New Incra Rail

We are getting very close to being able to purchase the new rail that Incra have come up with to add to their build-it concept for jig creation.

This rail is what I have been waiting for to be able to (hopefully!) easily fit the Incra 1000SE Miter Gauge to the Triton Workcentre.

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It may not be obvious how this will help, but if you consider that it will become part of a jig placed on top of the tablesaw (as a replacement for the crosscut sled concept) then you might see where I’m heading.  All in all, if it means that we will be able to get Incra accuracy out of a Triton Workcentre, then that is worth pursuing!

Wixey Digital Planer Height Gauge

I managed to finish fitting the digital height gauge to the thicknesser today, and it is quite impressive.

As mentioned a few posts ago, I attached the main portion of the gauge using double-sided tape (which is the standard method, although there is provision for using self-taping screws as well). Given where I placed the gauge, the standard brackets were not long enough, so I ended up adding an extension to the bracket.

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The concept is pretty straightforward – the ruler gauge (seen right) remains fixed to the casing of the planer/thicknesser. The bracket (to the left), and the gauge itself moves up and down with the planer head. Once it is calibrated (which is simplicity itself), then you can set the planer height to a particular reading, and when the material is passed through, it comes out the desired thickness. It sure beats doing a pass, measuring the result, then deciding how much to turn the handle and hoping that you don’t go too far!

The accuracy I was getting with the first couple of test passes was between 0.02mm and 0.25mm of the actual thickness I wanted. I didn’t try calibrating it again to get rid of the little error that remained, but will do that during the video.

The extension to the bracket was actually made from the metal bar that is part of a magnet door clasp. It just happened to just the right gauge that I was looking for, so got sacrificed to the cause. I drilled a hole so the 2 bolts were the right distance apart to bridge the gap, then a cut-off disk on a rotary (dremel-like) tool. I then used the disk sander to round off the end, and clean up the swarf from the drilling, using a pair of pliers as a heat-sink. It just goes to show that it is still useful having a few basic metal-working tools, even in a woodworking shop. You never know when you want to make a jig, or modify a tool or whatever!

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The gauge in its final home. The nice thing about it, (obviously other than the accuracy, which is amazing), is you can remove it without having caused any damage to the tool itself (other than getting some double-sided tape off). Where the bracket is connected to the planer head, is where the original pointer was screwed on. For some planers, you might have to drill and tap some new holes, but most benchtop planers will fit to the original pointer location.

So my final verdict on this upgrade is simple – if you have a planer/thicknesser, you will definitely want to add this digital gauge! In the past, I’ve used a 1/4 turn of the handle (which equates to 0.4mm) as the amount I change the height of the planer head, and after fitting the gauge, I found myself winding the handle slowly watching 1/100mm positions ticking past until the exact height I wanted came up. This will completely revolutionise how I use the thicknesser. Instead of running a pass, then use a digital caliper to see how thick the timber is, then decide how many 1/4 turns of the handle to go, I can get the height close (safely), then run a final light pass to nail the thickness I want. I was very surprised when the number (ie height) on the thicknesser came out the same as the number on the digital caliper after doing the pass. I was sold on the gadget in an instant!

The Wixey digital planer height gauge is available from, and generously provided by Professional Woodworker Supplies.

Router bit of-the-month (February 08)

This month, I am not highlighting an actual bit, but something that can make the difference between a bit, or a jig etc being usable, and not being able to do the job required.

The bit this month is in fact a router bit extender. I am certainly not condoning the use of router bit extenders for every operation, but in some instances, for some jobs, they are a much better solution than the alternative. (Shown here with a router bit fitted).

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This version of the router bit extender is quite impressive. It is made by CMT (an Italian router bit manufacturer) who are well renowned for the quality of their router bits. Here in Australia, CMT bits are supplied by Carbatec.

The concept is pretty simple – have a shaft the diameter of a normal router bit to mount in the router, then some form of mechanism to hold the router bit itself, and in this case, CMT have opted for quite a traditional style router bit collet, which is reassuring given that it needs to tightly hold the router bit in the extended position.

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This is the extender broken down into its individual components (not all extenders can come apart like this) Working from left to right, we have the collet outer ring, which screws into the collet base (part 3). Inside each of these is a cone which matches the cone on either end of part 2. Part 2 is the split-ring router bit holder. As the collet is tightened, the split-ring is squeezed together, gripping the router bit. The cones facilitate this, as well as ensuring the bit is maintained in the centre of the mechanism. The final part (4) is the 1/2″ shank which is fitted to the router’s collet.

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There are a number of occasions where the extender can be a god-send, and it is useful having one in your collection for if/when it becomes needed. These include, needing some extra plunge length, when using the router with a jig where the router doesn’t have sufficient plunge capacity to expose enough of the bit, and for bits that have too-short a shaft (to name a few). Some people also use them religiously with their table-mounted router because of a combination of too thick a table and/or too short a router bit and/or insufficient plunge capacity of the router and/or because they want to be able to change router bits above the table.

My personal preference is that these extenders are only used when they are justified, and there isn’t another solution (like purchasing a longer shanked router bit if that becomes a regular problem, or getting a router that can inherently do above-table bit changing). There is a reason router bits don’t come with an extra inch or so of shaft length (just for the convenience), and it isn’t because of cost (well that’s not the major reason). They do increase the load on the router bearings – there is a lot of extra leverage caused with the extra length. If you are running a Festool (triple bearing), or a Triton, then the router should cope, but not all routers are as strong. Remember too, we are talking about a high-speed rotary tool here (up to 20000RPM).

So the bottom line is, for a particular job, a router bit extender can be invaluable. I’d rather use an extender, than not properly inserting the router bit fully into the collet for example. However, it is not for every job, and in particular, it is strongly recommended that you don’t use one when the router bit exceeds 40mm diameter. This rules out panel raising bits!

Finally, here’s something a bit exciting for Stu’s Shed (and I’m hoping we can do more of this in the future, but it will depend on how successful it proves!) The CMT Router Bit Extender featured here was generously supplied by Carbatec, and is normally $79 (inc GST). For this month (Feb 08), if you tell Carbatec that you saw it featured on Stu’s Shed, then you will be able to purchase it for $69 (inc GST). (That’s almost 15% off). This offer has been made by Carbatec only for Stu’s Shed viewers. (Cool huh!)

Tool of-the-Month (February 08)

The tool for this month is the Veritas MkII Honing Guide. Veritas are well known for producing quality jigs and tools, and the MkII Honing Guide is no exception.

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The MkII is a significant development on the original jig and although it has been available for a while now, it still justifies being highlighted. It is used in setting and maintaining the bevel angle for edge cutting tools (such as chisels and plane blades).

It consists of 2 main components – the black component is the blade holder, and once the blade position is set, holds it in that position during the grinding/honing process. The other component (silver) (the registration jig) is used to set the blade position so it is honed to the correct angle. Once the blade position is set, this component is removed.

There are a number of advantages of the MkII. First and foremost is the accuracy and repeatability of setting the honing angle. The guide can be used on waterstones, oilstones, diamond stones, and sandpaper (commonly called the “Scary Sharp” technique). It has a large brass eccentric roller which can be set to a secondary position for creating a microbevel.

The setting jig not only controls the amount of protrusion of the blade (ie distance from the roller, which dictates the angle of the bevel), but also keeps the blade square so that an undesired skew is not created.

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Here you can see the stop which is dictating the blade protrusion, but also the far side has a fence which the blade is resting against, ensuring that it is square to the roller. The blade in this case is one of my HNT Gordon plane blades (which as you might be able to see, already has a mirror finish).

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Once the blade position is set, the registration jig is removed, and you are ready to start honing the blade. I’m going to be doing a separate article/video on various sharpening techniques in the near future, so won’t go into details here.

More recently, extra jigs and modifications have become available for the MkII guide, including a Skew Registration Jig for deliberately (accurately and repeatably) setting a skew angle if so desired.

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The Veritas MkII Honing Guide and Skew Registration Jig has been supplied by Carbatec, and continues to prove to be their most popular honing guide.  I’ve had my MkII Guide for quite a while now, and it has proven to be an invaluable tool where it comes to sharpening.  I had the MkI before it, and although it was a good jig, the MkII has proven to be exceptional, and I’ve never regretted upgrading.

The Router Fence Upgraded!

It has been a while coming…

When I first purchased the LS Positioner, I gave a lot of thought to whether I could justify getting the Incra fence, or whether I could construct one as functional, and a lot cheaper. I decided to try, and the fence I came up with I am pretty happy with.

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It has UHMD plastic on its face, which can either be positioned to close near to the bit, or with a small central piece to act as a zero-clearance fence (ie, the opening in the fence has no gap around the bit, virtually eliminating any possibility of the workpiece getting hung up (ie catching) on the outfeed fence). There is a track on the front for a right-angle fixture, or a featherboard, and another on top for a stop. There are 2 rails of positioning track, one metric, the other imperial, and a movable rule.

However, there have been a few issues with it. Firstly, I never finished it- like the base of the table, it got put aside as more pressing things cropped up, and I haven’t returned to it. There wasn’t much else to do – dust extraction, feather board, and the stops themselves. I haven’t been completely happy with the zero-clearance design, and have since thought of better ways of doing it. The other issue, and more difficult to add, is the ability to offset the infeed and outfeed fences. This is critical for planing type operations (such as using the compression bit covered mid last year). It was a feature that I had on the Triton Router Table, but have missed being able to do it easily. I don’t use it all the time which is why I’ve been able to get around not having it. Finally, I never perfected a right-angle fixture. I did get a home-made one from a friend (Steve Bisson, who sadly passed away mid last year), after he upgraded his system to the full Incra one (and was the final inspiration that convinced me the Incra system was unique in its accuracy, and therefore versatility).

I have always regretted not biting the bullet in the first place, and getting the whole system, including the Incra Wonder Fence, so finally, the deed is done.

Here is the fence as it is tonight.

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It sure looks the part now! The fence halves are actually mounted on a length of Incra sawtable fence that I had, and I’ve included the high-riser (the black bit on top), which helps stabilise tall boards passing over the bit (such as a vertical panel-raising bit). I also (finally!) have the proper right-angle fixture which will make the various joints (dovetails in particular) much easier to complete.

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One thing that the Wonder fence does give, is very precise control over the offset between the infeed and outfeed fences. You can’t see it very clearly in the photo, but it means the offset is very easy to produce.

All the Incra gear seen here was sourced from Professional Woodworker Supplies.

Incra and the Triton

I’ve been looking at the concept of fitting an Incra mitre gauge (or should I say miter gauge!) to the Triton (such as the V27, or the 1000SE) for a long time. Ok, I haven’t been concentrating on it, or we would have had it done by now! A few brief forays determined that it wouldn’t be as easy as replacing the existing rail with a mitre slot unfortunately. That’s the nature of having a table top made from thin folded steel rather than a fully cast or extruded top. Sadly, I don’t think Triton will ever pursue that concept with a new version of the workcentre. (Think I’ve said before, always thought the Sawstop should hit the Oz shores badged as a Triton).

I was thinking about the concept again the other day, as I was almost to the point of making a cross-cut sled, which everyone who has made one for the Triton seems to swear by. My thought was, if I’m prepared to sacrifice a bit of cut height to use a crosscut sled, why not use that same thickness to mount a mitre track on a removable base, so I can use the Incra?

So this is one of the two approaches I am going to be taking in my quest for ultimate accuracy (at least out of the Triton saw table).

Ideally, a minimum loss of cutting height is ideal, so any way of minimising that loss would be good. Bit of an interesting development then this morning. I was discussing this with the Incra importer to Australia yesterday (Professional Woodworker Supplies), and he ask the question of Incra about a particular type of track that we’d need to achieve this. I got an email today, and it turns out, what we want is currently sitting on Incra’s drawing board as we speak, and could be ready in a few short months!

So, I am going to hold off on that concept until the track is ready, and pursue my alternate method (which I’ll document as I go). All very cool in any respect!

One solution will result in no loss of cutting height of the blade, but isn’t ideal as far as how close the mitre gauge is to the blade (good thing the fence on the Incra mitre gauge is movable!), the other places the gauge at an ideal distance from the blade, but looses 13mm of cutting height – not that that’s too bad when you consider how much is lost with a crosscut sled (which is at least that).

Episode 12 Router Sign Writing

Episode 12 Sign Writing with the Router.

It is one of those things that many people want to do when they first buy a set of template guides for their router, and see the picture of router-carved words on the box. Or when you come across a well-made wooden sign, and you look at it wondering – How did they do that?

You don’t have to be an expert with carving chisels, and have the patience of a saint, so long as you have a reasonable kit of sign writing templates, a guide, and a router with a low centre-of-gravity (the small, cheap ones work really well)!

This video covers a few related topics, including templates and template guides, a sign-writing (commercial) jig, modifying a router (ok, I cut the plunge springs down), and of course, demonstrating using the jig.

Episode 06 Bandsaw Circle Cutting

Episode 06 Bandsaw Circle Cutting

Bandsaws have always been great at cutting curves. With a simple jig, perfect circles are a breeze. This video demonstrates this homemade jig, and also briefly shows some minor mods that I have made to my 14″ Jet Bandsaw to keep the tyres clear of sawdust.

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