Learning from mistakes

We all know the idiom about book-smarts versus street-smarts, and it holds just as true (if not more-so) for woodworking as any other pursuit.

You can read and read about a topic, watch all the videos, follow the forums and talk with experts, but I can still guarantee the first time you pick up a chisel and try to make a square object round on a lathe, you’ll discover in practice what a kickback (or chisel dig-in) is ALL about!

You can learn as much as you can from all other avenues (and that is a good thing), but the real learning curve comes from biting the bullet and trying it out for yourself.  However, jumping in the deep end without RTFM is fraught as well.  Tried that yesterday, and the result was, well, a learning curve.  No real harm – bit of time was wasted, and some scraps of timber, so that could be considered well worth the price.  As another saying goes (stolen from its association with fishing): “a bad day woodworking still beats a good day at work” (Of course you’d want to add a small suffix to that “so long as you finish with as many body parts as you started with!”)

Tried out the MLIS (multiple layer inlay stencils) from Tarter Woodworking, and while I didn’t finish with a result, the templates proved how well they would work once I refined my processes.  Trying to do it the first time and on camera just makes it that much more difficult!  I also started with a pattern that was perhaps a little more complicated than I should have, so the second round will be with a simpler form.

So the majority of the video footage is destined for the editing floor.  You can see a bit of timelapse footage that is left over.

It was a good test run of the multi-camera setup, and particularly the new audio recording arrangements.  Running a couple of high-end mics (NTG-3 and NT5 Rode mics) through a Beachtek DXA-HDV gave some great results.


Rode NTG-3

Rode NT5 Matched Pair

Rode NT5 Matched Pair

Beachtek DXA-HDV

Beachtek DXA-HDV


Template Inlays

I first came across the concept of template inlays back when I was working on a poker table concept, back in 2009.  This was a pretty basic form – a simple shape and a contrasting piece of timber.

What I have come across recently, lifts that basic concept into the stratosphere!  It is a similar concept to the multiple templates used with the 3D router carver

Over at Tarter Woodworking, the concept of template inlays has been taken to a logical conclusion – using multiple templates (and the use of different timbers) to create stunning inlay results.

Results like this Clownfish…


which happens to be one of the smaller templates, but is one of my favourites.  It is not painted on – it is multiple timbers routed and inlaid.

The templates are very reasonably priced – this clownfish template is a whole $US11.50


Bit of a confession however – I have a few templates here, begging to me to try them out and I haven’t (yet)!  I went to do so last weekend, then discovered a slight problem.  Having replaced my Triton handheld routers with a Festool, I didn’t have the adapter to fit the Porter Cable-style template guide rings!

That I rectified first thing Monday morning, so I am ready to go as soon as I find a couple of minutes to rub together.

Think I will probably tackle the clownfish first, but then, there is the Monarch butterfly to try.  That will take a good assortment of timbers to make the design come to life.

Monarch_full_with_stencil Monarch_Stencil_-_used MONARCH1

So looking forward to trying these out for myself – this weekend if all goes to plan (and I find my shed again under the mountain of mess and sawdust from last weekend’s rush build)!

Sinking Deeper

Once the initial parts for the sink were glued up (the large U shape sections), it was time to make the actual components.  Ideally, I wouldn’t have had to take the previous step, but I am working with a limited stock size, partly as a bit of an exercise, partly because I have the timber, and don’t feel like buying something else.  The redgum is being salvaged from the ugliest, oldest sleeper you would have seen in a long time.  Always surprising just how much good timber is hidden behind a rough façade.


Creating the sink template

To cut the individual sections out, I created a template from MDF.  It is easy to draw up and shape to the required profile.


Template attached

In this case, I didn’t have to worry about screw holes, so it was easier and less problematic to use screws (Kreg square drive).  You may wonder about the amount of timber wasted here inside the sink.  It won’t be going to waste, as I intend to use this again in the same way to produce some other (as yet undecided) kitchen appliances.


Bandsawing around the template

To remove the bulk of the material, the bandsaw works exceptionally well.  Cutting near to the template reduces the load on the pattern copying router bit.


Routing to shape

Over to the router table, and with a pattern bit (a straight cutter with a bearing on top), each piece of the sink is routed to shape.  (The photo above has the piece upside down)


Glued and clamped

Next, each piece is glued and clamped together to form the body of the sink.  The ends have also been cut using the same template, but obviously only the outside is cut and routed.


Spindle Sanding

The spindle sander is next, and is the perfect tool for this job.  It may not get the full depth, but flipping the workpiece over a few times keeps things pretty even.


Fine sanding

The size of the sink just allowed me to get the ETS150 inside, but it isn’t ideal for sanding around corners…..except I have a soft sanding pad (from Ideal Tools).  This has hooks on one side, and loops on the other, so it acts as a spacer between the original sanding pad and the sandpaper.  With this, it is really easy to sand all sorts of concave and convex profiles.


Soft sanding pad

This is the soft sanding pad – a very useful addition for the ROS.

***Update: it is called an interface pad, and can be found here


Attaching the sides

With the inside done, the sides of the sink can be attached.  This (and the next image) were actually photographed before the glueup, but it gives you the idea.


Laminated sink

So that is how I make the laminated sink, still ensuring that the entire project can be made from timber.  Not sure if I will be able to maintain that ideal for the entire project, but I am still working towards it.  Very pleased I used contrasting timber this time – might as well make a feature of the laminations!

Now That’s a Knife

It’s only been 4 months since I got this set of steak knives from Professional Woodworker Supplies.  That is a pretty quick turnaround time for me these days!  Everything hasn’t gone to plan though, as I will elaborate, but I got close to achieving a good result.  I don’t like accepting a compromise – it may be that others wouldn’t notice anything wrong, but I would every time I use one of these.  However, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Knife blanks

These four knives are begging for some stunning handles (the timber on either side are known as “scales”), and so the timber of choice is African Rosewood.  I recently bought a couple of lengths during the recent April WoodFest with the vague idea of making a box, but it jumped out at me when I was looking for what to make the knives from.  The timber is around 19mm thick, so a bit over double the thickness required for each side of the knife.  So resawing was the order of the day.

Resawing the African Rosewood

I changed the blade down to a 5/8″ blade on the Carbatec bandsaw, then racked up the tension.  With the MagSwitch fence in place (single roller), the blade sliced the timber cleanly in two.  I am so loving having the bandsaw tensioning handle below the upper wheel.  The benefits of a larger bandsaw.

Single Roller MagFence making the job easy

Can’t beat those MagFences either for resawing. Love how easy, and accurate it makes the task.

Passes through the Drum Sander for accurate dimensioning

From the bandsaw, the next step is to run it through the drum sander.  This may not be everyone’s first choice – for one you have to have a drum sander to be able to use it.  I’ve become a big fan, especially for situations like this.  These are pieces of timber way too short to ever consider running through a thicknesser, so you’d have to resort to a ROS, hand plane or similar.  Me, I like the electron-murdering whirling abrasive wheel! With careful passes, I was able to get the board down to within 0.1mm of the required thickness.

Jig to accurately cut the handles

Next job was to shape the scales.  The only important side initially is the edge that butts up against the bolster.  To save on timber (a big mistake – not how I chose to do it, but any attempt to scrimp on timber inevitably leads to undesirable results, and more timber wastage. I know this, and still find myself doing it), I cut the timber close to dimension, and drilled holes using an MDF template I made of the scale from the knife tang. I used a couple of lengths of brass rod to replicate the rivets to position each scale to be cut precisely.

Thinning down the pins

For the two pins, I needed them a little thinner than the rivets would be, so I could get the scales off the jig.  To take off a small, controlled amount, mounting the pin in the drill, then running it on the sandpaper provided a precise size decrease.

Ready to cut the handle end

In hindsight, doing it this way was a mistake. Drilling the holes for the rivets needed to be done after the first scale was glued to the tang.

Knife handles roughed out

The scales, ready to be glued on.  Rather than gluing both sides at once, the plan was to do one side only, then use a pattern copying bit to get the scale to accurately match the tang.

Gluing the first handle side on

Two part epoxy resin (Araldite) being the glue of choice.

Clamped up

There is plenty of overhang which is a good thing, but this is where two mistakes compounded.  The trying to be too thrifty which resulted in the scale slipping in a couple of cases enough that the tang wasn’t properly covered, and when the glue had set, not trimming off the excess resulted in a couple of chipouts on the router table that destroyed the handle.  The router bit here is a straight bit with copying bearing.  Straight after this, I was down at Carbatec and picked up a solid carbide spiral router bit with double bearing – the spiral has a shearing/slicing action rather than a chipping action for the next time I attempt to make more handles.

Shaping the blank to the handle

Did have a couple of successes, the bearing running on the tang so the scale gets cut accurately to match.

As good as it got

The results were looking good, and the few refinements to my technique should prove very successful.  For the handles here, I took the photos, then took a chisel and snapped the scales off. Oh well, I’d rather it right than compromise.

Triton Router Guides – Something NEW!

Well for me at least.  Hugh has just made a comment on the post on the Inlay Kit, and it was something I never knew.

I was talking in that previous post about having to fit the Woodpeckers Universal Adapter Plate to the Triton router to take the Porter Cable style template guides. Well I guess that just isn’t so!

If you have the Triton Template Guide kit (either the one for the TRA001, or the one for the MOF001) then as part of the kit you get an alignment bush – it is designed to centre the template guide plate on the router by fitting tightly on the router collet.  Now the diameter of the hole is very close to that of the thread of the Porter Cable guides, so you can use them directly, without having to completely replace the template guide setup.

Triton and Woodpeckers Template Mounting Plates

Triton and Woodpeckers Template Mounting Plates

On the right is the 1400W Triton router, with the base plate replaced with the Woodpeckers Universal, and a template guide in the centre (the brass bit).

On the left is what Hugh pointed out – you can mount the brass template guide into the alignment guide, and fit that to the Triton router’s optional template guide base plate.  It doesn’t matter which kit you use btw – the one for the 1400W router has everything in it for the 2400W router (but not vise versa).

So this has the black plastic base (the one that came with the router, and under that the template guide base plate. In the centre of that is the alignment guide, and in the very centre, a brass template guide.  Disappointingly it doesn’t sit flush with the surroundings, but that doesn’t matter because it all sits below the router base.

There is an extra benefit – fitting the templates to the Woodpeckers plate is a little fiddly on the Triton router (I had to remove the dust guards to even be able to reach in there, and then I was getting close to a sharp router bit) Whereas with Hugh’s suggestion, I can mount the template guide completely away from the router, then fit it to the router with the ease of all the Triton template guides.  Note some router bits are larger than the template guide opening, so what you do there is slip the bit through the guide, then with the guide loose, tighten the bit into the router.  Then wind the router height down until the template guide can be fixed into place.

About the only disappointment I had (other than the flush thing) was that the Leigh Template guide was too loose to be useful. Yes, you can get it centred and tightened, but the specific benefit of the Leigh bush is that it is eccentric, so you normally benefit from loosening it and slightly rotating.  If the fit is loose, you will have other problems!

Different Guides

Different Guides

So here on the right is one of the Triton Template Guide kits , and in the lower left corner of that kit is the alignment guide that will fit the template guides shown in the green case.

In the green case is a new set of Porter Cable style template guides from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  On the lid is the Inlay guide that was just reviewed, and the Leigh eccentric template guide.

So there you have it – the video I am releasing in the next day or so on the inlay router guide is already out of date!  And I only thought that happened to IT/computer related posts!!

Thanks Hugh – some good info 🙂

A Burl Clock for the Shed

To start the process, I’ve been preparing the burl slab itself, and the first part of that was the recent YouTube Chronicles video, running the burl through the drum sander.

Next, I took the random orbital sander to the surface, starting with the unusually coarse (for me) 80 grit paper (the burl is very hard), and continued through the grits to 400. For previous clocks I would normally oil the surface (with a burnishing oil), but in this case I didn’t think it would be needed to get the grain to show up, and I didn’t know how the Liquid Glass would respond to it.

I’ve then flipped the board over to mill out a cavity for the clock mechanism.

Creating the Template

Creating the Template

I needed a template to route out the opening, so started down the tradition path – marking out the opening, drilling holes, cutting with a jigsaw, filing off the jigsaw marks, and all the while I was thinking to myself – there has to be a better way. Then I remembered the Sonicrafter that I previewed for the manufacturers – one of the high vibrating speed cutting tools (takes different blades etc, the well known version is the Fein). This one is Worx brand (the bigger brother of the Rockwell that has recently hit the Aussie market) It will be in the marketplace soon fwiw. I gave it a try, and it worked like a dream – the perfect tool for the job. In future it will be the first tool I turn to for jig creation! I made the template out of MDF, and before you ask why I didn’t just cut the actual opening this way: burl is really hard, and I think any of these cutters would probably struggle, and secondly, and more importantly, I needed the opening in the burl to be a partial depth only.

A big reason for me using this tool, is I can cut a square opening, with straight sides a lot easier than my older methods!

The opening in the template is larger than the actual clock mechanism, as it needs to take into account the distance between the outside of the template and the router bit. I set the router bit depth, taking into account the thickness of the burl, the length of shaft of the clock, and the various components that are attached.

Router Bit Depth Set

Router Bit Depth Set

I used the Wixey Digital Height Gauge to set the height accurately. So once I had the template, this was clamped to the burl, and the opening created with the router.

Mechanism Opening

Mechanism Cavity

A perfect opening

A perfect opening (centre still to be removed)

The above-image has the outside routed to full depth, but as you can see the middle area needs another pass.

Back of Burl Clock

Back of Burl Clock

So this is the back complete.  I tend to leave it raw so I can see the difference in the finished front and the raw back when I want to.  I know this is not best practice, if for no other reason than it can encourage warping when the stock is thin.  Still, it’s a choice I make (in some circumstances).

Oh, and for the doubters, yes I do use my JawHorse, all the time, and for almost every project!

Next post will be about finishing the front.

Revolutionising Woodworking one Stitch at a Time

Ever tried to draw up a hexagon?  No, it shouldn’t be hard (any 4th grader probably does it on a daily basis), but if you haven’t done it for a while, you start to forget the technique for getting all the sides even, and the angles correct.  How about a pentagon, or a dodecagon?

What about getting the pentagon to align up accurately with a particular feature in a veneer, or finding the centre of an uneven turning blank?

For many woodworkers, these are probably not questions we’ve contemplated often (other than finding the centre of a blank), however, it is the bread and butter of embroiders, patchworkers, and quilters (other than finding the centre of a blank). So it would come as no surprise that a great solution for woodworkers can be found being made by a company called The Sewing Revolution!

They produce a number of different polycarbonate templates, but the primary two are the company’s namesake.

The Sewing Revolution

The Sewing Revolution

There is the one pictured here (which is a 6/8), and another which is the 5/7.

The numbers equate to the number of sides the template is designed to create, including multiples, and derivatives. Ie, the 6/8 can also create 3 and 4 sided figures, as well as 12 and 16.

The 5/7 is also for 10 and 14 sided.

At each junction, the template has a hole for a pencil, or an awl to mark each corner. Of course you are not limited to basic polygons either.  Creating an 8 pointed star for example is also very simple with these templates.

Pencil/Awl Holes

Pencil/Awl Holes

The holes are specifically designed for a felt pen, so to get the accuracy you need for marquetry, you’d want to ensure your awl or pencil was a suitable taper to neatly fit the hole when it was deep enough to create the required mark.

I’ve not tried marquetry before, and after the following little exercise, I have a lot of respect for the amount of skill, and patience they have!  The laying out was a breeze using the Sewing Revolution.

Ready for some Marquetry

Ready for some Marquetry

So I have selected a veneer of Blackwood, the 6/8 Sewing Revolution, the Woodpecker Rule, and the a Chris Vesper marking knife.

And so I begin.  I’ve decided to create an 8 sided star as a bit of a test.  Marking each outside corner was simplicity – just mark the same distance from the centre on each of the 22.5 degree lines.  I then needed to inside corner 1/2 way between those lines.  Again, there is a simple way of rotating the template through 12.25 degrees so the 22.5 degree lines are again in a useful orientation.  Mark those corners, remove the template, and draw connecting lines.  It took longer to write this paragraph, than it took to mark out the star itself!

Resulting Star

Resulting Star

The picture here is not quite life-size, but it is close.

Beginning the Cutting

Beginning the Cutting

As I started this step in the process, I started to become really aware what is involved in marquetry (or patchwork!)  Don’t bother trying a full pattern if you are not a patient person!

Resulting Blackwood Star

Resulting Blackwood Star with Huon Pine Background

So I’m pretty pleased with the final result – having all the right tools makes these sorts of tasks a breeze, and a pleasure.  And of course, getting the process started on the right track with an accurate layout tool makes all the difference.  Where it would really have started to show its benefit would be making contrasting corners to fit the star, all the right size, easily.

I can certainly see where it got it’s “Sewing Revolution” name – and that there is a real crossover between the different pasttimes – perhaps some quilters etc should try some marquetry (and vice versa).  Or perhaps not – do woodworkers need the extra challenge of absolute experts at patchwork turning their skill set to working with wood veneers?!!!

PatchworkThis is some of the work the Sewing Revolution owners have produced.  A tidy, simple pattern, which when you imagine it in different timbers, would look stunning.

There are plenty of patterns, examples and tutorials on the Sewing Revolution website that can easily be translated across to a woodworking situation.  But it is more than just patterns.  I am sure that there are plenty of other layout, setting out etc problems that will be found in the workshop that these templates will be discovered to be the ideal solution.

And as to getting one (both) – what other excuse do you need, than buying a tool that can be used for both partners’ hobbies! (Being a bit stereotypical for a sec, wonder if any wives will become suspicious why their husbands actually want to go to the Stitches and Craft show for the first time ever 🙂 )

The product is designed, and manufacturered in Australia.  Cost for each template (the 5/7 and 6/8) is $50.

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