Float like a butterfly

I asked Muhammad Ali recently what is favourite activity is, and the answer wasn’t a surprise. “I box”

So I trundled off to the Apple Store to see what their latest product was, and again the answer was “iBox” (with the iBox2 due out about 9 months later).

Next it was over to Professional Woodworkers Supplies to find out what their latest woodworking product was.  Can you guess the answer? i-Box from Incra.

Seems to be a bit of a trend happening here!

Given we are all pretty familiar with Ali’s boxing, and not everyone is an Apple fan, let’s stick with the third product and have a closer look at that.

Incra are renowned for creating items that bring incredible precision to woodworking.  And the iBox is no exception.  Unlike the other box jigs, the iBox has a completely variable finger size to exactly match the size of the cutter (whether that is a router bit or a dado blade).  It also has a microadjustment capability but my first use of it seemed to also cause the two sides to no longer be aligned.  The best option I found from a bit of trial and error was to get the width of the finger right in the first place!

Incra i-Box

The jig has good protection for the operator – both the block guards (red) so the operator is not exposed to the blade, particularly after the cut, as well as the perspex shield which discourages contact with the blade, and stops chips being flung up from the rear of the blade.

For all the safety items, what really sets this jig apart is the variable finger.

View from above

The finger is first zeroed off the blade during the initial set up.  If you have a left-tilting saw, you won’t have to redo this calibration even when changing blade or using a different dado width.

Using a test block, cut an initial slot then use this slot to accurately set the finger width by turning the adjustment knob.

Adjustment knob

Not only does this set the width of the finger, but the mechanism also moves the finger the same exact distance from the blade that the finger is wide.

Width set of a smallish dado blade stack

Underneath the jig

From underneath you can see the adjustable finger (not a lot of the mechanism itself).

Narrow finger setup

I also tried the jig with a single blade rather than a dado stack – worked very well with a basic blade, as well as with the large variable kerf achievable with a dado.

Fingers cut with a dado blade

The result looks pretty good to me, and very easy to set up and create.

Fingers cut with dado, and fingers cut with a single blade

It is a very effective jig – looking forward to seeing what else it can do (such as variable central finger width).

Available from Professional Woodworkers Supplies. Unless you want to try the Apple store 😉

Steak Knives, Take Two

When I first made some scales for the steak knife set (from Professional Woodworkers Supplies) about a year ago, things were going well until almost the final step when excessive tearout occurred when the roundover bit got a tad aggressive. That project has been set aside for a little longer than I expected (or realised when I looked at the date of the first effort!). So time to try again. I’m not sure if this specific set is still available, but there are plenty of other knife projects available here.

Unhandled knife kit

I didn’t take a photo of the knife kit again this time, so have recycled the first photo here. Now on with the new attempt (and yes, there is a more successful conclusion!)

To start, I have a new timber for the blanks (for a bit of variety!) This time the handles will be black hearted sassafras. The blanks have been roughly sized, and ready to be machined accurately.

I have improved the method I use to sand thin stock on the drum sander by making a sled.

Thin stock sled for the drum sander

With a piece of MDF, I have attached a thin fence to one edge with a couple of 4mm dominos.

Thin stock sled in operation

The sled carries the blanks in and through the sander – the increased area of the base works well with the sander to ensure no slippage occurs when the blanks impact the sanding drum, decreasing any chance of snipe or burning. These were sanded to 8.2mm to match the knife bolster.

Next, cut an angle on one end to match the knife blank. In this case, 36 degrees, which is easily done using the Incra Mitre Gauge HD, and even better when coupled up with the Mitre Express.

HD Gauge from Incra

Mitre Express

The Mitre Express makes machining small items safer, and minimising tearout.

Knife Scales

The resulting knife scales ready for the next stage. I needed to drill 3.5mm holes, but found my drill bit that size had the end snapped off from a previous job. So for a bit of a diversion, off to the Tormek and the drill bit sharpener jig.

Tormek DBS-22

This jig quickly turned the broken tip of the bit back into a well-formed, razor sharp bit, better than new (originally a 2 facet bit – this jig allows you to develop 4 facets on the tip).

Preparing the scale for drilling

With double-sided tape, I attached one scale to the knife, then the second scale to the first. This allows me to drill both sides simultaneously, and any breakout can be minimised.

Drilling the blank

After drilling, I drew around the handle, then detached the knife. After roughing down on the bandsaw, I sanded right to the line using a combination of the disk sander and spindle sander.

The scales are then glued to either side of the knife, and the pins inserted. They are longer than necessary, and get cut and sanded to size once the glue sets.

Handles ready for final shaping and finishing

The knives were then returned to the disk and spindle sanders to finalise the shape.

From there, I used a random orbital sander to sand all sides, and round over the edges (done with the ROS held upside down in one hand, and the knife handle bought to the sander). After a while I decided the microcuts were becoming a bit excessive, so finished the job wearing a kevlar carver’s glove.

You may notice the knife bolsters are no longer polished – while shaping some of the bolsters got damaged unfortunately, so it was better to have them all sanded evenly to match. It may look a bit exaggerated in the photo, but ok in reality. Not the preferred result, but such is life.

The knives have already been used a couple of times – it is rather cool using a knife you’ve made the handle for, and the knives themselves are heavy, very sharp and slice steak to perfection.

Forgot to mention – they were finished simply by rubbing them down with Ubeaut Foodsafe Plus mineral oil. This is ideal for chopping boards, salad bowls, and of course, knife handles.

Finished knives

(just reread this post the following morning- I really shouldn’t write entries at 2am: so many typos, including the title. “Sneak knives”. Either that is autocorrect gone mad, or I have!

To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season……

You are deep into a sharpening session on your water-cooled sharpener, and the next job would be best done with the wheel turning towards the edge, rather than away from it. What do you do? What DO you do? I know what I do – compromise! I know the T7 (in my case) weights 14kg, plus around 3kg in water (the wheel soaks up about 2kg, and there is an additional in the waterbath). I could pick it up and spin it around, then back again for each job, but I don’t.

And I am not the only one. In fact, it must be rather common as Tormek have come up with the RB-180. A rotating base for their sharpeners.

RB-180 from Tormek

It is specifically designed for the Tormek footprint, and has rubber feet so the complete unit doesn’t start slipping around on the bench. I have found there can be a little movement between the sharpener and the rotating base. I may put down something a bit more anti-slip, but I didn’t notice it causing me a problem during my first sharpening session since putting the new base under my sharpener.

The rotating base has a very low profile – particularly important for those people who have already taken the time to ensure their sharpeners are set at the optimum height.


Looking at the underside for a sec, and you see those rubber feet, and the lock for the rotation. Also the cross reinforcing to provide stiffness.

Fitting Simplicity

Fitting the base is just a bit easy – pick up sharpener, put down the RB-180 (with the lock facing the front), place the sharpener on top. Done deed.

Simple push down on the locking lever, and spin the Tormek around.




So a useful addition, particularly for the 17kg (wet weight) Tormek T7. It has been a while since I’ve seen this side of the sharpener – looks like it is due for some dusting!

I took the splash guard off for this, as where I have the T7 there isn’t a lot of room, and therefore even more reason for the new base. Check out http://www.promac.com.au for more information and to find an authorised dealer near you.

A visit to Sea Shepherd

Headed down to Williamstown yesterday to see the MY Steve Irwin.  While there, I was very pleasantly surprised to find the MV Brigitte Bardot was also in port.

Before heading down, I had a check of what they were requiring (there is always a list of needed supplies), and found some woodworking-related items on there, so took them about 4x 10″ saw blades, a couple bottles of yellow PVA glue, some Tung Oil, and two boxes of router bits (1/2″ and 1/4″).

Guess it isn’t a lot, but it all counts.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Got to tour both ships which bought back lots of memories.  The Steve Irwin was originally built in 1977, around 11 years newer than one of the ships I served on, but still has a similar feel to the decor.  Strangely, it still had speaking tubes installed – a common way to communicate with the lower deck areas (such as the engine room or Captain’s quarters).  Something more usual on ships from WW2 than ones built in the late 70s!

The Brigitte Bardot is an interesting vessel, but sadly it isn’t an Earthrace/Ady Gil.  With a maximum speed of 24 knots, it is nothing compared to the top (short run) capability of 50 knots. (Our tour guide claimed it was 28 knots, but there is no way something that looks like this can only do 28 knots! That’s only 52 kph)


The basic ship tours don’t get you down to my old (equivalent) stomping grounds, (being the engine room/MCR (machinery control room)) but perhaps I might have another chance to do so before they sail on the next campaign.  Have to see if there are any other tools I can take down there.

Tribute to James Krenov

, a YouTube published (and woodworker), is doing a series of video tributes to past woodworkers.  The one shared here (linked across from YouTube) is on James Krenov.  An interesting brief summary of one of the great woodworkers.


Definitely check out some of the other videos has published – there are some really interesting titles and subjects, looking back at early trends and developments.  It is done in a style that looks as vintage as the topic!

Vesper Sale Pt2

Forgot to mention, Chris is offering 10% off the hand tools he makes for anyone willing to brave the weather!


Vesper Timber Sale

I’m down here at Chris Vesper’s workshop 93 Gomms Rd Somerville, Vic at a timber sale, where Chris is selling off excess stock. There is Huon, Beech, Jarrah, Bubinga, Red Gum, on and on.

Awesome for me, I’m the only customer, but I can’t buy it all! The sale is only going until 1pm today, so if you want a chance at Chris’ significant collection, this is your chance.

Definite bargains to be made, as this is your only chance, and it all has to go.

3.25 hours to go!






Warning Signs

Hindsight is so much clearer than precognition I must say.

Back when I got my Nova lathe, I mentioned I was getting some small shocks from it.  Annoyances really.  I raised it with the Australian supplier, and that didn’t raise any warning flags either.  As it happened, I saw some tweets from Teknatool (the manufacturer) recently which promoted me to get in contact again, and they immediately responded. That was pretty impressive.

Back to earlier: in hindsight, I, or the supplier should have taken more notice of those little shocks.  You shouldn’t get shocks from an earthed machine.  I know that.  They should have.  But for some reason, I didn’t, and it went through to the keeper.

So fast forward to the present.  As soon as Teknatool heard, they got straight into contact with me, even to the extent of one of their senior engineers ringing me directly from New Zealand to get more information, and to help problem solve it.  Impressive.

Now back in time again, I had tested just how much current was passing from the lathe to the shed (and therefore what was giving me a jolt).  Now if only I had instead tested the earth at the same time, a big red flag would have gone up.  The machine was not earthed.  It is not a double insulated machine (and many of those don’t even have an earth pin): it needs a functioning earth.

I’m not criticising Teknatool / Nova here.  As I will show in the following photos, it is so easy for it to happen.  Perhaps Teknatool should actually glue the earth wire to the earth pin.  Perhaps the tester in the Chinese plant wasn’t as diligent as he should have been.  Who knows, but at some stage in transportation of the lathe, the connector came off the earth, and the tool became dangerous.

Other manufacturers could just as easily experience exactly the same problem.  And all it takes is a very quick check with a multimeter to ensure there is continuity between the earth pin on the flex, and part of the tool itself.

If it wasn’t for an idiosyncrasy of the DVR motor that caused the slight jolt I was feeling when I happened to touch the lathe and the shed (or another tool), I would never have known to even test if the earth was connected.  In the workplace, we regularly (annually) get everything tested and tagged.  Rare to do that at home!

I happen to have access to an actual megger meter so I was able to take the test one step further than simply testing the earth, and that there is no continuity between active and neutral, active and earth and neutral and earth. (All can be done with a mulitmeter.)

Under the specific guidance of the company engineer, I removed the cover from the lathe.



Bit dusty in there!  Before going any further, and it is a bit dusty, check out the awesome indexing wheel! (Sorry about the image quality – iPhone rushed shot)

Once the cover was off, time to work out where the issue is.

Well there’s your problem!  The earth wire from the chassis connection point to the back of the plug is not connected. Once I fitted it, it was obviously tight enough that it shouldn’t have come off easily.  A Chinese Friday on the Superbowl weekend perhaps?

Whatever the reason, this demonstrates that we tend to trust a tool that is new is right, especially when it works without actually checking for ourselves.  I am not condoning opening each new tool to check the wiring inside, but a simple check with a multimeter that the earth is working correctly before plugging it into the shed for the first time is simple, quick, and could potentially highlight a problem easily missed otherwise.

It is a shame basic PATs (portable appliance testers) are so expensive (around $1000).  There is no justification for them to be this much, after all they are not much more than a glorified multimeter, and a basic multimeter can be picked up for $30.  They do test other things – namely the quality of the insulation, but it shouldn’t cost an additional $970 to achieve that!

What I suggest is get yourself a basic multimeter and actually test the earth of your machines.  You may want to consider actually getting one of those testing and tagging guys to visit the shed and test and tag your machines.  Not sure what they charge at street rates – at my work I bring in external companies, and they charge between $2.20/test and $2.80.   If you consider how many tests your shed would represent, that is a pretty small number, and therefore a pretty cheap annual check that everything is still as it should be.

In this case I did have the megger meter, so ran a proper earth and insulation test. 2 ticks, 2 passes.

After all, insulation ages and cracks, rats & mice can eat through insulation, wires inside your cables can flex and break, machines vibrate, and nuts holding earthing straps on can come loose, and we do play with things that can cut cables, or have sharp edges and break a cable pulled over said edge.

Whatever the mode of failure, the older the shed, the longer it has been since things were checked, the higher the chance that something important could have been nicked, cut, snapped, worked free or perished.

Food for thought?

Grevillea robusta bowl

I picked up this turning blank of Silky Oak at the last Melbourne Wood Show (think it was then – not relevant really).  Wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it then, but I had the idea of a wide bowl/plate idea.

Mounting the turning blank

The blank is initially mounted with a faceplate ring screwed to one face of the blank.  For this blank, I chose the 100mm faceplate.  Once screwed to the blank, it is held on a Supernova chuck with the jaws expanding into the dovetailed edge of the faceplate rim.  This ensures there is no chance of the faceplate slipping off the jaws, and as long as the screws are strong enough.

Shaping the base

The base starting to take shape – really working on the concept of a central dish area with a wide rim.  At this stage I had no idea what it would eventually look like, or if it would look ‘right’

Well, it was a clean floor…

No comment!

Finishing the underside

The base and its final shape (and finish).  The next day (as I had run out of time) the bowl was flipped over, and the top worked and shaped.

Completed bowl

I think it came up pretty well in the end.  Finish is: sanding to 500 grit, then Ubeaut EEE and finally Ubeaut Glow (shellawax).

Underside detail

A final detail for the base – an insert of crocodile leather as a bit of a surprise for anyone who turns the bowl over.

Another angle

As you change angle, you can start to see what I did with the wide rim.  Got rid of all the superfluous timber!

Edge detail

For my first larger bowl (this one is around 340mm diameter).

An interesting turning, and it wasn’t until I got it off the lathe that I knew I’d have a result at the end.  Perhaps that is a good sign – if I can be assured I will get a job, I’m not pushing my limits, especially while still learning.

I’m still a novice turner (this is bowl number 7 or 8), and make a lot of mistakes, and despite best intentions, I’m sure my tool technique is terrible!

Still love the Nova DVR XP lathe – the ability to rotate the head for this sort of operation.  Wish I had the remote control – kept having to reach over the workpiece to get to the control panel.

2001: A Blog Odyssey

Rather than quoting Prince, we move to Arthur C Clarke, and a look back to the dawn of man (or in this case, this blog).

Back at the start the blog was created to package up videos for a feed to iTunes.  As much as it achieved that, the blog itself quickly grew a life of its own.  Now given so many site visitors have read much, if not all the site there is less point rehashing where we’ve been, and just get to the point: where are we going?

First things first: Put any fears aside, there are no radical changes to the blog on the current horizon!  (I’m not ruling it out in the future, so never say never, but no plans as yet!)

What I do want to see changed:

I’m looking at the video hosting options.  Since starting, blip.tv have implemented change after change that has pretty much ruled them out remaining as a long term option for video hosting going forward.  So I am likely to head down the route of using VideoPress (which is videos hosted by WordPress – the platform this blog runs on).  This does have one drawback: cost.  But the convenience will be superb.  I will end up also having to spend on extra storage: videos have a habit of really chewing up the available space.  And that means even more cost.

A return to Triton.  I have been in discussions and negotiations with Triton (via Kincrome), and I am intending to reintroduce the hobby-starting tools back into this blog.  So projects and demos etc could be seen on mid-range gear (such as my large tablesaw etc), or on a range of tools responsible for so many becoming weekend woodworkers (and some moving on from there into serious woodworking.  There may also be some high end gear becoming available too.  Time will tell.

I am hoping to identify some limited, interesting items to be able to sell them directly through the site. Not sure what they will be.  These days if you find something from overseas to sell, there seems to be a growing movement for some to undercut sellers where possible irrespective of whether the playing field is level or not (normally isn’t).  So overseas products without absolute exclusivity is too much of a risk. Somethings Australian made perhaps (and still exclusive to Stu’s Shed). Or, well see the next point.

I am really interested in having a published work (or rather works!), and have a few different directions available.  Book of plans, or woodwork instructions perhaps.  Perhaps individual downloadable PDFs.  Probably a pipe dream – need time to create something like that!

Still, no mention of advertising, paid sections etc.

There may be more, just nothing else that comes to mind. Onward and upward!

%d bloggers like this: