Ready for the next revolution?

With the addition of the DVR motor to the lathe, it was transformed into a stunning machine, powerful, energy efficient, futuristic even.

So the next revolution? (Sorry about the pun!)

Teknatool are developing a DVR drill press!

No more belts, pulley slippage, belt vibration.  No more bogging down of a drill bit as the bit meets resistance and because of the pulley ratios, the motor is stalled.

The ability to easily tilt the drill head over and angle it to the workpiece which is maintained on a flat surface, rather than having to angle the workpiece to a fixed head.  I know there are some drill presses that can achieve this, but few and far between.

Instead of drilling a hole at whatever speed that the drill press is set for (and just how often do we change the belt speed for a single hole)? you’d have no excuse not to dial in exactly the right speed, each and every time. It is going to be a great drillpress!

 

Thinking about it, with the motor onboard the head (direct drive), then the plunge mechanism moves the whole lot – chuck and motor combined.  There is no limit then to the amount of plunge that is available.

DVR Drillpress

DVR Drillpress

Looking forward to seeing the DVR motor included on other machines – thicknessers, saw tables, bandsaws etc.  Instead of a router mounted under a router table, how about a DVR motor?  Seriously awesome!

The Schwarz is coming

MGFW

MGFW

Melbourne Guild of Fine Woodworking has managed to drag the Schwarz to our shores in 2013, to run a number of Master Classes.  These include The Anarchist’s Tool Chest, Hammer in Hand and Shaker Wall Cabinet.

The Schwarz

The Schwarz

Each course would be absolutely fascinating, and you’d learn a huge amount about handtools and techniques.  The cost for a 5 day course is $1760 (the first two), and the 2 day Shaker cabinet is $695.  Needless to say, I am SERIOUSLY tempted!

May the Schwarz be with you.

Honey, I shrunk the kids!

Stu's Shed Pictures

Stu’s Shed Pictures

Bigger is normally regarded as better, and often that is quite a justifiable position.  Larger router bits can handle higher loads, have more chunky carbides, can handle higher feed rates.  But they cannot do everything.

Something I have been struggling with for a while, and especially when working with smaller designs is that the large router bits are, well, too large.  When pattern copying a fine design for example, the large bearing rounds off a lot of the detail.  So it is with definite interest I discovered the miniature router bits from Toolstoday.com.

The bearings are 3/16″ (4.76mm), so it is capable of really getting into tight spaces.  Some other small router bits use a non-bearing pin to achieve this, but this leaves the guide pin rubbing against the workpiece at 20000RPM, the friction of which quickly leads to heat buildup, and burning of the edge.

There are a number of different profiles in the range, so it isn’t just a matter of being able to copy more intricate patterns with a straight bit, but also being able to apply edge treatments in tight spaces. The router bits are 1/4″, so able to fit in standard routers either directly, or with a 1/2″ – 1/4″ collet.

Amana Miniature Router Bits

Flush Trim bit

The flush trim bit is always an integral one for a set – it is particularly potent when used to duplicate a template.  You may choose to use this miniature version in combination with its bigger brother.  The larger one can cut the majority of the outline around the template, then follow up with the miniature one to push right into the detail areas.  Might as well not force the bit to do any more work than necessary!

Rabbet bit

The rabbet bit would be useful in making small boxes, and very small picture frames.

Chamfer bit

The first of the edge treatment bits, the chamfer bit can be used for edging, and producing a miter joint.  The one pictured above produces a 45o chamfer. There is a second one in the range that produces a subtle 7o chamfer.

Round over bit

A couple of different radius round over bits are available.  These are particularly useful in toy making, used to soften edges of toys.

And  the classic profile, the Roman Ogee.

Roman Ogee bit

The profiles may be no different to the other common ones in your router bit set, but the size will make a big difference in what you can achieve, in situations where you would have had to find an alternate (and often with a compromised finish) option.

I know tools are not meant to be ‘cute’, but these miniature bits are, at least as far as any router bit can be!  So if you want to shrink your router bits, you can either get an electromagnetic shrink ray from the ’80s, or get these from Toolstoday.com

Amana Tool Miniature Router Bits

New Trays for the Pandora

As mentioned yesterday, the trays I made felt rushed, and subsequently I wasn’t happy with the results, and so a remake was in order. One of those things – less haste, more speed.

I decided that I really did want it to have dovetailed sides – the wall height was around 20mm, so it would involve a single pin and two half-tails, with a wall thickness just sufficient for the Gifkins Dovetail Jig. Once the Silky Oak was machined square and to size, the dovetails were cut and the sides dry-fitted together.

Tray sides dovetailed, ready for slots to be cut for the base

It was only a dry fit at this stage, as I wanted to have a captive base, as I had done for the main box. With a clamp holding the box together, a groove was cut all round the inside of each tray, about 5mm from the bottom and 5mm deep.

The inside dimensions of each tray were again measured, and 10mm added to give the size for the base. In reality, I tend to cut it about 0.5mm-1mm undersized, so there is no chance the base will stop the sides coming together completely during the glue-up.

How I measure this is with a rule, and in this case I regularly turn to the Woodpeckers Rules, which are particularly easy to read. By setting the reading under one of the teeth (and ensuring the desired dimension is on the correct side of the tooth), I set the fence position (or the stop on the mitre gauge, depending on the cut – rip or crosscut).

Setting up the Incra Miter Gauge

Setting the rule to measure to the side of the blade tooth

The photo doesn’t show an actual measurement, but in any case accuracy is always something both difficult to achieve, and worth pursuing. Even measuring to the edge of the tooth is not an assured result. All blades (and all tablesaws for that matter) have a degree of runout. The only real way of determining a measurement is with a test cut. You can take some steps to actually get accurate measurements, but it still involves a test cut, and measuring to the side of a specific tooth, and measuring to this tooth each time. So long as the blade does not slip on the arbor, and you do not change blades then this will then remain reasonably accurate.

In practice, this degree of accuracy is rarely needed – wood is reasonably tolerant in any case, and there are other ways of ensuring accuracy. One is gang-cutting. If I want two sides to be cut to exactly the same length, you can either use a fixed stop that each side butts up against (such as the Incra Shop Stop), or cut both sides at the same time.

Back to the bases, once they were cut to size, it was over to the router table to cut the rebate around the edge. To set it accurately so the base sits flush with the bottom of the sides, I use the same router bit as used to cut the trench. It needs to be dropped an accurate amount, and I have a reasonable way to achieve that, and it doesn’t involve a rule.

Setting accurate router bit height

A router bit is a power chisel, so I use it as such. Without turning the router on, I lightly scrape the endgrain just enough to reveal the exact height of the router bit. This leaves a mark to line the router bit up with when dropped to the lower position.

Scoring the exact chisel height

Tray base and sides, ready for glueup

Each tray got glued and clamped. One interesting aspect of dovetails, is you primary clamp the tail sides, which pulls the pin sides in. I still use a clamp to ensure the actual joint is not loaded up until the glue sets – you don’t want the wood fibres getting compressed unnecessarily. You may note that I used pine for the base – given I planned to cover the working surface with felt, I didn’t see the point wasting top quality timber in that situation. It doesn’t look bad from underneath, and will rarely get turned over in any case.

Once the trays were glued, and sanded, I tried the fit to the main box.

Testing for fit of the tray inside the box

You know you have the fit pretty right when the tray struggles to sink into the box – not because of friction between the sides but because of air pressure in the box! With a little more sanding, it slips down nicely, still with a little resistance, and a very satisfying “shhhh” as the air escapes. Love it!

I had another detour at this point. After the trial a week or so earlier of the dividers, it was time to make them for real.

Jarrah interlocking dividers

The dividers were cut with the thin-kerf CMT blade, and again the Incra Miter Express proved invaluable.

FWIW, Incra and Woodpeckers gear all comes from Professional Woodworker Supplies, and the CMT blade from Carbatec. Thought I’d mention it if you were looking at what I use.

Main tray with dry fit of Jarrah dividers

I was happy with the main tray with the dividers made, but when I fitted them into the smaller tray, it looked too hard to get the individual charms out, and too much like a iceblock tray.

The “ice bock tray”

Again, when not being prepared to accepting something not quite right, I decided there was no option but to remake the dividers for the upper tray. This time, I chose a wall height of 6mm. When working with power tools, that is small, and risks putting fingers too close to blades.

So it was time for handtools. Yeah, I know – shock, horror.

The sides were cut close to the height required, and then it was time for the handplanes.

There was no point trying to bring a handplane to the individual piece – too hard to see what is going on, let alone controlling it, so I reversed the situation, and used the plane in the same way as it’s power equivalent: inverted!

Inverted HNT Gordon Trying Plane

So I took my HNT Gordon Trying Plane, and mounted it in my Veritas twin-screw vice. The individual sides (the dividers) were then run over the top of the blade. The blade was set for a very light cut – there is no rush! If you haven’t set a traditional wood plane blade before, there are no adjustment screws, it is all done with a careful tap tap of the wooden mallet you can see in the top right of the photo.

The new, 6mm high dividers

So the new dividers in comparison with the original ones – chalk and cheese, and right.

I haven’t mentioned how I cut the slots, other than the Incra Miter Express. The short lengths were done very easily in two passes, and all gang-cut at once. With the Shop Stop set, the first slot was cut, and then the whole bunch rotated and the second cut. Took no time at all. I had made some trial cuts to ensure the blade height was just right.

The two long lengths obviously took a little longer, and the V groove track on the Incra fence was invaluable, allowing me to move the stop exactly 22mm between cuts (20mm for the gap, and 2mm for the kerf)

These V groove racks that ensure accurate positioning of the Shop Stop are invaluable.

So the whole jewellery box was coming together. Next, we will look at the lid, and then final assembly.

Hope you are enjoying the process!

Cake Boss

There are router bits, and router bits.  They come in a substantial number of shapes and sizes for a vast variety of functions.

Signwriting is a rather popular use for routers, given its particular ability to operate around curves and corners, its ability to follow templates and a router bit is basically a powered chisel.

Now chisels come in two types.  Ones used to shape wood, and ones used to open paint cans.  If your router bit isn’t razor sharp, you might as well use it to open paint cans – the difference between a sharp and blunt router bit is chalk and cheese. If you want a smooth, clean finish, the router bit needs to be as sharp as is achievable.  Tungsten carbide is not the sharpest material possible, but because of its hardness and durability it is preferred for the cutting edge of router bits and saw blades.

Face it though, sharpening it is a bugger.  Quality router bits are sharpened by CNC machines, able to produce polished carbide faces, but even a quality bit blunts with use.  You can send a bit away for sharpening, but the way to really get as sharp as new, is to have a new router bit.

So where does that leave us?

The ideal is:

1. A router bit that is razor sharp

2. Tungsten Carbide tip for maximising durability of the edge, prolonging the amount of cutting when the bit can still be considered sharp

3. Cheap enough (after the original purchase) to replace whenever it dulls off

4. Still able to be sharpened to maximise bit lonegivity

Guess we really want our cake and get to eat it too!

I’ve been trying out a couple of router bits that hit all these points – the professional signmaking bits from ToolsToday, by Amana Tool, and in particular the Insert V-Groove bits, that have replaceable inserts.

Amana Tool Router bits

These are not bits for massive stock removal – there are bits with significantly heavier chunks of carbide for that operation.  These are designed to achieve one particular feature – significant sharpness, and the ability to maintain that by easy tip replacement.   The angle that they approach the work is also important – sharpness is only one part of the formula, and the angle of attack is also critical to avoid tearout.

These bits are designed for CNC machines, and router tables.  So of course I turned straight to my ‘manual CNC’ machine – the Torque Workcentre.

My ‘manual CNC’

To try the bits out, I set up with the copy attachment, and chose a letter to duplicate as a first trial.

Mounted

The 1/2″ bit is mounted (this is the 90 degree bit – with the blade set at 45 degrees, the resulting groove is an exact 90 degrees.  There is also a 91 degree version for ‘mitre folding’ – this is where you cut a groove, then fold the material at that groove – used in furniture making with melamine and the like to get a sharp corner, with the outer skin being continuous around the corner, and not with a cut at the very corner).

From the Wood Magazine website, here is an example of a box made with this technique. (You can do it with a 90 degree bit – a 91 degree bit just achieves a sharper corner)

From WoodMagazine.com

First 2 passes, increasing total depth to around 5.5 – 6mm

The first pass went well, and a very clean cut.  I then increased the cutting depth for a second pass.  It comes down to how you use the Torque, but as a general rule this isn’t pushing the bit as much as a CNC will – it has a much higher feed rate tha what you’d tend to do by hand. Still, it coped well.

I then changed the copy pin to one with a wider diameter (from 1/4″ to 1/2″) and ran around the template again.

Twin pass

The bit cut really cleanly, and easily.  Don’t judge the small indentations around the curves of the “S” – that comes down to the smoothness of my template. I can really see how well this would also work on an actual CNC machine.

If you want a fine cut, then the 45 degree bit is for you.

Fine cut

With a combination of the two bits, you can cut large solid letters, and fine, precise details.  And as they dull off (as all bits will with use), the cutting surface can be removed and replaced or resharpened as you desire, without having to incur the price of a new router bit.

Available from ToolsToday.com in the USA. Now you can have your cake and eat it too…or in terms of router bits, you can always have sharp router bits and use them too!

I box, therefore I am

Ever tried a box joint (also mistakenly called a finger joint by Triton)?  Some regard it as a poor-man’s dovetail, but it is a legitimate joint in its own right, and can be used as a stunning joint, with the added bonus of significant glue area. You can pin the joint for even more strength, and if you take that one step further, the wooden hinge I made recently is another version of a box joint.

There are a number of plans out there to make a jig.  Some of them even offer the ability to have a couple of sizes of fingers.  Generous.

If you are fortunate enough to have an LS positioner on your router table, they are a pretty simple operation, but even that has some limitations.

They can be a stunning joint can’t they!  And those with variable spacing, or a central key pin are even more interesting.  As you become inspired by the joint, don’t you find yourself wishing someone like Incra would come up with a jig, incorporating their typical clever engineering, and insatiable appetite for precision?

Yeah, well, they did.  And it is a stunning looking tool at that.  Works on both the router table and the tablesaw, utilising the mitre slot.

I don’t have too much to add to the topic yet, other than these initial photos which just start to reveal the qualities of the jig.

On the tablesaw, this is one of those occasions where a dado blade really comes into its own.

The jig is currently available on pre-order through Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  The initial shipment is almost completely accounted for already, so if you are keen, be quick.

As I mentioned, I’m not going into a lot of detail as yet, but that is destined to change.  And you can talk to whomever you like on the blogs and forums, but at the moment I have loan of THE first pre-release model (the one that starred in the photos and video) to put through its paces, and there isn’t another one currently in the wild.  Just another Stu’s Shed exclusive!

It certainly has some very cool innovations – look forward to getting to know them better and to bring them to you as well.

In the meantime, have a gander at the following Incra video – it explains a lot.

 

What is old is new again (and vise versa)

I found a phone the other day – sadly the owner had lost it, and it had subsequently been run over as well (not a happy phone!) To have a look at the contact list to find the owner, I had to dig up an old phone to put the SIM into and in my diggings I found my first digital mobile that I had while still in the Navy, and had last used in 1998.

(the AA battery I included for scale).

When I went to charge it, I was stunned to find that not only the phone still worked (that was pretty much expected), but that it still retained about 3/4 of its charge.  After 14 years!!!!

We retire these tools with scary regularity, to replace them with the latest and greatest.  The newest ones do have all sorts of amazing features, they are smaller, smarter, play more games, and have become mini-computers.  But what is a phone really for?

In my office at work, I still have an Apple ][e computer from 1984

It still works, and is (although tiring) capable of everything it was valued for when it was new.  Still capable of word processing, spreadsheets, and still has some great games.

What I am trying to show is although there are some things to gain from getting the latest and greatest of anything, the items that are left behind are still perfectly capable of doing what they were intended to do, even in a market a volatile as computing, or mobile telephony. (And I am as much an enthusiastic consumer of the latest and greatest techno-gadgets as anyone).

So what about in woodworking? Such a volatile market indeed, it is hard to keep up.  All those new hammers, tablesaws, and ruler technology.

Now there are advancements to be sure.  And as we equip our workshops, it is always interesting to source the best of these (as far as budgets stretch) to increase the capacity of our ‘shops.  Who doesn’t love a new tool (and hopefully there are a fair few sitting under trees around the world of Stu’s Shed readers!)

It is still worth remembering that despite all the ‘advancements’, very few reflect a real improvement, a true redesign rather than just a fad to generate sales.  We’ve seen a few: lasers on tools (even on handsaws ffs), magnesium casings, snake oil salesmen at wood shows, and all their wares.

Think back to how artisans of old managed to produce the most stunning of work, with the most basic of tools.  Some of what we buy is to fasttrack the process of being able to produce equivalent work without the days, months and years of practice, finessing the craft.   Some of what we buy turns out to be snake oil.

That is not to say there hasn’t been some inventions in recent times that have really added to the woodworking world.  Some of the things produced by Bridge City certainly would count, the SawStop and Incra both definitely rate, or going back a few years now, some of the stuff Teknatool came up with to revolutionise workholding on the lathe.

Others are redesigning and reworking existing products, such as Woodpeckers, and they are producing beautifully refined tools.

But there is still a group who are quite prepared to take a laser, stick it on a hammer (or a saw) in the hopes to deprive you of your hard-earned without actually providing a real benefit.

Back to the phone again, and what it made me think of when I saw it (and how functional it has remained).  It is worth having a look through your workshop, see what has been pushed aside because of upgrades, refinements, space constraints or whatever.  You may well (re)discover some treasures out there.  I found some tools recently I had completely forgotten I even owned.  Nothing wrong with the tool, or its functionality, or why it was purchased.  Just lost in time.  The benefit of buying quality: it remains a quality item for many years past when lesser examples have long fallen by the wayside.

So I hope that you find under your Christmas trees some new, functional, quality additions to your workshops.

But don’t forget you already have an awesome tool already, just waiting for you to pick it up and yield it: your existing shed, and all the tools contained therein.  Imagine an artisan of old walking in there and falling over in amazement at what we now have at our disposal, and what they could achieve with them.

And yes, I did track down the phone owner, from the number on the SIM card. Who wants that sort of hassle, especially at Christmas time?

%d bloggers like this: