Walko vs Festool

Been doing some handheld routing on the Festool MFT, the results of which you’ll be able to see in the next video.  I’ve been using the Festool surface clamps for much of the operation, but have been surprised to find that over time, the Walko surface clamps (which are 2/3rds the price) are actually doing a better job! (Festool $150 pair, Walko $99 pair)


Festool Surface Clamp


Walko Surface Clamp

Walko Surface Clamp

(Just did an image search for both – the top 4 images of the Walko clamp all came from Stu’s Shed!)

Granted that the Festool is probably a better design, I guess, with a longer reach, the ability to secure it to the table from underneath, and I am sure there are one or two other features over the Walko.

However there is one overriding difference.  The Festool jams when you try to release it.  The Walko doesn’t.  After a while, the Festool also doesn’t slide smoothly, whereas the Walkos I have, have been going and going for years without incident.

Looking closely at the shaft of the Festool, and it is pitted along its length, dented by the securing mechanism.  Sure, I can file these off (and already have a couple of times), but it is an inherent flaw.  The metal of the shaft of the Festool surface clamp is wrong – it is too soft.  Whereas the Walko clamp has got it just right.

Not often that something is able to out-perform Festool, but in this case, something has!

An eye on the dust

How’s your dust bag?

Mine? I know it is getting full. But there is full, and then there is full.  I’m sure I can fit the sawdust from just one more saw cut in there.  And again, and again.

I have the extractor in the attached shed: saves on noise, saves on the otherwise lost floor area, and any dust leaks (if any) don’t matter.  But it does mean out of sight, out of mind.

I finally got around to changing the collection bag.  What a mission! It was rather fuller than I thought, and it was cumbersome, heavy, and a right pain.  Yes, I know I should have changed it earlier.  Yes, I know I could have checked more often.  Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

A great pile

So.  I need to keep a closer eye on the dust collection.

One thing that’d help is to do a pre-separation.  By placing the pre-separation drum in the main shed, I can keep a better eye on it.  There isn’t the issue with dust escaping from the collector as this is not the end of the line, and the inside of the drum is maintained in a negative pressure.

Rerouting the corner

I had a bit of a win doing the rerouting necessary to fit this drum in.  Got rid of a MDF cabinet, fitted the drum in, and then while trying to think of what to do with the two sanders, I happened to notice the Walko sitting there which I had used at Ballarat and hadn’t gotten onto putting back into the other shed.  Perfect fit!  Sure, a bit cramped (where in my shed isn’t!), but a solution where I wasn’t sure if I’d find one.

Walko is in the house

Getting back to the dust collection, and added an extra feature: an electronic eye to keep a watch on the dust collection, and let me know when things get too full.  This one is pretty cool!  It is the Trupro Dust Sentry from Woodworking Warehouse.  It may seem like some others, but for one very unique, clever feature.  But more on that shortly.

The sensor

The sensor fits very easily – drill a hole.  There are nuts on the threaded sensor that fit either side of the mounting position, holding the sensor in place.  The sensor has a maximum range of 40cm, and that meant it found the other side of my drum.  However on the side there is a small pot, and that can be wound down giving a decreased range.

Mounting position

You could use that sensitivity range so the sensor pointed straight down to where the dust was gathering, building a pile towards the sensor, or you can side mount it (as I have here) so it ‘sees’ the pile when it reaches that height.  I may change this location when I change the lid, but this was a good trial point.  (Lid change discussion at end!)  When the lid is changed, I’m likely to mount the sensor looking down – means I won’t have to remove the sensor each time I wheel the bin out for emptying.

Sensor range

You can test the sensor by waving a hand in front of it.  When it ‘sees’ you, a light comes on at the back (and a signal is sent to the control box).

Control box

The control box has the circuitry inside, and plugs into the wall for power.  It has the audible alarm, and an adjustment dial – all to do with a very special feature of this specific dust sentry….but I’m still not quite ready to tell you what that is!


Mounting the control box is very easy – couple of screws in through the back into a beam.

Dust speed

Ok, ok, the special feature.  This dust sentry is unique (as far as I can tell), as it doesn’t get fooled when a large quantity of heavy dust flies past it.  This sensor can be tuned to ignore passing particles that otherwise give a false reading, and triggers only from the stationary dust – the true level of dust in the bin.  This sensitivity can be tuned to your particular requirement.


So here is the unit all set, ready to sense. Ready to keep an eye on the dust!

Lid change: well, once I got all this set up, it was all working well…..except the pile of dust in the bin didn’t seem to be increasing.  At all.

I did experience this when first playing with this lid a few years ago, and was mucking around with all sorts of combinations of plumbing fittings to create a swirling, pre separation thing.  Really can’t be bothered trying to fix a bad design this time, so am looking at replacing the lid with this one (also from Woodworking Warehouse).  Chalk and cheese on the design!

Jet 2 stage

Looking for a workbench?

Ideal Tools are selling off each of the 6 fold-away workbenches that resided in their Festool Workshop in Williamstown.  Built solid, they are 55mm thick in total, comprising 35mm water resistant chipboard base with 19mm West Australian Karri work surface and 65mm Victorian Ash trim. Thick and solid enough to mount a heavy duty woodworkers vice. They are incredibly solid and can take significant weight and a real pounding like a good workbench should be able to when required. Worktop dimensions: 1085mm x 635mm.

Ideal for workshops which are shared with other hobbies or the family car. The workbench is mounted to the wall, and when not required their legs fold against the wall and the top folds down. Protruding only 260mm from the wall.

Included are tool boards which hang on the wall using a simple French cleat system. These tool boards feature two Victorian Ash tool holders which hold the tools via two rows of concealed magnets. There is no direct magnet to tool contact, only timber on tool to avoid tools being scratched by the mounting system. Additionally they feature a whiteboard for project notes. Back board dimensions: 1130mm x 1150mm.

Four of the six workbenches have a series of 19mm dog holes in the worktop. These dog hole work brilliantly with Festool MFT-SP surface clamps and Walko surface clamps, as well as lots of other workbench dogs and clamps.

All surfaces are finished in tung-oil for easy cleaning and refinishing. They are in excellent condition as they have only had two years of intermittent use and only need a light rub-over with fresh oil to bring them up like new again.

Valued around the $1,000 mark, these workbenches are available at $480 each. Contact Anthony at support@idealtools.com.au or call 1300 769 258 if you are interested.

Topping it off

The top of the Torque Workcentre is sacrificial and occasionally requires replacement.  In the first instance, the most economic solution is to simply flip the top over to get twice as much use out of the sheet.  However, Torque Workcentres have come up with an upgrade that means it was worth me creating a new top to incorporate the additional functionality.

Starting with a full sheet of 16mm MDF, the TWC is also the ideal tool to begin breaking the sheet down.  The new design needed narrow strips of MDF, which is also a good thing when it comes time to replacing the top again, as only the sections damaged will need replacement.  Even if the amount of travel of your particular TWC isn’t long enough to cut the entire sheet in a single cut, it is easy to complete most of the cut with the saw passing through the sheet, then locking the arm position and finish by pushing the remainder of the sheet past the saw.

Even if you are only using the TWC to roughly break down a board, it still has it all over doing it by hand where the cut can end up quite wavy/offline.  Given I have the benefit of having a tablesaw, breaking the sheet down to near the final size, then running it through the tablesaw gave me the best of both.  I find a full sheet too unwieldy to easily run it through the tablesaw, so prefer to do an initia rough breakdown, then finish cutting accurately on the tablesaw.

Completing the cut before transfer to the tablesaw.

Given the length of the boards, I set up outfeed support – using the Triton Multistand.

For additional safety, again especially given the length of board, I set up a featherboard to help control the board as it was fed through the saw.  In this case, I’m using the latest from MagSwitch – a reversable featherboard that attaches to the universal base.  Something that we have been waiting for, for years.

To fit the channel (which is the new addition from Torque Workcentres), a slot cutting bit is used.  Now although I have a dedicated router table, I also have allowed myself the provision to transfer the router and base to the side of the tablesaw, so I can use the tablesaw fence.  To allow the bit to be enbedded in the fence, I use a section of aluminium to be an auxiliary fence.  It is attached to the main fence with a couple of wooden clamps.

The benefit of using the router as part of the tablesaw, is the fence – the tablesaw is designed to handle long lengths, so where that is the job, moving the router from one table to the other is a few seconds work.

It is a very easy job – with a slot cutting router bit, run a slot down either side of each section of the top.  Takes no time to set up and complete.

The slots then engage on the wings of the aluminium extruded channel.  In this case, I am attaching the new top directly onto the old.  It will mean the base is thicker, and means the top of the workcentre is now above the channel at the back, so if I run the circular saw (in crosscut) right through, it won’t cut up the rear channel.

The front edge got the usual treatment, using the mini roundover plane from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  It doesn’t wreck the line of the top, yet softens the edge, removing the sharp MDF edge that can go as far as inflicting a cut, so rounding the edge is an excellent solution on a number of levels.  This mini plane makes it so easy, and does an excellent job.

The channels are screwed down, holding most of the top in place without additional fixing.  For the outside lengths, a few screws up from underneath takes care of them.  I’ve left an extra amount of width for the front board to ensure the front track is well covered.  The tracks allow hold downs to be used where that is the most appropriate securing method.

I’m certainly not abandoning the Walko low profile, horizontal clamps at all – I just haven’t had time to redrill the required holes yet!

So once again, another small improvement to continue the development of the Torque Workcentre.

Here it comes, and there it goes….again

And as quickly as it was arriving, the show is over for Melbourne for another year.  I really did mean to post updates each day, but what with the long days, and longer drives to and from the show I fell asleep each evening well before I had a chance to write anything, so this will have to be a big summary of all three days.

I heard comments about the show being bigger than previous, others that it was smaller.  My perception was that it was about the same…give or take.

Large Burls

Timber is always a big feature of the wood show, and burls outnumber slabs 2:1 it seems.  There were the usual ones demonstrating the burl as an exotic coffee table, needing nothing but a bit of finishing, and stands selling slab and burl after slab and burl.  Some amazing ones, some seemingly plainer, some surprisingly cheap, some um…. less so.

A couple in the foreground here are Camphor Laurel and I have the third piece sitting at home now – similar to the smaller one in the front (behind the burl).  No idea what I am going to do with it yet – either something will come to mind, or it won’t.  Either way, I might just polish it up and hang it on the shed wall!


Wish I had a bigger house for some of these – they’d make great tables!

More Slabs

A burl is like a tree cancer, sometimes significantly bigger than the trunk of the tree itself.

Bookmatched Burl

This burl is not only huge, but has also been bookmatched, producing an amazing result.

Tool Porn

Lots of tool porn at the shows – beautiful handtools, powerful electron murders, all good!

Stan and the School Girl

Stan ran his normal highly entertaining sessions, and on the Friday had a whole heap of older school kids come through.  This girl was one of a number of kids who had challenges set.  Her friends videoed, so it is probably on YouTube somewhere already!  She looks so incredibly nervous of that saw.

Lindsay and the Tormek Girl

The Tormek Girl is actually a bit unfair on Mel, who is one of the regional sales managers for Promac – the importers of Tormek, Flai, BMI etc.  She is learning quickly the techniques needed for the Tormek sharpener (when Lindsay wasn’t being distracting wanting a photo).


Carbitool were there once again, and I finally replaced my bottle of Top Saver (some would remember me using it to remove rust from some tools)  I also got some replacement tips for my surfacing cutter – they are only about $3.75 each tip, and each with 4 sides, so complaining the bit is blunt is a furfey.

Black Hearted Sassafras Guitar

One of the most stunning guitars I have seen – made from Black Hearted Sassafras by the look

Drowning Sorrows

A small goblet all in timber, and a bunch of profile planes nearby.


The Slabmaster worked much of the weekend – seen here taking a massive Depth of Cut (not that the machine seemed to mind)

American Indian Sand Art in a Dust Bag

The output from the Slabmaser caught in a dust bag looked rather cool, and resembled a landscape sand sculpture.  Trying to guess the different timbers represented would be an interesting exercise.


