A Solid Solution

Not all timber is solid, and is often full of checks, cracks and voids making it less than ideal for such operations as turning. These voids can often be included in a project to great effect, but depending on the extent of these defects (and importantly, the skill of the operator) they can also render a piece dangerous, or impossible to use.

This is not limited to wood turners, and wood turning, but that group does deal with heavily defected workpieces, spinning at high speeds (ready to explode all over the shop!)

It is not uncommon for copious amounts of CA glue to be applied to help stabilise a piece (and in part it has significant penetrating capacity). Epoxy is also often used in turning, as well as other projects such as furniture making (stabilising knots, filling holes).

If you take the take the whole epoxy concept towards an extreme, there is so much that becomes possible, and a Melbourne company is doing just that. Solid Solutions in East Bentleigh has been producing two-pack products for years, and have some refined specifically for woodworkers.

What you then choose to do, and create with the product is only limited by your imagination.

You can take a piece of highly defective timber, stabilise it (and use the epoxy to replace what is missing) and create a perfect object from imperfect stock.


Take a piece that isn’t large enough to create a solid object, and build up the missing side until the result is a complete blank. Or as with the object on the right, create a full blank from the resin, with a material you’d want to work with embedded inside.

20111130-012443.jpg Imagine actually being able to turn a feather bowl. Or a pine needle goblet.

The ability to turn otherwise unturnable objects into something that can be spun up and machined on the lathe opens all sorts of possibilities.

Such as the use of gumnuts, glitter, watchparts, electronic components or whatever else catches your eye.

By machining a channel in your blank, you can then fill it with unturnables and resin, then not only machine it from the top, but also from the bottom to the point that you have a ring near the rim which solely comprises of this combination.




It isn’t just the ability to embellish an object either- you can take an entire bowl of anything, including offcuts, then fill the bowl with resin to create a new casting blank.


You are limited only by your imagination, and neither are you limited to using something like this for turning. You could make imaginitive boards or lids for projects.

Turning it does look just a little bit crazy!


So if you want to wander off the beaten track, then this stuff can certainly get you a long way to therel

Worth checking out, from Solid Solutions

A day in the shed

When an opportunity come up to have a day receiving free instruction and demonstrations from one of Australia’s master woodturners, you don’t give it a pass. Today was a bit different, in that there was more than just Robbo presenting. (More on that shortly).

The last time I was in Robbo’s Workshop (Robbo’s Play Pen in his terms) was about 5 or 6 years ago, and I still remember much of what I picked up from that session, so as I sit here ready for the day to start, the anticipation can be felt around the room. A bunch of woodworkers (woodturners, primarily from the Australian Woodworking Forums) are here, each camped out on their portable chairs, obligatary morning brews in hand. At the front are a bunch of chucks, some common, some pretty unique, or old and examples of chucks no longer in common use.


Around the room, other than the 20 or so who have made the trip are some other sights you’d not see in the average woodwork shop (and this is a WORKshop, not just a backyard shed). Not one or two lathes, but 7, and two had various lengths of tree trunks mounted. One of those is a lathe with a bed over 12 m in length. No, not a typo. A 12 metre lathe!




And yes, that is a real tree trunk mounted at one end. The lathe can turn entire flagpoles, and is used for many commercial jobs. When Robbo gets going, he sometimes has a couple of blokes with shovels to gather up the shavings while he is turning, just to keep up with the waste he can generate! It is from him that I learned to enjoy high speed turning (roughing down sometimes up to 2000 RPM with a serious roughing gouge – 1 1/2″).

To stop whipping of the longest jobs (even tree trunks can exhibit it when turning between centres over that length), he has a custom-made steady. Normal units need not apply. Even typical wheels need not- by the end of a day turning, more average wheels have pretty much disintegrated. The current wheel of choice are those used in bowling alleys, in the ball return. If I’d thought of it at the time, the wheels used in escalators are also pretty durable.


Yes, the chain block is obligatory.




Before the real presentations started, there was one a single, obligatory word of advice and in Robbo’s immortal words:

“If you want to be hung from the gum tree out the front, put the coffee spoon in the sugar”


So the topic of the day was workholding on the lathe. We heard (briefly) about the history, and the simple fact that for the oldest machining method in woodworking, there is nothing new under the sun. Not until about 1980 when a certain New Zealand company produced the scroll chuck (and even then that was an adaption of an old chuck). Still, that revolutionised workholding.

For a revolutionising company, Teknatool sure suffered a lot of bagging for the rest of the day. It might have been because it is a New Zealand company, and that makes it typically fair game, but more likely because like so many others, when production was shifted offshore to China, quality ha slipped, and others have overtaken (specifically VicMarc). I haven’t had an opportunity to try their products, so can’t speak on that- all my chucks and jaws are Teknatool (Nova). Goes with my shockingly good Nova DVR (yes, still shocking, but I can’t be bothered trying to cart my 200+kg lathe back to Carbatec, nor do I want to take it apart and having it sit around for months waiting for a part that may or may not fix the problem anyway.)

Speaking of Carbatec, you could have been mistaken to think they were a Kiwi company as well if you know what I mean (not during the proceedings, but amongst some of the attendees during the breaks).

Back to the topic at hand




There were chucks, chucks, and more chucks, including eccentric, modified, and huge.


And cup chucks, but not your everyday kind. Remember what I said about treetrunks?! Between $800 and $1000 each. They also make a great gong for getting the room’s attention when hit with a hammer!

The more typical size are used for production between centres work


We were then taken through just how easy it is to make use of vacuum chucks – something I have been interested in knowing about for a while now. And surprisingly easy and cheap.



From that, we moved onto jam chucking, hot glue gun, and electrical tape.

These demos were about precision, and the work that the next turner could produce significantly justified how precise the mounting sometimes needs to be. (Ken Wraight)

From the tiniest work – and I’m talking timy details, tiny mortice and tenon joints 1mm diameter, through to some quite impressive bowls, still a whole 4mm thick ( and often 1mm thick bowls).




Discussions about securing reverse-mounting a natural-edge bowl using a jam chuck with a hot glue reinforcement.


And finally some of his other work, but I’ll leave the photos to tell the story







Inspiring? Certainly once you get past the mindblowing precision and detail of these stunning pieces.

So that was the day. Pretty interesting stuff eh 🙂

Paolini Rulez!!

I guess some graffiti on a building wall isn’t what we are talking about here, so it much be a shop rule, and one that has some unique features designed by someone called Paolini!  You can read the background here, so I won’t repeat it again. Nevertheless, it was someone with a good idea, that has then been tweaked and adjusted and refined by the minds behind Woodpeckers to produce yet another highly engineered, stylish, and incredibly short supplied and successful One Time Tool.

There is a 150mm pocket rule version (being true to the original design), as well as a 450mm version.

Currently available through Professional Woodworkers Supplies, but like all the other One Time Tools, not for long – once sold out, that is it – there are no more.  If you want one, grab it quick or miss out forever!

To DIY or not

Worksafe : Safework

Courses at work are a fact of life, especially occupational health and safety ones. If you have been reading this site for some time (or visited recently but had a look around the content behind the Safety tag), you will gain a realisation that safety to me is not something to get on a high horse about, nor is it something to ignore and avoid. It is something that should just be done to mean you finish an activity safely.

My simple summary for safety at work is “employees should be able to go home in equal or better condition than when they arrived”. This entails both physical safety as well as mental (stress etc).

This should be applied equally to shed activities. This simple rule shouldn’t rob the enjoyment out of an activity. But who wants to end a day in the shed by rushing to Emergency? Or risking the hidden dangers of carcinogenic sawdust? (In Australia, all sawdust is regarded as carcinogenic).

So back to the course for a sec, and while listening to the presentation, I followed some info presented to the Workspace site to look at some guides. What caught my eye was the image on the cover of the one shown was a bandsaw. So I investigated further, and curiously although bandsaws are specifically mentioned in its own guide, there is none specifically for tablesaws or jointers. Why is it the comparatively safest of the power machines end up with such a bad rap, and its own guideline, while the real bad boys (tablesaws, planers, nail files) get ignored?

In any case, here are some of the guides that are available through the Worksafe website of relevance to woodworkers:

Guarding of Machines


Using the right tool for the job

Wood dust- Health hazards and Control

Lathe Incident


Working Alone

The lathe incident makes interesting reading, but some potentially impractical suggestions for alternatives. Wonder which expert wood turner was consulted for THOSE gems?

Little Magnets vs the Bubble of Babble

I’ve recently moved offices at work, and am taking the opportunity to do a pretty ruthless cleanup at the same time. 10 years of accumulated junk really builds up fast. Lots of items that were kept on the assumption (or hope) that they had residual value, that they would prove useful down track.

In my case, this is 10 years of accumulated IT related items, so the half life on it is only 12 months or so, not a decade!

If an office is a junk magnet, then a shed is a neodymium magnet for it. Talk about a junk attraction! We actively seek stuff out to be stored out there ‘just in case’, and when we don’t (or we finally throw something away, despite the code violation that it is) we curse the day it would have proven useful after all.

Even today, when I had a chance to get out there for a short stint, I found myself locating new niches to store the ever important objects without a current purpose. It is a hard step to take, but I have to start to ask myself some hard questions:

Not whether an object is useful now (or potentially in the future), because the answer to that is inevitably “absolutely”.

The question to ask is “given the cost of the real estate this object will occupy, is it worth keeping based on its value?” If you have a box of odds’n’sods, the individual items may not occupy enough space to sway the balance against then, but the box of unfindable objects as a collection might be a different story!

I have made a decision (hopefully I stick to it!), the next time I am out there, I am going to be ruthless with my undefinable collections and see just how much I am left with at the end. Could be fun (?)

Perhaps I should bag it up and donate it to a more code complying shed (or drop it off at the local Men’s Shed).

Alternately, throw a handful into each Stu’s Shed showbag for the next Melbourne wood show!

Have a barrel of it at the wood show as a Woody’s version of a ‘lucky’ dip! (A lucky dip that requires the participant to have an up-to-date tetanus shot……hmm – perhaps not!)

Signwriting Set

Rockler are well known for bringing out a range of products they have developed (rather than ones that are rebadged), including Bench Cookies, and one of their more recent offerings is an interlocking signwriting kit.

It is a very simple kit – none of the rails etc of the more elaborate systems, and it also avoids the significant price tags.

They have a 2 1/4″ template as well as a 4″ one.  Currently, there is only one font on offer which is a bit sad – the price is low enough that you could afford to own a few different fonts.

Carbatec now have the kit as an offering in Australia, and at $24 is a good price for a basic lettering set.  However, they are currently not offering the 4″ kit, and very strangely, nor are they offering the numbers and symbols kit to match.

It makes making a sign a bit difficult if you cannot include a phone number, or basic symbols such as &, $ and @.

Hopefully the Rockler Deluxe set gets included in the lineup, which for an additional $15 over the basic letter kit is an amalgamation of both letters and numbers/symbols.

The letter set includes multiple copies of the most common letters.  Ideally if you can get one of each kit, you’d have a great collection of letters, and still have the required symbols and numbers.

Here’s hoping eh!

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