Category Archives: Tools

Great New Bandsaw – Milwaukee Portaband + SWAG Offroad Table, Incra Mitre and Foot Pedal

Folks, one of my challenges is that I have a small shop.  When making my grips and handguards, I use a bandsaw to cut off the sprue – the waste plastic from where the liquid is poured into the mold.  Since I started, I used the relatively cheap Ryobi bandsaws from Home Depot and would get about a year to a year and a half out of them.  The glass fibers in my plastic would dull the HSS blades pretty quick plus it would absolutely eat the unsealed bearings alive to the point that they would fall apart.  I can’t fault them too much – the bandsaw was intended for wood really.

So as my last Ryobi started to get worse and worse (even with teflon sprayed into the bearings to coax a bit more life out of them), I knew I needed to move to something better.  During surfing, I found a company called SWAG Offroad made a really cool little table that could hold a Milwaukee Portaband saw and let you use it then as a vertical saw.  Now this seemed like a perfect fit – small, portable, sealed bearings, metal cutting capability and Milwaukee quality.  So, armed with that, I bought the SWAG Offroad table with Incra Jig and foot pedal plus a Milwaukee Portaband (Model 6232-21 Deep Cut Saw) in January 2017.

There are only certain models of saw that the table supports so be careful to get the right one.  In fact, they say it fits:

  • Milwaukee 6232-20, 6232-21, 6238-20, 6238-21
  • Milwaukee Fuel M18 2729-20, 2729-21 & 2729-22

My 6232-21 saw has a deep throat and uses a power cord as I really didn’t need the portability of a battery model or having to deal with keeping the battery charged given the way I use it.

Set up was very easy.  I think I had it all together in about 30 minutes including using a square to get the blade trued to the table.  I have been using this combination for about three months now and love it.  The table is heavy gauge and has held up great and I really appreciate the excellent Incra mitre guide and the foot pedal.  I’ve cut a ton of grips, Kydex and even steel with this and am still on my first blade.  Another positive is that the blades are much more sturdy and don’t “walk” around as easy when I am cutting something.

The only con I have encountered is that the blade faces you.  This means when you feed something to be cut, it is going straight back towards the neck of the saw vs. parallel.  This is not a big deal for me as I can turn around whatever I am working on and come at it from the other direction if need be.

In short, I really recommend this combination of saw, table, Incra mitre and foot pedal.  They definitely work great for me.

June 30, 2017 Update:  I’m still very happy.  Not one glitch and I have cut a ton of steel, aluminum, wood and the composite plastic I work with.  I had to cut a free float AR handguard to a custom length and that combination of the Incra mitre and heavy blade cut it as square as I could ask for with no wandering.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


Milwaukee 14-46-1175 Chain Sprocket Kit porta-band saw replacement

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SWAG V4.0 Portaband Table For Milwaukee Portaband Saws

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SWAG V4.0 Portaband Table For Milwaukee Portaband Saws

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SWAG V4.0 Portaband Table For Milwaukee Portaband Saws

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SWAG V4.0 Portaband Table For Milwaukee Portaband Saws

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SWAG Off Road JD2 Notch Master Reach Around Arm (ONLY)

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SWAG Off Road 12 TON Press Brake DIY Builder Kit

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SWAG Off Road 20 TON Press Brake DIY Builder Kit

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SWAG Off Road "Tube" Dimple Die Combination Sets

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SWAG Off Road 20 Ton Finger Brake DIY Builder Kit

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How to Make a Simple and Effective AK Barrel Back Out Tool

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AK rifles use press-fit barrels wherein the barrel is pressed into either the forged trunnion (if it is a sheet metal receiver) or the receiver and then held in place by the 7mm barrel pin.  As part of this, the barrel must be headspaced to the bolt to help ensure the cartridge is properly seated.  A challenge that commonly happens is that a builder inserts the barrel using whatever method ranging from a big hammer to a hydraulic press but when they try to use their headspace gauges, they find they have gone too far.  Alternatively, folks trying to insert a barrel back in that was already headspaced notice that they overshot the barrel pin groove when looking through the holes across the groove in the barrel.  Regardless of how the mistake is identified, the question becomes “what do I do now?”

There is a relatively quick and easy solution – use a long shaft to drive the barrel back out.  These tools are generically called “barrel back out tools” and you can make one many ways.  They can all be summarized as having a long shaft to reach through the receiver to the chamber end of the barrel and then either a copper or brass fitting to protect the chamber from being damaged by the rod.   I have seen everything from guys using socket extensions, to pieces of round steel, to custom purpose built tools.

One time, I pressed in a Yugo M72 barrel too far and had to press it back out so I came up with a quick and easy tool that I kept in my tool box and even sold for a while until I stopped because the profit margin just wasn’t sufficient.  With that said though, it’s worth sharing with folks just in case they wind up in a jam.

Here is what you need:

  • One 1/2″ grade one or two bolt that is about 12″ long (or however long you want to make it)
  • One 1/2″ grade one or two steel nut
  • One 1/2″ brass nut

For my first tool, that I still have, I just went to my local Ace Hardware store and bought the parts.

Basically, the long bolt allows you to reach into the receiver to the chamber end of the barrel to apply pressure.  I used a really long bolt because a Yugo’s rear trunnion is solid and you have to go down at a long shallow angle to press the barrel back out.  With AKMs or other AKs with open rear trunnions, you can simply go straight from the back to the front.  Note that you need to clear the ejector without damaging it.  I purposefully used a low grade bolt as I did not want it brittle from hardening.

The steel nut needs to be ground down enough so that the combination of it and the brass nut can fit in the area where the bolt normally locks up.  You want as much brass as possible to be in front of it and the brass nut should protrude from the bolt.  You don’t need a great deal of the brass nut threaded on the bolt as the steel nut is backing it up to provide much needed support.  I would grind and test repeatedly until the timing was such that the two nuts matched up just right when I tightened them down.

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Note, I used to grind the brass nut to match the extractor notch in the barrel but have stopped doing so as the brass simply deformed anyways.  The following photo shows how the brass simply bends and conforms to the extractor notch plus you can see that the brass nut extends well forward of the steel bolt.

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In the next photo, you can see the shallow angle I used to press the Yugo barrel back out.  Again, you would not need the same if you could go straight through the receiver:

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Here is a close up of the chamber and bolt area:

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Historically I did all my barrel work with my 20 ton press but now I mainly use air tools except for really stubborn parts.   When I originally did this post in 2014, I used my press.

With the M72, I was able to very simply move the barrel back out a bit, turn things around and then press the barrel in until the proper headspace was achieved.  The tool worked so well that I have it in my tool box still and have used it a few more times plus I did make a dozen or so and sold them to guys who had good luck as well.

As a caution, make sure the trunnion is well supported – you can see I have it resting on the press plates in the photo above.  Make sure everything is set up, stable and that you are clearing everything else before you apply pressure with the press.  If you apply pressure and nothing happens, stop and carefully inspect what is going on – the tool may be sitting on something other than the barrel.  More force may damage parts and you do not want that.

Lastly, be safe – take your time and play it smart.  A press can develop massive pressure.  Wear safety glasses and do not dream of having your hands anywhere in, on or around the parts being pressed.  All things considered, backing a barrel out should take very little force but you do not want an accident to happen.  If you are tired and frustrated, stop and wait until the next day or when you have relaxed and calmed down.  Most of my personal accidents have happened when I was in a rush, tired or angry – don’t be me 🙂

In closing, I hope this helps you in your building efforts!


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.


Soviet, Russian bayonet scabbard with carrying strap Tula Logo

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Soviet, Russian bayonet scabbard with carrying strap Izhevsk Logo

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East German Bayonet

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Russian Bayonet knife Kalashnikov AK 74, complete with scabbard, Luxury

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East German Bayonet #5998

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Use An Air Riveter to Get Barrel Pins Out Fast

One of the things that used to drive me nuts with AK builds was driving out barrel pins and then I got a tip from Gunplumber – a variable trigger air hammer or air riveter makes it way easier.   Many cheap import air hammers have an air valve behind the trigger that is either on or off and not much in between.  Some guys call the variable valve triggers “tickle triggers” – why?  I have no idea.  At any rate, every air riveter, which looks like an air hammer, that I have seen has a tickle trigger to allow the user more control when setting rivets.

I use the pointed conical air chisel to start the rivet and that is the hard part.  Once you get it moving, then use a big hammer and the largest punch you can fit in the hole to drive the rivet the rest of the way out.  Note, I only do this when demilling.  I use a barrel pin jig to install barrel pins because you have so much more control.

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The following photo is of an ATS brand Pro Series 3X riveter.  The bigger the number, the more poweful the riveter.  I also have a big 4X equivalent Ingersol Rand that I use on large rivets or work needing a powerful tool.  The 3X has a nice combination of power and weight and it almost always works on barrel pins and certainly on small trigger guard AK rivets.

 

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You can find rivet guns from many suppliers – even Harbor Freight.  I’d recommend you get a 3X for most work and a 4X if you want even more options.

The following is the riveter shown above:

[amazonjs asin=”B005VR7CQW” locale=”US” title=”Aircraft Tool Supply Ats Pro 3X Rivet Gun”]

When the conical chisel gets beat up, I grind the tip down and when it is really fried, I just pull out another.  You can get good deals on the chisels off eBay, Amazon, etc.  Just go with a brand name or ones with good reviews as soft/junk metal will round over faster.

 

 

 

Review of the Excellent Ken Onion Edition Work Sharp

As many of you know, I like knives and do a great deal of custom work on khukuris.  My problem is that I also have what is known as a “hereditary” or “necessary” tremor, which means my hands shake.  I have to really focus when I do work that requires fine motor skills and sharpening with a belt sander and jig is a bear for me that I try to avoid.  A little over a year ago, I was visiting the Smoky Mountain Knifeworks store in Sevierville, TN, when I saw my first Work Sharp brand sharpener.  It looked somewhat like a gimmick to me and I didn’t bother spending much time at their demo table.  I thought to myself “who needs a little triangular belt sander to mess up a fine blade” and left it at that.

About six months later, I was getting more and more blades to sharpen and in researching methods I ran across the Work Sharp again but this time folks were talking about the heavier duty Ken Onion Edition Work Sharp.  Now this intrigued me because the reviewers mentioned how quick the set up was, that the unit was very portable, powerful motor, variable speed and that the angle could be adjusted with a dial.  What really wold me is that it could do a consistent convex edge (note, there are many types of convex edges and I’m not going to go into that now – but for me the idea of consistency was and still is a big deal).  The other big reason is that really hard metals take a long time to sharpen by hand, which is what I usually did when it came to doing tune ups & that took a lot of time.

I decided to take the plunge and ordered the Work Sharp Ken Onion edition plus some additional belts off Amazon.  Thanks to the Prime shipping program, the box arrived two days later like clock work and I started testing and using it in early February 2014.  I point this out so you know this was written after quite a bit of use.

I learned a looooong time ago, never start with any blade of value when you are learning and this is another example of that.  I have been using this sharpener for close to six months and really like it but you do need to practice and learn how to hold the blade and get used to the feel.  I need to insert a caution here – it is always easier to take more metal off than put it back on!!!  If you use a coarse belt then you can remove a lot of material fast.  That’s why I recommend practicing first on knives you don’t mind if they get scuffed up a bit.

The photos are of my six month old sharpener.  The belts actually last quite a while but I would still recommend you get an extra package or two of them just in case.

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The unit has a 1/4″ thread on the bottom if you really want to secure it.  I find I can use it just fine without mounting it and this is great because I can move the unit to where the work is.  For example, I was outside on my work bench and brought the sharpener out there.  The red dial you see is the variable speed control.  I purposefully bought the Ken Onion edition as it has a bigger higher torque motor to avoid bogging down while sanding.  My experience is that it does a great job.  I can sand my big khukuris without a problem.

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The yellow lever lets you rotate the sanding cartridge so you have a flat sanding surface if you want it.  I tend to use use one of my other sanders but this could be handy for folks who need an all in one unit.  By the way, the roller you see in the lower right corner of the catridge is spring loaded.  With the unit off, you press that in and slide the belt off the top.  To install a new belt, load the belt at the botton, push the pulley in and slip the belt over the top.  This makes belt changes very easy.  You can see the other belts in the background of the photo – I start with coarse and work my way up to the edge I want.  With the khukuris, they are sharp but I don’t put hair popping edges on them so they are stronger.  I figure a customer can always go sharper if they want.

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Now, you really ought to buy an angle guide to set the angle of the sharpener.  There is a very easy to use guide that can let you find out what something is set at easily made by Richard Kell out of brass.  It takes away all the guess work.  You side the blade into the guide and if the edge goes into the little circle at the bottom and there isn’t any slop then you have found your angle.

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Now the Work Sharp only adjusts 15-30 degrees.  For kitchen and field knives, this tends to be just fine.  It tends to be with tools that you get into tools that you go past 30 degrees.  I wish it could go wider but I can deal with those tools on one of my regular sanders as they are exception rather than the rule.  I knew I needed something to speed up my work and make a consistent edge of the right angle on knives so the angle range the tool can do works out pretty well for me.

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The belts are color coded and have their ID inside each for easy identification.  Note, the Ken Onion edition uses wider belts than the normal edition but those will work as well I am told.  Also, the belts really hold up well.  As they wear, they just cut slower.  I’m actually very pleased that they used good abrasives and not the junk that just falls apart.

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In the next photos, you see me using the X4 fine belt to put a very sharp edge on a Himalayan Imports khukuri that is hardened 5160 alloy steel plus you see a photo of my every day carry, a Kershaw Compound KS1940 that my daughter got me for my birthday a few years back.  I use this knife literally every day to open boxes, cut strap, cut open plastic containers, and so forth in the shop.  It is 8CR13MOV alloy and needs sharpening each week due to all of the use.  The Work Sharp does great in both cases.

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In summary, this is a very useful tool for many reasons.  For novices, this is a great sharpener.  For more experienced folks, this is a handy tool that is very portable and can help save you time while producing a quality edge as sharp as you want!   So, I would highly recommend the sharpener, spare belts and the angle guide and Amazon makes it easy to one stop shop and get all three:

Update 7/23/2018:  The unit still works great.  Here’s a post I did about affordable belts.


If you find this post useful, please either buy something using one of the links to eBay and Amazon.  With Amazon, if you click on one of our links and then buy something else – even unrelated stuff like clothes, electronics and groceries – we get credit and it would be hugely appreciated.  Doing something like the above will help us fund continued development of the blog.

Amazon product links are at the bottom of the post.


Work Sharp Ken Onion Edition Blade Grinding Attachment WSSAKO81112 Brand New

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Work Sharp 3920 Ken Onion Stropping Belt Kit 1" x 18"

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Work Sharp Belts for Ken Onion Sharpener, Assorted Grits, 5 Pack, WSSAKO81113

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Work Sharp Belts for Ken Onion Sharpener, X4 Fine Grit, 5 Pack, WSSAKO81120

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