Turning Burls

One exercise I did decide to try, was seeing just how well the Torque Workcentre would handle preparing an actual burl, and these Back Butt burls were sitting near the workcentre. (After asking permission from the timber stand who was selling them), I fixed one to the surface of the TWC, and begun taking the outside off to produce the first, flat edge.  The piece I chose is the one in the top-right corner, and as you can just see, had a serious chainsaw scar across the surface.

Flattening the Burl Back

The first passes had to be pretty light, and slow – the bark isn’t held on tightly, and even so plenty of chips and waste were thrown all around.  The Walko clamps from Ideal Tools proved their weight in gold time, and time again, clamping down all sorts of odd shapes etc.

Deep Slicing

Each slice removed showed more and more what was deep inside the burl, and each pass revealed a surface with different character.

The Beginning of the Desktop Burl Clock

On flipping it over, I began work on the primary side, slowly removing the chainsaw scar.

The result is a large, freestanding burl, over 2″ thick which will become a clock for my desk at work.

Flattening the Support

To support the clock (or at least appear to do so), I’m using a bit of the offcut and again the TWC proved its’ valve, allowing it to be surfaced ready for attaching to the back of the clock.  Try putting a piece like this through a thicknesser, and watch the shrapnel fly!

So as quickly as it came, the show again is over for another year. Hope you got along if you could!

Where there’s a Walko, there’s a way

One of the jobs I had on the list was to progress creating a new work area in the shed. Wall space is an absolute premium – everything is better with a wall behind it, it seems.  So when the Walko showed up, the option of wall mounting it had significant appeal, but that caused an issue given that there was no wall to fit it on.  Looking around the workshop, and the shelving unit at one end caught my eye.  I’ve often thought that where it was would make a good workbench location, and after all, what is a Walko but a portable workbench?

Now loosing the shelving unit would be a problem, so relocating it is much preferred.  Cutting it down might have lost a couple of shelves, but I had a couple under-utilised.  The other two fitted nicely under the Torque Workcentre, making much higher density use of that space.  I do have to relocate the sanders, but I have an idea for them as well.

Under workbench storage

Now with a large chunk of wall exposed, it was time for the Walko to move in.

Wall Mounted Walko

Because it is the Walko 3, I was fortunate to have a bit of space space either side – perfect for a stack of Festool power tools on one side, and the Festool shop vac (the Cleantex 36) on the other.  Makes for an excellent work area.

The next thing I’m planning for this area is to make my own top for another set of table supports, and this top will be specifically suitable for some vices to be fitted.

Wall Mounting Set

The Walko wall-mounting kit is both simple, and very effective.  It is also very easy to detach the Walko and use it in another orientation (A frame, flat on the floor for  breaking down boards etc).

Work area

The benches can be repositioned to any desired height, and for some operations work well together (such as working on a board edge).  Either that, or the lower surface can hold the tools etc ready for the next step.  It would also be excellent for dovetail jigs, such as the Leigh, or pockethole jigs such as the Kreg.

One use for the Workstruts

There are also Workstruts available (and they can also be positioned (and repositioned) wherever required, or folded away when not needed.  They can be used low to support the workpiece, or higher for supplies, temporary wood rack, whatever.  I don’t know their maximum load capacity, but it is significant – they feel rather solid.

Repositioned Microclene Air Filtration

Finally, in addition to the dust extraction, I’ve repositioned the Microclene air filtration unit closer to being as overhead as possible.

Looking forward to making use of my new working area!

Working on a Different Walko Bench

As useful as the tops that come with the Walko are- laminated bamboo making them water resistant (for about 24 hours), I also want to have a more traditional working surface, complete with a decent wood vice.

I have gotten a second set of table supports, and will be making up a jointed top for one side of the Walko, and plan on mounting a Veritas Twin Screw vice

Veritas Twin Screw Wood Vice

I could make the top large enough to cover both sides of the Walko (tempting), but I also want to make a bit of a metalworking (or general working) side, complete with my 5″ Record vice my Dad gave me years ago.

Record Vice

Episode 68 Walko Modification


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.

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.

%d bloggers like this: