Festool Vandal

If I hadn’t been kicked out of the Festool ‘aficionado’ already for hacking into the boom arm of the dust collector, this may push them over the edge 😉

Take 1x Festool Systainer.

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Now granted the lid of this systainer has already suffered some wilful damage, but what I’ve done next puts the icing on the cake.

Systainer: meet tablesaw.

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Using the same technique used in boxmaking to detach a lid from the just-made box, the systainer is run through the tablesaw on each side, just above the base (but not high enough to impact the clips). High enough to retain the clip points for a lower systainer to still be able to lock to the base.

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So why in the world would I do that? There is method to my madness.

The detatched systainer base can still lock to the top of any other systainer…….or Festool Cleantex vac.

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So the final piece of the puzzle. Now taking a typical bucket, a few holes drilled through both the base of the bucket and into and through the systainer base, and finally some steel blind rivets to lock the two together. Now, I have a bucket that can be locked to the top of a systainer or vac. The bucket? Collection bin for a cyclone separator! Given the systainer cost $10 2nd hand, this was so much cheaper than any custom made systainer-like collection bin. A normal systainer cannot be used for dust collection as the walls are too thin to be able to withstand the generated vacuum.

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Must admit, I’m pretty pleased with this solution. Nice thing is the cyclone separator has 2 1/2″ connection points, so it plugs directly inline without needing any modifications, changes in tube dimensions etc. Not sure if I will use it all the time, or even if I actually need it for the Cleantex at all (I use the reusable Festool bag which works exceptionally well), but I wanted to demonstrate just how feasible the concept was.

The Carbatec Bench

The final push, actually the easy bit – the bench assembly.  With the Veritas vice in place, the four legs are bolted to the underside of the bench, and the vice(s) fitted.  Because I had added the Veritas, I had a vice left over so added it to the back of the bench behind the drawer.  It only needed 3 holes to be drilled to fit it there, so no biggie.

The shelf is then bolted to the legs which provides a significant amount of rigidity.  The vices are then screwed down, and the drawer assembled and fitted.  Anyone who has ever bought anything from Ikea will have no problem putting that drawer together.  The entire bench assembly should only take about 30 minutes.  (Again, instruction manuals be damned).

The standard vice is a very simple animal- the two bolts at the rear of the guide bars are removed, then the base is unscrewed.  The front jaw added then the unit inserted through predrilled holes in the bench skirt. The rear bolts are tightened, and the base screwed to the underside of the bench.

This was then repeated for the other vice that I fitted at the rear of the bench.  No point letting one go to waste!

With all the vices and fittings in place, it was time to turn the unit over.  Bloody heavy thing – weighs in around 80kg.  Perhaps not as heavy as a full wood one, but enough.

The bench in position in its new home.  (fwiw, the rear vice looks high because it has the removable jaw extension added).

With the Veritas in prime position, and clamps all around, this bench is ready to work. I’m debating whether to put my metal working vice on the bench as well – may do, especially if I park the Festool Vac under the bench.  The benefit of having the boom arm!

The bench can move a bit when pushed on, but it is pretty good.  There is some spring in the legs (unavoidable), but the majority of the movement would come from the feet.  If you were serious about bench stability, I’d not use the feet and instead would bolt the bench to the floor, and/or use a bracket to secure the bench to a wall.

I still have some holes to drill in the Veritas Vice jaws, so I can add some bench dogs.  The plastic ones that came with the bench will probably go in the bin, and instead I have picked up some Veritas ones from Carbatec, which fit a standard 19mm hole.  These will be perfect on the Torque Workcentre as well, as soon as I drill the new matrix of holes for the Walko clamps.

I got a set of Veritas Bench Dogs for the bench, and a set of Veritas Bench Pups for the jaws. Will see if that is enough for my typical use, not that they are particularly expensive, and they have a great, heavy feel.  With some holes in the side of the jaws of the Veritas Twin Screw, it will also allow large sheets to be clamped vertically to the side of the bench as necessary.

I also found these Veritas Surface Clamps, which also fit into the same 19mm holes.  The knurled knob tightens the clamp into the hole, and the arm moves freely up and down the shaft until a load is applied when it then locks into the ridging on the shaft.  These too will be extremely useful on both the workbench, as well as on the Torque Workcentre.

So the whole thing has come together nicely.  A combination of an easily assembled bench (that I didn’t have to make), and some quality fittings to finish it off.

One day, this bench will allow me to follow the reasoning of Douglas Adams (and the Deep Thought computer – a computer designed by pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent race of beings to answer the question of life, the universe and everything (42), and then to design the computer that could explain the question) and use it to build THE bench.  But not for a long time yet!  This bench will keep me out of trouble for a long time, and more than likely will only help me contruct another if I happen to acquire a much larger shed that would give me space for a second one!

Over the coming weekend, I’ll try to get some photos of the bench in action, particularly the Veritas Dogs and Pups (and Surface Clamps) and how they work with the vices to secure items down.

FWIW, the standard (unmodified!!) version of this workbench is expected to be seen on “Better Homes and Gardens” tonight (Friday 20 May 11) on channel 7 at 7:30pm when the Amazing Race teams appear and complete some building challenges.

SSYTC040 Well that sucks

Jumping straight into the demos, the first item we looked at was the new Autoclean Cleantex.  Looking very much like the CT36 with the extra dimension that it can put itself through a filter cleaning cycle.

The Autoclean (with superflex hose)

Demoing the Machine

The cleaning cycle can be dialed in so it happens at a frequency that suits the job being done.  If doing a lot of heavy sanding of a powdery surface, you want a very frequent cleaning cycle, and it can become as infrequent as once every 2 1/2 minutes, or off altogether.

SSYTC040 Well that sucks

The cleaning cycle does disrupt the suction, but it is very quick so it is not an issue.  There are a couple of parts to the cleaning.  The airflow is momentarily reversed to blow through the filter, and at the same time there is a valve that literally thumps directly above the filter.

That is the theory – in practice I almost jumped out of my skin the first time the cleaning cycle activated! It is surprisingly violent (although it makes sense when you normally see a filter covered in caked plaster, MDF dust etc, just how hard it would be to get it off by being gentle). Given the airflow does reverse, it is more effective if the air doesn’t flow back up the tube, and as such there is a manually operated valve that can be attached to the front of the vac, so at the end of a dusty session, you can close the valve then activate the cleaning cycle to leave the vac ready to go the next time.

The first time I saw it activate, the vac had the new super-flexible hose that Festool have also just released, and seeing it jump significantly when the cleaning cycle hit is probably what added to the surprise just how violent the cycle is!  I am very curious just how much wear and tear it places on the machine and the components.  The filter is unique to the Autoclean as well – very flexible to get the maximum benefit from the heavy thump the Autoclean cycle imparts.

Flexible Filter

I did come away with two thoughts: first, the autoclean is impressive for those that need it – especially those doing sanding of plaster for example, and second, when I heard there was an Autoclean version (and not that long after I got the CT36), I thought it was a shame to miss out on that. Not any more – I don’t need that sort of self-cleaning vac for the work that happens in my workshop.  The CT36, which is still one of the very latest models, is still my ideal solution.  If I was doing concrete grinding or cutting, plaster work etc, then sure – the Autoclean would be invaluable.

Festool in the Mailbox

Nothing beats coming home to find the mailman has turned up with some Festool!  In this case, it was an upgrade accessory for the dust extractor, but who’s complaining.

As you may know, I have the CT36 Cleantex Extractor from Ideal Tools.  One of the benefits of this extractor is that it has onboard power for your tools, and it is auto-start – so when you turn on the tool, the extractor starts (then stops automatically when you are finished).

I decided it would also be handy to have a second socket beside the first that provides continuous power.  Yes, I could just plug into a wall GPO, but that isn’t always as convenient as having power right there on the extractor, so now I have the best of both worlds.

There is also an optional autostarting socket that is for compressed air, if you have a collection of air-powered tools that need dust extraction.

Back to my green-steam powered tools – I had a real toss-up between getting a second socket that also auto-started, or one that was more of a repeat of a standard GPO.  In the end I went with Anthony’s suggestion (from Ideal Tools) to go with a continuous current socket, as I can always add a powerboard to the autostart socket to get multiple tools working (one at a time!), so this gives me both options.  You wouldn’t want to do this in a workshop with multiple people sharing the tools – there is every possibility of two people trying to draw power from sockets on the extractor at the same time, exceeding the supply from the Cleantex.

Now I just have to find a powerboard in Festool colours 🙂

Where there’s a Walko, there’s a way

One of the jobs I had on the list was to progress creating a new work area in the shed. Wall space is an absolute premium – everything is better with a wall behind it, it seems.  So when the Walko showed up, the option of wall mounting it had significant appeal, but that caused an issue given that there was no wall to fit it on.  Looking around the workshop, and the shelving unit at one end caught my eye.  I’ve often thought that where it was would make a good workbench location, and after all, what is a Walko but a portable workbench?

Now loosing the shelving unit would be a problem, so relocating it is much preferred.  Cutting it down might have lost a couple of shelves, but I had a couple under-utilised.  The other two fitted nicely under the Torque Workcentre, making much higher density use of that space.  I do have to relocate the sanders, but I have an idea for them as well.

