Preparing Timber – Resaw (part a)

Over the course of a number of posts (not necessarily consecutive), we will follow a piece of timber through a whole range of machining and processing steps, until it becomes a finished product.  You may not need all the steps – it depends on your particular source of timber for one.

Sourcing timber is always a bit problematic, and I will be looking further into the whole timber supplier thing later on.

Unless you have purchased a kitset (and even then in some cases), timber does not come in any sort of finished state, and particularly a dimensioned state ready for your project.  Even if it is sold as DAR (dressed all round), you can be pretty sure it will have twists, warps, cupping etc, even on a minor scale.  Perhaps difficult to pick up while shopping, but painfully obvious in the final project if not dressed properly before it is used.

However, first things first. If timber is too thick (or if you want bookmatched boards), the ability to resaw timber (which can be considered to be taking a board and splitting it into two thinner boards) is an incredibly liberating function.  You are not restricted to the thickness of boards you buy (or having to resort to wasting to sawdust good timber), or even if you are provided/manage to scavenge branches and sections of tree trunk, you have the ability to turn them into useable, rough-sawn boards ready for drying and processing.

The tool to achieve this is one of the most valuable in the woodworking workshop, and one of the most versatile: the bandsaw.

This is not what I’d call a (and apologies if anyone gets upset by this) toy bandsaw 8″- 10″ (and smaller) – you need something with a bit of power, and the capacity to take a reasonable blade, and they don’t start until you get into the 14″+ size.  There will be some who’d still call these toys until you hit at least 24″, but a 14″ bandsaw should be able to resaw a 12″ diameter log.

This does get into bandsaw sizing, and when you first come across the bandsaw, you’d think the size (8″, 12″, 14″ etc) refers to the resaw height – the depth of cut.  It actually refers to the diameter of the bandsaw wheel (at least on a 2 wheel bandsaw), which dictates the maximum throat depth.

Depth of Cut vs Depth of Throat

What I have found in the past, is (as a general rule) the smaller bandsaws have real tracking difficulties – not only in following a line, but also in simply keeping the blade running on the wheels.

A bandsaw blade needs a fair amount of tension to work properly, and the little bandsaws just cannot get the blade tight enough, which makes them worse than useless.  I’m sure if you pay good money that there will be small bandsaws that can do a good job, but if you are forking out $100 – $200 (or less!), then you might be better saving your money.

My current bandsaw is the 17″ one seen above.  I still have a 14″ Jet which I am still very fond of – with the 6″ riser block, the Jet is capable of resawing 12″, and still has a reasonable throat.  This 17″ one does pick up some things that make my life a lot easier.  The tension wheel is underneath the top wheel (hard to see in the photo), and is at a good working height to crank the tension on easily.  Both this, and the Jet have a quick tension release, and both can take a reasonable resaw blade.  3/4″ for the Jet, 1″ for the Carbatec.

Blade Comparison

A bandsaw may come with a single blade, but it most certainly should not be the only blade you own.  In fact you should be seriously considering changing blades for each job you do (assuming they are inherently different tasks).  A blade that may be suitable for cutting tight circles (such as the 1/4″ 10 TPI blade seen fitted here) is completely unsuitable for cutting through thick timber, where you have a much deeper depth-of-cut, or for resawing.  The other blade seen here is my primary resaw blade.  1″ across, 3 TPI, it will not leave anywhere near as smooth a finish as the small blade, it cannot go around a corner (well about as well as a bus can, compared to a mini!), but it can handle significant blade tension, will stay very straight during the cut (including not bowing, so the cut remains vertical, and flat!), and won’t result in burning as it has significant chip clearing capacity.

I’d suggest having 3-4 blades of different widths, and different teeth counts to cover the range of typical tasks.  The blade that came with the saw you can keep (put aside), and use it for jobs where you wouldn’t want to subject a good blade to, such as sand-encrusted timber, aluminium etc.  (Yes, cutting aluminium on a bandsaw is a perfectly reasonable task, as is plastic).

The bandsaw is, in my opinion one of the safest cutting tools in the workshop – certainly much safer than the tablesaw, SCMS, or router table.  You can still do significant damage to oneself if not careful, but it is a tool I’m more comfortable in using (standard guards and safety gear all still bought into play of course).  The cut direction is down, into the table so work is much less likely to be thrown at you, and if there is a failure (such as a broken blade), it doesn’t fly around the workshop and instead simply stops moving.

You can still cut yourself though – no tool can be used with impunity.  A bandsaw has teeth, and any tool with teeth is designed to eat.  If it has no trouble with hard timber, then your hand/arm/body will prove no problem if you happen to offer it up as a sacrifice.

So the bandsaw – one of my must-have workshop tools.  Whether it is for resawing

Resawing

or scrollsawing,

Scrollsawing

circle cutting (as will be covered in the next edition of ManSpace magazine)

Circle Cutting

Circle Cutting

or anything in between, it is often going to prove to be the go-to-tool.  In this case, (for the purposes of this article), its ability to break down logs and resaw boards is invaluable in the workshop.

Making Wooden Chess Sets

I have quite a collection of woodworking books, many being different plans and projects I’m hoping to aspire to create one day. (And yes, there are one or two workbench plans in the collection!)  One book I came across recently which looked interesting was this one:

Wooden Chess Sets You Can Make

The plans are designed for the scrollsaw, and are three-dimensional (also known as compound cut patterns) – the plans are designed to be cut from both the front and side. These can be symmetrical or asymmetrical, depending on the piece.

Tool Chess Set

This is one of the chess sets in the book – a set of woodworking tools (although I’m not sure how the pliers fit the theme so well), and was the main reason I wanted it.  I guess not many people have tried this design (I haven’t….yet), as the only picture I could find of the set on the web was on the ScrollingandBeyond.com website, (who sell the chess sets from this book already made.)

Excalibur Scroll Saw EX21

This article of mine was first published late last year in The Australian Wood Review, and so I can now reprint it here on Stu’s Shed (as per a specific arrangement with AWR).

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It is a well-known aphorism that first-impressions count, and both the designers, and manufacturers of the Excalibur EX21 Scroll saw knew this very, very well.

A scroll saw is not something that needs to look like a prop from Star Trek, or  encased in plastic to such a degree it disguises its real form. This scroll saw looks, and feels serious, and it has a price tag to prove it.  The whole unit has a very utilitarian design:  you need a flat working surface, so there’s a large flat surface of plate steel.  A frame and base – more plate steel bolted together.  A rack and pinion system to make angled cuts – even more plate steel.  The machine is solid, and well engineered.

Excalibur

Excalibur

For angled cuts, the EX21 uses the same concept as a increasing number of scroll saws, in that it tilts the blade (and mechanism) over, rather than angling the base.  From an operator’s point of view, this means your workpiece remains on a large horizontal work surface providing ideal access and control, even when performing cuts up to 45 degrees to either side.

Angled Cuts

Angled Cuts

To tilt the assembly over, the EX21 uses not one, but two rack and pinion mechanisms at either end of the tool so the mechanism is smooth and solid.

Rack and Pinion Mechanism

Rack and Pinion Mechanism

Underside Showing Tilt Mechanism Rod

Underside Showing Tilt Mechanism Rod

The motor protrudes out of the side of the tool, and connects directly into the oscillating mechanism, rather than relying on belts to transfer the power from the motor. The motor is also direct current, so it retains full torque throughout the variable speed range of 400 – 1550 strokes / minute.

Protruding Motor

Protruding Motor

Direct Drive

Direct Drive

If you strip a scroll saw down to its fundamental principle, it is to take a fine blade, and oscillate it rapidly up and down, and even here the EX21 is a superior machine.  The drive is transferred to the blade via a twin parallel link drive, so instead of having a long arm top and bottom that oscillates (and due to that length sacrifices a huge amount of the power developed by the motor in getting it to the blade), this has two links – one for the top of the blade, one for the bottom that delivers the power right to the end of the arm before it is converted at that point through a couple of very short arms to produce the oscillating blade.

Upper Blade Arms

Upper Blade Arms

The actual speed of oscillations is the same as other machines, but the difference in developed power is substantial.  For an operator, this means a difference between stalling the machine, or having it to continue cutting even in trying circumstances (such as thick stock (up to 53mm), and/or tight corners) and in difficult timbers.  Also, it is claimed to reduce overall vibration of the machine, and while this is true throughout the majority of the oscillating speeds, vibration became quite noticeable at the highest speed settings.  Having the scroll saw clamped down to a solid bench, or the separately available stand should reduce that considerably.

A obviously common task when using a scroll saw is changing the blade, and particularly feeding the blade into the middle of a pattern for an internal cut.  The blade clamping mechanism and independent tensioning mechanism makes this task a breeze.  The overall blade tension is set by the knob at the back of the machine, and it allows a significant amount of tension to be exerted on the blade, which will optimise its performance, both in quality of the cut, as well as its ability remain on track and cut straight (vertically), without the blade trying to squirm during the cut.  However, there is no need to wind off that tension for a blade change, as the blade clamping mechanism independently releases and reapplies that tension with its “flip tensioner” during a blade change.

Flip Tensioner

Flip Tensioner

The actual clamp itself is also very simple, and importantly, tool-less.  Finally, the top arm lifts well clear of the work (still with the blade attached at the top point), making it very easy to feed into the next hole for another internal cut.

Raised Arm

Raised Arm

The arm can remain in the raised position, but I did find the method to achieve that a little questionable.  It relies simply on a bolt passing through the housing to rub on the arm, and the friction to keep the arm up.  I would have thought a more positive method for locking the arm in the upper position would have been preferable, and sometimes found that resorting to a block of wood provided a more positive (although undesirable) solution.  If the arm is lifted too high, it actually impacts on the threads of another bolt that holds a side-cover on.  Do this too hard (or incorrectly lift the saw by the top arm), and there is a risk of damaging the threads of this access bolt.

Raised Arm Restraining Bolt

Raised Arm Restraining Bolt

The work-holddown seems to have been a bit of an afterthought – not that it is incorrectly positioned, but it has not had the same amount of precision engineering treatment that the rest of the saw has benefited from.  Also too, the very standard concept of the air pump produces very little airflow (no worse than other scroll saws), but again I would have liked to have seen a better solution.  A light source may have also been a sensible inclusion, particularly if it was on a flexible arm utilising fibre optics, or modern LED light sources so it can be positioned where required.  At least there is no laser!

Blower & Holddown

Blower & Holddown

The bottom line: This is a well engineered tool, and really sets the standards for scroll saws.  It is a very expensive bit of kit, but if you are serious about using a scroll saw, this is a serious, uncompromising machine.

Sinking one in the Corner Pocket(hole)

With the Pockethole Jig securely mounted with a large support area, it makes cutting the pocketholes in a table top very easy.

In this case, I wanted to join two pieces of particle board along a 45 degree cut to create the corner bench.

Ripping the benchtop

Ripping the benchtop

Firstly, I prepared the benchtop from an old work desk (amazing what gets thrown away these days) (Remember I did get the max score on the cheapskate woodworker quiz!).  The top was ripped to 400mm wide, for no particularly good reason, other than it looked about right.

Benchtop laid out

Benchtop laid out

I marked out the location of the pocketholes (this only has to be approximate – given it is on the underside and therefore won’t be seen).  I chose centres of 100mm, and had holes going from both sides of the mitre to maximise the joint strength (and obviously making sure that the screws were not going to run into each other!)

Ready to cut the Pockethole

Ready to cut the Pockethole

Now you can see why I wanted the extra capacity for the Pockethole Jig.  It is then a very simple, and quick operation to cut the required holes.

Cutting the Pocketholes

Cutting the Pocketholes

Here the holes are being cut.  The depth of the hole is regulated by the stop that was set earlier.  The ‘secret’ about the pockethole, is it creates this elliptical opening at an angle in the board which does not go full depth.  A pilot hole continues on another 8mm or so further guiding the screw.  The bottom of the main hole is flat, so it gives a good area for the head of the screw to press against.  I’ll go into more detail (photographic rather than continuing a lame description) in the near future.  Needless to say, it is very easy, and by planning the project with this joining method in mind, it is easy to locate the pocketholes out of sight.  If need-be, there are plugs the correct shape to fill the hole, and disguise it’s existance (or by using a contrasting coloured plug, to use it as a feature)  Personally, I just keep the pocketholes out of sight.

Benchtop Joined

Benchtop Joined

Here is the resulting (underside) of the benchtop, all joined with the Pockethole joint.  The screws used are the square headed Robertson screw (which actually predates the Phillips screw head by about 20 years).  They are particularly suited in this application being a full recess-drive type fastener, and as such stay properly located on the square drive (provided with the jig).  Phillips screws can also be used (so long as they have a flat bottom to the head, and ideally are ferrous so can stay located on a magnetised driver).  Of course the purists swear that the Robertson screw is the only one that should be used. (Seems strange using the term purist and Pockethole in the same sentence).

I attached the ‘legs’ for the bench in the same way.

The Commissioned Bench

The Commissioned Bench

The resulting bench, in location with the sanders ready to go.  I also decided that it would make a reasonable location for the also-homeless scrollsaw.  I’m feeling more organised by the minute.

Now that this corner is sorted (and there is plenty of storage capacity under this bench as you can see), the next task is going to be ripping the large rolling cabinet in half, and wall-mounting the resulting cupboards.  Given the size and weight of the cabinet (even empty, with shelves and doors removed), this will be an interesting task.

Still juggling….

Looks like it will just be MagSwitch (on the Carbatec Stand) and Professional Woodworkers Supplies now, so should be able to lock in some times soon.

Not much else happening above the water – duck’s legs going frantically underneath however with a number of things in process.  Won’t have time for another video until after the show (and once the voice recovers from it!)

Got out to the shed (late) last night – too late to get much done, but did get to sit down, catch a show (rewatching Firefly fwiw), and go through all my containers of screws, nails etc and get them into some sort of semblance of order (at least with the right contents in the right container).  Still want to make some new ones out of wood, but until then, the plastic ones will still have to do.

Oh, and there is some plan to hold a garage sale in early November, so want to go through the sheds to see what tools are no longer required which are taking up valuable space.

Finally, I managed to get back to Carbatec and pick up the velcro disk for the 3 in 1 (converting its disk sander to one with removable paper as well), and some thin, pinned scrollsaw blades for the Triton scrollsaw to see if that improves its functionality.

A quick trial in some MDF that got too close to the blade gave an indication that the new blades do make an improvement, but I still have an overall difficulty in that you cannot manually set the blade tension, and the as-supplied setting is not tight enough.  However, this is aleviated somewhat by getting a much thinner blade, as it doesn’t take as much force to get the required tension.  So the note the blade generated was only a C flat, but at least it could produce a note!

Delta Scroll Saw Bargain

I certainly cannot claim to be any expert on the range of scroll saws out there, but I have an idea that the Delta 16″ variable speed is meant to be a pretty good model, based on the number of queries I have seen about them with people looking for one on the woodworking forums.

Delta Scroll Saw

Delta Scroll Saw

I’ve spotted a number of these out back at Carbatec (Melbourne), and seeing as it is no longer in their catalogue, asked what the story was with them.

Apparently, they were a batch that had a faulty variable speed unit, so Carbatec have gotten in replacement VS units and have swapped them over.  They are now being sold off (as of today(?)) as seconds, (no warranty) for $250.  (Again afaik, they were originally $360), so not a bad saving!

Again, from the forums, once the Delta became unavailable, you needed to increase your budget to $500-$600 for a good quality entry level scrollsaw, so being able to grab one for $250 sounds pretty good! (About $550 for a TruPro, and up to $980 odd for an Excalibur – beautiful scrollsaw, but it’d have to be for that amount of green!)

If anyone has any particular feedback on this model, I’d also be very interested, because at that price, I am sorely tempted to grab one myself. (I’ve been reviewing the Excalibur – amazing machine but miles outside of my budget!)

Just got an email back from Carbatec about the specific model number
It is the DE-40-540.
Assume that is what people were hoping/expecting!

First Look at the Triton 16″ Scrollsaw (updated)

Got to have a first look at the new Triton 16″ Scrollsaw, so I thought I’d bring you a few pics of it. I haven’t had a chance to do anything with it as yet, but that didn’t stop me getting out the camera. I’m not a scrollsaw expert by any stretch of the imagination, but you have to start somewhere!

This is a tilting, variable speed scrollsaw with active dust collection, and some other neat features to make things a little more convenient. (Blowers, lights and the like).

pict6453.jpg

So a bit of a tour. The first thing is a huge flatbed, cast aluminium, and non-tilting. On this unit, the arm and mechanism tilts, the table, and therefore the workpiece doesn’t have to. The arm itself is fully encased, so there isn’t the same exposure to the vibrating arm that I have on my little GMC scrollsaw. Despite being aluminium, the machine is pleasantly heavy – a benchtop machine should weigh like it is serious to my mind.

On the front, there is a speed dial and on/off switch. The speed dial provides a range of about 400 to 1200 strokes per minute, and is a mechanical design, so there is no loss in power at slow speeds.

pict6451.jpg

On the side of the unit, you can see the quick blade release, and the arm that supports the blower unit, that keeps the work area dust-free. There is a working light in the head of the unit as well. From this angle, you can see the size of this thing. that is my router table under there, and this scrollsaw takes up the full width, and then some.

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