F’ing Safety (Fences and Fallbags that is)

What did you think I meant? 😉

If a danger in the workshop can be represented by a cliff, then a fence at the top would be a very good idea.

And a fall bag at the bottom.

Safety equipment in the workshop are the fences, and the fallbags.  Some prevent the risk occurring, some protect us if it does.

A featherboard is the fence, safety glasses the fallbag.

A machine guard the fence, workboots the fallbag.

But is all safety equipment polarised between these two definitions? There is a third type though: what happens if leaping off the cliff was necessary, mandatory, inevitable?  Rather than replying on the airbag, the third type of safety equipment is the parachute.

Some safety equipment deals with the fact that the danger is inevitable, and seeks to mitigate it, without being able to prevent it.

So the mental exercise from this is twofold. First, think of all the different things (and actions) that can be regarded as “safety”, and define them as one (or combinations of) fence, parachute and fallbag.

Then, think of the various risks and hazards and decide whether a fence, parachute or fallbag (or combination of) is the best way to deal with it.

I’ll get you started: dropping a chisel off the bench towards your foot requires a fallbag (the foot now being in harm’s way wasn’t assured when you went out to the shed, but that you have tripped over the cliff means a fallbag would be rather beneficial).

Cutting MDF requires a parachute.  Dust extraction and/or dusk mask is that parachute.  Hearing protection is a parachute, safety glasses the fallbag.

An interesting mental exercise – not only does it mean you are identifying risks and hazards in your workshop and practices, but also deciding whether you are using the right combination of risk mitigation.  Perhaps you are relying on a fallbag, where a parachute, or even a fence would be better.

A Surprising Weight

It has been quite a while since I mentioned the latest releases from MagSwitch were on their way, and finally, the wait is over.

Found an interesting package on the doorstep full of interesting yellow things, plus a couple of long thin boxes.  They came down from Maxis Tools, the Australian importers of MagSwitch products for woodworkers, and are retailed through Carbatec.

It was these that were significantly larger, and heavier than anything I’ve seen from MagSwitch before.  They were the Universal Fences.  One is 18″, the other 36″.  When I first saw the images of the items back in August, they seemed like they would be an average thickness, and it would not have surprised me (or bothered me) if they turned out to be a type of plastic.

However, the boxes were something else – a surprising weight and the contents seemed even heavier when they were out of the box!

Universal Fence Track

The fence was not the plastic I was expecting.  It is a heavy-grade anodised aluminium extrusion.  Heavy, strong.  The 36″ is an amazing chunk of metal.  Both take 1/4″ hardware on one side, 5/16″ hardware on the other, and T bolts on both, making it a flexible system to work with the jigs and accessories you already have.  It connects to the Universal Base on the back, and uses the same system of a diagonal member to ensure squareness of the fence to the base.

Shown here on a drill press, it can be used on all sorts of tools.  The 36″ one takes two Universal bases, which means it has 4 MagJigs holding it down, which is a lot of magnetic strength.  A fence also needs to resist horizontal slippage, and although this isn’t the strongest direction for a magnet to resist, having 4 strong magnets working together to resist is still a significant amount.

These are $49 and $85 for the 18″ and 36″ respectively.

Reversible Featherboard

There is also the new reversible featherboard, which again goes with the Universal Base.  It can be flipped over so works whichever side of the fence, or tool you want to use it on (so long as it has a ferrous base for the magnet to attach to!)  One thing I found interesting is it has been improved in function since the original featherboards.  There is now a variable thickness of the featherboard fingers – the first couple are thinner as the stock initially encounters the featherboard, being properly secured against the fence before the stronger fingers ensure it stays put.

The universal featherboard is only $19, and can be used on the base, or as the vertical attachment on the Universal Fence Track.

Now this is some pretty significant news: there is what they are calling a “Starter Kit” which consists of everything you see in the photo above.  The base, the featherboard, and the two MagJigs.  That isn’t the significant news.  What is, is it is priced for retail at $99.  That is only $1 more than buying 2 MagJigs on their own.  And if you have been following this site for a while, you’ll have an idea what else you can do with the MagJigs, so getting a base and reversible featherboard effectively for free will mean these things will sell like hot cakes! (And quite frankly, it is something I’ve been suggesting for years!)

