If there’s a company that demands a lot from its 12-inch sliding compound miter saws

If there’s a company that demands a lot from its 12-inch sliding compound miter saws, it’s ours. Hull Historical is a full-service builder and remodeler, taking projects from framing through finish. We also create fireplace mantels and other demanding millwork in our shop from the period moldings we manufacture. No matter where I plug in, however, my main focus is accuracy in every aspect of our work–it’s a big part of who we are. But, because we do so much with these tools, I also require versatility and toughness. The saws must hog through 2-by, cut mountains of molding, then survive life in the van. In the shop, sliders must stay tuned–and be comfortable to use. Get informaion about miter saw reviews


I tested five 12-inch sliding compound miter saws–the Bosch 4412, DeWalt DW708, Hitachi C12FSA, Makita LS1212, and Ridgid MS1290LZ–out on framing and trim jobs, and then back in our shop. While expecting one saw to serve these three distinct purposes simultaneously is unreasonable. I do expect to buy one saw and be able to use it in any one of these applications.


We used the identical blades on all the saws throughout the eight-week test period. Out of the box, I checked each saw for accuracy and adjustment. On our framing sites, I tested power and cut capacity gang-cutting 2-by and running exterior trim. On trim sites, we cut molding of all sizes, and I really looked for accuracy, smooth action, and comfortable handles. In the shop, I checked on tuning the saws for accuracy and took a second look at power by cutting hardwood. I examined items that make the saws easier to use, like adjustments, portability, and any extras that help us work better.


One brand new miter saw rolling through the door is enough to make any craftsman happy–but five? My shop crew gathered around like it was Christmas morning while we uncrated and checked each saw carefully for accuracy.

I can use a micrometer but don’t own one, so I apologize to any gear heads ahead of time for not checking tolerances to the thousandth. Instead, I used my best combination square to determine if the blades were simultaneously square to the fence and deck and that the 45-degree detents were accurate. Each saw arrived tuned. Makita provides a small plastic triangle for calibration. It saves a trip to the toolbox and is good for tune-ups.


You can cut blocking piecemeal with a circ saw if you want, but not if you work for me. We set up tables for the sliders so we can whack through stacks of 2-by for blocking and cripples.

Power. Cutting multiple 2x4s on edge is tough, but all the saws performed impressively with no bogging or vibration. The belt-drive motors (Bosch, DeWalt, Hitachi, and Ridgid) were as equally up to the task as Makita’s direct-drive. Even soaking 2×6 stock was no match for these sawdust devils.

Cut Capacity and Stability. The great thing about sliders is their cut capacity, so 4×10 brackets and corbels or 1×12 and 2×12 friezes are easy to handle. While we didn’t run into a single cut-capacity snag on any of the saws, running exterior trim was easiest on the Bosch because long stock is more manageable on its slide-out table extensions; also, its wide feet make it quite stable. The Makita and Ridgid also have stable stances. The sleeker Hitachi and DeWalt were less stable than I’d like. While their stabilizer bars help, we found screwing them down worked best.


Sliders shine around the site, but they rule the roost trimming, and we found–during the million chops, cuts, and miter adjustments per house–that this is where a saw’s design details really show.

Comfort. It’s vital that a slider’s handle positions and pull-stroke are easy on you. Fortunately, all thesaws slid smoothly and plunged perfectly. The handles, however, were a point of disagreement among my crew. Some crew members liked Makita’s and Hitachi’s vertical handles, while others reached for Ridgid’s and DeWalt’s horizontal handles. Bosch’s designers have solved the riddle with a comfortable handle that swivels 360 degrees to satisfy everyone. The Bosch, DeWalt, and Ridgid handles are padded, which we liked.

Motor. I’ve had saws that start so hard they feel like they’ll jump off the table. Makita’s and Hitachi’s soft start makes them feel plush and is a great feature for precision work. Though belt-driven, the DeWalt was jumpy on start-up, and combined with its smaller base, it’s less comfortable that I would’ve liked. The Bosch and Ridgid don’t have a soft-start feature, but there’s just enough of a pause between pulling the trigger and full blast that using them is still a breeze.

Bevel Adjustments. Nice, easy-to-reach and -engage adjustments are make-or-break details. If changing the bevel is a wrestling match rather than a seamless transition between tasks, then I have problems. Bosch takes the cake here with the best bevel adjustment in the group. All the adjustments–miter and bevel–are up front, easy to work, and tighten securely. It’s the only tool in the group that allows you to override the detent at 45 degrees. The Hitachi has two subtle detents at 30 and 34 degrees for cutting crown flat, which I wish all the saws had. The other four saws have a more conventional design that requires loosening a wing nut in back to change the bevel, which worked accurately and easily enough.

Miter Adjustment. All the saws have standard detents, which we could slightly override with no problems. For instance, we could hold every saw at 23 degrees or 45.5 degrees and lock them securely. The Ridgid is able to swing 64 degrees left and right–the largest capacity in the group by 4 degrees and very handy.

Miter-Adjustment Handles. The Ridgid and Bosch handles are sensibly designed. Bosch’s is solid, easy to grab, and locks down securely. The Ridgid handle is more like a hinged, cupped drawer pull than a knob like the others, and it’s surprisingly easy to use. Hitachi’s simple, cleanly designed handle worked flawlessly. Makita’s handle took some getting used to but ultimately is good, and we flipped it through adjustments easily. DeWalt’s handle is tight and small, and is the hardest to use, especially after a long day of swinging the saw all over the place on trim sites.

Fence. I like a miter saw with a tall fence to support base molding upright, to lean crown against, or to support stacks of blocks. The Bosch and Ridgid fences are best. They’re tall for large stock and slide away for bevel cuts. The DeWalt fence is also high enough, works well, and slides away for bevel cuts. The Hitachi and Makita fences are too small. While it’s easy to add an auxiliary fence, I’d rather not have to.

Blade Guard. Blade guards can be a nuisance, but on the tools we tested, they all do what they’re supposed to–separate your fingers from the blade. None of them hung up on anything. even when the saw was leaned way over on a compound cut. Bosch and DeWalt have my favorite blade guards. I can pull the blade down to the cut line then hold the guard out of the way with my thumb to see the blade meet the work. Once I’m happy, I release and cut. On the Makita, Hitachi, and Ridgid, it was harder to do that.


Each saw maintained accuracy throughout the test, but we checked each one for ease of tune-up. We also checked power by cutting hardwoods before doing a roundup of features and extras.

Tune-ups. All the saws maintained accuracy throughout the test; however, anything that lives in a pick-up is likely to fall off the tailgate once in its life, so we checked each tool for ease of adjustment. All the saws dial-in well. A locking nut allows the motor or table to be easily adjusted into square. There’s no micro-adjustment, but I was able to get each saw spot-on. We also looked at blade change and found all the processes acceptable.

Power. Cutting framing lumber is tough enough, but cutting hardwood reaches another level. We cut through a big old honkin’ piece of 10/4×6 oak left-over from a door we made, and much to our surprise every saw went cleanly through it without chattering, sputtering, or hesitation. The soft-start features on the Hitachi and Makita models and their extra quiet operation really made them favorites in the shop. The Bosch and Ridgid are also acceptably quiet. The DeWalt is noticeably louder than the others.

Extras. The Bosch and Ridgid sliders are the most tricked-out tools and raise the category standard. Bosch’s incremented fence for measuring small pieces without a tape is great. The flip-down stop is excellent. Combined with the sliding table, it’s terrific for repeat cuts.

Ridgid’s laser alignment system activates by the blade’s centrifugal force and casts a bright line on any work–perfect for showing exactly where the blade contacts the work–even in bright sunlight. The saw also has decals showing crown position for flat-cutting–excellent if you don’t hang big crowns often. Hitachi’s kerf marker is a low-tech version of the laser that works like a dream. You can easily see where the blade will strike the pencil line and get accurate cuts.

I don’t use hold-downs often (OK, almost never), but when I do, I want them to work nicely. Ridgid’s is best: It’s large, easy to manipulate, and has a good quick release. Bosch’s hold-down works well. The Makita and Hitachi hold-downs are small and harder to use. The DeWalt doesn’t have hold-downs.

Mobility. We lift these saws out of the truck and carry them all over our sites. For a saw constantly on the move, Makita’s lightweight design is terrific; it’s the easiest tool to lug upstairs or into the gangbox. I also like Bosch’s and Ridgid’s carry-handles. The Hitachi handle slides neatly into the blade housing, but its thin plastic seems less sturdy than the fixed solid handles on the other tools, but it survived on our sites.

Solutions for working faster, smarter and more efficiently at home

As a carpenter, I did most of my work in customers’ yards and homes, not in a workshop. But you don’t have to be a woodworker with a state-of-the-art shop to come up with great tips. Sometimes the best tips come from improvisation. Instead of buying pricey, specialized tools, you can often find a free alternative right at your fingertips. While these tips aren’t always elegant, they are downright practical. And most of them work just as well when you take your shop on the road, so you’ll be better equipped to work on your in-laws’ place too.

Chop Saw Support Blocks

Miter saw or chop saw, whatever you call it, it’s the one power tool you don’t want to be without. Suppose you only have a few cuts to make and need a temporary support for your work. Keep a couple of outrigger supports handy. Build them the same height as your best miter saw table, and you’ll no longer have to ask your spouse to act as a chop saw support table.

