And that’s a wrap

What a year, and what a decade.  As both draw rapidly to an end, my feeling is one of…..shellshock. It has been a tumultuous decade that we have lived through.  Looking back, and on a personal level one can recall event after event of positive, milestone achievements.  From a global perspective, what one remembers is a torrid flood of negative ones.

If you would permit me, I feel a need to touch on a few of them, hopefully vaguely relevant to the existence of this website, doctor.

At the start of the decade, I had been living in Australia for just over a year, and by Easter 2000 I had met a girl, who then became my girlfriend, my fiance by November, and we were married just after Christmas the following year.  We just had our 8th wedding anniversary (and have an almost 3 year old daughter, but I’m getting ahead of myself).

Easter 2000 was also about the last time I used a film camera (SLR), after Kodak totally destroyed all the (Velvia) films I had shot while making a photographic trip down the Great Ocean Road.  The photographic passion took a massive hit, which it has never recovered from, and only around 2005 when I got my digital SLR did I experience a brief resurgence, but even that didn’t last, and now photography has become very much a documentary process for me, rather than an artform.

2001 is pretty infamous on the international stage, something you never get over seeing (and I happened to be watching it live until around 3am), and marks the start of an age of Terrorism (they were around for a lot longer than that, but never had such a global impact to my mind).  There is no need to rehash all the subsequent events here, but they really have shaped the entire decade, and set humanity on its current, and less than desirable path, giving the vocal minority (particularly governments) too much power to choose the destinies of the citizens (the increasing of powers of “The Police State”).  The current rather zealous approach to “Global Warming”, I don’t think would have occurred in the way it is if not for 2001.  The War the world has been involved in started in 2001, and despite name changes has persisted ever since, with no definite signs of an end.  There have been an incredible number of events since – bombs, floods, tsunami, crashes, crisis (financial and otherwise), and although I could summarise a massive list, Wikipedia gives a better list: just use and substitute the x for the year of interest.

Christmas 2001, when my (now) wife and I were married placed a major building block that resulted in this website, when (we) were given a lathe as a wedding present.  That required I build a bench to mount it on, and I needed a saw to make that bench.  I chose a Triton, and the rest is history!

Throughout the decade, many seemingly unrelated event occurred, which lead to a point on 20 June 2007 when Stu’s Shed was launched. It has been growing ever since, and currently enjoys between 1100 and 1300 visitors daily.  This year, the 1/2 millionth visitor mark was passed, and already another 120,000 visitors have come through the virtual door.

I have no idea what the next year, let alone decade holds.  I can only hope for a steadily increasing presence of Stu’s Shed on the local (and world) stage, and perhaps, just perhaps, it might actually make a little bit of money (I doubt enough to live on, but we can all dream!) Watching my daughter go through the real journey that going from 2 to 12 entails will be a fascinating experience that my wife and I will get great pleasure from.

I sincerely hope that the world finds a greater sense of stability – the chaos of the last decade is not healthy in the long, or short term. But there are no signs of an improvement anytime soon, politically, financially, environmentally.

But looking towards the light for a moment – I hope the last decade has been good for you personally, and the next is incredibly rewarding.  Looking from here to 2020, I wonder just what creations will come out of the shed, how it will change and grow.

I’m not a great one for sticking to resolutions set, so don’t think there is much point trying to set any – I’d like to get a book published, build a workbench (finally), and I’m sure I could create a mega-long, mega-scary and mega-impossible-to-achieve-everything list if I put my mind to it.  Sorry about the ramble!

Happy New Year everyone!

Slippery When Wet

Warping when moist, cracking when dry. Timber is a tempermental beast at the best of times.

A ways back I did think it was a good idea to have a better visibility of what was happening with some of the different pieces I had harvested, or collected. If too green or moist, there would be significant amounts of movement as it dried, and potential cracking. I tried a couple of moisture detectors out but I was either unhappy with their performance, or price. So it was very cool when I got my hands on a new one that is (or about to become) available through Carbatec.

It is still a pinned detector (with 2 probes that get pushed into the timber), so that puts it at the lower end for cost, but with a very nice LCD display, and two calibration checking circuits built into the cap it means you can feel a lot more confident in the readings that you get.

I’ve already found cause to use it a couple of times already- taking new stock of unknown condition and finding out if it is stable enough to use, so like a number of other small tools around the shop it is going to prove to be invaluable.

Bananas on the Slope

Damn, but this Festool slope sure is slippery!

I was using my Triton ROS for some Xmas presents the other day (like just before Xmas obviously), and I was reminded just how much it vibrated – you come away with your hand tingling from the sensation.  If those fat-buster belts of the 60’s actually worked, my hand would be anorexic by now after the latest session.  That was enough for me – if it came to the point that I’d almost prefer not to sand because of the tool, then it is time for that tool to find a more sympathetic home.

It has been a bit of a debate, which sander to replace it with, and I sought advice on here back in November which gave me plenty to think about (thanks to all contributors).  There was obviously the Rotex, but it is significantly more money, and I couldn’t bring myself to go that route (and in part because I have the Festool Termite, so the orbital capabilities of the Rotex are duplicated in the Termite (which is also a Rotex fwiw)).

So it came down to the ETS sanders.  There is the 125 and 150mm diameter first, and in this case I decided a slightly larger diameter than what I have been using would not hurt.  With the 150s, there are 2 models – 150/3 and 150/5.  The /x number represents the amount of eccentricity the tool can achieve (either 3mm or 5mm), and again, decisions, decisions.

For the fact that I am looking for a bit more capability from one machine, I went with the 150/5, in a Systainer.  It comes with 50 free assorted abrasives, and I got another 100 for 1/2 price (a current Ideal Tools special), as well as a Cooltainer for $20 – after all, you can’t have too many beverages on ice eh!

Given the rapidly increasing stack of Systainers, I’ve also added the roller unit for the bottom so they can be moved around easily, and another Systainer to finally keep my abrasives all neat and sorted.

Finally, another bag of 4mm Dominos, as what I started with took a heavy hit with the recent Toy Kitchen construction.

Hmm – online shopping can be addictive – just keep ticking boxes 😉

Torquing it up

Took the old man out (visiting from NZ) out to the shed last night to have a bit of a closer look at the Torque Workcentre.  Had a bit of an overview of the machine, which was interesting from my perspective because it would not be that much different an approach to talking about one of these machines at a wood show.

We went through setting up for a planing/thicknessing function, and went as far as doing some initial surfacing of some timber I had which was significantly twisted and bowed.  It really is a brilliant tool for this – capable of surfacing (in my case) up to 1300mm x 2200mm.

We talked about a number of the other functions (radial arm saw and drill), as well as some ideas I have for it, such as mounting a belt sander and being able to replicate a massive drum sander.

I’m also just about to use the radial arm drill press function to punch a matrix of 20mm holes through for the soon-to-arrive WALKO surface clamps from Ideal Tools.  Can’t wait for them to arrive – as I have mentioned before I used a set a ways back as part of the WALKO Workbench, and found them to be a brilliant tool, and see them as being an ideal complement to the TWC.  More on this when they arrive!

With the recent rush to Christmas, I didn’t get to really document/video some of the uses of the new tools – using the Domino, routing circles on the TWC, cutting the grill for the toy stoves etc, so now as things settle down for the start of the new year, I will look at getting those done (just not on 35C+ days!)

Hands-On Confirmed Delay

As I revealed soon after the Brisbane Hands-On Wood Show, the Melbourne, Sydney (and 2010 Brisbane) dates are being moved.  At this stage the Hands-On website provides dates “TBC” (To Be Confirmed).

Not sure how this is going to play out unfortunately (and from a purely personal perspective, I am hoping that at least the Melbourne show does happen, as I was going to be setting up a Stu’s Shed stand at that show, demonstrating a whole variety of tools and techniques.  That was definitely including a Torque Workcentre – I had a small one arranged to show just how versatile even a 1.5m version with a 600mm arm could manage (a LOT!), and quite likely some other tools such as the Festool Domino, some of the Incra and Woodpeckers gear and anything else that I have found interesting and a real asset in my workshop that I wanted to share).

It may still happen, just no idea when at this stage.

Upgrades and Mods to the Torque

On Christmas Eve, the courier finally managed to locate and deliver the package from Torque Workcentre (TWC).  Inside was a shorter main beam and a few other bits n pieces.

I still have the 1300mm arm, which will prove invaluable when working with very large tops, and breaking down large sheet goods, but in a shed the size of mine, it is more suitable having a shorter arm.  To my mind, the optimum length seems to be the 900mm arm that I have now fitted, but it really does come down to your intended purpose, and the amount of space you have available.

TWC with 900mm Arm

This was the main purpose of the package – downsizing the main arm.  And rather timely as well – with my last quick project (a couple of dovetailed boxes for Xmas presents), I found I really did need easy access to my planer, and found I had to move it to a more accessible location.  With space ever-increasingly at a premium, it happened that the planer is now alongside the thicknesser, and it was overhung by the larger arm.   Dropping it back to 900mm now again provides decent access through, past both machines.

Changing over from one arm to the other obviously meant the carrier had to be removed, and that was an ideal time to add a minor upgrade that I actually suggested.  Once again, having local manufacture is worth its weight in gold – they can be responsive, and are contactable!

The suggestion I made (well, one of a list) was to do with the Y axis lock (which is the knob on the back of the Y axis carriage).  By original design, when wound in to lock on the arm, the twisting motion caused the carriage to walk along the Y axis.  What TWC came up with (and now a standard fitting for future machines) is to have a metal plate affixed to the casting, the knob can wind in against the plate, causing it to tighten on the Y axis.

Replacement Knob

Another suggestion made was to replace the 4 point knob on the plunge arm with a similar one to the Y Axis lock – I found the 4 point knob uncomfortable when a decent amount of pressure was required.  This wasn’t too difficult – the knob is restrained with Locktite which took a bit more effort to crack, but couldn’t resist the combination of a large Stillson and 24″ adjustable spanner!

I still want to do something about the plunge stop, which I’m finding slips a bit too easily, especially with multiple plunges.  It may be simply a matter of adopting more of the mechanism from the Triton router – larger post and increased area of the lock knob.  I also want to incorporate the multi-post stop that Triton uses – allowing multiple plunge heights to all be pre-set.

Possible location point for a Wixey Height Gauge

Another proposal that I’ve made is the incorporation of Wixey Digital technology into the TWC.  A combination readout for all three axis would be ideal (and further reinforce the concept of this machine closing the gap to a full CNC machine).  It wouldn’t actually take too much to turn a TWC into a CNC machine either……..

In any case, as a proof-of-concept I have been looking to fit the Wixey Planer Height Gauge to the TWC, and this looks a likely location for one.

Under-Table Router

Despite the awesome capabilities of the TWC, I still find having another router mounted in the traditional below-table position invaluable.  With the Woodpeckers Router Lift, I am no longer dependent on the plastic worm gear of the Triton itself.  I still use it during bit changing – preferring to use the Triton’s ability for rapid height change to bring it up to full height, which has a combined benefit – it means the shaft gets locked for one-handed, through table bit changing, and still uses the in-built safety mechanism of the interlock to prevent the bit being able to be changed without the router being turned off, and not allowing power to be restored until the shaft is free to rotate.  For accurate height setting though, the Woodpeckers Router Lift is second to none.  I still have to finish the install – just need to mount the remote digital readout.

Under the Router Lift

Under the table, the Router Lift in as-used condition – it may look a bit dusty, but that’s par for the course for wood working power tools!

I was going to use a spare Triton switch to start and stop the router, but the Pro Router Switch is superior.  Where you can see I have mounted it makes knocking off power with your thigh easy, so even if both hands are occupied, you can still easily stop the router.

