The Router Fence Upgraded!

It has been a while coming…

When I first purchased the LS Positioner, I gave a lot of thought to whether I could justify getting the Incra fence, or whether I could construct one as functional, and a lot cheaper. I decided to try, and the fence I came up with I am pretty happy with.


It has UHMD plastic on its face, which can either be positioned to close near to the bit, or with a small central piece to act as a zero-clearance fence (ie, the opening in the fence has no gap around the bit, virtually eliminating any possibility of the workpiece getting hung up (ie catching) on the outfeed fence). There is a track on the front for a right-angle fixture, or a featherboard, and another on top for a stop. There are 2 rails of positioning track, one metric, the other imperial, and a movable rule.

However, there have been a few issues with it. Firstly, I never finished it- like the base of the table, it got put aside as more pressing things cropped up, and I haven’t returned to it. There wasn’t much else to do – dust extraction, feather board, and the stops themselves. I haven’t been completely happy with the zero-clearance design, and have since thought of better ways of doing it. The other issue, and more difficult to add, is the ability to offset the infeed and outfeed fences. This is critical for planing type operations (such as using the compression bit covered mid last year). It was a feature that I had on the Triton Router Table, but have missed being able to do it easily. I don’t use it all the time which is why I’ve been able to get around not having it. Finally, I never perfected a right-angle fixture. I did get a home-made one from a friend (Steve Bisson, who sadly passed away mid last year), after he upgraded his system to the full Incra one (and was the final inspiration that convinced me the Incra system was unique in its accuracy, and therefore versatility).

I have always regretted not biting the bullet in the first place, and getting the whole system, including the Incra Wonder Fence, so finally, the deed is done.

Here is the fence as it is tonight.


It sure looks the part now! The fence halves are actually mounted on a length of Incra sawtable fence that I had, and I’ve included the high-riser (the black bit on top), which helps stabilise tall boards passing over the bit (such as a vertical panel-raising bit). I also (finally!) have the proper right-angle fixture which will make the various joints (dovetails in particular) much easier to complete.


One thing that the Wonder fence does give, is very precise control over the offset between the infeed and outfeed fences. You can’t see it very clearly in the photo, but it means the offset is very easy to produce.

All the Incra gear seen here was sourced from Professional Woodworker Supplies.

Videos for 2008

To answer some queries, and I guess others who were also wondering… yes, I will be continuing to produce videos/podcasts for the site this year. It’s just been a very busy start to the year, so it’s taking a little time to get back into the routine. I did have some footage that I thought would carry the site over the xmas break, but I’ve decided it wasn’t up to the grade, so will be reshooting it.

So sorry for the delay, but some new ones are coming soon!

Bandsawn Castles

One of my work colleagues bought one in for me to have a look at. I have a book with plans for a few, but had never seen one in-person before, so thought I’d put some photos of it here for you as well.


This one starts off as any other lump of branch, with a few bandsawn squiggles running through it. (The base is cut off initially, and glued back at the end.) The timber is Tasmanian Huon Pine.


Here you can just make out that the cuts have been made at a slight angle – 1/2 to 1 degree or so.


When you open it up (basically by tipping it upside down), the castle suddenly appears! (The windows have been burnt in with a pyrography pen) What I like is different layers of the castle have different amounts of extension, because of the variation in the angle they were cut. Very clever and effective!


This last view is from the back, just to give you a better idea on how it all works.

Can a Drill Press be used as a Router?

I had this interesting question posed to me recently by Kevin (from California).

It is interesting to me, because back when I was contemplating (and then purchasing) a drill press, the same thought crossed my mind. After all, both machines grip a cutter in some form of chuck, and spin it. So what is stopping one doing the role of the other?

Since then I have formulated the following justifications why I feel that the two tools should not be used to perform the role of the other. (In particular, I am looking at it as to why the drill press shouldn’t be used as a router).

1. The chuck doesn’t hold the bit anywhere near as tightly as a router bit collet, so they are a lot more prone to slippage (and if a router bit slips, it is likely to change height, and therefore change the profile that’s being cut (at best….a kickback or a grab of the workpiece is not desirable!), if a drill bit grabs the work, hopefully it does slip!) The slippage will also scar the shaft of the router bit badly, making unusable in a router later – either simply because it won’t fit, or because those scratches make the bit more prone to breakage. My wheel cutter bit (which is designed only for use in the drill press) has a badly scarred shaft – doesn’t matter for that bit as it will only ever be used on the drill press, but I’d hate some of my other router bits getting damaged like that.