Portable Planer Tips

Planers, also called surfacers, used to be huge, heavy and unaffordable. Now most portable tool manufacturers are marketing powerful, lightweight, portable planers in the $350 to $450 range. These babies fall into the “How did I ever get along without this thing ?” category.

A few tricks to help you get the most of out of this tool:

  • * When you’re planing edges, the work can easily tip, resulting in a less-than-square edge. Cluster materials of similar thickness and send them through (photo a), holding the pieces tightly together.
  • * Sniping (gouging) sometimes occurs at the beginning of a feed. You can’t always prevent it. The only solution is to never cut pieces to length until planing is complete.
  • * Plane both sides of a board to eliminate small cups or warps, but plane the convex side first. (The convex side looks like an arch, not a bowl.)
  • * When ripping stock you intend to plane, rip it 1/8 in. wider than the final dimensions to give extra width for planing. If you plan to plane both edges, add 1/4 in.
  • * Send all similar parts through before lowering the knives (cutting blades) for the next pass.
  • * Thoroughly clean all dirt and grit from used wood, and remove old fasteners. The cutting knives in your planer are expensive to replace and a hassle to get sharpened. Really dirty wood should be power-washed or not used. Sometimes it isn’t worth jeopardizing a $50 set of knives to rehabilitate a $15 stick of oak.
  • * Use all areas of the knives to evenly distribute wear and prolong their life.

Portable Table Saw Outfeed Table

Use an old, interior hollow-core door as a lightweight outfeed table for your portable table saw. It’s a great accessory for working alone. The 1-3/8 in. thickness of an interior door is close to the thickness of most portable table saw tables, but before you hunt down a door, check your saw table thickness first.

* Portable Chop Saw Table

In just 10 minutes, you can make a portable saw table that supports long stock and makes quick work of multiple identical cuts. Use the predrilled holes in your chop saw’s feet to fasten it to the table so you can pick up the whole rig and throw it in the back of the pickup or station wagon for road trips. Most cuts are made on the right side of the work, so I prefer to go without right side supports. But you may decide to center the saw in the mid die of the table and put supports on each side. Table length is also up to you. I usually make mine just under 8 ft. so it’ll fit in the truck.

If you want to really go wild, modify this design slightly and make a permanent lightweight table out of 3/8-in. plywood. Build cubbyholes for your doohickeys and use mounting bolts with Wing-Nuts for easy removal of the chop saw.

`Plumb’ your Workshop and Garage for Air-Powered Tools

Air compressors are high on the “most useful power tool” list for many do-it-yourselfers. Unfortunately, they’re big, heavy and usually annoyingly loud. Couple that with the inconvenience of constantly running hoses all over your property, and you’ll have the perfect excuse for running permanent air lines to areas where you commonly need air power. You can use the same techniques that you would for running copper plumbing (see “Soldering Copper Pipe,” May ’94, p. 64). Keep the compressor in a remote room to lessen the racket. If you live in a cold climate, a warm, separate location will also save the compressor from cold, damaging start-ups.

When we plumbed our air lines, we also installed an automatic oiler to oil the tools, and a dewatering device (available at air tool dealers) to keep water out of the lines (Photo 7). Most folks don’t need to go this far, but if you use your compressor a lot in cold or humid conditions, consider this $75 to $150 investment.

Long-Lasting Socket Trays

How many times have you bought a set of sockets only to have that flimsy plastic liner tray eventually collapse or break up? After a few uses, the sockets and ratchets are a jumbled-up mess. To prevent that, right from the get-go, use a can of minimal-expanding foam to fill the back of the tray to give it body and support.

The first time I tried this tip, I filled the tray completely and the foam crushed the tool indentations. This two-step filling method (see Photo 14) prevents tray collapse.

How to Hold a Door Upright to Work on the Edges

If you’ve ever had to belt-sand or plane the edge of a sticking door, you know how aggravating it can be to hold the door upright while you work on it. If you own a couple of handscrew clamps (Jorgensen clamps), they’ll work as well as having one of your kids hold the door. Less whining, too.

Prehung Door Workbench

If you thought you didn’t have enough room for a workbench, check out this one made from an old door. Any old door with a jamb will do, but flush (smooth face veneer) doors work best because they give you a fiat work surface. If you want to do heavier work, choose a solid-core door. You’ll be able to pound on big stuff and even mount a vise. For lighter work, a hollow-core door will work fine, but you’ll need to mount the leg hinges close to the bottom and top of the door to get the screws into the solid part of the door frame.


Whenever you use a miter saw, hold the work firmly against the fence (the vertical back). If you don’t, the saw blade can seize in the wood, toss it and cause a serious injury.

  1. SCREW an 18-in. block to an 18-in. long by 6-in. wide scrap of plywood. The total thickness of the plywood and block should add up to the height of your chop saw table.
  2. HANG the table saw from two parallel sawhorses. Rest the door on the same horses just behind the saw, and rest the other end of the door on a third horse perpendicular to the other two. Screw the door down with 2-1/2 in. screws to stabilize it and keep the horses from separating during ripping.
  3. GRIP several pieces together and send them through simultaneously to save time.
  4. ALLOW an extra 6 in. or so to cut off after planing.
  5. SCREW blocks, to a 2×12 with 3-in. screws, and screw a 2×6 on top of of the 2X6 exactly matches the height of the chop saw table.SCREW a stop block to the table for cutting multiple pieces of the same length. Cut a 45-degree chamfer on the bottom edge of the block so sawdust won’t pile up against it and prevent your work-piece from reaching the stop.
  6. Fast, Accurate Cutting Guide.Whenever you’re doing crosscutting or router work and need a square cut, you draw a line with a square and clamp on a straightedge, right? Well, try this quicker method. Buy some stair gauges for less than $5 at any hardware store and tighten them to one leg of the carpenter’s square. You’ll have an instant, accurate, 90-degree cutting or routing guide. Simply clamp the rig to your work (or use a human clamp with a Kung Fu grip). This hint works for cuts up to 2 ft. long with a conventional carpenter’s square.
  7. CHECK your compressor specifications and make sure the outlet you choose has enough amperage. Many home compressors require a 20-amp circuit. Use a “snubber” hose to hook the compressor to the permanent copper lines. A snubber hose ($15) is a short, durable hose that has a swivel connector at one end. It’s available at air tool dealers.
  8. RUN 1/2-in. copper lines to frequently used areas such as your workbench. Attach quick connectors to make switching tools a snap.
  9. GARAGES usually scream for air lines. Run a line there for filling tires and balls and for running air tools during those weekend wrench sessions.
  10. INVEST in a professional-quality air reel ($75 to $150) for heavy-use areas. It makes storing and using hoses quick and easy.
  11. Reclaiming Cupped Boards.I often encountered badly cupped wood (Photo 12) when installing wide cedar boards for exterior trim. If you try to force the board fiat with big nails or screws, there’s a better-than-even chance the board will crack or split. The trick is to create some `,hinges” or pressure relief, on the back, unseen side. The worse the cup, the more kerfs you’ll need to make to relieve the tension.
  12. CUT saw kerfs two-thirds of the way through the backside of the board with a circular saw or table saw.
  13. TIP the socket tray upside-down with the tools in their proper places and lay it back inside the metal tray.
  14. FILL the spaces between the tools first and let the foam set up for a couple of hours. After the first layer sets up, fill the rest of the tray. (Less is better, or you’ll collapse or distort the tray.)
  15. LET the foam cure overnight. Cut off overfill with a sharp saw or rasp it off with a Surform tool.
  16. TIGHTEN a couple of handscrew clamps on the bottom of a door for a cheap, quick door buck (door holder-upper) for chiseling in door hinges or working on an edge.
  17. FASTEN the hinge-side jamb of the door to a wall by screwing five or six 3-in. drywall screws into the studs at a comfortable working height. Ours is at 3 ft., standard countertop height,
  18. CUT two 2x4s to the height you’ve chosen and screw them to the door with 3-in. strap or tee hinges. Position the hinges about 6 in. in from the strike-side edge of the door. For added safety and stability, fasten some locking knees onto the door and legs to prevent the table legs from accidentally being kicked in and causing your workbench to collapse. (We used Stanley table leg braces No. 446 1/4.)
  19. GRASP the belt sander with a good grip and match the bevel on the back of the chisel with the flat surface of the belt. Move the chisel back and forth slowly to prevent overheating and uneven wear on the belt.


Belt Sander Chisel Sharpening

Expensive, store-bought chisel-sharpening machines and jigs aren’t the only way to sharpen chisels. Although woodworking snobs wouldn’t be impressed with the new edge, the trusty old belt sander with a medium-grit belt gives you an acceptably sharp cutting surface. Lay the sander upside down on your workbench and hold the chisel away from the direction of the turning belt.

CAUTION: Don’t hold the chisel in the direction of the turning belt. Serious injury could result.


Getting to know about paint sprayer

1.Types of paint sprayers

Three different types of paint sprayers are available in the market.

