Pre-judging a Tool

It is a rare thing for a tool to perform significantly different to what you imagined, and often that is not a positive thing.

So it is even rarer to find oneself completely surprised by how a tool just purchased operates, and in a good way!

The tool in question is the Arbortech Contour Sander.  It is fitted to an angle grinder and is for smoothing odd shaped items (such as one might create with some of the other Arbortech tools!)

Now the angle grinder is not exactly a tool that you would regard as being subtle.  It is loud, it vibrates, and it runs at around 10,000 RPM.  You would imagine that attaching a shaft to that, and sticking a piece of sandpaper on the end, that you are about to have some very rapid stock removal, in a cloud of dust.

Nothing could have been further removed from my expectation.

Instead, I had a tool running at very high speed (as angle grinders are want to do), but the sandpaper end was barely moving on the workpiece.  It is a random orbital sander style, so the rapid angular speed of the angle grinder translates into a more linear, but random amount of microstrokes.

It was subtle, it sanded quickly, but at a very controllable rate, and the soft end allowed the contours be sanded, without them being removed or abraded away.  Contour Sander indeed!

I think my only negative point was that the sandpaper is stuck on, rather than using velcro/hook & loop, so it isn’t easy to change from one pad to the next, working through the grades.

I’ve already used the sander on a few small jobs, smoothing and softening the natural edge of some timber, but I well expect it will prove a very useful tool for a range of projects in future.

A Cool Nova Tool

For regular followers, you will remember my little jaunt over to the land of the red, white and blue, to Denver Colorado to appear on Cool Tools.  Haven’t forgotten the experience, from the flight on the A380 to getting around Denver, being on the show, meeting and working with Chris Grundy, visiting Rockler, and, well, the whole experience.

It all jumped back in mind when I was reading up about a tool sitting out in the shed, and heard it was about to be featured on….Cool Tools!

The tool in question: the Nova Comet II midi lathe, from Teknatool.

Nova Comet II

It is a very interesting addition to the midi lineup, and simply based on name, it has quite a pedigree.

There are a few other lathes in the same niche, so lets pull them all out, dust them off and see what we have here.

Jet Midi, Variable Speed

Jet Midi, Variable Speed

Carbatec Midi, Variable Speed

Carbatec Midi, Variable Speed

There are others, but these are the ones I have some familiarity with.

Must admit, I didn’t have variable speed on a lathe until I got my DVR.  My old Jet midi lathe didn’t have the feature.  Variable speed is pretty cool, and means you can quickly change the speed to suit what you are doing at the time, rather than stopping to change the belts (or simply ignoring the speed isn’t ideal, mores the point!)

Both the Jet and the Carbatec have the variable speed tacked onto the side, as if the lathe was designed without and on certain machines they get the upgrade.  For both the Jet and Carbatec, this is pretty much the case.

The Comet has it designed to be much more integrally part of the lathe from the outset.  This may just be an aesthetic, but it also means there isn’t a speed control box sticking out the side.  Dust does build up, and objects do fall or hit things that are sticking out.

While we are looking at it, some other specs, side by side

Specification Comet II Jet Carbatec
Price $639 $849 $799
Speed 250 – 4000 200 – 4300 250 – 3600
Swing over bed 300mm 304mm 355mm
Distance between Centres 419mm 510mm 430mm
Reverse Yes No No
Weight 32kg 45kg 39kg

All have 3/4HP motors, indexing heads

So in the first rounds, the Comet II really is holding its own.  Especially given the price.

There are some aspects that do come in though, and this is probably price-related.  I like cams on the various movable items, and although it is only the tailstock, I would have preferred it to have been a cam.

Although the finish on all user areas is good, there are some rough castings underneath.  The foundry really needs to invest in an angle grinder.  It wouldn’t have been hard to tidy up the casting a bit more underneath.

Toolless access to the belt drive.

Other than those points, there are some distinct advantages too!

Reversible. The other lathes can’t run backwards! (Correct me if I am wrong (update – the Carbatec does))
Excellent access to the belt drive – much better than either of the others.
Ability to add accessories, such as a grinder (for sharpening chisels during turning)

It may be a bit lighter (weight is a bonus for lathes), but not too much so, and it does make it more transportable.

I’ll revisit the accessories when they arrive, but the concept is very interesting!

When I have a chance to really put the lathe through its paces, I will feed those experiences back.  The initial testing didn’t reveal any issues.

So a very promising addition to the lineup, and at a rather cost-competitive price point!  You can afford to add a Nova G3 chuck and still be ahead.  Don’t forget, the 4 jaw self-centering chuck which is now the standard for wood turners was invented by Teknatool.

