Recognising Woodwork

I was reading the New Zealand Herald on the iPad this morning, (keeps me in touch with NZ, and between the New York Times, NZ Herald and BBC, I get good world coverage, and unlike the Australian papers, none are stooping to getting you to subscribe for content that is already provided for free on their website) and came across a photo from the New Zealand version of Underbelly (not a show I watch- saw one and it was too amerturish for my liking, although I’ll make an exception when this NZ episode is on) that leapt out at me. The woodwork in the background was so familiar, it was like coming home.


Which in many ways was exactly what it was- this was from my home in New Zealand, when I was an Officer in the New Zealand Navy. The background is from the wardroom of one of New Zealand’s now retired Leander class frigates.


Seeing as Waikato, Wellington and Canterbury are all sitting on the bottom of the sea as divesites, and Southland was towed to Singapore to be turned into razorblades back in 2005, the wardroom from one of the ships must have been preserved. It isn’t Waikato, so I’d guess Canterbury, being the ship I am least familar with (typically, every ship produced in a class still have minor differences between them), and although the porthole cover holddowns looks right, the book racks and TV cupboard don’t to my eye.



I’d love a home bar, especially one extracted like this from my old floating home away from home.

So to Underbelly NZ, land of the long green cloud, (highlights the alternate meaning to the slogan “keep New Zealand green” ad campaign), thanks for the trip down memory lane.

Beach Walkers

Thanks to Martin for bringing this to my attention – some fascinating work, all in PVC.

Tools should work for you, not the other way around

It was quite a while ago that for a number of complementary reasons, I moved the dust extractor into the little shed that is next to the workshop.  To revisit those reasons quickly, dust extractors tend to be noisy, even the best will likely leak fine dust to one degree or another, and they have quite a large footprint.

However, ever since moving it there has been one minor problem.  I can’t easily start and stop it, which very quickly results in it not getting used.  The tool is no longer working for me.

I have tried to get a remote starter for it – there is one made for the unit, but actually waving money around hasn’t resulted in it making an appearance, so time for a different tack.  First, I’ve given up on the remote starter (but not on remote starting…..) And second, I’ve started looking at an alternate unit.

There is one sold by Carbatec which is 2HP, not too tall, and is based around a large cyclone.

(Pictured is the 3HP version, which is significantly taller) Looks well designed.

Back to the remote starting.  Now I am not going into the fine details – if you are not experienced & trained with green steam, it is best to avoid it altogether and I am not about to encourage you to do so.  What I’ve done tonight is to remove the (no volt release) switch, and relocate it into the main shed.  This should finally give me what I need – at least at present.

Sanding at 13000 RPM – the Rotabrade

We’ve all done it- using sandpaper as a stock removal tool, as a shaping tool. And an effective tool it is too! Woodturners joke about having used the 80 grit chisel to finish off a profile.

Three Sixty Innovative have taken that concept to new heights with the introduction for the Rotabrade.

I first saw the product on the New Inventors and as I am always particularly inspired by new products that are made, or at least developed down under, decided to take a closer peek. At $20, it is a very cheap investment.

It fits onto your angle grinder using a captive nut to secure it, and a guard made especially for the job. The guard as seen here, and on the New Inventors is still in prototype and not yet available.


The guard serves two purposes. First, it keeps your fingers away from the sandpaper. At these speeds, at the rate it can abrade wood, it would have no problem at all in causing a real injury. In saying that however, if used in a normal manner there is no real likelihood that you should be at risk. It isn’t like a tablesaw where you can find yourself in very close proximity to the blade if not being careful and vigilant.

Secondly, the guard acts as a fence, maintaining the tool perpendicular to the edge you are shaping. I did find that this wasn’t critical for the operation, so will be interested to see what the guard design ends up like when out of prototype.

So onto the tool function- this thing can really generate some sawdust! And in doing so, you have the ability to really do some serious shaping. For example, if you have just used a jigsaw to cut out a shape (such as a circle), the the Rotabrade will very quickly run around the inside of the circle (or the outside, depending on which part is important!) and remove all the jigsaw cut marks. It can also be used to shape the work, as the rate it can sand is significant indeed.


