Blast from the Past – Cool Tools

Came across the video from when I headed over to Denver to appear on Cool Tools, demonstrating the Torque Workcentre.  Wasn’t that long ago in years, but it was a lot of grey hairs ago that is for sure!

Blast from the Past

Came across the Torque Workcentre segment I did on Cool Tools in Denver a few years back.

Those were the days!

Simplest Innovations

I’ve spoken of them before, even recently, but it has taken some time for me to get around to doing anything about them. (Just had a look – 3 1/2 years ago!  The second I originally saw on “Cool Tools”).

I’m talking of the innovations (and they are quite fitting of the title) from Landon Innovations.  The Gorilla Gripper, and the LegUp. I was reminded of them recently in the comments when I was purchasing some redtongue flooring, and went looking. Not for sale anywhere, but as it turns out, imported (very locally) by Comnet Sales, in Carrum Downs.  So I contacted them in case they did warehouse door sales, and they were willing.

For $44, I got what I was primarily looking for, which was the Contractor’s grade Gorilla Gripper (this one can handle sheet goods between 9mm and 29mm).  There is a General Purpose one (wrong name personally – nothing “general purpose” about dealing with thin sheet goods like aluminium, or holding a full bag of sawdust by its top…hmm – wonder if I need another gripper……) that can handle between 0mm and 21mm, and a door one (same comment applies), that can handle goods between 31mm and 52mm thick.

Out to the shed, and tried it on a couple of full sheets of MDF I have there at the moment.  Sweet. Seriously.  Work like a charm.  No idea why Bunnings chose not to continue stocking the range – more fool them.  Not my concern, now I have tracked one down anyway.  Wish I had one years ago.

Here is one of the original promotional videos made of it.  Sells itself.

You might remember this one – back before the world turned PC.

There were a few pallets of these in the warehouse…just sitting there.

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I also asked if they stocked the LegUp while I was there – same company, so was hoping.  Turned out they had gotten some in to test the market (ages ago), and there was still about 20, somewhere in the warehouse.  Took about 30 minutes of looking in, around, and behind stock on pallets before they were located, but find them we did.

It is a REALLY simple design, and I am sure there are a number out there that would look at it, and make their own.  But for $38.50, (and I’d challenge anyone that has made their own version to demonstrate they came up with the idea BEFORE seeing the LegUp), I just got one of the originals.

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Fitted to the tablesaw in about 30 seconds, without exaggeration.  It can be used vertically (as designed) to clamp onto the edge of the cast iron wing, or you can go for the alternate orientation and clamp it to the horizontal bar that the fence runs on.  I went with the vertical mount so as not to have to remove the end caps from the saw.  Literally 30 secs, it stays right out of the way when not needed, and works like a bought one.

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I got them from Comnet Sales who are in Carrum Downs (9770 8156).  Their online price seems higher- not sure why – might be worth a call.  They seem to have a reasonable number of Grippers, but <20 LegUps.

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.

Cool Tools

After a bit of an interlude from the Xmas break, I got a copy of the episode of Cool Tools that I featured in.  Looked good – I was prepared to be rather embarrassed,  but I’m happy with the result.

Sadly, no mention at all of Stu’s Shed, which would explain why there was absolutely no change in site traffic when the episode aired over the US Thanksgiving weekend (and other than the fun of heading over to the US to film an episode, was one of the reasons for making the trip over).

At least I didn’t make a complete fool of myself!

Gluin’ in the Dark

I head out to the shed, and nothin’s gettin in my way
I’ve got a job on, and I’m gettin’ it done I must say
I’ve got to glue some panels and I want a finish that doesn’t yelp
Hey there baby, I could use just a little help

You can’t glue a panel, you can’t glue a panel without a clamp
This finish will work, even if we’re just gluing in the dark

The problem is glue squeezing out and smearing round the place
When you then apply a finish it’s like a slap in the face
Man I ain’t getting nowhere just starin’ at marks like this
There’s a chemist stirring, there’s a solution I know there is

You can’t glue a panel, you can’t glue a panel without a clamp
This finish will be brilliant, even if we’re just gluing in the dark

After the glueup, switch off the lights and have a look
Under a blacklight, the smears can be read like a book!
Pick up a sander and they vanish out of sight
Any finish will then glide, and everything will be alright
I’m dying to try this – a glue that stops finishes being crap
When the project’s finished, you don’t want it feeling like a smack

You can’t glue a panel, you can’t glue a panel without a clamp
This glue fluoresces, which is why we’re gluing in the dark.

Thanks to Cool Tools for bringing this product to the air – hope it can make its way down under!

Sadly, even doesn’t list it as a product for Australia (WHY NOT???!!?!?!)

Oh, and yes, I completely bastardised “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce “The Boss” Springsteen 🙂


Other than the additions to the shed’s tool collection, I’ve added another couple of mementos to the shed of the trip to Denver.

I found a small US flag in one of the souvenir shops, which serves as a bit of colour/reminder for me of the trip over

US Flag for the shed wall

and although it is the first country flag to adorn the wall, it will be interesting if any future opportunities results in other nations flags being added to the collection!

And secondly, from the shoot itself, I took a template to use with the Torque Workcentre, and it proved a perfect canvas to get Grundy to sign.

Autographed Sign

Bit hard to read in the photo: it reads “Stu, Keep it cool! Great job on the show. Grundy”

Denver 4 – The Big Shoot Day

Today was it – the reason for 28000km of travel and over 52 or so hours door to door. It was the big shoot day.

