Shuffling the Pack

Had a sudden urge to refine the layout of the shed – things were not working as I wanted after the last two additions out there, so I really wanted to get it back to properly functional out there.  My first thought was to relocate the Torque Workcentre into the 3mx3m shed which would really open things up again, but when I measured it, the small shed door was not simply wide enough (and I’d have to take the whole workcentre apart to get it in there – not something I’m really interested in doing every time I want to move the machine.

So I changed focus to what else I could do instead.

It was all heavy stuff – individual items weighing between 80 and 250kg (175lb – 550lb).  Each move then a slow, coordinated system of checks and balances (lots of balancing).

The shed is now a real mess, so once I get everything back into place I’ll snap a few new layout pics.  Feeling better about the layout now than I was with the compromises I was coming up with.

The Jet mini lathe was moved to the lower shed (storage) where it joins my Jet bandsaw.  I’m not anti-Jet at all, in fact if I had any negative opinions towards the two tools they’d be sold, not stored.  (Stored in the hopes that one day I’ll have a shed large enough to properly restore them to operation).  You might ask why I would want two bandsaws, or two lathes?  With the bandsaw, I’d like to have the Jet set up with finer blades, and the big one with resaw blades and not have to chop and change the blades for each job as much. The lathe is a combination of just liking the Jet, and it has a full length bed, and it is a good lathe for spindle work.

With the Jet lathe moved, and the drill press relocated there is then room for the Nova DVR down that end.  It then meant the planer could return to where I planned to be in an earlier iteration.

Finally, the workbench was rotated to fit into the corner as a better utilisation of space and to open up the floor space (floor space is an important tool in a workshop).

I still maintain infeed and outfeed space for the thicknesser and drum sander, and by rotating the planer it can feed significantly long work through it as well by opening shed door when necessary.  Same for the bandsaw – ok for smaller work, and much larger work can operate out the shed door as well.

Bandsaw Down!

It is 9:30pm, dark, and still the mercury is holding high – a typical Australian evening after a 40 degree day (104F).  Then it occurred to me that I hadn’t moved the Jet bandsaw into the lower shed, and I really didn’t want to leave it sitting outside all week.

Weighing in at around 86kg and having to be moved down a 20 degree slope, and over dirt (covered with thin ply for the move), I guess the next was inevitable.

It was surprisingly quiet when it landed (or perhaps not so surprising – that sort of weight thuds rather than crashes), downhill (of course).  So with the mozzies lavishing over the free banquet on offer, with rather restricted access, I had to untangle the unit from the now destroyed plastic box and galv steel shelving unit it had landed on, spin it around then right it.

All in all, not too hard an evolution (could have been a bit easier though!) Got it into the lower shed which I had cleared a bit today to make room (thus the new round of eBay offerings) (other than the surprise in one corner – I’ll deal with that later – a certain odor had been detected a month or so earlier, and the result now is….nasty) then inspected for any damage.  Unsurprisingly, there was none – something to be said for large, solid, cast iron machines.  I’ll have to tweak the upper guides that rotated slightly, but that was it.  Move completed.

The Camera is Mightier than the Pen

With the upcoming Carbatec pen demo (31 July), I have been giving some thought to the whole pen-turning process, and just what equipment I use these days when making a pen.

Before I start (and you may have already glanced ahead at the collection of photos), remember that pen turning is a good beginner exercise, and as such you do not need such a collection of tools to produce a pen.  They help obviously, but are not mandatory.

Even the lathe is optional. You can turn a pen using other means, the primary alternative being the humble drill press.  You don’t even need turning chisels – many a pen has been made using a sharpened screwdriver.

Mini Lathe

A lathe makes life a lot easier of course.  I haven’t used a dedicated pen lathe, but my feeling is they would be too underpowered to really be effective.  You can use a belt-driven one or variable speed – I tend to run it flat out for pen turning, so that makes the decision rather moot.  I have a mini lathe, but it would be no issue using a larger lathe as well.  So long as the lathe is accurate (the two ends (head and tail stock being directly in line).

Variable Speed Mini Lathe

A variable lathe does have the advantage when dealing with larger, or more out-of-round blanks – being able to change speed easily without having to move belts between pulleys.

Drill Press

A drill press can substitute as mentioned – turning the pen vertically rather than horizontally. It also is particularly useful for drilling the centre of the blank to insert the brass tube core. This drill press has the laser attachment for centering the bit on the blank.

Bandsaw

A bandsaw is useful for easily trimming the blanks and can also be used to knock the corners off before turning if the blank material is prone to chipping/splitting during the initial turning to round.

It also has a major advantage in preparing blanks – scavenging materials from offcuts, resawing dried branches/logs etc.  You can take a lump of timber full of defects and still extract plenty of material for pens.  If you ever get into segmented turning (and yes, you can do segmented pens), then the bandsaw becomes critical. Not sure where the photos of my harlequin pen have gone…

Harlequin Pen

…..found a poor version back from about 2006.  Made from Red-gum, Pittosperum and Purpleheart. I only made the bottom half of the pen in harlequin – wasn’t happy with the result to justify continuing this experiment, but the principle is valid.

I also made this slimline for an informal pen comp where the theme was cross.

Cross Pen

I went with a traditional cross, with the obvious religious overtones. So I decided to take the photo on the woodworker’s bible (no insult intended).

Disk Sander

I find I use a disk sander for some jobs as well – trimming the ends of a blank down close to the length of the brass insert ready for the pen mill.  It isn’t particularly critical – I use it because it is available, and convenient.

Spindle Gouge

As far as turning tools, you can go the whole hog – roughing gouges, skews, gouges.  For a long time this was the only one I needed – a basic spindle gouge.  Used it for roughing and finishing, and details.

Detailed Pen

Captive Ring Pen

Even with a pen, you are only limited by imagination.  The captive ring was made by taking a very cheap skew and sharpening it to a much longer point so it could reach right under the ring as it was forming.  You can buy dedicated captive ring chisels – never tried one (yet), but the basic tool still achieved a perfectly good ring.

Hamlet Mini Turning Chisels

For very fine detail, a set of mini turning chisels can be quite effective, but again not critical – I got these more for dollhouse furniture than pen turning.

Wood Pen Blanks

The blanks themselves can be either timber, acrylic, bone, horn, metal (cartridge) etc etc.

Acrylic Blanks

Acrylics are interesting to work with, producing some quite colourful results, but I never feel like the pen is fully my own, and it won’t until I get into producing my own acrylic blanks.  This isn’t too difficult, but I need to learn how it is done so I can really feel like some of  these pens are really fully my own creation.

Laser Cut Blank

You can get very elaborate with blanks.  This for example is a laser cut kit from Rockler, and is a development of the segmented turning concept.  Pens made from these sorts of kits are also very interesting, but you are nervous the entire construction because of the cost of the ‘blank’ (around $US50 for this one, and the one below).

Fire Pen

PS Tools Mini Lathe

The PS Tools Variable Speed Mini Lathe, from Pop’s Shed doesn’t make for too bad a starting point for a new turner, both with the convenience of variable speed, as well as the accessories that Pop’s Shed bundle with it.  The price is $695 (including around $100 worth of chisels, a $75 keyless Jacob’s Chuck, and about $125 worth of mini lathe chuck) which brings the lathe itself down to around $400 in value.  The Jet VS is around $675 without accessories fwiw, and doesn’t include the speed readout.

With Pen Blank, Ready for Turning

The lathe uses the standard #2 morse taper for mounting tools, which makes it easy to upgrade or add other live centres, drive spurs, drill chucks etc and has a threaded section on the drive shaft for various jaw chucks.   The head speed indicator was a particularly interesting inclusion, something that isn’t on the VS Jet, and although not essential, as Nova Lathe users will probably testify it is useful getting accurate speed readings, at least in some circumstances.  I certainly liked being able to dial-in a specific speed, and found myself wishing I had a variable speed unit on my Jet lathe.

Mini Chuck

The mini-chuck is a smaller version of a standard self-centering chuck, and it comes with 4 different jaw sets, as well as a mounting plate (used by screwing directly to the timber for odd shapes etc that cannot be otherwise mounted on the lathe).

Mini Chuck Accessories

If compared to a full-sized chuck (such as the Nova G3) and the equivalent jaw sets, it is quite a saving although with considerable less capacity.  However, on a mini-lathe it at least ensures you are not tempted to grossly exceed the lathe’s capabilities.

Keyless Jacobs Chuck

The keyless Jacob’s Chuck was actually rather interesting.  Without getting inside it to see about the quality of the build, it seemed to operate smoothly, and the jaws closed down to pretty much zero clearance (allowing the smallest of drill bits to be mounted).  Drilling on a lathe has a fundamental difference to drilling on the drill press.  Instead of the chuck revolving with the drill bit, it is (rotationally) stationary, and instead the workpiece revolves.  The drill bit is wound into the revolving workpiece via the tail stock thread.

On this lathe (and sadly with a number of threaded tools coming out of China), they don’t seem to be able to make a really smooth operating thread.  I may at some stage see if I can get the tail stock apart and see if the thread can be cleaned up so it operates smoother.  It works as is, but there is working, and then working well.

Speed Sensor Wheel

Inside the headstock there is this toothed wheel next to the belt drives.  The belts still have 3 pulleys, so the variable speed can be set to one of three speed ranges, covering a total speed range of around 600RPm to 3000RPM.  The method for determining speed is the same as old (ie non laser/optical) computer mice, using a light transmitter/receiver shining through a toothed wheel and the rate the light is strobed is used to calculate head speed.

Beginner Tool Set

The chisel set has the more popular chisel types (bowl gouge, roughing gouge, skew, parting tool, scraper, spindle gouge), and will get you started.  As your skills develop, you’ll want to start replacing the chisels you most commonly use with better quality (ie expensive) ones, but having a basic set such as this will at least give you a feel for the different types, and plenty of sharpening practice without doing so on an expensive chisel.  (Given the entire set is worth around $100, and a decent chisel costs about that individually, I’m not being unreasonably harsh).  This set will get you started on the journey (and trust me, wood turning is a slippery slope!)

In checking the lathe itself, I started by turning the fire-pen from Rockler, and it went smoothly until I got down to near the end.  I found the pen was slightly off-centre, but I am putting that down to user error – I hadn’t mounted the pen spindle as central as I needed to, because when I checked the alignment of the head and tail stock, I couldn’t see any problem there.

Head Stock / Tail Stock alignment

Checking how the head drive spur and live centre in the tail stock line up is one of the fundamental checks if a lathe is made properly, and the PS Tools lathe had no issues there, as you can see from the above-photo.

I’ve had some off-line comments sent through about another brand that looked very similar to this lathe, and I will keep an eye on those pickup points, but at this stage I haven’t experienced any of the problems mentioned, and it may just be a case of similar models/brands, but not the same.

My Bandsaw

Somehow I have managed to avoid really discussing the bandsaw I have, at least until now.

Back in 2004, I had an opportunity to add a major tool to my workshop, and while thinking a bandsaw might be a useful tool, I really didn’t understand exactly why a bandsaw should be in my workshop. I originally purchased a 14″ Trupro bandsaw, folded steel (as is pretty much all the larger bandsaws), and quickly became disillusioned with its poor design (the door catch for example was positioned right in front of the blade, and even after only a couple of minutes of operation, the blade had cut a sizeable kerf through the door catch).

That went straight back, and for a couple hundred more, I came home with the solid, cast iron Jet 14″ deluxe bandsaw JWBS-14DX

Jet 14" Deluxe

Jet 14" Deluxe

Following a more traditional design, very solid, very heavy (and the cast iron is a natural vibration absorber).  I immediately bought and added the 6″ extension, which gives me 12″ of resaw height (which is superb).  It is a decision that really should be made at the start, because you need different length blades because of the extension (obviously 12″ longer than the original).

One really excellent feature of this bandsaw is that it has a quick tensioning unit for the blade, so you can quickly take the tension off the blade at the end of the day, and put it back on next time the bandsaw is needed.

Quick Tensioner

Quick Tensioner

I found this image on the web here, and along with the quick tension lever, it also shows a solution to the one point of frustration I have with the design – the tensioning knob is too small, and too close to the housing.  I’ve never gotten around to doing something about it, but it does need a modification of one form or another.

The Jet is only a single speed (at least in Australia – overseas you have the option of a variable speed upgrade, which has 3 different pulley sizes), but I’ve never really missed having that flexibility.

I did get an after-market fence with it, but haven’t ever really used it, and so have recently removed it altogether as I am now using the MagFences instead.

Blades: Easiest thing is to refer back to an earlier article here.

Bottom line is, if I was in the market for another bandsaw today, I’d have no hesitation to buy exactly the same one.  Call that an endorsement if you will!

Incra Laminated Breadboard

Ever since seeing Perry McDaniel’s breadboard, I have wanted to try one myself – doesn’t look particularly complex, but it has been one of those projects I’ve just never gotten a round tuit.

tuitSo with the clamp review, and finally obtaining some purpleheart which I always planned to use as one of the timbers, I begun cutting.

First job was to get the dust extraction up to spec again – after finding the thicknesser blocked the DC inlet too quickly.  It looks a bit confusing in a photo – it is slightly less confusing in real life 😉

Dust Collector with Preseparator

Dust Collector with Preseparator

The tablesaw, and router feed directly into the DC.  The thicknesser and planer feed into the precollector.  There are 3 different sanders that happen to be feeding into there, but they don’t need as much air draw so they won’t suffer from any performance hit caused by the preseparator.  The bandsaw also feeds into that line, so will assess how it performs, but as a general rule it is also a pretty fine dust that will be fine with any lower air flowrate.

Once the machines were again online, I was able to take a piece of mahogany, and one of purpleheart and run through the inital stock preparation, with all the generated dust and shavings whisked away to the extrator.  To any really observent amongst you, yes, I have turned the DC around.  This gives me better access to the start/stop switch (and was necessary with the location of the precollector, as it pretty much blocked access to the back corner).  It also means that the demented spider of tubing is more intrusive into the shop, but again, necessity is the biggest force of nature!

Resaw with MagFence

Resaw with MagFence

I resawed both the mahogany and purpleheart, but I did my usual trick of trying to get too much yield out of the timber I have.  Sometimes a bit of wastage is necessary to get the stock you need, but it is a lesson I still need to learn.  I ended up, after dressing the timbers, with stock that was thinner that I wanted.  This does reflect that I am still struggling to find where to get good timbers from at a reasonable price.

Once all planed and thicknessed, it was time to move to the tablesaw.  For this project, I finally used the Incra LS Positioner on the tablesaw for the first time actually using it as a tablesaw fence.  I used the MagJigs to hold it down, which worked ok, but I found it did need some more holding force, so I will add an extra two MagJigs, which will be overkill, but there is no such thing as too much where it comes to locking down a fence securely.

Incra LS as Tablesaw Fence

Incra LS as Tablesaw Fence

On the tablesaw, I ripped increasing widths of timber, from 2mm to about 15mm wide.  This worked well with the Incra, although it would have been better if I had remembered that it is an imperial measuring system, not metric!  Even so, the absolute precision of the Incra worked well – it clicks into precise location without having to microadjust the fence position with a fist-tap (as is normal practice).  A really interesting look at the Incra system.

After taking the mahogany and purpleheart through the ripping process, they were then interleaved, and clamped in the Jet Bar Clamps, which are really nice I must say.  They stay balanced where they are put, whether horizontal or vertical, they don’t slip, clamp tight and really look the part.

 Mounting in the Jet Bar Clamps

Mounting in the Jet Bar Clamps

I haven’t glued these up as yet – consider this a dry-fit.

Storing vertical

Storing vertical

I didn’t realise how stable these clamps were when vertical, but the job was in the way at one point, and I went to put it on the floor, and did a double-take when it stayed quite comfortably where I placed it.  A definite bonus of this sort of clamp design IMHO.

Ready for glue-up

Ready for glue-up

This is as far as I have gotten with the project – next I will be gluing it up, topping and tailing it then rotating the ends through 180 degrees, finishing with a router dressing of the edges.  Mahogany wasn’t my first choice of materials – I wanted even more contrast between the lighter timber and the purpleheart, but even so, unfinished as it is, it still looks the goods.

Some Decisions

Bit of a dramatic day as it turned out.  I was planning on getting over to Ikea, but they had limited stock of what I wanted to pick up, and would not put aside or guarantee that it would not be a wasted trip, so the door of opportunity opened for me to make some shed purchase decisions.

Based as much on price as features, I ended up choosing the 15″ CTJ381.  As much as I was tempted by the 20″, it was significantly more expensive, and the Powermatic is way out of my price range.  The Jets don’t have solid in and outfeed tables, and I really wanted to have solid tables, rather than rollers.  To my thinking, all the cheap machines have roller in and out feeds, so an upgraded machine would have something else (as in cast iron!)  I guess you can never have the perfect solution, but this unit is at a good price point, has solid cast iron in and outfeed tables, 3 blade cutter, 15A, 3HP, dual speeds, fixed head.

I had a close look at the drum sander while I was there, but I really struggled to decide to buy it.  Not sure what was causing the resistance, but there was something there, so I decided to err on the side of conservatism.  There are some other models out there that I’ll have another look at.

Getting home was a little tricky – had the forklift about to load the thicknesser into the trailer, and found that it was too high to fit into the cage.  Bugger.  The docs said it came in two boxes, just not the shape boxes I was expecting!  Oh well – have to wait a day or two before I get it home.  I’m still lamenting the choice between the 15″ and 20″, but I think I made the right decision (I hope!!!!)

Speaking of decisions, and totally unrelated to the shed, I bought a TiVo a week ago.  It went back for a refund today.  What a disappointment after all the hype.  It is undoubtably a different experience in the US, but the Australian implementation is very disappointing.  Now I have to find another dual HD tuner HDD recorder.

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