Brief Update

Not much to show, or rather there is, but I want to do a big cleanup before doing the final reveal.

All the trunking in the main shed is complete, with all the machines I intended to connect into the 4″ collection system done, with blast gates isolating any machine not in use so there isn’t unnecessary loss of suction.

At the end of the process, I can only reiterate that

1. It is much harder to retrofit a dust system to a shed in use, especially when it is rather packed with stuff.  On the other hand, at least I knew where each machine would be located!

2. The Carbatec Kit worked well, although I probably could have made my life easier with a second, rather than trying to combine the kit with the 100mm stormwater fittings and pipes I have been using in the past.  A pity there are no converter pieces to allow moving from one system to the other easily. However, with a bit of fudging I have gotten away with using a combined system.  I also found that there were enough of some fittings for what I needed, there were some I ran well short of, especially the joiners, and there is no way currently of buying them separately.  I guess the kit was actually designed for a simple, minimal run, not the extensive one I’ve come up with (and having only 1 90 degree bend and 3 blast gates supports this). It takes a lot of fittings to get a dust system to actually fit in with a real shed, rather than some optimum, theoretical one.

3. The Rockler blast gate mounts are brilliant – no two ways about it.  Combining them with some basic U clamps to provide rigidity where I wasn’t using a blast gate has resulted in a system that feels very secure.

The next step for me will be getting the trunking from one shed to the other (a matter of a big hole), then finally joining it to the 2HP dust extractor.

Finally, once I have the system up and running, fitting my remote starter to the dust extractor.  Seems a way to go still.  And of course, I still have to try to restore some semblance of order to the shed again!

Hopefully this layout is again an overall improvement, and will stay in commission for a while longer.  What it has replaced had become very disrupted with the many layout changes. At least a great deal of the previous system was able to be reused.

Once the main shed is a little neater, I’ll give you a final tour of the new system, and we will finally get to test some of the assumptions I’ve had to make along the way (especially where I’ve gone overhead – still have no idea how that will work!)

Deconstructing the Dust Kit

When I saw the kit for the new Carbatec dust collection system (and the clear tube setup), it wasn’t going to be long before I was fitting it to the shed.  And the timing is rather appropriate – the system needed a revamp with the various item moves that have been happening.  A dust system needs to be flexible, both to deal with vibration and minor machine moves as well as being able to be reconfigured with minimal fuss when a new arrangement is required.

I use flexible hose in some cases to maximise the flexibility of the system, but it does result in quite a bit of suction loss so where I can I use straight tubes, with flexible pieces near couplings.

In the new Carbatec kit are a who swag of connections

What's in the box?

T sections, 90 degree corners, 45s, blast gates, adapter rings, mounts and 8m of clear tube

Curves, Corners, Clamps and Clear Stuff

It would do a small setup, but mine isn’t small!  I’m going to use the clear trunking where it is sensible to determine that flow is occurring (and showing where there are blockages), so for the long, straight runs it makes sense.

Extra accessories acquired

The reconfiguration will also include the blast gate mounts I got from Rockler early this year, and reusing some of the PVC downpipe I have been using in the shed until now.  The dust collector is again in the lower shed, and so I am back to the old problem: how to remotely start and stop it, given that it has a no-volt release on the switch, and the branded remote control is over $300.  I don’t want to have to go into the second shed just to start the collector, and I don’t want to have to do something like have a broom handle passing from one shed to the other to try to hit the start (like a ‘remote control’ from one of those US sitcoms, or cartoon shows)!

Starting the refit

I’ve started at the tablesaw, and I am trying to do each part of the setup just that little better.  The previous setup design was good, but having the tube running along the ground meant it has always been a bit in the way.  Lifting it up to just below the table means it is out of the way for storage under the tablesaw wing (and is the level I want for the tubing for the rest of the run).

Rockler Blast Gate Mount

I’ve screwed one of the blast gate mounts directly to the back of the tablesaw.  This specific gate at the back of the saw will normally remain shut – it allows access to the length of tube at the back of the saw in even of blockages, and also to plug in flexible hose for cleaning up that end of the shed (and I suspect I will still use a temporary run to the jointer, rather than try to run a full length of tube across the entire shed just to get its waste!

More to come as I progress the system.

The Cookie Monster

Those who have been following this blog would have seen and heard about the Rockler Bench Cookies, but in Australia getting hold of them required purchasing from the USA.

I even tried to get Rockler to consider me making them available but that didn’t come to anything either.

So it looks like Australian woodworkers will just have to do without……or will they?

Rockler have been making the Bench Cookies in other colours, and with other brandings, including Bench Dog, and it so happens that Professional Woodworkers Supplies can now provide Bench Cookies under the Bench Dog brand – $27.50 inc GST.

Bench Cookies

So if you were ever wanting THE item from the last AFWS in Las Vegas, they are now here and available!

Click here for my previous Bench Cookie article, and here is a quick video I shot about them on what sounds like a very rainy night, back almost exactly 12 months ago:

The Camera is Mightier than the Pen

With the upcoming Carbatec pen demo (31 July), I have been giving some thought to the whole pen-turning process, and just what equipment I use these days when making a pen.

Before I start (and you may have already glanced ahead at the collection of photos), remember that pen turning is a good beginner exercise, and as such you do not need such a collection of tools to produce a pen.  They help obviously, but are not mandatory.

Even the lathe is optional. You can turn a pen using other means, the primary alternative being the humble drill press.  You don’t even need turning chisels – many a pen has been made using a sharpened screwdriver.

Mini Lathe

A lathe makes life a lot easier of course.  I haven’t used a dedicated pen lathe, but my feeling is they would be too underpowered to really be effective.  You can use a belt-driven one or variable speed – I tend to run it flat out for pen turning, so that makes the decision rather moot.  I have a mini lathe, but it would be no issue using a larger lathe as well.  So long as the lathe is accurate (the two ends (head and tail stock being directly in line).

Variable Speed Mini Lathe

A variable lathe does have the advantage when dealing with larger, or more out-of-round blanks – being able to change speed easily without having to move belts between pulleys.

Drill Press

A drill press can substitute as mentioned – turning the pen vertically rather than horizontally. It also is particularly useful for drilling the centre of the blank to insert the brass tube core. This drill press has the laser attachment for centering the bit on the blank.


A bandsaw is useful for easily trimming the blanks and can also be used to knock the corners off before turning if the blank material is prone to chipping/splitting during the initial turning to round.

It also has a major advantage in preparing blanks – scavenging materials from offcuts, resawing dried branches/logs etc.  You can take a lump of timber full of defects and still extract plenty of material for pens.  If you ever get into segmented turning (and yes, you can do segmented pens), then the bandsaw becomes critical. Not sure where the photos of my harlequin pen have gone…

Harlequin Pen

…..found a poor version back from about 2006.  Made from Red-gum, Pittosperum and Purpleheart. I only made the bottom half of the pen in harlequin – wasn’t happy with the result to justify continuing this experiment, but the principle is valid.

I also made this slimline for an informal pen comp where the theme was cross.

Cross Pen

I went with a traditional cross, with the obvious religious overtones. So I decided to take the photo on the woodworker’s bible (no insult intended).

Disk Sander

I find I use a disk sander for some jobs as well – trimming the ends of a blank down close to the length of the brass insert ready for the pen mill.  It isn’t particularly critical – I use it because it is available, and convenient.

Spindle Gouge

As far as turning tools, you can go the whole hog – roughing gouges, skews, gouges.  For a long time this was the only one I needed – a basic spindle gouge.  Used it for roughing and finishing, and details.

Detailed Pen

Captive Ring Pen

Even with a pen, you are only limited by imagination.  The captive ring was made by taking a very cheap skew and sharpening it to a much longer point so it could reach right under the ring as it was forming.  You can buy dedicated captive ring chisels – never tried one (yet), but the basic tool still achieved a perfectly good ring.

Hamlet Mini Turning Chisels

For very fine detail, a set of mini turning chisels can be quite effective, but again not critical – I got these more for dollhouse furniture than pen turning.

Wood Pen Blanks

The blanks themselves can be either timber, acrylic, bone, horn, metal (cartridge) etc etc.

Acrylic Blanks

Acrylics are interesting to work with, producing some quite colourful results, but I never feel like the pen is fully my own, and it won’t until I get into producing my own acrylic blanks.  This isn’t too difficult, but I need to learn how it is done so I can really feel like some of  these pens are really fully my own creation.

Laser Cut Blank

You can get very elaborate with blanks.  This for example is a laser cut kit from Rockler, and is a development of the segmented turning concept.  Pens made from these sorts of kits are also very interesting, but you are nervous the entire construction because of the cost of the ‘blank’ (around $US50 for this one, and the one below).

Fire Pen

My Shopping Trip to Rockler

So I guess some of you would be curious what I got from Rockler!

Bench Cookie Storage Rack

The storage rack was unlikely to be available in time, but there they were, so that is what came home, including enough cookies to fill it.

Dust Right Handle

I did end up getting the handle,

Betsy Ross Pen Kit

and the Besty Ross Pen Kit

Incra V120 Mitre Gauge

The V120 was selling for $US50 (about $A55) so I definitely grabbed one at that price.

Tormek BGM-100

I got the BGM-100 mount to allow the Tormek jigs to be used on the high speed grinder.

Blast Gate Mounting Bracket

And 2 boxes of the Blast Gate Mount

Blast Gate Mounting Bracket

Finally, the one thing I was hoping to get was the Tormek 4000 grit grinding wheel for the T7

Unfortunately, this wasn’t in stock (rats).  I had even made sure I had sufficient baggage weight to cope with it.  Oh well, another time!

A Random Assortment of Rockler

Bit of a random assortment of things I saw at Rockler, Denver.

First thing is some of the construction happening from one of the courses. This box has something a lot more significant to it than the construction. The timber is something special, but in a sad sort of way.

Pine Beetle Carried Blue Fungus

Due to a number of factors, including the unusually warm average temperature, a certain beetle that does normally exist in the environment has reached significantly high (and destructive) levels. They bore into the bark of the tree, and along with the damage they do, they are introducing a fungus, and that is blocking nutrient flow through the tree, and commonly results in the tree becoming effectively ring-barked, and the death of the tree.

The fungus causes a unique blue colouring to the timber (a bit hard to pick from the photo). The woodworker for this box is accentuating it by using a turquoise-coloured filler for the knots and elsewhere it is needed.

Why this event is significant, is it isn’t taking out the occasional tree. It is taking out entire forests around Colorado.

Board-Foot Calculator closeup

This device is so simple, and so clever. It is used to calculate the volume of a piece of timber. By placing the plank (etc) up against the top left corner, and reading the figure the lower right corner of the plank touches, you immediately know how many board-feet the timber is. This is assuming the board is 1” thick. If it is 2”, simply double the result and so on. This same principle could be equally applied to metric systems of measurement.

In the photo below, you get a better idea the size of measuring tool. I really like the simplicity of this tool – no need to individually measure the dimensions and multiply to find the result.

Board-Foot Calculator

These are downstairs, along with the extra timber supplies.

Wall Mountable Blast Gate

These blast gates were new to me – not that I haven’t seen, or used 4” blast gates, but these can be mounted directly to the wall or roof, and that I thought was a brilliant addition to the standard gate. Now if, like me you already have a stack of blast gates, you are not going to want to replace them all with these. So you can purchase the adapter (numbered “2” in the photo), and your standard blast gate fits it, and the same clamps that hold the flex tube to the blast gate also holds the blast gate to this fitting.  They can be purchased individually or by the box of 4 (I bought 2 boxes!)

A Small Slab

Some small slabs they have.

Dust Right

The Dust Right system is interesting, in that it is a fully expandable system, from the dust collector itself, the tubes and fittings.

Visiting the (Rockler) Candy Store

I have thrown a bunch of photos into a YouTube video (SSYTC23), as it seemed I had more than was reasonable to fit in an article.  If you watch the higher res version, the photos should look pretty clear.

Got there reasonably early – one of the regulars here (Ken) picked me up which was appreciated! We met up with the Assistant Manager, Curt, who kindly gave us a comprehensive look around Rockler, Denver

Stu visits Rockler!

The store had quite a few people shopping the whole time we were there, and the fact that Denver is significantly smaller than Melbourne (about 4 million for Melbourne, 2.5 million for Denver) it goes to show quite a difference in the sorts of stores the two cities potentially can support.

The big differences are on a number of approaches.  Rocker (Denver) has a significant training facility downstairs, which is regularly used for club meetings and training events.  They have a separate training room and lecture room, so the place can handle some pretty significant course and meeting events.

Lecture-style area

Training Room

The Training room had a 1/2 dozen or so of those Jet lathes you can see to the right, and has courses on all sorts of topics, including finishing, pen making, bandsawn boxes, carpentry and cabinetry.

A couple of days before I arrived, they had a presentation by the inventor of the CNC Shark – that would have been an interesting one!

Belt Sander Racing

I spotted this in one of the rooms downstairs, and apparently it gets used reasonably regularly – the belt sander racing track (and Rockler’s entry to the races).  The track is stacked in sections if that makes it clearer.  If the US can do it, surely we could have a belt sanding racing league down under?  Think it’d be great as a carpark event at a store as Rockler do, and/or at the wood shows!

Sailing to the Temptation Isles

Upstairs there is an amazing assortment of product lines, and a strong emphasis on the smaller items – there were no large tools on display, and it was more consumables, jigs, jig creating hardware, project hardware etc.  A massive router bit collection, and the new quadra-cut router bits from Freud.  These are quite interesting in that they have 2 main cutters, at a positive rake angle, then 2 minor (much smaller) blades at a negative rake, to remove any feathering that occurs when routing cross-grain.  These blades are much smaller, as you don’t need the treatment over the whole cut area, only where the feathering is most likely to occur.

Timber Collection

There was a wide assortment of interesting and exotic timbers, and a massive range of pen blanks.

Rocker also sell Festool, although strangely I couldn’t buy any 4mm dominos – they were withdrawn from sale at the store for a lack of sales, so not sure what Denver woodworkers who want to use 4mm dominos are expected to do!

Pen Turning Heaven

A few bits n pieces

So that is a quick look around the Rockler store – sorry to all those in Oz who are now cursing me getting to one!

And finally (or firstly), at the entrance to the store, we have just a small collection of

Bench Cookies!

So that is a quick look around the store – don’t forget to check out SSYTC23 for more photos.

I’ll talk about what I was tempted by in the next article!  You can see the online Rockler store here, and by using this link to the store, you are also supporting Stu’s Shed (cool huh 🙂 )

So a big thanks to Curt (and Rich whom I didn’t get to meet), and my ‘driver’, Ken

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