Conventional spray gun


    • Conventional paint sprayers: Conventional paint sprayers use compressed air to provide a smooth finish. Some models come with air compressor while others don’t have a built-in air compressor but you can hook an external compressor. These paint sprayers can be tricky to learn but once you learn to use them, you will love customization and control you can have these sprayers. The only bad thing about these sprayers is that you can only get around 30% transfer rate. The remaining 70% paint is wasted.
    • High Volume Low Pressure (HVLP) paint sprayers: HVLP paint sprayers makes use of a higher volume of air at lower pressure compared to conventional paint sprayers and therefore reduces amount of wasted paint. As a result, you can get around 80% transfer rate. These sprayers are also known for their smooth and fine finish due to high air volume. These sprayers are perfect for anyone working on projects that involve precision and detail work. However, these sprayers are slow and can become inefficient when working on a major project such as painting a large room or a large fence.
  • airless paint sprayerAirless paint sprayers: Airless paint sprayers are perfect for large projects as they can spray fast and you won’t require painting a top layer. This means you can finish a project quickly but you will sacrifice fine finish and smooth top layer. These sprayers create a uniform thick layer of paint. Majority of airless paint sprayers are powered by an electric motor but some models are gas-powered while others are air-powered. One of the best airless paint sprayer is graco magnum x7.

2. Advantages of using a paint sprayer

Paint sprayers are typically preferred to paintbrush and roller because of their speed and accessibility. Modern-day paint sprayers offers an even finish with around 80% paint transfer rate. There are tons of different varieties based on size, shape and features.

Speed – Never worry about large projects again

One of the major reason why paint sprayers exit today is the speed at which they paint. Painting with a sprayer can be up to 8 times faster compared to painting with brush whereas it is around 4 times faster compared to a roller. This can be a very handy especially when you are painting a large project.

Accessibility – Paint anywhere you want

A paint sprayer is a great tool for painting areas that are difficult to reach with a roller or a paint brush. The sprayer emits tiny particles of paint that reach every creek and nook. Sprayers also beat roller down when it comes to painting the corners as roller can’t reach the corners.

Smooth and even coating of paint for a perfect finish

Paint sprayers offer a smooth finish as paint sprinkles out of nozzle and sets evenly on the surface. The fine mist of paint results in a finish that you can’t get with a roller unless you have spent your life learning to master roller painting. Because of an even final finish, paint sprayers are preferred for small and large painting projects by most DIYers as well as professional painting contractors.

Enjoy the variety with modern-day sprayers

Modern-day paint sprayers come in a variety of sizes. You can choose a sprayer according to your needs. If you are a professional painter, you might want to choose a big sprayer with a lot of paint storage. A best airless paint sprayer will do the work. But if you are buying a paint sprayer for renovating your home furniture, windows and doors, you may pick a small sprayer with focus on achieving an even finish. There are models that will let you paint different materials and not just stain or paint. Similarly, you can find models that let you paint different thickness by simply controlling a knob. You can find cordless, electric and gas powered paint sprayers and choose the one that suits you the best.

3.Top 3 paint sprayers in the market

These paint sprayer below are consider the best paint sprayer of Wagner brand

WARGNER PaintReady System 0529003

Wagner PaintReady System is one of the best sprayer you can get. It consumes 540 watts of power and costs around $150. The sprayer comes with a separate turbine and hose. You can assemble them together and attach a front-end of your choice. The PaintReady system comes with two different front-ends, one for thick materials while the other one for thin materials.


  • Professional-grade sprayer
  • Unbeatable price for a professional-grade sprayer
  • Separate turbine and hose
  • Two different front-ends for thinned and un-thinned materials
  • Offers a lot of power

WAGNER Control Spray Double Duty 0518050

Wagner 0518050 Control Spray Double Duty Paint SprayerThis sprayer costs around $100 and offers excellent features for a consumer-grade sprayer. It is a High Volume Low Pressure (HLVP) sprayer that comes with a built-in turbine. It is easy to move around and carry even for longer times. The double-duty motor can be a great asset for larger projects. The sprayer is to be used with thinned material only. With price around $100, you can’t probably get a better double-duty HVLP paint sprayer.


  • Great for small and large projects
  • Easy to carry and use
  • Unbeatable price
  • Double-duty motor
  • Powerful built-in turbine
  • For use with thinned material only

WAGNER PaintReady Sprayer 0529002

Wagner 0529002 Paint Ready SprayerThis sprayer costs around $100 and can be used with un-thinned paint. Since this sprayer uses un-thinned latex paint, the spray particles aren’t always as fine as you get with a traditional thinned-paint sprayer. The result is a textured finish instead of a fine and even finish. This sprayer is perfect for both interior and exterior projects due to small build and fast painting. However, if you need to achieve a fine finish, you can’t trust Wagner PaintReady Sprayer 0529002.


  • Textured finish
  • Can be used with un-thinned materials
  • Fast and reliable sprayer
  • Easy to use
  • Unbeatable price
  • Not to be used for spraying woodwork

But I think the best one is wager flexio 590. If you’re interest in this product, go search for Wagner Flexio 590 Reviews on the Internet and enjoy reading.

Read other aritcles : How to paint your car start to finish and paintings from photographs

Metabo KGS 305 miter saw

As a finish carpenter remodeler, I use a miter saw almost every day. I prefer the compound sliding models because they can cut everything from 2x4s and small pieces of trim to wide baseboards and crown moldings. A few months back, JLC asked me to try out the KGS 305, Metabo’s new 12-inch dual-bevel sliding compound miter saw. The tool showed up while I was trimming out one end of a house, so I was able to give it a good workout over a period of months.


Miter saws are designed to make accurate cuts; sliding models simply do so in wider stock. With so many moving parts and a large 12-inch blade, there is always the chance the cut will wander. I found the KGS 305 to be very accurate; there’s no slop in the mechanism and the blade cuts smoothly with no runout.



Like most other 12-inch sliding saws, the Metabo has a 15-amp motor. It easily cuts through poplar, oak, and maple–nothing seems to slow it down. It can cut 12 1/2-inch-wide material in a single pass. Other than Ridgid’s MS1290LZ, which cuts stock of up to 13 1/2 inches wide, most saws in this category are limited to 12-inch cuts.

However, while it’s hard to argue with added crosscutting capacity, I’m not sure it would greatly affect my buying decision. Most of the material I cut is well under 12 inches wide.


A miter saw’s controls–particularly the miter lock, bevel lock, and angle stops–get handled more than any other part of the tool except for the trigger, so it’s important that they work well. On this tool, the major controls do work well, but there are some small details that I felt could be improved.

Bevel. With most saws, I have to walk to the side of the machine to reach the knob that locks and unlocks the bevel mechanism. The KGS 305 has a lever-style lock that faces forward, making it easy to reach from the front of the saw. Pull the lever, and the lock loosens its grip; push it back and the bevel is set.

Since the KGS 305 is a dual-bevel saw, the blade tilts both ways, with bevel stops at 0, 22.5, and 45 degrees. There are also stops at 33.9 degrees, the bevel you use to cut crown on the flat.

A red spring-loaded pin on the front side of the rear housing engages the bevel presets. I like everything about the bevel mechanism except the indicator on the bevel scale. Although the scale itself is easy to read, the “hairline” on the bevel indicator is wider than it needs to be.

Miter. The table pivots smoothly and swings to the left up to 50 degrees and to the right up to 60 degrees.

The miter detents engage automatically, but you can override them by using your thumb to depress the red lever just to the left of the table-lock knob. This saw has the usual miter stops at 0, 15, 22.5, 45, and 60 degrees, plus stops at 31.6 degrees (right only), the miter setting used to cut crown on the flat.

The miter scale is easy to read, but the angle indicator is not, due to unhelpful magnification and three different “hairlines,” all of which are too wide. Dust exacerbates the problem. Metabo needs to redesign this part of the saw–which should be easy, since it’s just a piece of plastic. If I were to buy a KGS 305, the first thing I’d do is make a new indicator for the miter scale.

According to the manual, another of the saw’s features–a red lever that sticks out from under the table–can be used to set a custom stop position for miters. This is a nice idea, but the instructions were confusing and neither I nor a finish-carpenter friend of mine could figure out how to make it work.

Depth stop. The tool has a handy adjustable depth stop that allows you to cut dadoes and rabbets by making multiple passes. The stop is on a pivot, so you can go back to making through-cuts by flipping it out of the way.

Returning to the original shallow setting is simple; you just flip it back into place.

Setting Up on Site

Thanks to the KGS 305’s broad and stable base, it doesn’t tend to tip. I tested it with an optional metal stand that sells for $100. The stand–which is very solid–folds flat for transport, much like a folding chair. A hex key that stores on the saw can be used to tighten the four hex bolts that hold thesaw to the stand.

Weight. My partner and I had no trouble moving the saw around the site–but there were two of us to handle the weight. Even without the stand, this saw is very heavy. At 68 pounds, it’s 10 to 15 pounds heavier than comparable models from Bosch, DeWalt, Hitachi, and Makita.

Since I set up for long periods of time on the same site and always work with a partner, the weight is not an issue for me. But a carpenter who moves around a lot or needs to set up on his own would probably be happier with a lighter saw.

Table extensions. This saw has the usual telescoping stock supports built into both sides of the table. For about $200, you can buy 41-inch table extensions for either side of the saw.

The saw I tested had a left side extension, which clamped to the table with a lever-operated cam; the right side extension works the same way. A single folding leg supports the opposite end of the table. The extension has a high-quality aluminum fence, an adjustable cutting stop that flips out of the way, and a second stop that extends from the end of the fence.

It’s a handy setup for making multiple cuts, but despite the sturdiness of the extension itself, the single postlike leg means the table isn’t very stable front to back.

Dust Extractor

For about $40, you can buy an optional dust-extraction adapter that plugs into the back of the saw.

This device has two inlet ports and one outlet port. The outlet can be connected to a standard dust-vac hose or to collector fittings of up to 4 inches in size. One inlet collects dust from under the table, and the other connects to the blade housing with a 1 1/2-inch hose.

The system is more effective than most I’ve used, but it still picked up only about 75 percent of the dust.


The KGS 305 works very well, but to get the most out of it, you really need to buy expensive accessories like the stand and extension tables. In short, although it’s a great machine for the shop, its weight and the need to haul around bulky accessories make it less suitable for the site.

Metabo KGS 305 Specs

Blade: 12-inch-by-1-inch bore

No-load speed: 3,800 rpm

Cutting depth, 90-45 degrees: 4 5/8 inches to 3 1/4 inches

Cutting width, 90-45 degrees: 12 1/2 inches to 9 1/4 inches

Bevel cuts: 0 to 47 degrees left/right

Miter cuts: 0 to 50 degrees left; 0 to 60 degrees right

Bevel stops: 0, 22.5, 33.9, 45 degrees

Miter stops: 0, 15, 22.5, 31.6, 45, 60 degrees

Motor: 15 amps

Weight without stand: 68 pounds

Street price: saw $649; stand $100; extension tables $200 each; dust-extraction

adapter $40

Metabo Corp.




Mega-volt cordless tools

In the always escalating arms race among tool makers, several toops have upped the stakes in the last few months.

DeWalt started the voltage war with an 18-volt cordless a 1/2-in. chuck!) companion circular saw. Bosch weighed in with a 24-volt rotary hammer drill. Milwaukee then launched an 18-volt cordless reciprocating saw. And according to rumor, one manufacturer will be touting a cordless miter saw by this time next year.


In a word — powerfully. If you’re used to 9.6-volt tools, you’ll be astounded.

The DeWalt drill has enough oomph to drill ninety-five 7/8-in. holes through 2x lumber on a single charge, or to drive 3/8-in. lag bolts with ease. The saw can cut ninety 2x4s to length, or all the overhanging decking on a 12 x 16-ft. deck. That’s a good morning’s work for most DIYers and many pros, and if the battery does give out, a full charge takes only 15 minutes.

The Bosch 24-volt rotary hammer drill is even beefier. It looks like a shoebox with a handle and a chuck, and it’s powerful enough to bore nearly a hundred 1/4 x 1-1/2 in. holes into solid concrete. The Milwaukee reciprocating saw is powerful enough to cut 28 roof vents in 5/8-in. plywood or make 125 cuts in 1-1/2 in. PVC pipe. When was the last time you had to do that?


These tools are heavy! The DeWalt drill weighs in at a hefty 5 lbs. 6 oz., compared to around 3-1/2 lbs. for a heavy-duty corded drill or smaller cordless. The cordless Bosch hammer drill weighs 3 to 4 lbs. more than its electric counterpart. The beefy battery packs also affect tool balance and maneuverability. Hitachi, to combat this weight problem, has introduced a beltmounted battery system for one of its drills.

They’re also high-priced, though prices will certainly drop over time. The DeWalt tools have street prices of around $250, the Milwaukee reciprocating saw sells for around $350, and the Bosch hammer drill for $400. You can buy two “pretty good” electric tools for the price of one of these big cordless jobs. However, you’re paying for convenience — a benefit that’s hard to put a price tag on.


These big cordless tools are designed for professionals, especially plumbers and and electricians. For them, the time saved with a cordless is worth money, and they’re less likely to be put off by by extra weight nd cost. The Bosch hammer drill is clearly a specialized tool. The DeWalt cordless sawis not a general-purpose saw; it’s slower, and has less cutting depth than a corded model.

But these tools are clearly getting to the realm of do-it-yourselfers. Sure, the drill is pretty heavy and expensive. But it has enough power to do just about anything you’d ask a drill to do. And with an extra battery, you don’t have to stop for anything. Right now, we wouldn’t recommend any of these tools for a DIYer, but they are proof positive that in a few years we may not be buying corded tools at all.



Ever had a project stalled by humidity-swollen dowels? Reader Jim Wright advises trimming them back to size with a machinist’s steel drill gauge ($8 at well-stocked hardware stores).

Start the oversized dowel in a gauge hole, and tap it through with a hammer. Gauge holes go up in size 1/64 in. per hole, so you can shave the dowel to the desired size a little at a time.


I keep a piece of sandpaper on my workbench for sharpening pencils, but reader Barney Howard has a better idea. Put strips of adhesive-backed sandpaper on all your big tools–vise, table saw fence, jointer–and you’ll never have to look for that slip of sandpaper in the clutter on your bench again.


Get top speed and accuracy by setting the height of your table saw blades with this wooden gauge. Notch and label a precise series of steps (1/8 in., 1/4 in., etc.) on the end of a piece of scrap wood. No more “almost-accurate” blade settings with your tape measure, and no more trial cuts. The gauge works for router settings as well! Thanks to reader Adolph Pustejoysky for this tip.


You’re dismantling an antique and the screwheads begin to strip. Reader Michael Scheller advises: Stay calm and get abrasive! Wet your screwdriver tip and dip it in any abrasive cleanser (like Ajax or Comet). The coated tip will grip the screw slot and help prevent it from stripping as you turn. The cleanser is corrosive, so clean it off both the screwdriver and the antique screw.


Holding little nails steady is a problem. My finger and thumb are too big to aviod being hit by the hammer. Reader Elizabeth Ray has the solution. Use needle-nose pliers to grip the nail. No more nervous misses or “too-soft” hammer blows!


When stripping old paint or varnish, where do you put the gunk once it’s on the putty knife? Reader Tom Speech’s answer: a plastic gallon milk jug with a semi-circular hole cut in the side. Clean the loaded scraper on the flat edge of the hole. When you’re finished, you may be able to reuse some of the stripper; opend the jug and pour the stripper back into its can. The top of the jug is your funnel.


When you’re ripping narrow strips of wood on your table saw, the strips usually fall into the space between the blade and the throat plate. To prevent this, make a “zero clearance” throat plate cover by screwing a strip of 1/4-in. plywood or Masonite hardboard to the bottom edge of a board. With the blade lowered, clamp this jig to your saw fence. Then, with the blade running, slowly crank the blade up through the throat cover, and cut your strips. You’ll have to crank the blade

up every time you change the fence-to-blade width, so make the throat-cover piece large enough for future cuts.


Does that whirling blade spook you when you cut narrow boards on your table saw, even when you’re using a push stick? Build this push box and make ripping easier on the nerves and much safer. Using it, there’s no side “give,” and your hands stay away from the blade.

Screw three pieces of wood together to make a 6-in. long wood channel that rides along your saw fence. Make the top piece the thickness of the fence, and screw on 1/2-in. plywood sides that straddle the fence and just skim your table. Mount a handle on top and notch the plywood side piece to grip the wood you’re sawing.

Reader Roland Oesterle says this push box has worked for him for 30 years.


Drill a hole in a golf ball (the one that refuses to go in the hole) and you have a palm-friendly handle for files and rasps. Tap the file’s tang into the hole and take as many strokes as you want, in comfort. Our thanks to reader Philip Colvin.


If the top of your workbench is getting battle-scarred, make it new again with a piece of 1/4-in. tempered Masonite hardboard (about $10 for a 4×8 sheet). Cut the hardboard to fit the bench top, tack or screw it on, and finish it with polyurethane. After a few years, just pull it off and replace it with new hardboard.

Thanks to reader Greg Bilek for this inexpensive bench-top makeover.


Think safety. If you’re using a power tool and the power goes out, turn off the switch before you try to get the power back on. You don’t want that tool starting up by itself with no one tending it.

The second trouble spot with my original setup was flexure in the wedge

This build-it-yourself tripod assembly outperforms commercial products weighing twice as much.

TWO YEARS AGO I PURCHASED a vintage 6-inch Quantum Maksutov-Cassegrain telescope. These optically excellent single-arm fork scopes were built by Optical Techniques, a short-lived company founded in the late 1970s by former Questar employees. Having acquired one of these fine instruments, I was faced with the task of finding a suitable tripod and equatorial wedge for it. The obvious solution was to adapt one designed for an 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope, which is exactly what I did. However, I eventually grew frustrated with this setup because it was prone to vibration and flexure and did not work satisfactorily at the high magnifications I use for viewing the planets and photographing the Moon. I thought I could do better.

Starting Design

Most of the problems with my initial setup could be traced to the design of the tripod and the wedge’s latitude-adjustment feature. As has been pointed out in this magazine before (November 1991, page 542), the sturdiest tripods have legs consisting of triangular structures. Tripods made this way are inherently more rigid and resist torsion (twisting) far better than those with straight legs. This is because rigidity in a straight-leg tripod is derived primarily from each leg’s resistance to bending forces. The only way to make such a tripod stronger is to build it with large-diameter, heavy legs. Since the Quantum was already heavy enough on its own, I really didn’t want to take this approach. A lightweight tripod with stiff triangular legs seemed to offer the ideal combination of weight and rigidity.

The second trouble spot with my original setup was flexure in the wedge. To accommodate a range of latitudes, commercial wedges can be adjusted. Since I had no immediate plans for a latitude change, I felt that I could trade this feature for the increased rigidity and strength inherent in a nonadjustable wedge. This fixed wedge atop a rigid tripod is the basis of the “wedgepod” described here.