2. The average router bit speed is 8000 RPM to 20000 RPM. The average drill press is 200 RPM to 3000 RPM. A drill press simple can’t drive a router bit at the speeds required to obtain a reasonable finish, and without horrendous tearout that can occur when running a router bit way too slow.

3. The bearings on a drill press are designed to be thrust-loaded – ie you drive a drill bit down into the workpiece. A router bearing is designed for axial (horizontal) loading. If a drill press is used as a router too much, the bearings will wear out a lot faster than desired.

4. The chuck of a drill press is typically on a morse taper. Axially loading up the chuck often will loosen it to the point that it suddenly falls off!

5. Finally, although it seems expensive, even a $320 router (such as the 2400W Triton) isn’t actually that expensive compared to the router bits. Each of my bits range in price from 10% the cost of the router up to 50%. Add it altogether, and the router itself is only a small portion of the total cost (spread over time) of the ‘tool’. My collection of router bits is worth something like 5 times the value of the router itself.

I guess, in an emergency, you could use a drill press to do a little routing job (small bit, light passes, soft wood), but I wouldn’t make a habit of it for those reasons. The reason the wheel cutting bit works well on a drill press, is it is designed to plunge into the workpiece, not run along an edge, so really it is just a glorified drill bit. It is also designed to work at the slow speeds of the drill press – you’d kill yourself trying to use it in a router!

Sometimes it is bloody frustrating being a novice

Headed down to Carbatec today, with my Christmas $$$s burning a hole in my pocket. Wanted to get a few extra things for the lathe, after learning a bit more about it all with the visit to my friend’s shed last weekend.

Couldn’t find a curved toolrest for my Jet mini lathe – more research required.

I did pick up an asymmetric 1″ (25mm) heavy duty scraper (and yes Soren – it has a long handle!!) (For those wondering what I’m on about- as you can see from the photo in the previous post, my latest 3 (and now 4) chisels all have a substantial handle on them. I’ve discovered how much I like having something decent to hang onto while turning. Yes, I know a real turner makes his own handles….. and I might too when life decides to slow down from the million miles/hour it is currently running at). I’m hoping it will do the job that I want – it is a great chunk of HSS (high speed steel) – about 10mm+ thick.

I also bought some extra jaws for my Teknatool Nova G3 chuck. This is where the frustration starts creeping in.

The jaws that came with the chuck are 50mm. They hold primarily on the external rim of the jaw (ie you insert them into a hole (which can be as shallow as a couple of mm), then expand them with the chuck to grip the workpiece. In the case of the bowl I am practicing on (see photo in a recent post), I haven’t gotten the hole in the base with quite enough diameter, so I thought I might as well get a smaller set of jaws, which will be useful for other jobs in the future. Having a look around, there were 45mm jaws (too close to 50mm thought I), 25mm jaws, and 35mm jaws, both in a bowl jaw and a spigot jaw. Hmm – confusion growing a little. Reading the box, it suggests that the 35mm spigot fitted nicely in the gap of sizes between the 25mm and the 50mm. Not sure what the spigot term meant, but it wasn’t much more for those, and they did say that they can grip both internally and externally. Cool – bonus – they can do the job I want, and for not many more $$s than the standard 35mm I can do this spigot thing when I learn what it is (something to do with vases and goblets apparently). Fitting that gap between the capacity of a 25mm jaw set and a 50mm jaw set is exactly what I’m looking for.

So, get home, open box, get out the “Accessory Jaw Manual” and had a quick read. Huh? Apparently the 35mm spigot jaw’s minimum size for expanding is 53mm. What the? How is buying a 35mm jaw set to have one smaller than a 50mm jaw set end up being wrong? This is the frustration. I’m sure if any turners read this, they’ll be going “of course”, but for a novice, this is the sort of thing that jumps up to bite you time and time again. I even went to my Richard Raffan “bible” – the Taunton’s Complete Illustrated Guide to Turning. Not a mention of a spigot, or that some 35mm jaws are larger than 50mm jaws.

I guess why I’m saying all this, is I do appreciate where people new to woodworking are coming from – I’m still learning different aspects myself, and it is these traps that keep tripping us up frustratingly, that would be good if an introduction to a subject actually covered what you need to know, without being written too simply, or patronisingly. (Just because you are new to a subject doesn’t mean you’ve also lost your brain!)