We started pretty early – a bit earlier than first planned so I could get a little more time into the preparation.  Had a Macca breakfast on the way.  Even Maccas is different – as well as muffins, you can get your toppings on some form of biscuit.  Passed a ‘medicinal’ marijuana dispensary on the way as well (without stopping obviously)

First 1/2 of the morning was shooting B-roll of me putting the Torque through its paces, and then the man himself, Grundy, and I shot the primary conversations.  It went to my mind, really well, and I had an absolute blast being involved.

Team setting up for a scene

Grundy keeping his energy levels up (his unique 'dance' style)

Grundy and Stu - Twins - Only their mother can tell them apart

I did see snow, just not much of the falling variety

Ruger Super Blackhawk chambered for .44 Magnum

We shot so many different takes, angles etc, that I can’t remember every specific one, but the machine got a good workout, routing, surfacing, pin routing, drilling, ripsawing etc.

After lunch, there was a bit of product shot, and then the Torque Workcentre was finished.  It headed out back to Kent’s truck he’d driven up from Texas (11 hour drive) with a trailer (a full blown trailer, not a typical 6×4 open one!) to take back to Texas what is now his Torque Workcentre.  He’s going to be the first US-based dealer, so if you are interested in getting a Torque in the US, he’ll be the one to talk to.  Hopefully I can get more details to post about his business (he is also a Festool dealer).

Following that, I watched the rest of the filming, and that is really interesting to see, and be involved in.  All up, there was about 10 hours to the actual day, before we headed off to a pub to wish Darin a “Happy Birthday Mate”.

I’ve really enjoyed being involved with the whole process, and will definitely be watching future episodes of Cool Tools with a broader understanding and perspective of what happens in the background to bring one of these things to the air, and the people behind it (and in front of course!)  Possibly August for the first screening of this episode?

Downtrack, it will end up being downloadable from

So a massive thanks to everyone – Torque Workcentres for sending me over here, Community Woodworking, Cool Tools for having me on the show, Darin and Dave, all the crew, Grundy for not making me look too bad 🙂 the hospitality of people here, my family for putting up with me jetsetting around the place.

I’m now also an honorary lifetime member of “Community Woodworking“. As Grundy would say “Nice” (with a knowing nod of the head, and glint of comic amusement in his eye)

Tomorrow is another huge day, starting with meeting up with a regular site reader who is kindly giving me a lift to Rockler, then the airport.  And in that, we are seeing Rockler of course too.  Going to be a good day, just hope the airports are kind.

12 Hours

About now, in 12 hours time I will be sitting in my seat on a Qantas A380-800 taking off for LA.  The adventure begins! 14 hours in the air to LA, about 3 1/2 hours on the ground, then 2 1/2 hours to Denver.  Hope there is some snow on the ground, and more-so, hope to see some falling.  Closest I have come in my memory is sleet in London. (I have actually been to Denver, lived there a couple of years, from the age of 0 to 2! (No, I wasn’t born there, but it was a close thing!) I can actually still remember my Father cycling to work, through snow that looks to be 8″ deep or more (I was standing at the front gate) Apparently some days he’d cycle to work in -15 degrees C (loon! 😉 ))

I know it isn’t a big deal, bit it still seems kind of cool to be arriving in Denver with all that travel time, only 2 hours after I left Melbourne (does that mean I became slightly younger?  Or just that I aged slower!)

Monday afternoon I am heading off with one of the Cool Tools gang to assemble the Torque Workcentre, getting it all up and running nicely ready for the following day.  Apparently a Home Depot is right across the road (damn 😉 )

Tuesday is an early start (home my bodyclock is a bit adjusted by then!) with a full morning of filming the Torque, with Chris Grundy (he normally isn’t on-location, but apparently this is an exception).  I get to relax in the afternoon, as the Cool Tools gang film the rest of the episode content, which will be good to see too.

The Torque Workcentre itself will get picked up after the shoot and is heading down to Texas.  (Hmm – missed opportunity – should have seen if the Texan could source me a genuine cowboy hat!)

The next day is all about Rockler.  Meeting up with one of the regulars here (Ken, who makes mind-puzzles – you can follow his work through his website “No Piece Left Behind“.  Have to ask him what he means by the name, presumably based on the fact that his puzzles are typically made up of numerous pieces of timber, native and exotic.  I also like to substitute something more specific for the word “piece” – ‘No brain cell left behind’), and he has kindly offered to drive us to the Rockler store in Denver, about 12 mins from where I am staying.  Hope he brings a crowbar, otherwise I will miss my flight later in the day! I’ve tried to ensure I have some extra capacity in my baggage weight allowance, but I fear it will not be enough!

Get to the airport mid-afternoon, and again begin the 21 or so hour journey back to the land down under, “Where women glow and the men plunder.  Do you hear, do you hear the thunder? You better run, you better take cover” (Men at Work lyrics)

While in Denver, I still am expecting to be able to keep this site up to date with what is going on, so watch out for that.  There will be larger than normal gaps in transmission – don’t think you can be a mile-high blogger! (Although while in Denver I guess I will be, seeing as Denver is at an altitude of a mile up!)

Coming to America

This March, Stu’s Shed is having a flying visit to America (specifically Denver, Colorado), to appear on the DIY Network show Cool Tools, demonstrating and providing an independent perspective of the Torque Workcentre!

It is a long way to go to be a guest on Cool Tools, but getting an opportunity to appear on the show is, well TOO COOL!

The show is seen in over 100 countries (including Foxtel in Australia).

(And a big “Gidday” to the Producers of Cool Tools – turns out they occasionally visit Stu’s Shed, and is how they discovered the Torque Workcentre in the first place! How cool is that!)

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