Self-Funding Passions

I occasionally field questions about how it is possible for my shed to have a decent assortment of tools, especially when ones like the latest Nova DVR XP turn up, and that raises the whole topic of affordability of one’s passions (hobbies with obsessions!)

My various activities have always come at some cost, (for some reason I don’t choose cheap hobbies!), such as woodworking, diving, photography.  In each case, I have, or had the potential to get the pursuit to a point that it was reasonably capable of self-funding, so as not to be a drain on the finances.

There are a whole raft of revenue streams that are available, and at the start there is a choice: is this a hobby that you want to generate a bit of income from so it can self-support, or are you intending it to be more of a money-earner that happens to also be a bit fun?

Personally, I’ve been sticking to the first option – actually deliberately trying to make money leads to stress, disappointments, and financial & time decisions based on making an income, and quickly the pleasure of the pursuit is lost.  It can lead to a rewarding career, but for every 2 small businesses that start, 1 falls by the wayside, along with the loss of the business assets.

Pursuing the ever elusive dollar leads to many hours of repetitive work, the quintessential cottage industry.

However, if it is, and remains a hobby, each dollar that is earned is particularly valued, and can go back into sustaining the hobby that generated it.

There are plenty of avenues for woodworking to generate an income, from writing to woodchips and everything in between.

To give some examples:

Pen turning is very straightforward, even on quite modest equipment (even a drill press or GMC lathe is capable).  For a minimal investment, you can produce pens for birthday and Christmas presents, and by having one or two on hand, when someone needs to borrow one you can lend one of yours.  This invariably leads to a conversation about the magnificent writing device, and how you made it.  Take that one step further, and they will often be looking to purchase one from you. $10 out. $50 in.  (More or less – there are plenty of considerations obviously).  You can take that further by offering a unique product to a local business.  I’ve made pens for people from objects they have discarded, such as an old redgum fence.  Taking a small sample of that and turning a pen, they then have something unique to show off.  An arborist cutting down a dead tree could offer back to their clients a pen made from the waste (and you also have a ready source of lots of timber – no point spending money on what you can get for free!)

Boxmaking can have similar results, giving back something with sentimental attachment as it is made from timber important to the person.  In this instance, I also used a piece of leather that had been used for a pair of shoes for the daughter’s now departed Mum.  Huge sentimental value, and there is no need to overcharge.  A dovetail jig such as the Gifkins is invaluable for this sort of operation.

Memory Box

Memory Box

The huon pine bowl I made the other day (2nd bowl ever realistically) has had 3 offers already – could easily have sold it for $100 each time if I had wanted.

Working for other woodworkers.  With a Torque Workcentre, you can slab and in particular surface boards of a size that is typically unheard of in the average woodshop.

Repairing the odd bit of furniture, or wooden (or plastic) toy, advertising on the shopping centre noticeboard.

Magazines are insatiable in their quest for the written word.  An article on a recent project, or technique can easily net $50 – $500 depending on word count.  When you start getting known, you can find them approaching you for content.  Have a look around at backissues to get an idea about both short and long submissions – magazines like both.  And you will see my name there as well, many times.  Not necessarily woodworking mags either.  The weekend mag in the newspaper, handyman mags, lifestyle mags and on and on need content.

Woodshows are a definite way.  Get to know a product, get to know some people at the show and you can find opportunities arising to help at the show (all hands on deck for those things).  You can get a pretty major tool with the money from a single wood show, more if you save (and more as you build a reputation for sales!)  Woodshows present all sorts of opportunities, and you don’t have to be pushy, just interested and have the ability to project your passion.

There are short courses you can be a part of as you get more skilled at Tafes and University short course centres, which lead to a regular cash injection.

There are many opportunities for your hobby/passion to pick up a bit of funding on the side.  Start small, and remember, keeping the focus on the hobby and not on making an income will keep it both enjoyable, and self-funding.  And slowly, your workshop will grow, and become the envy of others.  As it grows, more opportunities to continue the self-funding will present themselves.  Worth thinking about don’t you think?


A Night to Remember

Although like the other, one I’d rather forget.  Nothing particularly serious, just a constant stream of frustrations.

Started when I went to put together a wood kit, and like a jigsaw puzzle missing a single piece, this one had one piece wrong so the assembly couldn’t be completed.  So be it, move onto the next.  That one was a struggle as well, but I think I got there….sort of.

Went to glue that one up, and found both tubes of Bostik Superglue had cured inside the still unopened tubes.  Moved onto a thicker superglue (and being a gap filler was appropriate in this case).  I can now rob banks – the ends of my fingers have a solid layer of superglue across the pads.

Leaving that to cure, I moved onto a snakeskin blank – had to get something out of the evening’s activities.

Not even worth mentioning as a catch, more a vibration in the tool, and there are deep grooves cut into the pen blank.  It is almost as if the tool vibrated while in contact with the blank. Turning away to get rid of then, and the acrylic got too thin, and the substrate, being the snakeskin, decided to shear, causing the acrylic above it to shatter.

So at that point, enough is enough, and I gave away the activities for the night.

When your garage or shed doesn’t live up to expectation

Give it a makeover – nothing a bit of plastic surgery can’t slap over the top to give a veneer of a more interesting life!

This company in Germany ( exports around the world their unique approach to solving the dilema of reality not meeting expectation.  Stick-on vinyl for the garage door!

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They also have an impressive range for internal doors as well.

And if your workshop isn’t as well stocked as you’d like, they will also make them as a custom order – get the workshop of your dreams!

A Significant Bulk – Nova DVR XP

Those who follow my occasional ramblings on Twitter would have seen a photo looking in the back of the car, as the Nova followed me home (can I keep it Ma, can I, can I?)

Once I had a chance in the evening (around 10pm as it happens), I got the unit and the legs down to the shed with a 2 wheel trolley. The box is marked heavy (yeah- no kidding- 80kg heavy!) on one end, and the other says “Heavy End”. When you are planning to move the unit with a mate, don’t take the “heavy end”, unless you are a glutton for punishment. Of course, if you happen to be on your own, and am ignoring the strong recommendation by Teknatool to have at least 2 people to move and place the unit, then the entire unit is yours alone, baby!

I took the box apart to get the unit out


Then unpacked the optional legs. Heavy, precision designed solid, cast iron legs.


With all due care, these were bolted to the bottom of the lathe. (Care primarily that I didn’t cause any real damage to myself.)


Once it was all in place, time to spin the monster up.

The lathe drips power. I’ve seen, and often turned on the Jet at 3000 RPM, but with the DVR approaching that range, its just a bit freaky. Can’t begin to imagine the 2024 hitting 5k!


Bit too late to really jump into what the lathe can do- think I am going to be learning all the aspects of it for a while. Watching it perform speed changes is rather interesting- getting it to jump from around 1000RPM to 2500RPM – extremely rapid response. At some stage I’ll put my power meter across it and see how the motor responds to the load requirements

Had to give it a quick go nevertheless. Very smooth feeling (and I’m certainly no expert turner, but you can still pick a real quality performance), and consistent speed. Nice also knowing the motor will immediately cut out if there is a catch.


Not sure how I’m going to deal with the newly dislocated tool (longbed jointer). I might look to relocate both the jointer & thicknesser to the 2nd shed. They would be near the dusty, and the wood store. Would need a stand for the drum sander, and it would then provide some space for a dropsaw/SCMS. (If I still had one. Still have my eye on the Festool Kapex)

But in the meantime, lots to experience on the current (latest baby!).

Nova DVR 2024

Found some more information this morning on the new DVR 2024 that has obviously gone up overnight.

Not too bad with respects to my (untimely?) purchase of the XP on the same day as the new one was announced in the US. (Whew)  It also sounds like the 2024 is an addition to the range, and not a replacement of the XP.

The top speed has been increased from 3500RPM to 5000RPM, and there are now 10 preset-able favourite speeds, rather than 5.  Onboard capacity has been increased from 16″ to 20″ and outboard (swung head) capacity from 29″ to 33″ (838mm), still with a 2HP DVR motor. (DVR = Digital Variable Reluctance)

There is the new remote control – wrist-mounted and also magnetic so can be attached near where you are working.  On/off and speed control. Compatible with all Nova DVR lathes.

Nova Remote

Big news, is the return of


The 5″ diameter chuck monster as the behemoth of the Nova Chuck range

Teknatool Nova Titan Chuck

Love that term “behemoth”, but not to be confused with the Polish blackened death metal band of the same name from Gdańsk

The Titan, the Behemoth and the SuperNova

Now I’ve Done It


Pick it up from Carbatec tomorrow!

Also got the cast iron legs to go with it so it can be free standing (which is a necessity for me – nowhere else to put it!)

One of the really cool things with this lathe (and there are plenty!) is the ability rotate the head stock to get better access to what is being turned – especially bowls and the like – large diameter stuff (he he).

The motor is really interesting – it responds very rapidly to load, to maintain constant speed.  By doing so it can achieve some significant power savings – up to 50% over a lathe with a normal motor.  The constant speed is a good thing: not sure if the actual power saving is actually worth anything.  Perhaps if I was scrutinising my power bill, and especially if I was running a business with multiple machines that may have some bearing. For the rest of us, well I may be into smart green solutions, but only where they make good economic sense.

It is a direct drive – there are no gears, no pulleys or belts.  The motor runs directly within the lathe head, and is completely variable speed from 100 to 3500 RPM with 2HP driving the work.

There is a microprocessor also constantly working, monitoring.  If the lathe senses an issue, such as a tool digging in, power is cut instantly.  Guess that will happen a lot with me at the helm!