Under workbench storage

Now with a large chunk of wall exposed, it was time for the Walko to move in.

Wall Mounted Walko

Because it is the Walko 3, I was fortunate to have a bit of space space either side – perfect for a stack of Festool power tools on one side, and the Festool shop vac (the Cleantex 36) on the other.  Makes for an excellent work area.

The next thing I’m planning for this area is to make my own top for another set of table supports, and this top will be specifically suitable for some vices to be fitted.

Wall Mounting Set

The Walko wall-mounting kit is both simple, and very effective.  It is also very easy to detach the Walko and use it in another orientation (A frame, flat on the floor for  breaking down boards etc).

Work area

The benches can be repositioned to any desired height, and for some operations work well together (such as working on a board edge).  Either that, or the lower surface can hold the tools etc ready for the next step.  It would also be excellent for dovetail jigs, such as the Leigh, or pockethole jigs such as the Kreg.

One use for the Workstruts

There are also Workstruts available (and they can also be positioned (and repositioned) wherever required, or folded away when not needed.  They can be used low to support the workpiece, or higher for supplies, temporary wood rack, whatever.  I don’t know their maximum load capacity, but it is significant – they feel rather solid.

Repositioned Microclene Air Filtration

Finally, in addition to the dust extraction, I’ve repositioned the Microclene air filtration unit closer to being as overhead as possible.

Looking forward to making use of my new working area!

Vacuum Storage

The other question I had recently was about the CT36 – the Cleantex Vacuum from Festool (Ideal Tools)

Storage of the components (particularly for transportation) for the CT36 is very easy – there is a holder at the back of the machine to wrap the power cord around.

The hose coils up into the cavity in the top of the machine, and you can also store the floor nozzles and tubes in there as well.

Hose Storage

Alternately, you can use a Systainer1 which is a perfect size, and of course attaches directly to the top of the Cleantex

Systainer for Nozzle Storage

Finally, as far as the size of the cavity – 36L sounds like a lot of dust, but what the dust collection area looks like:

Dust Compartment

No – I didn’t suck up a blade – I put it in there to give a sense of scale!  That is a 10″ blade (250mm), so just a little more capacity than the standard house vacuum!

I’ve given up on house vacs (even though I was buying them cheaply) for the shed.  My record so far

Vacuum 1: barrel model: melted, to the point that the motor physically fell off the back of the vacuum when it had melted its way free.

Vacuum 2: modern barrel: caught fire.

Vacuum 3: shop vacuum (upright barrel): became better at producing ozone than suction, then became useless at both.

Vacuum 4: ShopVac: current, and still going strong (still pretty new), using a cyclone as a preseparator

Vacuum 5: Festool CT36: what can I say!

Sometimes it pays to buy quality.

Oneida 1, Stu’s Shed 0

Gave a real crack at sorting out the Systainer version of the Dust Deputy, making up a strong box to go inside the Systainer, all Dominoed together (used the Domino with the Cleantex for the first time……nice!) and slots cut to match the inside of the Systainer using the router table in its new configuration which also worked very nicely.

Tried it out again, and with all the additions, still very little dust was collected, the majority passing through to the vacuum bag.

Inner Skin

So with such an unexpected failure of the concept, I wondered if it was just the Festool Cleantex that was too powerful for the size of the cyclone.  I then tried the unit using the Shopvac, which has been very successful in the past, and although the collection was improved, still no decent result.  I can only suspect now that the shape of the collection container plays more of a part than I first suspected.  I may play again another day, but at this stage I couldn’t be bothered wasting any more time on the development.

So I reverted the cyclone to its original (commercial) orientation and tried the Cleantex again.

Big dust pile test

The Cleantex certainly has a fair suck on it – the problem I have highlighted in the past about the original lid of the Dust Deputy bin not being strong enough was significantly exaggerated – the lid getting badly sucked in (but still maintaining a seal)

At the end of a dust mountain (about 1/2 the dust drum), I checked the Cyclone bin, as well as the Cleantex dust bag.

Cyclone bin – nicely full, Cleantex bag – nicely empty.

Suck results - full bin, empty bag

So reverted everything back to pre-mod orientation – the Cooltainer back to being a Cooltainer, the Cyclone back to original, and the other Systainer put back together.  It still has a hole in the lid, and I still like the idea of a cyclone that fits on top of the Cleantex.

So I took the second dust bin of the Dust Deputy, and screwed it straight to the top of the spare (and somewhat aerated) Systainer.  Now I do need a longer initial hose, but the concept is there, just not as elegant as I intended. (Bugger).

A version of my vision

Cyclonic Festool

With Safety Week drawing to a close, thought a couple of practical articles would be good to offset all the theory during the rest of the week!

With the arrival of the Festool Cleantex Dust Collection CT36 and coincidentally the Dust Deputy, it seemed ideal to couple the two together, and especially given that Systainers can be locked solidly to the top of the Cleantex, transforming one into a dust bin seemed perfect.

Step one involved removing the lid from the systainer, and that was easily achieved with the lid open, and a screwdriver inserted into the pin/hinge and a gentle rap with a rubber mallet. Rinse and repeat for the other side and the top came straight off.

Next, I took the Dust Deputy cyclone off its original lid, and used that lid as a template to mark out where the holes need to be.

I needed to offset the cyclone so it didn’t impact on the handle, and especially the forms on the inside of the lid.

Marking out the holes

I originally thought that I’d use this Systainer on top of a second, with the base of one cut away, and the top of the next cut away so I could detach the top Systainer completely so the lower one could be emptied.  However, I couldn’t justify sacrificing two Systainers to the experiment, so thought I’d experiment with just the one (at least initially).  I decided to swap this lid with one on a larger Systainer (and if you notice that the lid that got marked out is different to the one that is cut, you’d be right – I initially marked the wrong lid!)

Holes cut, including bolt holes

Underneath there is some reinforcing ribbing, and some of that had to be cut away.  It doesn’t weaken the top, because I am replacing a few light ribs with a chunk of solid steel!

Cutting away underside ribbing

Next it was easy to bolt the cyclone on top of the lid.

Attaching the cyclone

The lid, ready to go – so far a very easy modification, and other than one damaged lid, easily reversed.  I got the Systainer cheaply (second hand), so the mod so far cost $10.

Systainer Lid with Dust Deputy Cyclone

Fitting the whole unit on top of the CT36 is also a no brainer, and the hose that comes with the cyclone is a perfect size for the Festool Cleantex.

CT36 with Cyclone Collector

Nothing left to do, but give it a test, so made a pile of dust…..

Test pile of sawdust

And sucked it up.

Progress

Now at this stage the system is working, but I need to make some immediate additions – the Systainer is not able to resist the strength of the vacuum, and that causes some significant leaks around the lid (and the rear wall of the Systainer gets pulled in).  These leaks mean the separator didn’t work well at all (yet) because the influx of air from the collection bin means the dust was able to progress from the inlet tube to the outlet rather than fall into the Systainer.

I can solve two problems with one solution – I will make a thin-walled box (MDF) to fit inside the Systainer.  This will fully support the walls of the Systainer, as well as collect the dust and it can be lifted out to empty, rather than removing the Systainer from the Cleantex.  Secondly, some of that rubber that goes around windows and doors as a draught stop should significantly help the sealing, resulting in effective use of the cyclone.

As a quick initial modification (30 minutes), I am very happy with how it is looking already, and with a few extra improvements should become a perfect addition to the new shop vac.

I Want to Break Free

I want to be dust-free
I want to be dust-free
I want to break free from the dust
This vacuum astounds even me….e
I’ve got to be dust-free
God knows God knows I want to break free

I’ve fallen in love
I’ve fallen in love for the first time
The Cleantex is the best I have se…en
I’ve fallen in love yeah
God knows God knows I’ve fallen for the Green

Its strange but it’s true
It is quieter than I even dreamed
But I have to be sure
When I vacuum the floor
Oh how I want to be dust-free baby
Oh how I want to be free
Oh how I want to break free

But life still goes on
I can’t get used to living without living without
Living without dust all around
The shop floor is clear
The workspace is clean
So baby can’t you see
I’ve got to be dust-free

I’ve got to break free
I want to break free yeah

I want I want I want I want to be dust-free….

Original lyrics and music (badly corrupted) by John Deacon (Queen)

Festool CT36

Yes, it rocks. Purchased from Ideal Tools, the CT36 Cleantex dust vac from Festool is quieter than my house vacuum, handles significant dust, connects to all my tools, has 36l of dust containment, fits Systainers on top, auto-starts with the tool, wheels easily, variable power, has a decent length of heavy-duty power cord, and a long anti-static hose. And that’s just a bit of a summary of features.  Add that it can handle liquids (I did not know that), has an electronic liquid depth sensor to cut out when it gets too full, HEPA filter, onboard hose storage, a nozzle designed specifically for shop floors and I could just go on.

I went to try it out last night for 5 minutes – ended up vacuuming the entire workshop (and felt like blaring out Queen while doing so!)

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