Walko vs Festool

Been doing some handheld routing on the Festool MFT, the results of which you’ll be able to see in the next video.  I’ve been using the Festool surface clamps for much of the operation, but have been surprised to find that over time, the Walko surface clamps (which are 2/3rds the price) are actually doing a better job! (Festool $150 pair, Walko $99 pair)


Festool Surface Clamp


Walko Surface Clamp

Walko Surface Clamp

(Just did an image search for both – the top 4 images of the Walko clamp all came from Stu’s Shed!)

Granted that the Festool is probably a better design, I guess, with a longer reach, the ability to secure it to the table from underneath, and I am sure there are one or two other features over the Walko.

However there is one overriding difference.  The Festool jams when you try to release it.  The Walko doesn’t.  After a while, the Festool also doesn’t slide smoothly, whereas the Walkos I have, have been going and going for years without incident.

Looking closely at the shaft of the Festool, and it is pitted along its length, dented by the securing mechanism.  Sure, I can file these off (and already have a couple of times), but it is an inherent flaw.  The metal of the shaft of the Festool surface clamp is wrong – it is too soft.  Whereas the Walko clamp has got it just right.

Not often that something is able to out-perform Festool, but in this case, something has!

Getting Sorted, Adding Hardware

With a bit of a shuffle, and cleanup, the workspace is looking good.  The shed is tight, but having the dedicated work surface is invaluable, and is already being put to good use.

The stack of Festool has been moved to a more accessible location, and again the advantage of the boom arm is apparent – giving easy access to the hose and power from the Festool vac (thanks to autostart).

Relocation of the setting out tools makes them a lot more accessible.  The gas bottle is stored under the bench at the moment- as good a place as any (currently used most often for the branding iron).  Not sure what I’ll store on the shelf – at this stage the Kreg Pockethole jig is stored under there (in a Festool Systainer).  In the drawer under the bench are bench dogs and surface clamps.

The Veritas Bench Dogs (and Bench Pups) from Carbatec are a very nice add-on.  Being used here while hand planing (HNT Gordon Aussie Jack Plane on New Guinean Rosewood).

The dogs and pups set low (as low as you want them) sit below the edge of the board so as not to affect planing.

Veritas Bench Dog (left) and Pup (right). You need a thicker bench for the bench dog (than for the pup).  The pups are very functional.

The Veritas Surface Clamps are very quick and easy to install – drop them in the desired hole and tighten the knurled knob.  There is a shoulder that prevents the clamp holddown going any deeper than necessary.

Now to find some interesting projects to really commission the bench, and get my teeth into.

The Carbatec Bench

The final push, actually the easy bit – the bench assembly.  With the Veritas vice in place, the four legs are bolted to the underside of the bench, and the vice(s) fitted.  Because I had added the Veritas, I had a vice left over so added it to the back of the bench behind the drawer.  It only needed 3 holes to be drilled to fit it there, so no biggie.

The shelf is then bolted to the legs which provides a significant amount of rigidity.  The vices are then screwed down, and the drawer assembled and fitted.  Anyone who has ever bought anything from Ikea will have no problem putting that drawer together.  The entire bench assembly should only take about 30 minutes.  (Again, instruction manuals be damned).

The standard vice is a very simple animal- the two bolts at the rear of the guide bars are removed, then the base is unscrewed.  The front jaw added then the unit inserted through predrilled holes in the bench skirt. The rear bolts are tightened, and the base screwed to the underside of the bench.

This was then repeated for the other vice that I fitted at the rear of the bench.  No point letting one go to waste!

With all the vices and fittings in place, it was time to turn the unit over.  Bloody heavy thing – weighs in around 80kg.  Perhaps not as heavy as a full wood one, but enough.

The bench in position in its new home.  (fwiw, the rear vice looks high because it has the removable jaw extension added).

With the Veritas in prime position, and clamps all around, this bench is ready to work. I’m debating whether to put my metal working vice on the bench as well – may do, especially if I park the Festool Vac under the bench.  The benefit of having the boom arm!

The bench can move a bit when pushed on, but it is pretty good.  There is some spring in the legs (unavoidable), but the majority of the movement would come from the feet.  If you were serious about bench stability, I’d not use the feet and instead would bolt the bench to the floor, and/or use a bracket to secure the bench to a wall.

I still have some holes to drill in the Veritas Vice jaws, so I can add some bench dogs.  The plastic ones that came with the bench will probably go in the bin, and instead I have picked up some Veritas ones from Carbatec, which fit a standard 19mm hole.  These will be perfect on the Torque Workcentre as well, as soon as I drill the new matrix of holes for the Walko clamps.

I got a set of Veritas Bench Dogs for the bench, and a set of Veritas Bench Pups for the jaws. Will see if that is enough for my typical use, not that they are particularly expensive, and they have a great, heavy feel.  With some holes in the side of the jaws of the Veritas Twin Screw, it will also allow large sheets to be clamped vertically to the side of the bench as necessary.

I also found these Veritas Surface Clamps, which also fit into the same 19mm holes.  The knurled knob tightens the clamp into the hole, and the arm moves freely up and down the shaft until a load is applied when it then locks into the ridging on the shaft.  These too will be extremely useful on both the workbench, as well as on the Torque Workcentre.

So the whole thing has come together nicely.  A combination of an easily assembled bench (that I didn’t have to make), and some quality fittings to finish it off.

One day, this bench will allow me to follow the reasoning of Douglas Adams (and the Deep Thought computer – a computer designed by pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent race of beings to answer the question of life, the universe and everything (42), and then to design the computer that could explain the question) and use it to build THE bench.  But not for a long time yet!  This bench will keep me out of trouble for a long time, and more than likely will only help me contruct another if I happen to acquire a much larger shed that would give me space for a second one!

Over the coming weekend, I’ll try to get some photos of the bench in action, particularly the Veritas Dogs and Pups (and Surface Clamps) and how they work with the vices to secure items down.

FWIW, the standard (unmodified!!) version of this workbench is expected to be seen on “Better Homes and Gardens” tonight (Friday 20 May 11) on channel 7 at 7:30pm when the Amazing Race teams appear and complete some building challenges.

Torquing ’bout Walko Refinements

The Walko Surface Clamps from Ideal Tools have arrived! After having experienced them when assessing the Walko Workbench, I couldn’t wait for them to turn up.

The clamps are used anywhere on the surface of your bench, so a grid of 20mm (dog)holes is required, 100mm apart.  I went with a minimum of 50mm from the first line of holes to the edge, so the holes had plenty of support around them.

This specific concept of dog holes comes from both the Festool workbenches, as well as the Walko, and I have seen it used on some other bench concepts as well.  Festool also have a surface clamp similar to the Walko (possibly where the Walko design has come from?), which have some more clamping force, but less reach than the Walko, and cost a lot more.  I haven’t tried the Festool, but as far as clamping force, I found the Walkos plenty strong enough for the task.

The Hole Matrix

To drill a whole heap of holes, I could have drawn up a grid with a pencil and a straight edge, but with the Torque right there, it was a no-brainer to use it to drill its own holes.  You can see some faint lines in the photo above – where they cross is where the screws are, holding the top down.  It is a concept I’ve taken directly from the workbench at Ideal Tools – these are sacrificial tops, and if it gets cut into, so be it, but you don’t want to have a chance to hit a screw, and thus the lines to make very clear where those screws are located.

Irwin SpeedBore 3 Flute

To drill accurately sized, and round holes, I went with the 3-flute Irwin SpeedBore.  It has a tapered thread to start, which happens to really pull the bit down to engage the workpiece.  I went with this rather than the spade bit, because I wanted holes with an accurate diameter, and spade bits can sometimes go a bit haywire and drill an oval, rather than a circle.  My Bosch drill also has quite a bit of runout, so having a bit with a pilot tip to stabilise it helped a lot.  Testing the holes out after, and they couldn’t be better – just the right amount of tightness around the post of the clamp – a Goldilocks solution (not too loose, not too tight, juuust right).  There is some breakout, but given that the bench was already secured down I wasn’t going to finish the hole from the other side, and the underside doesn’t get seen.

Uniform X-Axis Spacing

To get uniform spacing of the holes was actually really easy.  With the drill mounted in the Torque Workcentre, I could drill holes wherever I wanted into the top, and at any angle (although obviously in this case I only needed 90 degrees).  Once again, having MagSwitches in the workshop paid off in spades.  In this case, the 50mm MagSquare was a definite – given the amount of mass, and therefore momentum of the sled/arm/tool, crashing into something with insufficient grip would cause it to slip, resulting in inaccurate holes.  I used the MagSquare on the rail of the X Axis, and a piece of MDF as a spacer, cut to 100mm.

Drill the hole, unlock the X Axis, move the tool 100mm, lock the axis, bring up the MagSquare, drill the hole, rinse and repeat.

Uniform Y Axis Spacing

Once a line of holes was drilled, I used the same technique to move the drill 100mm along the Y Axis. An absolute perfect application for the MagSquare, and fully justifying the extra grabbing power of the 50mm.

Commissioning the Walko Surface Clamps

The Walko clamps have 2 parts – a stop block which the work is then pressed up against, and then the moving clamps are placed in suitable holes, slid in to take up the slack, then the lever moved so the cam-action places pressure against the workpiece.  The workpiece can be pretty much any shape which is one real benefit of these clamps, and you use as many as necessary to securely hold the work securely.  In this case, a piece of avocado from Lazy Larry.  The clamps are low profile, so you can machine, surface, sand and plane right over the top of them.  In some instances, you don’t need the movable clamp, but they help prevent the piece moving on you.

Poised for Action

I went with 2 sets of these clamps – often one is enough, but 2 sets (of 2 clamps), even 3 sets is ideal.  In fact I may be tempted to get one more set for use with the Torque workcentre, that way I can use 3 clamps to hold the workpiece, and the other 3 clamps to hold the template/component I am copying when using that feature of the TWC.  In total, I drilled about 100 holes.  I’m still considering drilling a whole stack more (small) holes in one area of the bench, and create a down-draft sanding area, boxing in the underside and connecting a 4″ hose to it for sanding operations.  This TWC just presents so many possibilities, I haven’t begun to scratch the surface (literally or figuratively!)

Speaking of which, after drilling 100 holes, turning the drill on and off for each hole, I am absolutely sold on the starter switch I added (documented a couple of posts ago).  Given that it may not be as easy to source the Triton starter switch, the one I’m using for the router table from Professional Woodworkers Supplies would be a good (if not better) choice.

Refining the Incra Mounting

While finishing off the TWC top, I looked again at the Incra LS Positioner and how I had fixed it down, and decided on a near-ideal solution (and one intended by Incra!)  A couple of holes all the way through the MDF top, with a couple of bolts who’s heads engages in the track slots in the Incra base.

Under-table view

Underneath, two knobs make it easy to tighten the bolts, locking the Incra in position, yet allowing for the bolts to be easily loosened if the Incra needs to be moved, or removed.

Recessed when not needed

Here I have detached the Incra, and the bolts have dropped into the recess I drilled, so they are below the surface of the table so as not to interfere with the Torque Workcentre operation.  By having the router table fence easily removed means that it is no problem for me to utilise the entire 2.5m length of the TWC.

If you haven’t gathered, I am really happy how this has all worked out – the ease of clamping pieces anywhere on the TWC, the undertable router with a cast iron tabletop, so I can use my MagSwitch featherboards, the use (and ease of removal) of the Incra LS Positioner, the height winder on the router table, and the remote start switches on both the TWC and router table.  The router is certainly a powerful tool in my workshop, and definitely not one to be shied away from if you don’t like hand-held routing!

A perfect symbiotic union of Torque Workcentre, Incra, MagSwitch, Carbatec TS CI Wings, Triton Routers, Walko Surface Clamps, Wixey, PWS Pro Router Switch and Woodpeckers to really create the ultimate router table.  If anyone can think of a way I can improve this further, I’d love to hear it!  I still want to incorporate the Incra fence along the back edge of the table, with precision stop placement – that’s next (along with the downdraft sanding table addition).

Walko Surface Clamps on Order

After recently using the Walko Workbench, one thing that really impressed me was how functional and useful the Walko surface clamps were.  With the TWC, I think they would be perfect, with a matrix of holes cut into the MDF top to fit the Walko Clamps where-ever needed.

WALKO Surface Clamps

I’ve got 2 sets on order (apparently floating somewhere off the coast of Australia as I type) from Ideal Tools (they have a dedicated WALKO website now online).

The beauty of these clamps is they are really low profile, clamp very irregular shapes, quick action, fit anywhere (at least anywhere there is a round dog hole) and did I mention low profile?

Once they arrive, I will convert my TWC to a massive radial arm drill, and cut regular dog holes over the surface of the workbench’s sacrificial MDF top.

Speaking of the top, I have determined that because of the cast iron router table I am using at one end of the workcentre, my top needs to be 40mm thick.  I could do this with one thick MDF sheet (I assume sheets that thick are available), but instead I am going for 2x 16mm sheets, with an 8mm sheet sandwiched between them.  These will be screwed, not glued together, so once the first surface is completely wrecked in time by cutting/routing into it, I can simply flip it over for a new top, then rinse and repeat for all the other sides.  I expect it will be some time before I need to actually replace all the sheets!

I could always go 5 sheets of 8mm – wonder if that would be better?  My only concern is ensuring the sheets remain as flat as possible – whether regular screws are suitable, or perhaps regular bolts would be even better to ensure they are held tightly together.  A trick learned from the Ideal Tools course where lines drawn on the top intersect above each screw (or bolt), so that you know exactly where they are when setting up for through-surface cuts which would otherwise result in an untimely meeting of carbide and steel.

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