Thin Stock Holddown

Finally, the Thin Stock Holddown, which again attaches to the Universal Base.  Has a stepped side as well as a diagonal side, whichever is your preference.  And the bearing in the middle is a roller guide when that is the best solution.  Again, the price is only $29.  Surprisingly reasonable prices (to my mind), which is seemingly more and more uncommon these days when prices are so often set as high as the market will bear.  At these prices it is more to my way of thinking – more money can be made by maximising the number of sales, not by trying to get every single dollar out of every single sale.

So whether you already have a growing collection of MagSwitch, or have yet to start a collection of your own, these new products, combined with those already out there will make the additional products very tempting!

And if you want a chance to check them out – I am at Carbatec (Melbourne) tomorrow morning (Saturday 19/3/11) demonstrating them along with a few other products and brands as part of the current Carbatec sale weekend.

Midnight…It’s MagSwitch Time

So the cat is out of the bag – and being Stu’s Shed readers you are (afaik) the first in the world to know about it (other than the retailers – thus the delay before I could release the info).

Yes – MagSwitch have added a number of new products to their lineup, and what I am ecstatic about is it is all based around…the Universal Base.

* A featherboard that can be reversed

* A thin-stock jig / rip guide

* A snake light!

* A universal track / fence

And the system still includes the single and double roller fences, vertical featherboard etc.

So onto the details:

Ever since the MagFence kit came out, I was hoping for 2 things. 1. For a featherboard that uses the same base, and therefore can be reversed as needed. 2. A featherboard kit similar to the MagFence kit.

Guess someone was listening (and no, I doubt it was anything to do with me, but sometime Mick Jagger isn’t always right (“you can’t always get what you want”))

There will be a featherboard kit – I’m dubbing it the MagSafe, but not sure whether that name will be picked up or not (kind of hope so).  I’ve also suggested that the kit includes some risers – currently sold separately.

However, there is also some possibility of discontinuing the MagFence combo kit – but personally, from someone who has sold dozens and dozens of these kits when helping out at wood shows – if you can’t sell a MagFence Combo kit, you should find a different occupation!  I think it would be a killer to have both the MagFence Combo kit and the MagSafe kit on the shelves at the same time.  I would have sold SO many of one, or the other…..or both!

But enough of me rabbiting on – time for some photos – screen shot from a web-resolution PDF, so sorry about the quality but these are the first photos out there.

Reversible Featherboard w Universal Base

The reversible featherboard can be flipped, and also (I’m lead to believe) able to be used in place of the vertical attachment.

Reversible Featherboard w Vertical Attachment

And being based around the Universal Base, the MagJigs can be removed in other jigs of your design.  Sadly, no MagBroom 😦 But it wouldn’t be hard to take that Universal Base and turn it into one 😉

Risers

Note too, the MagJigs are quite close to the front edge of the base, so about the same amount of distance between the MagSwitches and the front of the featherboard as there is with the Pro Featherboard.

Thin Stock Jig

Now here is a jig to take home to Mum, with 3 ways to use it – as a stepped holddown, with the bevelled edge holding down and against the fence simultaneously, and with the bearing as a point fence.  Be interesting to see how it also works on the router table, directly above a router bit of matching diameter so it can be a surrogate to a bearinged router bit.

3 Ways to use the Ultimate Jig

And it looks the goods!

Holding against, and down simultaneously - clever jig 🙂

The bearing is actually there primarily for thin ripping, but there are a number of ways I can think of already that it will be useful in other applications.

I still would like MagSwitch to bring out a simple pushstick, something like the Bench Dog one.  Not for any good reason other than safety on top of the tool is pretty much covered, and a push stick would complete the package.  Not my idea, but the concept of “If it is on top of your tools, it is a MagSwitch” sounds like a great line, and one worth pursuing.  Taken one step further, it could also include an after-market blade guard for saws that come with shoddy offerings, and perhaps a tune-up kit for the saw fence that includes some of the MagSquares.

fence

One use I could see for the Universal track would be as a replacement fence for a router table.  This would conceivably be 2 universal tracks, 2 universal bases (one on the infeed side, one outfeed side, and a joining piece that slides along the top slot to keep both fences in line with each other.  That way the infeed and outfeed could be moved closer together or further apart, depending on the size of the router bit being used.  It will apparently be sold that way, and joiners are coming.

The fence will also fit other brands of holddowns, stops etc, and importantly, it will take the vertical attachment.

Snake Light

The snake light attaches directly to the Universal Base, providing illumination wherever it is required.  Powered by a couple of AA batteries.

Auto-cupboard latch

And finally, I don’t have a full product photo, but this is part of the auto-on latch.  Reading between the lines of the description, unlike other MagSwitches, this one cannot remain in a switched-off state.  When you twist the knob to open the cupboard, the magnet is turned off, and it auto-springs back to on once the knob is released.  That is how I’m guessing it operates anyway.

My suggestion would be that a child-safe design could be incorporated, so that new parents could change the various cupboard locks in their house, and then once they were no longer needed for safety, they could have something changed/added/removed so they are rendered into a superb (standard) MagSwitched cupboard latch!

So there you have it – “You heard it here first folks”

Cypress Pine

Not sure if there is another timber in Australia more underrated than Cypress Pine, except perhaps Red Gum (which seems to up more chimneys than into any wooden creations).

Cypress Pine is used and abused – concreted into the ground as stumps, as fence posts, and painted over as picket fences (amongst its many typical applications).

I was given a post recently – rough sawn, split, the leftover from an outdoors construction, destined for the fireplace.  After a few quick passes through the bandsaw (resawing), some promising boards started to reveal themselves.  Next, after running it through the thicknesser, then a couple of passes through the drum sander to quickly see some results, and this is what was found:

Cyprus Pine in the JawHorse

Cypress Pine in the JawHorse

cypruspine-2

Cypress Pine

With character like that, it is hard to imagine why it is normally hidden under a thick layer of paint, or worse, left raw and rough sawn for the elements to torture.

When Men were Men, and Wood was King

(Stills from Episode 44)

During one outing in the Yarra Valley (driving to Warburton), I came across a field full of old rusting farm and forestry equipment.

A Field Museum

A Field Museum

One of the vehicles in particular gives an idea of how much harder it was to get things done back then – transporting a single log where these days 40 or more at a time is typical.

I took a few quick photos from the road, and decided to give them a bit of a dated feel to match the age of the equipment themselves.

An Aussie Ute

An Aussie Ute

Pimped out dragster

Pimped out dragster

Bigfoot

Bigfoot

B Double

B Double

Aussie Road Train

Aussie Road Train

The fence in that last photo is also very applicable – made by the traditional method of adze and pull-knife carved mortise and tenons.  Nothing like using machine-shaped timber when making a fence – this is definitely hand-made and hand-dressed-all-round.  Logs are typically split with axe and wedge to produce the rails.

Those carriage wheels are also the work of a real wheel wright, and one of the tools that we still use came from that specific application – the spoke shave.

Circle Cutting with the Router

There are a number of different methods for cutting a circle, and depending on what diameter is required will often dictate which method is used.

For very large diameters (and we are talking in the order of 1m or larger) the router is a very useful tool.

Get Woodworking in Williamstown (2/ 239 Kororoit Creek Rd Williamstown VIC 3016, ph (03) 9399 1963) have come up with the Rout-A-circle ($27.50), which attaches to the fence of your router to make cutting very large circles easy.

The Rout-A-circle has instructions for attaching to the fence of Hitashi, Makita and Triton routers.  Not being in a position to try it on the other two, I did give the Triton a go, and it was a breeze to attach, and cut the circle.

The largest circle it can manage is approximately 2600mm diameter, which isn’t too shabby. Given how easily it fitted to the Triton fence, you would almost swear it was made with the Triton in mind.

Original Fence

Original Fence

The original Triton fence (which attaches via the quick-release coach bolts) has a circle cutting capability, although it is very limited to about 300mm diameter. Pictured here is the triple-fluted Carb-i-tool spiral router bit which is excellent for this sort of operation.

Preparing for Upgrade

Preparing for Upgrade

One of the times it is very handy having more than one router – also means I have more than one fence, so I am able to upgrade one with the Rout-A-circle, and leave the other in its original configuration.  Not that changing back and forth takes more than a few seconds.

The first step is to remove the non-required componentry. The bolt, washer and butterfly nut are reused to hold the Rout-A-circle in place.

Rout-A-Circle attached

Rout-A-Circle attached

The Rout-A-circle attaches very easily using that existing bolt and nut, and it fits neatly in the slot in the bottom of the router plate.

Upgraded Fence

Upgraded Fence

Maximum Circle Radius

Maximum Circle Radius

Here you can get a better idea of just how large a circle this jig allows. You can’t see it particularly well in this photo, but at the other end of the jig, there is a raised portion.  It is this end that is used when attaching to the Makita or Hitashi routers.

Along the length of the jig, there are holes to take the supplied screw, which is screwed into the workpiece at the radius required.  The Triton fence then allows this radius to be fine tuned if a hole isn’t perfectly located for the job.

First Pass Cut

First Pass Cut

This is the first pass – I took a number of passes mainly because I didn’t bother trimming away the excess material with a jigsaw or similar before starting the routing.  If I was working in a more substantial material, trimming away the excess is definitely recommended.

Circle Cut Completed

Circle Cut Completed

This final shot shows the piece cut away.  The block of wood underneath is there to allow the router bit to fully penetrate without cutting into the table.  Given the table in this case is cast iron, that is rather advisable!

Latest from MagSwitch

I had these air freighted to me from the States (almost) in time for the show ( I had them there for Saturday and Sunday)

There are a few more products in the extended range as well, and all (I hope) will be around before Christmas.

MagSwitch - MagFence Combo Kit

MagSwitch - MagFence Combo Kit

MagSwitch - MagFence Combo Kit (Back)

MagSwitch - MagFence Combo Kit (Back)

This is the packaging of the combo kit, although the items are available individually as well.  No pricing is known as yet.  The combo kit comes with a couple of $50 MagJigs.

MagFence Assembled

MagFences Assembled

MagFence Assembled (rear)

MagFences Assembled (rear)

As you can see, there are 2 types of MagFence – one with a dual roller, and one with a single.  The single is ideal for resawing on the bandsaw, the double is more specifically as a fence.  They can also be used to hold work down if you have a ferrous fence on your tool.  The rollers can be removed when necessary for cleaning etc, and are sealed against dust.  As the fence and base come in 2 parts, there is provision for accurately adjusting the fence so it is perpendicular.  They (and the new featherboards) are now coming in this yellow, and that seems appropriate given they are safety equipment.  Oh, and as you can see, I’ve used a second set of MagJigs in the other fence (2 come in the combo pack), so you can also then use them in other homemade jigs.  Great concept, so I hope that it gets carried over to the featherboards at some stage. (No plans that I know of for that at this stage afaik, so I’m just suggesting it for future reference).

Now the other cool (and simple) concept they’ve come up with, is the ability to use either the 20mm MagJig, or the 30mm MagJig in the same setup, with a simple spacer to fit around the 20mm version.  Again, if you already own the 20s, you don’t have to have the additional cost of getting 30s to fit.  (Although the 30s are significantly stronger)

20mm MagJig Expanders

20mm MagJig Expanders

Now the other thing that came across in the air freight was a way to adapt the pro featherboard and vertical attachment.  With these simple risers (they come in a pack of 4)….

MagSwitch Spacers

MagSwitch Risers

You can turn the vertical attachment into a high featherboard, and can either have them as a twin featherboard with one, or two risers in between, or use 2 vertical attachments to really get a large featherboard for rised panel work (for example).

MagSwitch Pro Featherboard w Risers

MagSwitch Pro Featherboard w Risers

MagSwitch Pro Featherboard w Risers

MagSwitch Pro Featherboard w Risers

I haven’t taken photos of the hooks, so these will have to suffice, and I haven’t seen the Universal Featherboard yet, but it will be excellent when it is available.

MagSwitch Power Hook

MagSwitch Power Hook

MagSwitch Gorilla Hook

MagSwitch Gorilla Hook

(It’s quite large, and very strong!)

MagSwitch Ground Clamp

MagSwitch Ground Clamp

I’m going to be upgrading my welder with one as soon as I have 5 minutes spare.  They come in a range of sizes, and therefore amp ratings.  This looks to be the 200Amp, there is a 300Amp and 600Amp.

And finally, (but not the last new product, there is a heap of others as well, but this is a good start!), the Universal Featherboard!

MagSwitch Universal Featherboard

MagSwitch Universal Featherboard

Had to give these ones back at the end of the show (tried to sneak out!), but hopefully ( 🙂 ) I’ll have some more of them soon so I can show them off in a video/podcast

Wixey Saw Fence Digital Readout

I finally had a chance to get this mounted to the tablesaw, and it was a lot easier than I was imagining.

Like the other items in the Wixey range, it comes from Professional Woodworkers Supplies, and cost just under $260.

Wixey Saw Fence Digital Readout

Wixey Saw Fence Digital Readout

It looks a little daunting when you first open it – lots of small components makes it look like a real jigsaw (as in puzzle), but if you follow through the instructions, it is very straight forward.

The concept is clever in its simplicity – a digital readout (that attaches magnetically to the fence) that runs up and down an auxiliary track, which has a conductive strip attached so the readout can determine its position (or more precisely, change in position). It is accurate to 0.1mm, typical of the Wixey range, which is pretty impressive for a table saw fence.

The first step is to join the two sections of the auxiliary track together.

Dovetail Joiner

Dovetail Joiner

It is joined securely with this dovetail joiner. The joint is important, as once the conductive strip is attached, it would wreck the accuracy if the joint separated at all.

Attaching Conductive Strip

Attaching Conductive Strip

The conductive strip has an adhesive backing. First one side is attached…..

Attaching 2nd Conductive Strip

Attaching 2nd Conductive Strip

Then the other side. A temporary positioner is supplied to ensure the two strips are attached an accurate distance from each other. Note the orientation of the strips – it is important that they are not mounted upside down.

Brackets & Rail Attached

Brackets & Rail Attached

The brackets are then attached to the underside of the original fence rail. There is a specific distance that it is meant to be set, and this is normally done with this rail removed, but I couldn’t be bothered – removing the rail seemed like too much work, and unnecessary.

I also found that when I measured where the brackets were meant to be mounted, they ended up flush against the rail support, so that is where I mounted them. They attach using a thread-cutting bolt (supplied), by drilling a pilot hole with a drill bit (also supplied).

Thread Cutting Bolt

Thread Cutting Bolt

As you might be able to tell from the photo, the bolt is actually triangular. It is a little hard to get it started in the hole, but once it is cutting in, it tightens up well. The small ones suppled, to hold the magnetic plate for the digital gauge were not made from a high-enough tensile steel, as both sheared off before they held the bracket tightly. This is (still) causing me a bit of a problem, as they are small, and hard so are proving too difficult to extract. I don’t believe it was an operator error, overtightening the bolt, as they both sheared while the bracket was still very loose.

Conductive Strip Attached

Auxiliary Rail Attached

This is the rail in position, almost ready to be commissioned. I have placed the gauge to the left of the fence as per the instructions to maximise the amount it can read to the right of the blade, but I am debating whether to swap it to the other side. In use, the gauge gets covered in sawdust in its current location. (In the photo, the gauge is not magnetically attached to the fence as yet).

Fence Gauge in Position

Fence Gauge in Position

The digital gauge in position, ready for use. The first couple of uses showed just how invaluable it is going to be – being able to accurately set the fence to a position with incredible accuracy, and be able to move it away, then bring it back to the same location.

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