The Main Event

Over the course of the day, we took the Torque Workcentre through a number of its basic evolutions, but we didn’t get close to even covering all of those, let alone any of the myriad of inventive ways the machine has already been utilised.

When I saw the Torque at the Melbourne Woodshow, I didn’t realise that it was such a new animal, but it turned out that it has only been on the market for about 9 months or so – a major development to the Router Master.  The Router Master was an overhead mount system, with the router on a rail that could rotate through 360 degrees.

The big improvement is now the vertical mounting point isn’t fixed, and instead can be slid along the length of the table.  This provides x,y,z router movements, and still has retained the rotation component/ability to move through an arc.  But I’m getting ahead of myself – what I am wanting to get across is if you haven’t had a chance to see the Torque Workcentre operate, it is worth checking out at your next woodshow (and the Brisbane Hands-on is only a couple of weeks off fwiw).

The thing that caught my imagination, is look beyond the actual demonstrations to what is actually happening with this machine. Full control over whatever tool is mounted, and that isn’t specifically restricted to the router (although I’d imagine most work these workcentres do will be router-based).  Freehand, template, copy work, pin routing (using a pin to follow a track), and so on.  When I first got into woodworking, discovering the benefits of a tablemounted router for a sense of control and safety really opened my eyes to the advantages of a router.  However there are a number of applications where it isn’t possible to use the router in that manner.  Handholding then is the only option, and there are a lot of applications where that isn’t enough.

At a BBQ of a Woodworking Forum a few years ago, I saw a home-made rig made from an aluminium ladder and some other components which then created a sled to carry the router over the workpiece, allowing it to be used to surface a board.  It was pretty cool and looked quite interesting, but it wasn’t something I was likely to get around to making.

For this first real look, we started surfacing a slab of Camphor(?), just to see how it performed this operation.  I’ll put up some videos shot of this tomorrow, so stay tuned 😉

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Installing a router

There are a number of different brackets for mounting a range of tools – router, circular saw, drill.  I’m sure there will be other ones that would also benefit from such a control platform.  In this case, the mount is for a router.  There may be, in time, a way of mounting a router using its own base, but having one dedicated to the workcentre is the preferred method.  Removing the original router base then allows the router to be quickly mounted and unmounted as required for bit changing.  There is a dust shroud upgrade as pictured which makes a lot of sense.

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Mounting a slab

The slab is secured to the table by whatever means you have, and in some cases, using some wedges to stabilise where there are twists and warps.  The surfacing operation can replace both a jointer and thicknesser, and unless you are very lucky, who has a jointer (or thicknesser) that is 900 or even 1200mm wide!

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Finetuning

Here is Aaron finetuning the setup – getting the router surfacing bit parallel to the travelling arm.

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Finding High Spots

The first sweeps across the workpiece is to find the high spots, and getting a feel for how the piece is distorted. (Larry is still plugging in the dust extraction here – rather than routing!)

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Surfacing Passes

Once you have determined the heights, the real job of planing can begin.  It may look like a long job, but it goes very quickly and smoothly.  If you get a slight ridge between pass, it means you haven’t properly leveled the bit, so you can either tweek the setup, or just hit it with a few quick passes with a ROS to smooth it all out.

The surface of the slab in this case looked like there were ridges, but not detectable to touch.  My guess is it is an optical illusion not unlike how a checker pattern is created in the grass of a cricket pitch.  Brushing the fibres in different directions, catching the light, but still at a uniform height.  Nothing a quick sand wouldn’t remove (and not apparent in all types of timber).

The machine itself is very solid – mostly steel construction, some welded, some cast, multiple bearing rollers.  The MDF top is sacrificial, and the 2.5m version has a working area of 2m.

If you are looking for more details on the availability of these machines, contact Larry – he’s a distributor for the Torque Workcentres (and the international distributor as well – yes, the Torque Workcentre isn’t restricted to a lucky few down under, and they already have had queries from the US).  You can get him through his Lazy Larry Woodworks website, or phone (+61) 7 54 993361. (Substitute +61 for 0 if within Australia obviously!)

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