Barley Twist

After finding a natural barley twist while holidaying in Queensland, Geoff has sent a couple of photos in of a barley twist lathe that he has acquired (but yet to use).

It is interesting to study, just to see how simple an arrangement it is, and with a little bit of work, pretty easy to duplicate – especially (but not limited to) those with Torque Workcentres.

It would be pretty easy to add this functionality to a real lathe (but NOT switching the lathe on!!!) A lathe with an indexing ring would be excellent for this

Barley Twist Lathe

Barley Twist Lathe

Barley Twist Lathe detail

Barley Twist Lathe detail

I’m not sure the drive mechanism for this lathe – it may be from pushing the router sideways, but I suspect you manually turn the black winder in the second photo.  In that photo, you can also see an indexing ring, which is essential for setting the workpiece to the next start location.  Depending on the combination of how far around the workpiece is indexed, the router bit chosen, and the setting for how fast the router moves relative to each rotation of the workpiece will dictate resulting effect.

A barley twist lathe can be regarded as a glorified Beall Pen Wizard (or is it the other way around – the Beall is a miniature barley twist lathe?!)

Beall Pen Wizard

Beall Pen Wizard

Back to Geoff’s lathe – I can’t see how the gearing is regulated, but I assume it can be changed.

So that is a barley twist lathe.  Do an image-search on Google for Barley Twist will reveal over a million examples of this ornamental feature being used in different projects, with varying degrees of success!  In some instances it is beautifully complementary to the overall object.  In some other cases, it has obviously been included without any understanding of how such an ornate feature should be used.

Upgrading the DVR XP to wireless

I had an opportunity today to actually take the simple steps to upgrade my DVR to wireless.  Given my DVR came out before the wireless upgrade was available, it also needs the additional retro kit, which involves replacing the front panel (and one of the circuit boards within).

Nova DVR XP original head

The DVR is quite an amazing lathe – with the motor contained directly in the head of the lathe and with direct drive and computer speed control, it is an impressive arrangement.  Expect to see DVR motor technology utilised in other machines in the not-to-distant future.

Control panel

On new DVRs, the control panel is already wireless-ready, but it still needs an additional circuit board added.  These instructions are relevant for both the wireless-ready, and the retro kit required lathes.  Some steps are not relevant for both obviously – will point them out as we progress.

Step one is turning off, and unplugging the lathe.  You need to leave it at least 2 minutes for the circuits to fully de-energise. (The video by Teknatool suggests 5 minutes)

Loosen screws to release the control panel

Loosen the four screws on the sides of the panel.  They can be loosened, or fully removed (doesn’t matter which).  The panel is then gently rocked free of the lathe.  It still has a cable connecting it to the lathe, so be careful!

The motor control cable

This cable can now be disconnected.  Note which way around it goes (the red wire is always the #1 wire fwiw).  In this case, the #1 wire is towards the top of the control box.  The connector also has a tab to ensure it is returned the correct way up, but it is always good to keep track of the ribbon orientation as well.  It may be held in place with a dab of hot glue – easy enough to pick off with your fingernail.

Panel removed

Lathe looks a little strange with the panel removed – this is an aluminium plate affixed to the front which is used to secure the panel.

Wireless control with associated circuit, and retro kit

On the left is the remote control.  In the packaging, there is also a small circuit board that is paired to the control.  This is the wireless receiver.  (I’ll cover what to do if it is not paired further down)

On the right is the retro kit.  This is only needed for older DVRs as mentioned (pre August 2011).  At this point, those with a wireless ready DVR can skip ahead – we will get back to steps that are relevant to you in a sec!

Glue blob

Near the #1 wire here, you can see the hot glue blob that is used to ensure the cable doesn’t detach over time.  When unplugging the ribbons, you need to first pick off the glue blob.

Removed circuit board

The main circuit board is fully unplugged, then unscrewed.

Original circuit board attached to retro kit

This circuit board is then screwed to the same location on the retro kit panel (using the same screws).

So about now, DVR wireless ready owners can rejoin the party 🙂

Adding the wireless receiver

Next, the wireless receiver is pushed onto the pins that the circuit ribbon was removed from (the one I am holding).  Clever concept of how to add it into the circuit to be honest.  Very cool.

