ManSpace Mag Launch


Currently at the launch of the new magazine, with a bit of a display of assorted tools I grabbed from the shed. Interesting to be a part of it – normally mags are well established before I become involved so seeing one just starting out (and being a part of it as a guest author) is pretty cool!


I was having a look at my workbench, and couldn’t see it for all the tools and accessories over it. There was a large collection of jaws, chucks and turning chisels all over it. Time for some cleanup!

I am struggling to figure out where I will actually mount storage, but that is a problem for another day. In the meantime, I first chose to look at the storage of the jaw sets. I could just have them tossed into a sectioned box (or continue to be stored in their significantly oversized boxes they are sold in), but instead decided to explore a more visual storage method.

Lathe Jaw Storage

Lathe Jaw Storage

I’ve used dowels (2 per jaw) to retain the jaw in place, and have located them with the mounting rings where appropriate.

Between a Rock….

You are walking in the bush, or beside a stream, and see a rock like any other, a bit dirty, perhaps with a good collection of moss (not a rock of the rolling variety).  You might walk right on pass, use it as a stepping stone, or pick it up and toss it into the water for a satisfying splash.

Or, like some, you may instead recognise a potential treasure waiting to be released from its crusty cocoon.

Takes a bit to do that however – it is a rock after all, so a diamond blade is definitely the order of the day.  So into my Dad’s workshop, and after firmly clamping the rock (I’m sure he’ll tell us what it is!) it is slowly fed into the constantly oil lubricated blade, first slicing it in two, before cutting off some thin slices.

An experienced eye may be able to have a pretty fair idea of what is inside, but really it is a mystery until the stone is cleaved.

In this case, I have a couple of thin slices and along with a fair few other slices from different stones, ready to be incorporated into some wooden designs – perhaps an infill section of a box lid.

So pretty interesting not only to get to see what is inside what is otherwise just another boulder, but also to be able to cut it to a thickness, and sometimes a shape that can be utilised in another project.


“An Evening With” – cancelled

Please note:

Carbatec have cancelled the entire “An evening with” programme, so the upcoming booking on September 1 (An Evening with Stu’s Shed) has also been cancelled.

This includes any other evenings that were also arranged with other presenters.

Sorry about the short notice – I’ve only just found out myself.

An unnecessary weight

Sometimes, it adds to the whole tactile experience when you pick up a wooden object and feel the weight and substance of the object.  On the other hand when I’m turning these days, I like the idea that the object is no heavier than it needs to be, or to put it another way, that the object has a wall thickness that is as thin as possible without compromising the structural integrity.

I had another go today, this time at a piece of walnut that I found in my wood rack and came up with the following bowl:

Walnut Bowl

It isn’t as dark as I was expecting (for walnut), but it still has a very nice pattern to the grain.

To give you an idea of size/scale, here is the bowl with my hand for reference.


For the underside, I used the expanding jaw to hold the bowl while turning the inside, so then remounted the bowl in Cole jaws and turned the majority of it away to leave a subtle raised-ring foot for the bowl.


Now as to the weight and wall thickness.  I measured the walls to have an average thickness of 3.5mm, and it is surprisingly light when you pick it up.  So I weighed it.

Bowl Weight

A whole 40g. The weight of 8 sheets of A4 80 gsm paper.

Guess there is very little extraneous timber left in that bowl!


This section of an old Rimu tree was 815 years old when it was felled in the 1920s. It is now housed in the Auckland Museum, and although it isn’t the largest, or widest or anything, it is still quite an impressive sample.  I can remember seeing it on many visits over the past 40 years.

Ancient Rimu

At 815 years (from 1920), that makes it germination date (equivalent to its birth date) in 1105.  This tree certainly saw its share of history, including the building of Notre Dame in 1163, the foundation of Oxford University in 1168, the use of windmills in 1185.  There is so much that happened in the lifetime of this tree – it is quite incredible.

