Now That’s a Knife

It’s only been 4 months since I got this set of steak knives from Professional Woodworker Supplies.  That is a pretty quick turnaround time for me these days!  Everything hasn’t gone to plan though, as I will elaborate, but I got close to achieving a good result.  I don’t like accepting a compromise – it may be that others wouldn’t notice anything wrong, but I would every time I use one of these.  However, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Knife blanks

These four knives are begging for some stunning handles (the timber on either side are known as “scales”), and so the timber of choice is African Rosewood.  I recently bought a couple of lengths during the recent April WoodFest with the vague idea of making a box, but it jumped out at me when I was looking for what to make the knives from.  The timber is around 19mm thick, so a bit over double the thickness required for each side of the knife.  So resawing was the order of the day.

Resawing the African Rosewood

I changed the blade down to a 5/8″ blade on the Carbatec bandsaw, then racked up the tension.  With the MagSwitch fence in place (single roller), the blade sliced the timber cleanly in two.  I am so loving having the bandsaw tensioning handle below the upper wheel.  The benefits of a larger bandsaw.

Single Roller MagFence making the job easy

Can’t beat those MagFences either for resawing. Love how easy, and accurate it makes the task.

Passes through the Drum Sander for accurate dimensioning

From the bandsaw, the next step is to run it through the drum sander.  This may not be everyone’s first choice – for one you have to have a drum sander to be able to use it.  I’ve become a big fan, especially for situations like this.  These are pieces of timber way too short to ever consider running through a thicknesser, so you’d have to resort to a ROS, hand plane or similar.  Me, I like the electron-murdering whirling abrasive wheel! With careful passes, I was able to get the board down to within 0.1mm of the required thickness.

Jig to accurately cut the handles

Next job was to shape the scales.  The only important side initially is the edge that butts up against the bolster.  To save on timber (a big mistake – not how I chose to do it, but any attempt to scrimp on timber inevitably leads to undesirable results, and more timber wastage. I know this, and still find myself doing it), I cut the timber close to dimension, and drilled holes using an MDF template I made of the scale from the knife tang. I used a couple of lengths of brass rod to replicate the rivets to position each scale to be cut precisely.

Thinning down the pins

For the two pins, I needed them a little thinner than the rivets would be, so I could get the scales off the jig.  To take off a small, controlled amount, mounting the pin in the drill, then running it on the sandpaper provided a precise size decrease.

Ready to cut the handle end

In hindsight, doing it this way was a mistake. Drilling the holes for the rivets needed to be done after the first scale was glued to the tang.

Knife handles roughed out

The scales, ready to be glued on.  Rather than gluing both sides at once, the plan was to do one side only, then use a pattern copying bit to get the scale to accurately match the tang.

Gluing the first handle side on

Two part epoxy resin (Araldite) being the glue of choice.

Clamped up

There is plenty of overhang which is a good thing, but this is where two mistakes compounded.  The trying to be too thrifty which resulted in the scale slipping in a couple of cases enough that the tang wasn’t properly covered, and when the glue had set, not trimming off the excess resulted in a couple of chipouts on the router table that destroyed the handle.  The router bit here is a straight bit with copying bearing.  Straight after this, I was down at Carbatec and picked up a solid carbide spiral router bit with double bearing – the spiral has a shearing/slicing action rather than a chipping action for the next time I attempt to make more handles.

Shaping the blank to the handle

Did have a couple of successes, the bearing running on the tang so the scale gets cut accurately to match.

As good as it got

The results were looking good, and the few refinements to my technique should prove very successful.  For the handles here, I took the photos, then took a chisel and snapped the scales off. Oh well, I’d rather it right than compromise.

Router Table End Game

Went ahead with the plan to re-establish a separate router table, and using the Incra Router Table stand as the base.

Step one was putting the base together.  It comes in a pretty compact form.  Lots of screws!  I also decided to get the optional wheel kit.

Typical of Incra, the basis for the router stand is a complicated, well designed anodised aluminium extrusion.  In this case, it is based around a corner, with two tracks for the fixtures, and two for the 12mm sides.

The wheel kit has one pivot wheel which can be raised and lowered, and two fixed wheels.

The frame together, ready to be wheeled to the shed.  I could have done this down there, but hey, what else are back rooms for?!

The frame at this point was pretty flimsy, and I was just starting to wonder if it was going to be able to withstand the weight of my router table. Being a cast iron top, and not a small one at that, it weighs in excess of 80kg.  But I was still expecting the MDF sides and base would add quite a degree of stability.

The stand was relocated to the shed, and placed in around about its ‘final’ home.

To make room for it, there was again quite a bit of shuffling, and this time the lathe got relocated to the other end of the workshop.

At the same time, I took the opportunity to do a few other jobs I’d been planning, including getting rid of the drawer unit under the drill press table.  The Pro Drill Press table will again be mounted directly to the drill press platform.  I have not liked the old way to raise and lower the drill press, so I’ve added a large cast iron wheel on an extension bar . This will then get secured underneath to the drill press table top.

The extension bar is an old socket set extension bar, and the wheel is from some old thicknesser or similar.  With a bit of adaption, some grinding, then a tapped hole for a bolt to secure the wheel to the bar at the back. This’ll stop me having to reach behind the table to raise and lower the table!  It will look a lot better when the pro top is reattached.

Next, I started adding the MDF sides, base and shelf.  Into the shelf I used an oscillating cutter (a Fein in this case) to cut a square hole.  An oscillating cutter is the modern version of a jigsaw.  Pretty much incapable of hurting the operator (unless you really try!), it cuts a very fine kerf line.  No where near as fast as a jigsaw, but also significantly neater.  An no need to drill starting holes, or tip toe around corners to produce a square corner.

This hole was cut to fit a dust extraction hood in that will sit directly below the router.

This was screwed down, and the 4″ pipe will come out from the lower layer of the unit, rather than trying to direct the sawdust down to a low point and out the side of the base.

Both the upper and lower areas will get boxed off to control dust movements around the base.  From this angle you can also see the shelf supports I’ve added.

I’ve decided to fully box in the router in the first instance, then address what access I do need afterwards.  I’d like to not have to access the router at all, which would be possible if I was willing to use a router bit extender permanently, but I’m still not comfortable with that.

In any case, it was time to add the top, and that involved what was effectively a dead-lift to get the top in place.  Cast iron is heavy!  What I’d do to have a gantry crane in the shed!

With the sides and bases added, the stand became a lot more rigid.  With the weight of the top, it all became quite functional, and once I add a few screws etc, everything will lock together nicely.

Still plenty to do to finish the table, but I got it to the point I wanted for the weekend – it really looks the part.

Some outstanding jobs: Add the starter box, attach the Wixey digital height gauge, cut the access point to the router, connect the table to the 4″ extraction system.  Down track I’ll be adding some drawers to store the various LS positioner rules, some in-table router bit storage and who knows where else the ideas will lead.  Happy with how it is looking so far!

Supercheap Incra?!

Not sure how he did it, but Lazy Larry managed to pick up a new Incra 17″ LS Positioner, including a metric upgrade from Carbatec Brisbane for all of $260.

Some pretty amazing bargains out there sometimes – guess it is a matter of keeping one’s eyes peeled! Bet Larry will get a lot out of this one!

Metric Wooden Hinges

Heard a rumour recently (actually more than a rumour – if it happens to be dropped into conversation by Professional Woodworkers Supplies, then it is a fait accompli), that along with the recent release by Incra of their top-line products with a metric version, the HingeCrafter is also going to have a metric version.

The only holdup now for it to make the market, is waiting for the metric Whiteside router bits to be developed.  So good news for those who want, or have a metric Incra LS Positioner, and want to be be able to use it in conjunction with the HingeCrafter to make a stylish wooden hinges for their project.

Class

The hinges can then be made in the same timber as the project (or contrasting as a feature), and really look to lift a project to another level.  Imagine getting a stylish dovetailed box with a hinged lid, and how it would look if the hinges were brass compared with wood.  The whole project goes from “wow”, to “WOW”.

Contrary to what you might expect, the HingeCrafter is not actually used to form the hinge knuckles.  That is achieved on the router table, with the Whiteside router bits and the LS Positioner.  The HingeCrafter is used to bore the hole for the hinge pin.  It is both important that the hinge pin is perfectly straight (so the hinge operates smoothly without binding), and that no breakout occurs as the hole is being drilled (let alone having too much side pressure causing weaker timbers to have knuckles break off altogether).

HingeCrafter

With the included drill bit (and assuming the metric will be the same as the imperial), hinges over 10″ long are possible (254mm in metric).

Manufacturing Steps

Hinges

Any sizes you want (length of bit depending – the hinge can be up to twice as long as the available bit), and 4 different diameter hinges.  Made in your timber of choice, either matching the project, contrasting with it, or both!  And no more of those brass screws who’s heads seen designed to shear and pop off at a moment’s notice.

As Seen on The Web

Found these photos of a memorabilia chest on the Incra Website – some beautiful work made in Spalted Maple, including the hinges.

The gentleman who created it worked for years on the Stealth Bomber program, and collected many souvenirs from the program.

Stunning timber, superb chest.  I like the idea of it as well as a way of storing and displaying coins, as I have a small collection that I’d like to come up with something like this for that collection.

Wish I had made something as stunning as this to showcase!

The associated article talks about the Hingecrafter, and the recent upgrade of the LS Positioner to the metric version apparently makes it partially incompatible with the Hingecrafter.

However, I am thinking the easiest solution is to maintain some capability of imperial positioning, by acquiring an Original Incra Jig.  I haven’t as yet, but the thought is there.


Also, while on the topic of Incra, I have been using the 1000SE Mitre Gauge a bit recently, and enjoying the ability to significantly extend the fence for crosscutting very long boards.

An incremental conversion

A little while ago I mentioned that Incra now has metric versions of the LS Positioner – something I was not expecting would actually ever exist, but now does!

The big resistance has always been that router bits, and in particular dovetail bits were imperial and therefore would be  incompatible with a metric positioner. In an arrangement between Incra and Whiteside, metric dovetail bits are now available, paving the way for the metric LS positioner.

Because I really wanted the LS positioner, and metric wasn’t an option, I was always prepared to work in imperial when necessary, when using the router table (and kept the other Incra tools imperial as well), but in all fairness, I just cannot think in imperial – my brain just doesn’t swing that way.

So I am really excited to finally be able to convert fully to metric – it is going to make such a difference.

Conversion Kit

There isn’t a great deal to the conversion kit – the primary item is obviously the lead screw, and there is no question the quality of the metric version is definitely to the same standard as the original.  In addition to the leadscrew, there are a number of the plastic positioners for the various fences and stops.  Starting with the positioner, it is surprisingly easy to change over.

Removing the end of the positioner

The end of the positioner is removed, the thrust bearing removed (an interesting arrangement of a cup and large bearing), and a couple of plastic rods withdrawn.

Removing the imperial lead screw

The lead screw is then easily pulled out, and the new metric one dropped in.  The process is then reversed – this step taking only a few minutes.

Metric lead screw in place

The rules on top are replaced, although curiously there is no metric version of the centring rule.  Wonder if that is an omission?  Clicking through the microadjustment, and it is no longer 1/1000th of an inch, it is now 0.05mm per click (2/1000th”), however it is easy to see when you are half-way between clicks, so it means the accuracy is equivalent.

Taking the base apart

Next, the base is taken apart, with a new threaded bar and different shims.  Once that was reassembled, I tried out the positioner, and it was ok, but I found it too tight.  Taking out a couple of shims, and we were good to go.  A few tests and it was all running smoothly.

Imperial to metric

I then changed over all the fences and stops, but instead of ignoring that the bars are often longer than the original equipment, I took them to the bandsaw then disk sander to get the length down.  This was very effective, and from the other photos you can see both lengths in use.

A metric LS Positioner

Positioner finished!

Incra Mitre Express

Mitre Expres done

Mitre Gauges

1000SE Done!

Accurate Offcuts

Cutting down the v Groove was very easy – firstly on the bandsaw, then down to sand them on a disk sander.  The plastic is thermoplastic, so it melts with the friction of both the bandsaw and the sander.  That made it even easier to cut down the bars and clean them up.

So the upgrade is done, and I’m looking forward to use then to see what it is like now to use.  This upgrade is only available from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.

Metric? We can get it in METRIC now?!!!!

ROCKIN’!!

What am I talking about? Incra. The Incra LS Positioner is now available in a metric version, and for people in countries that primarily use a metric system, being able to get what I consider the best router fence out there in a metric version just makes the best system even better.

The big reason why it has historically only been available as an imperial version is until now the router bits have also only been imperial, and where it comes to dovetails, that is critical.  What has happened (and I’d be very surprised if the lines of communication between the two hasn’t been strongly encouraged by Grahame of PWS), is Whiteside in the US have produced a complementing set of metric router bits (straight and dovetail), and the rest is history.

So what does this mean with respect to the Positioner?  It can now work with 0.05mm increments of position (and although you can set 1/2 points between these and get 0.025mm accuracy (which is insanely accurate, equivalent to 1/1000″, and well beyond what is needed in normal woodworking….but nice that a machine is so accurate that it can achieve that level of precision)).

If you already own an imperial 17″ or 32″ LS Positioner, you are not left out – upgrade kits are arriving (tomorrow?) for existing owners who want to transition across, costing $199 (ok, $200) for the 17″ version.  These are only currently available in Australia from Professional Woodworkers Supplies (and they are (afaik) the first offering the transition kit worldwide.)  The upgrade kit replaces the Lead Screw, microadjuster, and all the rules with metric ones.  If you have purchased your LS Positioner from Professional Woodworkers Supplies then you’ll be contacted in the next day or so with a special upgrade deal.  The upgrade to metric takes about 30 minutes or so.

It also means there is no need to maintain any of the other Incra tools (such as the stops etc) in an imperial version either – all can now become metric.

Of course this does mean you also need the metric router bits, and if (like me), you already have a full set of dovetail bits, (and I’m not sure if this also impacts my hingecrafter and associated bits) then they need to be replaced as well.  But not having to continuously work in an unfamiliar measuring system (or worse, constantly translating between the two) is VERY attractive!  And if you have been put off buying the best fence system there is because of that annoying measuring system, then procrastinate no longer.  (And no, I’m not having a go at imperial measurements, it is just very hard to work with if you have grown up in a metric world).

So what do you think? Tempted? Can’t wait to upgrade (or finally get an LS Positioner)? Or think you’d might as well stay with the imperial?

I know what I’d like to do.  If my brain was 20 years younger, I’d probably be able to cope with the mental acrobatics required to constantly work in both formats (and dare I say, if I was 20 years older, then I’d have grown up with an imperial system), but as it is, it just doesn’t click for me.

What is 2&3/32 divided into 3 equal parts?  Dunno – where’s a calculator!  But what is 54mm divided into 3? 18mm.  Add 3mm, then shave off 0.5mm? 20.5mm

Can’t do that for the imperial – still working out the original question! In all seriousness, the fact my current LS Positioner is in imperial may be a big contributing factor why I haven’t gotten dovetailing on the Incra worked out.  Just can’t get my head around the imperial.

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