Connecting the circuit ribbon

The circuit-board ribbon plugs into the top of the wireless receiver.  You can see how the design is working at this point – the top PCB (printed circuit board) is the one with the display, the on/off and speed controls.  It passes directly through the new wireless receiver so the original controls work exactly as they used to.  However, the wireless receiver can receive instructions from the remote, and input them as if the relevant buttons on the front panel were pushed.

Attaching the ribbon, part A

Attaching the ribbon, part B

The ribbon is connected – the new version of the controller has a ribbon with an additional plug partway along.  This connects to the wireless receiver, and then the lower PCB.  Take careful note of the #1 wire (the red one).  It can be attached to the wireless receiver either way, but only one way will work.  The #1 wire needs to be towards the long side of the wireless receiver PCB.

Connect the motor control ribbon

Connect the motor control ribbon, then screw the whole control panel back to the front of the lathe.  You may discover that the remote is not paired to the wireless receiver (as was the case with my kit).  It is a very simple step to rectify.  Turn on the lathe (before the panel is screwed back onto the lathe).  Once it has gone through its bootup, try the remote.  To turn the lathe on, hold the start/stop button for 2 seconds.  If this does not start the lathe, it is likely that it is not yet paired.

To pair the transmitter and receiver, with the lathe switched on (but not running), push the pairing button on the wireless receiver PCB.

Pairing button

The pairing button is the little white one just above my finger in the photo.  Then within 60 seconds, push the power button on the remote.  You will hear some beeps, and then the two will be paired together.  Try to run the lathe again with the remote, and it should now work.

Screw the control panel onto the lathe, and enjoy giving the lathe a run remotely!

Ready to run…. remotely!

All attached, and first tests went well- namely using the lathe as it was originally, starting, stopping and speed control from the control panel.  One (minor) advantage of transferring the common circuit board from the original panel to the retro upgrade panel is all my preset speed settings were remembered.

Now with the remote control (either wrist-worn, or magnetically attached somewhere convenient), the lathe can be started and stopped from up to 7m away, and can be increased or decreased in speed in 10 RPM increments (initially).  The manual suggests the increments are 10-15 RPMs at a time, and it seems it depends on from what speed setting you are altering from.  Low RPMs, the increment is 10 RPM, high RPMs, seems to be increments of 15.  If you hold one of the speed-change buttons down, it behaves the same as if you held down the speed change button on the front of the lathe – the changes are slow at first, then increase in the amount of change (ie you can initially see the changes are 10 RPMs, but it soon becomes 100 RPMs at a time, so you can quickly accelerate up to the lathe’s highest speeds (or decelerate from there) by holding the speed change button on.

It is important to note what manual number you get with the kits.  If they are the 119-0811-001 manuals (as mine were), these are incomplete and have errors.  Teknatool R&D have produced a much better version of each manual, with a much clearer documentation of each step, using actual photos.  I have included the latest versions (as of when this article was written) here as PDFs.

DVR Wireless Remote Manual 17.08

DVR Wireless Remote Retro Fit Kit Manual 17.08

Now I don’t know if I will always use the remote – possibly not to be honest.  If I am working near the lathe head, and have easy access to the control panel I will still use that.  However when working away from the control panel (or when I would have to reach over a spinning workpiece to reach the controls, such as outboard turning), then the remote will be a god-send.  Kinda fitting, considering Teknatool and Nova come from Godzone!

I would think this remote would be useful for instructors as well – with a younger, or less confident operator, the instructor will have the ability to remote-stop a lathe without having to hover near the control panel.

Also too for experienced operators wanting to spin up something out of balance, or possibly compromised with hidden flaws and defects.  Instead of turning on the lathe and hopefully standing out of the line of fire if something lets go, you can stand well out of the line of fire, and even at a safe distance to test the integrity of a new piece of timber.

So a cool upgrade, and easily fitted to an existing DVR XP, whether or not it is already wireless-ready.

Teknatool produced a YouTube video of the upgrade, which can also be watched below:

Nova Newsletter

Flicking through Twitter (using Flipboard on the iPad fwiw), saw a link on NOVA Woodworking’s account (@novawoodworking) about a free project plan download. Following the link took me to their latest newsletter, and there I saw some strangely familiar words. They sounded familiar that is, and being that they were mine, that shouldn’t be a surprise!

My article on the remote control for the DVR made the e-newsletter! Way cool 🙂 Now I better hurry up and write the full article on actually fitting (and using) the remote control to my DVR XP!

Teknatool eNewsletter

Teknatool eNewsletter

You can see the September newsletter here

And if you found Stu’s Shed via the newsletter, welcome 🙂

Guess that is how “Angry Simon” (aka Simon Guillot) found my site, and my associated Facebook account, and decided a long, ALL CAPS tirade was applicable. Knob.

To everyone else, welcome! There are a number of articles on this site about the very cool DVR XP, and many more to come. Got to love kiwi engineering.

Teknatool living up to its name

I don’t know the history of the name of the New Zealand company Teknatool, but if it has anything to do with technology (and innovation) and tools, then it seems pretty fitting.



The Nova DVR XP lathe I have is pretty complex – computer managed speed control, constant speed maintenance even under variable load conditions, chisel dig-in detection, and so on. The head of the lathe turns outboard allowing a decent size bowl or plate to be turned, and in a tightly packed shed like mine, this can lead to having to reach around or near the turning object to change speeds, or start/stop the lathe.

What I have now (yet to be fitted to the lathe), is a remote control, which can either be worn like a watch, or attached to the lathe or convenient nearby surface magnetically.



Wrist or magnetic mount

Wrist or magnetic mount

This remote control will allow me to start, stop and vary the lathe speed from up to about 7m away. No more reaching over the workpiece to access the controls if turning outboard, or finding myself down one end of the lathe and the controls up at the other.

The latest versions of the Nova DVR XP are wireless-ready (and have a sticker proclaiming the fact)

Remote Enabled

Remote Enabled

The Nova 2024 comes with the remote as part of the package (as far as I know).

Owners of XPs can purchase it as an optional extra. Now if you have an older Nova DVR XP which is not wireless enabled (which is my situation as well), then all is not lost. There is a retro-upgrade kit available which replaces the original control panel on the front of the lathe, which then means that wireless control can also be yours!

At this stage, it is unclear if the remote and/or upgrade kit will be available for Australian owners. When it was first announced I immediately asked CarbaTec in Melbourne if I could order one, and was told they were not going to be supplying them (and being the sole importer, that was pretty much that), but I am not sure if the position has changed. I would certainly hope so for the sake of other DVR XP owners out there (and future owners of the wireless enabled version of the DVR XP).



Retro upgrade

Retro upgrade

I haven’t had a chance to replace my existing controller as yet – been a bit busy unfortunately, but I will document the (simple) process when I do.

And then…..wireless lathe control will be mine, all mine (cue manic laugh).

cue manic laugh

cue manic laugh

Wizards and Fairies

My little princess fairy was off at her weekly ballet/tap class on Saturday, so I got an hour or so to head down to the shed for a tinker.  Wasn’t enough time to start anything serious, but I did feel like making some sawdust and the tool that is most suited to that task is the lathe.  You can be standing knee deep in shavings in no time flat!

On this day, I also wanted to do some spindle work, seeing as I had been turning a few bowls recently, so looking around I spied an offcut of Purple-heart I had kept for just an occasion.  It was about 15mm x 20mm x 400mm or so.  Squared it up on the tablesaw, then mounted it in the pin jaws of a Nova chuck, then onto the DVR with the Nova Livecentre in the tailstock.

Running the lathe at 1000RPM for a quick rough to round, then at 3000RPM for the remainder of the time, I turned something all good little wizards and princess fairies needs.

A wand.

Purpleheart Wand

Not a particularly complicated design, nor even particularly fine on the shaft (has to survive a 5 year old’s use)  Gave a little texture to the handle with a skew chisel, and used a cloth to friction-burn some details.

Interestingly, and perhaps Larry may have some more information on this point:  The timber is currently not purple (it is straight off the lathe, and yet to see sunlight to change its colour), yet where I did a light friction burn (and before the wood went black), it has come up with the distinctive purple of purpleheart.

So what is the mechanism that changes purpleheart’s colour?  Is it sunlight, or UV or similar, or is it simply the temperature?

I know it isn’t very clear here – shot on an iPhone in bad lighting.

And the reaction from the recipient?  “Wow” “A fairy wand?”  (a rather confused look appeared on her face). “Where is its star?”

Guess I should have anticipated that question from the shows she watches 🙂

Be some time before she starts watching something with a bit more punch!


Warning Signs

Hindsight is so much clearer than precognition I must say.

Back when I got my Nova lathe, I mentioned I was getting some small shocks from it.  Annoyances really.  I raised it with the Australian supplier, and that didn’t raise any warning flags either.  As it happened, I saw some tweets from Teknatool (the manufacturer) recently which promoted me to get in contact again, and they immediately responded. That was pretty impressive.

Back to earlier: in hindsight, I, or the supplier should have taken more notice of those little shocks.  You shouldn’t get shocks from an earthed machine.  I know that.  They should have.  But for some reason, I didn’t, and it went through to the keeper.

So fast forward to the present.  As soon as Teknatool heard, they got straight into contact with me, even to the extent of one of their senior engineers ringing me directly from New Zealand to get more information, and to help problem solve it.  Impressive.

Now back in time again, I had tested just how much current was passing from the lathe to the shed (and therefore what was giving me a jolt).  Now if only I had instead tested the earth at the same time, a big red flag would have gone up.  The machine was not earthed.  It is not a double insulated machine (and many of those don’t even have an earth pin): it needs a functioning earth.

I’m not criticising Teknatool / Nova here.  As I will show in the following photos, it is so easy for it to happen.  Perhaps Teknatool should actually glue the earth wire to the earth pin.  Perhaps the tester in the Chinese plant wasn’t as diligent as he should have been.  Who knows, but at some stage in transportation of the lathe, the connector came off the earth, and the tool became dangerous.

Other manufacturers could just as easily experience exactly the same problem.  And all it takes is a very quick check with a multimeter to ensure there is continuity between the earth pin on the flex, and part of the tool itself.

If it wasn’t for an idiosyncrasy of the DVR motor that caused the slight jolt I was feeling when I happened to touch the lathe and the shed (or another tool), I would never have known to even test if the earth was connected.  In the workplace, we regularly (annually) get everything tested and tagged.  Rare to do that at home!

I happen to have access to an actual megger meter so I was able to take the test one step further than simply testing the earth, and that there is no continuity between active and neutral, active and earth and neutral and earth. (All can be done with a mulitmeter.)

Under the specific guidance of the company engineer, I removed the cover from the lathe.



Bit dusty in there!  Before going any further, and it is a bit dusty, check out the awesome indexing wheel! (Sorry about the image quality – iPhone rushed shot)

Once the cover was off, time to work out where the issue is.

Well there’s your problem!  The earth wire from the chassis connection point to the back of the plug is not connected. Once I fitted it, it was obviously tight enough that it shouldn’t have come off easily.  A Chinese Friday on the Superbowl weekend perhaps?

Whatever the reason, this demonstrates that we tend to trust a tool that is new is right, especially when it works without actually checking for ourselves.  I am not condoning opening each new tool to check the wiring inside, but a simple check with a multimeter that the earth is working correctly before plugging it into the shed for the first time is simple, quick, and could potentially highlight a problem easily missed otherwise.

It is a shame basic PATs (portable appliance testers) are so expensive (around $1000).  There is no justification for them to be this much, after all they are not much more than a glorified multimeter, and a basic multimeter can be picked up for $30.  They do test other things – namely the quality of the insulation, but it shouldn’t cost an additional $970 to achieve that!

What I suggest is get yourself a basic multimeter and actually test the earth of your machines.  You may want to consider actually getting one of those testing and tagging guys to visit the shed and test and tag your machines.  Not sure what they charge at street rates – at my work I bring in external companies, and they charge between $2.20/test and $2.80.   If you consider how many tests your shed would represent, that is a pretty small number, and therefore a pretty cheap annual check that everything is still as it should be.

In this case I did have the megger meter, so ran a proper earth and insulation test. 2 ticks, 2 passes.

After all, insulation ages and cracks, rats & mice can eat through insulation, wires inside your cables can flex and break, machines vibrate, and nuts holding earthing straps on can come loose, and we do play with things that can cut cables, or have sharp edges and break a cable pulled over said edge.

Whatever the mode of failure, the older the shed, the longer it has been since things were checked, the higher the chance that something important could have been nicked, cut, snapped, worked free or perished.

Food for thought?

A day in the shed

When an opportunity come up to have a day receiving free instruction and demonstrations from one of Australia’s master woodturners, you don’t give it a pass. Today was a bit different, in that there was more than just Robbo presenting. (More on that shortly).

The last time I was in Robbo’s Workshop (Robbo’s Play Pen in his terms) was about 5 or 6 years ago, and I still remember much of what I picked up from that session, so as I sit here ready for the day to start, the anticipation can be felt around the room. A bunch of woodworkers (woodturners, primarily from the Australian Woodworking Forums) are here, each camped out on their portable chairs, obligatary morning brews in hand. At the front are a bunch of chucks, some common, some pretty unique, or old and examples of chucks no longer in common use.


Around the room, other than the 20 or so who have made the trip are some other sights you’d not see in the average woodwork shop (and this is a WORKshop, not just a backyard shed). Not one or two lathes, but 7, and two had various lengths of tree trunks mounted. One of those is a lathe with a bed over 12 m in length. No, not a typo. A 12 metre lathe!




And yes, that is a real tree trunk mounted at one end. The lathe can turn entire flagpoles, and is used for many commercial jobs. When Robbo gets going, he sometimes has a couple of blokes with shovels to gather up the shavings while he is turning, just to keep up with the waste he can generate! It is from him that I learned to enjoy high speed turning (roughing down sometimes up to 2000 RPM with a serious roughing gouge – 1 1/2″).

To stop whipping of the longest jobs (even tree trunks can exhibit it when turning between centres over that length), he has a custom-made steady. Normal units need not apply. Even typical wheels need not- by the end of a day turning, more average wheels have pretty much disintegrated. The current wheel of choice are those used in bowling alleys, in the ball return. If I’d thought of it at the time, the wheels used in escalators are also pretty durable.


Yes, the chain block is obligatory.




Before the real presentations started, there was one a single, obligatory word of advice and in Robbo’s immortal words:

“If you want to be hung from the gum tree out the front, put the coffee spoon in the sugar”


So the topic of the day was workholding on the lathe. We heard (briefly) about the history, and the simple fact that for the oldest machining method in woodworking, there is nothing new under the sun. Not until about 1980 when a certain New Zealand company produced the scroll chuck (and even then that was an adaption of an old chuck). Still, that revolutionised workholding.

For a revolutionising company, Teknatool sure suffered a lot of bagging for the rest of the day. It might have been because it is a New Zealand company, and that makes it typically fair game, but more likely because like so many others, when production was shifted offshore to China, quality ha slipped, and others have overtaken (specifically VicMarc). I haven’t had an opportunity to try their products, so can’t speak on that- all my chucks and jaws are Teknatool (Nova). Goes with my shockingly good Nova DVR (yes, still shocking, but I can’t be bothered trying to cart my 200+kg lathe back to Carbatec, nor do I want to take it apart and having it sit around for months waiting for a part that may or may not fix the problem anyway.)

Speaking of Carbatec, you could have been mistaken to think they were a Kiwi company as well if you know what I mean (not during the proceedings, but amongst some of the attendees during the breaks).

Back to the topic at hand




There were chucks, chucks, and more chucks, including eccentric, modified, and huge.


And cup chucks, but not your everyday kind. Remember what I said about treetrunks?! Between $800 and $1000 each. They also make a great gong for getting the room’s attention when hit with a hammer!

The more typical size are used for production between centres work


We were then taken through just how easy it is to make use of vacuum chucks – something I have been interested in knowing about for a while now. And surprisingly easy and cheap.



From that, we moved onto jam chucking, hot glue gun, and electrical tape.

These demos were about precision, and the work that the next turner could produce significantly justified how precise the mounting sometimes needs to be. (Ken Wraight)

From the tiniest work – and I’m talking timy details, tiny mortice and tenon joints 1mm diameter, through to some quite impressive bowls, still a whole 4mm thick ( and often 1mm thick bowls).




Discussions about securing reverse-mounting a natural-edge bowl using a jam chuck with a hot glue reinforcement.


And finally some of his other work, but I’ll leave the photos to tell the story







Inspiring? Certainly once you get past the mindblowing precision and detail of these stunning pieces.

So that was the day. Pretty interesting stuff eh 🙂

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