|Project by RichardDePetris||posted 10-08-2015 02:12 AM||1475 views||1 time favorited||2 comments|
If you’ve followed some of my posts, I am not terribly fond of table saws. They are dangerous and take up too much shop space. For precise rips and the occasional cross cut, I use a Makita plunge saw and a guide rail. Unlike a table saw or band saw, however, the track saw shoots dust everywhere without proper dust collection. A basic shop vac setup catches most of the dust, but is a royal pain to use. The hose tends to catch on the beginning of the guide rail and prevents the saw from moving forward or pulls away from the dust port. You have to hold up the hose and power cable with your other hand during a cut, making it cumbersome to use.
Festool solves this problem by offering the Guide Rail Deflector and the CT Boom Arm. The Guide Rail Deflector is a piece of smooth plastic that attaches to the beginning of the rail and allows the hose and cable to easily glide over the rail. You still have to ensure the hose and cable are running over it when you begin your cut. The CT Boom Arm, a more expensive solution, is more robust. It’s essentially a boom arm that keeps the hose and power cable out of the way and swings over the work area as you cut. It is designed to work with not only the TS55, but with almost the entire line of Festool power tools.
If I could afford the ~$400 boom arm, I would already have a TS 55 setup, complete with extractor instead of slumming it with a Makita (In reality, the Makita is a far better value and works perfectly with TS 55 accessories.) Moreover, my working class sensibilities and the fear of sleeping in the doghouse puts Festool products in proper perspective.
The CT Boom Arm is merely an L shaped tube with the hose and cable harnessed to it. Most of its features can be easily replicated with basic materials. In fact, there are tons of implementations online with varying degrees of sophistication. I set on making one, but with portability and space saving in mind. I went through my junk pile looking for parts, but I was unsatisfied with the design options. I needed to easily disassemble and store it away, attach it to my Ridgid wet vac and adjust its span and height. The Festool one can be detached, but with a lot of effort. I had a rough idea of the design, it was a matter of finding the right parts
Armed with a little imagination, the local flea market, junk yard and thrift stores are excellent sources for parts and inspiration. So I went to my local thrift store. After about an hour of browsing I settled on a platform crutch. I noted how it had several knobs for adjusting the angle where two metal tubings join together at an adjustable angle bracket.. There were several clamp rings with knobs that could be used to harness the hose and cable. I felt this would be an excellent candidate and if not, the knobs could always be repurposed for other shop fixtures. At $6 it was a steal.
I took it home and got to work. The first problem I discovered was that the orientation of the brace put the harness on the wrong section of the boom arm. The cable and hose has to be tethered to the upper part of the L frame. The solution was to mount the crutch rotated at 90 degrees.
The second problem was that the now upper section was too short. I couldn’t replace it with any of the tubes in my junk pile since their diameters were all either too wide or too narrow to fit in the adjustable angle bracket. I realized that I could leave the vertical tube in place and extend it by inserting it into a wider diameter tube. The fit had a bit of slop, but this was a benefit, allowing the upper section to swing freely.
The third problem was finding a way to mount it to my Ridgid wet vac. The rear of wet vac has two sockets on the left and right used for mounting an accessory basket. My vertical tube extension was too wide to fit inside the socket, but the same vertical insert tube did. I cut a stub from the insert tube using a hack saw, leaving enough length for the other extension tube.. I inserted the stub into the socket and then inserted the extension tube over it. There was also some slop, but as before, it not only allowed it to sway, but prevented wear of the plastic socket.
Now on to the fourth issue. I had to find a way to tether and untether the hose and cable to either store it away or to switch tools from the upper section of the boom arm. The Festool cable is fixed, but it is compensated for by the plug it cord. It quickly detaches from the tool leaving the tethered boom cable in place. Since the Makita has a standard power tool cable, I needed the ability to quickly and easily untether the entire cable while leaving the hose in place. I found a set of clips in my junk pile that were large enough to easily route the cable through. I clipped them to crutch’s clamp rings. The tethering allowed the hose to extend and contract with out pulling away from the saw’s dust port. At the very end of the upper section, I attached a plastic flange from a toilet flush valve assembly. With the hose attached, the boom arm made the shop vac a bit tippy, especially when the vac was empty. I added a scrap piece of steel as a counter weight. It fit neatly another socket used to store the hose extension wand. The Festool doesn’t have this issue because of its lower center of gravity.
With the boom arm complete and in use, it brought joy to my work. I can cut materials whenever I need to with minimal hassle. When I’m done, I can unclip the saw’s power cable remove the upper arm and the extension and hang it on the wall. The best part of it all it was cheap and built right here in the USA. Want freedom fries with that?