While I’m on the subject of frustration for novices, I guess I would have learned a lot of this by joining a turning club, but so far I’ve been really put off. I haven’t re-broached the subject for a few years now, but my experiences went like this:

One club wanted me to go to an individual member’s house before joining, so my turning abilities could be assessed. Like that isn’t a daunting concept for a novice. I’m just starting out, and someone thinks I want my abilities judged and criticised? Sorry, but no.

Another club (and I’m not naming names here), seemed interested in getting a new member, so I was chatting to one (at a woodshow) about the club etc, and me wanting to learn more. He asked what sort of lathe I had (this is before I bought the Jet mini), and I said that I have a GMC (this is a $100 lathe, so I am under no false illusions about it being a first-rate tool. Never-the-less, I have made plenty of pens, including my apple one with a captive ring (posted here a while back), turned some pretty round spheres in redgum etc). Irrespective, the conversation didn’t get any further. The instant I uttered the fated word “GMC” the member turned his back on me and walked away mid-sentence.

So now you know why I’ve never joined a wood turning club to learn more. Disappointing really. So I’m doing what I do with most things – jumping in feet first and learning as I go. Reading books, watching videos and making sawdust. I’ll probably pick up heaps of bad habits, that will end up restricting me before I unlearn them, but at least I won’t be insulting people, or being a tool snob.

Tool-of-the-Month (January 08)

The tool for January 08 is more of an accessory than a tool in its own right, but I felt it deserved its place never-the-less.

It is a magnetic storage rack, really simple concept, and a breeze to mount, with just a couple of screws. I got mine from Carbatec for about $30.

As you can see here, I have it mounted near the lathe, and it happily keeps all my turning chisels in easy access, and neater than they have ever been!


I will probably mount a bit of a stop below each chisel to discourage them from slipping down, but at this stage the magnet is strong enough to grip all the chisels with no assistance. (On the end is the key for my lathe chuck). I thought there might be some problem holding the round chisels, especially the large bowl gouge, and I’d have to have the roughing gouge the other way around, but my concerns came to naught – this magnet has plenty of gauss.

Given how successful this first magnetic storage rack works, I will definitely keep it in mind for future solutions. Just remember if you buy one to keep it away from the credit cards!

FWIW, the lathe seen in the photo above is a Jet Mini Lathe. It currently has a bit of huon pine mounted that I was practicing on.


Got out to the shed tonight – has been a while…….

Thought I’d have a bit of a play on the lathe, after all I have a new oval skew chisel to try, and I have only had a couple of quick plays with the bowl gouge that I got at the wood show in October.

I’m definitely still learning where it comes to wood turning! Not quite sure how it came about, but was trying the skew chisel, ensuring the far point was nowhere near the workpiece, and had just started to ‘rub the bevel’ when there was an almighty bang, a sound of a richocet in a far corner of the shed, and one hand felt like it had been brushed past by something substantial.  There was a bit of a gummy substance on the sharp edge of the chisel – couldn’t figure out what that was, or where it had come from.

Did a quick VCE (visual check of extremities) – sometimes you can’t actually feel when something has gone badly wrong, and I wasn’t sure how I had avoided being caught by something, particularly the chisel.  I hadn’t (although a tiny nick did show up a little later), so then I had a look at the workpiece – expecting to see absolute destruction.


I did find this –  a beautiful groove that gets quickly deeper, until it suddenly ends where the kickback actually occured.  It was definitely the inside tip of the chisel that caused this, so I haven’t been able to figure out what I did wrong (perhaps just the wrong tool for the job?)

Needless to say, the skew chisel went straight back onto the storage rack, and the bowl gouge was used to finish off the job.

I have only done the outside, and the finish isn’t great – still have a lot to learn, but it’s coming along.  I need to get some different jaws for the chuck before I can finish the job.


It’s a start.

Just as I am typing this, my finger still feels a little sensitive on the pad, so under the better lighting I have in here, there is a curious shiny triangular area, about 10mm on each side of the triangle on the pad of the finger.  I thought I had a cut there from a few days ago, but it has vanished.  It looks like I got a lot closer than I was expecting – the chisel has lightly shaved off this area, which I guess is what was on the end of the chisel.  Talk about close.  That is probably the worst kickback I’ve ever had from any tool, and the closest I’ve come without actually drawing blood!

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