Denver 1

Well I made it – a total of 26 hours straight travel, from the moment I left my house, to arriving at the Hotel Monaco where I am staying.  All up, a very pleasant trip, except for one notable exception.

Met a really nice young (born in 1988!) couple on the plane (Scott and Lauren (I think – sorry guys, my brain was a bit fried by the end of the flight for optimum recall!)) who were off on their overseas adventure (New York, Las Vegas, LA).  (I feel sorry for them though- after what was to come, I can guarantee they will not have made their connecting flight).  That was the first haul, on a Qantas A380-800.  Tight space, but no worse than any other cattle-class.  Very nice plane, and exceptional service.  Each seat has its own screen which links into a computer entertainment system, so there were games, news, info about destinations, lots of TV shows, and a stack of movies.

Got through The Hurt Locker, Zombieland and District 9, then a bit of Carl Barron and The Young Ones.

The coastline of California is unbelievable from the air – rugged, mountains next to the sea, then the flat expanse of LA.  I’ve been here there a few times, but it’s always interesting to see things afresh.  Caught a sight of the Hollywood sign, still advertising Hollywood Heights as a real-estate ploy to generate sales (and then adopted to be a more permanent fixture).

LAX – what can I say?  Immigration was ok, considering the size of the airline (550 passengers), and I happened to get bumped to a short queue -right place, right time.  Customs was non-existent compared to Australia – I was absolutely amazed.  I know they have to process 1000s of people, but such a minimal border security?

Domestic travel is another matter entirely.  United out of LAX is worse (a lot worse) than all those shows about budget airlines.  100s of people queuing up to use 30+ self-service terminals (no manned check-in) and 3 or so completely disinterested people walking up and down the line processing someone every now and again (at least the young girl in my section was like that – I don’t know how to adequately express the level of customer disservice – seriously unbelievable).

I ended up (after trying myself, getting confirmed, but not having the machine print a boarding pass or baggage check-in barcode) getting myself to a ‘special needs’ line.  This one took about 1hr to process 1 person.  By the time I actually managed to check in, and get a boarding pass, my ‘allowance’ of 3 hours had 10 minutes remaining before I would have not been able to check in at all.  I really started to think I would be stuck in LAX, waiting to Wednesday for my flight back to Oz – it is that bad.  People were missing flights left, right and centre, all because of a complete and total failure of customer service.  I honestly feel pity for anyone who has to use this service in future.  Personally, if I never return to LAX, (specifically to transfer to another airline), I will not be disappointed.  I do have to return through there, but that will be (hopefully) different, going in the other direction.

Security was next, and another unbelievably long queue moving impossibly slowly.  Security themselves are very good, and the front person deserves a lot of kudos.  They are completely under-resourced for the number of people they are expected to process.

So finally, having negotiated what would easily be my worst airport experience ever (thanks United), I got to Denver, and surprisingly, my bag arrived as well.

Denver airport is also huge, and at first impression, very efficiently arranged, with a train taking people around, including to baggage handling.

Local Hero

Where you board the train, there is an astronaut (statue) to greet you – we are definitely in the USA!

Ski Carousel

You know you are near the Rockies, and a major ski centre when the airport has a dedicated ski carousel!

Got to the hotel (Hotel Monaco), very nice room/experience so far, and after that amount of travel, the shower was mandatory!

Headed out for a wander around at dusk, just as some flakes of snow fell – tick that box (although I want MORE!)  Beautiful city so far.  Very clean and well presented – the buildings are really nicely illuminated at night, and use quite a bit of red, which is quite different from what I’ve seen elsewhere.

Non-blurry shot

Didn’t get any non-blurry shots (yet).  And manholes pouring steam out into the street that the cars drive though – such an amazing scene – you see it on the movies, but it is another thing entirely standing next to a manhole with steam bellowing out (-2C around here).

