Death of a Vacuum

It was almost 4 months ago to the day, that I built a vacuum table for the CNC router.

While it worked well, I was sure the lack of overall airflow would result in the vacuum carking it very quickly.  Job after job, and it kept going.  It was encased in a rubbish bin with noise absorbing material stuffed around it to drop it’s horrendous noise down to bearable levels (it was a ShopVac, and it always was a screamer). It ran warm- the exhaust was always hotter than was healthy.

Went out to the shed tonight to check on a job, and although the CNC has indeed finished, it was a lot more silent than usual.

Instead of the muffled sound of the vacuum, there was a familiar smell of burnt plastic and ozone.

Carefully switching it off then unplugging it from the wall, I went on dealing with the job at hand, and then went over to the garbage bin, and started unpacking.  Partway down, and the normally white insulation material started coming out black.  Desite being some time, the vacuum itself was still very warm.  A complete meltdown.

Not as bad as the last vacuum though.  Years ago, I had a household vac for dust extraction, and it also failed in spectacular fashion, actually melting until it literally fell apart, and the motor fell out of the housing.

So the machining tonight has stopped, slightly prematurely.  I haven’t added up the hours the vac did in those 4 months, but it would legitimately be into the hundreds of hours.  Hundreds of hours, in a MDF laden atmosphere, with poor airflow. I think it did a pretty good job in the end!  Not even sure what the designed duty cycle of the vac was, or the model’s MTBF (mean time between failure).

So now the decision is “what next”?

Another cheap vac?  A vacuum pump?  If so, which one?  There’s a bunch on eBay, all different cfm, and I have no idea what cfm I’d actually need, let alone my current table would leak like a sieve, so would never actually be able to maintain a vacuum.  And that means the vacuum pump would be running continuously, unless I make some real mods (rebuild) to the table itself.  What do commercial machines do for a vacuum table, and the pump for them?  Too many questions, not enough answers (yet).

Nova DVR Remote in Australia

I have just gotten the confirmation from Teknatool and Carbatec, that the Nova DVR remote (and retro upgrade kit) will be available in Australia in December this year.

So if you have a DVR (and not necessarily an XP), then something to look forward to – just in time for Christmas………

DVR Remote

DVR Remote

Episode 87 DVR Remote

Episode 87 DVR Remote

Upgrading and using the Nova DVR XP with the Remote and Retro kits


A few years ago, Gifkins changed the Gifkins Dovetail jig from one made with a body of MDF, to one made from aluminium.  As part of the transition, there was a change to the mounting system for the templates, from one involving 5 wood screws to one with two hex bolts.

Unfortunately, this inevitably meant that old templates would not fit the new body, and vise versa.  The new template is also thicker, but that doesn’t matter here.

So what I have done, if only temporarily until I can get a full set of the new templates, is modify the old template to fit the new body.  Only takes a few minutes, and works well.

Gifkins Dovetail Templates

Gifkins Dovetail Templates

Using one of the new templates as a template (!) I marked where the new template holes go, drilled and countersunk the two securing holes.

Gave it a quick try, and got a perfectly acceptable dovetail.  Sweet!

Upgrading the DVR XP to wireless

I had an opportunity today to actually take the simple steps to upgrade my DVR to wireless.  Given my DVR came out before the wireless upgrade was available, it also needs the additional retro kit, which involves replacing the front panel (and one of the circuit boards within).

Nova DVR XP original head

The DVR is quite an amazing lathe – with the motor contained directly in the head of the lathe and with direct drive and computer speed control, it is an impressive arrangement.  Expect to see DVR motor technology utilised in other machines in the not-to-distant future.

Control panel

On new DVRs, the control panel is already wireless-ready, but it still needs an additional circuit board added.  These instructions are relevant for both the wireless-ready, and the retro kit required lathes.  Some steps are not relevant for both obviously – will point them out as we progress.

Step one is turning off, and unplugging the lathe.  You need to leave it at least 2 minutes for the circuits to fully de-energise. (The video by Teknatool suggests 5 minutes)

Loosen screws to release the control panel

Loosen the four screws on the sides of the panel.  They can be loosened, or fully removed (doesn’t matter which).  The panel is then gently rocked free of the lathe.  It still has a cable connecting it to the lathe, so be careful!

The motor control cable

This cable can now be disconnected.  Note which way around it goes (the red wire is always the #1 wire fwiw).  In this case, the #1 wire is towards the top of the control box.  The connector also has a tab to ensure it is returned the correct way up, but it is always good to keep track of the ribbon orientation as well.  It may be held in place with a dab of hot glue – easy enough to pick off with your fingernail.

Panel removed

Lathe looks a little strange with the panel removed – this is an aluminium plate affixed to the front which is used to secure the panel.

Wireless control with associated circuit, and retro kit

On the left is the remote control.  In the packaging, there is also a small circuit board that is paired to the control.  This is the wireless receiver.  (I’ll cover what to do if it is not paired further down)

On the right is the retro kit.  This is only needed for older DVRs as mentioned (pre August 2011).  At this point, those with a wireless ready DVR can skip ahead – we will get back to steps that are relevant to you in a sec!

Glue blob

Near the #1 wire here, you can see the hot glue blob that is used to ensure the cable doesn’t detach over time.  When unplugging the ribbons, you need to first pick off the glue blob.

Removed circuit board

The main circuit board is fully unplugged, then unscrewed.

Original circuit board attached to retro kit

This circuit board is then screwed to the same location on the retro kit panel (using the same screws).

So about now, DVR wireless ready owners can rejoin the party 🙂

Adding the wireless receiver

Next, the wireless receiver is pushed onto the pins that the circuit ribbon was removed from (the one I am holding).  Clever concept of how to add it into the circuit to be honest.  Very cool.

Connecting the circuit ribbon

The circuit-board ribbon plugs into the top of the wireless receiver.  You can see how the design is working at this point – the top PCB (printed circuit board) is the one with the display, the on/off and speed controls.  It passes directly through the new wireless receiver so the original controls work exactly as they used to.  However, the wireless receiver can receive instructions from the remote, and input them as if the relevant buttons on the front panel were pushed.

Attaching the ribbon, part A

Attaching the ribbon, part B

The ribbon is connected – the new version of the controller has a ribbon with an additional plug partway along.  This connects to the wireless receiver, and then the lower PCB.  Take careful note of the #1 wire (the red one).  It can be attached to the wireless receiver either way, but only one way will work.  The #1 wire needs to be towards the long side of the wireless receiver PCB.

Connect the motor control ribbon

Connect the motor control ribbon, then screw the whole control panel back to the front of the lathe.  You may discover that the remote is not paired to the wireless receiver (as was the case with my kit).  It is a very simple step to rectify.  Turn on the lathe (before the panel is screwed back onto the lathe).  Once it has gone through its bootup, try the remote.  To turn the lathe on, hold the start/stop button for 2 seconds.  If this does not start the lathe, it is likely that it is not yet paired.

To pair the transmitter and receiver, with the lathe switched on (but not running), push the pairing button on the wireless receiver PCB.

Pairing button

The pairing button is the little white one just above my finger in the photo.  Then within 60 seconds, push the power button on the remote.  You will hear some beeps, and then the two will be paired together.  Try to run the lathe again with the remote, and it should now work.

Screw the control panel onto the lathe, and enjoy giving the lathe a run remotely!

Ready to run…. remotely!

All attached, and first tests went well- namely using the lathe as it was originally, starting, stopping and speed control from the control panel.  One (minor) advantage of transferring the common circuit board from the original panel to the retro upgrade panel is all my preset speed settings were remembered.

Now with the remote control (either wrist-worn, or magnetically attached somewhere convenient), the lathe can be started and stopped from up to 7m away, and can be increased or decreased in speed in 10 RPM increments (initially).  The manual suggests the increments are 10-15 RPMs at a time, and it seems it depends on from what speed setting you are altering from.  Low RPMs, the increment is 10 RPM, high RPMs, seems to be increments of 15.  If you hold one of the speed-change buttons down, it behaves the same as if you held down the speed change button on the front of the lathe – the changes are slow at first, then increase in the amount of change (ie you can initially see the changes are 10 RPMs, but it soon becomes 100 RPMs at a time, so you can quickly accelerate up to the lathe’s highest speeds (or decelerate from there) by holding the speed change button on.

It is important to note what manual number you get with the kits.  If they are the 119-0811-001 manuals (as mine were), these are incomplete and have errors.  Teknatool R&D have produced a much better version of each manual, with a much clearer documentation of each step, using actual photos.  I have included the latest versions (as of when this article was written) here as PDFs.

DVR Wireless Remote Manual 17.08

DVR Wireless Remote Retro Fit Kit Manual 17.08

Now I don’t know if I will always use the remote – possibly not to be honest.  If I am working near the lathe head, and have easy access to the control panel I will still use that.  However when working away from the control panel (or when I would have to reach over a spinning workpiece to reach the controls, such as outboard turning), then the remote will be a god-send.  Kinda fitting, considering Teknatool and Nova come from Godzone!

I would think this remote would be useful for instructors as well – with a younger, or less confident operator, the instructor will have the ability to remote-stop a lathe without having to hover near the control panel.

Also too for experienced operators wanting to spin up something out of balance, or possibly compromised with hidden flaws and defects.  Instead of turning on the lathe and hopefully standing out of the line of fire if something lets go, you can stand well out of the line of fire, and even at a safe distance to test the integrity of a new piece of timber.

So a cool upgrade, and easily fitted to an existing DVR XP, whether or not it is already wireless-ready.

Teknatool produced a YouTube video of the upgrade, which can also be watched below:

Drill Press Table Reconfigured

As I mentioned recently, I’ve taken the drill press back to an earlier configuration – before I had a drawer under the Pro Table (from Professional Woodworkers Supplies).  As useful as having a drawer unit there was very convenient, it made the table too heavy for repositioning.

So off it came, and the Pro top is again attached directly to the drill press table via 2 tracks fixed underneath.

On the right side, there is a new addition – a bracket with a block of wood (Huon Pine) that is supporting the new height-winding wheel and shaft I’ve added.

I chose Huon Pine for the block because its would be naturally lubricating to a degree.  It is to support the long shaft, and the wheel is to make changing height much easier.  I need to do more on making it operate smoother.  It is currently functional, but could be working better.

Platter Sander

The internet might be revolutionising many aspects of society, even the woodworking world, what with these blogs and things 😉

However, there might be another way something from the IT world can be useful in the woodworking one.

Take the humble harddrive.

Take off the top, remove the read arms….

Attach some sandpaper, power it up, and you have a platter sander!

Of course, I’m not necessarily suggesting this is a good idea or not, it is just a photo I found trawling the web!  The modern harddrive spins at 15000 RPM, which is about 50% more than the typical angle grinder, so the speeds are not that unreasonable when you think about it.

I’m kinda tempted to try this out myself!

While you are at it, you could also try the drill-powered pencil sharpener 🙂

Tiny detail sander

After very recently trying to deal with sanding into very small spaces, including trying the various Dremel accessories etc.  I just happened to be surfing around the web for something completely different, and happened across the idea of using an electric toothbrush for very fine detail sanding.

So a quick google search later, and seems to be quite a popular activity!  Because it oscillates, it could prove to be quite an effective sanding pattern without cutting circles everywhere.

Not sure if there is enough raw power in a toothbrush to do any significant material removal, but as a concept it is a rather clever repurposing!

By cutting off the bristles, and gluing on a small velcro pad, small disks of sandpaper can be easily attached and swapped as required.

Swings Both Ways

The original Torque Workcentre saw mount had one mounting position for crosscutting, and a second on the end for ripping.  This worked well for crosscutting, but meant there was quite a cantilever for ripping, especially with a big saw attached.  It also meant you had to remove and reattach the mount each time you wanted to change between rip and cut.

Solving both issues in spectacular fashion, is the replacement mount for the saw accessory.

Original on the Right, New on the Left

Taking the block mount and upgrading it to what is a substantial improvement over the original.


It is well thought out – the top nut is self-locking and is the rotation point for the mount.  The lower bolt (in the curved track) is used to lock the jig in position.  At either end of the curved track is an adjustment bolt to ensure the jig is stopping exactly at 90 degrees.


Crosscut detail

In crosscut, the mount works as it always did, however with the extra ability to tweak the final angle of the saw relative to the beam. A hidden benefit is the saw now clears the end (the upright) much better.


Ripping Detail

It is when wanting to rip that the differences are immediately apparent.  The mount is no longer balancing on its end which a good thing on its own.  You can switch between the two at a moment’s notice, and even the large Triton saw fits in both positions.

So this upgrade to the TWC Saw Mount is definitely worth every cent, and improves the TWC far more than you’d expect of a small block of steel.

CNC with Pen Plot

Came across this on YouTube – it is a homemade CNC machine the person has built for their Festool router (and ensured that the unit is all in the same colour scheme- imagine if Festool had a CNC machine available (but them imagine the price!))

What I found particularly interesting is the addition, and design of a pen holder – very nicely done.  The second video is too long to bother watching all the way through, but worth watching the start to see the concept in action.  Could prove a useful mod for other CNC units, such as the CNC Shark.

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