Wonder how many pens could be made from this slab?

Make a pretty impressive turned bowl!

Aotearoa Pounamu

It is sometimes hard to find the perfect souvenir, especially from a place that was once also home.  I was looking for something particularly meaningful, a bit of a statement of my past. I already have a bone fishhook – a very traditional symbol representing the hook used by Maui when he hooked and pulled Aotearoa from the sea.  Hei Matua (the fishing hook) represents strength & determination, and safe passage over water.

Polynesian Sailing Canoe at Auckland Museum

I wanted to add to this something carved from Greenstone (also known as Jade). With such a flood of cheap Chinese knockoffs, and non-New Zealand Jade being sold as if it was genuine, I tried hard to identify something locally crafted, from genuine New Zealand stone. As a woodworker, there was an extra layer of meaning in the piece I chose – a traditional adze-head form. Greenstone is Pounamu in the native tongue (an official language in New Zealand).

It is said that each piece absorbs the mana (the spirit) of the individual, and the stone forever yearns for its source- Aotearoa, and a promise that those whole leave the shores will one day return. (Added importance therefore of getting New Zealand stone, and not some Chinese knockoff.  To be fair, Canada is also a source of quality Jade, and a lot of that is also sold in New Zealand.  Look for “New Zealand Nephrite Jade”.  If it just says “Nephrite Jade” it is likely British Colombian.  If it doesn’t have that, it is likely to be Chinese. You have to ask if it is not clear.  Not that Chinese jade is necessarily of lesser quality, but I have a problem with the concept that I am trying to buy something authentic- hand crafted/carved Aotearoa Pounamu (New Zealand Greenstone), and don’t want some cheap crap machine manufactured, potentially inferior quality jade that may or may not be chemically treated so it looks better than it is.)

Greenstone is a traditional material chosen primarily for its ornamental properties. It was used as a practical material although was often reserved for obsidian- a volcanic glass. Very hard, and being glass, can be chipped to form an extremely sharp working edge.

Adze Heads at Auckland Museum

I must admit to being very disappointed (but I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised) when I discovered that there was so much foreign jade imported, and shaped offshore into traditional designs.  Why there isn’t a ban on the importation of it is rather confusing. Is the pursuit of the almighty dollar more important than heritage? One major reseller of jade in Rotorua looked as if almost 3/4 of their stock was foreign materials and/or foreign shaped & carved.

Something to be aware of, if shopping for a memento, and wanted something traditional. Not everything green is (NZ) stone.

Aotearoa Pounamu

Other than the bone fish hook (Hei Matua) that I already had, the Adze head piece was the one that I added this time.  Known as Toki, it was originally a carving tool that became ceremonial, inherited Taonga (treasure), which symbolises strength and courage.

The final piece was one my wife got, which incorporates the Koru, which is the unfurling fern frond and depicts new beginnings and growth.  Both jade pieces were carved by a young Rotorua carver Scott Parker.

Silver Fern Frond

There and back again


First, an apology for being AWOL for the past 10 days, and particularly the last few.  As some may have gathered, I have been traveling around a bit of the North Island with my family, visiting my folks, and revisiting some of my old stomping grounds.  For the sake of security I didn’t make too much mention of the trip before I left or while I was away – too many dickheads out there who may find that sort of information too tempting.  However, I am back now so all is good and I am free to talk about what has been happening.

Land of the long lost iCloud

Aotearoa is the Land of the Long White Cloud, but after this recent trip, I think it needs a name change.  I intended to keep the website running pretty much the entire time I was away, but where once New Zealand was used as a telecommunication test bed for the US telcos, it seems this has been slipping a lot – I had so much internet trouble while over there that I just couldn’t keep this site updated as often as I’d like.  My parents’ place cannot even receive broadband, or 3G (or mobile phone reception), being a whole 40km or so from the centre of Auckland.  I therefore had to resort to dial-up, but that posed its own problems (other than speed), as it meant I could not get my devices (iPhone/iPad/Apple Air) online at all – I am committed to wireless technology these days.  Even motels offering free internet turned out to be via an ethernet cable (and none of my computing devices have an ethernet port!)  Another supposed 4 star hotel in Taupo had wireless internet, but expected you to sit in their reception area to use it.  So if I have been unusually quiet – sorry – very much beyond my control.

Australia may be seemingly better, but even we are still suffering from pathetically slow, overpriced internet compared to what is actually technologically possible. It is about time we caught up – there is so much more that would be possible if we just had a modern network.

Woodworking Down Under

I really didn’t have much of a chance to tour around woodworking in New Zealand – too much to do, too little time.  I have documented a bit of what I found, particularly the Māori carving at Rotorua, so there will be a bit filtering out over the next couple of weeks or so.  And there will be a bit of other things I find interesting, not necessarily woodworking or shed related, but interesting never-the-less.

My parents (particularly Dad) is into Rockhounds, including not only finding the rocks (etc) in the wild (as it were), but then also cutting, polishing and shaping them.  I’ve bought back a few examples, including some Kauri gum that I will look at how to mount them as highlights in some box lids (etc).  So came back with some new ideas and directions to try.


It was refreshing to listen to the news in another country without the constant pathetic partisan bickering that we seem to have to endure here in Oz. So a simple message to the pollies. GROW UP ffs.


So a big trip – rather tired, glad to be home and looking forward to getting back into my (shed) space.  Home really feels more like home now, it has been interesting in that respect.  This was the first time I’ve been back to the city I grew up since I moved to Australia 12 years ago.  It has changed a bit, but perhaps not as much as I imagined.  It took a while to feel like the home I left, but it did much more so by the time we finished.  Even so, Melbourne feels so much more like home now than it ever has.

So I’m back, Stu’s Shed is back on air, and work is still sending me emails that I am going to ignore until I go back next week!

Thanks for being patient – hopefully the hiatus will prove worthwhile for you, my constant readers.


Checks and Reveals

It may seem like only a few hours ago that I started the article, transforming some firewood into potential turning blanks. However, for me it has been quite a bit longer, so it is time to finish the article, part 2!

My plan for one of the blanks is a bit of a vase shape. How it finally ends up is still to be determined, in part when the wood tells me what it wants to become.

Step one is to mount the blank between centres. It isn’t ideal, but there is little option until I can get a chuck on it. I could have drilled a hole with a forstner bit, then used a chuck in expansion mode to lock onto it. However, whichever method is chosen, it is time to turn the tenon to mount into contracting chuck jaws.

Hard going- no matter how tight I wound in the tailstock- lots of slippage. A spur drive would have been good, but I needed a bigger one than my current offering. However by using sharp chisels and taking it slow, I was able to get to a point that I had a tenon that the 130mm jaw could lock onto, and from that point things became significantly easier.


I didn’t want to turn the final shape using the 130mm jaws – not powerful enough for the size of vase I was planning, so I used the 130mm jaws to drive the work while I turned a second tenon on the other end for the 75mm PowerJaws.

One thing turning does in spades, and that is generating sawdust – great mountains of it. Now I have easy access to the dust collector controller, I am much more likely to use it, and so what I have done is rig up the “Big Gulp” under the lathe. It doesn’t catch much at all (most shavings fly back at me, rather than conveniently towards the collector). However, by having it on the ground still means that as the sawdust pile grows, I can kick it towards the collector.

Once the 75mm tenon was turned, I mounted the PowerJaws on a second SuperNova2, and spun it by hand to ensure it was inline. Satisfied with that, the piece was reversed and the 130mm jaws removed. The tailstock then bought up to provide additional support. This is a perfect example where the new chuck aligning insert by Teknatool would have been perfect.

