T7 the big kid on the block? Not any more.

Tormek have released the T8 grinder for the ultimate in sharpening.  Available in Australia in July 2016.

While the changes over the T7 are probably not enough to make all T7 owners want to run out to get one, if you are in the market for a new grinder, the T8 is definitely worth considering.

They are currently available on pre-order from Ideal Tools.

The changes include a repositionable water trough, useful for the changing dimensions as the grinding wheel wears (of course, you have to do a fair bit of grinding to wear the wheel away!  Mine is still pretty close to original dimensions.  There again, if I used it more, I’d have sharper tools too.  Doh!)

The body is now cast zinc, and the drive wheel is also zinc.

The body is enclosed, and there is better splash and run-off management (and that is a good thing – I get quite a river happening after a long sharpening session!)


While many still struggle with the whole concept of a wet stone grinder costing north of a $1000, for those who have been able to justify the expenditure, there is no question about just how good the machine is in achieving its purpose in life.  Ultimate sharpness.

More detail can be found on the Tormek website

Bauhaus of the 21st Century

Back in the start of the 20th century, a school of modern art and design was established in Germany. It had, as one of its underlying principles, form follows function.

In other words, design an item where it is ideally made for the job it has to perform, not for its aesthetic form first. This doesn’t mean the resulting item does not have aesthetic merit, but it has to be designed to work first, before its form is considered.

Many of the concepts that were developed are still seen today, such as this modern kettle, which is based on a Bauhaus design.


The primary function of the kettle is to boil water on a stove. So maximising the surface area in contact with the element is first giving consideration to the function, before being concerned with the implication of that on the form. (And so on).

It is a very appealing principle for engineers.

Although we are 100 years on, many of the designers out there have seemingly forgotten that function is important, and so we have power tools that look like Cylons, tools designed to appeal to a particular demographic, tools designed for every reason, other than the specific function they are meant to perform.

Tools built as cheaply as possible, because who in their right mind would actually want to pay good money for quality?

This box warehouse concept, these Chinese-made tools, this concept of power tools for $10 and $20 have really destroyed many expectations of tools in a throw-away society. Buy a tool, use it for a few jobs, replace it when it dies. The service charges for repair of appliances is insane. As is the hourly rate that is proposed. More than many people earn as an hourly rate, so why would they spend 2 hours working to pay for 1 hour of a repairman, when for the same (or cheaper amount) you can buy a new, replacement (cheap) tool?

So now we have over priced labour, over priced manufacturing, offset against ludicrously low priced imports.

Never mind the imports are built, not for a function, but a price. Let’s not use real bearings, use nylon bushes. The tool is made to last 10 hours of operation for its life (and no, that is not an exaggeration, some GMC drills were specifically designed for 10 hours use. If one lasted longer, it was considered ‘over engineered’, and was rebranded platinum). 10 hours operation of a drill may last some households a lifetime, so sure, for some people, that is a reasonable purchase.

But what I see when I look at those tools is a waste of resources. A waste of the raw materials that made them, as with the same raw product, refined better of course, and with a much better design, a real tool could have been made. In fact, the minerals would have been better just left in the ground, rather than mined, drilled, crushed, refined, shipped, refined more, shipped again, machined, assembled, shipped, distributed, and shipped again to be sold, in a product that cost $10, and is designed to last 10 hours.

I tried to review a clamping workbench a few years ago. I won’t mention its name, but it was sold through Bunnings for a while. I had a couple of models to cover. The concept seemed reasonable, the sales video looked impressive. I got one model assembled, but the second broke before I even got it fully together. (I had videoed the whole process, and by the end, it was obvious that even if I did use the video, I’d have to over-dub the whole soundtrack).

By the time I had the two assembled, the flimsiness of the material (too thin struts, too weak, too compromised to save a few dollars in raw materials), the overall quality of construction, both models were picked up taken back to the supplier and unceremoniously given back. I wanted nothing to do with them. (The company (importer) hasn’t spoken to me since either). All I could think was “what a waste of resources”. Not there was enough steel used to even make a good boat anchor from it. Perhaps if there had been, it wouldn’t have been such a crap product. About 6 months (or even less) later, Bunnings dumped the range as well. Guess that says something.

So let me introduce a different concept. The Bauhaus of the 21st century.

Instead of “Form Following Function”, I propose that the new Bauhaus is “Finance Following Function”. And one of the big proponents of this (not that I am suggesting they are considering themselves the new Bauhaus, that is just my take on things), comes from the country of the original Bauhaus, Germany.

German engineering. It has long been regarded as the créme de la créme of design and manufacturing excellence, and when building something where Finance Follows Function, means building a tool to the absolute best it can be, to do the job it was intended to do, and then worry about the price.

And there sits Festool. Tools made to be the best, not the cheapest. Other brands also appear: Tormek, SawStop, Woodpeckers, Incra, Teknatool. Tools overengineered, over-speced, over made, to achieve the optimum quality, not price.

The tools last, and really work.
Function √
Justified use of materials √
Longevity √
A pleasure to use √

How much?

I read this on the packet of some premium pizza bases, but it was so fitting:

“The bitterness of poor quality remains, long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten” How true that is.

I know expensive tools are, well, expensive. I know we can’t all afford the very best tools all the time. (Yes, I still have some GMC tools too). But little by little, I am replacing them with the quality equivalent.

The first was my ROS (random orbital sander): when the previous one died, I bought my first Festool – the ETS 150/5. Sure, it was 3x the price of a reasonable ROS, but not once have I regretted that purchase. It is a pleasure each and every time I pick it up and use it. And my hands are not in real physical pain at the end of a sanding session either (from vibrations). I could repeat that same story for a number of other tools as well.

So just something to keep in mind the next time you are shopping for a tool (or anything really). You may well be heavily influenced by price (who isn’t), but give some consideration to what I have said here too, and see if you can choose to allow “Finance to Follow Function”. You won’t regret the decision each and every single time you subsequently use the item purchased.

It is a Bauhaus thing.

When taking it slow is the fastest way to go

I was in the process of mounting the RapidAir outlets, which required pilot holes to be drilled for the screws (not self drilling unfortunately).


It was taking ages- having to start on smaller and smaller drill bits, just to drill a 3.5mm hole. Ridiculous.

So decided to stop being lazy, and continue working with something obviously blunt. Take the time, set up the Tormek, and the DBS22, and put a real edge on the bit.


Back to drilling through steel like butter. All that extra time sharpening was saved in just the next 4 holes, and I still had 50 holes to go.

Time spent sharpening pays off in spades.

One Sharpening Station to Rule Them All

Dropped past Carbatec today, and on the front counter was a solution to end all solutions for the sharpening station

The Tormek TS-740 Sharpening Station

Photo 19-02-2014 9 26 34

Drool.  Seriously.

The website spiel covers the basics:

Height 750-830mm, width 578mm, depth 390 mm

Moisture proof composite worktop
Centralised key locking
Scratch resistant metallic surface
Drawers to fit Tormek kits
Auto-return soft close drawer function
Aluminium handles
Fully extendable drawers
Holes for hooks
Adjustable legs for comfortable working height
Rubber feet to protect the floor

But what a way to keep all the accessories organised, protected, easily to hand (and looking cool!)

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Steak Knives, Take Two

When I first made some scales for the steak knife set (from Professional Woodworkers Supplies) about a year ago, things were going well until almost the final step when excessive tearout occurred when the roundover bit got a tad aggressive. That project has been set aside for a little longer than I expected (or realised when I looked at the date of the first effort!). So time to try again. I’m not sure if this specific set is still available, but there are plenty of other knife projects available here.

Unhandled knife kit

I didn’t take a photo of the knife kit again this time, so have recycled the first photo here. Now on with the new attempt (and yes, there is a more successful conclusion!)

To start, I have a new timber for the blanks (for a bit of variety!) This time the handles will be black hearted sassafras. The blanks have been roughly sized, and ready to be machined accurately.

I have improved the method I use to sand thin stock on the drum sander by making a sled.

Thin stock sled for the drum sander

With a piece of MDF, I have attached a thin fence to one edge with a couple of 4mm dominos.

Thin stock sled in operation

The sled carries the blanks in and through the sander – the increased area of the base works well with the sander to ensure no slippage occurs when the blanks impact the sanding drum, decreasing any chance of snipe or burning. These were sanded to 8.2mm to match the knife bolster.