I can well imagine using it to form some complex shape which will then be a template for a copying bit on the router table.

It is not unlike a spindle sander, although operating at a much higher speed and stock removal rate, and you bring the spindle to the workpiece, and not the other way around (and it’s a LOT cheaper!)

You do need some serious dust collection on hand – this can create a mushroom cloud of dust in no time flat. There is no provision for on-tool dust collection – it would get in the way, but it might be worth considering as part of an optional additional guard, perhaps sucking through a perforated guard with a hose connected to the back of the angle grinder head? (Design suggestion for the manufacturer). For the operator, bring your 4″ hose in close, and wear breathing (and eye, and hearing) protection. Those new dust masks from YHS would be perfect 😉

It is a fun tool to use, that raw destructive power (insert a Tim the Toolman grunt), the ability to be as subtle or as aggressive as you want/as the job warrants.


Attaching the guard was very simple on the Dewalt – it used exactly the same holes and screws as the angle grinder’s own guard. I did try attaching it to the Triton angle grinder (yes, there was once such an animal), but unsurprising, the Triton angle grinder (probably a rebadged GMC) didn’t use the standard guard fitting arragement, or at least not the same as the Dewalt. I don’t have any other brands to compare it to, but I can well imagine the inventor of the Rotabrade has considered that for maximum compatiblity.


I haven’t tried changing sandpaper yet- it comes with 3 sleeves, and it uses a standard size, so available from any decent consumable supplier. From what I gather (didn’t find any instructions), the tool that comes with the Rotabrade loosens the core of the Rotabrade, allowing the sandpaper to slip off. Should prove to be an easy operation.

So that is the Rotabrade in a nutshell. Cheap, Australian, effective, destructive (he he he), and did I mention cheap?


Available from the inventor’s website Three Sixty Innovative

Zeroing the Dust Filter

Decided it was high time to replace the filter in one of my air filtration units – the Microclene seemed significantly clogged and I hadn’t replaced the filter for a while.

Knowing when to replace the filter would be so much more useful than guessing if the filter is clogged.

There is a very simple way of measuring the filter performance.  A very expensive filter tester.  A sheet of A4 paper.

With the new filter in place, run the air filter, then stick the paper to the inlet.

Dust Filter Testing

Turn off the air filter, and time how long it takes for the paper to fall away.  In the case of this filter, it took 90 seconds before the paper fell away.  Halve this time and record it on the unit.  Whenever you want to confirm whether the filter is clogged enough to require replacement, repeat the test and if it takes less than this new time for the paper to drop, the filter is toast.

Workholding on the Lathe

It would come as no surprise that one of the absolutely critical aspects of woodturning, is to be able to adequately secure what you are turning to the lathe, so it doesn’t move, fly off, cause damage or injury.

There is a myriad of ways to secure the work, some of the decisions will be based on personal preference, and some are obviously specific to the size and shape of the item to be turned, and the intended product.

A small selection of timbers

Displayed here is just a small selection of the sorts of shapes that could be expected to be mounted.  There are bowl blanks on the left – one that was sold precut, with a waxed outer to discourage checking and cracks, the other was from a board that I cut square, then rounded off the corners on the bandsaw.

There are some lengths for various spindle turnings (pepper grinders or whatever), perhaps a small vase, and some raw (dry) timber from the branch of a tree.  Much of what is here is already pretty much lathe-ready – there is a whole extra layer to this when you take a round from a tree trunk and plot out the various bowl shapes before slicing with bandsaw or chainsaw.

It would go without saying, the bigger the blank, the more secure you really want it to be!

Nova Chucks and Jaws

To mount a wide variety of timber shapes, there is an equally elaborate range of chucks, jaws and drives. The range of Nova jaws can be found here (NovaJaws PDF)

Some that can be seen here are faceplate rings (for 50, 100 and 130mm jaws), small, medium and large jaws, a variety of drives and centres, Cole jaws and a faceplate.

