Episode 113 Spoilboard

Episode 101 David and Goliath

Featuring the smallest, and largest Amana Tool router bits from Toolstoday.com (at least those that fit a standard 1/4″ and 1/2″ router).  Surfacing is done on a Torque Workcentre.

Music by Lis Viggers

Burl meet Torque

Another burl found itself being flattened at the hands of the TWC at Ballarat last weekend. This one had quite a curvature, with over 1″ from edge to centre on the cut side.


For a thicknesser, this would be a nightmare. For the TWC this was a piece of cake.


You may be able to see the separate passes in the photo- this is because at the time of the photo, I was working on maximum material removal (4-5mm per pass, to the full width of the cutter). This means the grain on adjacent passes got cut in the opposite direction to the previous, resulting in a different reflective surface- you can see the passes, but it still feels flat.

The final pass is done with very little material removed 0.5mm depth of cut, and maximum 1/2 the cutter width max, so all the grain is pushed in the same direction.

Either way, a few passes with the ROS (random orbital sander) removes any minor irregularities.

The problem for the thicknesser is both the tortured grain – in all directions so tearout is likely. The cutter direction on a thicknesser makes this even more likely, with the cutter scooping the material up, out of the surface.

Secondly, stabilising a burl to pass through a thicknesser is also tricky. With drive rollers pushing down before and after the cutter, the chances of the burl shifting and getting a massive kickback from the thicknesser is pretty high.

On the Torque, the cutter direction is horizontal, the amount of material removed each pass can be minimal, and is not over the entire burl width simultaneously, and there are no feed rollers to potentially destabilise the burl during the cut.

Thicknessers obviously perform a very useful role, but when their idiosyncrasies work against you, the Torque Workcentre takes over!

Surfacing a Burl

This video was shot on a low definition phone camera at the recent wood show, so sorry about the quality, but it is hopefully interesting just the same.  This is the burl that I am making the desk clock from.

Episode 57 Surfacing, Sanding, Cyclones and Workgear

Episode 57 Surfacing, Sanding, Cyclones and Workgear

Episode 56 Surfacing on the Torque Workcentre

Episode 56 Surfacing on the Torque Workcentre – overhead router

One of the really impressive features of the TWC, and one of the easiest operations – surfacing.  My TWC can handle a slab up to 2000 x 1300mm (78″ x 51″), and any size down to around 1″ x 1″ (or in other words, no limit on minimum size, unlike a thicknesser, planer (jointer) or drum sander).  Future views will cover a whole range of techniques – keep tuned!

Surfacing Bits

Had an interesting revelation tonight about surfacing bits.  While Ivan was visiting, having a look over the Torque Workcentre, the discussion turned to surfacing bits.  I was thinking the 3 interchangeable flute Carbitool bit had its carbide tips misaligned from use or something – they didn’t sit flat on the table.  But when I got out my Granite reference block and placed each of the bits on top, they all had the same issue – the bottom of the teeth were not flush with the table as I expected.

Surfacing Bits

Now for one (particularly with interchangeable tips) to be out I could understand, but not all three, both Carbitool and Whiteside, and particularly the (fixed) 6 flute.  That one if no other should be the perfect form for a surface cutter, so if it has the same angle on the bottom of each tooth, then that is the way it should obviously be.

So then I was left with working out why it is that way, now my belief that the bottoms where flat had been squashed!

What I am thinking now is the tip of each tooth is the part that does the cutting, the rest is actually superfluous and is primarily chip clearing, rather than cutting/flattening.  If the bottoms were flat, then the tips would scrape, rather than cut.

It is surprising how long I’ve had surfacing bits that I have never realised that!

Surfacing Bits

SSYTC28 Small Torque Surfacing w Vac Clamp

Bringing it all together – the Torque Workcentre, Triton Router, Whiteside Surfacing Bit, Vac Clamp

Different Torque Tool Configurations

I’ve been running through the different tools that can be mounted to the Torque Workcentre, getting a feel for the pros and cons for each, and just some of the ways the TWC brings a different element to each of them.  The more I play with the tool, the more I get to iron out any setup issues and get to know how to tweak and finetune it.  As I’ve said in the past, the platform has a solid engineering base, and basis, so fine tuning is all about realising its potential, rather than covering up defects.

Router Mount (guard removed)

First out of the blocks is what has been seen a number of times already – overhead mounting of a router.  In this case a Triton 2400W, with a 6 flute surfacing bit.

Degrees of Freedom

Each tool mounted can be rotated around both the X and Y axis.  In this case, the X axis allows +/- 45 degrees.  Around the Y axis, it can be theoretically rotated through 360 degrees, although practically you’d go a maximum of 90 degrees, which is very cool being able to have a horizontally mounted router. (Obviously these changes in tool orientation are NOT done while the tool is running!)  Whatever the orientation, you still have the plunge mechanism operational, so again for example, if the router is horizontal it can become a horizontal mortising machine.

Copy Attachment

Each tool can be used with the copy attachment, and not necessarily for copying! In some cases it provides additional control over the tool, and a degree of separation which can be a safety point, as well as providing better visibility of what is happening at the cutting point. As Larry has pointed out, the copy attachment is also an excellent storage for the hex keys.  And it is very easy to remove and replace when necessary.

Router Guard / Dust Extraction

The tool guard / dust collection(which is optional), I would regard as a must have.  The brushes around the edge help trap particles, and the hose itself is orientated to collect particles which get thrown in that direction by the direction of spin of the bit.

You can again see in this photo how successful the Walko surface clamps work.

Drill Mounted

The simplicity of the drill mount is misleading compared to the capability.  No drill press has the range or versatility that the TWC has with the drill mounted.  It won’t result in me parting with my dedicated drill press (it is too handy having one ready to go at a moment’s notice, and it has obvious power benefits), but it has severe limitations in range and capacity compared to the TWC!

Circular Saw Mount

Mounting a circular saw is also possible with the saw mount.  Here I have mounted one of the largest circular saws out there – the 2400W 9.25″ Triton.

Saw Mount 2400W Triton (crosscut)

The saw can be mounted for crosscut, or ripping, and presented at any angle.  And still, the saw is used in its most stable position and the plunge on the carriage is used to bring the tool to cutting depth.

Saw Mount Alternate Orientation 1800W Saw (rip)

And still we haven’t exhaused how the saw can be used.  If the arm was rotated around the Z axis, you could then do coving for the full length of the workcentre.  And that is just one thought of many.

The Main Event

Over the course of the day, we took the Torque Workcentre through a number of its basic evolutions, but we didn’t get close to even covering all of those, let alone any of the myriad of inventive ways the machine has already been utilised.

When I saw the Torque at the Melbourne Woodshow, I didn’t realise that it was such a new animal, but it turned out that it has only been on the market for about 9 months or so – a major development to the Router Master.  The Router Master was an overhead mount system, with the router on a rail that could rotate through 360 degrees.

The big improvement is now the vertical mounting point isn’t fixed, and instead can be slid along the length of the table.  This provides x,y,z router movements, and still has retained the rotation component/ability to move through an arc.  But I’m getting ahead of myself – what I am wanting to get across is if you haven’t had a chance to see the Torque Workcentre operate, it is worth checking out at your next woodshow (and the Brisbane Hands-on is only a couple of weeks off fwiw).

The thing that caught my imagination, is look beyond the actual demonstrations to what is actually happening with this machine. Full control over whatever tool is mounted, and that isn’t specifically restricted to the router (although I’d imagine most work these workcentres do will be router-based).  Freehand, template, copy work, pin routing (using a pin to follow a track), and so on.  When I first got into woodworking, discovering the benefits of a tablemounted router for a sense of control and safety really opened my eyes to the advantages of a router.  However there are a number of applications where it isn’t possible to use the router in that manner.  Handholding then is the only option, and there are a lot of applications where that isn’t enough.

At a BBQ of a Woodworking Forum a few years ago, I saw a home-made rig made from an aluminium ladder and some other components which then created a sled to carry the router over the workpiece, allowing it to be used to surface a board.  It was pretty cool and looked quite interesting, but it wasn’t something I was likely to get around to making.

For this first real look, we started surfacing a slab of Camphor(?), just to see how it performed this operation.  I’ll put up some videos shot of this tomorrow, so stay tuned 😉


Installing a router

There are a number of different brackets for mounting a range of tools – router, circular saw, drill.  I’m sure there will be other ones that would also benefit from such a control platform.  In this case, the mount is for a router.  There may be, in time, a way of mounting a router using its own base, but having one dedicated to the workcentre is the preferred method.  Removing the original router base then allows the router to be quickly mounted and unmounted as required for bit changing.  There is a dust shroud upgrade as pictured which makes a lot of sense.


Mounting a slab

The slab is secured to the table by whatever means you have, and in some cases, using some wedges to stabilise where there are twists and warps.  The surfacing operation can replace both a jointer and thicknesser, and unless you are very lucky, who has a jointer (or thicknesser) that is 900 or even 1200mm wide!



Here is Aaron finetuning the setup – getting the router surfacing bit parallel to the travelling arm.


Finding High Spots

The first sweeps across the workpiece is to find the high spots, and getting a feel for how the piece is distorted. (Larry is still plugging in the dust extraction here – rather than routing!)


Surfacing Passes

Once you have determined the heights, the real job of planing can begin.  It may look like a long job, but it goes very quickly and smoothly.  If you get a slight ridge between pass, it means you haven’t properly leveled the bit, so you can either tweek the setup, or just hit it with a few quick passes with a ROS to smooth it all out.

The surface of the slab in this case looked like there were ridges, but not detectable to touch.  My guess is it is an optical illusion not unlike how a checker pattern is created in the grass of a cricket pitch.  Brushing the fibres in different directions, catching the light, but still at a uniform height.  Nothing a quick sand wouldn’t remove (and not apparent in all types of timber).

The machine itself is very solid – mostly steel construction, some welded, some cast, multiple bearing rollers.  The MDF top is sacrificial, and the 2.5m version has a working area of 2m.

If you are looking for more details on the availability of these machines, contact Larry – he’s a distributor for the Torque Workcentres (and the international distributor as well – yes, the Torque Workcentre isn’t restricted to a lucky few down under, and they already have had queries from the US).  You can get him through his Lazy Larry Woodworks website, or phone (+61) 7 54 993361. (Substitute +61 for 0 if within Australia obviously!)

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