Super Organiser Person

After getting a good general idea of the layout recently, I had a look around the shed on Sunday, and decided that instead of just doing a general cleanup until such time as I got frustrated, I thought instead to focus on an individual area and really get it to how I want it, rather than the constant compromises.

First area attacked was around the lathe. I didn’t have time to finish, but it is a good start (and that may be subjective, but it only has to be functional in the eyes of he who will be using it!)


The chisels are finally organised, easily visible and in easy reach. A few years ago, you may remember I had a magnetic storage rail for the chisels, but I found the biggest ones (long handled ones specifically) were too heavy and slipped. So I created a stop-rail, with a coved area for each handle. I need a second magnetic strip, but the proof of concept is functional.

I used the Torque Workcentre as the easiest way for me to cut the coves, with a Carbitool router bit. It is a custom bit- Carbitool made it for a customer, and some additional ones while they had the setup. So this bit came from their sales table, just in case I found a use for it in the future. Guess I did!

The shelf doesn’t need to be load bearing- the majority of the chisel weight is carried by the magnetic rail, it is just there to discourage the chisel slipping.


The resulting cavity is perfect for the chisel handles (I’ve deliberately lifted one so you can see it!)


The earlier-created lathe jaw storage fitted in well. Now I just have to add the extra jaws to it (Cole jaws, and Soft jaws), and come up with a chuck storage (probably a shelf).

So small steps, simple solutions, functionality.

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.

Articulated Lamp

Picked up the 55W halogen articulated lamp from Carbatec, and got the optional magnetic base to go with it.

The lamp isn’t half bad- has the on/off switch directly on the back of the lamp head, and a decent wide throw which covers a decent area- certainly plenty for the lathe which is what I wanted it for.


Small photo from the Carbatec website – will get a photo of it in-situ next time I am out in the shed.

As much as the lamp is great for the lathe, the magnetic base is a complete joke. Magnetic – hmm, that is questionable- I can get a better magnet by making it at home with a piece of ferrous metal and belting it with a hammer. Perhaps I should use that concept on the ‘magnetic’ base! It wasn’t strong enough to hold the lamp on a flat horiontal surface without being extended, let alone if the lamp was extended or attempted to be fitted to the side of the machine.

So to summarise, lamp good 🙂 optional magnetic base, bad 😦

Episode 83 Nova DVR XP

Episode 83 Nova DVR XP
This is NOT a video about good lathe technique! It is a bit of a look at how good the DVR XP is in the hands of an amateur.

Attending Hogwarts

As Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermoine Granger have been learning over the years, simply being a wizard does not result in quality magic, unless there is plenty of practice, trial and error, and the Beall Pen Wizard from Carrolls is no different.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I haven’t had a chance to play with the Beall for a little while, so I was really happy to get it out for some trials and tests today, to start properly building an understanding of how it works.

I deliberately did not have any pens to test on – I wanted to concentrate on the Beall, and not waste time turning pens that I’d then want finished properly, and not just used for trials.  So instead, I have a length of dowel that I cut to pen-blank lengths, and drilled a hole for the pen mandrel and got into trying the Beall out.

If you have a bit of a mechanical mind, the Beall offers lots of possibilities.  With various gears and gear combinations possible, it will bring out the inner meccano engineer in any woodworker!  Its fun playing with all the different settings and combinations, but what’s even more impressive, is by changing the cutter, varying the depth of cut, changing the angle of approach of the cutter (top vs side of the pen, creating flats vs grooves), use (or otherwise) of the guilloche attachment (for wavy/sine wave patterns), and the reversing gear which is part of the gearbox, each gear ratio setting can produce a myriad of designs.  The total number of different designs is staggering.

I wasn’t worried about the quality of the finish at all – the dowel is pretty ordinary timber, unfinished and not sanded.  The point was to start discovering how to control the Beall, the various settings, and not producing a quality finish/result.  There is plenty of time for that, and better to learn how to use the machine properly, rather than trying to run before walking.  The first couple of pens I did a ways back did work out pretty well, but now I wanted to know how to reconfigure the gearbox etc. and get the most out of the ornamental lathe.

Just some of the different results without changing the gear settings at all (other than removal of the guilloche attachment), and three different cutters.

For much of the session, I used the Dremel with the flex shaft, but decided I actually preferred the Dremel directly attached to the Wizard.  The thread in the holding plate matches that of the Dremel – one of the reasons I got it, and it feels a lot more stable that way.  Let alone having better access to the on/off switch and speed control.

So a successful little session, and again putting the new workbench to good use.  Now I just need some form of height adjustable bar stool!

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.

Great Pens of Fire!

A few months ago, Rockler released a new set of laser-cut pen blank kits which I mentioned here.  I was fortunate to be able to get hold of one, and I’ve been waiting for a chance to actually try the kit out.  There are lots of small parts, and plenty of assembly required before turning begins (and it is not a job to rush).

The Kit

The kit itself looks exciting (and looking at the components, you can see why you might be a bit nervous to start).  The smoke pieces are like fully burn matches (and you feel might be as weak as a burnt match).  The components are very clever – the black pieces are a full ring (as with the flame), but they are cut so they can be assembled.  A couple would not fit, and I finally determined that they hadn’t been cut apart (I could see where they should be separated), and it took only a little coaxing with a blade to separate the pieces.

Burning Detail

Amazing detail – a stunning component.

Completing the Jigsaw

I took my time, and got the pieces together, and was worried about the gaps, but trusted to the design so carried on to see what the result would be.  The pen was then secured with rubber bands, then flooded with superglue along each crack, allowing it to wick right into the joints.  You don’t bother trying to keep the superglue off the rubber bands – they will get cut away when turning begins.

Glued, Ready for Turning

I sanded the ends down to the length of the brass after this (staged) photo, then sharpened the chisel I planned on using, even to the extent of touching up the cutting edge with diamond stones.  This blank is a one-off – there is no second chance if there is a catch because of blunt tools.  I took the turning very slow (the lathe was running around 2200RPM, but I was very slow and careful with how much material was removed at any time.)  As material was carved away, I would stop and check if there were any gaps that needed filling, and used CA (with accelerator) where some appeared.  This was because at some points the CA hadn’t fully penetrated at the glueup, so stabilising it as I went worked very well.

I started using the PS Tools lathe, but found as I got close I wasn’t sure if it was the lathe that wasn’t set up fully, or that I hadn’t placed the mandrel properly.  Checking the alignment of head and tail stock showed very good alignment, so it was more likely me.  However, this blank was too important, so changed over to my other lathe that I knew was set up and ready.  If it was any other pen etc, I’m sure with cleaning any dust off the morse taper and sticking with the PS Tools lathe would have worked well.  I really liked the variable speed aspect of the lathe, and really, while turning I was quite happy with the lathe.  I’ll give it another go with a less important project, and fully expect it to come through well.

After turning, I finished off with some various grit chisels – from 180 right through to 1500.  I normally don’t go that far, but again, a special pen demands extra attention.  Still, I kept focus on not allowing the pen to overheat during sanding.  An exploding pen at this point would be disaster.  Following the sanding came the finishing, and I stuck with what has been working well for me – CA finish.  20 layers of CA, polished to a superb, and durable gloss.

I have taken to running a razor around at the edge of the pen – between the pen and the bush to aid separation.  Once I remove the bush, I immediately lightly sand the ends to remove any overhanging CA.  I’ve had it happen in the past that the slightest overhang causes a fracture of the surface of the finish.

The Stunning Result

I went with a gunmetal finish Sierra – seemed fitting. I am very pleased with the final product, it took easily three times as much work to get it done, but it was a pleasure to do.  I spent a long time wondering how it would go, and it was a real relief how it did work out.  The dark pieces were not as fragile as they looked, and the gaps I was worried about vanished during the turning and finishing.  And interestingly, the black….isn’t.  It has beautiful wood grain, again that I wasn’t expecting.  It is an incredible blank, and I imagine the other designs are the same.


So there you have it.  If you are looking for a pen significantly above and beyond the typical, then one of the laser cut designs from Rockler definitely fit the bill. Amazing.

%d bloggers like this: