Fred
     
  21. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Subscriber

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    The one I posted a link to earlier has some sketches: http://www.raymentkirbycameras.co.uk/index.htm

    I have some drawings based on his ideas in Autocad format. If you would like them, send an e-mail to steve.smith.stuff (at) gmail.com.



    Steve.