Tool Mounting and more TWC Mods

After raising the MDF (sacrificial) tabletop on the Torque Workcentre to the height of the cast iron router table, I was finally at the point that I could consider the best way to attach the Incra LS Positioner which is secure, easily removed and doesn’t consume too much of the TWC working area.  More on that later, but it came up that I needed some holes drilled, and given I hadn’t actually tried out the X-Y radial arm drill concept of the TWC, this was the perfect opportunity.

Saw Mount Removed

Step one was removing the router (which happens to still be using the circular saw mount).  I had already taken off the router for another job, and removed the copy attachment, so all that was left was the saw mount itself.  It is retained with a single hex bolt.  There are two locating/indexing pins either side which prevent the mount from rotating around the central bolt.

Tool Mount Indexing System

It is a very simple concept, with the bolt passing through the carriage into a threaded hole in the tool mount.  The locating pins can be easily seen here.

Drill Mount and Indexing Detail

Next, the drill mount is simply screwed into position.

X-Y Radial Arm Drill

And there you have it – as easy as anything – an X-Y radial arm drill. It has significant range, and sadly, even the amount of plunge available puts my dedicated drill press to shame. I am seriously tempted to think about the laser currently located on the drill press, whether it would be even better relocated to the Torque.  I probably won’t, but it bears consideration.

As a drill press, this works very well, and if you want significant height, this has more capacity than a typical dedicated drill press.  Never mind the massive 900mm (or even 1300mm) distance from the drill bit to the upright.  Find a drill press ANYWHERE that has that range!!!!  The drill has X, Y, Z movements, as well as rotation around all three axis. Unbelievable range of movements really (and that range is the same for the router obviously).

Perfectly Aligned Holes

With the aid of a ruler to ensure distance between hole centres remained consistent, these holes are in a perfect line.  As you’d expect, I’m looking at ways to be able to do something like this sans ruler- most likely using some of the Incra rails.

Optimum Incra Fence Mounting Solution

This is what the holes are for – securing down the Incra Positioner.  One idea I had was to use T Nuts secured to the underside, and these threaded knobs from the top.  Unfortunately I didn’t have nuts that had threads that matched the knobs, so in the meantime I have used some standard bolts from underneath.  Looking at this photo now while writing the article, and I am starting to wonder if I still even need this anodised piece at all, or whether I should instead consider returning to Incra’s original intention – to have the actual positioner secured down directly.  Hmm – even more thought required!

Safety Power Switch

Onto a mod directly on, and for the TWC. I originally had the intent to use this switch (originally a Triton switch) for the router table (affixed to the right end of my TWC, and has the Incra Fence discussed above), but as I recently mentioned, I instead went for the Pro Switch sold by Professional Woodworkers Supplies that has a no-current release built in.  I was using the drill on the TWC, and a thought crossed my mind (again) that it would be nice to have a convenient place to plug the different tools into.  My first thought was to mount a power board, until my glance happened upon my Triton switches. Hmm – easy to plug each tool into as it is mounted to the TWC, the ability to turn the tool on by whatever means, then a single, consistent place to start and stop it, and as an added safety benefit, the ability to knee, nudge, kick (whatever) the switch off while both hands are supporting the workpiece and/or tool.  Perfect!

Switch Location on Arm Support

The switch is mounted on the lower support arm (as can be seen), so it is about thigh-height.  It travels up and down the x-axis with the tool, so is always in optimum position to be able to kill the tool when required.

Don’t be concerned about the messy background – partly it is flash shadow, partly they are cables I need to find more permanent arrangements.  I’m considering the main power cable to be run between two pulleys, with a light weight between to take up slack as the arm is slid along the x-axis.

Improving Dust Collection Efficiency

When installing a dust collection system, you’ve spent good money on the biggest collector you can afford, and then are trying to get it to maximise its range to collect from as many machines as possible over the longest distance needed to maintain the shop’s machine layout.

One very common aspect of this is to install blast gates so that machines that are not currently being used are not unnecessarily having air drawn from them, decreasing the amount of suction at the tool in use.  There are a number of different blast gates available, with one of the most common ones on the market being the plastic 4″ – 4″ blast gate.  They are a low cost solution that seemingly works well in shops across the country, and world (I guess).

Don’t know who designed the original, that is now so often copied, but all I can say is…. it’s bloody stupid!

The problem: the bottom corners of the gate (in the channel where the gate itself slides) quickly get filled with crap, and once that happens and the shavings / dust etc get packed in there, the gate cannot ever close properly again, leaving a permanent leak through every gate that is (theoretically) closed.

Original, Clogged Blast Gate

Original, Clogged Blast Gate

Here is a very typical blast gate, and in the very typical state of being so blocked in the lower corners that this is as much as it can close.  Looking at the opening this leaves, you can see that it wouldn’t take too many gates in this state that the amount of leakage would add up to being the equivalent of a fully open gate. A complete waste of suction.

One tip I’ve come across in the past, is to cut off those lower two corners, so the gate effectively becomes self-cleaning.  When the gate is closed, the slide blocks the resulting holes.  When it is open, there is a minor additional leakage caused, but nothing like the loss from a single, unmodified closed gate.

Modified, and properly closed again

Modified, and properly closed again

Here you can see the protruding corners of the blast gate slide.

Exposed corner

Exposed corner

And the small hole that now exists in the corners.

I’m not sure if this mod is the best way (or the neatest) – I’m sure I saw (or at least read) about this mod in a mgazine somewhere!

So that is the basic concept to the modification, and it does work.  However, it isn’t the neatest version, and so my amendment to the concept is to drill the corners out, allowing the slide to continue to push dust clear, but better maintaining the overall physical (and visual) integrity of the blast gate.

During the drilling of the corner, the dust that is packed in the corner is immediately apparent.

Dust Packed Corner

Dust Packed Corner

I’m much happier with this second version.  Also because it is my take on the idea, rather than a copy of someone else’s (although I’ll be stunned stupid if I’m the only one to have ever thought of it!!)

Modified Blast Gate (V2)

Modified Blast Gate (V2)

Tacking on a Laser

In recent times, it has become quite a fad to take a tool and whack a laser into it as if that will make it a better tool.  For some tools, this is just plain silly – a jigsaw with a laser for example makes a mockery of a potentially quality tool.  Some tools (like jigsaws, bandsaws etc) track (cut at an angle) – that is their nature, and there are a variety of reasons why that is so.  What it means though is they will never follow a laserline, so it is pointless having one.

However, and this is a big HOWEVER!, there are tools that can really benefit from the use of a laser to not so much improve their accuracy (although this can be the case) but to significantly improve their ease of use.  The drill press is definitely a tool that falls into this category.  Of course, you don’t need a laser to make accurate use of the tool – I’m certainly not claiming that, but I had a job just recently where I wished I had a laser positioner on the drill press.  I was using a forstner bit, and I wanted it to be precisely centred on a mark, and in the end I had to guess that I was close enough.  I’d rather not have to guess!

Now you don’t have to go out and buy a new drill press (and really, there are not many that come with a built-in laser).  Instead, there is a very easy retro-fit that takes a whole 15 minutes to accurately fit and align. The unit comes from Professional Woodworkers Supplies and costs $140.  It is powered by a single 9v battery.

Now I know that all sound like a typical sales review, but I do know there is a lot of resistance out there in certain corners to lasers in woodworking, and the inappropriate implementation in some instances has tainted the technology in other areas, so I wanted to justify the viewpoint.

Laser Kit Components

Laser Kit Components

The kit comes with the laser module, a couple of different size hose clamps (for different size drill press posts), a hex key, an alignment bar, and some easy-to-follow instructions.

Fitting the Hose Clamp

Fitting the Hose Clamp

The hose clamp feeds through a couple of slots in the back of the unit, the V shape of the unit means it centres on the drill press post when the clamp is tightened.

The two lasers are adjustable to ensure they are vertical, and also so they meet at a specific point.

Laser Mounted to Drill Press Post

Laser Mounted to Drill Press Post

Laser mounted.  It is completely out of the way, so will not interfere with drill press operation when the laser is not required, and the retro-fit is completely reversable.

Laser in Operation

Laser in Operation

It’s a bit hard to see in the photo (the camera doesn’t see the laser as easily as the eye), but the laser is now centred directly below the centrepoint of the drill chuck.  In this photo, you can also see the alignment bar mounted in the chuck.  It has a vertical slot cut for the first part of the laser alignment, and then the end point of the bar is used to mark a point that the lasers are aligned so they cross precisely at that point.

Total operation, including laser alignment was only 15 minutes (and that included following the laser alignment instructions and taking the photos!)

It is not something I will use for every hole, but it is going to be indespensible when I do need it and who know, I may find that I start using it every time I use the drill press!

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