Jaws fit onto chucks, which in turn screw to the thread of the driven end of the lathe.  Drives and centres have a morse taper which fit into a matching hole in the drive shaft and tail stock respectively.  As is true for so many products out there, it is hard to get any consistency between brands.  Fortunately the morse taper is a standard maintained across a wide range of brands.  They are termed MT1, MT2, MT3 etc depending on diameter & taper angle.  MT1 is used for very small lathes, MT2 (morse taper 2) is by far the most common. The same cannot be said for the threaded portion of the drive.  Different diameters, different pitches, no consistency.  Yet you want to not only be able to use some of the quality chucks out there, but also to be able to continue to use them if and when you upgrade to other lathes.

Chuck Inserts

How a number of chuck manufacturers get around the issue (and Teknatool is no different) is to make their chucks with a rather large female thread, with the intention that you then choose the insert that matches your specific lathe.  In the photo here is a Supernova2, and three different inserts – one for the DVR XP, one for the Jet Mini, and the third I have NO idea.  The total range of inserts available for the Nova range is something like 20 or so, and even then if you don’t have one that matches you particular lathe, there is also one that has not been machined so you can get a machine shop (fitter-turner) to make one that is specific to your unusual model.

Turning between centres

Pretty much every lathe sold comes with the ability to turn between centres – not because it is the most common method of turning, but it is the cheapest mounting option so the manufacturers don’t have to fork out for an expensive chuck.  It has a drive at one end (fitted with the morse taper) and a centre in the end stock which pushes the workpiece onto the drive.  The centre can either be dead (as in non-rotating), or live.  Live is typically a lot more preferable!

4 Blade Drive

Transferring the motor power to the timber with a drive – it has a centre pin, and a number of blades to turn the timber.  These blades can very easily become real blades – chiseling the timber rather than turn it.

I prefer a different sort of drive – the Steb drive.

Steb Drive

This has a spring-loaded centre pin, then lots of little teeth to bite into the work.  I currently only have a small diameter version, but will look to find a meatier version now I have the larger, more powerful lathe.

Turning Between Centres

The tailstock provides the pressure to push the work onto the drive.

Conical Live Centre

A basic live center pushes into the work, going as deep as the pressure and the material will allow.

Live Centre

An alternate version has a very sharp point to position the live centre – this will push easily into the endgrain until the outer ring also impacts on the work, and it is this ring that transfers significant amount of force onto the end of the work without digging in anywhere near as much as the more basic cone centre.

For a very flexible, versatile system, the Nova Live Centre system is definitely worth considering.

Nova Live Centre System

With all sorts of options to suit a wide variety of turning requirements. Their latest addition to the range is the tailstock chuck adapter.

Chuck Adapter

This fits into the Nova tailstock and has a thread to match the Nova chuck.  Once you have turned the base of your bowl and want to rotate it to turn the inside, this adapter allows you to very accurately mount the chuck before releasing the bowl, meaning the workpiece can be flipped end-for-end without finding it is slightly out-of centre requiring some rework.

Accurately reversing a bowl

Jaw/Chuck Mounting

If not turning between centres, you can use jaws, with or without the tailstock supporting the work.  Even very thin work can be mounted this way, it is a matter of choosing jaws that match the workpiece.

Pin Jaws

These pin jaws are ideal for small pieces, with a large grip area and a dovetailed tip.  That dovetail means the jaws are also useable in the expansion mode, gripping a workpiece from the inside of a cavity machined into the bottom.

Thin Stock

The tail stock is still used to support the workpiece.  A great setup for dollshouse furniture!

Larger pieces just need larger jaws 🙂

45mm Spigot Jaw

Gripping work like this is still using the jaws in the contracting mode.  It doesn’t matter that the work isn’t round in the jaw- they will bite in significantly to hold the work tight.  These jaws have a lot of bulk, so can offer a powerful grip.

