The Cooper

The Roving Reporter sent through a link to this video on YouTube, which looks like it was filmed some time in the 80s or so. The cooper who is the subject of the video is unlikely to still be alive today, and sadly I doubt he ever did find someone to pass his knowledge onto.

He works with no nails, no glue. As he says in the video, if he has to use a nail, he simply throws the item away. Another little gem from the video “It’s pretty complicated. If you don’t just get it right, you just done no good”

Just how much skilled knowledge have we really lost over the past 50 years? Be very very few people left that could work like that these days, yet once would have been commonplace. He makes all his own tools except for a saw and a brace & bit.

If you look at the pieces of timber he started with, the end result is a masterpiece. And it would still be holding water better than anything produced commerically these days.

All Quiet on the Western Front

Sorry it has been rather quiet around here this week. It has been pretty full on in other ways, which have been exhausting, and very distracting from even thinking about setting time aside for the blog.

Not much chance of getting a decent sleep tonight, so might as well post here. Bloody neighbours are having one of their all night drinking, talking, spa parties. Last couple have gone well past 5am.

So what else has been happening? Got a trial blade from Lenox in the mail – it is a demolition blade, that they claim they used to literally cut 8 cars in half, and in another trial, cut the cockpit off a 727


Head over to if you are interested in the trial.

I did get a little bit of time early in the week to progress the permit application for the shed – spoke again with the building department of the local council, who pointed me to a website that provides the actual borders of each property, and you can also purchase a whole myriad of reports. Guess it is well known in conveyancing circles, but I hadn’t come across it before.

I’ll post more details about the site shortly, including the steps I am needing to go through for the various permits, but one thing the site was able to provide was some really clear borders for the property, and I have been able to import them into Adobe Illustrator, and accurately plot the shed’s position.

There are a number of documents I need to submit (or that I am choosing to submit) in support of my application – so this has made for a good start.


I hope to break the back of the application over the weekend, but have to temper that with finishing off the next set of articles for ManSpace magazine.

Speaking of ManSpace, don’t forget tomorrow is Father’s Day, and there is still the offer for recent subscribers, and especially anyone who decides to take up the offer before tomorrow. I will be doing the draw on the Sunday, and at this stage the odds are still remarkably good! Don’t forget to email me or post a comment declaring your eligibility for the draw. Don’t leave it too late either!

That’s about all the news I can think of at the moment – I’ll return you to your regular channel!

It’s a ManSpace World

Father’s Day is closing in surprisingly fast – hope you are more organised than I am!

I’ve been talking with the MD and editor for ManSpace, and we have arranged a small prize for Stu’s Shed readers.


If you subscribe to ManSpace in time for Father’s Day (at the bank-breaking rate of $29.95 for a year’s subscription (or $19.95 for the electronic version)), let me know via email or comment.  If you have subscribed already during this month, you are also eligible to enter.

I will do a draw on Father’s Day, and two winners will be able to choose to have their subscription extended for a second year, or have a second subscription to give away to family or a friend.

As a bit of a teaser, ManSpace have provided the attached PDF of some of the pages from the current edition.

ManSpace Teaser


Subscriptions can be arranged at or ring (a real person) at Freecall 1800 623 214. An online edition is available for $19.95 at  – just search the title ManSpace

It’s Life Jim, But Not as We Know It

Yesterday got a bit busier than I was hoping, so last night I worked on the computer for a while to fine-tune a couple of vector designs ready for the CNC machine.

The first is a traditional Japanese dragon design, which needed some cleaning up (the benefit of having a reasonable understanding of Adobe Illustrator)


So this morning, I sent the files across to the PC laptop I am using to drive the CNC Shark Pro to get it working.  I had it set to pretty light passes – perhaps a bit slow, but off it went.

And while I was ‘woodworking’, I also managed to do the dishes, cook two cakes with my daughter for her Nana’s birthday, shop for dinner, cook dinner (slow cooker), force feed the cat (long story), and respond to some comments on the blog.  And all the while, the constant buzz of a noisy little router buzzing in the background.

It’s woodworking Jim, but not as we know it.

CNC machining is quite incredible, and opens up all sorts of possibilities.  Not only in what I have been playing with so far in carving and patterns (wooden signs seems to attract a lot of buyers), but also in part fabrication, and repeatability.  A CNC can easily become a cottage industry (as many have discovered).

If I had one of my own, I’d potentially see how far I could head down that track myself, but not to the detriment of my actual woodworking.  This is fun, and the results are mindblowing, but it isn’t an end unto itself for me.  I would see it being an incredible tool to supplement the others in the workshop without question.  Some things can be done easier on a CNC machine, some thing can be done on the CNC that I have no experience in at all, yet it allows me the ability to incorporate them into my projects anyway.

I had the machine running much of the day on a few projects – swear I can still hear the router!

The first came out pretty well – the resulting dragon.

Photo 25-08-13 20 08 36Photo’s a bit blurry, but you can see it came out pretty well.  The material is a laminate of a masonite-like material on MDF.  Makes the designs pop!

My initial reason for using it was the flatness – carving intricate designs needs a very flat surface, otherwise detail can easily be lost.

There were some replication errors – I don’t know enough about CNC to know if the machine deserves the blame, the controlling software, or the V Carve program.  Not too big a deal, but I wouldn’t want to see too many errors creep in if I was looking at selling items.

Onto the second program, and this one was a serious workout.  The Mayan calendar.  Took about 4 hours.

Photo 25-08-13 20 08 55Not the best material for such an intricate design, nor the best cutter.  It came out pretty well considering, but the combination of cutter and machine, and it pushed it a little beyond its limit.  Probably needed to be done in stages, as it developed a bit of a calibration issue as time went on.  There are a number of lines missing, as the CNC shark seemed to forget exactly how low zero was on the Z axis.

It really needed a method to self-recalibrate during the run.  I suspect that a more recent model would have produced a better result (and the high definition CNC Shark even better again). Carbatec now have a newer model (and there was also a high def version – not listed on their website though).  Again, such an intricate design being done in 2-3 parts would have helped in this situation, rather than one long (400,000 steps) run.

A better cutter wouldn’t have helped the creep in the zero point, but could have produced a sharper image.  I will go into that in more detail soon, but just as a heads-up, the In-groove set from will make a real difference to the finish.


So what am I going to try next?  Not sure yet, but looking forward to it never-the-less!  Could be 3d carving, could be cutting out parts – I haven’t begun to find out all the ways the machine can be used.


Proving Itself, Time and Again

I’m sure I have revisited the Festool CXS before, but each and every time there is a project that makes good use of it, the CXS shines.


It is surprising just how many times there has been particular calls on its abilities, whether it is being able to drill or screw around a corner, or simply the rapid exchange between the screw bit and the drill chuck.

Sourced from Ideal Tools, it isn’t a cheap drill/driver, but it is a quality tool, not a disposable one.

Just makes me think, and I know there is always a lot of comment around the cost of Festool, but each and every one I have gotten has continued to reinforce just how much value there is in the brand.

I still need a SCMS, and although the large Hitachi is very tempting (and cheaper), the Kapex is hard to look past.


To Store or Not, That is the Question

Back when we moved house, we had a storage unit for a few months – it helped a lot during the packing to be able to then take boxes that were packed early and store them out of the way.  After moving, I didn’t continue with the unit, as it does cost, and of course I wasn’t expecting real delays in proceedings.

It meant the shed got packed into the garage, into a non functional state as I’m sure regulars are very familiar with!

It got to a crunch point recently where I had to do something, as it was really having a detrimental effect.  Other than making serious moves on the shed, the other thing I needed to do was get back to some semblance of a functional state (at least able to use the drill press, tablesaw and router table – I already had access to a bandsaw and lathe).

The only way to achieve that is to empty some of the garage out.  There is no where to put it though, so again I considered the storage unit option.  Even to the point that I booked a unit ($152/month) and filled the stationwagon for the first trip.

But something was still nagging in the back of my mind.

So before I went to the unit to unload, I took a run down past Masters – to get a padlock for the unit.  But instead of heading to the padlock section, I found myself perusing the isles of sheds, once again.

But there was a difference.  All the sheds I was looking at were on special until the end of the month – over $100 off.  For the price I would spend on 2 months of the storage unit (which is the minimum I anticipated I would need it), I could get a comparable shed (slightly smaller, but still well in the ball park).  Spoke with my better half, who I am sure was very bemused by the prospect of yet another shed, but she agreed with the logic and gave the green light.

So back to the storage unit, who were very obliging and let me bail on the unit, and back to Masters again, and after a bit of indecisiveness, chose a 2.1×2.1 shed.

Was planning on cream (to match the future workshop), but as they didn’t have any, had to opt for green.  But just before loading, the store assistant asked if I had considered the new colour – slate grey.  I hadn’t, but it then dawned on me that although I can’t get cream, the other main colour of the workshop was going to be very similar to slate grey – so sold!  At the checkout however, it turned out the new colour was not part of the sale (was at the full $500), but as it had been offered, they honoured it anyway, and made it $360.  A real win!

So now I have a nearly fully assembled shed (still have the door to go), a car full of gear I have to unload again, and this weekend I am hoping to get to the tablesaw up and running again (and have more of a play with the CNC Shark of course!)  I don’t have 15A power available, so the Promac generator will definitely be required (having twin 15A outputs).

As to the shed – I’ll line the base with a groundsheet, and load it up to the gunnels.  After all this, I could sell it for $60 and still be even, but instead – I know it will not go to waste! (More storage!!)  Still tossing up the idea of the floor kit, just for the ease of it, but at $200 it is a lot for something that can be

It is a cheap shed, no doubt about it.  If it wasn’t cheap, it wouldn’t have been a viable proposition in the first place.

The instructions were much better written than I’d seen before, but still some significant problems never the less.  The shed has some design faults – you’d think after years they would have refined them to the nth degree and have it down pat.  But I guess it isn’t Ikea – they have no idea how to implement quality control on design.  Some real problems, but it could be fudged enough to get it together.  Even after adding the roof, the structure is still unstable.  Needs more bracing in the corners than was provided.

The instructions as I said look a lot better than they used to, but I followed them to a T, and they missed a number of steps.  They really need to take a shed, give it to someone who has either not assembled one before, or who is actually capable of following instructions rather than jumping ahead and actually pick up the errors and missing steps.  Anyway, what do I expect.

I have been looking at some photos of the American Barns being built, and I am so looking forward to getting to assemble a quality unit!  And one that has a structure and doesn’t rely on the cladding for structural integrity.

Is that a shed I see before me?

Said in a John Wayne voice, bastardising a line from MacBeth (ala Dead Poet’s Society).  Too much of a stretch?  That is what it sounded like in my head!

Not quite there, but so, so very close.  Not for delivery – not a chance – at best I would say it is still 6 – 8 weeks away (still a few hurdles to cross, such as council permits, block clearing, slab pour (although that is the start of installation as far as I’m concerned!))  However, I am hoping (and becoming more confident) that it will be firmed up within 48 hours – locked in, and able to stand back, breathe a sigh of relief, and start seriously prepping for what has been a figment of my imagination for just a bit too long.

invisished(not my block obviously – if it was, things would be a bit different!)


ManSpace Magazine Online

It is not very well known I’d hesitate to say, but along with the Facebook page, more recently there is also a ManSpace magazine website.

It contains a number of previous issue articles, including quite a number that I have written, if you happen to have missed them.


It’s a ManSpace world

The next issue has just hit the letterboxes of subscribers, and will soon be on the shelves of magazine shops around the place.1116245_608514999170255_515438726_oThis issue marks the last produced by the founding editor, Jonathan Green, whom I have been working with on it since before it was first released (and before it even had the ManSpace title)  Not to say I was any more than a bit-player in its creation, but was signed up as one of the ongoing contributors (and never fear, I still remain so – which reminds me, I better get onto the articles for the next issue. No rest for the wicked).

My contributions to the current issue include an article step-by-step on making some traditional-looking wooden vehicles (I aim some of these articles at people who have never considered any woodworking before), on assembling a knife kits (in this case for a Nakiri blade), where you make the scales (the handle), and a review of the Promac generator (one that is about to play quite a role in the shed (when constructed) until such time as a new power supply is established)

Plotting the End of Days

Given we are still here, guess that yet another “End of Days” has quietly slipped on past.  However, the Mayan calendar (or is it Aztec?) is still one of the challenging images that are sent to CNC machines all over!

I’ve been playing with this one today:

Mayan Calendar

Mayan Calendar

It is quite a challenge for a CNC machine – results in around 1/2 a million lines of G Code to produce all the required cuts.  I started off cutting it into pine, but the initial size chosen (200x200mm), the depth of cut and the crapiata used, the results were not worth pursuing, so I cancelled it after about 45 minutes (so at least I could get a good idea how it could look).

Photo 18-08-13 13 33 16 Photo 18-08-13 13 33 24 Photo 18-08-13 13 33 45

Given how packed the garage is waiting for the new shed, working on a CNC machine is almost the only way I can actually manage any woodworking at all!  Note the precarious location for the laptop, so it is somewhat out of dust range from the router.

I then decided to find something more suitable, and this laminated electrical board was eminently suitable, given the lower layer is a significantly contrasting colour, so the pattern shows up exceptionally well.  Again, this was only a test cut on the underside – this was scaled to 300×300, and would have taken 4 hours to complete.  I stopped it after an hour, again as it was only a test, and a couple of settings I chose were causing some issues.

The other side of the board is a shiny surface, and should look pretty spectacular.  However, I plan to make it near the limit of size of the machine (a 580×580 calendar).  I didn’t start it today as I wanted to get a better idea of the settings before getting it underway.  It will also take 14 hours(!!), so I need to get some noise control in place before trying it on.  I might drop it back to 500×500, which will probably be closer to a 12 hour machining.

Photo 18-08-13 14 28 19 Photo 18-08-13 14 28 32 Photo 18-08-13 14 57 41

The CNC Shark range can be sourced from Carbatec, and seen in operation on Stu’s Shed 😉

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