iTunes & Podcasts

Thought I might scope out what other woodworking podcasters were out there as I haven’t looked for a little while.  There are a few new ones on the scene, majority seem to be commercially centred, which can be a good thing too – companies using the newest tools available to them for getting the message out, but in a non-instrusive way, and voluntary in the sense that you can sign up for their info, rather than having it force-fed through traditional advertising channels.

One thing that I did notice, which is pretty cool, is Stu’s Shed is the 3rd most popular woodworking podcast (worldwide!), led only by the Wood Whisperer (who is now podcasting and blogging professionally), and Woodworking Online (a podcast by Woodsmith Magazine).

So thanks for watching everyone!

Mounting a Router Bit

One question that comes up quite often is how to secure a router bit in the router.  After all, it is quite a large chunk of sharp material (HSS or carbide, or combination) to have spinning at speeds up to 20000RPM, and then having it engage with, and cut into a piece of wood.  Certainly for the inexperienced, installing a router bit (and then turning the router on), can be quite daunting.

It is a bit hard to describe just how tight to tighten up the collet – you want it to really grip the shaft of the bit, but not so hard that you can’t get it undone again!  The thread direction does mean that as the router is used, it will have a tendency to tighten further (not that that helps you if the bit is already wanting to slip!).

If you are using a reducer (such as a 1/4″ reducer so you can use 1/4″ bits in a 1/2″ collet) then you need to tighten the collet more than if you are using the correct combination of bit and collet.  This is because you have to squeeze the metal of the collet onto the reducer sufficiently that it squeezes tightly enough on the bit.  Where possible, it is much better to use the right sized bit for the collet you have.

Don’t play games with not setting the bit fully inside the collet – if the bit isn’t long enough for the job that you’d have to only insert it partially in the collet, buy a different bit.  It is way too dangerous not to have the bit properly held.  Alternately, get one of the commercial router bit extenders.

One thing that is worth mentioning is bottoming out of the router bit.  It is quite a common mistake to allow the router bit to drop to the bottom of the collet then tighten the collet up.  There are a number of different theories why this isn’t a good idea, but at least all theories agree on one thing – let the bit bottom out, then raise it up a small amount (1mm or so) then tighten the collet.

Some of the reasons I have heard in the past are: it allows heat to transfer from the router bit to the shaft of the router, it transfers vibration from the routing operation to the shaft of the router, it can cause the router bit to vibrate loose of the collet….and others.

Some, or all of these may be good reasons for not doing so, but I don’t accept them to be the major, or main reason.  Mine is this: as the collet tightens, (given it operates on a thread), it will carry the router bit in the direction that it is tightening, ie towards the bottom of the hole.  If it hits the bottom before it is fully tight (or starts in that location), then there is a possibility that it will feel that the router bit is held tightly because you feel the resistance through your spanner, but it isn’t actually that the collet is fully tight – it is the bit pressing into the base of the hole.  Then during operation, the bit can slip, or even start working its way out of the collet.

Instead, if there is a little bit of clearance between the router bit and the bottom of the hole, then the collet can grip fully around the shaft of the bit, holding it securely and as it is designed.

I have also heard some people drop a small o-ring into the bottom of the collet so the router bit starts off resting against it before the collet is tightened.  I don’t see any problem with this solution – the o-ring can easily compress as the collet is tightened, and if it helps you ensure that you consistently insert the router bit properly, then go for it.

Turning Between Centres – a different drive spur

This is the traditional drive spur – a four bladed design with a fixed centre pin.  The blades cut into the endgrain providing the drive to spin the work.


I’ve found with this sort of drive spur, that if you don’t do it up tight enough, it can easily slip, allowing the workpiece to stall while you are turning (ie the workpiece stops, but the drive keeps spinning!)  There are some different models available – different sizes, and some with quite an aggressive tooth and centre point to really bite into the workpiece.

However, when watching a master-turner friend show off some tips and techniques, I saw that he used a different type of drive spur, and I could really see some definite advantages to its design.  I got one for my lathe, and have been using it ever since.


It is called a Steb Style drive centre, and instead of just four points of contact, it has lots of little teeth that bite in, significantly decreasing the load that each one has to impart on the workpiece.  The central point is also spring-loaded, and I’m not sure what advantage that has, other than meaning that it’s the circumferential teeth carrying the load.  I find that I don’t have to tighten up on the workpiece as much, and I have not experienced any slippage since using one.


Air as a Workshop Tool

Thinking about it, there is hardly a tool that I’ve added to the workshop that I really knew what to expect from it, or whether it would be as useful as the price indicated.  In part I hope that this blog does actually help others so they can make more rationalised decisions about what they are buying, or what would actually be a useful tool to have.

Some tools that I’ve discovered to be indispensable (that I didn’t really know before purchasing) include the bandsaw, the thicknesser and the router table.  In each case it was as much because I’d never actually seen one being used or really knew what it was capable of.  These days it is a lot easier, because I have learned a lot over the last few years and have a pretty fair idea of what I still need and why, but it was kind of exciting buying tools and then discovering what they were actually good for!

One ‘tool’ that I have found to be suprisingly useful is compressed air.  I was quite exposed to it in the navy – it is used for everything on the ships, but I wasn’t so sure if an air compressor would be really useful in a woodworking workshop.  How little did I know.  Now I’d definitely recommend any woodworking workshop to have some sort of supply of compressed air.

I’ve used it to drive an impact wrench to free a rusted nut, as a glorified broom, driving a nailgun, even pumping up a car tire, and blowing up balloons for a party.

I’d definitely say the bigger the better where it comes to compressors, but even so, the small 24l GMC compressor I have has proven very useful, particularly for portable air.  I also have a 40l one permanently located in the shed, and coupled to a hose-reel which is another great addition.

Workshop Layout Planning

When planning the layout of a workshop, it is one thing to move the actual items around the space you have until the layout looks functional, but often the items are bulky and cumbersome, and trying different layouts becomes arduous.

In the past, I have found making a scale model a very useful tool (cardboard boxes representing each machine). Another tool that is useful is this one from Grizzly. It is an online, free workshop layout tool. It only has available the actual machines that Grizzly sells, but using a little bit of creative licence, and you can very quickly try different layouts to see how it all could come together.


Looking at a quick mock-up of my place, and I can see something I forgot that I needed…….. floor space!

Working from top to bottom, there are 2 tool chests, a 14″ bandsaw, 15″ thicknesser, and a stereo in the top-right corner. Next is the router table, with the Jet Mini Lathe overlapping, and a drill press beside the door. Then there is the 6″ longbed planer (jointer), the tablesaw and 2 shelf units. Finally, a grinder, a second lathe, and a bench with an SCMS, slow grinder, and sander.

The constant woodworker

I was contacted a couple of days ago by the owner of ReaderSheds (UK) and asked if I’d like to submit my shed to their site (which I’ve done).  While looking for some photos to include, I quickly came to realise, well, a few things.  I discovered I have no current photos of the inside of my shed.  Perhaps embarrassment about the state of it as much as anything, but what photos I do have are quite out-of-date.  It seems that despite thinking that things out there are pretty much static, that the shed layout is constantly changing and evolving.  Over the period of even 6 months, I can look at a photo and see elements that are the same, but also a whole raft of changes that have occurred in that time.

I also saw some older photos of the place, and it dawned on me that at one time, the space I had was adequate – all the tools had a home, and they were all easily accessible.  I know I keep taking about cleaning the place up (and this year I mean it!!), but it has become a simple fact that there isn’t enough room for the tools that are there already, and if I pack any more in there, well, there is an advert on TV about a guy who can’t resist a hardware bargain to the point that his garage literally bursts…….

Does this mean no more tool acquisitions? Not bloody likely!!!!! 🙂

Mobile Bases for Floor Machines

I have a few heavy machines in the workshop these days, each weighing between about 70 and 100kg.  Given my limited space, I really need to be able to move these around, yet I don’t want to have to try to drag them, or lift them to fit wheels etc.  The solution is a heavy-duty mobile base, that can cope with the weight of the machine and remain fully stable, both when the machine is being moved, and when it is in use.

The base that I have been using is one made by Jet, and so far, I’ve only needed the smaller model, which is still capable of handling a machine weighing up to 270 kg (600 lb).


The latest to receive the treatment, is the Triton 15″ thicknesser.  Weighing in at over 80kg, it also has quite a large footprint, so I really need to be able to move it out of the way for other jobs, or even outside if I need to machine long lengths.


The components look and feel quite robust, and the design means that it can fit machines with a wide range of footprints, without needing any tools for assembly.  What you can see here, is a wheel for each corner (which includes a decent amount of base for the machine to sit on), and four predrilled connector bars.

Two wheels are steerable (swivel), and all four are lockable, maximising the stability of the platform during machining operations.


This is a close-up of the connector bar, with the spring-loaded pin engaged in the first hole.


The thicknesser now on its new base, portable and stable.

Downtrack, I will be adding a wooden shelf on the base, and another on the mid-height bracing so I can maximise storage opportunities around the workshop.

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