Ron Alley

Rochester, MN, US

Retired Wannabe

Recent comments

Re: Can someone tell me what kind of plane I have here?

Here is a link that may help you find your answer:

Good luck.

Re: oak toolchest

Really like the drawer suspensions and miters.

Re: Router Accident is a Great Lesson in Climb Cutting

Router tables have a fundamental safety flaw. The cutter and the surfaces being cut are concealed by the workpiece because the router is mounted on the table underneath the workpiece. This makes inadvertent climb cuts likely as this article points out. The solution is to mount the router above the workpiece. Doing so would expose both the cutter and the surface being cut making climb cuts more readily observable and avoidable.

Opinions on whether the exposed cutter presents a greater safety hazard may differ. However, such an arrangement is used in milling machines. While I do not have data on cutter injuries, my intuition is that the cutter contact human injury accident rate on router tables is much higher than on milling machines. If my intuition is correct, other factors may complicate comparison including operator training, workpiece motion and workpiece holding.

Re: Semi-Permanent Bench Grinder Mount

Your use of removable or relocatable tools is inspiring.

Re: "The Little Brown Garden Shed" - Home of the Tri-color Turners

Love your shop. You really have done a great job of using space efficiently.

Re: Frank Lloyd Wright

Here is a link to the preservation trust site page with a picture of a Robie House side chair.

Re: Frank Lloyd Wright

I've never seen a plan attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright. There are a number of plans for substantially similar chairs.

I had the good fortune to tour the Robie House. But have little memory of any chairs on display. Wright was not a tall man and he tended to design to a human scale with himself the model human. My notion is that the seat would be level and somewhat lower than typical of today's chairs.

A level seat chair with a seat too deep would put uncomfortable pressure on the knees making the chair uncomfortable. The back of a Robie chair offers no lumbar support. That would encourage the occupant to sit up straight and such a design is totally in keeping with the tone of much of FLW's writing. Look at his explanation of why his homes did not include a basement if you doubt this conclusion.

Re: My collection of stuff

Surely an enviable collection of tools.

I'm fascinated by your third bay. I have been working on a shop in my third bay. If you have any insights to pass along, I would appreciate them. My third bay is a bit less than half the size of yours (9 X 20).

I have built a leveled and insulated floor and partitioned the third bay. I installed 50 amp service and good, overhead fluorescent lighting. The drywall is finished and and the shop is ready to be furnished with cabinets and workstations.

Now I am designing some cabinets.

Re: The incredibly shrinking workshop

You surely have some clever ideas and an eye for efficiency that I envy.

Re: Extension Cord

Please continue posting your work toward completing your shop. Where are you located?

Re: MIT Students and Professor Invent Handheld CNC Router System

The intended advantage of the system seems to be that it offers precision, repeatable curve following routing in one-off work.

The system seems to have a flaw in the interaction between the operator and the system. I am not sure whether, or how much, it will improve the performance of an operator following a line. Let me explain.

The operator must guide the router to a position that is close to a line and the router will remove material up to the line. The system includes a screen that shows both the line and the tool path. Apparently, through operator error, the tool can be maneuvered so as to cross the line and remove material from the wrong side of the line. Presumably, the tool would guide the cutter back to the line but the part nevertheless would be ruined.

I think this tool offers significant advantage in that it removes material from the waste side of a cut line far more accurately than handheld router. But it probably will not prevent an operator from crossing over the cut line as effectively as a template and guide..

Re: Veritas Introduces New Tool Steel for Plane Blades and Chisels

I am familiar with powdered metal in bearing applications, but not as a tool steel. I wonder whether it will prove too brittle for cutting tool applications. My thoughts are that it may be similar to carbide, long wearing, brittle and and easily damaged by dropping. In theory, we should never drop a tools. But the real world intervenes and that theory just doesn't hold.

Re: Gee Bee Pedalplane

I copied and followed your link. Got the warning - Possible Phishing Site - and decided not to open the link. Thought you might be interested

Re: UPDATE: Google SketchUp Guide for Woodworkers - The Basics with Dave Richards

Lightning strikes? Maybe.

Re: UPDATE: Woodworking 101 by Aime Fraser, Matthew Teague, and Joe Hurst-Wajszczuk

Matthew Teague's article on his compact garage shop has been my inspiration for the work-in-progress 3rd bay garage shop. I'd really enjoy adding this book to my bookshelf.

Re: Greatest community shop on the planet?

This piece absolutely blew me away. I googled Sun City West Woodworking Club and wound up at the Sun City Clubs site. Imagine 32 interest clubs in a single community. The annual dues for the woodworking club? $25!!

The power of collective action is awesome indeed.

Re: My Trailer Shop

Your shop is great and an inspiration. I love your cabinet and countertop as well as the handbuilt door.

Let me explain why your shop is an inspiration. I'm retired (therefore a hobbyist) and building a shop of my own. It is a bit smaller than yours (the 9'3" x 19'5" third bay in my garage) and so many of the shops in the gallery are just too large to be an inspiration. It's also in a climate that requires some insulation and heating (i.e. not heated and cooled by California breezes).

The best inspiration I have found to date is an old article in Fine Woodworking by Matthew Teague. Your shop is great because you have done some things in a different way and I need another good example.

Re: Fine Woodworking On the Road: Come out and see us

Check your links. I get page not found for many.

Re: UPDATE: Building Small Cabinets by Doug Stowe

I loved Basic Box Making and small cabinets seem like a small step for mankind but a giant leap for me.

Re: tool chest

Magnificent, and inspirational.

Re: UPDATE: Using and Tuning Your Bandsaw by Hendrik Varju

It's rhythm and blues in a box not private woodworking instruction in box.

Re: Caption Contest Winner!

Tinker, Tanker, Dreamer, Thinker?

Re: Old garage transformation

What a makeover!

Re: Curved drawer fronts: how to cut them to length and rout drawer bottom grooves

I love your solution. It shows real insight into the strengths and limitations of tools as well as the mechanics of jig construction.

A real triumph.

Re: Small backyard shop - E Bergh

Shop envy? Perhaps.

Climate envy? Most definitely!

Why does an otherwise sane person live in Minnesota anyhow?

Re: Two car garage shop


Thanks for the information. My project is coming along slowly. Your information -- especially fuel cost experience has been helpful.

Re: Two car garage shop

Re: UPDATE: Book Giveaway: Fundamentals of Model Boat Building by John Into and Nancy Price

Boat models are something I hope to tackle someday. The symmetry, the thin stock and the waterproof challenges make building model boats challenging. I hope this book provide meaningful advice.

Re: My Favorite Room (Not) in the House

Very nice shop. Lots of floor space. Well conceived and executed.

Re: Cutlists are a waste of space

There are two interrelated issues here. The first is the order of operations and the second is the cut list. Begin by acknowledging that most of us make one-off projects. The project plans we begin with are dimensioned with essentially nominal dimensions. If we begin by cutting every part to those nominal dimensions, measurement error will result in some parts being too large and others too small. The result will be a project that most likely will not be one worthy of photographing for the gallery.

I just can't make a good cut list unless I first address the order of operations required to build a finished project. In almost every final assembly, there are component parts that are "reference" parts which can be cut and machined to essentially final dimensions at the first stage (for example a case). There are other parts which mate with, and must be fitted to, the "reference" parts (for example drawers). There are joinery requirements which usually affect the order of operatiions. Unless I take the time to work through the order of operation issues, cut and machine the reference parts and build critical subassemblies, I won't know the final dimensions of most parts and how much "grind stock" to allow.

Re: Tony's Basement Shop

A nice job of building a shop.

Re: Two car garage shop

I live in Rochester, Minnnesota and I am working on designing and building a shop for my garage. You live in a climate similar to mine. So, I would like to ask a few questions.

Does your garage have a floor drain?

How many vehicles do you and your family park in the garage? Do you feel comfortable in leaving cars parked in the driveway?

Do you use your shop in winter, and if so, how do you handle snow melt and road sand on the floor?

What did you do with respect to insulation (walls and ceiling)? What did you do with the seal around the overhead door?

How do you handle those times when you want to work and also want to park one or more vehicles in the garage?

How often do you run your heater and what has been your experience with heating costs?

Re: adjuster for crosscut fences

Thanks for sharing your jig.

Great design and great execution.

Re: workbench

Great idea and execution.

Re: UPDATE: Book Giveaway: Back to Basics: Setting Up Your Workshop from Fox Chapel Publishing

I'm working on the plan for a third bay shop in my garage. It is about 170 square feet of soon to be heaven. I've received some good advice from John White and other who responded to my blog post. The best piece on a garage shop of this size I have seen to date is from 2002/2003 FW Tools & Shops, by Michael Teague, entitled "Smart Shop in a One-Car Garage". It is really great, but I like to see this book might update Michael Teague's example.

Re: Secret Bookcase

I really love the design.

The best part of your posting is that the shelves are filled with books. Most postings feature bare, or nearly bare, bookshelves leaving the audience to wonder whether the bookshelves are well-designed, properly sized and look good when filled with books.

Re: Tool Box : apprentice piece in oak

Well done.

Re: Table Lamp

An inspired interpretation of Wright design. If you have more, please post them too.


I'm curious. What kinds of work or projects do you do? Why a conveyer?

Re: My slice of heaven...

Wow -- Big and roomy, well furnished with tools. A slice of heaven indeed.

Re: Is the Radial Arm Saw on its Last Legs?

Regardless what users may think, manufacturers have steadfastly refused to innovate with respect to radial arm saw design. From my perspective the design of today's radial arm saws has not significantly improved in over sixty years. The arm still lacks rigidity and the adjustments that square the table to the blade need improvement today just as much as the early products.

The sliding miter saws are more rigid and precise than radial arm saws. They will cut sufficiently wide pieces for many, if not most, home shop projects. They take up less (or at least no more) shop space. Most of the people I know who use a radial arm saw use it almost exclusively for crosscuts and miters anyhow. The design compromises that enable the radial arm saw to be used for ripping merely reduce the precision of the tool as actually used.

A few changes to the design would significantly enhance the radial arm saw. The first would be to increase the length of the arm and add an end support, mounted on a rotating plate and attached to a below table beam that pivots around the pivot end support, that would turn the radial arm into a rotating gantry.

The second would be to replace the mdf table with a flat metal table. Four mounting screws and shims could provide consistent alignment of the table with respect to the gantry arm and blade.

A third change would be to replace the wood fence with a rigid aluminum fence that also could be adjusted with shims to provide for precise and stable alignment. The length of the fence could be designed to provide for 3-4-5 alignment to the gantry. These design changes could make the radial arm saw useful.

The fourth change would be to add a zero clearance plate to the saw blade guard that could be set to engage the workpiece being cut to prevent split out

The result could be a "gantry arm" saw that could handle three or four foot crosscuts and extra wide miters.

These are my thoughts and I'm confident that Jet, Delta and DeWalt all employ creative engineers that could do an even better design innovation if they were permitted to innovate.

Re: New Study Discusses Tablesaw Injuries

Most table saw accidents -- like most equipment accidents -- result from operator error. When we read about airplane crashed we are not surprised to learn that in most instances the crashes are the result of pilot (i.e., operator) error. Woodworkers are no more perfect than pilots.

The air safety records of airlines have improved not because the air safety programs have perfected pilot performance but because the air safety programs have sought to improve the safety of the airplane system as a whole.

Shop safety works the same way. We can't improve shop safety by perfecting woodworkers. We can expect dramatic safety improvement only by perfecting the system as a whole.

One obvious improvement to the shop system as a whole would be to require the Saw Stop device on all new saw and provide retrofits to install the Saw Stop device on existing saws. There are newly developed devices that are highly effect in reducing if not eliminating kickback.

Unfortunately, the Saw Stop device is patented and, as long as the patent remains in force, Saw Stop is unlikely to license its device to other manufacturers or to market a retrofit system.

Re: Urban Shop

Nice shop.

Re: Man Wins Big Money in Tablesaw Lawsuit

Well, product improvement often comes as a result of tort cases and improvement is not all bad. Just think how much safer you are today with shatterproof glass windshields than the driver long ago who won the landmark case against Buick.

Progress isn't all bad, but it is sad that manufacturers can't get ahead of the curve on product safety.

Product safety improvements, and manufacturers' failure to make product safety improvements are best understood by looking at game theory and the Prisoners Dilemma. Many noted economists have written on the economics of such decisions.

Oh, and don't worry about Ryobi, the verdict for the injured consumer didn't even make a serious inroad in its stamp drawer.

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