Pro Router Switch

The deluxe version has lights under the switches – when power is available, the on button glows.  When running, this light is out, and the stop button glows instead.  It acts as an extra visual indicator to let you know whether power is being supplied to the router, or not.  It is also a no-current release switch – if power is lost (tripped circuit breaker, black-out etc) then the switch automatically turns off so the tool doesn’t immediately restart when power is restored.  The Triton switch is a lot more basic – when power is restored, the tool takes off again, with obvious safety implications.

From the two small holes you can see above the switch, I originally thought that would be a good mounting point, but then suddenly remembered that the Extension Table for the TWC slides through that RHS, and the ends of the switch mounting bolts would have impacted on that when I add one to my TWC.  Mounting the switch a little lower turned out to be better – making it easier to kick it off when both hands were busy with the workpiece.

The switch, Woodpeckers Router Lift and Wixey Digital technology are all sourced from Professional Woodworkers Supplies. The Torque Workcentre dealer I’d recommend is Lazy Larry – he has and uses one, so can also answer any question you may have from an operator’s perspective.

If it’s Pretty in Pink…

A winner in (Telecom) Gold, what is it in Ryobi Blue?

Thanks to Sparhawk for the pics- can’t believe how wrong the SuperJaws looks in blue, and particularly how irksome seeing the traditional Superjaws logo on a non Triton branded box.

Bet Ryobi, and Bunnings are laughing long and hard at Triton & GMC, finally scoring the best tool Triton ever produced (although I’m not a big fan of the Chinese manufactured version).

It is interesting reading some American user reviews and opinions of the JawHorse- some really don’t “get it”. At least one went on and on how unstable a 3 legged one would be- how much more stable a 4 leg one would be (I still think they are under the misconception that a Superjaws or Jawhorse is some form of sawhorse).

Bunnings Redefines “Hardware”

Bunnings appears to be diluting its placement as a hardware store, with the potential inclusion of whitegoods, such a fridges into its product range.

The question is, with the store currently fully stocked with goods, and the physical dimensions of the store being fixed, what is going to be lost to accommodate less and less applicable product lines?  My guess would be there will be a continual decline in the variety of products, resulting in less choice and more “this is the brand/model everyone is expected to buy”.  This inevitably leads to “Ryobi is the only brand of power tools you can choose” etc.

Perhaps I am being overly harsh, but after fridges and other whitegoods move in, what’s next?  Do we (as shed dwellers) need a list of suppliers where we can still buy real hardware, consumables and tools, so we still have the variety of choice of brands that we deserve?  It may result in having to use a little more petrol going from location to location, but I’m sure we can fill up at a Bunnings Petrol Station when they again diversify into another non-hardware related marketplace.

50% Tax Breaks

At the 11th hour, I’ve suddenly become rather curious about the 50% tax break being offered to small businesses.

It came to my attention through the latest catalogue/specials email from Ideal Tools. I am now rather interested in knowing whether I could get a Rotex for an interesting price. With the 31 Dec 09 being the cut-off date puts the pressure on! Need to talk to my tax accountant to know if I’m eligible.

If Festool isn’t of interest, what about the potential of obtaining a Torque Workcentre for 1/2 price?!!

Inventions that shaped modern woodworking

I received a book for christmas that I thought was going to be a very interesting read, but didn’t expect that it would be specifically relevant to woodworking.  The book is “1001 Inventions that Changed the World”.  I was flicking through and reading random entries and found one that looked rather familiar around 1808 – the invention of the bandsaw.

William Newberry's Bandsaw

It took almost 40 years before the invention was actually utilised – it was obviously a great idea, but a lot of development in materials engineering and specifically welding engineering before a blade of suitable strength could be constructed to withstand the forces involved.

The book is full of inventions- some that have directly lead to tools in my workshop, and others that have created new engineering directions that have lead to current tools.

The saw, for example dates back to 2000 BCE, whereas the circular saw didn’t come into being until 1777 CE.

There is also another set of inventions that are specifically relevant – those that have resulted in the existence of the whole blog & podcast environments.

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