For quite a while now, I have been aware that there was something a bit confused with the Stu’s Shed podcast.  In part I lost track of it because I haven’t tried posting many videos for a long time (and there is a bit of a story there as well), and I just haven’t focused on the iTunes account because of it.

I keep wanting to get back to it – no promises but!

Got an email yesterday from someone who has been watching a few Stu’s Shed TV episodes with their Apple TV, and wrote to ask about the older episodes (for the past couple of years, iTunes has only shown the latest 14 or so podcasts).

Used that prompt, and decided to have a play with all the settings, and I seem to have fixed something – had a look this evening (once iTunes had refreshed my podcast feed), and all 130 or so episodes were visible again!

Now I see that I need to fix some of the older posts – there is a lot more text being sent to the RSS feed than is needed, and given there is a size limit to the feed that iTunes will accept, I need to minimise those posts, but that is something I can do slow time.

Would love to wait until everything is ideal – plenty of time, clean shed, uncluttered shed, dedicated videoing studio, income from it all to be able to dedicate more time and resources to it etc etc, but not one of those is likely to change any time soon.

So I either wait for the ideals, or accept that I won’t be able to produce the high production quality videos that I want (or can) produce, and start getting out some videos again.  I do want to get back to it, but as I said, no promises!


Update: if I managed to boost the number of RSS feeds you have from Stu’s Shed overnight – oops – my bad!  I hadn’t noticed anything on my RSS reader, but some have!

Nailin’ those apps

For those than mourn the days of Tungsten Palm Pilots, Pocket PCs and other stylus controlled devices, you don’t have to continue to use fat finger control if you prefer not to.  And if you also want a bit of shed-related peripheral, then you can use a nail to control your iPad/iPhone or other digit-controlled device.

Not exactly any nail of course!  The iPound, from Fred (& Friends).

iPound the iPad

iPound the iPad

It has a silicone-rubber tip, so no damage to the iDevice surface (unlike using a real nail!)



Use it to access all your woodworking-related apps!

iPound those Apps

iPound those Apps

And if a nail isn’t your style, there is also a match, and a crayon. (But neither of those are really shed related!)


Manspace Magazine is heading right into the digital frontier with their latest move.

You can certainly still subscribe to the traditional version for $20 ($19.95 for the pedantic) for 4 issues if you want, or save a tree and get it electronically to be read on you device of choice (computer, iPad, Samsung tablet etc etc)

It is available through Zinio, which has a whole swag of other magazines also available, across IT platforms. You can also buy individual issues of Manspace for $6.95

To get to Zinio, click the icon and shop for magazines to your heart’s content. It doesn’t affect your discounts, but Stu’s Shed gets a bit of a kickback. There is a massive range of magazines available too, and they are crossplatform. Buy it on your computer, and read it on you iPad or iPhone (or any other popular device) (and vise versa) Don’t forget to search for “Manspace”! There is quite a comprehensive list of magazines available to choose from, especially when using a web interface.

Zinio - Be Well Read

What is old is new again (and vise versa)

I found a phone the other day – sadly the owner had lost it, and it had subsequently been run over as well (not a happy phone!) To have a look at the contact list to find the owner, I had to dig up an old phone to put the SIM into and in my diggings I found my first digital mobile that I had while still in the Navy, and had last used in 1998.

(the AA battery I included for scale).

When I went to charge it, I was stunned to find that not only the phone still worked (that was pretty much expected), but that it still retained about 3/4 of its charge.  After 14 years!!!!

We retire these tools with scary regularity, to replace them with the latest and greatest.  The newest ones do have all sorts of amazing features, they are smaller, smarter, play more games, and have become mini-computers.  But what is a phone really for?

In my office at work, I still have an Apple ][e computer from 1984

It still works, and is (although tiring) capable of everything it was valued for when it was new.  Still capable of word processing, spreadsheets, and still has some great games.

What I am trying to show is although there are some things to gain from getting the latest and greatest of anything, the items that are left behind are still perfectly capable of doing what they were intended to do, even in a market a volatile as computing, or mobile telephony. (And I am as much an enthusiastic consumer of the latest and greatest techno-gadgets as anyone).

So what about in woodworking? Such a volatile market indeed, it is hard to keep up.  All those new hammers, tablesaws, and ruler technology.

Now there are advancements to be sure.  And as we equip our workshops, it is always interesting to source the best of these (as far as budgets stretch) to increase the capacity of our ‘shops.  Who doesn’t love a new tool (and hopefully there are a fair few sitting under trees around the world of Stu’s Shed readers!)

It is still worth remembering that despite all the ‘advancements’, very few reflect a real improvement, a true redesign rather than just a fad to generate sales.  We’ve seen a few: lasers on tools (even on handsaws ffs), magnesium casings, snake oil salesmen at wood shows, and all their wares.

Think back to how artisans of old managed to produce the most stunning of work, with the most basic of tools.  Some of what we buy is to fasttrack the process of being able to produce equivalent work without the days, months and years of practice, finessing the craft.   Some of what we buy turns out to be snake oil.

That is not to say there hasn’t been some inventions in recent times that have really added to the woodworking world.  Some of the things produced by Bridge City certainly would count, the SawStop and Incra both definitely rate, or going back a few years now, some of the stuff Teknatool came up with to revolutionise workholding on the lathe.

Others are redesigning and reworking existing products, such as Woodpeckers, and they are producing beautifully refined tools.

But there is still a group who are quite prepared to take a laser, stick it on a hammer (or a saw) in the hopes to deprive you of your hard-earned without actually providing a real benefit.

Back to the phone again, and what it made me think of when I saw it (and how functional it has remained).  It is worth having a look through your workshop, see what has been pushed aside because of upgrades, refinements, space constraints or whatever.  You may well (re)discover some treasures out there.  I found some tools recently I had completely forgotten I even owned.  Nothing wrong with the tool, or its functionality, or why it was purchased.  Just lost in time.  The benefit of buying quality: it remains a quality item for many years past when lesser examples have long fallen by the wayside.

So I hope that you find under your Christmas trees some new, functional, quality additions to your workshops.

But don’t forget you already have an awesome tool already, just waiting for you to pick it up and yield it: your existing shed, and all the tools contained therein.  Imagine an artisan of old walking in there and falling over in amazement at what we now have at our disposal, and what they could achieve with them.

And yes, I did track down the phone owner, from the number on the SIM card. Who wants that sort of hassle, especially at Christmas time?

iPad 2

If you are not interested in a post that has nothing to do with woodworking, and instead is a discussion about the iPad2, then read no further.


The iPad 2 came out in Australia on Friday, so I’ve only had the weekend to have a chance to play with it a bit.  However, I have been a heavy iPhone 3G and 4 user for the past few years, so the transition to using the iPad is seamless.

It is impressive to say the least.  The touch interface over a larger surface is something to experience, and not just in a quick shop-based play on a demo model.  The next generation of computers (the table based ones that area already being depicted in near-future based movies) that are in development are going to be interesting indeed.

However, it isn’t all completely rosy – this isn’t the perfect device.  For one, it is not the Kindle-killer it is made out to be.  The backlit screen is stunning, but not for reading text for longer periods of time.  The Kindle screen is definitely superior for that, (requiring a traditional reading light when it is dark), as is its battery life (if you are specifically considering it for being an electronic book).

The other negative is typing.  I thought it would be really good considering typing on the iPhone is functional (but it is a tiny keyboard for obvious reasons), and the iPad screen is so much larger, but I find it difficult not to make mistakes on it, despite being a touch typist (or perhaps because I’m expecting to be able to touch type).  There is an easy workaround of course: use the onscreen keyboard when necessary, and use a bluetooth computer keyboard (such as the current Apple wireless) when you can.  With a stand for the iPad, this gets very close to recreating a traditional laptop style of working.

With the ability to create Word, Excel, Pages and Numbers documents, surf the web and email, it is a small laptop killer (more precisely a netbook killer).

It is here that you can start to see the issue of price: the claims that it is expensive are really more valid if you are considering it a bit of a novelty, a toy.  But when compared to other netbooks/laptops, the price is suddenly at the cheap end of the spectrum.

Now another advantage came up over the weekend.  My daughter has played on iPhones a bit, but the iPad as a teaching tool is incredible.  The interface for a small child (let alone an adult) is unbelievable to watch – it is so intuitive.  She loves it, and there is a lot of great apps (programs) out there for her.  Not surprising, considering there are around 10000 iPad apps (and 350000 iPhone apps, most of which (if not all) work on the iPad).  iPhone apps work, although smaller in size initially, you can touch the 2x button to fill the screen.  The quality of these iPhone apps on the iPad is lower than native iPad apps, but they still look acceptable.  If the apps were designed for the Retina display of the iPhone 4, I would expect it would be hard to tell these apps from the native iPad ones.

I didn’t get to experience the iPad, but I imagine most of what I’ve described so far would be equally valid on the original.  I’m sure I’ll start to discover what makes the iPad 2 an improvement over the original, but I’m still coming to grips with the advantages of the platform as a whole.  Facetime will be cool 🙂

My verdict?  The iPad 2 is an impressive device, and it is a purchase I am definitely happy with.  Only problem is, now my wife wants her own for work!  Thankfully, it will be a couple more years before my daughter thinks to ask for one for herself as well!!

Some iPhone Apps for Woodworkers

Let’s face it, the iPhone is making massive inroads into the mobile phone arena.  It seems that walking down the road, if you see someone talking on a mobile then it is 50-50 whether it is an iPhone or not.  The phone aspect itself is obviously irrelevant to woodworking, but there is that small other feature of the iPhone particularly which is a little more relevant.  It is a computer, and a very portable version at that.  What’s more, software for it is easily purchased through the Apple apps (ie applications) store and that can be done directly on the phone itself, or through iTunes on the user’s computer.