Next, cut an angle on one end to match the knife blank. In this case, 36 degrees, which is easily done using the Incra Mitre Gauge HD, and even better when coupled up with the Mitre Express.

HD Gauge from Incra

Mitre Express

The Mitre Express makes machining small items safer, and minimising tearout.

Knife Scales

The resulting knife scales ready for the next stage. I needed to drill 3.5mm holes, but found my drill bit that size had the end snapped off from a previous job. So for a bit of a diversion, off to the Tormek and the drill bit sharpener jig.

Tormek DBS-22

This jig quickly turned the broken tip of the bit back into a well-formed, razor sharp bit, better than new (originally a 2 facet bit – this jig allows you to develop 4 facets on the tip).

Preparing the scale for drilling

With double-sided tape, I attached one scale to the knife, then the second scale to the first. This allows me to drill both sides simultaneously, and any breakout can be minimised.

Drilling the blank

After drilling, I drew around the handle, then detached the knife. After roughing down on the bandsaw, I sanded right to the line using a combination of the disk sander and spindle sander.

The scales are then glued to either side of the knife, and the pins inserted. They are longer than necessary, and get cut and sanded to size once the glue sets.

Handles ready for final shaping and finishing

The knives were then returned to the disk and spindle sanders to finalise the shape.

From there, I used a random orbital sander to sand all sides, and round over the edges (done with the ROS held upside down in one hand, and the knife handle bought to the sander). After a while I decided the microcuts were becoming a bit excessive, so finished the job wearing a kevlar carver’s glove.

You may notice the knife bolsters are no longer polished – while shaping some of the bolsters got damaged unfortunately, so it was better to have them all sanded evenly to match. It may look a bit exaggerated in the photo, but ok in reality. Not the preferred result, but such is life.

The knives have already been used a couple of times – it is rather cool using a knife you’ve made the handle for, and the knives themselves are heavy, very sharp and slice steak to perfection.

Forgot to mention – they were finished simply by rubbing them down with Ubeaut Foodsafe Plus mineral oil. This is ideal for chopping boards, salad bowls, and of course, knife handles.

Finished knives

(just reread this post the following morning- I really shouldn’t write entries at 2am: so many typos, including the title. “Sneak knives”. Either that is autocorrect gone mad, or I have!

To everything, turn, turn, turn, there is a season……

You are deep into a sharpening session on your water-cooled sharpener, and the next job would be best done with the wheel turning towards the edge, rather than away from it. What do you do? What DO you do? I know what I do – compromise! I know the T7 (in my case) weights 14kg, plus around 3kg in water (the wheel soaks up about 2kg, and there is an additional in the waterbath). I could pick it up and spin it around, then back again for each job, but I don’t.

And I am not the only one. In fact, it must be rather common as Tormek have come up with the RB-180. A rotating base for their sharpeners.

RB-180 from Tormek

It is specifically designed for the Tormek footprint, and has rubber feet so the complete unit doesn’t start slipping around on the bench. I have found there can be a little movement between the sharpener and the rotating base. I may put down something a bit more anti-slip, but I didn’t notice it causing me a problem during my first sharpening session since putting the new base under my sharpener.

The rotating base has a very low profile – particularly important for those people who have already taken the time to ensure their sharpeners are set at the optimum height.


Looking at the underside for a sec, and you see those rubber feet, and the lock for the rotation. Also the cross reinforcing to provide stiffness.

Fitting Simplicity

Fitting the base is just a bit easy – pick up sharpener, put down the RB-180 (with the lock facing the front), place the sharpener on top. Done deed.

Simple push down on the locking lever, and spin the Tormek around.




So a useful addition, particularly for the 17kg (wet weight) Tormek T7. It has been a while since I’ve seen this side of the sharpener – looks like it is due for some dusting!

I took the splash guard off for this, as where I have the T7 there isn’t a lot of room, and therefore even more reason for the new base. Check out http://www.promac.com.au for more information and to find an authorised dealer near you.

Tormek’in it up

First cab off the ranks for Summer is a bit of unlearning, then getting a day of turning instruction from a master turner. So that is going to be quite an experience! I’ve developed many bad habits as it happens.

First things first however – I can’t take many of my turning chisels in their current condition, so have been giving them a decent sharpen, and there is only one way I know to achieve that: the Tormek T7.

The standard wheel is excellent for minor repairs, and resharpens, but some of these tools need a serious reshape. It can be done on the standard wheel, but it takes time and wears the stone (and I don’t have “free stones for life”)

So what is the solution? Two other stones. One I use for HSS is the Blackstone Silicon Tormek wheel. It is the same grit as the standard stone (220 grit), but it cuts HSS fast. The other stone (and no, not the 4000 grit Japanese stone) is your everyday grinder with a Al-Oxide wheel. This can be used to do significant material removal before moving over to the Tormek.

Now you might very well ask what is the point of having a Tormek if you are just going to use a grinder, and especially, how do you ensure what you grind off with the high speed grinder is right, and you don’t find yourself having to do a complete reshape on the Tormek anyway?

The simple answer is to treat the high speed grinder as if it is the Tormek, complete with using the same jigs and the same setup distances and angles. This is achieved by fitting the BGM 100 to your standard grinder. This kit includes a block mount and the standard Tormek arm which your normal collection of Tormek jigs will obviously fit.

After a light shape (given how aggressive the wheels cut, you don’t need more than a light touch), you can then return to the T7 to finish the job, without excessive wear of the wheel. As far a heat buildup from the high speed grinder – you don’t need excessive force, and don’t rush what will work very quickly anyway ensures you don’t burn the steel.

Back on the T7, and the choices are standard wheel, the Blackstone Silicon (at the rear) and the Japanese stone (in the foreground). That is one soft wheel!

Sharpen for life

Ever looked at a Tormek Sharpening system (T7) and thought that it may be awesome, but if you plan on being a heavy user, the cost of the replacement wheels was a bit more than you could afford?

Then perhaps the current Tormek offer (as promoted by the Tormek Shop) will be of interest. Buy a T7 and get free replacement wheels for life. At over $300/wheel, that is nothing to be sneezed at!



However, they no longer offer you a 7 year warranty on the machine. Who offers 7 years of guaranteed operation these days anyway?

10 years sounds better!

Episode 66 Tormek DBS22

Episode 66 Tormek DBS22


Took a trip over to Williamstown today with the family to visit Science Works.  Interesting place – good fun for the little one. I gave a bed of nails a go – almost as painful as it sounds (might have something to do with weighing 1/10th of a tonne), but at least I can now say I’ve tried it (once!)

Had look through the old pumping station too.  Some stunning old engineering.  It is sad to see how much has gone – just because we have modern pumps, machines, technology, is it really a better time?  The shear cost in manufacturing / the commitment to the task and the TLC that would have gone into keeping the place running is staggering.

Real Engineering


Awesome Old Tech

Heat Exchangers

Sad too that so much has gone that there is no way the plant and machines could ever do what they were built to do again. And so much reduced to entertain kids – yes, encouraging and educating them is obviously important, but there is a serious lack of adult-focused information.

So while over in Williamstown, I took the opportunity to drop into Ideal Tools – I hadn’t been there since they had started using their workshop (and mezzanine space) for direct sales.  In the past you had to make an appointment to see the place (other than while on one of their informative courses), but these days they are open during regular hours for sales.  Their stock range of Festool is quite impressive – bit too tempting really!

I didn’t have any plans for visiting (other than saying hi, and showing them the new Tormek DBS22 jig), so it was rather surprising to discover myself coming away from the place with a Walko 3 workbench.  I had a Walko 4 in my shed temporarily about a year ago, and found it very useful, but it was a bit large for my limited space.  I saw the Walko 3 at the recent National Tradesman Expo (on the Ideal Tools stand), and it looked a lot more practical for my situation.

I almost got it all home there and then, but just couldn’t quite get the base into the back of the Mazda 3.  I would have managed except for my daughter sitting in her car seat.  Ah well, the sacrifices of a family man 🙂

A Variety of Configurations

The Walko can be used in a variety of ways.  Even these orientations are not the only ways the Walko can be set up and used too.

More on that when it arrives!

We had a play with the DBS22 on a drill bit – and found it is a pretty easy jig to use.  The primary bevels cut very very quickly, the secondary bevel took a bit longer, but there is more metal to remove so it isn’t surprising.  It was a bit rushed so we didn’t achieve a perfect result, but it looked pretty decent even so, especially for a first effort.

So a pretty eventful day, with some surprising conclusions.

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