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.

Sanding Curves

Sanding something that is flat has been well worked out over the years.

Shop-based sanders came out in the early 1800s, but it wasn’t until 1927 that Porter Cable released a portable belt sander, called the Take About Sander.

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Dremel was next to come up with something new, and released an oscillating sander in 1948, called the Moto-sander

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Next was Festo (now Festool), releasing an orbital sander in 1951, the Festo RTK

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Then in 1976, Festo came up with the concept of a random orbital sander.  These were aimed at the automotive finishing industry, but were very suitable for woodworkers as well.

There is one common concept with all these sanders however.  They are all about sanding a surface flat, or at most on a convex curve.  I know that is a bit simplistic, but you get the point.

What happens if you want to sand inside a concave region?

If you are using a lathe, then you can use a rotary sander that is spun by contact with the workpiece, such as this rotary sander from U Beaut

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But if your object is not mounted on a lathe, what other options are there?

I’ve got a couple (and I know there are others).  One is the Festool Interface pad, as I have previously mentioned back in 2012

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It is a foam disk that attaches by hook&loop (which we commonly call Velcro!) to the sander, and then attaches the sanding paper to the other side.  It provides a cushioned surface that can get into concave curves (and is good for convex ones as well).  The one I was using finally gave up the ghost (it is a consumable after all), so I picked up a replacement.

The other solution that I got from Carbatec, is a product from Arbortech called the Contour Random Sander

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It fits to your angle grinder, and I am particularly interested in trying this out.  It can get into deeper areas and tighter curves, yet still has a random orbital effect, as the sanding disk is free spinning and (just) offcentre.

After all, not all woodworking is about items that are flat!

Sweet curves

The new Arbortech Contour Sander

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.

Continuing the family tradition

Year 2 😉

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Using the Dremel to carve the pumpkin.  If I had the mini carver from Arbortech, who knows what I could do.  Not that it cannot be achieved manually, but the Dremel in this case made it much easier!

More New Tools from Triton

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

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The Triton Mitre Saw TMS184

$199 inc GST

 

 

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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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