Building the Wedge

Since I’m not particularly gifted at building complicated structures, simplicity was a high priority as I sat down to draw up my preliminary sketches. Although my house is at 42[degrees] north latitude, in the interest of making my life at the table saw easier, I opted to cut the various wedge pieces at 45[degrees] instead of 48[degrees] (the complementary angle of my latitude). Since the Quantum wasn’t going to be used for long-exposure photography, precise polar alignment wasn’t terribly important to me. Furthermore, the slight difference in angles could easily be compensated for by making the south tripod leg slightly longer than the others (see the box below, right).

The dimensions of my wedge were dictated largely by the 10 3/4-inch-diameter base of the Quantum, though I did try to design the wedge so that the scope’s center of mass rested over the center of the tripod. The wedge itself consists of only four pieces, all cut from 34-inch plywood: a rectangular base, two support triangles, and a mounting plate. The most difficult piece to cut was the mounting plate, which has a curved front to match the base of my Quantum 6 and a rear edge cut to 45[degrees]. The side pieces came from a single square piece that I cut in half diagonally to get two right triangles.

While I was building the wedge it occurred to me that it would be a simple matter to add a few extra holes to the mounting plate so that I could also use the wedge with my Quantum 4, my 3.5-inch Questar, or even an 8-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain. After the holes were drilled for the power cords and mounting bolts, two sets of 1/4-inch holes were added to accommodate a pair of pegs (see the picture above, right) to aid positioning the bases of the small Maks directly over the central 1/4-20 attachment bolt.

The Tripod

The tripod consists of two main parts: a top plate and a set of legs. The top plate is simply a 10 3/4-inch-diameter disk of 3/4-inch plywood with three 4-inch-long wooden blocks attached to the underside and spaced at 120[degrees] intervals along the disk’s circumference. Each block has a 3/8-inch hole drilled through its center to accommodate the 5 1/2-inch-long bolts that attach the tripod legs.

Each tripod leg is a ladderlike assembly consisting of two 30-inch strips of 1 1/2-inch stock wood bolted together at the top and bottom and at two locations in between. The foot for each leg is a 2-inch diameter disk of 1/2-inch plywood (really just the hole-saw cutouts from another project). As seen in the top photo on page 126, these are sandwiched between tripod-leg members with a bolt holding the assembly together. The round shape of the foot provides solid contact with the ground even when the tripod is placed on an uneven surface. Since the tripod leg struts are not pre-shaped, tightening the bolts at the bottom bends them into the desired triangular shape.

Each leg features two braces for improved rigidity and resistance to twisting. I used the same 1 1/4-by-1 1/4-inch stock as for the blocks attached to the top plate. However, these pieces were cut with a slight taper to fit better between pairs of tripod-leg struts. Although the dimensions could be worked out with trigonometry, the length and taper of these blocks were easy to judge once each leg was partially assembled. I simply measured the space between leg struts at the brace position for the top and bottom edges of each block, then cut the pieces on a table saw. During assembly, I slid the blocks down between the leg strut pairs until they were wedged firmly in place, where they were glued and screwed in position. To prevent the tripod legs from splaying apart, I used three equal lengths of chain joined to the lower leg braces with key rings attached to eyebolts.

Final Assembly

With the tripod and wedge assemblies completed, it was time to put them together. Rather than permanently bolting them to each other, I decided to build a little adjustability into the setup. Although the tilt of the wedge was fixed, I at least wanted to be able to aim the mount’s polar axis in azimuth. As it turned out, this was rather easy to do. All that was required was to run a bolt through the wedge into a T-nut located on the underside of the tripod’s top plate. This way I could lock the wedge in position simply by tightening the bolt. This worked satisfactorily, but the movement was jerky and difficult to control. The solution was a layer of stiff cardboard placed between the top of the tripod and the bottom of the wedge. Now the mount could be adjusted by very small increments, making the task of aligning the Quantum with the pole much easier.

The first night out with my new wedgepod could not have gone better. Even though it weighs only 9 pounds, it carried the 30-pound Quantum without complaint and provided vibration-free support. Considering that the total cost of the project was only $25, it’s hard to imagine a more satisfying result.

Making a Latitude Adjustment

As mentioned in the main article, the angle of a fixed wedge can be adjusted by making either the north- or south-pointing tripod leg slightly longer or shorter, depending on whether you want your latitude to increase or decrease. The formula for calculating the amount is

L = A x D x 0.01511,

where A = the desired change in angle (in degrees) and D = the tip-to-tip distance between two adjacent tripod legs.

In my particular case, the wedge is fixed at 45[degrees], whereas my latitude is close to 42[degrees], so A will be 3. When the tripod legs are fully spread apart, the distance between their tips is 36 inches, the value for D. Using the formula above yields L = 3 x 36 x 0.01511 = 1.63 inches. To correctly polar align my scope I would have to make the south leg of my tripod 1.63 inches longer than the others.

When it comes to fine woodworking, associate editor GARY SERONIK doesn’t have a leg to stand on–let alone three. However, he continues to make telescopes of all shapes and sizes and to edit this department in spite of this shortcoming.

Junior: Junior Conway might very well be the best car painter on the planet

If you worked at Barris’ Kustom City in the ’50s, or if you had a car built there, or if you just hung around the place much, George gave you a nickname: Peeps, Curly, Tubbs. That’s how Hershel Conway became Junior. It was appropriate at the time. Hersh was a 16-year-old kid with a mildly customized ’50 Ford he and his older brother Herb had been working on in their driveway–taking off chrome, filling holes, priming and sanding … and priming and sanding, and priming and sanding some more. Young Hersh didn’t know how to spray paint (it always seems like a mystery until you do), so he took the Ford to Barris’ shop to see if he could afford one of his famous paint jobs–perhaps a lower-priced version. As Junior put it in an interview years ago: “He [George] said he could do it in enamel. He agreed to let me do some of the work on it to save money. He liked my work attitude, so he gave me a job.”
Junior’s work attitude was a high level of patience and extreme attention to detail. George definitely knew about custom bodywork and paint, and he was quick to recognize these attributes in this teenage kid. He hired him as a “sand boy” and put him under the tutelage of his brother Sam, who taught him the ropes of true custom painting–lots and lots of sanding. George painted the ’50 Ford in “Sam Bronze” enamel, and Junior even got Von Dutch to add some striping.

With Sam teaching him the tricks of custom paint prep and metalwork and George showing him spray-gun technique with tricky new custom paints, Junior learned quickly. Within a year, his ’50 Ford received several mild custom alterations, including headlights, taillights, small fins, a tube grille, and a new two-tone bronze/gold hand-rubbed lacquer paint job. Junior still didn’t spray the paint himself, though he did just about everything else. The car ended up on the cover of several small magazines of the time (1956) and won dozens of show trophies.

During this time, Junior was doing the priming and prep work on several well-known Barris customs, such as A La Kart, the Rod & Custom Dream Truck, Kopper Kart, and several others. The first Barris Kustoms were finished in deep, luscious, mirror-smooth, multicoat, dark metallic lacquers such as Honduras Maroon, Jade Green, Royal Purple, and so on. But the latter ’50s, the period in which Junior learned to paint, saw the introduction of completely new, true custom paints such as pearlescents, candies, and metalflakes. When they first came out, these new media–all based on nitrocellulose lacquer–were experimental at best and turned out downright disastrous in many cases. But it wasn’t long before George, through careful experimentation and prior experience, learned how to lay down these tricky new paints in smooth, even, brilliant, mile-deep coats that literally outshone anything custom painters had done before. Junior learned along with him.

Junior points out that this was also the period when all sorts of wild custom paint designs suddenly flourished: scallops, flames, panels, blends, fogs, and so on. They were striking, and some have become classics, but many were born of necessity when something didn’t go right and needed to be covered up in the initial pearl or candy paint job. Besides, it was much easier to spray these paints in smaller, confined areas than it was to get an even coat over a whole car–especially the huge ones of the late ’50s.

But Junior, with typical attitude, accepted this as a challenge: to learn to spray brilliant, luscious candy or pearl paint jobs with no streaks, blotches, blushes, or imperfections of any kind–not only all over the outside of something like a giant ’58 Impala, but also under the hood, inside the trunk, and especially in all the doorjambs. He even perfected one of the most difficult and most striking custom paint applications: spraying bright, transparent candy colors over a white pearl base. Think about this. White is the hardest pearl color to paint (pearl is translucent, so it must be sprayed over a like-color solid base). Getting it on evenly with no blotches is hard enough. And if there are any screw-ups in the pearl, they’ll show through the candy. Worse, white is the hardest color to evenly spray the transparent candy over. And if you screw up anything in the candy coats, there’s no way to fix it. You’ve got to sand or strip it all back down and start over with white base, then flawless white pearl, then perfect candy, followed by clearcoats so you can rub it out. It didn’t take Junior long to become an expert at doing all this right the first time. And he’s done it hundreds of times since.

But given the times, most of Junior’s assignments at Barris’s, once he became the primary custom painter there, called for scallops or multicolors. Chili Catallo’s famous Little Deuce Coupe used on the Beach Boys’ album cover was candy blue over white pearl with pearl scallops added on top. Barris’ XPAK 400 air car was candy red and blue over silver-white ‘flake. Sam’s El Capitola had candy cerise insets over white pearl, and so on.

By 1961, Junior was confident enough to open his own shop, which he named Junior’s House of Color and which he continues to operate (with one or two dedicated helpers) in a large red brick building in Bell Gardens, California. At first, he specialized in flawless, spectacular candy or metalflake paint jobs on well-known, award-winning cars such as Big John Mazmanian’s candy red supercharged ’61 Corvette and his similar-colored Sting Ray streeter; Stone-Woods-Cook’s candy blue Mustang flopper; the outrageous Uncertain T in nutmeg ‘flake; and his own ’58 T-bird in candy persimmon. In those days, Junior painted plenty of show cars, drag machines, and even boats as customs faded from the scene.

Then, as custom car shows waned and rod magazines wandered, the concours crowd discovered Junior’s House of Color. Soon, he was prepping and painting Ferraris, Porsches, and Duesenbergs with the same patience and attention to detail that he gave the candy customs–though in more subdued colors–and began winning trophies at places like Pebble Beach. The owners of such cars could, fortunately for Junior, pay the kind of money such meticulous, time-consuming paintwork costs. Unfortunately, however, it was the cost rather than the quality of Junior’s work that gained publicity, culminating in a notorious article titled “The $64,000 Paint Job” in a men’s magazine many years ago, when such a price for car paint was considered unthinkable.

So what is a professional, custom paint job worth today? Shop rates have escalated everywhere recently, but Junior currently charges $75 an hour, which–especially in California–is average and is actually significantly less than big-name rod shops are charging. In fact, it’s way less than you’ll pay to have your new BMW worked on at the dealer. Check and see. But, of course, it’s not the price per hour, but the number of hours, that makes any professional paint job–and especially one at Junior’s–cost what it does.

This begets the inevitable question: Just what, exactly, is a custom paint job? The answer is not simple. It’s a matter of degrees. In simplest form, a custom paint job is one that includes a higher level of preparation (removing trim and other disassembly, hand-sanding, multiple primer coats both on the exterior and in areas such as door-jambs, under the hood, and so on) and is followed by a high-quality color-sand and rub-out. The actual spraying of paint takes the least amount of time and only moderate talent. Especially with today’s basecoat/clearcoat urethanes, it’s pretty easy to spray an even color and then cover it with clear, which dries hard, smooth, and very glossy. Robots do this literally thousands of times a day in new-car factories around the world, and the average customer is more than satisfied with factory pearl-tinged colors that rival candies in some cases.

While he can still spray a real candy or pearl job better than just about anybody, given his experience, spraying paint is only about 5 percent of any Junior paint job. The real, time-consuming work–roughly 80 percent–is preparation. You can’t get a quality custom paint job without it. The other 15 percent is rub-out. That’s the ultimate step that separates custom paint from other varieties, and anyone who knows cars and paint immediately knows the difference.
What separates Junior from other custom painters is the degree to which he takes both of these steps. Preparation, in his case, means

  • disassembling the vehicle,
  • stripping all body components to bare metal,
  • hand metalworking all surfaces as straight as possible (using very small amounts of lead, if necessary, for filling), and then, after proper cleaning and etching,
  • spraying several coats of high-fill catalyzed primer and tediously hand block-sanding all surfaces–including doorjambs, inside the hood and trunk, and so on–even smoother and straighter between each primer coat.
  • Finally, after the paint colors are properly mixed and sprayed, Junior wet color-sands the finish using blocks with increasingly fine paper, culminating in 3,000-grit. After that, he completely hand-rubs the finish with his favorite compounds and sealer/glazes using no power buffers.And that’s just the paint. Most Junior jobs also include such things as new glass and rubber, cad-plating of fasteners and other parts in proper finishes, and rechroming of all brightwork. Further, even using the acknowledged best plater in the area, Junior does his own straightening of bumpers, grille pieces, and similar parts; has them copper plated; then hand sands them himself using 220-grit paper on blocks until he deems them ready for nickel and chrome or else has them coppered again for more sanding.

That’s how Junior does it. And that’s why he’s the best.

Read about How to paint your car start to finish and Painting as an Art

Paintings From Photographs

Artists are making photography part of their artistic process. One artist projects photographs directly onto his canvas and traces the image. Another technique involves printing the photograph on the canvas. Yet other artists photocopy the photograph to enlarge it and thereby get better resolution.

In 1827, photography was invented when Joseph Niepce produced images upon a metal plate–and many thought painting would become obsolete because of it. Upon seeing his first daguerrotype (an ancestor of the modern photograph), J.M.W. Turner is said to have uttered, “This is the end of art.” Today, however, photography is an accepted art form and industrious painters are making it an extremely useful part of their artistic process.

Harvey Gordon of Kalamazoo, Michigan, is one such artist. “When I first started using a camera, I was still painting still lifes,” he explains. “I would photograph them to get a preview of the final image. But once I incorporated photography into my artistic process, it gave me new options. I no longer had to bring the world into my studio. I could use my camera to collect subject matter that I would later refer to back in my studio.”

When he started using photographs, Gordon would make grids to translate the images in his photos into more detailed and accurate drawings for his paintings.

“Now I save a lot of time by projecting images onto the canvas to draw from,” he says. “whenever I find a subject with an appealing arrangement of color and value, I photograph it extensively. Then I choose the print I like best and lay pieces of paper over the edges to frame the composition. Next, I measure the dimensions of the cropped image and scale it up to the appropriate support size. I often have to cut a support or have one made to fit an exact size. After the support is gessoed and dried, I get out my opaque projector and go into a dark room. I put masking tape on the back of the support, attach it to the wall, and move the projector around until the area I initially cropped fills the support.”

After trying a variety of projectors, Gordon has settled on a small, lightweight, opaque projector. Opaque projectors allow you to put a flat image such as a photograph into them and project it onto the support. They come in all sizes and forms, from desktop versions that project downward to those that sit on a table and project horizontally. Generally, however, desktop projectors cannot enlarge as much as their tabletop counterparts. Other options include the ability to reduce the image size, color-corrected light bulbs, as well as fans that cool the projector bulb and lengthen its life. In the past, Gordon has tried using a slide projector, but finds that the quality of the image cast by opaque projectors is better. “I’m very fussy about doing an accurate drawing and I believe the halogen bulb of an opaque projector is key to a good projection,” he says.

After Gordon draws the image on his support, he rubs an eraser bag–a powdered gum eraser sewn into a fabric pad–over it to lighten the lines so they don’t show in the painting. Then he paints his composition in black and white, using his photo to judge values. “I don’t physically mix black and white together for the grays,” he says. “Instead, I mix a little bit of acrylic paint with acrylic gloss medium to attain a very transparent gray. For example, to get a light gray I mix a little black paint with a lot of gloss medium, or for a darker gray, I add more black paint to less gloss medium. The white of the gesso shines through the transparent values to create the grays.” Next, he paints his primary colors–transparent yellow, permanent rose or magenta red, and Thalo blue-green tint–in three separate layers, adding a small amount of paint to a large portion of medium to make transparent colors. “So instead of painting the painting once, I paint it four times,” he says. “I add some of each of my three colors to every area of the work because every color you see has at least a little bit of each of the primaries, even if it’s not visible to the eye.”

My students have also encountered other methods of using photographs in the studio. Some have discovered color photocopiers. They will take their favorite photos to the copy shop and have them enlarged, thus accomplishing two things at once. Firstly, working from a larger original helps them see details, and secondly, should they accidentally drip paint or spill thinner, the original is not ruined.

New products on the market also provide artists with new options. One of these is canvas manufactured to accept images from a variety of color printers. “Such canvas receives a special gesso coating that is receptive to ink,” explains Pete Delin, vice president of marketing at Fredrix Canvas. “The canvas is typically smoother than the average canvas, yet it still has a texture that gives it that mystique of the original. This means you can transfer a photographic image upon it using a lithographic process or with a wide-format inkjet printer.” These wide-format printers are much larger than most home or office versions, usually by about three feet or more.

“The reason this technique has become popular is that in the past, artists have painted the original on canvas and then made prints on paper,” Delin continues. “With this technology, the artist can make prints on canvas with semipermanent inks. These prints look like originals and don’t have to be matted as do paper prints. And, typically, consumers prefer the canvas prints to paper ones.”

Although wide-format printers are often beyond the price range of the individual, there are many companies who will gladly transfer your photographs onto canvas for a small fee. For this process they require a photograph, slide, or digitized image on a computer disk or CD-ROM. And while many film developing companies can process your slides onto a computer disk or CD-ROM, some will even Email these digitized images to you over the Internet. While it is not yet possible to use your home computer to print images onto canvas, Delin says that a canvas enabling artists to do this will be available in the very near future.

Having your photographic image transferred directly to canvas is also a novel way to begin a painting. Gina McAdams of Precise Images, in Salt Lake City, Utah–a firm that provides this service–described the benefits for artists. “It’s a terrific way to get a painting started,” she says. “You don’t have to do any sketching because the image is already on the canvas, in color and scaled to the same size of the canvas. We scan the photo into a computer and then print it on a high-quality canvas using a plotter. Artists tell me it’s a huge time-saver that allows them to execute works they couldn’t do otherwise. If painters have been commissioned for a number of works, this can get them up to speed. For portrait painters, this process is a great help because they don’t have to worry about the nose or head being too big. However, I don’t consider these prints on canvas to be a final product, but only the basis for paintings.”

Both Delin and McAdams point out that most inks used for canvas prints are water-based. As a result, McAdams suggests working with oils if painting on the print, or sealing the image first with a fixative before working over it with acrylics.

There are those, however, who completely discount any mingling of photography and painting. “These people,” Gordon says, “will go up to a realistic painter and say, `Just take a photo.’ My response to them is that these artists are not making photographs, but beautifully made paintings. The distinguishing point is that it’s not a chemical process, but paint applied with a brush by one’s own hand. Paintings have a wonderful surface that photographs just do not have.

“I once heard an eminent realist who, when asked if he worked from photos, said, `No, I can draw.’ That’s like an accountant saying he doesn’t use a computer because he can add,” says Gordon. “Using photos doesn’t mean one can’t draw–it’s just a way to make the process quicker and easier. The other word I hear in relation to using photos is `slavish.’ I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use this word in general conversation, but whenever anyone wants to demean working from photographs, they say it was `slavishly copied.’ I certainly don’t slavishly copy photos. Instead, I use photographs to keep me in touch with and enable me to be as faithful as possible to the initial visual experience that captured my emotions and started this whole process of art for me.”

Read about painting everyday life and painting as an art

Painting as an Art

BECAUSE Richard Wollheim’s thesis is a worthy one–that there are universals in art–I had hoped to like this book. The circumstances of its publication–that it consisted of the prestigious Mellon Lectures of 1984; that the Princeton University Press had surpassed itself in the beauty of the book’s production–promised an edifying experience in the realm of my favorite subject, old pictures. But after only a few pages, a sense of disappointment set in. For it was clear that the journey would be long and hard, and would only yield something one never really needed or wanted in the first place.

Wollheim is writing about aesthetics. But it is not the kind of aesthetics that rises to a polemical fervor in defense of artistic doctrines that are either triumphantly right or at least deliciously wrong, as with De Sanctis and Tolstoi respectively, nor one that defines art in some new and noble way, as with Schiller and Hegel. Rather, it is that psychological sort of aesthetics which endeavors to tell us what we are doing when we stand in front of a painting. But its insistence upon flaccid philosophy rather than scientific psychology causes it to reject hard-edged exactitude, in favor of airy and immaterial hypotheses.

The two things to which Wollheim says he has been committed throughout his life are love of painting and loyalty to socialism. To his credit he has not commingled the two in the present work, and he does not believe that such a synthesis is either necessary or desirable. But at a higher level he does find them conjoined through his faith in the existence of universals and of a common humanity preceding all our aesthetic perceptions. Unfortunately, the universality that he means is not the universality that is important. He does not intend that a great painting is irrefragably great, beyond contingency and cultural bias. He means that, in deciphering content in a painting, we and the Eskimos and the Hottentots go through much the same process.

Now, in the words of the nineteenth-century French sculptor Preault, “Never have two people seen the same painting.” Preault meant that the millions of habits and associations that go into making a single human consciousness ensure that no two people will experience a painting in the same way–indeed, that no one will see it in the same way at different moments in his life. What is more important, though, is that, even if no two people see a painting in the same way, there will be some element in it that all or almost all of its viewers will agree upon. This is something that most people who address the question of universality in art never consider: it is wrong to require that universality extend to every element of our experience of a painting, and wrong to reject universality because no two experiences are ever identical. There does indeed exist that hard, perdurable center where the millions of eccentric opinions intersect, and that is the point where the critical, aesthetic, and historical assessment of art can and must live.

That Wollheim should place so much emphasis upon the commonality of perception in the beginning of the book is slightly peculiar, however, since he disproves it in a most spectacular manner in those later chapters bias. He means that, in deciphering content in a painting, we and the Eskimos and the Hottentots go through much the same process.

Now, in the words of the nineteenth-century French sculptor Preault, “Never have two people seen the same painting.” Preault meant that the millions of habits and associations that go into making a single human consciousness ensure that no two people will experience a painting in the same way–indeed, that no one will see it in the same way at different moments in his life. What is more important, though, is that, even if no two people see a painting in the same way, there will be some element in it that all or almost all of its viewers will agree upon. This is something that most people who address the question of universality in art never consider: it is wrong to require that universality extend to every element of our experience meanings, and he wants to study the mechanics of the conveyance. Here, as elsewhere, he escapes association with any of the various orthodoxies of our day by espousing their essence while disowning the more punctilious application of their methods.

Consider the following sentence: “But, as with Titian, corporeality once attained, changes can be rung on it to accommodate the subtle inflections that life induces in the conception of the body under which painting then metaphorizes it.” This is vintage Wollheim syntax. But my point is not that Wollheim’s syntax is bad; what interests me, in the context of the book’s discussion, is precisely how it is bad. For Wollheim believes that the viewer understands a painting through a process similar to that whereby the artist created the painting, and I imagine that the same principle could be extended to the other arts–for example, to the writing of prose. But art is not like talking to oneself: it is meant to mean something to somebody else. The difference is categorical. An actor does not merely move about and speak on stage as he would in his own living room. He abstracts his normal behavior, dissects it, and completely falsifies it, so that when it reaches the last row it will seem completely natural and unaffected. Good prose forces the reader to read it in only one way; it politely leads him along at every step, leaving nothing to chance. Wollheim’s syntax, by contrast, is always going in a thousand different directions at the same time, and he cannot see this. Because he hears his sentences precisely as he wishes them to be heard, he cannot imagine that they could be read differently by anyone else. There is a singular congruence between this fact and his misunderstanding of how paintings come into being, and how they are then received.

Read about painting everyday life and paintings from photographs

Painting everyday life

A watercolor artists describes his attempts to capture scenes of people in everyday situations. He often uses a camera to record subjects for future watercolors. He paints directly on paper after creating a preliminary graphite drawing.

My favorite subjects are scenes of old Victorian houses and people in everyday situations. With the latter, I have a special affinity for depicting children and elderly people, whose actions seem so uncontrived and natural. When I’m painting these subjects, I feel as if I’m capturing people as they really are. I’ve recognized this quality in the works of great artists of the past such as Winslow Homer and John Singer Sargent, both of whom painted wonderful images of the elderly and children, as well as in works by contemporary artists such as Dean Mitchell.

One of the tools I use for capturing these everyday moments–and I would feel lost without it–is my camera. It’s a professional one with which I can isolate the exact scenes I want, especially since I sometimes like to paint locations that have minimal light. With my camera, I’m able to work out all the compositional elements I want to include in my work. (I prefer to use slide film because it reproduces the best-quality color and light.)

Although I use photos to record subject matter, I employ watercolor to evoke mood, emotion, and feeling. It’s the paint that really gets to the heart of the matter.


This work is basically a portrait of my grandmother, who looked after me for five years while I was growing up. Although she is no longer alive, when I see this painting, I always think of her. It depicts her at a time when both of us were living in Michigan. When she knew my family and I would be driving over to see her, she would wait in the window looking for us.

What’s atypical about this painting is that I worked from two photos: one of my grandmother and one of the window. However, I didn’t let the latter dictate the composition. In fact, the photo of the window was taken on an overcast day. But in the painting, I decided to make it sunny. This change of light created exactly the mood I wanted to convey.


I always enjoy watching children and the elderly in parks. Their expressions are often unpredictable, spontaneous, and not the least bit self-conscious.

I observed this particular scene at a marina. A woman was overlooking the activities of her grandchildren, who are not included in the painting. She had a very imposing presence, and I wanted to isolate her in my painting. I thought she had the kind of awesome demeanor that makes a successful picture.


Any scene I paint has to take me to a different plateau and generate the feeling that I simply have to put the image down in watercolor. This painting is of one such scene. My family and I were visiting my sister-in-law in Charleston, South Carolina. She took us sightseeing along the coastline, and I came across two women fishing in the ocean. When I saw them with their fishhooks in the water, I said to myself, “Now there’s a nice shot,” and I snapped a picture.


This painting depicts an old man sitting on a park bench watching a young child play with a toy. I like the way this image reveals the age discrepancy between the subjects. So often we associate children with their parents–in this case the child’s parents might be in their thirties. I thought the visual contrast between the old and the young made for an interesting and dynamic composition.


I begin a painting by putting masking tape on the edges of my paper. I then choose a slide and project it onto a screen. From the slide, I create a full graphite drawing to get in all the information. I use a variety of surfaces and watercolor papers, but I mainly work with Winsor & Newton paints and brushes. When the painting requires a lot of dark areas, I use Winsor & Newton Art Masking Fluid to keep the small highlights clean.

When I’m finished with all my preliminary steps, I paint directly on the paper without wetting or stretching it. I employ only a few brushes throughout the painting process–at least one that has a point for details and one I can use for broad strokes. To cover very large areas quickly, I use a 1″-wide (or wider) fiat brush.

Using thin, transparent glazes, I begin with my lightest tones and work into darker ones. I allow each layer to dry before painting over it with another tone or color. Often, I define and redefine the shapes I’ve created in these light tones by going over them with the darker ones. This method also helps me increase the contrast in order to focus the viewer’s attention on the figure or central element.

Knowing when to stop working on a painting has come with experience. There seems to be a little voice inside me that says, “Dixon, that’s it. It’s finished.” When I hear that voice, I put my brush down and call it a day.

Read about Painting as an art and paintings from photographs

How to paint your car start to finish

Have you been practicing? Do you know what orange peel looks like? How about runs and sags? (You have been practice-painting on vertical and contoured surfaces, haven’t you? Anybody can paint a table top.) Have you discovered what happens when you paint lacquer over enamel? How about finding an automotive paint supply store–have you been in to look at color chips yet? You see, there are good reasons why we’re stretching this article out over several months. There’s plenty for you to do between chapters.

This month we were going to talk about paint products–all the different kinds of things that come in cans and what they’re for. But we’ll save that for next month so that you can roll up your sleeves and start to get dirty now. Real dirty. Let’s tackle the subject of whether (or how much) you should strip the old paint off your car before putting new paint on.

First, let me get on my soapbos for a minute. In the automotive hobby (as in many others), there is a type of “enthusiast” who is great at taking things apart, but very, very reluctant to put them back together again. I cringe to see disassembled cars collecting dust in garages. I would hate to promote such action (or inaction). Cars are made to be driven, and we at HOT ROD also believe they are made to have fun with. Please do not take your car apart unless you’re really going to rebuild it. Don’t disassemble it for painting until you’re ready to paint it.

Second, what we say in this chapter depends considerably on what type, or “class,” of paint job you intend to put on the car, as outlined in the first chapter. You don’t want to strip or gut a car just to put a quickie enamel paint job on it. You normally wouldn’t disassemble a late-model car to the same extent you would an early car for paint. And if you’re just repainting a vehicle rather than rebuilding it, there’s no need for any major disassembly (even if you’re going to strip the old paint off). In other words, there are lots of variables here, and few hard and fast rules.


That is a tough question. There’s no denying that the best way to start a paint job is on clean, bare metal. However, there is no easy way to get old paint off an entire car. There are many ways to strip paint, yes, but none is easy and each has drawbacks. In fact, there are good reasons not to strip a car before painting it. First, factory paint jobs use excellent, oven-baked primers and rust-preventatives under the top coat. You can’t do as well at home. So, if the factory paint is relatively new, hasn’t been repainted or touched up, and is in good condition (isn’t cracked, checked, peeling, or rusted), then it is best to sand it down and apply your new paint over it. You might not even need any primer.

Second, in doing a custom paint job you must build up layers of material (usually primer), and then block-sand them back down to get the surface straight and smooth. If the paint on the car is stable and adhering well to the body, you might as well block-sand it rather than removing it and building up new layers. Admittedly, it won’t be as easy to sand as primer, but stripping it off would be harder.

Third, most stripping processes will remove or ruin (soften) body fillers; if you know bodywork has been done on the car, and done properly–and there’s no sign of cracking or lifting of the filler–then you probably don’t want to strip the car, at least not the bodyworked areas. If you’re going to do new bodywork, however, always grind out all old filler and start over.

Now, why should you strip a car? In general, you want the fewest, or thinnest, coats of paint on a vehicle as practical. Paint expands and contracts at a different rate than metal, and since it’s on the surface, it heats and cools more rapidly. Over time, thick coats or layers of paint will crack, blister, or peel like most anything else left exposed to the elements. That’s a general rule.

In particular, a vehicle needs stripping if:

  • the existing paint is already cracked, checked, blistered, or lifting;
  • there are so many layers on the car that body lines or details are obscured, or the paint is pulling away from convex contours;
  • the paint on the car is not compatible with the type you’ll be applying; or
  • you just don’t know what’s under the surface (rust, old Bondo, house paint?).

As for compatibility of paints: enamel will cover most anything; some catalyzed enamels or urethanes cannot be applied over lacquers (check the label); lacquer can usually be applied over catalyzed paints or factory-baked jobs (though it can be touchy), but not over uncatalyzed (air dried) enamel. Another problem is that some existing colors (reds, maroons) have a tendency to bleed through lighter top colors. Even if you have lots of primer on the car, “gremlins” (crazing, lifting, bleeding) can creep up from old layers of paint and attack the top coat because finish-coat gloss thinners are slower-drying and because primer is porous.

If the vehicle has lots of old coats of paint on it, or you don’t know what’s under the surface, stripping the body is the right way to start a good paint job. If you really don’t want to do the dirty work, there are plenty of different kinds of sealers that will help minimize “gremlins” (we’ll discuss them next month). But lacquer paints–which I recommend for garage jobs–are the least tolerant of unstable layers underneath. To be honest, of all the cars I have painted, I have only stripped one–and that’s the only one I had no problems with whatsoever.


First of all never, repeat never, try to strip all the paint off a car with your body grinder or a sanding disc on a drill. A grinder (1) roughs and gouges the surface far too much, (2) heats sheetmetal and warps it, and (3) removes metal (including body lines or details). You want a smooth metal surface to build a paint job on–a rotary disc sander won’t give you one. It’s conceivable that you could sand all the paint off your car with a jitterbug or by hand, using relatively fine sandpaper, but it would take far too much time and work.

This leaves three common methods for stripping automotive paint: chemical stripping/derusting by submersion, hand-stripping with liquid paint remover, and sandblasting.

Having the entire body stripped and derusted in large commercial tanks is obviously the easiest and most thorough method, and it’s not all that expensive. If you’re completely rebuilding an old car, especially if teh body is rusty, this is the way to go. But if you’re not going to disassemble, rewire, and reupholster the car anyway, doing so just to dip it is crazy. And there are some minor drawbacks. First, chemical stripping facilities with the experience and equipment to handle car bodies are not plentiful around the country. Second, if you have body dipped, be sure that all caustic and other chemicals are thoroughly washed out of all seams and cavities; otherwise it can seep back out and attack your new paint job later. Also, be sure to wash any “preservative” or chemical residue off the surface, and Metalprep the body before your first layer of primer. This is important. Third, some painters (such as “Junior”) prefer not to dip a body because it removes rust-preventatives and sealers applied at the factory (by dipping the body in paint tanks) in hidden areas you can’t repaint. This applies mostly to newer cars.

In many parts of the country, sandblasting is the only commercial alternative to chemical dipping for paint-and-rust removal. However, there are lots of drawbacks to sandblasting. Although commercial sandblasters are common, very few can control the blasting pressure to clean thin sheetmetal without warping it. Some can, but many a car body has been ruined by an inexperienced or careless sandblaster. Second, sandblasting hardens the surface of the metal (like shotpeening); on an old body that is already fatigued, this will increase the possibility of the metal cracking, especially when you begin doing bodywork. And if you’re considering stripping a whole car body with a small home-shop sandblaster and your 2-hp compressor, forget it. That’d take almost as long as hand-sanding the paint off.

This leaves hand-stripping with liquid paint remover as the most practical method for most home car painters. You don’t have to disassemble the whole car; you don’t need special equipment; most liquid strippers don’t attack rubber; you can apply it selectively. The only drawback is that handstripping is time and labor-intensive, it’s really messy, and the stripper itself is nasty stuff. Do not use it without wearing protective goggles, heavy-duty rubber gloves, and preferably a long-sleeved shirt. Keep a fresh-water hose at hand.

Your automotive paint store carries strippers specially made for cars. Actually, the type called “aircraft” stripper (such as Ditzler No. DX-586), which is formulated to remove even catalyzed paints, is the choice of most painters. Another new stripper made especially for cars is “Lightning Strip,” (Lightning Industries, Inc., 108 Lavergne cir., Hendersonville, TN 37075, 615/824-5200; ask for brochure). It is a thin, non-acidic liquid which can be applied with a pump or garden-type sprayer, and is the only type which can be used on gel-coated fiberglass. There is also a type of less-potent stripper which will remove a top layer of non-catalyzed paint, leaving the tough, durable, baked-on factory primer and rust-sealer.

Unfortunately, however, cars usually need stripping only when they have several coats of paint on them. In such cases you want the strongest stripper available, and you’ll still probably have to apply (and scrape) two or three coats before you get down to bare metal. You’ll probably need two to four gallons of stripper to do a full-size car. Read and follow directions on the can carefully. Let the stipper do the work–don’t rush it. But it is also very important not to work in the sun; do not let the stripper dry on the car. A hint to save energy and money (on extra stripper) is to cover the entire surface of the car with polyethylene plastic sheeting after the stripper is applied. This keeps the stripper from evaporating and speeds chemical action by the “greenhouse effect.” Let the plastic adhere to the stripper, and you can leave it on for a couple hours or overnight. Feature Editor Kevin Boales used this method on the body of a Trans Am, spraying aircraft stripper on the surface with a Binks No. 7 gun hooked up to a Hudson-type (hand-pump) garden sprayer filled with the stripper; then he covered it for two hours with Visqueen plastic sheeting, and four layers of paint came off with one scraping.

All liquid strippers soften plastic body fillers or lacquer putties–they must be completely removed when the car is stripped. Stripper will also soften and swell any of the new pliable body parts, such as “rubber” bumpers or other urethane pieces like fender flares, deck spoilers, etc. On any such non-metallic parts it is strongly recommended that you sand unwanted layers of paint off, leaving the factory top coat or primer on the part for adhesion.

Small, stubborn spots of paint left on the body after stripping can be hand-sanded or hit with a D-A after the car is dry; but a final wash with water and coarse steel wool (or Scotchbrite pads) should get most of it off. Once the surface is thoroughly clean and dry, be sure to treat it with Metalprep or a similar steel-etching metal conditioner before laying on your first coat of primer-surfacer. Naturally, when the body is all in bare metal is the best time to do your bodywork–before you primer it–but that’s a story for another chapter.

Read about Junior: Junior Conway might very well be the best car painter on the planet and paintings from photographs