Of course, on the very day that I buy it, Teknatool go and announce a new one – the Nova DVR 2024.  Probably wouldn’t have made any difference to the choice, especially as it is not yet available, but you always find yourself then trawling for info to see just what you’ve missed out on (if at all).  Yes, the base looks like it comes as part of it (although could still easily be an option), and no real difference except the prettied cover panel.  It has a new remote start (that can be wrist mounted), however this is retrofittable to older DVR lathes.  It is also magnetic so it can connect to near where you are working (if you don’t want it body-mounted). Who knows yet what other differences there are at this stage.  Hopefully like Windows XP, the Nova XP will still remain a very popular choice for many years after its due expiry date!

Nova DVR 2024

Get a Grip

Spun up the replacement SN2, and no fault with this one- jaws are not sloppy, and the chuck (and jaws) spins true.

So it was back to seeing what the PowerJaws could do. Took a chunk of cyprus pine and without supporting the tail (which is obviously not best practice!), nor did I turn down the end to circular to mount in the jaws (which would have been a good idea in hindsight), I turned away.


First reducing the end to round, then started forming the tiny goblet on the end.


The jaws have significant power, there is no question of that. And the Mini Jet has no difficulty with the SuperNova2 chuck either.


So with the combination of jaws and chuck, did we get a grip? You better believe it!


You turn me right round

A wood lathe is one of the primary tools in the workshop, and although not everyone wants to be a turner, even in a workshop where the focus is on other aspects of woodworking, a basic lathe can still prove to be an invaluable tool.

Some people really enjoy turning, and persevere to climb up the learning curve.  Some start interested, but a few scary moments quickly bursts the bubble. Others just don’t get why turning is so interesting – everything comes out round.

For wood turners, choosing a lathe is a critical decision, where a right choice allows all sorts of intricate designs and complicated results, and a poor choice leads to dissatisfaction and disasters.

Lathes come in all sorts of sizes, technology and price points, and there are many variables that need to be considered.  There is no one right decision, and with so many models out there, there should be a solution for each workshop.

A lathe can actually be as simple as a mandrel in a chuck  of a drill press, or as complex as a variable speed, microprocessor controlled state-of-the-art example of precision engineering.  There is no point going into all the options and choices here – not because it is useful information, but it is the content of an entire book, and not just a blog article!

I started out with a GMC lathe.  It was basic and underpowered and could turn between centres, or with a faceplate.  I later got the 4 jaw chuck (which doesn’t auto-centre) for a bit more versatility, and to get into pen turning I worked out a way to fit a powerdrill chuck into the 4 jaw chuck so I could then grip the pen mandrel.  Still, I managed to do some rather interesting things with it, including the captive ring pen, a near perfect redgum sphere and stand, and a nautical display with turned poles. It does go to show you don’t have to accept the limitations of the tools that are available.  Not complaining about the lathe at all – for the price, it was a brilliant introduction to wood turning – a great way to try out that side of woodworking without a significant outlay.

Captive Ring Pen

Nautical Set

Ball and Stand

The Mini Jet I currently have is doing me well – pen turning, spindle/centre work, goblet, toy wheels and now a few bowls.  It may not be variable speed, but although that would be very convenient (and hard to walk away from once you start using one), the belt drive gearbox does a good job, and has been perfectly sufficient for wood turners for years.

Huon Pine Goblet

I have been finding that there is a calling there however, for a pro-quality machine, and one that can swing the head to really allow end-access for bowls and platters.

And for a long time, I have been eyeing off the Nova DVR XP



Hmmm – tempting!

Thread Chasing

I’ve always been interested in the mechanical uses of timber – using timber where it is more traditional for metal (or plastic) to be the material of choice.  (None of these are my creations of course…yet!) Things like cars

Wooden Car

Wooden Interior

iPods / iPhones & Steampunked items

Wooden iPod

Wooden Apple Computer

(Although in Apple’s case, that is actually where the case came from – the original Apple 1 was a kitset computer, and you either made your own wooden case, or bought one from Apple!)

Homemade Apple 1 Case

Commercial Apple 1 Case

One of these sold for over $200,000 in an auction, so not a bad investment of $500 back in 1976!

I may not be up to making anything like this (although a wood iPad storage case is tempting, especially when I get my metric Hingecrafter from PWS), but the idea of wooden devices and mechanics is certainly interesting.  Hinges, gears, threads.

I have just gotten a set of thread chasing turning gouges from Carbatec, and have been researching how it is done.  Fascinating to see how fast the project is spun while cutting the thread.  I thought it would be dead slow, but 250RPM, although not high compared to turning speeds is still a lot faster than I was expecting to see.

Researching how it is done found me the following three videos on YouTube.

Some interesting techniques demonstrated (even if the first also includes how to drink a cup of tea at the start!)

A Trusted Opinion

I’m really curious, although the question is as much rhetorical as anything. I wonder, just how many people read my recent article on turning “A Simple Form” where I mentioned the Hamlet German Spindle Gouge at Carbatec, and got one for themselves? Reason I was curious that I wandered into Carbatec today and found that every German Spindle Gouge (other than the largest) was sold – that section of the turning chisels was completely bare.

Just goes to show just how much the opinion of someone we know is worth over targeted (and shotgun) advertising!

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