Digging the Light Fantastic

Digger Revitalised

Digger Revitalised

A reminder of the digger I’ve been talking about that will hopefully be making an appearance in The Age.  Ok, so I’ve tripped it up a little (at least the background)

Yes, I know it is at the top of the page, but I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be keeping that header image. I have some ideas…….

Aristocrat Photo Gloss and the Burl Clock

While I was at the Brisbane Wood Show, I had a chance to chat with the guys from Photogloss(.com.au), and had a closer look at their Aristocrat Liquid Glass.  They have a whole display wall at the shows, displaying all the different ways their products can be used, and some were quite inventive.

Aristocrat Liquid Glass

Aristocrat Liquid Glass

It comes in 2 parts, which are mixed 1:1 (conveniently).  (The bottles shown above are after I took enough out for the photos that follow)

I’ve been looking for a project to try it on, and the new burl clock for the shed seemed a good opportunity to put this stuff through its paces.

I didn’t take any in-progress photos – I was too focussed on using the product for the first time (which is always nervewracking when it has such an impact on the final product).

You can see from the previous post what the raw timber looked like, and it still was like that, just a bit nicer, and a lot flatter when I had finished sanding!

Clock Face

Clock Face

I mixed up an amount that seemed like it would be sufficient (and got it pretty close – fluke!), poured it on, and expected it to flow everywhere.  It didn’t, and there were just some ribbons of thick sticky, araldite-like resin all over the project.  Hmm – that’s not good!  However, it worked out well – I took a straight edge (actually a bit of MDF), and carefully spread the stuff over the entire surface.  It had a lot of tiny bubbles everywhere, but the instructions said that one option was simply to breath on the surface.  I tried that and where I did, the bubbles vanished before my eyes – it was quite impressive!  A couple of bigger ones got popped, and they quickly disappeared as the viscous liquid slowly levelled itself.

It takes ages to dry, and 24 hours later I haven’t checked it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it isn’t still a little tacky.  Looks great though! I probably put it on a bit thick – you are meant to do multiple coats until you get the desired depth, but that comes down to experience (and I never get around to doing test pieces – always jumping right into the middle of a real project!)

It isn’t something you would use on every project (and keep it well away from fine furniture), but for items such as this, it is perfect.

Liquid Glass Closeup

Liquid Glass Closeup

Next step on this project will pretty much be the last – attaching the mechanism, sticking on the numbers, hanging it on the wall – I’ll post a final image when it is done. Looking at my burl clock in my office, and now I’m wondering whether to take it home, and refinish it as well – after a few years it is looking decidedly dull, and it is no longer showing off the beauty of the timber. (It was finished with oil and wax).

In the meantime, if you want to try out Aristocrat Liquid Glass for yourself, contact www.photogloss.com.au (07) 5486 5361

A Burl Clock for the Shed

To start the process, I’ve been preparing the burl slab itself, and the first part of that was the recent YouTube Chronicles video, running the burl through the drum sander.

Next, I took the random orbital sander to the surface, starting with the unusually coarse (for me) 80 grit paper (the burl is very hard), and continued through the grits to 400. For previous clocks I would normally oil the surface (with a burnishing oil), but in this case I didn’t think it would be needed to get the grain to show up, and I didn’t know how the Liquid Glass would respond to it.

I’ve then flipped the board over to mill out a cavity for the clock mechanism.

Creating the Template

Creating the Template

I needed a template to route out the opening, so started down the tradition path – marking out the opening, drilling holes, cutting with a jigsaw, filing off the jigsaw marks, and all the while I was thinking to myself – there has to be a better way. Then I remembered the Sonicrafter that I previewed for the manufacturers – one of the high vibrating speed cutting tools (takes different blades etc, the well known version is the Fein). This one is Worx brand (the bigger brother of the Rockwell that has recently hit the Aussie market) It will be in the marketplace soon fwiw. I gave it a try, and it worked like a dream – the perfect tool for the job. In future it will be the first tool I turn to for jig creation! I made the template out of MDF, and before you ask why I didn’t just cut the actual opening this way: burl is really hard, and I think any of these cutters would probably struggle, and secondly, and more importantly, I needed the opening in the burl to be a partial depth only.

A big reason for me using this tool, is I can cut a square opening, with straight sides a lot easier than my older methods!

The opening in the template is larger than the actual clock mechanism, as it needs to take into account the distance between the outside of the template and the router bit. I set the router bit depth, taking into account the thickness of the burl, the length of shaft of the clock, and the various components that are attached.

Router Bit Depth Set

Router Bit Depth Set

I used the Wixey Digital Height Gauge to set the height accurately. So once I had the template, this was clamped to the burl, and the opening created with the router.

Mechanism Opening

Mechanism Cavity

A perfect opening

A perfect opening (centre still to be removed)

The above-image has the outside routed to full depth, but as you can see the middle area needs another pass.

Back of Burl Clock

Back of Burl Clock

So this is the back complete.  I tend to leave it raw so I can see the difference in the finished front and the raw back when I want to.  I know this is not best practice, if for no other reason than it can encourage warping when the stock is thin.  Still, it’s a choice I make (in some circumstances).

Oh, and for the doubters, yes I do use my JawHorse, all the time, and for almost every project!

Next post will be about finishing the front.

A Subtle Rebranding…

is occurring for Chris Vesper’s tools.  Instead of the original “CV” inside an outline of Australia, the new branding is

Vesper Tools

Vesper Tools

as he transitions the brand to “Vesper Tools

On my way, to The Age

Sitting on the train on my way into Melbourne central to drop off my dozer project for them to photograph for an article in the Melbourne Magazine (one of those ones that comes out, inside the newspaper each week).

It’s quite a mission to get this in there- 2 hours of travel to drop it off, and I still have to repeat the trip to pick it up again! Hope it is worth it. It is rare I’m even awake this early 😦

The project they wanted is one I made years ago – 2002? 2003? so when I took it off the shelf last night, it was looking rather tired, and dare I say, I can actually see how much my woodworking has matured since then, which was quite a surprise. I’ve looked at it numerous times before, but it has been an “age” since I looked at it though another person’s eyes- thinking how it might be judged by them.

The dozer also has had some wear and tear since then too, some breakages and component replacements. So as it sat there on my workbench, I got out some 400 grit (35 micron) sandpaper for a quick once over, then a generous amount of wood oil. Amazing how the beauty of wood absolutely pops with a little oil.

The dozer is 100% jarrah (not counting the glue)- there are no metal components anywhere in the project, so it really responded to the wood oil with a beautiful, dark, rich colour. Probably a good thing I didn’t get much warning- I could have seen myself deconstructing the project to really finish it properly.

It did have one other benefit- a reinspiration to make another, and hopefully my maturing woodworking skills would result in something even better. Imagine what my woodworking might look like in 40 years time!

…….time progresses………

Now on my way out again- the city is just weird. It’s been a long time since I’ve worked in the centre of the concrete jungle (central London in my case, 21 years ago).

Felt like I shouldn’t be there- all these ‘important’ people streaming past. Guess I’ll never realise my potential of 6 figure salaries. Couldn’t get out of there fast enough. And I couldn’t- stupid train system couldn’t tell me which train to be on. After letting a half dozen trains pass, I got on one to get to the next station, got off it, then straight back on when it turned out the train was going where I needed it to. I pity strangers coming to Melbourne. Perhaps it will be different now Connex has lost the contract. Yeah right.

So I escaped. Thought I had been recruited by Men in Black- that’s the only colour everyone was wearing. Melbourne- a Gothic’s dream location.

So that’s 2 hours of my life I’ll not get back. Was it worth it? Only time will tell.

Think I’ll go hide in my shed the rest of the day.

From Chris Vesper to Melbourne Woodworkers

Special plea to Melbourne locals

I was reading my local Leader newspaper the other day and came across a small news mention titled “Hand-crafted toolbox taken”.

The article went on to read:
An elderly Frankston man had his precious tool box stolen after thieves broke into his garage.  The 87 year old told police he had made the wooden toolbox in 1946 after he returned from WW2.  His Bokissa Drive garage was burgled between June 4 and 25th.  (A big window of time I know! Chris)
“It was hand planed and engraved with the initials JJ” detective Mark Garrett said.  “It was of great sentimental value to him and would be nice if he got it back”

I then contacted the detective who emailed me further info:  The box also contained woodworking tools.  The victim indicates the box was stained and had a metal handle and metal clips securing the box.  Dimensions of about 2ft by 18″ by 6″.  Some of the tools had wooden handles painted red and comprised of chisels, punches, hand planes, hand saws and a measuring square.

I have tried my best to give you more tool specific details like branding or vintage or even if the planes were metal or timber body but it is hard when the victim himself hasn’t been able to give those specifics.

So… Tool Aficionados and Hoarders of Melbourne (yes me too):  Garage sales, pawn shops, markets, antique shops, auction houses, where ever you are please keep an eye out.  Contact either myself on the usual numbers or speak to Detective Mark Garrett at Frankston CIU, his direct line is 9784 5588.

Any members of clubs and associations that recieve this email please circulate it in print and electronically, pin it on your noticeboards.  Lets see if we can help this digger out by finding his unique JJ tool chest.

From the latest Chris Vesper Newsletter

Looking for a Lifestyle Change?

The Lumber Bunker, in West Gosford on the Central Coast (east) of Australia is currently for sale as a going concern.

The Lumber Bunker

The Lumber Bunker

Its asking price is $A20,000 (plus fixtures etc at cost), on eBay of all places!  I can honestly say I’ve never seen a business sold on eBay before, but then I can also say I’ve never looked!

It is near surf beaches, so if you are looking for that lifestyle change, here’s one possibility.

Of course, as a woodworker I would have one concern – it would be like a drug dealer too addicted to their own product.  How could you bring yourself to sell stunning timber that you’d rather be going into one of your own projects (or you have a project on, and you find yourself shopping for timber in your own store – I’d never have anything left to sell!!)

The Phoenix is Arising!

I have it on expert authority (and I will protect my sources here) that some of the Triton range is now back in production, with the remainder of the manufactured range (as opposed to power tools (I don’t have a source of information on those)) being bought back on line in the near future.

As has been know for quite a while, Diver Consolidated Industries (DCI) in northern Melbourne were tooling up to take over production from the aging Triton plant in Cheltenham, and they are now in production mode.

See the ABC Inside Business Program of June 14th 2009

DCI from all reports is a very high quality manufacturer who have been producing parts for the automotive industry for 60 years, and who are now the new home for the manufacture of Triton. They are an Australian manufacturer, and what’s more are bringing back onshore some of the production that had been outsourced to China (and elsewhere?), and you know how I feel about local manufacturing!  I so hope that this means we will once again see Australian made Superjaws and Multistands – they should have NEVER left Aussie shores!

DCI have 3rd party quality accreditation, and are going over every aspect of the manufacturing of the products to address any concerns that previously existed with the range.

Please don’t send me your lists (yet), but they will be wanting feedback from existing owners about what quality concerns you have, and what spares you want to see (as a priority).  Certainly start composing an answer to that question, but I will let you know when (and where) that information is needed.  I don’t have any way of sourcing spares, so please don’t ask! (I know there is a lot of orange tools out there hurting at the moment waiting for spares to once again become available – at least be assured that their availability is much more certain now that it ever has been over the past, long, 12 months!

At this stage I can tell you that the Workcentre, Router Table, Powered Saw Table, Finger Jointer and Dust Buckets are all in production. When they will be available on the Australian market is yet to be determined, as is how they will be distributed.  But keep your ears open for news in the coming weeks.

I will certainly be interested in supporting the products again through Stu’s Shed, be that training videos, product reviews, and if I can add them to my “Store” I will do that too.

Best news out of all this (in addition to that it is happening at all), is that the manufacturing is back fully in Australian hands where the users can directly input into the manufacturing where there are issues, and improvements that can be made, and a company with a solid quality assurance program, who is willing to listen and make product improvements is handling the manufacturing.

The name is still Triton, the product is still orange, and it is still going to be proudly Australian Made!! YOU BLOODY RIPPER!!

The Tattooed Woodworker

One of our fellow woodworking bloggers in the USA has been receiving an absolute wave of hatemail comments recently, to the extent that he shut down his blog (and was considering walking away from woodworking altogether).

Through a combined effort of the woodworking community, he has been convinced to not give it all away, and to keep his blog going (hopefully he will repost his earlier content at some stage)


Some of the comments he was getting were quite amazing – have no doubt that if I had been on the receiving end of the stuff being chucked his way, I would have shut this site down and walked away too.

Anyway, this is just to bring his site to your attention, and is my way of showing that there are significantly more appreciative people out there than the few wankers who were happy to tear him down.

I have received very little negative criticism here, and only a little constructive criticism which hopefully I have assimilated to improve this site for you, so I have been very fortunate. Perhaps as I was starting, most of my visitors were Australian, and who knows, perhaps there is a cultural difference I am not aware of.  Visitors now are 40% Australian, 40% from the USA, and the other 20% is across the world.  All I can say is I do appreciate you all – and when you have taken the time to comment/email etc that has and is always welcome.

Comments are great – it is through these as much as anything that the direction of this site is slowly tailored to best suit what you, my gentle readers (to quote Stephen King again) want from me.

Perfume for the Bloke in your life




(Translates as “Workshop Smell” – if you can’t get into the shed, at least you can have the aroma of having done so.  Includes oil of sawdust, tung oil and 11 other secret herbs and spices)

Ok, for those that were wondering (or thought it might be real), this is just me playing with PhotoShop! 😉

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