Even if you want to grip a whole branch, there are jaws with sufficient capacity to do this easily.  The Powerjaws are a powerful addition to the Supernova2 chuck.


These have a stack of gripping capacity, matching that of the Supernova2 chuck.

Measuring the Jaws

To mount up the lump of Cyprus Pine, I first measured the maximum jaw opening, using the offset fingers of the new Woodpeckers Story Stick Caliper Arm Set. These seem rather interesting in their application for wood turners, as well as the concept they were originally designed for.  By setting the internal diameter of the jaw, the other side of the arms can be used to check the external diameter of the timber.

External width check

In this case, the timber was too large to be fitted directly into the jaws while square so it had to be first mounted between centres to turn a tenon to grip in the Powerjaws.

Between Centres

Ready for turning the tenon

Roughing down

With the amount of force the roughing gouge imparts on the work, I didn’t want to rough down any more than was necessary – between centres causes enough slippage with the lack of grip the 4 blade drive actually has.

Turning the Tenon

Other than turning to round, there was very little that had to be removed from the diameter to fit the jaws.

Confirming the fit

With the Story Stick again, the size of the tenon is confirmed as fitting the jaws.


Even roughing a small amount, this timber is pretty hard and the drive finds it very difficult to grip.  This is rather evident in the amount the blades have chiseled out – indicating significant slippage.


With the tenon cut, the Powerjaws can then come in and grab the workpiece with significant power.  The rest of the roughing down then becomes very easy – no chance of slippage now!


Once round, the real work can begin, but that is a job for another day.

Bowl Mounting.

Like mounting a length of timber, mounting a bowl takes a little preparation.  By starting with a temporary mount, the base can be turned and the method by which the bowl will be mounted for turning the inside.

Bowl Mounts

One method for starting a bowl is by using a screw drive. Here are two versions – the Nova version which is then gripped in the chuck jaws, and one that fits directly into the morse taper.  A small pilot hole is drilled in the centre then the screw drive is attached.

Screw Drives

The Nova is significantly more substantial, and although morse tapers typically don’t slip (when coupled with the use of the tailstock), the Nova one is positively gripped and with the significant thread can really hold a piece hard.

Another popular method is the use of a faceplate.  This one is the Nova version which came with the DVR XP


It attaches by screwing directly onto the drive thread of the lathe.  Now an interesting method is the use of a faceplate ring, which I particularly like.

Faceplate Rings

Here is a 50mm ring about to be attached, and in the foreground a 100mm and 130mm ring.  These sizes match that size jaw.  The 130mm ring is significant indeed, with provision for 12 screws to grip the work.

Bowl blank mounted

With the faceplate ring fitted, it is then gripped with the jaws in expansion mode and the base can be turned.

Preparing base

I’ve switched blanks here if you are wondering how the camphor laurel suddenly became mahogany!  With a pencil and the lathe spinning, the diameter of the jaws is marked onto the base.

Dovetail Scraper

A dovetail scraper is used to cut a recess with a taper, so that when the bowl is flipped around, the jaws can expand and grip the base without it being likely to slip off.  This is one method for bowl mounting.  The other is to turn a tenon which can be gripped by the jaws contracting onto it.


You’d normally finish the base before rotating and remounting the bowl, but for the sake of this article, I’ve reversed it already.  The cole jaws are not being used here at all, it is the 50mm jaws gripping the base.  At this stage the faceplate ring would be removed, then the hollowing can begin.

130mm Jaw Mount

In this case, I actually want to mount the bowl in the 130mm jaws, so I have reversed the bowl again and now cut a very large diameter dovetailed opening in the base.


And just to demonstrate this, I’ve mounted the 130mm jaws and chuck into this opening.  You don’t normally do this (although with the new tailstock adapter, this will become more common, but with the chuck mounted in the tailstock to ensure a very accurate alignment.

So a bit of a look at workpiece mounting, and it has been a quick gloss over the subject.  There are whole books dedicated to the subject!

However, hopefully it has provided some ideas and insights, particularly into the Nova chucks and jaws.  The interchangeability of the G3 and Supernova2 and all the jaws that are available demonstrates just how comprehensive their system is.

Sandpaper Cleaner

Quick post just to demonstrate just how effective the Belt and Disk Stick is for cleaning up your sandpaper on the linisher, drum, spindle, belt and disk sanders.

Carbatec version






A very cheap consumable tool ($7-$12 depending on size) that significantly improves the life of your abrasives. The main thing that kills abrasives is not being worn out, but clogging leading to overheating and burning. If you keep the abrasive clean, it will work better and last a significantly longer time than it would otherwise.


Some interesting stuff coming out of this year’s AWFS (the biggie of the wood shows, Las Vegas)

The new Teknatool mini lathe (the Comet II) has a fascinating quick connection for additional accessories. Given the lathe is variable speed, it means this gives you variable speed for the accessories as well.

There is also a new Festool drill. It may not be brushless, but a Festool drill that is under $300 is pretty surprising, considering most are 2-3 times that! And that includes 3 different chucks.




And although Delta are no longer an American company (having been bought by the Taiwanese (?) manufacturer), they still have quite a few of the original company designers working on new products.

This one is a simple, and good idea for dust extractors- one that is actually easy to empty and return to function without stuffing around trying to get bands around a plastic bag. A simple lever to lift the lid, and the bin rolls out. Too many other dust extractor manufacturers opt for solutions that they haven’t had to think about, rather than coming up with a design that actually works with the user.


Teknatool Chucks

It would come as no surprise that the design team behind the DVR XP lathe would also have some pretty good designs for how to secure timber to that lathe. Now I’m not sure whether it was the chicken or egg for which came first, but in the end a quality chuck and a quality lathe is a great combination.

If you don’t have a Teknatool lathe, it doesn’t mean you have to miss out. I’ve had a Jet mini lathe for a long time with a Nova G3 chuck (Nova is the primary product range from Teknatool). Once I got the DVR, I didn’t have to get a new chuck either- there are a whole range of inserts that fit into the back of the chuck to take the generic thread and provide one that is suitable for your lathe make & model.

I have both a G3 and Supernova2 (SN2) chuck. It is handy having more than one chuck- rather than having to interchange jaws all the time, you can have 2 (or more) of your most common jaw arrangements set up and swap chucks quickly and easily.


Whether it is pin jaws and power jaws or


Standard (50mm) jaws with mini cole jaws and the giant 130mm jaws, or any others from their range, there are plenty of combinations to choose between to suit how you work.

The Cole jaw is an interesting one, as it allows a near complete bowl to be mounted (or remounted) without damage so the base can be finished. In this case, I have combined it with the 50mm jaws (and I currently have the mini cole jaws, as they were the largest my previous lathe could mount). This allows you to turn a bowl with the 50mm jaws, then reverse mount it to finish the job without having to change jaws (or chucks).

There are a whole range of jaws available for the Nova chucks. I still find it amusing (and somewhat annoying) that even the largest jaws are dwarfed by the box they are supplied in. Makes storing the jaws between use a bit of a pain.


Guess I’ll have to come up with a different storage system. Might be a good excuse to come up with a dovetailed storage box, with drawers for each specific jaw. May have to have some large drawers at the bottom for the chucks that are not being used. Hmm- I feel a project coming on!

If you are looking for the Nova chucks and jaws, Carbatec carry the full range. Just waiting to see the Titan on their shelves!

Goin’ on a Bender

Saw this new offering from Rockler, and it looks really interesting. Good price too!

Shame we don’t have a Rockler-like store down under……. 😉

It is a home steam bending unit, which provides steam for up to 2 hours to a steam box you can make from the plans provided with the unit.

Rockler Steam Bender

Love one these units, and the extra functionality you’d get from having one of these units at your disposal.  At $90 it isn’t going to particularly break the bank.

Steam Box

Very cool – wish I could source one down under!  Good for those in the US, where you have a local Rockler store!

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