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.

NEED MORE GREEN STEAM!

Tried testing a dado blade (just briefly) on the weekend, as I’d never used one, and still haven’t actually.

The budget (economy?) set from Carbatec that they have included for the battle of the dado blades have chipper blades that are solid disks, and once you add a few together, the entire group becomes a massive chunk of steel (like a large flywheel), and requires so much starting torque that my (underpowered) power supply trips out before the saw can come up to speed.

If I had a good (and a full 10A) power supply for the saw I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem, but I don’t, so it is.

The saw itself is 3HP, so it has plenty of guts to run such a set (if I could give it all the electricity it needs), but I seriously wonder if less powerful saws (such as the Jet Supersaw (1.75HP)) could even use the economy set?

Remember too, that this is just getting the dado set up to speed, and does not involve actually cutting timber (hard or soft).

Extending the Lathe

When I first got the Jet Mini lathe, it was to replace the GMC that I had, and one thing that I wanted to do was add the extension bed to the Jet to get a full 1000mm capacity.  At some stage I’d like a full sized lathe, but in the meantime, the Jet Mini will certainly suit my current requirements (and will still have a place even if I do end up with a larger one).

Jet Mini Lathe with Stand

Jet Mini Lathe with Stand

I’ve been putting the extension in the too-hard basket for over a year – mainly because the extension cost $100, and I couldn’t see how it was possibly justified to ask another $100 for the couple of components to extend the lathe stand to take the extra extension.

I certainly didn’t subscribe to the suggestion from the retailer that it is generally left hanging in mid-air.  Seemed a stupid proposal at best.  It didn’t help that the extension I was sold turns out not to be for the model of Mini lathe they had sold me, so I had to work out my own way of joining the two beds together.

In the end, I opted for high tensile bolts and with a bit of fussing, got the two beds aligned nicely, and seemingly sufficiently joined that there won’t be any movement in the joint over time.

Next came the real problem – extending the stand to cope with the extra length of the new lathe bed.  If I had some metal fabrication capacity that would have made life a lot easier, but I don’t have the essentials – primarily a welder. So the problem just sat there, waiting for a solution to turn up, and on Friday it did.

Lathe with Extension and Stand Extension

Lathe with Extension and Stand Extension

Work was about to throw out a stand that has clogged up a space for about 4 years, and I couldn’t bring myself to just allow the components to go without seeing if there was anything useful.  It was as I was dismantling it that I suddenly twigged that one of the parts looked just like I would expect the genuine lathe stand extension component would look like.  It even looked like it just might be long enough.  When I meansured it up, it was close – very very close, and the 45mm it was short I decided I could adapt the existing stand layout enough to compensate, without compromising its integrity.

All that was needed were some new holes, and some more bolts to hold the extra parts.

Drilling Holes

Drilling Holes

The main idea that I had was to use the previous horizontal member, and turn it vertically to support the joint in the extended lathe bed.  The fact that the new horizontal member was a substantial square RHS so could easily take the loading made it a no brainer.

Base Adapter

Base Adapter

The one thing I did decide was to use the original horizontal member unaltered, and because it was not as wide as the base of the lathe, it made more sense to have its flange at 90 degrees to the base, and therefore the holes couldn’t be used to join them together.  So what I did was fabricate this piece with two holes (top and bottom) for the lathe, and the other two for the flange.

Now this is where it all will make a bit more sense.

Extending the Lathe Stand

Extending the Lathe Stand

This is the interum step with everything in place, but resting – waiting for holes to be drilled for the bolts.

Extended Lathe and Stand

Extended Lathe and Stand

And finally (and it doesn’t look that different from the previous photo), this is the final result, all bolted together, and very stable (and rather heavy to boot).

Now I just have to find a new location for the grinder, and I need more of that rubber mat!

It’s a great feeling to finally finish off a job that has been hanging over my head for so long.  Now I just have to get back to learning how to use the thing!! (Properly that is!!)

Choosing a tablesaw

Quite the tough decision really – almost worse than buying a car, because you’d expect to have the same tablesaw even after buying, and selling a number of cars! So it is a purchase that you want to get right, and be happy with. Any purchase is always a compromise – a trade-off between quality, features and price.

As I eluded to earlier, this is a list of features I’d want to see on a new saw, in no real order, and not necessarily with any locked in – after all, everything is a compromise!

10″ blade (minimum). Upgrading from the Triton, which runs a 9 1/4″ blade which on the Triton gives a maximum cutting height of 64mm. Having a 10″ blade doesn’t add much to that, but passing the magic 75mm mark is a good start (means I can split a 150mm post in half in 2 passes)

Dado blade capable. Not quite sure whether I need this, but I see dado blades used all the time on woodwork shows, and I do have one so would be good to see it being used!

Decent motor 2.5HP or greater. I rarely need all that power, but using a Triton saw (3.25HP) for so long, and you get used to all that grunt. There is a reason why some people opt for 3 phase machines, and one is power. A saw that comes out in a 1 phase model could have 3HP, the 3 phase version is 5HP. Seeing as I would be extremely hard-pushed to justify the expense of installing 3 phase power.

Full cast (cast iron) top, with 1 and preferably 2 mitre channels.

Quality fence

Riving knife, which is easily removed, and rises and falls with the blade. To this (ideally) there would also be the blade guard.

Left-tilting blade. Lots of controversy here, but after seeing some photos of ripping with the blade tilted over to the right, I can see why left-tilt wins some friends. Granted that you can move the fence to the other side of the blade, I’d rather not have to.

So, where does that leave us?

Gabbett Machinery: Saw Stop

Blade Size: 254mm (10in)
Dado: 20mm
Depth of Cut 90°: 79mm
Depth of Cut 45°: 57mm
Direction of Cut: Left
Motor: 3HP (1 Ph 230V 13A)
Arbor: 16mm
Table Size:1118x762mm
Weight: 240kg
Price: $5500

Other features: Saw Stop, heavy duty castings

Carbatec: TS10L

Blade Size: 254mm (10in)
Dado: 15mm
Depth of Cut 90°: 78mm
Depth of Cut 45°: 54mm
Direction of Cut: Left
Motor: 3HP (1 Ph)
Arbor: 16mm
Table Size: 1075x740mm
Weight: 230kg
Price: $2200
Other features: Heavy duty trunnions, quick release riving knife, spindle lock

Carbatec: TSC-10HB

Blade Size: 254mm (10in)
Dado: 15mm
Depth of Cut 90°: 77mm
Depth of Cut 45°: 58mm
Direction of Cut: Right
Motor: 3HP (1 Ph)
Arbor: 16mm
Table Size: 1015x685mm
Weight: 190kg
Price: $1700
Other features: includes router table extension wing

Woodworking Warehouse: Jet SuperSaw

Blade Size: 254mm (10in)
Dado: 20mm
Depth of Cut 90°: 84mm
Depth of Cut 45°: 54mm
Direction of Cut: Left
Motor: 1.75HP (1 Ph)
Arbor: 16mm
Table Size: 705x685mm
Weight: 210kg
Price: $2475
Other features: sliding table

Woodworking Warehouse: Powermatic PM2000

jetpm2000_000.jpg
Blade Size: 254mm (10in)
Dado: 20mm
Depth of Cut 90°: 79mm
Depth of Cut 45°: 54mm
Direction of Cut: Left
Motor: 3HP (1 Ph)
Arbor: 16mm
Table Size: 1067x775mm
Weight: 210kg
Price: $3415
Other features: (shown with extension table- other tables also have this), spindle lock, quick release riving knife, cast iron base w built in raise-able castors.

Ledacraft MJ-2325CB 10″

Blade Size: 254mm (10in)
Dado: ??
Depth of Cut 90°: 75mm
Depth of Cut 45°: 60mm
Direction of Cut: Right
Motor: 2HP (1 Ph)
Arbor: 25.4mm
Table Size: 1170x800mm
Weight: 189kg
Price: $1232
Other features:

(I’ve not listed 3 phase motors as it is not in most sheds)

I’ve amended this list with a couple more models – there are just too many saws out there to provide a comprehensive list, and there are still all the 12″ saws etc that I haven’t tried looking through.

Where possible, I have listed the price of including a Biesemeyer Style fence.

Table Saw Research

I’ve been doing some research about the various cabinet saws out there, specifically looking for something to upgrade to after selling my Triton after many years of reliable service. I’m sure this will be a recurring theme until the final decision is made, but here are some initial observations and considerations.

I have not had an opportunity to actually use any of these tools in anger, so my opinions and observations at this point are tempered by that.

I’m not looking at the contractor’s saw – they are a compromise, minimising weight and cost in preference for portability. They certainly have their place, and many perfectly successful workshops have them, but I am strongly influenced to head towards a full cabinet saw (personal preference, and perhaps because I have done my time with a Triton Workcentre, I’m looking for that quantum leap in this upgrade, and not just another short step).

For the top, (other than a select few unusually made from granite, which I’m not sure if they are even in Australia, and then can’t use that incredible MagSwitch technology!), they should be cast iron, with ideally 2 mitre slots, one either side of the blade. The blade itself will typically be 10″ or 12″ (at additional cost), with a splitter (and/or riving knife), and guard. Power ranges from 1.75HP to 3Hp (and beyond if you have 3 phase power available – I don’t).

There are some fundamentals that the unit MUST comply with:

Click here to read full article

Today’s the Day on Ebay

A bit of an era draws to a close today (although it is a bit of a soft ending). My Triton 2000 Workcentre and 2400W Triton saw will sell in a couple of hours time. Feeling a bit nostalgic about it.

Back in Christmas 2001 when my wife and I were married, I had a lathe on the wedding registry (little thing, but unbeknownst to me at the time, it was the key to a massive door that had been there in my periphery since almost forever). So I had this lathe, and I needed a bench to mount it to. Around our new property (bought 6 months earlier) there were a number of redgum sleepers, and I thought a couple of them would make a great lathe stand. I did have a handsaw, but no circular saw, and this was the justification I needed to head down to Bunnings and get one.

In Bunnings, I had long admired (from a distance) these amazing orange tools that looked to be for the professionals – workbenches that I hardly recognised what they were for (in hindsight, they would have been a Triton 2000, a router table, superjaws etc). But they looked GOOD.

So I went to get a saw. Dad’s had an Hitashi for a long time – serious looking tool, and so I had an idea of what I was wanting. While there, going through all the models, one that stood out was an orange beast – 2400W, 9 1/4″ blade (price tag to match), but it dawned on me that one day, I might, just might get one of those cool looking workbenches, so I might as well have the saw that matches. Boy, was that a good call.

Got home with this thing, and if you know me, you know I love toys (uh…..tools), and this thing looked mean. When I took it to the sleepers, I was in shock – it sliced the sleeper like butter, and that was it, I was hook line and sinker into Triton at that point.

Click here to read full article

Turning Between Centres – a different drive spur

This is the traditional drive spur – a four bladed design with a fixed centre pin.  The blades cut into the endgrain providing the drive to spin the work.

pict5765.jpg

I’ve found with this sort of drive spur, that if you don’t do it up tight enough, it can easily slip, allowing the workpiece to stall while you are turning (ie the workpiece stops, but the drive keeps spinning!)  There are some different models available – different sizes, and some with quite an aggressive tooth and centre point to really bite into the workpiece.

However, when watching a master-turner friend show off some tips and techniques, I saw that he used a different type of drive spur, and I could really see some definite advantages to its design.  I got one for my lathe, and have been using it ever since.

pict5763.jpg

It is called a Steb Style drive centre, and instead of just four points of contact, it has lots of little teeth that bite in, significantly decreasing the load that each one has to impart on the workpiece.  The central point is also spring-loaded, and I’m not sure what advantage that has, other than meaning that it’s the circumferential teeth carrying the load.  I find that I don’t have to tighten up on the workpiece as much, and I have not experienced any slippage since using one.

pict5766.jpg

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