So that is the first part of the journey – tomorrow I meet up with some from Cool Tools and we head over to where the filming will happen on Tuesday so I can assemble the Torque Workcentre.

Oh, and I managed to tick another box, after 10 long years, I got to have another meal at Taco Bell, and it was good 🙂

Taco Bell

Stage 2

Some more (low quality) iPhone photos.  The first is cool – the A380 has a webcam in its tail, and can be viewed at your seat.  Very interesting for landings/takeoffs.

Lots of snow – amazing landscape.

Stage 1

Did the airport thing- didn’t miss the flight which I guess is a positive. Got through all the various security checks and got to see the A380-800 for the first time. Got to shake one’s head at the size of thing that can get off the ground. Full double-decker aircraft. 21 hours or so of travel to go (although it will be a lot less by the time I post this- can’t be bothered justifying the cost of wireless connectivity at Melb airport. Might be different if I was a business traveller, but even so.

About to get sniffed by a drug dog.

Couldn’t find any books to read, and sadly Australian Wood Review hasn’t made it onto airport shelves- guess woodworkers don’t fly much. So will have to resort to electronic entertainment. Hmm – phone has asked if I want to connect via Bluetooth to an A380- wonder what that means?

Wonder what this button does?……..

12 Hours

About now, in 12 hours time I will be sitting in my seat on a Qantas A380-800 taking off for LA.  The adventure begins! 14 hours in the air to LA, about 3 1/2 hours on the ground, then 2 1/2 hours to Denver.  Hope there is some snow on the ground, and more-so, hope to see some falling.  Closest I have come in my memory is sleet in London. (I have actually been to Denver, lived there a couple of years, from the age of 0 to 2! (No, I wasn’t born there, but it was a close thing!) I can actually still remember my Father cycling to work, through snow that looks to be 8″ deep or more (I was standing at the front gate) Apparently some days he’d cycle to work in -15 degrees C (loon! 😉 ))

I know it isn’t a big deal, bit it still seems kind of cool to be arriving in Denver with all that travel time, only 2 hours after I left Melbourne (does that mean I became slightly younger?  Or just that I aged slower!)

Monday afternoon I am heading off with one of the Cool Tools gang to assemble the Torque Workcentre, getting it all up and running nicely ready for the following day.  Apparently a Home Depot is right across the road (damn 😉 )

Tuesday is an early start (home my bodyclock is a bit adjusted by then!) with a full morning of filming the Torque, with Chris Grundy (he normally isn’t on-location, but apparently this is an exception).  I get to relax in the afternoon, as the Cool Tools gang film the rest of the episode content, which will be good to see too.

The Torque Workcentre itself will get picked up after the shoot and is heading down to Texas.  (Hmm – missed opportunity – should have seen if the Texan could source me a genuine cowboy hat!)

The next day is all about Rockler.  Meeting up with one of the regulars here (Ken, who makes mind-puzzles – you can follow his work through his website “No Piece Left Behind“.  Have to ask him what he means by the name, presumably based on the fact that his puzzles are typically made up of numerous pieces of timber, native and exotic.  I also like to substitute something more specific for the word “piece” – ‘No brain cell left behind’), and he has kindly offered to drive us to the Rockler store in Denver, about 12 mins from where I am staying.  Hope he brings a crowbar, otherwise I will miss my flight later in the day! I’ve tried to ensure I have some extra capacity in my baggage weight allowance, but I fear it will not be enough!

Get to the airport mid-afternoon, and again begin the 21 or so hour journey back to the land down under, “Where women glow and the men plunder.  Do you hear, do you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover” (Men at Work lyrics)

While in Denver, I still am expecting to be able to keep this site up to date with what is going on, so watch out for that.  There will be larger than normal gaps in transmission – don’t think you can be a mile-high blogger! (Although while in Denver I guess I will be, seeing as Denver is at an altitude of a mile up!)

Talk about Timing

While I’m on Denver, visiting Rockler (on Wednesday), their sale-to-end-all-sales will have just commenced.  Damn – hate it when that happens!

What’s my baggage limit again?

Oh for goodness sake – they have blast gates for dust extraction designed to fix to the wall.  Why don’t we have things like that?  That is a perfect solution!

StableGate™ Blast Gate StableGate™ Blast Gate
Unsecured blast gates can be sloppy and tedious to operate. Opening the
gate often pulls the hose away from the wall. With its built-in mounting
element, the StableGate™ takes care of everything
StableGate™ Blast Gate


A New Bible

Bi·ble n. A book considered authoritative in its field

There are many, many (many, many, many!) books out there about aspects of woodworking.  Only a very few are worthy of being elevated to the point that they can be regarded as a bible in their selected field.

Ron Hock is one of “The” authorities on sharpening, blade making, and steel processes that makes his new book “The Perfect Edge” one that should not only be read cover to cover (multiple times), but owned and consulted regularly by any woodworker who is serious about his craft, and/or works with edged tools and/or likes their tools working at an optimum level.

The book is beautifully presented, and absolutely jam-packed with well presented information.

If I seem a bit enthusiastic about this book, you are right – I only flicked through a few pages of a friend’s copy before I was on Amazon, and have ordered my own.  (It is on special at the moment for $US19, yet this is a full sized, hardback, 224 page, colour book – great price!)

Ron Hock in brief summary, started off making carving knives.  His blades were so popular, he became highly sort after for his blades and steel, and so moved into making plane blades and associated chip breakers etc.  In recent times, he has returned to where he started, producing a set of carving knives (that have previously featured on this site).

But it is his in-depth knowledge of steel, and particularly where it is relevant to forming, and holding a razor-sharp edge which has been so well interpreted and translated into this tome.

The topics covered are very comprehensive, from the internal structure of steel, through heat treating, the science behind a sharp edge, through to how to achieve that for yourself.  Ron understands the metallurgy of steel, and it is presented in a style that will give you an insight into the topic, and why I have long been fascinated by it.

The book has over 400 photos, charts and illustrations, ensuring the points and concepts are well made, and understood.

This is the bible on sharpening (along with Lie-Nielsen’s Taunton’s Complete Illustrated Guide to Sharpening).  If you but remember a fraction of this book, and put it into practice, your tools will be deadly sharp, and a pleasure to use.

Candy Store (Rockler) Shopping list

Starting to put together a bit of a shopping list for when I get to get into the candy store, and (hopefully if they have stock!) pick up some things that I can’t get here.

Bench Cookie Storage Rack

I have some Bench Cookies, and now I see there is a storage rack – yup, that’ll look good on the shop wall 🙂

As a souvenir of the trip to the US, I’m thinking of the Betsy Ross Pen

Betsy Ross Pen Kit

And for the dust system, a Dust Right handle

Dust Right Handle

Then there are all sorts of other things to consider – so many products, so little time!

The Things You Find

out when you read the manual (or in this case, watch the DVD). Yes, yes, I know – reading the manual is a Code Violation, but I was far from the shed, so felt it was justified.

I was watching the DVD that came with the Tormek T7 (from Carroll’s), and had one of those “duh” moments.  The packaging that the accessories came in had a washer in each corner, and I didn’t click what they were for (and I’m betting it is already dawning on you because I’ve specifically mentioned them).

The packaging wasn’t just to look good when you opened the box, but could be then screwed to the wall as a convenient storage.

Tormek Accessory Storage

In the storage, there is the book and DVD, below that honing paste. On the right side, top to bottom is the brand new square/straight edge jig (more on that in a sec), diamond truing tool and angle master.  On the right is the wheel dressing stone.

The straight-edge jig has been significantly reworked/redesigned, so you can no longer overtighten/misalign/twist the chisel causing it to inadvertently become a skew.  I can testify it works very well (and yes, I’ve created my share of skew chisels with the old style (Triton in my case) holder.

The stone grader allows the wheel to be changed from 220 grit to 1000 grit (and back again), and to finish, the honing compound has an average 3 micron grain size (which equates to 8000 grit).  “Real smooth shave”

A suggestion made recently about using the Torque with the copy attachment to duplicate a tool holder would work very well here, especially to create a storage unit that could also hold the other sharpening jigs I have.  Thinking it just a little further, the technique used a day or so in duplicating the kangaroo might work well here.

Metric? We can get it in METRIC now?!!!!


What am I talking about? Incra. The Incra LS Positioner is now available in a metric version, and for people in countries that primarily use a metric system, being able to get what I consider the best router fence out there in a metric version just makes the best system even better.

The big reason why it has historically only been available as an imperial version is until now the router bits have also only been imperial, and where it comes to dovetails, that is critical.  What has happened (and I’d be very surprised if the lines of communication between the two hasn’t been strongly encouraged by Grahame of PWS), is Whiteside in the US have produced a complementing set of metric router bits (straight and dovetail), and the rest is history.

So what does this mean with respect to the Positioner?  It can now work with 0.05mm increments of position (and although you can set 1/2 points between these and get 0.025mm accuracy (which is insanely accurate, equivalent to 1/1000″, and well beyond what is needed in normal woodworking….but nice that a machine is so accurate that it can achieve that level of precision)).

If you already own an imperial 17″ or 32″ LS Positioner, you are not left out – upgrade kits are arriving (tomorrow?) for existing owners who want to transition across, costing $199 (ok, $200) for the 17″ version.  These are only currently available in Australia from Professional Woodworkers Supplies (and they are (afaik) the first offering the transition kit worldwide.)  The upgrade kit replaces the Lead Screw, microadjuster, and all the rules with metric ones.  If you have purchased your LS Positioner from Professional Woodworkers Supplies then you’ll be contacted in the next day or so with a special upgrade deal.  The upgrade to metric takes about 30 minutes or so.

It also means there is no need to maintain any of the other Incra tools (such as the stops etc) in an imperial version either – all can now become metric.

Of course this does mean you also need the metric router bits, and if (like me), you already have a full set of dovetail bits, (and I’m not sure if this also impacts my hingecrafter and associated bits) then they need to be replaced as well.  But not having to continuously work in an unfamiliar measuring system (or worse, constantly translating between the two) is VERY attractive!  And if you have been put off buying the best fence system there is because of that annoying measuring system, then procrastinate no longer.  (And no, I’m not having a go at imperial measurements, it is just very hard to work with if you have grown up in a metric world).

So what do you think? Tempted? Can’t wait to upgrade (or finally get an LS Positioner)? Or think you’d might as well stay with the imperial?

I know what I’d like to do.  If my brain was 20 years younger, I’d probably be able to cope with the mental acrobatics required to constantly work in both formats (and dare I say, if I was 20 years older, then I’d have grown up with an imperial system), but as it is, it just doesn’t click for me.

What is 2&3/32 divided into 3 equal parts?  Dunno – where’s a calculator!  But what is 54mm divided into 3? 18mm.  Add 3mm, then shave off 0.5mm? 20.5mm

Can’t do that for the imperial – still working out the original question! In all seriousness, the fact my current LS Positioner is in imperial may be a big contributing factor why I haven’t gotten dovetailing on the Incra worked out.  Just can’t get my head around the imperial.


Hearing on the radio this morning that with the current collapse of the roof insulation scheme that we may find companies physically ditching batts that they just cannot store now the demand has suddenly dropped to virtually nil.

Can I just say that if anyone is planning on throwing away bundles of roofing batts that instead of floating it down the Yarra as was suggested, that I’m working in a sauna in my shed in summer – I’d love to get my hands on some!

(Unfortunately, working in a sauna seems to do nothing for weight loss 😦 )

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