I took a parting tool and defined the limits for the turning, taking into account the checking from uncontrolled drying. The piece was then shaped, sanded, and finished (I will probably do a bit more to the outside, so ‘finishing’ was as much to do with seeing what the timber was going to come up like as it was about making the job easier at the end.


Once it became a problem, it was time for the tailstock to be removed, so the piece next to the tailstock was also pared away.


Rather than try to chisel out all the core, I decided to drill out a significiant portion of it. I had trouble holding the work strongly enough with the PowerJaw on its own, so this was really the only way.


After boring the very core, it was time change up to the forstner bits. I had to choose a bit with a larger diameter than the headstock, so the drill chuck could fit inside the hole so I could get a decent depth of cut.


So that is where it is at the moment- with a decent hole cut, ready for the next stage.

Fallen Trees

A number of years ago, my neighbour at the time (now since passed on) mentioned a friend of his who had just cut down a couple of trees, and they’d be good firewood. There was a lot of that going on in the area at the time, lots of areas once typical southern Victorian farmland having the life subdivided out of them to maximise the return for money hungry, romantically deprived developers.

Stunning trees, both living and dead being stripped away, and often even whole hills being flattened to make way for estates comprising of hundreds of houses (either tiny, or McMansion) on pathetically space deprived blocks.

So if it came down to the wood from the trees being bulldozed to the centre of the block and almost ritualisically burned, or heading home with me as a bit of free firewood, I took that option.

The following winter, I took out my log splitter and axe, and went to work to break the rounds down to something that would fit the fireplace, so I could free the carbon that had been emprisoned in its woody tomb. Things didn’t quite go to plan. Every swing of the logsplitter simply bounced off the log-it was still rather green, and dense, and seemingly inpenetratable. It would be a chainsaw job, and even that would be hard-going for the little home unit I had.

So the logs have sat, and sat, and sat for years alongside the house waiting for me to get the motivation to either find a solution, or to get rid of them once and for all. Motivation was just not forthcoming.

But that all changed with the new electric husquvarna. I needed something to try it out on, and these useless pieces could become a real test for the new tool.

Clamped up tight in the SuperJaws, with some log jaws fitted, the Husky was given a run. Now it may be that the timber had finally made some progress in drying, or the new sharp blade made all the difference (this is the same blade that I managed to land myself in A&E with when I slipped while tightening the blade, so I can testify to its sharpness, first hand so to speak). Whatever it was, the blade sliced easily and cleanly through. The resulting cut revealed something else about the characteristic of the timber- it was spotted gum. 3 slices later, and I had a large cube of it. Cool, but still not sure what I’d do with it. However, more of the character of the timber was revealed, including that after a inch or two where there was checking from the cut surfaces (this was firewood, so it was never waxed at the ends to prevent splitting, and if it had it would have made my job of turning it into firewood a lot easier), the remainder was solid to the core.

The next chapter became realisable when I got a lathe that had heaps of power, took the SuperNova2 with PowerJaws, and had a decent base clearance.

So last night, I took this large lump of spotted gum, and decided it would work best if I resawed it into quarters. With a decent bandsaw, this is not a difficult thing, even with a piece that is around a foot x foot x foot. And I’m running the Carbatec 17″, with good capacity & power. Even bigger would be better, but you have what you have, and this is a very capable machine. One of my favourite things about this machine is the blade tensioner wheel’s location. Very easily accessed- so much better that reaching over the top, and a decent size wheel to boot.


After taking the photo, I realised I should have changed the blade beforehand- oh well. So I changed the blade to the resaw blade ready to do the business.



The first step was to cut the cube in two. As you can see from the photo, there are significant checks – after all, this was treated as firewood, not some pristine turning blank.



I could have used the chainsaw for the job, but there is a time and place for chainsaws, and this wasn’t either. Next, I took each in turn and sawed them down again, producing 4 quarters.

So that was the prep work taken care of, and what then became of one of those blanks is a tale for another day.

%d bloggers like this: