History Workshop Projects

This article is more of a show-and-tell than a project, a walk down memory lane for me – it covers some of my older homemade tools. These were made quite a while ago, when I was much younger and not as experienced. Still, there are definite similarities to my current work.
I grew up on the east coast of Canada and now live in Ontario, and haven’t found the time to go back home as often as I should have. Life, work and other distractions can eat up the years and before you know it, a decade or two has passed. Recently, I went back, and during that time I had a quick look through my old workshop. To my surprise, my father kept nearly everything I made, some of these I’d completely forgotten about. They are showing their age and are a bit dusty, but still seem to be fully functional.

This is my first “well made” homemade table saw:

homemade tablesaw note the Comet decal

This was made primarily out of wood – spruce (legs) and plywood. Originally powered with a circular saw motor that was mounted in a plywood box that would lift up and down to raise and lower the blade. This box was mounted in another box that would tilt, for cutting on an angle.
This “box in a box” idea was effective, and I used this saw for a long time before I got a better one. I dubbed it the “Comet”, pinning on the nameplate from a 1974 Mercury Comet we used to own.

When I did get a better table saw (an old tilting table model that I converted to tilting arbor), I made this into a “shaper”, using a Sears molding head cutter. At that time, I changed the motor to a 1hp induction that directly
drove the molding head.

molding cutter

Some of the top had to be cut out to clear the motor. Mounted on the motor is a rare 5″, two blade molding head that I’ve not seen anywhere else. It is a smaller diameter than the three-cutter one, runs a bit more quietly and generally seems a lot safer.


I added blade holders (the ladder like thing on top of the fence rail) to the fence to organize the cutters for the molding head.

This worked splendidly, and I made quite a large quantity of molding and other things with this. The molding head cutter is not for the faint of heart – one slip and fingers (or pieces thereof) are flying!

A close look at the front hand wheel:


The picture is not great, but I wanted to show that it is made with a 5″ aluminum pulley with plywood added to the rim. Not a whole lot different from the one on my current table saw.

My brother Don “admiring” my homemade chop saw with a dubious eye:

Don Heisz at the saw

Made from a very old Makita circular saw as the motor. It has a 10″ blade and the majority of it is made from wood, even the upper blade guard.

It’s in pretty rough shape now, but I got tons of use out of this saw and could cut some very accurate miters with it. It swings more than 45 degree in either direction.

chop saw
chop saw

My welding cart tucked under the bench. It made moving the welder a lot easier and featured genuine Fred Flintstone style wooden wheels:

welding cart
homemade wheels

Smooth rolling!

This should look familiar:

wooden bar clamp
wooden bar clamp

A wooden bar clamp, not much different from my newer ones. The biggest difference is the end is fixed on these.

I made a few of these and they worked really well.

Here is a larger bar clamp:

wooden bar clamp

This was an experiment to see if I could make a K-body style clamp. Although it worked fairly well, it couldn’t exert enough pressure to seriously clamp a glue-up without slipping. Made mostly from solid spruce (the bar) and plywood, it actually looked better than it worked. I only made one and rarely used it.

homemade clamp
wooden bar clamp

The moving jaw has a piece of sheet metal where the arrow points, and this would dig into the bar to stop the jaw from slipping. It was a good idea in theory, but the spruce bar was too soft and the jaw always slipped.

homemade clamp

A good learning process, though.

And here is a homemade vise, which looks very much like my new one. This is one of the things that I made that I’d completely forgotten about.

homemade bench vise
homemade bench vise

Works well, to this day, as shown in this short video:

homemade dust pan

When you’re building it, why stop with tools? My homemade dustpan makes quick work of shop cleanup.

And when you can’t be bothered sweeping, blow the dust out with this homemade blower:

homemade blower
homemade blower

I can’t recall where the motor came from, but the blower is the intake-side impeller and housing from a turbo charger – original Chevrolet Corvair, if I’m not mistaken.

I can’t leave anything alone. I didn’t like how close the column was to the chuck on the drill press so I extended it back:

drill press
adapted drill press

An extra 6″ of reach was had by cutting the post and welding on the extension plate.

3/8″ thick steel, but not as rigid as I would like now. A big improvement over the stock press. This was a table top model that I made into a floor stander, using a (very rusty) fence post for the main column.
This is another project that I completely forgot about. When I saw it, I slapped myself, wishing I had remembered and did this to my new drill press. Maybe someday soon…

I also made a table that mounted directly on the column.

Basic, but very solid.

drill press

Finally, this last piece is a throwback to a much earlier homemade table saw. It’s all that’s left of the sliding table of that saw:

part of a sliding table

Looking a lot like my new one. This was more of an advanced miter gauge, since it was removable.
Proves that if we don’t study our past, we will repeat it. Is that a bad thing, though?

I hope you enjoyed this look at some of my earlier woodworking history, as much as I did.