The ease of accessing applications, and the cost (some free, and the majority being around $A1.19 (ie $US0.99)(although many reviewed here are $2.49)) has resulted in iPhone applications now equate to 99.4% of all mobile phone apps purchased.

Looking through my iPhone, I thought I might show you some of the woodworking related applications I have (and in no particular order).

There are a couple of conversion programs (there are a whole heap out there, but these are a couple I’ve stuck with), which allow you to convert from one measurement to another (and with a wide range of starting and finishing units to choose between)


ConvertBot ($A2.49), which uses a dial-interface to choose the starting and finishing units, then changes to a calculator-type screen for entering the measurement itself. Since that was released, another has become available that I prefer:


Convert ($A2.49) which has a very straight-forward interface, and without changing screens allows both the starting/finishing units to be selected (finger-scrolling), and the value to be entered via the numeric keypad.

Often though, in the workshop it isn’t just changing units from one to the next that we need (after all, if your plans are in imperial, you can always use an imperial rule if you don’t want to bother converting all the measurements to metric).  What is useful is being able to add and subtract measurements, particularly in an unfamiliar format (fractional inches being the obvious one).


ShopCalc is a mobile app that works in pretty much the same way as the FastCap calculator shown on here recently. You enter in whichever format you want, then add/subtract etc any other format, then finally display the answer in whatever format you choose.

Now inside the iPhone is an accelerometer. This device is like a spirit level inside the phone, detecting what orientation you have the phone in so it adjusts the display accordingly.  The accelerometer is surprisingly sensitive, and therefore allows a raft of woodworking opportunities.

One app, called iHandy Carpenter ($2.49) has 5 woodworking tools built-in, including a rule, spirit level, plumb bob etc.

Spirit Level

Plumb Bob

And a number of others, perhaps more suited to the carpenter/tradie than the home woodworker.  The spirit level for one, is the equivalent of the Wixey ($A70ish) for a fraction of the price.

Not only tool applications available, but also a whole stack of resources, including…..Stu’s Shed (through a mobile interface)

Stu's Shed on the iPhone

Superb small screen interface

And of course, we can’t not mention,,,,,the Wood Whisperer!

Wood Whisperer

There are a whole stack of other applications, of various levels of quality (and price).  If you come across any that prove really useful, please drop me a line!

Bear Creek's boardfoot calculator

Battle of the Blades

Over the next few weeks I will start running the various saw blades that I have gathered through their paces in a number of different cutting situations to see how they compare, and handle the typical sorts of tasks woodworkers would require of them. I don’t want to pedestal any particular blade or brand, but the results could potentially elevate one above the rest – we’ll see when the cuts begin. I haven’t finalised the battery of tests that I’ll run each blade through, but there will be sawdust!

Once I’ve come up with a list, future blades can be run through the same set to be able to compare them to this current batch.

These are the blades available for testing so far, and my sincere thanks to the respective companies for allowing their product to be included here. In alphabetical order by blade brand we have:

from Carbatec

290.250.24M 24T Rip $47
285.048.10M 48T Combo $64
285.080.10M 80T Cross $97
271.250.43M 42T Combo
thin kerf

from Woodworking Warehouse

LP20M 25 24T Rip $69
LP30M 25 40T Combo $88
LP60M 001 80T Cross $140
LU2B 0700 60T Cross $110


36T 36T Combo $N/A
40T 40T Combo $N/A
100T 100T Cross
thin kerf

from Woodworking Warehouse

320 ATB 24T Rip $85
336 4+1 50T Combo $115
360 ATB 100T Cross $148

Northwood Premium
from Northwood Tool Company

ZH-1024 24T Rip $29
ZH-1080 80T Cross $33


Premium 40 40T Combo $N/A
Premium 60 60T Cross $N/A
Triple Cut 24 24T Rip $N/A
Triple Cut 36 36T Combo $N/A
Triple Cut 60 60T Cross $N/A

I know the photos don’t make the situation particularly clear, but as I actually review each brand of blades I’ll take more detailed photos of the blades themselves, including their particular tooth design.

Looking at the set, and how similar they look here, it makes you wonder just what distinguishes between one blade and the next. Other than some having a distinctive colour, they all look the same. I can assure you they are not, as the review of the various cut situations I’m sure will show.

BTW, the image manipulations done here could be done in Photoshop etc, but for a quick, easy application I gave Picturesque a try out.  Written by a couple of students in Sydney, it won the prestigious Apple Design Award in San Francisco in 2007.  I’ve been in communication with them recently with their release of version 2.0

If you are a Mac user, and are looking for a quick image manipulation program that can finish the job of beautifying the image and have it resized and saved before Photoshop has time to open, it is worth checking out.  I have no association with the company btw.

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