Stu’s Shed Exclusive! 2 for 1 to National Tradesman’s Expo

Stu’s Shed, in conjunction with NTX are providing Stu’s Shed readers an exclusive: 2 for 1 entry to the National Tradesman’s Expo 4-6 June 10 at the Melbourne Showgrounds.

Unlike other 2 for 1 deals, there is no where else that is able to offer this 🙂

Click on the image below to get a larger PDF file that you can print out and bring to the show to receive the deal.

Click to download the PDF Flier

Then come along to the show on one (or more!) of the days, and check out the inaugural Stu’s Shed stand, A43 – a 9m x 3m stand at the end of the first row.  I will primarily be talking about the Torque Workcentre – there will be a 2m, a 3.5m and a Router Master.  I’m also hoping to have mounted on one of them the Protool UniverS SSP 200 from Ideal Tools which would look very cool!

Protool UniverS SSP 200

Look forward to seeing you there – I haven’t been to this show before, but its full of big toys and power tools!

Lookin’ at Stats

It is very hard, if not near impossible to get a real word count of the site these days.  I could cut’n’paste every single post into Word/Pages, but with over 1200 posts, that would take quite a bit of time, for little real purpose.  I did export the XML file for the site, and had a quick look at that, and the best I can estimate is the site now exceeds 1 million words.

Perhaps a more conservative count would place the word count around the same level as the visitor count (which has recently passed 3/4 of a million).  That’s a lot of visits too, at least as far as I’m concerned.  Apparently WordPress (the power behind this blog) regard sites which exceed 25000 visits a month as being a high-traffic site.  We’ve been achieving that (and more) for about 1 1/2 years – the more the merrier!

One of these days perhaps I should turn the effort towards a more traditional, durable format.  The word count of this site is roughly equivalent to Stephen King’s The Stand (unabridged) twice over, or the entire 7 books of Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings twice over.  I know which I’d prefer to read!  But if you have been with me since the beginning, it sure has been an interesting (and long) journey so far!

Progressing the Concept

Just a quick update to let you know that I am still working on the Stu’s Shed Dweller concept.  The first company has expressed a definite willingness to come onboard – Australian Wood Review, obviously specific details need to be worked out, and what the offers will be.  I haven’t had an opportunity to contact many companies yet about the idea – hopefully over the next few months.

I have gotten the actual membership cards organised – arriving in a couple of weeks.

Stu's Shed Dweller Membership Card

Now I won’t be actually releasing any memberships until I feel the concept has legs – in other words enough industry buy-in to justify membership (and just a reminder, we are only taking around a $10 or so membership – cost recovery only)  And I really would like the idea to be international, Oz, NZ, UK, US at least, and beyond.

An Ideal Shop

For so long (well a few years), if you thought about dropping on on Ideal Tools, seeing their workshop (which is awesome), you discovered it wasn’t a normal store: being a combination of an online store, and an impressive training facility.  Now, well it is still an online store and an impressive training facility, AND an actual store!

Ideal Tools Shop

Their doors are open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm (not sure about Saturdays), and weekends/public holidays by appointment.

Unit 3, number 10 Akuna Drive
Williamstown (North)

Phone: 1300 769 258

There is an enviable collection of Festool, all in one location, including accessories and consumables, and down below the shop overlooks a Mecca for power tool connoisseurs.

Ideal Tool Training Facility

I’m still insanely jealous of a workshop with enough space to have a sanding area, a sharpening area, a dominoing area, router area etc etc.  (Not to mention that wooden floor!)

I would guess if you drop into the store, and need that final convincing to buy a product, it is just a matter of having a try with one in the training area – not unlike the opportunity I had to head-to-head the different ROS recently.

So if you were wondering about all the fuss I was making of this place last year, now you can simply drop in and see for yourself.

One Thing Leads to Another

And another.

I often find myself looking back, and seeing just how many decisions and events that lead to others, the culmination of which leads to the present moment/situation etc.

For example, after completing a degree in Engineering (Mechanical) at Auckland University, I decided for a range of obscure reasons (and some not as obscure) to join the military.  I was aiming for pilot in the RNZAF, and did exceptionally well in the initial tests.  At the same time, I put in an application for the Army (not sure why).  I can’t quite remember when I put in an application for the Navy – it was either at the same time, or after getting home and thinking about it then did so the next day.  Either way, I really wasn’t considering the Navy seriously – months at sea didn’t seem to be me.  But I applied anyway, with the idea that the application would be good practice for the airforce application.

The Army fell through, and sadly so did the Airforce (something about them not having a pilot intake that year or something).  However the Navy snapped me up, particularly given I already had a BE (Mech).

The Navy lead to spending a lot of time in Melbourne with the ANZAC ship project, and on leaving, I decided for some reason, to move to Melbourne.  One thing lead to another, and here I remain, with a wife, child, and a mortgage.  And a shed.  If all these events hadn’t lined up in just a particular way, we wouldn’t be here now.  That is just one example, and I guess we all have such stories.

I was out in the shed this afternoon, and again a “one thing leading to another” moment became apparent.  I decided to modify the router table.

Looking back, and again those dominoes lined themselves up ready to be knocked over.

The Torque Workcentre is an obvious one – the size of it took over a fair corner of the shed, resulting in the requirement to remove the original router table, which I then incorporated into my TWC.

Domino two is the bandsaw, and the way I originally oriented the router end on the TWC was fine with the 14″ bandsaw, but became somewhat more cramped with the 19″

Number three was the arrival in the drive of the 3.5m TWC for me to assess.  A few quick tweaks and it ran like a dream, and looking over its magnificent length, I became enamored with all that extra capacity (an extra metre longer than my table), and I went looking at the shed in the offchance it would actually fit.  It won’t (damn), although I saw that a 3m table would potentially do so, but I would loose access to that end of the table, and therefore the router table.  I began thinking about how I might rejig things if I did, and so the seeds for rotating the router table were sown.

The last domino, which tipped the whole lot over was the cyclone duct collector.  Given its overall height, it wasn’t suitable to fit under the TWC (the machine it will primarily be used on, as well as the Festools), so up at one end was the next best, again blocking the router table.  One thing had lead to another, and I found myself rotating the table around.  It then also gave me the opportunity to extend it back to being 5 tablesaw wings – a good chunk of cast iron!  In the meantime, I had found the orientation I had the router table meant it was less accessible than I’d want for what I regard as a primary shop machine, and by turning it towards the front, this also got addressed.

Everything clicked into place after that – the Incra was secured via a couple of bolts through holes drilled in the top. I’ve lost some range, but only with the TWC where it is.  If I need more router table range, I can switch it around the the old securing points, or simply pull the TWC further away from the wall.

The router table fence is not encroaching on the TWC as much, and although I have sacrificed about 700mm of the overall TWC range, I can get this back if ever needed.  The dust extraction (that is now coupled into the cyclone) also plugs directly into the router table fence, like it was made for it.

So another of a long list of refinements, as the shed slowly conforms to my will.

The cyclonic culprit

New Router Table Orientation

Note the extra length of the router table – 5 tablesaw wings.

Dust extraction from router table fence (to cyclone)

Same dust extraction coupled to the TWC

The slow-assembly of a TWC

Finally, this is just a photo of the TWC I am currently assembling (and documenting for the new assembly and operation manual I am writing).  Finished drilling the holes for the top (not secured down).

Cleaned up all the MDF with the cyclone – very effective!  My only criticism that is coming to light is the top of the unit.  It seems to be made from too-thin a material as it gets sucked down very easily, not enough to break the seal, but more of a deflection than I would have thought acceptable.  Would have though it would have been made strong enough to resist the vacuum generated by a standard small shop vac.

So with one thing leading to another, who knows where the current steps will fit into another bigger picture!

Scaring up a Storm

I have long been absolutely sold on the benefits of cyclonic dust separation methods – the combination of the convenience of easily emptying the collection bin, combined with a negligible amount of dust getting to the vacuum itself (and filling its dust bag).

Filterless, efficient dust collection – sounds like an advert for Dyson.

The fascinating thing is the concept is incredibly simple.  Pull a vacuum in an inverted cone through a central vertical port, and have the collection hose coming in the side of the cone angled so the dust-laden air is caused to spin all around the edge.  The dust is heavy, and spins to the outside where it impacts the container wall, slowing it and causing it to drop down towards the bin at the bottom.

The air on the other hand follows a torturous path from the entrance to the cone to the central exit – a path too convoluted that the dust can’t follow the twists and turns, so the dust that wasn’t removed by hitting the wall still drops out of the air stream.

You can make your own, particularly if you can work with sheet metal, but if you don’t have the skills, or simply the time there is finally another option available.

The Oneida Dust Deputy is now available under the Carbatec banner, and I was putting one through its paces today, and it was definitely achieving what I would expect of a cyclone dust collector.


I fitted it to my ShopVac vacuum, and the very nice thing is the fittings are compatible. The heavy hose leading from the vac to the top of the cyclone came with the cyclone, and it plugged straight in. The hose coming out of the side of the cone leads to the collection point from the tool.

The cyclone unit came with a few variety of fittings to ensure a wide variety of vacs would work with the cyclone.  It also came with 2 collection buckets – they do fill quickly, but I didn’t think a second bucket was necessary.  No matter – bonus.

Connecting the Cyclone to the Vac

A number of different methods are documented in the user manual, and I came up with this one as being particularly suitable for the model vacuum I am currently using .  I attached a couple of metal hooks to the top, which the bucket hangs off by the handle.  A brick in the vacuum itself at the front provides a counter balance (in this case, a couple of lead dive weights).

Cyclone conical section

It is interesting that the plastic chosen is both antistatic (a cyclone can build a significant charge!), and semi-transparent, so you can see the dust swirling.

All in all, an excellent unit, and if you are not inclined to make your own, this is a ready-made commercial version. I’ll shot some video of the unit in operation in the near future.

Saturday Couriers

Just a couple of days ago, I was under the impression there would be a significant delay to my stationery order, and yet two days later I had the courier bangin’ on the door with some pretty cool merchandise.

The order that arrived today included:

1800mm x 760mm Stu's Shed Banner

1800 x 760 banner
bunch of Stu’s Shed postcards (100)
whole stack of business cards (1500)
fridge magnets (200)
car door magnets

The Stu's Shed Car

Small Car Magnet

few other bits n pieces.  They look superb- I’m really pleased with the result.  And for the price, I got all the above for 1/2 the price I was quoted locally just for 1000 business cards.

On the strength of that, I have already placed another order!

New Demo Programme

I’ve been having discussions with the manager of Carbatec, Melbourne, and he is very supportive of me running a demonstration programme in-store.

What I’m planning, is a demonstration on a wide variety of topics, running for 2 hours on the last Saturday of the month, each month, from 10am to 12pm.  There is no charge to attendees, and it is a matter of turning up at some stage in that 2 hour window, seeing what I have on hand, asking any questions you may have.  If there is a crowd, then I’ll do more of a talking/running presentation.  If not, then I’ll be there to show whatever you want to see, and having more of a dialogue.

The first few topics (starting in May (there is no April demo planned)) will likely be:

May: Kreg Pockethole

Kreg Pockethole

June: MagSwitch

MagSwitch Combo Fence Kit

July: CNC Shark

CNC Shark

The first few topics are subject to change until I lock down the programme formally.

Other topics likely to be on the schedule include:

Pen Turning
Leigh FMT
Sharpening (Tormek / DMT Diamond)
Tablesaw Basics
Bandsaw Basics
Wood Preparation (Planer/Thicknesser)

and that is just the start of the potential list.  Other suggestions welcome (and if better than the above could end up earlier in the schedule!)

Stu’s Shed and the Volcano

I do understand that thousands of people have been significantly inconvenienced, and millions of dollars lost, so don’t get me wrong on that point.

It is kinda cool though, that I got an email last night to say my recent order of Stu’s Shed stationary is suffering a delay…….because of a volcano! The ash from the eruption of  Eyjafjallajökull is holding up my delivery.

I mean, what can I do – it is a force of nature!

I am a little surprised it is disrupting the order – I’d have thought the company I used would print the stationery in the country that placed the order, or perhaps it does, and just some of the order is sourced overseas.  Who knows, will have to wait and see what arrives from where (and perhaps dust it off a little 😉 )

Speaking of orders and deliveries, got one last night which has been roaming around the place for about 6 months, so finally I will be able to complete the article I was planning on writing about diamond whetstones back in June 09.  The one I was missing was the XX Coarse stone from DMT (120 micron), which after a long story has turned up.  Oh well – you weren’t in a hurry by any chance?

A Tale of Two Sanders

It was the best of finishes, it was the worst of finishes, it was the age of exorbitance, it was the age of thrift, it was the epoch of German engineering, it was the epoch of Chinese manufacturing, it was the season of pleasure, it was the season of pain, it was the spring of jet dust extraction, it was the winter of clogged abrasive, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to woodworking Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the machines were so far apart, that some of the noisiest proponents of one insisted on it being placed on a pedestal, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

I was in the shed one day, using the same random orbital sander (ROS) that I have for a few years – an $80 Triton, and my hands were really hurting from the vibration.  Irrespective of the risk on ongoing health problems from exposure to vibration (HAVS being a rather undesirable effect), what’s the point of trying to enjoy woodworking, when a tool is causing such a distraction?  So without even realising that it was on the cards when I headed down to the shed that day, at that point I decided that tool was being retired, immediately, and a replacement ROS was to be sought.

Triton ROS

Despite the range of brands available out there, I had no question which brand I was going to go with after having experienced them first hand at the Ideal Tools workshop.  Despite the premium price tag, I was going Festool.  The machines operate so smoothly, you almost don’t have to hold them, guiding them around the surface with a finger.  The only question I had was which model to choose.

I specifically wanted a random orbital sander, so I quickly narrowed my choices down to either the Rotex, or one of the two eccentric (ETS) sanders – the 150/3 or the 150/5.  That is where I started to run into a decision-making problem.  Just which one was the most suitable for my requirements?  It wasn’t like I could eliminate any on quality.  Price could have some bearing – the Rotex is quite a bit more than the ETS sanders, but then it is more versatile than the other two.  People who own one really swear by it, and that is very inspiring.

I was rather fortunate that I was given access to all three sanders to compare by Ideal Tools, which meant I was able to make a decision with full confidence, rather than choosing and hoping based on what I read on the net, or in the marketing materials.

Festool Rotex 150

The Rotex is called a 3 in 1 sander – being switchable between orbital and random orbital settings.  Orbital being used for bulk material removal, and random orbital for finishing, with the circular and elliptical motions simultaneously meaning that there is no swirl marks produced.  The 3rd action is polishing, but that I gather is more of a use of the tool – there is no specific setting unique to the tool for this.

Festool RAS115 "Termite"

I have the Festool termite (RAS 115), so bulk material removal is not something I have to struggle with, so I was particularly interested in its ROS use.  Handling it is rather different to other ROS, in that the centre of balance isn’t directly above the sanding pad, so operation has to be two-handed.  This isn’t as unusual to me than for some, because for a few years I was using the original Triton ROS sanding attachment which fits to an angle grinder.  I know how well regarded the machine is, so was really looking forward to trying it out for myself.

Triton ROS Attachment

After giving the unit a good run in both modes, I was still trying to ‘get’ why it is so popular with its enthusiastic supporters. That is probably going to be quite a bone-of-contention, but I didn’t.  “Get it” that is.  Controversially, I found it not unlike the Triton ROS fitted to an angle grinder, with the obvious upgrades – multi jetstream, variable speed.  On the other hand, the Festool Termite has a similar layout, and like my angle grinder is much easier to hold.  I found the body of the Rotex too bulky for me to feel like I had good control over the tool.  Bit surprised by my reaction, particularly given the feedback I’ve heard about the tool, but this isn’t a criticism of the Rotex, or its supporters – it just wasn’t for me.

So now I’ve turned to the ETS models, and other than the number 3 or 5 on top, they are indistinguishable.  The numbers represent the degree of eccentricity – either 3mm or 5mm.

Festool ETS 150/x

Both units are very well balanced – you can hold the handle, or just push the unit around the surface with a finger!  They are variable speed, and have the multi-jetstream dust clearing technology (which is both an air supply and removal system across the surface of the pad that clears away dust that has been created, and in doing so prevents dust buildup that results in heat buildup, and clogging of the abrasive.)  You don’t have to use abrasives that have the multi-jetstream holes, but obviously you loose the advantage of the system while you do.

In the end there was no question that it would be an ETS that I would buy, the final question would be which model.  The 150/3 is for very fine finishing, the 150/5 less so (by all of 2mm), and is slightly more versatile.  That is something I needed (when I was only going to end up with one of these), and I also found I appreciated the sanding action of the 150/5 more – the 150/3 just didn’t feel like it was doing enough (it being a fine finishing sander only) for my purposes. And still it has variable speed, and I can work right through the different grades of abrasive – up to 2500 if I choose.  (And I did take note of all the comments made when I first raised the question back around Nov last year!)

So that is what I went for in the end – the Festool ETS 150/5.  The brand new unit arrived recently, and I haven’t actually gotten it dusty yet – there is plenty of time.  I also got the Systainer for the sander, as well as a second one with the abrasives insert to keep all the different abrasive pads organised,

Abrasives Systainer

and a rollboard which goes under my slowly increasing pile of systainers to make it easier to move them around the workshop (until I find a more permanent location for them).

Festool Systainer Rollboard

All these were sourced from Ideal Tools, and thanks to Anthony for the opportunity to give the various models a workout before I made a final decision. (Oh, and when I bought it, the deal at the time (still current) was for a Festool Cooler Bag and set of BBQ utensils – quite handy for a Stu’s Shed BBQ!)

Festool Cooler Bag & BBQ Set

As to what happened to the old Triton ROS?  Dickens to it 🙂

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