Why building a house takes so long

Real or fake, this is a pretty cool crew. Not that they get any actual work done!


Took a trip over to Williamstown today with the family to visit Science Works.  Interesting place – good fun for the little one. I gave a bed of nails a go – almost as painful as it sounds (might have something to do with weighing 1/10th of a tonne), but at least I can now say I’ve tried it (once!)

Had look through the old pumping station too.  Some stunning old engineering.  It is sad to see how much has gone – just because we have modern pumps, machines, technology, is it really a better time?  The shear cost in manufacturing / the commitment to the task and the TLC that would have gone into keeping the place running is staggering.

Real Engineering


Awesome Old Tech

Heat Exchangers

Sad too that so much has gone that there is no way the plant and machines could ever do what they were built to do again. And so much reduced to entertain kids – yes, encouraging and educating them is obviously important, but there is a serious lack of adult-focused information.

So while over in Williamstown, I took the opportunity to drop into Ideal Tools – I hadn’t been there since they had started using their workshop (and mezzanine space) for direct sales.  In the past you had to make an appointment to see the place (other than while on one of their informative courses), but these days they are open during regular hours for sales.  Their stock range of Festool is quite impressive – bit too tempting really!

I didn’t have any plans for visiting (other than saying hi, and showing them the new Tormek DBS22 jig), so it was rather surprising to discover myself coming away from the place with a Walko 3 workbench.  I had a Walko 4 in my shed temporarily about a year ago, and found it very useful, but it was a bit large for my limited space.  I saw the Walko 3 at the recent National Tradesman Expo (on the Ideal Tools stand), and it looked a lot more practical for my situation.

I almost got it all home there and then, but just couldn’t quite get the base into the back of the Mazda 3.  I would have managed except for my daughter sitting in her car seat.  Ah well, the sacrifices of a family man 🙂

A Variety of Configurations

The Walko can be used in a variety of ways.  Even these orientations are not the only ways the Walko can be set up and used too.

More on that when it arrives!

We had a play with the DBS22 on a drill bit – and found it is a pretty easy jig to use.  The primary bevels cut very very quickly, the secondary bevel took a bit longer, but there is more metal to remove so it isn’t surprising.  It was a bit rushed so we didn’t achieve a perfect result, but it looked pretty decent even so, especially for a first effort.

So a pretty eventful day, with some surprising conclusions.

Drill Bit Sharpening

I was rather tempted to try jumping in the deep end with the new Tormek Drill Bit Sharpening jig, but decided to err on the side of caution, and rtfm.

Probably a good thing – it is a significant jig, and able to achieve a lot more than standard drill bit sharpening systems. The ability to produce a 4-facet point is significant, and only available on more expensive systems, such as the top of the range Drill Doctor models, and of course the Tormek.

A standard sharpened bit (and typically as a bit comes when it is new) has 2 facets, coming together as a chisel tip. These cannot self-centre, and slip around badly on harder materials. For these bits to cut, that chisel has to be pushed into the surface to expose the cutting edges. This significantly decreases bit life (blunting the bit), and results in a higher temperature for the bit.

The four facets come together at a point, so immediately the drill bit is able to drill into the surface rather than simply rub against it.

Two facet conventional tip

Superior Four Facet Tip

The formation of the four-facet tip using the Tormek seems more sophisticated and controllable that the 500X and 750X of the Drill Doctor, (the 350X cannot produce one at all). The significantly different radius of the cutting wheel is another point (excuse the pun!) to compare the two systems. I’ve never had an opportunity to try the Drill Doctor, so can’t say how well that system works in practice.

The Tormek controls point angle (from 90 degrees to 150 degrees) and lip clearance angle (7 to 14 degrees). There are also adjustments to limit the total amount of material removed

Unlike some other systems, the formation of the primary bevel (the actual cutting edge) is given the attention it deserves, with the secondary bevel formed to produce the 4-facet tip – it serves no other purpose, so why focus on it for the majority of the operation? You can even grind away quite a bit of the heel (the back half of the secondary bevel) to minimise the total amount of material that needs to be removed on the Tormek.

Jig set to grind the primary bevel

There is a little setting up involved, but after doing the first time following the instructions, it will soon become intuitive, and quick. Typical of Tormek, all the variables are controlled – there is nothing left to chance, or eyechrometer. Other than one – setting the drill bit at the right degree of rotation in the holder, but a magnifying glass with a reference post ensures even that is as close as is needed for the operation. (Given the bit is round, being slightly out isn’t critical – it affects the look, rather than the function of the bevel).

Controlled Variables

Next step will be to actually do the grind, but that will be the subject of another article 🙂

Timber Sale Scavenging

Had an early start to the day – heading down the peninsula to a “final sell-off of timber due to a lifestyle change” sale.  Opportunity for some bargains, so couldn’t resist.  Got in early to have a chance to see what was worth grabbing, and although it was very civilised, you couldn’t afford to be late to get the good stuff.  Not sure what it was like at the end of the day – might have been some real bargains at that end too of what was left.

As I first walked up the driveway, saw a “small” shed to die for.  This was to the left of the house, so really was the shed on the property.  The whole place had just sold for a bit over $1million – guess that is what you have to pay for to get a place with a shed like that!

This place would be a woodworker’s dream – to the left of this shed was a small building marked as furniture sales – having somewhere to display final products, separate to the workshop.  And the driveway between the two lead to the wood store, where the sale was happening.

I found a couple of saw horses, so started loading it up with what I had found.

Started off getting a Blackwood lot, with a fair number of boards for $60.  Followed that up with a similar pack of Merbau for $50. Some pretty large boards in both these.  Found a pile of Jarrah shorts for $10 (lower left corner of the photo below), and 8 pieces of Gerrongang for $35.

The whole stack here cost $155. Didn’t bother trying to bargain – what was the point!

So by 10am, the day had already started pretty well.  Could have potentially spent a lot more, but you have to be pretty quick to find the bargains.  Had looked at the Gerrongang early on for example, and been indecisive. By the time I made a decision, I had to wait while two other people had a good paw through it before deciding to leave it – grabbed it before someone else decided it was a good buy.  I assume it is – at that price you can’t go too far wrong.

It is also still very obvious that I need more experience with timber – not knowing what some things are or at least how they could be used, and their value means you just don’t know if something is a bargain or not.

I’m pretty sure that under the aged exterior of a lot of these boards that some very nice timber is hiding.

Again, the experience of doing the Hall Table course at Ideal Tools actually came though here.  Seeing the sort of boards that are worth starting with when making something really helped.

So that was my morning, before heading off to a house open-day.  Not likely to be able to afford to move, but the place I looked at included both a double garage, and a 12m x 8m shed with a decent roof height.  Sure would be nice to have more space 🙂 And storage! No idea where I am going to fit the latest purchases above!

New Foodsafe Finish

It has been out for a little while now, but for those who haven’t seen it yet, Ubeaut have a new product- a foodsafe oil for wooden cooking utensils (chopping boards, salad servers etc), and it would also be suitable as a safe finish for children’s toys if you wanted to maintain a natural timber look (much better to have that chewed on than varnish, paint etc).

Channelling my inner Crocodile Dundee

Crocodile “Stu” Dundee: [chuckles] That’s not a router bit.

Crocodile “Stu” Dundee: Now THAT’s a router bit.

Bloody heavy thing too, and it seems as real as you’d imagine.

Still looking for a router to fit it! Or an adapter collet 😉

Episode 65 TAG

Tormeks are GO!

A review in the letterbox

Came home to find a magazine sitting on the doorstep (the postie took the “do not bend” seriously) – the latest copy of Australian Wood Review

Very nice cover – nothing like some beautiful timbers to be inspiring! And on page 6, a very well written, researched, balanced review on the Jet DC650TS dust extractor. Couldn’t quite make out the author 😉

Always nice to get into a different media – online is excellent for the ability to reach a large audience quickly, and with very little overhead, but there is always that extra level of sophistication in the printed word.

Tantilisingly Close

First it was a pipe dream, a complete impossibility.

Then the question was asked, of someone who looks for solutions, not excuses and the impossible became something else.

A wraith became a phantom, phantom to a mirage, and slowly the idea became a reality.

It is a jig, an accessory, able to do something that was first deemed impossible. And the courier delivery slip I got tonight means it was so tantalisingly close to being finally in my possession.

I can’t tell you what it is yet, but in just over 24 hours, not only will I be able to tell you what it is, but show you as well.

The agony of unknown anticipation.

A resaw to put meer mortal efforts to shame

Check out this picture of Chris Vesper with a veneer resawn from a plank of Australian Red Cedar.  The veneer is between 1mm and 1.2mm thick, so also very accurate.  The resulting flexibility gives one all sorts of ideas for potential products. Read the original article here.


The blade in this case was apparently a 2TPI Tungsten Carbide Tipped blade. Unfortunately, according to Chris, you need a bandsaw with good diameter wheels (>2′) to minimise fatigue-initiated breakages.

Thanks to Chris for permission to use this photo – it was too impressive a resaw not to feature it here as well!

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