SSYTC082 Australian Animals Series

(A slight delay in the SundayCNC post!)

The Australian Animal series, from (scroll down a bit to the Australian Animals)

A really nice set of designs, with some real standout patterns.  By far and away, the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo is the most impressive, at least in my opinion.  However, it was the Echidna that I had to make a second time, because the first was ‘requisitioned’ by one of my work colleagues, as being “too cute”.

I really like the delicate magpie, and the facial (and mouth) detail of the Tasmanian Devil.  But I’m sure everyone will have their own favourites.

I would say these are more advanced patterns, as they take a bit more effort to assemble, but slowly and surely each can be bought together.  I occasionally shaved some pieces down just a little to loosen the fit, as I was gluing them, rather than leaving the models so they could be disassembled at a later stage.

Routed on the Torque CNC 9060, using the 1/16″ straight, 2 flute 45190 cutter from, running at around 40mm/sec, and 12000RPM.  Each cut from 3mm MDF, with most being able to fit either 2, sometimes 3 to a 900×600 sheet.  Except for the Cockatoo – that took pretty much an entire sheet on its own.  Of course, there is no reason why you cannot go bigger if you choose – cutting from 6mm, 12mm (or thicker) MDF.  And you don’t actually need a CNC to make use of the patterns.  A laser and/or router are all very well, but you are not limited to computer controlled machinery.  Print out the designs and stick them on stock timber, and you could cut them out with a scrollsaw or bandsaw.

The animals in the series are:

Sulphur Crested Cockatoo
Frilled Neck Lizard
Salt Water Crocodile
Kangaroo with Joey
Tasmanian Devil
Koala Walking
Koala in Tree

A fun series, with some real standout designs.

AA-1 AA-2 AA-3 AA-4

CNC Sunday

I had an idea that perhaps I should consider limiting my posts about working with the CNC to one day a week.  But I doubt that is a resolution I’ll stick to for longer than 5 minutes!

I spent the day carving out a bunch of nested designs from, on their Australian Animal series.  I’ve put together one so far (a Bilby), and have cut out the cockatoo, kangaroo, croc, frilled neck lizard, and a bunch of others- about 6 to go of the 16 in total.  I’ll post more about them (including pics) when I have them together in the zoo.

In the meantime, I finished the spitfire for my daughter’s school.  This was also cut out of 12mm MDF (as was the pteradactyl), and has a wing span of about 1.4m

spitfire-1 spitfire-2 spitfire-3 spitfire-4

The last is shot with a bottle, to give a bit of a sense of scale.  Solid thing!  I engraved the wings before they were cut out using a v bit.  Rather cool all told (found here)- almost tempted to make another to the same size to hang in the shed (and have it painted up).

Speaking of painting things up, that is what my daughter decided to do today.  So with a bunch of acrylic paints, she first undercoated, then painted a couple of the models I made for her yesterday.  The came up really well!  Really adds an extra dimension to the models.

spitfire-5Fun day, lots of sawdust! (After all, that is what it is all about).


Laser Based Woodworking

As woodworkers, we primarily still rely on very traditional methods for shaping wood, and for the modern woodworker not much has changed other than the death of a few more electrons.

Sure, the market has moved significantly, and a lot of technology has been bought in that turns an historic chisel or saw into a whirling dervish of razor sharp teeth mounted to a Flai Ultimate blade, but it still reduces down to a whole bunch of mini chisels paring wood away.

Where technology is making some indentations is the use of new methods for cutting.  Now lasers have been around for ages (observation about laser vs lazer removed: laser being an acronym for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation), but it is interesting just how available they are becoming for the backyard woodworker.  And even if you are not running out to buy one tomorrow, you can now buy kitsets for various items that utilise the accuracy/precision of the laser for your own woodworking.

I recently made up one of the laser-cut pen kits from Rockler, and it was remarkable just how each piece came together so precisely.  I have another to make of theirs – the Betsy Rose as a momento of my recent US trip.

Flame Kit from Rockler

The Roving Reporter also found another kit over the weekend that has particular appeal, also from the US, but in this case it has a definite down-under theme

Down Under Laser-cut pen

You know, I’m really starting to wonder if I shouldn’t get into retail – there are so many cool products out there!!

The Torque and the Triton

There is a NZ author called Hugh Cook who wrote a series of 10 fantasy books which all had titles “The something and the something“, such as “The Wordsmiths and the Warguild”.  He was planning a series of 60 books, but sales didn’t eventuate, which is a pity. I’d have needed another bookcase though!  Nothing else relevant in this, other than whenever I read (or write) “The something and the something“, I’m reminded of Hugh Cook.

Back when I bought my Triton Workcentre – the Workcentre 2000, I was concerned if there was going to be a 2002 version that was going to supersede it – the danger of using a name that also depicts a year.  A lesson that Microsoft are starting to learn – your product is dated by the name.  As it turned out, the WC2000 was the final version – a newer version that was ready for prototyping was binned by GMC when they took over.  When Triton still existed as a company, they did get the occasional prompt to bring out a new version – a 2005 version for example.  This never happened (obviously), but there were a number of existing owners who wished it would happen.

As I was assembling the TWC, a feeling of familiarity, and deja vu struck, and stuck.  Even though I found I didn’t need any assembly manual to put the TWC together, the home-grown aspect to both companies did come through, but the differences also came through strongly – one being thin pressed metal and aluminium section, the other being steel, steel and more steel.

Despite there being no commonality between the companies, or between the workcentres (other than both being Australian Engineering, both being called workcentres, and both being woodworking related), there is a degree to which the Torque Workcentre (TWC) could be regarded as being a logical upgrade to the Triton.

Consider each function:

The Tablesaw.

The biggest criticism Triton owners hear, is the money they spent on the Triton Workcentre system over the years could have bought a significant tablesaw.  There are counter arguments to that, but not relevant for this article.  They then have a brushed-motor circular saw secured by plastic under a pressed-metal top, in an item that weighs around 30-40kg.  (Again, there are all sorts of other pros and cons, not my intent to discuss).  It can handle (with the extension table) a 2400×1200 sheet, with a cut depth of around 65-67mm.  A plastic-thread height winder.

The Torque workcentre is not an ideal tablesaw, and if you already had a tablesaw you wouldn’t consider the Torque as a replacement.  However, despite having a very good cast iron tablesaw I am still looking forward to being able to process sheet goods on the Torque with ease – being able to lay the goods out, and bring the saw to the sheet (with all the control the TWC offers) to safely process the sheet into the required sections.  For ripping, a tablesaw is still the preferred method, whereas for crosscutting, the TWC has it all over the Triton, as with a saw attached it effectively becomes a radial arm saw, which until the development of the SCMS (sliding compound mitre saw) was held in very high esteem in many, many workshops (and still is by existing owners).  The TWC could potentially give a radial arm saw some serious competition – increased range, support at both ends of the arm for 90 degree cuts etc.  A top quality RAS would most likely win, but for most workshops, the Torque makes the grade.

The Router Table.

The Triton router table was the first item that I left behind as my woodworking improved – I felt held back by its limitations – the top wasn’t flat enough for my needs, and I headed down paths seeking more and more accuracy, precision and flatness.  There is a definite benefit to a table-mounted router, but one thing I found missing (and had no solution for) was the ability to have the router controlled in an overhead position, without having to hand-hold it.

This is where the Torque absolutely kicks butt.  Even when all the other parallel functions being discussed here are removed, replaced with dedicated machines, you’d still look at the Torque Workcentre as an overhead router system – it is what the TWC excels at, and the primary reason for buying one.  All other functions of the workcentre are secondary to this – bonuses. IMO that is! There is so much potential that overhead routing capabilites provides, I’m going to be exploring it for a long time yet!

Now this doesn’t mean the table-mounted router is obsolete – far from it.  How I have dealt with that, is combining the two tools, and I have an area where the table-mounted router resides in the top of the Torque workcentre, and at this stage I don’t believe it does anything to detract from either machine.  While the table-mounted router is in place, I loose about 300mm of total capacity of the TWC because I have placed it at the end where there is some dead-space anyway, and I can regain that area by simply lifting the table-mounted router out to regain the full TWC capacity. The best of both worlds you might say.

When in place, the table-mounted router has the advantage of a cast-iron top (which I added), and the Incra LS Positioner and Fence, so that is pretty optimised, and yet I also have the overhead TWC to complement it.

I’ve long seen the router table as being a compromised tool – most workshops that have one have had to make it themselves (other than the low-cost Triton, GMC or Ryobi tables).  To get a machine as serious as the tablesaw as a router table, you’ve had to turn to the spindle moulder, and that machine has a very limited top speed, and is not effective for small router bits. (Not that I am belittling the Spindle Moulder – it is a very capable machine, and can be found in many professional workshops, but it isn’t designed for modern router bits.) The TWC is a machine built specifically for the router.

Drill Press.

Like the tablesaw, it is an additional (rather than primary) solution.  Like the Triton, take a hand power tool and give it extra functionality by providing a solid mount.  But again, in a pretty serious way – a drill press that can drill materials up to around 1300mm from the support pole, has massive work support, can handle angles, and drill points in arcs.


There isn’t to my knowledge a jointer on the market that can allow you to prepare the face of a board 2000×1300, yet that is bread and butter for the TWC.  And anything smaller.  I’d say many workshops will still have a dedicated machine, but when its capabilities are exceeded, the TWC takes over.  If you don’t have a jointer yet, the TWC puts off the requirement to invest in one.  It doesn’t do the jointing the edge to 90 degrees to the face however (although you can use a router bit to run down the edge to perform that role).  You can also thickness with it, and again with significant capacity beyond any affordable thicknesser on the market!  For smaller items, a dedicated machine will be faster and easier, but the TWC can still substitute until you have the dedicated machine.

So, what do you think?  Could the TWC be regarded as an upgrade to the Triton system?  Both fit hand-held power tools to increase their safety and functionality.  One weighs a substantial 200+kg, so has the stability (with a corresponding loss to portability).

Assembling the Torque Workcentre

It was hard having to wait to assemble the workcentre – having it sit overnight waiting.  At least it arrived on a Friday!

First job was unpacking the remains of the container, and seeing what, if anything was missing.  By the end of the build, only 2 things appear to have been lost – a single bolt of 4 that holds one of the wheels on, and the assembly instructions!

So a pretty fortunate outcome in the end.

Disassembly of the 'crate'

I was concerned about that gap in the middle, but I now think this is for the shorter versions of the support arm – this unit shipped with the longest 1300mm version, which gets packaged with the 2 main beams rather than in this crate.

After laying it all out, the assembly task did not look that daunting, and in hindsight it wasn’t – nothing like even assembling a Triton Workcentre – this assembly didn’t need instructions, let alone the difficulty caused by missing a single step of the Triton assembly.

Components laid out

Assembly begins upside down, and the tapped holes make it obvious how it goes together.  The two main rails are set out, with the cross bracing bolted across.

Main platform assembled

The legs are then added to either end, with the adjustable legs (which also are the ones with brakes) to the front.  Once this section is finished, the unit it flipped upright for the rest of the assembly.

Legs Assembled

I didn’t get any photos of the next stage – it went so quickly and smoothly it was over before I picked the camera up again.  Throughout the build, I did have the video running, so at least that (hopefully) caught some of the action!

Workcentre Completed

Throughout the build, with every component I picked up I was reminded of the significance of each component – they were heavy, strong, and it was both obvious that it had been built by hand (and not in a bad way), and wasn’t some mass-overseas-produced tool.  This is solid, Australian engineering as it should be.

The total build took all of 90 minutes – a very smooth assembly, even without the instructions.

Tool platform with router attachment

This is the platform for the various tools – in this case for the router.  It includes the optional dust collections shroud. There is still some fine-tuning to do, and a top to be added which I will cover in the next article(s).

Heavy Engineering

From the base, to the upright, the support arm and the tool carrier, it is solid components, solid construction all the way.

It is one thing to see such a unit set up and operating at a woodshow, but you get a real sense for the quality during the build phase.

Blokes and Sheds

I knew about the Blokes and Sheds book by Mark Thomson for ages, but I’ve not had a chance to sit down and start reading through it, until today when I found a copy at the local shops.  (The copy I got is “The Complete”, so includes his second book – “Stories from the Shed”.)

Blokes and Sheds

Blokes and Sheds

So I find, with a sense of relief mind, that I am not as strange as people around me seem to think.  There are plenty of others out there who see in their backyards a space with the same potential that I see in mine, and not just potential as in the potential to create, but just a space to be, organised chaos.

Mess is allowed, and expected.  As are cobwebs, sawdust, and items that are far too useful to throw away, but I have no idea what they will be used for until they are.  One home truth from the book – keep an item for 7 years.  In that 7 years, you will find a use for it.  Of course the tax department got the same idea so expect us to keep records for that long too.  Now there’s a group of people who would benefit from a lot more shed time.

One thing that stood out like the proverbial, is the average age of the blokes featured in the book.  I sure hope that this isn’t a part of the traditional Aussie psyche that is fading away because the younger generation isn’t keeping it alive, and carving their own space out in the Aussie backyard.

It isn’t just Aussies that have sheds either, and it is a bit of a shame that the book doesn’t reference Australia’s closest neighbour, both physically, and socially – New Zealand.  I guess that could be the subject for another book 🙂

I’m glad to see that the dartboard is regarded as essential shed equipment, and I got mine last Father’s Day, so my shed is slowly gaining a sense of real credibility.

Finally, a reference to “The Institute of Backyard Studies” – Mark Thomson’s website.  Wonder if he know’s Stu’s Shed exists yet (in real or cyber space)?

A New Approach to an Aussie Icon

You can tell a company’s Australian, when it brings out a product which is a reinvention of a very traditional tool – the Boomerang.  And yes, the boomerang was a tool, and not just a kid’s novelty.  It was also used for hunting, and the benefit was if you didn’t hit your target, it would generally return in the direction it was thrown.  Imagine that tech in the modern arena – fire a missile, and if it missed, it came back ready to be used for another shot!  I will also acknowledge that the boomerang is not unique to Australia, but that is enough of the history lesson!

What we have however is not designed to be thrown, but to hold, and it’s application is welding.  Being able to clamp two pieces of ferrous material at a set angle to each other, so the welder can then do the tacking up of the project.

MagSwitch Boomer Angle

MagSwitch Boomer Angle

Comes from MagSwitch, so again it is utilising the ingenious switchable magnets (in this case it is the 30mm ones), and each can be rotated through 180 degrees so you can bring the two pieces together at whatever angle is required.  I haven’t actually used it for a project as yet, so don’t have any photos of it in use, but you can get the general idea here.

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