You Can’t Beat the Physics of Kickback – Fine Woodworking

A really important look back at a kick back article/video on Fine by Ed Pirnik

You Can’t Beat the Physics of Kickback – Fine Woodworking.

Picking one comment from the article, which goes to the crux of the matter:

Here’s the KickerWhat floored me wasn’t the fact that the kickback occurred, or how violent it was but rather, the fact that despite the fact that this fellow knew the kickback was coming, and was prepared to pull his hand away at that fateful moment, the momentum of the blade was simply too much to fight against. In his slow motion replay at minute 4:20 we clearly see that despite his efforts to pull his hand away from the blade, it still gets sucked right towards it. By my estimate, his left hand was pulled in to within 1/2-in. of the spinning blade-again, this despite the fact that he was intentionally pulling his hand AWAY from the danger zone.

Just goes to show, you can’t beat physics, no matter how hard you try!

When you see the video again, in light of the quote reproduced above, you can see no matter how good an operator you are, if you get yourself unintentially in a kickback situation then you are in harm’s way no matter how experienced you are.  I’ve had a couple of situations over the years where I’ve found myself standing very still re-evaluating the situation after something violent and unexpected just happened, visually checking extremities and looking for claret.  Fortunately, on the rare occasion it has happened, nothing untoward has been found (other than some dramatic scars cut deep in the timber when it is found flung somewhere in the workshop).  Luck.  I don’t like relying on luck.  I like being in control of the situation, and if I can’t be in control, I want the equivalent of “airbag technology for the car” on my tablesaw.  And that is why I’m getting a SawStop.

Return to haunts of old

It was quite an experience of déjà vu this morning. To start, heading off with the family to watch my daughter’s junior netball. Not that specifically, but the frost on the ground, the nip in the air, the quality of the light, green of the hills and sunlight through the trees all gave a striking resemblance to similar scenes of growing up in New Zealand.

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As the timing was right, I then headed towards Holmesglen Tafe. The temperature, the time of day, the drive-through at Maccas for a McMuffin & orange juice breakfast and of course driving into Holmesglen were all strongly reminiscent of when I was presiding at the Triton Woodworkers Club, and also running Triton woodworking courses there at Holmesglen (before the fall of GMC and therefore Triton).

But this time I was there for a different reason. It was to have a look around the Hand Tool event that is being held there this weekend.

David Eckert was there, with a familiar (and ever-tempting) collection of Lie Nielsen planes, Chris Schwarz DVDs, Lost Press books, Knew Concept saw and more. More on a couple of acquisitions another time. (Let’s just say, I “Knew” it would be tempting to go, and see what “Grandpa’s Workshop” may have contained had he been a woodworker!)

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Chris Vesper was there, with his collection of finely (and locally) produced handtools, including one I hadn’t seen before – a “very” straight edge. (The large aluminium piece in the photo below)

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The Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking was there, with Alastair in a familiar pose, draw knife in hand making staves for a Windsor Chair.

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If you are interested in trying your hand at becoming a luthier, Southern Tonewoods has a collection of timbers, along with Richard Howell who runs one-on-one courses on guitar making.

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Big Sky Timber has a collection of timbers for sale, some veneers, some turning blanks, boards and other pieces of tree 😉

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And last, but not least, Japanese tools, with a really cool collection of mini ebony planes ($30 ea), Japanese saws, and an interesting concept, wooden nails. More on those another time (and in more detail).

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Plenty of temptations, and better than that, they are there again tomorrow (Sunday).

Close Encounters of the Schwarz Kind

Chris Schwarz is down under this month, and although I wasn’t in a position to go on one of the courses on offer, there are a lucky few that are.

There is still the Shaker Wall Cabinet course with a few vacancies if anyone is interested.

220px_Wall_Cabinet_v2.110419-1There is also a Melbourne Hand Tool Event at the Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking, which will have Chris in attendance.  Unfortunately we don’t know when that is actually on – they forgot to put the dates in their newsletter, and their website hasn’t been updated since 2011!  If I hear a current date, will let you know (check the comments).

Chris is also hosting a seminar at Eley Community Centre on the 28th March, 6-9pm. Not sure if there is a cost involved.


The Schwarz is coming



Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking has managed to drag the Schwarz to our shores in 2013, to run a number of Master Classes.  These include The Anarchist’s Tool Chest, Hammer in Hand and Shaker Wall Cabinet.

The Schwarz

The Schwarz

Each course would be absolutely fascinating, and you’d learn a huge amount about handtools and techniques.  The cost for a 5 day course is $1760 (the first two), and the 2 day Shaker cabinet is $695.  Needless to say, I am SERIOUSLY tempted!

May the Schwarz be with you.

The Bird is the Word

A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A-well-a don’t you know about the bird?
Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word!

Bird?  Not Surfin Bird, not Larry Bird, but Lonnie Bird!  If you haven’t heard of Lonnie Bird, he is a very well-known fine woodworker, educator, author.  You may have heard/read/owned his Bandsaw Book, or a number of the awesome Taunton’s Illustrated books.

So when Lonnie Bird speaks with Amana Tool with a view to produce a set of router bits, you know the result will be something special.

I’ve been really intrigued by the whole idea of wooden Tambour Doors for a long time, and been frustrated that I couldn’t source the router bits required to make a true tambour door, at least one that didn’t need wires or cloth backing.  That is until I did a couple of router bit quizzes created by  Having a look around their site and I found it:

The Lonnie Bird Tambour Door bit set.  Drool.

So one day recently, on my doorstep was a box

And in that box was……

Oh boy.  This looks like fun!

The complete plans for the breadbox (or a very American concept: the “appliance garage” – exactly what it sounds like) that is seen on the box cover.

A set of instructions.  A reproduction of a review/instruction set from Fine Woodworking.

A DVD by Lonnie Bird on how to use the set to make a tambour door.  It is a comprehensive video, and the whole thing is so tricky, it takes Lonnie a full 5 minutes or so to go through the whole process!  It is THAT easy to produce a great result.

Oh, and the router bits – one to cut the outside of the slats, one to cut the groove, and a roundover bit for the handle.  The final package contains the brass pull needed for the breadbox!

I haven’t gotten around to making the breadbox itself …..yet.  Or some Appliance Garages (but I’m tempted).  I have a real temptation to create a tambour door on the planned (and just-started) dartboard box. In the meantime I really needed to give the set a go, just to see how well it works, as it looks so straightforward in Lonnie’s video.

Started with a piece of camphor laurel, run it through on the flat on the planerand then squared up the first edge

If you’ve ever worked with camphor, you can imagine what the workshop was smelling like about now.  This is a piece from the log I originally resawed on the Torque Workcentre with the chainsaw attachment.

Next, it was off to the thicknesser.  Been a while since I used it: forgotten how I like it – great machine.

After a few passes, and measuring the results, I got it close to the 1/2″.  Like really close..  Like within +/- 0.00005″. Nice

Finally, it was to the tablesaw to rip the board to the required width.  With the aid of the Wixey Height Gauge, the fence was accurately set away from the blade, and then a second pass was taken with the blade just high enough to clear out the bulk of the material, so the ball-bit doesn’t have to work too hard.  When this is shaped, it becomes the test piece to check for fit.

More on that in a bit (pardon the pun).

Off to the router table, and the profile bit installed and set at the correct height.  MagSwitch featherboards to ensure the board is held against the fence.

The board is run through the bit, flipped end over end, and the top is also done.  Next turn it around again and cut the other side, a final flip and all 4 sides are routed.

So easy!

It is then back to the tablesaw to rip the slot top and bottom, ready for the ball-bit.

I know the photo shows the earlier cut, but ignore that for a second.

With the slot sawn, then routed, the final step is to split the two profiles apart.

It doesn’t matter if the ball has a slight flatspot – does not affect function, or look.

Very quickly, I had a whole set of tambour door parts.  They slotted together very easily, and what I was left with, was a perfect camphor laurel tambour door!

Beautifully simple.

Simply beautiful.

Awesome! And definitely a lot of fun 🙂

What is Old, is New Again

What I find more even more interesting when looking at old magazines, old newspapers, old National Geographics, is not the articles, but the adverts.

Those things that cause us endless annoyance, or at least distractions (unless particularly pertinent, targeted to the audience of the magazine) become increasing fascinating as they age.

That is one just aspect of particular interest in the latest offering from Australian Wood Review.

A digital (DVD media) copy of back issues of the magazine that can be read article by article, or the complete magazine at a go.  There are currently 2 collections, covering issues 1-10 and 11-20, with a third one on the way.

It is a valuable resource, and where the physical magazines sit on shelves, or in boxes, and get to the point where they often will be disposed of, the digital versions take up little to no space (the size of a single DVD case) and remains in pristine condition.

Scanned at high resolution, they don’t suffer from the unfortunate pixellation I’ve seen in other magazine’s similar offerings (Fine Woodworking for example).

See what looks to be an early competing model for the Router Master (or is it an early version?), see early Carbatec adverts (and lament the prices items used to be!  An HNT Gordon Smoothing Plane at full price is $95!), and of course read the pearls of wisdom that have been spread through the various issues over the years.

Available from Aust Wood Review, this is a product worth getting on a number of levels.

For those who used to have early issues of the magazine and for a variety of reasons no longer have then in their possession, here you can own them again without having to sift through pawn shops and the like.

If you have never read these early editions (which is the boat I find myself in), then here is an opportunity to access them for the first time, and I am looking forward to continue reading through these early copies.

Melbourne Fine Woodworking Workshop

My recent visit to Melbourne Fine Woodworking’s premises for the Hand Tool Event also gave me a chance to sneak a peek around.

They certainly have some very interesting machines, from this old, exceptionally heavy cast iron bandsaw

To what would be the largest jointer I’ve seen to date

Must be about 2′ across!

There were these hand-made tapered tenon shavers,

And box-making forms for steam-bent veneer boxes. Of course to achieve that, you need a timber steamer, so they also had this home-made steamer unit

Still, I can’t get over that 24″ jointer!

Checkbox Safety

Got an email about a tool survey from Fine Woodworking (most tools were either not in my workshop, or not in Australia, so I guess rather limited appeal for non-Americans when that Tool Review mag surfaces), and came across a sort of games/quiz section on their website.

After playing around a little with “Spot the Difference” with classic Fine Woodworking covers, I took a tablesaw safety quiz (multichoice), and found I was getting some of the questions ‘wrong’, although I disagree that I was. Not that what was being given as the ‘correct’ answer wasn’t necessarily right in some circumstances, or for some skill levels, which I feel reveals more the danger of using the absolutes of multichoice when discussing machinery safety.

Unless of course, for each question, after A. B. C. and D. there is also “E. Depends”

For example, one question was whether you can rip an irregularly shaped or circular piece of timber on a tablesaw. Their answer is “no”, yet I have ripped many pieces of widely varying shapes on a tablesaw perfectly safely (with the use of a carriage), so the absolute answer really required a “Depends” checkbox.

Operating safely in the woodworking workshop is not a matter of pure black and white “right and wrong”. It is much more a matter of what is needed (including knowledge and skill level) to complete a specific task, rather than whether it is simply “safe or unsafe”.

Can you safely rip an irregular shaped piece of timber on the tablesaw? Depends.

Can you cut a circle safely on a tablesaw? Depends.

Can you cut timber with knots and/or nails? Depends.

Safety Guards should always be used. Depends.

(and before I get tonnes of hatemail, try using a riving knife and blade guard when coving! So “depends!”)

Update: As Sven has pointed out in his experienced comment, there is only one real piece of safety equipment. If that isn’t working in optimum condition, no manner of guarding, or pushstick or anything will help, and that’s the grey mush between the ears.

If you are tired, distracted, intoxicated, or for any other reason off your game and/or not focusing on the job, and tool at hand you might instead be finding yourself suddenly focusing on your hand in the tool.

If your primary safety equipment is switched on, you have every chance of having another great, productive and safe sawdust generating shed session.

Does C.N.C. actually spell the death of fine woodworking?

I was sent an interesting link to an article today about whether CNC machines were ready for fine woodworking. It got me thinking about another technological advance that occurred a few years ago, that lead to many a heated argument in magazines (the internet was around, but a lot less prevalent at the time), in club meetings, between those most passionate about their pursuit. More on that shortly.

The current situation that is still in its infancy is the rapidly increasing impact of CNC machines in the home workshop. Once, home CNC machines were reserved for the very small number of highly technically competent individuals who could take a bunch of parts from scanners, photocopiers, printers and electronic supply stores and create their own machine. Increasingly, commercially produced machines are becoming cheap enough (and are being targeted to) the backyard workshop.

Some, such as the CarveWright that I came across a little over a year ago look like glorified printers, and can be operated as easily to produce stunning results.


Another, the CNC Shark (and CNC Shark Pro) are at a price point that can be considered, and again are easily controlled from a home computer with some pretty simple software.

CNC Shark

So what is the impact of such machines, so easy to operate, on the future of fine woodworking? Will they mean that anyone with a bit of cash available will be able to produce works to rival the most skilled carvers, who have honed their skills over decades, even over generations? Will they make the years of honing fine woodworking skills simply a waste of time? Or are they just another tool in a capable workshop, able to take the focus off some mundane tasks allowing more time for the woodworker to really produce beautiful works?

Back to that previous digital technology that caused such incredible amounts of anxiety and concern amongst another group. Photographers.

Back in the late 90s (actually for about the whole of the 90s), I was heavily involved in photography, and particularly competition photography (and I wasn’t too bad at it either, if I can say that). I was awarded Associateship of the Photographic Society of New Zealand in 1999, and even then the discussions had started in earnest. Digital photography was coming, and it was going to be a tsunami that was going to sweep all traditions away in the fury. At the time, we were submitting competition entries in prints, or slides (transparencies) and those who could afford to used slides that were then printed in Cibachrome (among others) producing incredible prints. Many, many (many!) hours were spent in darkrooms, developing films, producing prints, making multigrade prints, split tone printing processes. The image was king, and you’d dedicate entire days to achieving the one perfect print of an image.

Digital photography threatened all that, and even though initially the cameras had low resolution, small colour gamuts, and a very poor ability to get the image out of the computer, it was coming, and being IT, coming fast. Even now, cameras have leapt from 3 to 5, to 6, to 8, 10, 12 megapixel in consumer models, and yet Adobe are already preparing Photoshop to be able to handle the first generation of the gigabit cameras that are just around the corner.

The concern was, with the introduction of digital cameras, and digital (computer) ‘darkrooms’, everyone will be able to produce images indistinguishable from highly skilled traditional (chemical) photographers, and years of skill will be swept aside, not by the masses, but by a few very skilled programmers putting these amazing programs in their hands, and on their computers.

And yes, to a certain extent this is exactly what happened. It can be argued that a skilled/talented photographer will be able to take the same tools to a much higher level, but significant numbers of photographic enthusiasts were swept up, overtaken by the digital age. Around 2001 I begun the transition to digital, first scanning images in from film and then working in the digital darkroom that is Photoshop. By 2005, my film cameras were retired, replaced with a digital SLR, the chemical darkroom (including a $1000 colour enlarger) sold.

LPL C7700 Colour Enlarger

I don’t think my photographic passion survived – it is a ghost of its former self, and I lament the loss. Perhaps that is why I have poured so much energy into woodworking – a return to “doing things for ones-self”, instead of watching a print slowly emerge in the chemical bath, I watch a piece of timber slowly transformed into something with aesthetic appeal.

So now, as CNC machines are becoming mainstream, will they also prove to be the death of the passion for many woodworkers, or is there a fundamental difference?

As I see the development of CNC machines, they are going to become increasingly common (although perhaps not as much as retailers of these machines would dream of), they, I believe, are destined to become another tool in the workshop, not the only one. A CNC machine will work cooperatively, symbiotically with the other tools in the workshop, and not like what happened with digital photography, replacing the old technology completely.

But it won’t be completely without pain, or feelings of immense threat to some who have worked so hard to become as skilled as they are. The furniture, such as seen in the Fine Woodworking article will raise eyebrows, and result in many discussions. Woodworking competitions particularly – will a piece that incorporates CNC machining be allowed to compete alongside more traditionally produced items?

I look in my workshop, and consider what would be the implications for me (personally) if I added a CNC machine? I see no change out there – a CNC would become another tool available, replacing none of the ones already there. It would increase what the workshop could produce though, and some projects may be completed in new ways because of a CNC machine being available. But woodworking as a whole is still safe – it is still too much of a tactile pursuit to have all direct interaction with raw materials handed over to a computer controlled machine. Traditional (non electrically powered) woodworkers (dark siders) would argue that interaction was lost years ago with the introduction of power tools.

So would I welcome a CNC machine into my workshop? Absolutely! But don’t expect me to give up a single other tool already out there – they all have their particular strengths, and every one complements every other. A CNC machine would do the same.


Some other pieces of news from around the place:


Organoil is reported to have gone into receivership.  Given that the now discontinued Triton Oil was Organoil Hard Burnishing Oil, it seems that sometime in the near future, even this won’t be available.




Triton have reformulated the honing compound that comes with their wetstone sharpener.  No longer is it a baggie inside a (rusting) metal container, or the second iteration was the same inside a plastic one.  It is now a much better, thicker paste which makes it easy to apply to the wheel, and doesn’t end up spilling over everything!


Triton’s MOF001 (the 1400W router) has won all three awards in the 2009 Taunton’s Tool Guide results, taking out Editors’ Best Overall Choice, Editors’ Best Value Choice and Readers’ Choice.


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