Stu’s Darkroom

Took me a while to get around to setting up a photographic website again – longer than you’d expect actually, and in part it is the reason Stu’s Shed exists at all.

I even meant to start 1 Jan, but it took most of January for me to do so.

Back in 1999, made my first real moves to digital photography, setting up my first website and scanning images into the computer, primarily through Kodak’s now defunct Photo CD format.

After a while it became to cumbersome to continue – or in other words I got sick of writing HTML.  I made another half hearted attempt a couple of years back, but still my mistake was relying too heavily on processing the images with borders and titles and the like before uploading.

Stu’s Shed was originally a test bed for a new photographic site and became so successful that it became the focus (and will still remain so).  However, from lessons I’ve learned from this, I’ve created a new website, called Stu’s Darkroom where I am intending to publish a photo a day, either taken recently, or from my archive of well over 40,000 images.

If you choose to visit, cool, if not that’s cool as well – it is somewhere for me to actually have the images in the public arena, rather sitting in a virtual drawer. I’ve been adding comments for each image as well, sometimes on the technical info for the shot, sometimes on the thoughts behind it.  There are a month of images there already, dating back to 1 Jan 2010 (the images themselves date back as far as 1989 or so at this stage).

Topics are all over the place, but I have quite a lot of naval photos, natural history and landscapes, so they will probably make up the majority of photos.  Who knows – will see where the website goes 🙂

USS Lake Champlain

Incra Rules

During my recent update of the Tools page, I was surprised to note that I hadn’t actually made direct mention of some of my favourite markup tools in the workshop – the Incra Rules.

The underlying principle of these rules is they have extremely accurately drilled holes at every measurement point, which are just the right size for a 0.5mm clutch pencil.

Incra Rules

The rules pictured here are a T Rule, Bend Rule, Protractor and Marking Rule.

Incra Protractor

The Incra Protractor can be used both with the track to accurately place it on the edge of the workpiece, or removed from it so the protractor can lie flat.  Marks can be drawn at every degree – incredible accuracy.  Even the crosshairs for centering the protractor when used without the rail are 0.5mm apart is it is easy to position the protractor on bisecting lines.  The rail has a lip on the lower edge so when reassembling the protractor, it regains its precision.

Incra T Rule

The T Rule is in my mind one of the best tools you can have for marking up work.  Not only can it be taken apart (as with the protractor), the rail makes making up so simple, and accurate.  By inserting the clutch pencil in the required hole, the entire assembly can be slid along the edge of the workpiece producing the accurate line, very quickly.  In the image above, I have created lines 10mm apart, then 5mm, then 1mm, and finally 0.5mm. I find myself using this technique over and over (and over).


In this closeup, you can see the hole layouts that are provided.  Different rules have different available measurements.  For example, the bottom edge measurements have 1mm and 0.5mm placements.  Above that there are inch layouts, with the ability to place lines at decimal 0.025″ increments.  Above that, 1/64″ placements.

Accuracy. It is a beautiful thing!

These rules all sourced from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  Made from stainless steel, they are definitely worth their weight in gold.

Different Torque Tool Configurations

I’ve been running through the different tools that can be mounted to the Torque Workcentre, getting a feel for the pros and cons for each, and just some of the ways the TWC brings a different element to each of them.  The more I play with the tool, the more I get to iron out any setup issues and get to know how to tweak and finetune it.  As I’ve said in the past, the platform has a solid engineering base, and basis, so fine tuning is all about realising its potential, rather than covering up defects.

Router Mount (guard removed)

First out of the blocks is what has been seen a number of times already – overhead mounting of a router.  In this case a Triton 2400W, with a 6 flute surfacing bit.

Degrees of Freedom

Each tool mounted can be rotated around both the X and Y axis.  In this case, the X axis allows +/- 45 degrees.  Around the Y axis, it can be theoretically rotated through 360 degrees, although practically you’d go a maximum of 90 degrees, which is very cool being able to have a horizontally mounted router. (Obviously these changes in tool orientation are NOT done while the tool is running!)  Whatever the orientation, you still have the plunge mechanism operational, so again for example, if the router is horizontal it can become a horizontal mortising machine.

Copy Attachment

Each tool can be used with the copy attachment, and not necessarily for copying! In some cases it provides additional control over the tool, and a degree of separation which can be a safety point, as well as providing better visibility of what is happening at the cutting point. As Larry has pointed out, the copy attachment is also an excellent storage for the hex keys.  And it is very easy to remove and replace when necessary.

Router Guard / Dust Extraction

The tool guard / dust collection(which is optional), I would regard as a must have.  The brushes around the edge help trap particles, and the hose itself is orientated to collect particles which get thrown in that direction by the direction of spin of the bit.

You can again see in this photo how successful the Walko surface clamps work.

Drill Mounted

The simplicity of the drill mount is misleading compared to the capability.  No drill press has the range or versatility that the TWC has with the drill mounted.  It won’t result in me parting with my dedicated drill press (it is too handy having one ready to go at a moment’s notice, and it has obvious power benefits), but it has severe limitations in range and capacity compared to the TWC!

Circular Saw Mount

Mounting a circular saw is also possible with the saw mount.  Here I have mounted one of the largest circular saws out there – the 2400W 9.25″ Triton.

Saw Mount 2400W Triton (crosscut)

The saw can be mounted for crosscut, or ripping, and presented at any angle.  And still, the saw is used in its most stable position and the plunge on the carriage is used to bring the tool to cutting depth.

Saw Mount Alternate Orientation 1800W Saw (rip)

And still we haven’t exhaused how the saw can be used.  If the arm was rotated around the Z axis, you could then do coving for the full length of the workcentre.  And that is just one thought of many.

Blade Storage

I was initially thinking of titling this entry “Blade Care”, but I’m aware that this is not the best way to protect the blades, so will keep that title for the refined solution!

Blades should be stored vertically, and since the inaugural “Battle of the Blades“, I’ve had them sitting in their boxes on a shelf, which is not only less than ideal as far as blade care is concerned, it also makes accessing the blade that you want somewhat frustrating.  I was looking around the workshop, looking for some wall space for tool storage, and happened upon the cupboard doors.  They can only take a moderate load, so were not suited for the tools I wanted to relocate, but it dawned on me that the doors were not a bad solution for hanging blades.  So that’s what I did.

Blade Storage

On the left are 4 CMT blades from Carbatec – from top to bottom there is a thin-kerf combo, a rip, combo and crosscut. Below that is the extremely mean looking Linbide Rip, and at the bottom is an old Triton sanding disk (that mounts on the saw) that I used to fill the final gap.

On the right are 4 Freud blades from Woodworking Warehouse – from top to botton there is the Freud Industrial (still my favourite blade), followed by a rip, combo and crosscut Freud Pro.  Below that is the Linbide Combo (the blade most likely found on my tablesaw), and the Linbide 100 tooth crosscut.


I need a bigger shed. Again.

Tools Page

Have just completed a significant update to the Tools page – I was a few months behind in adding links to articles that specifically highlight aspects of a tool.  Some are dedicated reviews, others I include because they reveal the character of a tool through use or a modification etc.

There are now 228 items covered over 344 articles (inc video), so a comprehensive library of information is slowly building.

I’ve had an idea…..

After playing around with the ability to angle tools to the workpiece on the Torque yesterday, I’ve had another thought.

I was chatting to Larry (Lazy Larry (QLD)) about surfacing and it is very much trial and error to get the cutting plane of the surface mill bit parallel to the X & Y directions of travel.  As much as that is often how we have to do woodworking, I’m all for precision where it is practicable.  And when it comes to precision, I don’t think there is a system anywhere that can compete with the precision of Incra.

I’ve been toying around with some different ways the Incra rails can be combined, but what came to mind today was to do with the angling of tools, and in particular because I’ve put a less-than-ideal self-lubricating pad into place I was thinking of ways to positively lock the tool at the chosen angle.  What came to mind was the Incra Miter Gauges.

My idea then, is whether something like the Miter V27 could be used in a vertical orientation (or at least that concept)

Incra Miter V27

It would conceivably mount behind where the tool angle is determined currently (to the right of the drill in the following image)

Setting Tool Angles

Probably an idea that won’t go any further, but I’m always interested in how products from complementary companies can be symbiotically combined, and this is one example where the significantly versatile Torque workcentre could combine with the ingeniously simple concept behind Incra’s precision positioning.

A better tool storage

TJ had a great question this morning, which I thought I’d answer here:

I have a quick question for you;
You know when you buy tools, some come in a crappy plastic case or even worse the thin vacuum formed temp packaging,
I am wondering if you could replicate the mold of the packaging in wood, or a more durable plastic using the torque copy tool?

I’m tired of the cheap plastic cases cracking and breaking and having decent tools end up getting damaged in the draw or tool bag because they don’t have a proper case.

Cool idea TJ, and yes, the copy attachment would be a really interesting solution.  Not sure if the weight of the new case wouldn’t end up being too heavy to be portable, but if you were machining into a lightweight foam / low density material or sim to be inside a strong outer case it would be excellent.  I’m thinking along the lines of an insert to go inside a Festool Systainer for example (empty systainers can be purchased, and they are very stackable etc).

In any respect, the copy attachment would allow you to create a reasonable copy of the inside of a moulded plastic container into another material.

It also bought to mind the case that Woodpeckers provides with their dial gauge:

Woodpeckers Dial Gauge

Again, creating this sort of template could be very interesting if the Torque Workcentre could facilitate it.  I’m thinking the pin routing feature of the TWC might be the solution here – need to think about it a bit more.


I was trying out some of the other abilities of the Torque today – angling the router and the drill, but for some reason I found the ability to rotate the tool became problematic, to the extent that I took the carriage apart to see where the problem was.  I was getting some scoring between the two surfaces, and no matter how much I polished the surfaces up I couldn’t seem to resolve the problem.  Even the guys at Torque hadn’t experienced this problem, and it had gotten to the point that I couldn’t effect any rotation at all.


Scoring between surfaces

In the end, after exhausting what I could do about it, I opted to try a different approach.  A quick trip up to Carbatec for some graphite impregnated cloth, and I tried this solution out:

Graphite 'washer'

Time will tell if this is a viable solution for me or not – placing a friction-reducing material in the gap doesn’t seem like a good idea, but so far it is working better than I expected.  At least it may work for me long enough to be able to determine the original cause.

While working on this, I needed to remove the tool carrier and vertical plate, to get to the bolts behind.  That required the springs to be undone – something that needs to be done on occasion anyway (it has been suggested to undoing one spring when doing 3D router copying is a good move), and although loosening a spring could be managed with some difficulty, doing it up again was very difficult.

So what I decided to do was to drill a couple of holes, allowing direct access to the top spring retaining screws.

Spring Access Holes

So that proved a worthwhile modification, and now it is even easier to remove and replace a spring when it is important/desirable to do so.

It’s an Ideal Festool 2010

Firstly, the next addition to my collection will be available soon – the ETS 150/5 eccentric sander in systainer.  It comes with a bonus 50 disks, and I’ve ordered the other bonus which is another 100 disks at 1/2 price.  To keep them all neat, I’ve also decided on the systainer with insert for sanding disks.  After using the Domino for a while, and having the consumables in their own systainer keeping everything neat and sorted, I think it is worth applying that same logic to other tools that I get.  Who knows what other green machines I’ll find myself tempted by before this year is out!

It also means that I qualify to get a cooltainer for $20 (which is a systainer lined with insulation so it becomes an esky) – that deal ends in a few days fwiw.

While on the topic of Ideal Tools, I just found this image on their site of a previous Domino course (and it looks to be the one I was on – that’s me at the far left)

Festool Domino Course at Ideal Tools

I also noticed they have a number of other courses on offer this year – one I was eagerly anticipating (the Krenov Inspired Cabinet course), the courses I did do (the Domino 1/2 day, and the Hall Table (I’m just waiting for the 150/5 so I can finish mine – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking by it!)), as well as their chair course.

Along with the Krenov course, there are some new ones to be on offer – Nakashima inspired Conoid chair making, Box making, and one on making a Cheeseboard (after seeing what Lazy Larry in Brisbane turns out, cheeseboards can be an incredible showcase of timbers), and Japanese Stylised Meditation Bench.  This is one that I saw the prototype being made (and finished) while I was on the Hall Table course.  A very simple design that really showcases the timber, and has a particular feature in the two legs attach to the bench with a sliding dovetail that is so tight that not only does the bench require no glue, but once the legs are in place, they will never come apart!

Meditation Bench

To get each leg into place, we used the 4 tonne power of the Frontline clamps to squeeze the leg along the sliding dovetail.

Check out Ideal Tools’ courses here.

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