2015 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 360,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 15 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Oh Xmas Light

Been out with the family looking at the Christmas lights.  Our house may be draped in them, but it is a modest affair compared to some places!
I was at one location recently, very intensive setup, with LED panels bought from China, powered by Arduino, a large light tree etc.  What I was interested in were the assembled reindeer and sleigh he had in the yard.  All made from ply, and not dissimilar to the designs I have been cutting on the CNC, so I got chatting with the owner.

He has been purchasing the plans from a different company than the one I use – MakeCNC (I missed the name of his source), who only supply paper templates rather than digital files, because of the amount of piracy that goes on.  Given some of the designs are 8-10′ high, that is some massive paper plans!

The guy doesn’t have a CNC, so resorts to making the cutouts by hand.

He had tried a bandsaw, but as it was one of those small crap things 8″ diameter, he could not get it to run true.  So all his plans are cut out old school, with a scrollsaw, and a jigsaw.

Given that he only started woodworking about a year ago (and prior to that was the obligatory pencil case in secondary school), it was a pretty impressive effort.

He had one recent problem – a supply of marine grade ply from Bunnings, that was a different supplier to normal.  Despite querying it, and being reassured it was right, making the sleigh, treating it, painting it and doing all the right things, it has already started delaminating.  Bunnings are apparently going to replace the ply for him, but that doesn’t come close to replacing all the work that went into building and finishing the sleigh.  Must be frustrating.

While looking to see if I can find the company he has been using, I came across Teds (16000 copyright violated) woodworking plans for sale.  There are a lot more very detailed descriptions of just what is wrong their whole approach to plans, but it primarily boils down to the issue that they are gathering up all the plans offered for free, then repackaging them and reselling them.  Just because they are freely available on the internet, doesn’t mean they are copyright-free.  They apparently have an active affiliate program- don’t get sucked in.

The lead up to Christmas has been busy – and the day itself is always a mixture of a massive amount of Torn xmas paper, a very excited daughter (and family), food, drink, and nary a thought of woodworking.  Hopefully Santa was good to everyone – after all, he knows the value of a well equipped shed better than anyone!

Merry Christmas to everyone, from Stu’s Shed!

Christmas Greetings from Toolstoday

That Snowman looks VERY familiar 😉

Love my Tools Today!

Xmas is coming

For me, the run-down to Christmas is one of the busiest times of the year.  Unlike other busy periods, the Xmas period is predictable, unavoidable chaos. And the shed is one of the first areas to suffer any competing demands on time.

However, it is not all bad – one of the things I use the shed for is downtime, and what is probably called “mindfulness” in the modern terminology.  So long as I am not stressed by a lack of shed time, it can be kept for more relaxing periods.

Having the CNC machine out there is also a real boon.  While I can be running around like a headless chook, it can still be turning out products.  I still don’t care one iota that some people do not regard the CNC as “real woodworking”.  I agree on one level – the whole hands-on experience of woodworking was watered down dramatically with the shift in the workshop technology to powered machines, and it is as much a quantum leap again with the move to computer controlled machinery.  But that is a choice you make for yourself, it is not one thrust upon you.

Is a dovetailed box made by CNC any less a box than one made using a dovetail jig, and is that any less than one cut using power tools (such as a bandsaw), and is that any less a box than one with hand-cut dovetails?

From a skill perspective, sure – each level of technology requires less skill than the previous.  But isn’t that true for every other aspect of our lives?  One impact of technology is that more can be done with less.  More productivity, higher quality with the same level of skill.  That isn’t to say the end product is equal – a handcut dovetail can be so much more than one made with a jig, but when it comes down to producing something when skill, and/or time is more limited than would otherwise be needed, it allows a result when otherwise there would be none forthcoming.

So to what purpose all this production, when I am not getting the tangible benefit of the downtime pottering around in the workshop?

Xmas decorations, and toys!  Not only for the workplace (and an informal competition between a few areas for the most Xmas-decorated area), but also for individual colleagues who wanted models for themselves, or as stocking stuffers.  And the extra items made, the surplus production time for the CNC?  Some local markets and school fĂȘtes on the leadup to Christmas.  A bit of fun, and not a bad way to value-add an MDF sheet.

If you were really keen and dedicated, there are so many markets on around the place.  It wouldn’t take too long for the full price of the CNC machine to be recovered. Of course, factoring in your time, setup costs and tax would mean that you wouldn’t be expecting to start turning a true profit for some time, but we are potentially talking months, not years.  Even if it did take a year, and you had to do a market each weekend, would you really be too upset if it meant that you had a fully paid-off CNC machine by the end of the year?  It could be a rather tempting argument for the purchase of a decent-sized laser!  

So that is what has been happening recently.  Hopefully after the madness of Christmas is over, some normality can return to workshop activities!

The un-Festool systainer 

Came across this in Masters today

Made from the crappiest plastic, and with difficult-to-operate clips, I sure doubt it is made under license from Tanos (which is the systainer division of Festool).

There is no doubt in my mind that its design is firmly based on copying the Festool systainer, as cheaply as possible.

How the brand fades

Once upon a time, the Triton brand was all about innovation, and the items put out there were uncompromised.

The saw was awesome, huge power, heavily made, lots of adjustments.  Same with the router (at that stage only the 2400W was available).

When the drill came out with the specially designed plunge mechanism, the comments were wide-ranging, from how awesome it was, through to how much it was.  When it hit the market, it was around $322 or thereabouts.  I still remember the howls.

These days, Triton seemingly has followed GMC’s lead- find a tool available for rebadging, one that looks as chunky-futuristic as possible and wrap it in orange

Perhaps they are still impressive tools, a marvel of engineering design and build. But at these prices, and needing to be twin packaged with a glorified torch to sell it, I suspect not.

Acrylic Snowman

While the MDF snowman worked out nicely, and it looked ok painted up, I wanted to get back to trying my hand at making some models from acrylic.

Given that Christmas is rapidly approaching, I thought I’d tackle the snowman again, and see just how well the CNC, along with a new set of router bits specifically for plastic from toolstoday.com would work out.

Just an aside for a second.  I have just gotten an iPad Pro, and while writing the article, have used one of the pro’s features of being able to run a second program simultaneously, and on screen at the same time.  Awesome feature! 

I also found a better supplier of plastic sheet goods, so that will be great (and dangerous to the wallet).  They also sell acrylic ‘glue’, and it is a vast improvement over using Superglue.

I still have some processes to work out to make things run smoother on the CNC process of working with acrylic, but for the most part it went very well.  Acrylic is pretty flexible when it gets thin, even worse than MDF it seems, if that is even possible.  So I found myself supervising the whole job while it was machining.  I was using an upcut bit, and perhaps that also has a lot to do with it.  While chip clearance is important (especially with a material that can melt), lifting the piece is not the best way of ensuring it is stable.  I still don’t have revolution speed control, so am still running the bits slower than I would like, and again that is probably a real factor.

Still, the result is a great snowman. Looks awesome (especially with Kara Rasmanis wielding her camera)  

 Next one to tackle – an acrylic AT-AT (Imperial Walker) in greys and black plastics. And there will be video, just once I have a better idea of just how to manage this material!

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