Is tomorrow the day?

Every possibility that tomorrow I will be sourcing (and purchasing) the materials I need for the shed expansion – some of them at least.  I have been contacting various demolition yards so I can recycle building materials (I’m on a definite budget), and have found some Quicklock roofing for about $1.50 / metre.

The general plan is to fabricate a wooden subframe and use the cladding from the existing walls and roof to cover the walls of the shed, and use the Quicklock for the new roof.

Calling it a shed expansion is probably being rather generous, but the few feet gained will certainly make for an improved functionality.  I modeled the potential tool layout today on the Grizzly shed planner, and it still looks to be a tight squeeze, perhaps with less crab walking required between the tools.

I do need to move quite a bit of soil to be able to start, so there is an over-abundance of preparation work required.  On top of that is the concreting required – these jobs have a habit of growing exponentially.

As I remember, I will attempt to document the upgrade as I go.

It’s catalogue season!

I was talking with a friend of mine from Carb-i-tool the other day, and their new 2008 catalogue has just hit the streets.

It’s about 30 pages larger than the previous one – lots of new bits! so that will be good to go through. I should get it in the mail in the next day or so (and it was!), and from there we’ll have to see what new router-bits-of-the-month we can find. (Carb-i-tool have always been a generous supporter of Stu’s Shed).

Their new catalogue will be on their website in about a month or so – at this stage it is still the 2007 one.

One part that has changed that I’m aware of – the wheel cutter (featured here a few months ago) has had a design change, and has a new hub design. So I hope to bring you some more details of that. The old cutters are still available, but once current stock is depleted, they won’t be replaced.

***Update*** The wheel now has a hub that finishes inline with the edge of the wheel. It means that now if you place two wheels side-by-side, the hubs will touch, more like what you’d expect in a real wheel. The change has been made as a direct response to the feedback that Carb-i-tool has received about their wheel cutters.***

There is a lot of development in diamond bits as well (for ceramics, marble, glass etc), so it will be interesting to see what is being done on that front.

Fire in the Shed!

Ok, it wasn’t all that dramatic (could have been though).

I’ve just been out there, shooting the latest video (I have 3 in the can now – better get them out there!)  This one is the start of the sharpening set that I’ve been promising.

I was kindly given a dead blade by Terry Gordon (HNT Gordon Planes), and it was a true dead blade, so I didn’t have to feel bad abusing good steel.  I was using the belt and disk sander to get the back of the blade relatively flat (it was twisted in the heat treatment process, which is why Terry rejected it).  The smell of burning plastic was slowly getting stronger and stronger, and a few wisps of smoke were becoming apparent from the sander.

To cut a long story short, the steel was forming a fine, fibrous dust (no idea the mechanism involved here!), which was carrying significant heat, and being so fine, it was getting right into the dust extraction system of the belt & disk sander, and started causing the wood powder that was present to smolder.

I left it a bit, monitoring it, and it wasn’t getting less…..and the opposite of less is……

At one stage I managed to peer deep into the unit from just the right angle, and it was glowing down there…rather nicely.  The gap was too small for marshmallows, so I thought I’d better put it out instead.  Unfortunately, after stripping off all the covers I could easily, I still couldn’t get anywhere near it.  In the end, I resorted to compressed air blasts – this probably did increase the burning for a bit, but it was a calculated risk.  I do have a fire extinguisher in the shed, in case there wasn’t an improvement, but it seems that I was successful.

Goes to show though: it is good to spend a bit of time after working doing a bit of general cleaning – it allows this sort of event to become obvious before you leave the shed, rather than afterwards!  The way it was going, I would say that this would have resulted in a full blown fire if I hadn’t actively intervened.   Guess there is something to be said for not using woodworking tools for metalwork, but who has the luxury (and space) for duplicate machines?!

Contractor Saw version of SawStop

A first look (video) at the Contractor SawStop can be seen here on Fine Woodworking

It also shows just what happens when the SawStop is fitted with a dado blade, then made to cut something fleshy.  Stopping that blade sounds violent!  Still does though, with the resulting minimal amount of damage to the ‘subject’.

They are not yet on the market, but could be in Australia later this year. No indication at this stage of the price point.

Shed upgrade progress

As mentioned recently, I am in the latter stages of a significant upgrade to the whole workshop. It has been taking quite a bit of energy (which has reflected here with the lack of video production!) and there is more progress required, but I see some light at the end of the tunnel.

There are a number of steps involved in the process, which first became apparent to the outside world with the sudden appearance of a number of workshop items on Ebay. This freed up some revenue, and space, and probably most importantly, I was able to start thinking about, and working towards the transition.

The tablesaw debate is drawing to a conclusion and I hope to have it finalised very soon.

I have sourced some materials that make the modifications to the actual shed affordable, so have been drawing up a number of plans to best utilise the materials I have. The shed won’t be optimum, but then, it is a real shed, not some ideal thing that none of us could realistically expect to have. Sure, I’d love something 10 x 15 metres, with a mezzanine, an office etc, wood heater, insulation, stylish external walls looking like a log cabin or whatever, but I will work with what I have.

So the plan from here is:

Rebuild the shed walls, increasing the total area to 8×4(ish), including better drainage around the outside (a long term problem I’ve had is leaks, and floods – pretty frustrating knowing good tools are at risk). Look into the possibility of insulation.

Recommission the dust extraction system, including fixed 4″ trunking including blast gates leading to each machine. Investigate replacing and upgrading the existing dust extractor – 750W does not supply a sufficient flow rate, particularly for planers and thicknessers.

Introduce a new tablesaw to its new home 🙂

Investigate the possibility of an air cleaner unit – dust extraction is all very well, but I want to improve the overall air quality.

Build new storage units (in part replacing the current blue boxes of parts/nails/screws etc), as well as improved hand tool storage. I have a number of plans for modular systems that look pretty suitable, and it’d be nice to actually fabricate a system, rather than my current ad-hoc ones.

Onward and upward.

Trends in Catalogues

Was reading through the latest Bunnings catalogue, dropped in the letterbox today.

Noted with interest a dramatic change in content: once there was pages of GMC tools, now there was only one, and that was the tool bag.  I don’t have a particular opinion about what is actually advertised, but it is strange seeing a brand that was once so strongly supported, (and I daresay made up a massive percentage of the total tool sales over the last few years) suddenly vanish.

All that is left is a tool bag that has in the vicinity of 100% markup.

No Triton either (not that that’s unusual), but it has been that was for a long time, and for a long time sales haven’t been that high.  Does the fault lie with the manufacturer, that their product is no longer desirable? (The ongoing interest in the product on Ebay seems to contradict this hypothesis).  Does it lie with the customer, or the market, with other tools moving into the traditional areas occupied by these brands?  Perhaps, but even then, walking into these hardware outlets, and there isn’t any particular competitors product obviously available, not at the same quality.  Does it lie with the retailer, not continuing to actively support the brands?  I don’t know the answer, but it raises interesting questions.

Comparing Abrasive Systems

It is all very well to say that sandpaper is 100, 200, 600 grit etc, but what does it actually mean? When you talk about waterstones being 1000, 2000, 6000 etc, is that the same as 1000, 2000, 6000 sandpaper?

Unfortunately no! The way that I prefer to ensure I’m comparing apples with apples is to look at the size of the abrasive material itself. This at least should be a uniform way of comparing different abrasives. In other words, I may start sharpening on a diamond stone, transfer to sandpaper, and finish on waterstone. Ok, I may not jump around like this, but there is no reason why you can’t, once you understand the micron size of the abrasive.

I’ve listed here the 2 main sandpaper designations, and the actual micron size of the particles. This will then allow other mediums to be compared.

ISO/FEPA Grit designation
CAMI Grit designation
Average particle diameter (µm)
Extra Coarse (Very fast removal of material)
Coarse (Rapid removal of material)
Medium (sanding bare wood in preparation for finishing)  
Fine (sanding bare wood in preparation for finishing)
Very Fine (final sanding of bare wood)
Very Fine (sanding finishes between coats)
Extra fine  
Super fine (final sanding of finishes)  
Ultra fine (final sanding of finishes)

Waterstones micron sizes are:

1000 : 14
2000 : 7.5
4000 : 3
6000 : 2
8000 : 1.2

So from this we can see that a 1000 waterstone is actually comparable to between a 1200 and 1500 grit sandpaper. And that my 6000 grit waterstones are VERY smooth!

Flattening Waterstones

Been doing a little preparation for a video on sharpening (or part of a series on sharpening to be exact).

One of the popular sharpening methods is using Japanese waterstones, sometimes using a jig such as the Veritas MkII covered recently.

I like to think of sharpness of an edge as the interaction of two smooth planes. The smoother the planes, the sharper the edge. However, you can’t get a smooth plane if your sharpening surface isn’t smooth. In the case of waterstones, this means they need to be flat.

You need to keep on top of this – it is very easy to get dishing in your stone (a patch of increased wear), so a regular flattening (before and after each job would be good practice, and therefore would take little time).


To flatten a waterstone, you can (apparently) rub two together, flattening both, but to my mind this would only really be effective if both stones were the same grade. These are not particularly cheap, so I only have one of each! The stones I have are 1000 grit and 6000 grit. That does not correlate to sandpaper if you were wondering – I will do a separate post about that shortly.

Instead, I prefer to use a known flat surface (in this case 10mm plate glass), and affix some 180 sandpaper to it to flatten the stones. It is prety easy from there – keep rubbing until the stone has a uniform surface. As you can see in the next series of images, I went a bit overboard when first using the stones a few years ago when I got them, and went way too long without reflattening them, which caused significant dishing. I have been using the other side from then on, but for this article, decided to return to the dished side, and get it flat once again.




The first photo is after quite a lot of sanding, and still the hollow is very apparent. The second photo was with the end in sight – the dishing is almost gone. The final photo shows (finally) a nice uniform surface which means the stone is flat once again.

Some good news

Finally managed to find a window of opportunity to shoot some new footage for a couple of Stu’s Shed TV episodes.  Not sure when I’ll have a chance to edit it, but at least step 1 is finally done again!

Possible Shed Expansion

As quite a few are aware, I operate in a pretty cramped shed.  It’s 6x3m, but rather full, and when you factor in the space needed for the video cameras and lights etc, it gets rather tight indeed.  Frustratingly so.

I have been considering the options for expansion, not that it would be able to grow much – the maximum size I can get to really is 8x4m, 8×5 at a push.  I’m not adverse to reusing the tin from the existing shed in the expansion either, which could mean that all I need is a new roof, with the existing converted to walls.

The show-stopper for me is being able to afford it.  So what I was wondering is: does anyone know of a source of cheap (or free) materials that would be suitable, or ideally, know anyone in the shed business who’d be interested in sponsoring the expansion, with obvious credits etc on  There are some advertising opportunities, both on the site, and in the videos that could be negotiated.

Anyway, just thought I’d ask on that offchance.

(I also have to increase the concrete slab, and get some more power down there, something in the order of 240V 40A 1Ph)

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