Inchworm

It takes next to no time to show it off, and a few seconds more before it sells itself to another customer. If only I was a. The importer, and b. Had stock!

I refer to the Centipede Workbench, and it has already proven its worth.

Light enough to be very portable, and certainly rigid enough when doing its job. The time to set it up and collapse it back down again, is no exaggeration. Seconds. Literally.

In next to no time, it has become an invaluable tool, particularly for me in breaking down larger sheets. The 2×4 retainers that clip into the top, and the supplied hold-downs are both very clever, and very useful, especially for thin, flexible sheets. No need to work on the ground, bent over the sheet trying to break it down, now you can work at a comfortable standing height.

It is going to be superb coupled up with the Festool TS55 and rail (or any other rail-mounted circular saw).

It may feel a little flimsy as you are opening it up, but that is quite legitimate: the majority of the members in the unit are tension members, so until they are placed into tension (with the workcentre fully opened), then yes, they will flex. Once set up though, it can bear a decent load, especially distributed over all the uprights.

I’ll take some photos/video of it in operation shortly, but take it from me, it is an impressive unit!

Shed calling Stu, Shed calling Stu

I’m hearing ya, just can’t do a thing about it this week. Finding 5 minutes to rub together, let alone get to see the shed (or post here) is proving a challenge. My work-shed balance is all outta whack.

So what’s been happening?

Total Tools just had their latest trade evening- was tempted by a few things, but escaped after getting one of their hot roast pork rolls. With 20% off across the store, it was particularly tempting. Sale runs through this weekend.

Carbatec are finishing up their 10% off storewide sale for the month of May – last chance Friday/Saturday to make use of that.

Been having a quick play with a new tool that just arrived- the centipede sawhorse – a lot more on that shortly! Needless to say, it is as cool as I was hoping, and will be as genuinely useful as it appeared, for large sheet goods breakdown, as a temporary table/workbench, on location etc etc. looking forward to giving it a real go shortly.

20140530-024120.jpg

I don’t remember when I first heard about/saw images of the Centipede, but I know they had a couple of crowdfunding campaigns recently. Thankfully, they have gotten the product to market, and I really hope to see it take off.

Other than that, it has been all work and no play. But I’m hoping to turn that around: I have some fun projects on the horizon, including demonstrating the capabilities of the SawStop. One sausage is ready to go into harm’s way!

Episode 1 has gone to air!

If you missed it, you can catch it here: http://www.jump-in.com.au/show/manspace/episodes/

For those that did watch it, what did you think?

Best made plans

I love it when a plan comes together.

Even better, when by some fluke, a plan formulated on the computer (such as the floor plan) actually works in real life too, as well as it suggested it would.

Moved the 4 machines around (tablesaw, 17″ bandsaw, jointer and thicknesser), and they all came together.  I did realise one thing though.  It is the end of the era for mobile bases in my workshop.

Mobile bases are really useful under the heavy machines in the shed.  Particularly when you are a sole operator, and especially when space is restricted.  A mobile base allows machines in sub-optimum position when stored to be moved out for use, then pushed away again.  I’ll still have a wheeled option for the thicknesser (it is built in), and for the tablesaw as well (when I upgrade it to the original built-in option).  The other machines though are another matter.

As I was sorting out the layout (and thank goodness for mobile bases at that point!), I found as I was finalising the locations, the bases were really restricting how well they each fitted together.  Once removed (from the bandsaw and the jointer), it was a whole different story.

I’m not against mobile bases – I have been using them successfully for years.  But I am also looking for to not needing them either.  I have more workshop room than ever, and with the layout compromised with them in place, I’m just as happy not to continue with them.  They do make a machine more unstable, and I could, if I become really confident with the layout, actually bolt the machines to the slab.  Now that is a big call.

Tempting though.  A really solid operating platform.

I may hold off on that for a while though – previous experience shows that I tweak the shed layout a dozen times a year, every year!

Adding to the tool library

Made a minor layout modification, which resulted in the ‘sink’ being relocated to outside the back door of the shed (outdoor sink), so I could fit the Walko as a wall-mounted option in the back corner instead.

This then left the area beneath the window open for the appearance of a new tool: The Festool MFT/3, with the TS55 R saw. (Both from my “Breaking Bad” dealer, Ideal Tools)

What we are talking about here is the multifunction table, complete with a rail that flips out of the way when not required, and a relocatable, multiangle fence.  The top is very familiar, being the model I’ve adopted for the TWC, and that is already on the Walko workbench as well.  A matrix of round dog holes across the surface.

zoom__hb_mft3_495315_p_01aThere is plenty of storage area underneath (I haven’t worked out how I’ll use that area yet, but for the time being it will be kept open for some filming I am planning).  I’m looking to obtain a clear perspex sheet as an alternate top, so I can film up through it for a bit of fun.

The rail (green striped thing) which can flip out of the way on a hinge at the rear, can mount a circular saw, or router (or jigsaw etc) from the Festool range.

So it is complemented by the saw

ts-55-r-fs-2The TS55R.  This would have been really useful on the recent coffee table project!

So to fit everything in took only a little amount of shuffling (although the Cleantex (vacuum) has lost its home for the time being).

FirefoxScreenSnapz006However, that has caused me to think more about the one problem area I was still having.  The relationship between the jointer and the thicknesser, the space each was taking, and their restricted infeed and outfeed.

Played a bit (using the Grizzly Workshop Planner), and came up with an alternative that looks remarkably promising.

Shed

Without loosing any real estate (in fact this gains some), I have doubled the infeed and outfeed areas of both tools.  It makes use of the space either side of the tablesaw as infeed (or outfeed) for the thicknesser and jointer respectively.  That space needs to be empty anyway, as infeed and outfeed for the tablesaw, so why not use it for all three tools?

It gives me good access along the front of the jointer (important obviously!), and access right alongside the right-hand side of the thicknesser (much more convenient).

And I can still get the dust extraction to pump the sawdust straight into the potbelly.  (Just kidding – I don’t need to generate that much heat!  If I had a mini foundry, that would be a different matter!)  Mmmm mini foundry…….

index

The layout is definitely getting there.  Each change is a build on the previous, rather than being a complete rework, so that is good.  Refinements are fine (and are typically the status quo on my place!)

More ManSpace news

It is getting close – a couple more days.  Monday, 7:30pm on Go!

Tell your mates 🙂 Seriously.

Photo 15-05-2014 19 56 23

Friday night, and it was a long one.  The last 3 episodes (7, 8 and 9) were put into the can.  There is one more episode to go for Season 1, which cannot film until the show has done a season’s run, being a huge competition win.  So episode 10 will be shot, on location, in about 2 months time.

These last 3 episodes also went very well, and consistent in concept to the start of the series.

Really looking forward to seeing this on the screen, and the first season DVD!  Not a bad blooper reel either (so long as they show it after 8:30pm ) 😉

So Monday.  It is going to be good.

Photo 24-05-2014 10 39 18

And after all that, (and the new edition of the mag only just having made the shop shelves), another is coming out during the show’s running.  I have to start writing articles for the one after that – getting busy!

Bauhaus of the 21st Century

Back in the start of the 20th century, a school of modern art and design was established in Germany. It had, as one of its underlying principles, form follows function.

In other words, design an item where it is ideally made for the job it has to perform, not for its aesthetic form first. This doesn’t mean the resulting item does not have aesthetic merit, but it has to be designed to work first, before its form is considered.

Many of the concepts that were developed are still seen today, such as this modern kettle, which is based on a Bauhaus design.

20140524-122818.jpg

The primary function of the kettle is to boil water on a stove. So maximising the surface area in contact with the element is first giving consideration to the function, before being concerned with the implication of that on the form. (And so on).

It is a very appealing principle for engineers.

Although we are 100 years on, many of the designers out there have seemingly forgotten that function is important, and so we have power tools that look like Cylons, tools designed to appeal to a particular demographic, tools designed for every reason, other than the specific function they are meant to perform.

Tools built as cheaply as possible, because who in their right mind would actually want to pay good money for quality?

This box warehouse concept, these Chinese-made tools, this concept of power tools for $10 and $20 have really destroyed many expectations of tools in a throw-away society. Buy a tool, use it for a few jobs, replace it when it dies. The service charges for repair of appliances is insane. As is the hourly rate that is proposed. More than many people earn as an hourly rate, so why would they spend 2 hours working to pay for 1 hour of a repairman, when for the same (or cheaper amount) you can buy a new, replacement (cheap) tool?

So now we have over priced labour, over priced manufacturing, offset against ludicrously low priced imports.

Never mind the imports are built, not for a function, but a price. Let’s not use real bearings, use nylon bushes. The tool is made to last 10 hours of operation for its life (and no, that is not an exaggeration, some GMC drills were specifically designed for 10 hours use. If one lasted longer, it was considered ‘over engineered’, and was rebranded platinum). 10 hours operation of a drill may last some households a lifetime, so sure, for some people, that is a reasonable purchase.

But what I see when I look at those tools is a waste of resources. A waste of the raw materials that made them, as with the same raw product, refined better of course, and with a much better design, a real tool could have been made. In fact, the minerals would have been better just left in the ground, rather than mined, drilled, crushed, refined, shipped, refined more, shipped again, machined, assembled, shipped, distributed, and shipped again to be sold, in a product that cost $10, and is designed to last 10 hours.

I tried to review a clamping workbench a few years ago. I won’t mention its name, but it was sold through Bunnings for a while. I had a couple of models to cover. The concept seemed reasonable, the sales video looked impressive. I got one model assembled, but the second broke before I even got it fully together. (I had videoed the whole process, and by the end, it was obvious that even if I did use the video, I’d have to over-dub the whole soundtrack).

By the time I had the two assembled, the flimsiness of the material (too thin struts, too weak, too compromised to save a few dollars in raw materials), the overall quality of construction, both models were picked up taken back to the supplier and unceremoniously given back. I wanted nothing to do with them. (The company (importer) hasn’t spoken to me since either). All I could think was “what a waste of resources”. Not there was enough steel used to even make a good boat anchor from it. Perhaps if there had been, it wouldn’t have been such a crap product. About 6 months (or even less) later, Bunnings dumped the range as well. Guess that says something.

So let me introduce a different concept. The Bauhaus of the 21st century.

Instead of “Form Following Function”, I propose that the new Bauhaus is “Finance Following Function”. And one of the big proponents of this (not that I am suggesting they are considering themselves the new Bauhaus, that is just my take on things), comes from the country of the original Bauhaus, Germany.

German engineering. It has long been regarded as the créme de la créme of design and manufacturing excellence, and when building something where Finance Follows Function, means building a tool to the absolute best it can be, to do the job it was intended to do, and then worry about the price.

And there sits Festool. Tools made to be the best, not the cheapest. Other brands also appear: Tormek, SawStop, Woodpeckers, Incra, Teknatool. Tools overengineered, over-speced, over made, to achieve the optimum quality, not price.

The tools last, and really work.
Function √
Justified use of materials √
Longevity √
A pleasure to use √

How much?

I read this on the packet of some premium pizza bases, but it was so fitting:

“The bitterness of poor quality remains, long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten” How true that is.

I know expensive tools are, well, expensive. I know we can’t all afford the very best tools all the time. (Yes, I still have some GMC tools too). But little by little, I am replacing them with the quality equivalent.

The first was my ROS (random orbital sander): when the previous one died, I bought my first Festool – the ETS 150/5. Sure, it was 3x the price of a reasonable ROS, but not once have I regretted that purchase. It is a pleasure each and every time I pick it up and use it. And my hands are not in real physical pain at the end of a sanding session either (from vibrations). I could repeat that same story for a number of other tools as well.

So just something to keep in mind the next time you are shopping for a tool (or anything really). You may well be heavily influenced by price (who isn’t), but give some consideration to what I have said here too, and see if you can choose to allow “Finance to Follow Function”. You won’t regret the decision each and every single time you subsequently use the item purchased.

It is a Bauhaus thing.

%d bloggers like this: