Silver Sawdust

After conducting a successful test yesterday, I thought today’s effort would be a little more rewarding, but events proved otherwise.

After spending a good hour or so (felt like longer) getting set up with the cameras, lights, mics etc for the video, I starting recording, then starting the nesting operation on the CNC.

I was routing into 6mm thick aluminium, using a 1/8″ single flute upcut bit specifically for the job.  I was running at 10mm/sec, with a 1.2mm depth of cut.  Compressed air to clear the chips, and WD40 used generously for lubrication

The first piece cut cleanly, but only a few inches into the second piece and without warning the bit snapped.  By no warning, I mean that it didn’t sound like it was struggling, or vibrating, but snap it did.  It didn’t break near the cutter either, but about 1/2 way up the shaft.

So I thought I’d change to a 1/4″ cutter, cut all the pieces, then go back over with a 1/8″ cutter to refine each piece, and cut the required slots and mortices to join it all up/

This did not go well.  I needed to have completely changed the layout for this to work, and the tabs.  What happened was the sheet’s structural integrity became compromised more and more as the pieces were cut, to the point that they would break free from the sheet.

By the end, the cutter was blunt, the sheet had suffered from so much lateral load that it had begun ripping the screws out that I used to hold the sheet down, and pieces were coming loose left and right.  And there was no chance to refine the pieces to their final dimensions.  The pieces look good, but at this stage they are unusable without a lot more work.  Back to the drawing board.

Al-1Hope these pieces don’t go to waste – took about 4 hours of machining to get to this point.

The Multimaterial Dragon

From the recent video, here are a couple of images of the dragon, cut from acrylic, aluminium, corian, carbon fibre, brass, copper, MDF, ply and melamine (and the assembled dragon is acrylic and aluminium).

colour dragon02 dragonheadDesign from

Just been to the aluminium merchants, and picked up another $600 worth of aluminium sheet, from 1.5mm to 6mm thickness for some upcoming projects.

Blasterboyz Plaque

One thing I had yet to try on the CNC router, was other materials, and specifically aluminium.

As much as ‘they’ say that some Australian timbers are harder, and that I have both cut and routed aluminium manually, it was still with trepidation that I mounted a plate and engaged the CNC router.

There is more than hardness to the effects of machining different materials. Different materials form chips in different ways, different amounts of heat generation, and in the case of aluminium, a tendency for waste material to try to weld itself to the cutter if chips are not cleared adequately.

It is for this reason that aluminium router bits tend to be single fluted, allowing a much larger flute for more aggressive chip clearance.

Had a project come up that made it a great excuse to give it a try. The Blasterboyz are a group of JetSki riders, with a common tool of the trade- the Yamaha WaveBlaster. They often ride socially, right through to competitive rides.

They have asked if a plaque can be made, which will be used as a bit of a trophy. I won’t tell you what the trophy will actually be called – too politically incorrect!, but it translates as “go hard, or go home”

I set up to try a pretty standard V groove bit (before risking one of my soli carbide bits), and played around with feed and plunge rates to get one that cut sufficiently, without chatter or causing the CNC to move faster than the cutter could cope. The CNC Shark isn’t the most rigid, so when push comes to shove, there is some flex, which results in an imprecise job. The solution is to ensure the feed speed chosen suits the cutter and material.

So as a first attempt, this is the result. With some refinement, and a better, sharper, dedicated cutter this could be quite satisfactory. If the opportunity arose, it would also be very interesting to see a lasered result.


A Noticeboard (continued)

Just received a commercial quote for the noticeboard for work (the one I was working on a ways back).  Granted that they are using glass front (mine was perspex), and theirs is double the size, with some signage and is hung, so the playing field isn’t exactly level.

Total cost of the noticeboard I made: $78

Total cost of the quote: $2600

Think I should quit my day job immediately, and become a noticeboard maker!

Episode 43 Triton Steel Cutter

Episode 43 Triton Steel Cutter – Making a Noticeboard

Although not currently available in Oz, these are still (afaik) available in the US etc, and they are still out there if you come across a used model.  In any respect, for the project I was working on (a noticeboard) this was the right tool for the job.  The Steel Cutter came out while Triton was still owned by Hills, and seemed a very strange direction for Triton to be going at the time.

A Road Trip (to see a saw)

At my daughter’s insistence, we headed off for a road trip to see a rather unique saw, and one that I’ve been wanting to see in the flesh so to speak for a long time.

At Gabbett Machinery in Melbourne (one of their branches), we were let loose in their showroom (luckily for them I couldn’t find a forklift!) Gingerly peering around (like a kid on Christmas morning ….I see the tree…..I see something colourful under the tree… YES ….WE HAVE PRESENTS! Ok, well it was a bit like that). If you peer into this first photo, something black comes into view….


I was kindly invited to come down to see this saw, an invitation I definitely appreciate. Dwarfed by comparison to the amazing tools around it, nevertheless, it held its ground like a slick black corvette amongst a convoy of big rigs (gee, the metaphors are flowing today!)


This is the 10″ Saw Stop, named for the company, and also the incredibly unique safety feature that sets this saw aside from the pack.

It comes at a price, with the model here coming in around $A5500, and before seeing it, I was very dubious about how much it is worth. I still feel that for a 10″ cabinet saw that it is rather expensive, even given the Saw Stop, but the build quality is obvious, and exceptional so some of that extra price is well justified.


This model is shown with the 52″ extension, which gives a massive rip capacity. There is some discussion about the possibility of a sliding table and/or scribing blade, but as yet they are not available. It has a very nice fence, with UHMD plastic on either side.


The whole unit looks and feels very well engineered, although I only have my initial observations to base that on. The start/stop switch seen here is typical of the whole unit – designed and placed to a plan, and not feeling like an add-on. I’m not sure where the switch for the saw stop mechanism was, although there was a keyed lock on the side of the starter box which might have been it.


Had a bit of a play with the height and tilt mechanisms, and the gearing felt very nice and smooth, without play, or getting stuck at the extremes of travel as I’ve noticed on some other brands. The riving knife for the blade tracks up and down with the rise and fall, and carries the blade guarding with it which I like. I didn’t get to see how easy removal of the riving knife is, but I’d expect (and hope) that it’d be a couple of bolts under the blade surround insert. ***Update*** It’s even easier! Have a look at the photo below (and the closeup below that) – there is a lever partially covering the SawStop mechanism – that is the riving knife release. Very cool! ***


Now the unique aspect of this saw is its ability to detect (via current leakage) if the saw is not cutting what it should be (namely if you’ve had a lapse of concentration and decided to ..uh.. cut yourself instead of the wood). This saw had been tested the day before, and the blade is still in place where it was bought to a near instantaneous stop. The mechanism not only stops the blade in fractions of a second, but drags the entire blade below the table surface. Here you can see where the aluminium brake has engaged the blade.


At $A100 a pop for the mechanism, plus a destroyed saw blade, you wouldn’t want it happening every day of the week, but boy – how nice would it be to have this sort of safety mechanism on a tablesaw? If there are times you will be cutting something that can potentially set the mechanism off by mistake (very green timber perhaps?), it can be switched off, and a test cut made which will still indicate if the mechanism would have fired. It is based on a fusewire that is caused to burnout, releasing the aluminium block which slams into the blade. The blade cuts deeply into this, jambs up, and the force (and angular momentum of the blade) then drags the blade down and out of sight. You have to watch the video on the Saw Stop website – it is bloody amazing!

***Update – videos now linked from here with permission from Gabbett Machinery***

msawhotdogtn.jpg msawprodfeaturestn.jpg msawswhysawtn.jpg msawinsidelooktn.jpg

On that note, just to clarify- the SawStop feature is incredible, but hopefully never needed or used. The saw itself still has to function as an other cabinet saw, and given its price tag, it has to do that very very well. At least from my first impression, the engineering quality in the build of the saw itself supports this, and as a cabinet saw it looks to be at the sharp end of the 10″ range, with the added bonus of a unique safety feature.


Here is another result of a demonstration of the Saw Stop mechanism. As you can see, there are fine holes drilled near the contact surface of the blade brake, which allows the saw blade to quickly bite deeply into the brake surface. You can see just 3 teeth made its way past the brake before it was stopped. The first tooth ripped completely off the blade (and not just the carbide tip), so have no doubt – the blade is written off when this fires.

Note there is a lot of plastic deformation of the brake component, which is how a significant portion of the energy is dissipated in stopping the blade so fast.


As you can see, my daughter is also very impressed, and wishes Daddy had one of these in his workshop!

Unorthodox Triton Router Table Mod Part 2 (Accessories)

With the table upgrade, the table accessories also need to be adjusted to cope with the additional 3mm extra table height. This is achieved easily by adding shims made out of the offcuts from the aluminium of the new top.

Triton Finger Jointer
The finger jointer is the hardest, only because of the amount of dismantling required.
The sliding plate is removed to give access to the hold-down hardware.


Photo 1 – Removing the Finger Jointer Plate

Next, the hardware that holds the finger jointer down is removed.


Photo 2 – Removing the hardware

New shims are cut, and holes drilled in each.


Photo 3 – Preparing the new shims

Click here to read full article

Unorthodox Triton Router Table Mod Part 1

I’ve had a few queries about my unusual table top in my recent post about Router Tables. So to cause a bit of controversy, here is the article I wrote at the time about the modification. To clarify however, I still use an original, unmodified Triton Router Table quite successfully, so this is another one of those “I’ll always try to modify everything kind of thing!”


I have been using the Triton Router Table for a few years now (with the Triton Router pretty much permanently mounted), and have found it to be an excellent way of performing most router operations. In fact, other than some totally unavoidable operations where I need to do freehand routing, I wouldn’t dream of not using a router table. As things have progressed, I have been expecting more and more from my equipment, in their capabilities, and accuracies, and have been reaching a point where I needed to use bigger and bigger router bits, and/or a very high degree of accuracy. As I have written in another article, (which I’ll post here soon) the micro-adjusters for the Triton Router Table are excellent for achieving precise fence movements.

When using some very large router bits (such as for raised panel joints), I found that the Router Template Guide plate got in the way, so I wasn’t able to lower the bit far enough to achieve the cut that I wanted. To get around this, I had three options. The first was really not an option at all (lowering the router). The second was raising the work, which although ok, made it difficult to achieve the same setup every time (you don’t want each door on a raised panel cabinet looking different!) The final solution was to make the Triton Router Table top thicker. This had an added benefit of allowing a 1-piece top, which meant that there was no chance for the front edge of a piece of work to catch the top of the table at all, or worse, experience any dip or rise as it progressed past the router bit.

Photo 1 – Original Triton Router Table

There were a few things that I demanded of the upgrade.
1. Retain the ability to use the fence, perform through-table bit changing, and still be able to use the various router table jigs (finger joiner, biscuit joiner, jigsaw table).

2. The modification must be fully reversible, which adds an extra dimension to the design.

3. The table must still be able to take a full range of bit sizes, from the 3mm Triton bit, through to panel making bits, without ending up with a huge cavity when using the smaller bits.

4. Safety must not be compromised.
My solution was to attach a new single piece of aluminium sheet over the entire tabletop, while still leaving the slot for the sliding portion uncovered, and therefore usable as originally intended. After much thought, I finally clicked to the best way to do this- attach the new top to the removable router holding plate, so that it gets removed at the same time as the router is.

Click here to read full article

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