Flooring the Opposition

How often do you find that you walk on a hardwood floor, to quickly realise that the floor is an illusion, that the wooden surface is nothing more than a thin veneer.  You feel it underfoot – that springy feeling, and the sound, the slap each step of the floating panels hitting the floor underneath.

Another common polished timber floor are full thickness boards, but they are not tongue and grooved together, and each board is nailed down by an enthusiastic builder with a nail gun.  And every nail hole filled with poorly colour-matched knobs of putty.

What if you have found some beautiful pieces of timber, either virgin or reclaimed that you would love to use?  Then the solution is to make your own floorboards, and creating your own tongue and grooves is the way to go.  A tongue and groove in its simplest form can join the boards together, but Toolstoday.com have a much more refined bit set available from Amana Tool, and again a set endorsed by Lonnie Bird.

Router set storage case

Router set storage case

The set of two matched router bits is particularly well made – I don’t normally notice the fit of the shaft in the router, but these bits were particularly well machined.  Many companies ignore the shaft to a large extent, with microridges from the tooling marks on the shaft being acceptable.  These were very fine – a really good fit, and smooth.  You may think that smoothness leads to slippage, but that is not the case.  Lubrication causes slippage, as does a limited contact area, and ridging can cause quite a drop in the contact area between the router shaft and the collet.

A smooth shaft maximises contact area, and therefore grip.  If you don’t quite believe this, ask yourself why (in dry weather) Formula 1 cars perform best on slick tyres.

Onto the rest of the two bits, and the finish remains immaculate.  No rough brazing here, and quality carbide well backed up with the router bit base material.

Immaculate Amana router bit set

Immaculate Amana router bit set

The router bits have to be used in a table-mounted router, and a fence is highly desirable, if not a must.  The router bits have bearings, but for thinner boards, the bearing does not contact the board.  It still is very useful to ensure the fence is set to the right distance for the bit.  Speaking of board thickness, there are two sets available – one for boards 5/8″ – 3/4″ (which is the set I have), and another for boards 1/2″ – 5/8″

Mounted in the router table

Mounted in the router table

One thing that these bits do not do, is cause the groove to be too deep, or the tongue too long. (We do not need a Gene Simmons endorsed router bit!)  Once the boards are interlocked, you don’t need to risk having either portion of the board cracking or breaking off.

There are a number of other subtle developments that have been incorporated in the Amana Tool design.

Interlocking Board Features

Interlocking Board Features

Starting from the top of the joint, the two boards come together completely flat, ensuring the least amount of gap possible between boards.  This is the only contact area between the boards in the horizontal plane, so seasonal change should have minimal impact on the joint.

The next feature is the tiny triangular indent out of the lefthand board.  This is a gap for a hidden nail to be shot at an angle through the board to nail it to the joist that holds the floor up. Having a gap for this hidden nail prevents the head of the nail interfering with the joint.  It also means it is easy to nail the board at an angle through the solid portion of the timber, rather than firing the nail vertically through the much thinner tongue, risking forming a split.

The tongue is short, and rounded, so there is one point of contact at the widest point of the tongue. The corners of the tongue, and the groove in which it engages are all rounded.  This minimises the likelihood that a crack will start in the corner and break off the tongue, or the outer edges of the groove.

Finally, there is the large cavity at the bottom of the joint.  It helps prevent moisture from gathering at the joint, and being wicked up into the joint.

Joined boards

Joined boards

Boards once joined together are seamless, with only the different grain of each board giving away where one finishes, and the next begins.  Having a decent thickness adds to the overall quality of the floor, and being able to make the professional-style tongue and groove boards yourself can save a fortune, and also allow you to specifically choose the timber that the floor will be made from.

Once again, and unsurprisingly, a quality set of router bits from Amana Tool, and Toolstoday.com.

A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word….


For quite a while now, I have been aware that there was something a bit confused with the Stu’s Shed podcast.  In part I lost track of it because I haven’t tried posting many videos for a long time (and there is a bit of a story there as well), and I just haven’t focused on the iTunes account because of it.

I keep wanting to get back to it – no promises but!

Got an email yesterday from someone who has been watching a few Stu’s Shed TV episodes with their Apple TV, and wrote to ask about the older episodes (for the past couple of years, iTunes has only shown the latest 14 or so podcasts).

Used that prompt, and decided to have a play with all the settings, and I seem to have fixed something – had a look this evening (once iTunes had refreshed my podcast feed), and all 130 or so episodes were visible again!

Now I see that I need to fix some of the older posts – there is a lot more text being sent to the RSS feed than is needed, and given there is a size limit to the feed that iTunes will accept, I need to minimise those posts, but that is something I can do slow time.

Would love to wait until everything is ideal – plenty of time, clean shed, uncluttered shed, dedicated videoing studio, income from it all to be able to dedicate more time and resources to it etc etc, but not one of those is likely to change any time soon.

So I either wait for the ideals, or accept that I won’t be able to produce the high production quality videos that I want (or can) produce, and start getting out some videos again.  I do want to get back to it, but as I said, no promises!


Update: if I managed to boost the number of RSS feeds you have from Stu’s Shed overnight – oops – my bad!  I hadn’t noticed anything on my RSS reader, but some have!

The Hobbit workshops

In a small country, not very far away, they are making a movie. Not just any movie, but for me it is a continuation (and prequel) to one of the greatest movie achievements of all time, of one of the greatest stories ever conceptualised and written.

I grew up on the story of the Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings. After my Mum read it to me for the first time when I was about 7(?) I’ve re-read the entire series a further 24 times to date.

So it is with great anticipation that I await the release of The Hobbit- the story that starts it off.


The Hobbit

There is an iPad app out that provides an amazing collection of behind the scenes photos and videos of production, and watching the first pre-production video where they are making some of the scene and costume details (and some of the multitude of weapons), I saw a very familiar piece of equipment.

A Triton Dust Mask!


Triton Dust Mask during set construction

Sad that I am not over there in the country I grew up in, to be involved in such an amazing creation, but I watch the behind the scenes work with a sense of pride, and eagerness to view what will be a stunning result.

When less is more

A recent release from Woodpeckers, this new square is of significant size.

Woodpeckers Mini Square

Woodpeckers Mini Square

Significantly small that is!  When so many other items work to convince you that bigger is better, this goes the other way and proclaims “less is more”

As with other Woodpeckers squares, this is guaranteed square (and to stay square for the gauge’s lifetime) to 0.001″

You may notice inside the stylish container, that Woodpeckers products are made in the USA, and that not only being small, it has decent width.  One use of the gauge is for checking that a sharpened chisel is square to the sides, and that width makes it easier to align the gauge with the chisel edge.

Checking a chisel is square

Checking a chisel is square

This is not the only use for this gauge, as given its small size it can easily get into small spaces (such as a small box or drawer), and check for square.  That ability to fit into small spaces isn’t something to undervalue – resorting to folding a piece of paper to create a makeshift square will not achieve 0.001″ accuracy!

Available in Oz from Professional Woodworkers Supplies for under $40.


Nailin’ those apps

For those than mourn the days of Tungsten Palm Pilots, Pocket PCs and other stylus controlled devices, you don’t have to continue to use fat finger control if you prefer not to.  And if you also want a bit of shed-related peripheral, then you can use a nail to control your iPad/iPhone or other digit-controlled device.

Not exactly any nail of course!  The iPound, from Fred (& Friends).

iPound the iPad

iPound the iPad

It has a silicone-rubber tip, so no damage to the iDevice surface (unlike using a real nail!)



Use it to access all your woodworking-related apps!

iPound those Apps

iPound those Apps

And if a nail isn’t your style, there is also a match, and a crayon. (But neither of those are really shed related!)

Retro Controller revisited

Back in April, I wrote about this coffee table that is also a video game controller.

Nintendo Coffee Table Controller

Nintendo Coffee Table Controller

At the time, I thought the woodworking looked pretty cool, but also achievable.  The electronics to make it work would be beyond most of us to bother with (unless you took a real controller apart and stole the circuit board out of it, but even that poses some problems).

However as it happens, I have stumbled across the perfect solution through another website that I frequent, called Kickstarter.com

Kickstarter is a funding website to give inventors a revenue source to get their projects off the ground, and/or into production.  The inventor writes a proposal then seeks funding for that proposal from anyone who reads Kickstarter.  Donations can be as little as $1, right up to $thousands, but the donations come with a reward.  It could be goodwill, or it could be to fund the purchase of prototypes or first production runs of the item.

One of the projects I funded was called MaKey Makey.

MaKey MaKey

MaKey MaKey

To quote from their site:

MaKey MaKey is a printed circuit board with an ATMega32u4 microcontroller running Arduino Leonardo firmware. It uses the Human Interface Device (HID) protocol to communicate with your computer, and it can send keypresses, mouse clicks, and mouse movements. For sensing closed switches on the digital input pins, we use high resistance switching to make it so you can close a switch even through materials like your skin, leaves, and play-doh.

Doesn’t matter how it does it, but the simplest way to look at it is a USB input device for the computer.  By connecting alligator clips to the board, and to a contact device, you can turn pretty much anything into a computer controller.

Pretty much anything.  Even a banana.  A bunch of bananas can become a piano.

The kit can work with play doh switches, even by drawing a controller on paper with a graphite pencil.

PacMan Controller

PacMan Controller

Given how simple it is to turn so many devices into controllers, the MaKey MaKey is dead easy to incorporate into other items, such as the Nintendo retro controller coffee table.

So if you were interested in creating something like that, and didn’t know how to work out the computer interface, this is the solution!

Want to create a keyboard to reenact Tom Hanks in “Big”?



(Or reenact Homer Simpsons’ reenactment!)

I got the Kickstarter kit with a vague idea that it may be used to create a proximity sensor for the tablesaw or similar.  It could also be used to create a controller for the computer to be able to remotely start and stop the computer recording for podcasting.  There are so many items it could be built into.

I’ll leave it to your imagination!

One Cut

Sick of sawing back and forth like crazy when cutting dovetails (or other short cuts)?

Check out this video of a Lie Nielsen “One Stroke” dovetail saw.  No doubt it was an April Fools joke, still funny as!

Chris Schwarz has found another use for it – gang-cutting dovetails.

The Sound of this Photograph

OK now, before we get started here I want you all to gather around there behind the bench. Like a family photo. We are going to gang-cut all the dovetails on all your tail boards with this one saw from Lie-Nielsen.

Yup. One cut. One and done. And you are going to be amazed.

Yup. Look amazed. Chris, drop your left hand there so we can see the saw in all its awesomeness.

Now remember folks this is amazing. Look amazed. Ready?

Chris Schwarz Gang Cut

Chris Schwarz Gang Cut

Reminds me of a few other tools created for the same task, such as this one from Veritas

Veritas Gang saw

Veritas Gang saw

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