Upgrades and refinements

As a product matures, it receives a number of refinements and the latest collection for Torque Workcentres have just been released. This collection is primarily based around making adjusting the Workcentre as tool-less as possible.

Each of the major adjustment points that originally needed a hex key now have spring-loaded handles. There is an improved plunge-stop with a threaded end and knurled cap for better micro-adjustment.

And if you think others could benefit with an upgrade to their tool, there is a bumper sticker to spread the love 🙂

It is all about tool performance!
Are yours?

Beginnings and Endings

Not more than a stone’s throw from my home (less than 1km as the crow flies), a new sign is up, proclaiming that to be the location of a brand new Lowes store

seemingly more of a Mitre 10 than a Bunnings, but if it has a good collection of home improvement supplies (and please, please a decent tool shop!), then I would have even less motivation to head down to the nearest Bunnings.

Looking at their US store, and they have things like a Dremel for $30, Bench Cookies for $7, and Rockwell Jawhorses, and all the accessories! – will we finally get to see the premium model arriving on Australian shores?  Am I getting my hopes up too early?  Can my wallet survive such a conveniently located hardware store (or at least the modern equivalent)?

I guess they finally tracked me down – Bunnings tried with reasonably placed stores dotted around, but never hit so close to the mark!

But while talking of beginnings, there is also an ending.  The Canberra franchise of Carbatec is no more.

It is worth making that distinction, because this has no impact on the primary Carbatec stores.  (Or the other remaining franchise stores) In fact, the head office of Carbatec is working hard to ensure the customers impacted by the Canberra closing are being supported.  I don’t believe they are legally obliged to do so, but on the other side of the coin it is the Carbatec brand that would be tarnished if they didn’t.

Sadly, like it happens time and again, customers are the last to find out, buying things from the store (paying for in anticipation of delivery), and the store is more than happy to take their money without any intent to supply the goods, knowing they are folding.   However, I am pleased to see that Carbatec are supporting these customers, by delivering the goods that have been bought, even without having received any money from Canberra.  Good on em.

If you are one of the customers of the now ex-Canberra store, contact Carbatec Brisbane for assistance.

FWIW, this information was obtained directly from a customer so affected, who wondered why their new tablesaw they had paid for had taken 3 months to arrive to date.  Turning up at the store only to find a sign on the door “Closed until further notice”.

Acrylic Wizard

Wanted to see how well acrylic blanks can be machined by the Beall Pen Wizard.

Biggest frustration is you can’t just jump into a project. You have to go through all the steps to turn a pen beforehand. Not a problem (unless you are impatient to try an idea out!)

This was very much a test- I wasn’t so worried about the end result, so long as there was a reasonable degree of confidence that it could be achieved.

The blank is probably too (colour) detailed to also be machined, so I’ll look at plainer acrylics for when I plan to use the Wizard to finish the pen off.

In this case, I used a side-mill bit, and ran a spiral flat on 4 sides of the pen. Then did 4 additional lighter passes in between each of the other 4.

Remounted the resulting pen on the lathe (not turning), and tried the Dremel buffing wheel. Point to note- the heat generated exceeds the melting point of the acrylic!

Then tried the traditional acrylic sanding pads, which worked better, although rounding over and softening the result.

So another successful experiment, with more lessons learned. For one, don’t load up the cutter on the workpiece if the gearbox is in reverse- you are likely to undo the spindle!

Again, experienced a bit of flex and play in the jig, but a decent result (for a beginner!) was still achieved.

Knurling

Nipped up to Carbatec to pick up a new Dremel so I could use it with the Pen Wizard. Been wanting one for ages, but needed a good excuse to go with the original brand of rotary tools, rather than some after-market ones I’ve had / have (GMC / Triton)  The Dremel threads straight into the Pen Wizard, and that is all the motivation I needed in the end.

I picked up the 400 Series (Digital), which came with a number of fittings and accessories, including a flex drive.  As I’ve said in the past, tools should not be cute, but the miniature versions of common tools (cut off wheels etc) invokes the “aren’t they cute” before you realise what you’ve said.  The digital allows you to preset the desired speed before switching on.

I didn’t buy any additional cutters etc, but I’ll need to, to get some of the fine cutters needed for pens.

The Pen Wizard still gives me the feeling that it needs looking after – it can definitely do the job, but not if you are rough with it.  With the Dremel screwed straight into it, I found it was a little light in balance – the Dremel making it a bit top-heavy.

Taking off the guilloche attachment, I cut a series of mild helices, then engaged the reverse gear and cut them again, producing a light knurled pattern.  The cutter was completely wrong for the job, but the ease of achieving the result was obvious.

Like any tool, it will take some time to become proficient, but once the basics are worked out (setup, cutters, getting the pen blank evenly turned), it will be very straightforward to get decent results.

I am particularly interested in seeing the results from using acrylic – again, the main thing that will affect the result is accurate, even turning.

Torque Workcentre’s New Website

The new website for Torque Workcentres has just gone live, and their new introductory video is definitely worth watching, if only to see the new chainsaw slabbing attachment in action!  And the new version of the saw mount, which now rotates between crosscut and rip mode, providing a much better balance for the circular saw when ripping.

It is a very slick looking site, still with some development to come I would imagine – it still needs a section listing the ever-increasing list of tool attachment jigs for example, but I’m sure that will come.

In the meantime, have a look around a mature looking website – very stylish.  Fitting too, as the machine itself is maturing very quickly with all the little tweaks and upgrades.

Some screenshots from the video:

These are stills – seeing it in action is worthwhile.  (Puts my pathetic chainsaw to shame)

Finally being able to utilise fallen timbers is worth gold.

Swinging between crosscut and rip

I can also really start to see the benefit of the extension table.  Nice too, to see some of my ideas are now part of the standard machine.  Benefit of a local (Australian) manufacturer.

Sanding Attachment for Router

And the new sanding disk for the router makes its debut.  I’d imagine it has to be used at the minimum speed for a variable speed router.  Hate to think what the tip speed would be if the router was run at maximum speed!

So this is a bit of a look at the new Torque Workcentre site.  The timing is not bad either, considering the TWC (and Stu’s Shed) make their debut on the DIY Network show “Cool Tools” with Chris Grundy this weekend (in the US)  Not sure when it comes out in Australia, but we’ll keep looking!

Distracted!

Almost forgot to actually mention the new toy – been playing with it too much (not using it – haven’t graduated that far yet!) Playing with, reading about, and watching the supplied DVD.

It has gears, handles, gears, a guilloche attachment, more gears and a gearbox.  And it’s for woodworking!

Have you guessed what it is yet?

How about some imagery?

Yeah – more gears!

But does it give you an idea?  That wheel with holes in it is a bit of a give-away.

How about this view:

What do you mean “still no idea!”

But you see this is the tool, and it is cool, but perhaps you need to see what it can do, to know why. (And as I show these, I discover there are very few images on the results of this tool on the web!)

Yes, the new toy (uh, tool) is a Beall Pen Wizard from Carrolls Woodcraft.

It is a type of ornamental lathe, using a high speed rotary tool to produce all manner of pens, with wavy patterns, helices, knurlings, facets, and combinations of these.

You may not want every pen to have an element such as this, or perhaps you do – they make for distinctive pens, and can produce stunning subtle details as well as major features.

Now I obviously haven’t had enough time to actually use the Pen Wizard, let alone take my own photos, but this looks to b an impressive tool, and one that is actually larger, and more robust than I was expecting.  The amount of variety is impressive too – someone calculated there are 600 different combinations.  Not sure if that is true or not, but it does come with a number of alternate gears for different ratios, a reversing gear, and obviously the guilloche attachment with a number of different amplitude settings.

And that is without even considering the range of cutters that are available – straight cutters, flat-bottomed, cove end, laser point etc etc.

If you turn a lot of pens, it does get to the point where you are searching out more and more exotic timbers, or pen blanks, getting into segmented turnings etc to keep the hobby fresh.  With the Pen Wizard, you have not one extra string to the bow, but hundreds.  Choices choices!  And the novelty factor of these pens, when you show the pen off and they try to work out how you’ve done will be worth gold.

These are only imported into Australia by Carroll’s Woodcraft Supplies, so they are definitely the ones to contact if you are interested.  Cost is just under $400, which sounds expensive…..until you find you are selling the results occasionally.  It will only take a few pens to pay off the machine, and with only a few people making them, the novelty factor is high.

Repurposing the Repurposed Stormwater System back to its Original Purpose

One hidden benefit of using stormwater pipes for your dust extraction system is that you can reuse it for other tasks, such as stormwater!

With the upgrade of the dust system recently, I have a bit of left-over stormwater pipes. Now with the acquisition of a new pool for the little one (well that is my excuse, and I’m sticking to it!), I need to fill it.  Under the current water restriction relaxation, I could apply for a permit to use mains water.  Or buy a load (costing anywhere between $250 and $600 depending on your supplier).

Or I could just use rainwater.

So by diverting some of the downpipes to the pool, I’m hoping to make a bit of a splash 🙂  With the reported weather for tonight, and the next few days I had some motivation to rig up the temporary run.  Unfortunately, looking at the rain map it managed to miss us altogether….at least this time.

Disconnected the original downpipe – this one collects from the 1/4 the main roof, and 1/2 the 9m carport – a fair amount of water passes through this junction.

With a bit of license, some duct tape, and some flexible dust extraction hose, and a couple of ladders as supports, I was able to get the downpipe to the edge of the pool….just.

So here’s hoping for a downpour! Rather keen to see if it will work (and more importantly, if my joints will hold!

And in the background, I have the pallet tank taking a feed from the shed roof too.

Update: We have finally been receiving a little rain – hardly classifies as rain – you’d have to run around to get wet, yet after about 90 minutes or so there is already 6″ in the pool.  Very cool 🙂

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