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.

Workbench Build

Got the workbench home and began the unpack.  Heavy thing – around 75kg in 2 boxes.  Placed the top onto the tablesaw (convenient flat surface) to begin the assembly.

Underneath the top, some recessed areas for the legs to be fitted, and interestingly, three partial depth saw kerfs running most of the length of the table.  Not sure why they are there – must have something to do with stabilising the top / preventing warping, but I haven’t heard of the technique before, or whether it is successful.

Holes are predrilled, including those for the wood vices.  Because of the location of the vices to the legs, even those have holes drilled through them so the vice thread can pass through the leg.

The metal legs are in two parts, allowing the adjustment.  They also have large feet that screw into the bottom of the legs, allowing the unit to be stabilised, even on an uneven floor.  There is a heavy gauge shelf that screws partway down the legs, that locks the legs together.

It is at this point that it is easiest to fit the vices to the bench, and in particular to work out how to fit the Veritas Twin Screw vice.  The distance between centres for the Veritas is 430mm.  The distance between centres of the legs of the workbench is, completely coincidentally, 430mm.  Almost like the vice was designed for this workbench.  I’ll have to drill a couple of holes through the legs for the screws to pass, but that will work, and the screw of the Veritas will pass below that of the vice that comes with the bench, so both can cohabit in close proximity.

I will have to add an additional face to the side of the bench – prefer something more substantial to be the rear face for the Veritas, and of course a front face as well.

I haven’t decided what to do with the second vice that came with the bench.  It is meant to go on the opposite end to where I am fitting the Veritas, but as this end is going to be against the wall, it doesn’t make as much sense.  Instead I will probably fit it n the same side as the other bench vice, so long items can be clamped up in both vices at the same time.

Start of a pen

I was hoping to have a full set of photos of this pen construction – the first time I’ve tried making a BT-401 (a version of the Mont-Blanc pen style) from Carbatec in preparation for the demo day I’m putting on 31 July (last Saturday of the month) at Carbatec, Melbourne (10am-12pm)  Thought I’d better actually try making one or two before the day!

Pen Vice

I started by choosing a blank, in this case an acrylic camo pen blank I bought at the Brisbane Wood Show.  Using the pen vice I recently got from Carbatec, this was the first time I used it for an actual pen rather than playing with it, and it worked perfectly – it is a very well-made pen vice, and for the first time I didn’t have to think about whether the blank was actually vertical.  It may not be essential for making pens, but it is nice having a tool dedicated to a specific task – it removes any small stresses that otherwise result from compromise.  The one thing I still need to acquire here (other than a drill press with less run-out!) is a drill bit that is more suitable, and closer in diameter to the brass insert.  At the moment the bit is 0.25mm oversized, and I feel it results in a fit that is a little looser than I’d like.

I also don’t think the standard bit works as well dealing with the waste material, especially acrylic.  If the waste isn’t cleared efficiently, and the bit doesn’t cut as well as it should there is a potential for the operation getting hotter than is necessary, and I personally believe that overheating the blank at this point results in more failures during the turning and finishing stages than any other step.  Too much heat weakens the blank, whether it is acrylic (which already suffers badly from heat), or timber which dries and/or develops microcracks when overheated.  You don’t realise it at this step, but pay the price near the end when the blank is turned down to final (thin wall) dimensions.

Now you see it..... soon you won't!

Mounted on the lathe with the correct bushes and started turning down the first blank.  I will be very curious to see it actually works – first time with any new pen design is always a little uncertain. I got most of the first half of the pen turned, then the demands of having an under 5 year-old in the household called me away, so I haven’t managed to progress the pen any further at this stage.  The camo blank looks to be working well too – more of a vietnam era jungle green than a modern camo, but that is fine too.  This came from one of the 1m long blanks I bought in Brisbane – very little waste so far!

More to come as the pen is finished.

Bench Vices in Oz

A recent query about bench vices has let me wondering again about the options we have, particularly in Australia.  (I first looked at the topic back July or so last year)  There seems to be a large hole in the market-  you can buy an end vice for either well under $100 or over $300 (and up and up) (Specifically bench construction vices – there are standard bench vices in the $150 odd bracket)

Under $100, and you become concerned that what you are getting might be too cheap.  Over $300, and you wonder what the hell you are getting for your money!

I picked up a Carbatec one last year, and although I am still yet to commission it, think it wasn’t too bad…….for the price.

Large Front Vice

You can get one of these for $75  and all you need to do is make your own wooden jaws (and even if you got a Veritas etc, you’d still be making wooden jaws!)

Tail Vice

They also sell tail vices and shoulder vices for around $30 – $35.  All seem reasonable in their construction (not much to any of them anyway – jaws and a threaded rod!) but nothing particularly thrilling to speak of – tolerances were not something in the manufacturer’s vocabulary I guess.

Benchcrafted Tail Vice

You can always go to the other end of the scale, where a tail vice will cost $US350 + shipping from Benchcrafted.  They do make some very precise vices, with an obvious attention to detail.

Benchcrafted Glide Leg Vice

One of my favourites is their Glide leg vice – an old-fashioned vice (or should that be “out-of-fashion”), but again, over $US320, plus almost that again in shipping.

Personally, I am still looking for something in the middle – Benchcrafted quality, made locally.  I don’t understand why we can’t have that.

For the price, check out the display at Carbatec – at least you can give the units a good rattle and try before you buy.

Walko in the Workshop

Do you have the perfect workshop?  All the space in the world? Or are there factors in play denying you a decent working space? Need a more portable work station?

Do you need a Walko in the Workshop?

Walko 4 Workbench Professional

Walko 4 Workbench Professional

The bench can be configured in all sorts of ways, and that is where it really starts showing up its versatility.  In the A Frame orientation shown here, it looks like a pretty normal workbench with a gap down the middle.  This gap is ideal when handling larger sheets as you can run a circular saw through the board, down the middle of that gap without cutting into the tops.

The tops are regarded as being sacrificial and can be purchased as a consumable, although I’d be unlikely to want to go down that route, at least not deliberately.

Replacement Brackets

Replacement Brackets

The brackets that allow the tops to be located into the A Frame can be purchased separately. You can make your own tops, but I think more interestingly you can use these to make your own jigs.  I’d probably use butterfly nuts so the jigs can be swapped as required.  The original bamboo tops are laminated, but still have a significant level of water resistance (max 24 hours).  They have 20mm dog holes drilled in them for a variety of clamping setups, and particularly the rather clever low-profile Walko surface clamps.

Walko Surface Clamp

Walko Surface Clamp

The Walko clamps have 2 parts – a stationary dogged side (and in some cases that is all you need), and a extendable side that uses a cam to tighten the clamp on the workpiece.  You can also use F Clamps to really hold items to the surface, with the fixed jaw inserted through a dog hole.  (Even quick-action clamps with a removable head can be used).

Horizontal Panel Cutting

Horizontal Panel Cutting

By removing the benchtops, the A Frame can be opened out providing a large platform for breaking down sheet goods with a circular saw.  The black plastic strips are also consumable (and replaceable), which a saw can easily cut through without damage to the blade.  It is estimated by the company that these strips will last 1 1/2 – 2 years of use by contractors.  I haven’t checked the actual fit, but these strips are just over 3mm wide, so I’d be very tempted to see if they can be replaced with 3mm MDF strips.

If you would prefer breaking sheets down in a vertical orientation, the Walko can be wall mounted, and there are brackets to support the material.

Panel Saw

Panel Saw

Using a saw-rail system such as the Festool Guide Rail to turn it into a panel saw

Festool Guide Rail

Festool Guide Rail

Now while the system is wall-mounted, you can convert it back to a workbench, with one bench being a working surface, and the second for tool and materials storage.

Wall Mounted Bench

Wall Mounted Bench

It is this orientation that lead me to a setup that would work particularly well in my workshop.  I don’t have sufficient wallspace for the Walko to be wall mounted (wish it was), so having the setup as an A Frame works best for me.

A Frame Alternate Setup

A Frame Alternate Setup

The material support brackets can also be used to support an item during assembly, or for supporting odd-shaped items for cutting such as pipes.

Transporting the System

Transporting the System

For on-site work (particularly contractors, or woodshows……. 😉 ) the Walko bench easily fits inside a Station Wagon.

To give an extra level of functionality, I am quite interested in seeing if a traditional bench vice can be fitted to the bench.  I’ve purchased a basic one to try it out.  Now to add some wooden jaws.

Wooden Bench Vice

Wooden Bench Vice

Update – Video added here

More than just a vice

Saw this vice in Carbatec today – thought I’d take a photo, although it doesn’t do it justice.

Veritas Tucker Vice

Veritas Tucker Vice

The vice is huge, and an impressive bit of engineering to boot.  It doesn’t come cheap, with a $1400 pricetag, but when it comes down to a vice with all the bells and whistles (or in this case tilts and angles), a patternmaker’s vice is hard to beat, and this version is no exception.

It’s hard to give you a sense of scale, other than realising that is a HNT Gordon Jointing Plane in the background, and that isn’t the smallest plane either!

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