New, new tools

There are always new tools in the marketplace, vying for your hard-earned. However, so many of them are just a re-visualisation of an existing tool – a new type of spanner, a new power screwdriver, a new drill rather than a brand new invention.

Not that I am knocking new releases of previous inventions – given I have just ordered the brand new Festool CXS drill, I am hardly going to say that new versions of previously existing tools is a bad idea! But that is a story for another day (when the drill arrives from Ideal Tools – tomorrow hopefully!)

However, at the Brisbane Wood Show this year, Arbortech revealed their newest invention: the TURBOPlane.

TURBOPlane

This is very cool on a number of levels.

– A wood show being used to release a brand new product

– A brand new, Australian product

– And a cool tool in itself.

It fits to your standard angle grinder, and provides a surprising degree of control and finish, while still allowing rapid stock removal.

Fits a standard angle grinder

It fits any 100 or 115mm angle grinder with speeds up to 12000 RPM. Despite the speed the angle grinder runs, you have a significant sense of control over the process. It opens up the door to shapes that would otherwise be difficult to achieve, without moving over to handtools, or carbide abrasive discs which can cause deep scores in the timber (and lots of dust).

Carving into surfaces

The TURBOPlane can carve both convex and concave shapes, and because it does not have teeth on the outside edge does not need the same guarding as their Woodcarver, and is not as aggressive (the Pro-4 Woodcarver is effectively chainsaw-style teeth cut into a solid disc.) Whether you are shaping the seat of a chair, creating a tray, or carving bowls, wooden horses etc, the control from the TURBOPlane will quickly win you over. It can run right up to the edge of the object (or recess), as it will not cut on that edge.

Rapid stock removal

I haven’t had time for a long play with it yet, but first signs are good 🙂

In the meantime, here are a couple of videos from Arbortech on the blade in action.

Rotabrade on New Inventors

Saw an interesting product on “The New Inventors” tonight on ABC – the Rotabrade – a drum sander that attaches to your angle grinder.

Rotabrade

Rotabrade

After seeing it in action, it looked like it had a decent amount of control (and compared to the Arbortech, control of some high speed sandpaper is NOT an issue, despite what the judges thought!)

Not sure when they will be on the market – won’t be long I imagine after appearing on the ABC – it is bloody hard even getting on there! Cost of the unit is said to be around $15.

Yay for a new season of “The New Inventors”

Yay for Aussie inventors

Yay for Australian manufacturing

Short Weekend

Some weekends there really isn’t time for anything it seems, and if you get even 30 minutes, that is a real bonus!

Tried out the welder, and an automatic welding mask that I picked up (ok, it came from Bunnings).  All seemed to work ok – ran a weld bead all of about 1″ long before my power supply tripped, but that was a. expected, and b. worked for longer than I creditied that it would.  Bought back old memories, not the least the smell – awesome! (Now you know I’m weird!!)

Finally took the opportunity to cut a channel in the old concrete path, which has been letting (a small) amount of water under part of the shed wall.  First with the angle grinder and a diamond blade, which worked surprisingly well.  The grinder was very hot by the end of it (2 cuts, 25mm deep (but done in multiple passes), about 1m long).  Don’t think it has ever worked so hard.  Perhaps it was all the concrete dust it had to breathe.  Gave it a good blowout with the air compressor afterwards.  The cutter did well though (one of those cheap $10 diamond things)

Next, I chipped out the concrete between the 2 cuts to form the channel, and again the air compressor came to the fore.  That, and a pneumatic hammer connection I got as part of a basic pneumatic tool kit.  So hopefully it is enough – will know the next time it rains (heavily).  So probably some time July 2027.

Next job is to install the guttering which I picked up today, and my list of tasks for the shed upgrade will be finally getting short.

More New Tools from Triton

Must be all go down at Triton, as 2 more tools have just been released:

tms184.jpg

The Triton Mitre Saw TMS184

$199 inc GST

 

 

tx100.jpg

The Triton Angle Grinder TX100

$99 inc GST

It may seem a bit unusual – an angle grinder from a woodworking tool manufacturer, but keep in mind, there is also the Triton Steel Cutter, which works brilliantly for what it was designed for (cutting up to 50mm steel stock, cold, without lubrication, and without any serious HAZ (heat affected zone)), and the angle grinder obviously complements that. Also, I am quite partial to the Arbortech Pro4 Woodcarver, which is designed to fit an angle grinder, so then the angle grinder definitely becomes another excellent woodworking tool!

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