SSYTC050 Forced Intermission

There is something to be said for forced intermissions.  Both longer term with the whole relocation, as well a current, temporary one, where I have needed some distractions to fill in some relatively immobile time.

May not have been able get any real workshop time in, but that meant I did have time to keep thinking of different approaches to filming, and the integration of the GoPro.

You’ve seen the fly-rig timelapse, and an adaption to the setup has potential to work on a dolly skate as well, so it can be self powered.

_A542BAnother idea I’ve had, is how to mount the camera directly on a wood turning chisel.

GoPro Turning Chisel Mount

GoPro Turning Chisel Mount

Without question I need better lighting for the scene to avoid hot spots – the very limited space I am currently working in does not allow that luxury.  So excusing that (and my technique!), this gives a point of view like this:

SSYTC050 Forced Intermission

Shot at 240FPS, the first portion is at full speed, the second is slowed to 1/20th speed.

Shed Archaeology

I couldn’t progress the pen making very far without the pen mill, and my scrounging didn’t turn it up anywhere.  Probably easier just to get another, and at the same time get one that actually works well.  The designs typically sold I find to be pretty ordinary – they are either blunt and cut so painfully slowly you are tempted to use extra pressure (which can result in chipping and/or burning), flop around inside the brass tube (despite apparently being designed for that pen type), and I can’t think of what other combinations of issues I have dealt with over the years.  Has anyone found a good one?

Heard of sandpaper versions, but not sure where they are sourced from (and what issues they have).  Think there is a definite market for a better way to square off the ends of a pen blank in line with the brass insert.

Standing at the lathe a bit later, in contemplation mode, and heard a familiar tick, tock.  The shed clock.  It was in another stack of crates nearby that I hadn’t looked through, so did the balancing act with them and went for a bit of a look.  Didn’t find the mill (but wasn’t really looking for it) – was hoping to find the tailstock of the Comet II (but it wasn’t there), but did find the other thing I was hoping to uncover: the Nova Titan II Chuck.

I previously thought I had found it, but that turned out to be a SuperNova2 chuck – fooled by the size for a second.  Once I saw the Titan, there was no possible mistake – it is bloody massive!  Will have a look around to find a suitable blank to mount up.


Can’t wait for the day when I can start unpacking these boxes and crates properly, and rediscovering things.

While looking for a better mill, I did find this mandrel saver at Carroll’s Woodcraft.

planetmandrelsaverIt is specifically for pen turning, and doesn’t push on the end of the pen mandrel (which can cause it to bend slightly if too tight, causing an off-centre oscillation).  Instead, the mandrel feeds through the mandrel saver, which instead pushes directly on the bushings.  This means there is no need for the knurled knob either, and therefore no slippage caused by it being slightly loose, and no distortion of the mandrel.  Very interesting.  If the ends of the blank were milled correctly, getting the mandrel saver a bit tight shouldn’t be an issue, as the load passes through the first bush, through the brass centre, through the second bush and into the headstock.

There is a MT1 and MT2 version (both pictured).  Again, if anyone has used this and has an opinion, I’d be interested to hear.  I’m quite tempted to try it out myself in any case.  To now I have used a live centre with a very blunt point with which to engage the hollow end of the mandrel (a sharp point tends to wander, causing a similar issue as if the live centre was pushing too hard).

Wonder what other developments are out there?

SSYTC046 Robbo’s baby lathe

Dropped round on Robbo recently, as he has been working gluing up a segmented block to turn into a table leg, and was about to turn it for the first time.  An opportunity not to be missed!  He didn’t do a great deal on the first day – too many competing priorities, but even so, it’s a pretty good segmented unit!

It was also being filmed for the forums, so any comments were directed to that camera.

SSYTC046 Robbo’s baby lathe

A Cool Nova Tool

For regular followers, you will remember my little jaunt over to the land of the red, white and blue, to Denver Colorado to appear on Cool Tools.  Haven’t forgotten the experience, from the flight on the A380 to getting around Denver, being on the show, meeting and working with Chris Grundy, visiting Rockler, and, well, the whole experience.

It all jumped back in mind when I was reading up about a tool sitting out in the shed, and heard it was about to be featured on….Cool Tools!

The tool in question: the Nova Comet II midi lathe, from Teknatool.

Nova Comet II

It is a very interesting addition to the midi lineup, and simply based on name, it has quite a pedigree.

There are a few other lathes in the same niche, so lets pull them all out, dust them off and see what we have here.

Jet Midi, Variable Speed

Jet Midi, Variable Speed

Carbatec Midi, Variable Speed

Carbatec Midi, Variable Speed

There are others, but these are the ones I have some familiarity with.

Must admit, I didn’t have variable speed on a lathe until I got my DVR.  My old Jet midi lathe didn’t have the feature.  Variable speed is pretty cool, and means you can quickly change the speed to suit what you are doing at the time, rather than stopping to change the belts (or simply ignoring the speed isn’t ideal, mores the point!)

Both the Jet and the Carbatec have the variable speed tacked onto the side, as if the lathe was designed without and on certain machines they get the upgrade.  For both the Jet and Carbatec, this is pretty much the case.

The Comet has it designed to be much more integrally part of the lathe from the outset.  This may just be an aesthetic, but it also means there isn’t a speed control box sticking out the side.  Dust does build up, and objects do fall or hit things that are sticking out.

While we are looking at it, some other specs, side by side

Specification Comet II Jet Carbatec
Price $639 $849 $799
Speed 250 – 4000 200 – 4300 250 – 3600
Swing over bed 300mm 304mm 355mm
Distance between Centres 419mm 510mm 430mm
Reverse Yes No No
Weight 32kg 45kg 39kg

All have 3/4HP motors, indexing heads

So in the first rounds, the Comet II really is holding its own.  Especially given the price.

There are some aspects that do come in though, and this is probably price-related.  I like cams on the various movable items, and although it is only the tailstock, I would have preferred it to have been a cam.

Although the finish on all user areas is good, there are some rough castings underneath.  The foundry really needs to invest in an angle grinder.  It wouldn’t have been hard to tidy up the casting a bit more underneath.

Toolless access to the belt drive.

Other than those points, there are some distinct advantages too!

Reversible. The other lathes can’t run backwards! (Correct me if I am wrong (update – the Carbatec does))
Excellent access to the belt drive – much better than either of the others.
Ability to add accessories, such as a grinder (for sharpening chisels during turning)

It may be a bit lighter (weight is a bonus for lathes), but not too much so, and it does make it more transportable.

I’ll revisit the accessories when they arrive, but the concept is very interesting!

When I have a chance to really put the lathe through its paces, I will feed those experiences back.  The initial testing didn’t reveal any issues.

So a very promising addition to the lineup, and at a rather cost-competitive price point!  You can afford to add a Nova G3 chuck and still be ahead.  Don’t forget, the 4 jaw self-centering chuck which is now the standard for wood turners was invented by Teknatool.

Woodturning for Learners

When you want to learn about woodturning, nothing beats getting to see how the experts do it.  Those in Victoria have an added advantage, a professional woodturner who regularly opens the doors of his workshop to show individuals, and groups the secrets of turning.  For those who don’t know, I am speaking of Robbo, who’s company is Cobb & Co Woodturning.

And when you see the size of his large lathe, well, this guy turns tree trunks!  I also have a fine goblet that stands 3″ high that he turned during one demo, so tree trunks isn’t his only stock!

Robbo was telling me once, that when he is in full swing with the tree trunks, he has a couple of guys with shovels and wheelbarrows (and a truck out back) just trying to keep up with the wood shavings he’s making!

But it is one thing to say Robbo can spin a tree trunk on his lathe, and another thing to actually see it.  So here it is:

Now what Robbo has done is produce a series of 4 videos for learners (and I definitely need to watch them all!)  They are available on his YouTube channel, Ozwoodturner1

And finally, one of Robbo’s pet hates – the danger of using a spindle roughing gouge on bowls

Teknatool living up to its name

I don’t know the history of the name of the New Zealand company Teknatool, but if it has anything to do with technology (and innovation) and tools, then it seems pretty fitting.



The Nova DVR XP lathe I have is pretty complex – computer managed speed control, constant speed maintenance even under variable load conditions, chisel dig-in detection, and so on. The head of the lathe turns outboard allowing a decent size bowl or plate to be turned, and in a tightly packed shed like mine, this can lead to having to reach around or near the turning object to change speeds, or start/stop the lathe.

What I have now (yet to be fitted to the lathe), is a remote control, which can either be worn like a watch, or attached to the lathe or convenient nearby surface magnetically.



Wrist or magnetic mount

Wrist or magnetic mount

This remote control will allow me to start, stop and vary the lathe speed from up to about 7m away. No more reaching over the workpiece to access the controls if turning outboard, or finding myself down one end of the lathe and the controls up at the other.

The latest versions of the Nova DVR XP are wireless-ready (and have a sticker proclaiming the fact)

Remote Enabled

Remote Enabled

The Nova 2024 comes with the remote as part of the package (as far as I know).

Owners of XPs can purchase it as an optional extra. Now if you have an older Nova DVR XP which is not wireless enabled (which is my situation as well), then all is not lost. There is a retro-upgrade kit available which replaces the original control panel on the front of the lathe, which then means that wireless control can also be yours!

At this stage, it is unclear if the remote and/or upgrade kit will be available for Australian owners. When it was first announced I immediately asked CarbaTec in Melbourne if I could order one, and was told they were not going to be supplying them (and being the sole importer, that was pretty much that), but I am not sure if the position has changed. I would certainly hope so for the sake of other DVR XP owners out there (and future owners of the wireless enabled version of the DVR XP).



Retro upgrade

Retro upgrade

I haven’t had a chance to replace my existing controller as yet – been a bit busy unfortunately, but I will document the (simple) process when I do.

And then…..wireless lathe control will be mine, all mine (cue manic laugh).

cue manic laugh

cue manic laugh

Wizards and Fairies

My little princess fairy was off at her weekly ballet/tap class on Saturday, so I got an hour or so to head down to the shed for a tinker.  Wasn’t enough time to start anything serious, but I did feel like making some sawdust and the tool that is most suited to that task is the lathe.  You can be standing knee deep in shavings in no time flat!

On this day, I also wanted to do some spindle work, seeing as I had been turning a few bowls recently, so looking around I spied an offcut of Purple-heart I had kept for just an occasion.  It was about 15mm x 20mm x 400mm or so.  Squared it up on the tablesaw, then mounted it in the pin jaws of a Nova chuck, then onto the DVR with the Nova Livecentre in the tailstock.

Running the lathe at 1000RPM for a quick rough to round, then at 3000RPM for the remainder of the time, I turned something all good little wizards and princess fairies needs.

A wand.

Purpleheart Wand

Not a particularly complicated design, nor even particularly fine on the shaft (has to survive a 5 year old’s use)  Gave a little texture to the handle with a skew chisel, and used a cloth to friction-burn some details.

Interestingly, and perhaps Larry may have some more information on this point:  The timber is currently not purple (it is straight off the lathe, and yet to see sunlight to change its colour), yet where I did a light friction burn (and before the wood went black), it has come up with the distinctive purple of purpleheart.

So what is the mechanism that changes purpleheart’s colour?  Is it sunlight, or UV or similar, or is it simply the temperature?

I know it isn’t very clear here – shot on an iPhone in bad lighting.

And the reaction from the recipient?  “Wow” “A fairy wand?”  (a rather confused look appeared on her face). “Where is its star?”

Guess I should have anticipated that question from the shows she watches 🙂

Be some time before she starts watching something with a bit more punch!


The Taming of the Skew

O monstrous beast! how like a swine it lies!
Grim death, how foul and loathsome is thine image!
Sirs, I will practise on this unwitting log.

The Shew Chisel is much maligned by inexperienced wood turners, and yet the experts regularly say it is probably the most powerful tool at a woodturner’s disposal.

I’ve had a number of surprisingly aggressive kickbacks from the skew in the past – encouraging me to quietly put it aside, and I doubt I am the only one!

However, after covering a number of other tools, we got to the skew at Robbo’s, and other than when he deliberately demonstrated a particular user failure (which resulted in a small ‘explosive’ catch, and managed to draw blood), I found myself wondering why the tool was so disliked. It is flexible (both rapid stock removal, as well as finessing beads, forming tenons, and decorative work (particularly when working from square to round cross sections.)

I was surprised how easy the skew was to use!

I don’t remember all the terms, but slicing at 45 degrees, rolling beads, paring away huge amounts of materials. Without being unusually careful either. Sure, catches are definitely achievable (had a few myself, often when I touched the workpiece before properly engaging the rest), and skew catches are often more violent than with gouges, but at the end of the day I was impressed how functional the skew can be.

Robbo has also lent me a DVD; The Skew Chisel with Alan Batty. Interesting that Alan seems to use the skew more with the tip leading, but otherwise the approach is similar, and although it looks so easy when watching it, at the end of the day it can also be that easy in practice, so long as you understand what you are seeing. That is the real benefit of one on one instruction. Even then, I had to pay very close attention to just what part of the skew was doing the actual cutting. What looked like the tip doing all the work was actually a mm or so further up the blade in many cases.

I might have to write a more detailed article (once I understand the tool better), but still would feel like a bit of a knob doing so, when compared to all the real experts out there. On the other hand, that is the real benefit of this website- I have to understand what is happening to be able to write the article/produce the video, and you get dragged along on my journey.

Moroccan Bow Lathe

Proving that it is not the tools you own, but how you use them


A new bowl by the Roving Reporter. Another interesting shape- combining the tradition box-maker’s norm of straight sided items, with a wood turner’s perspective of everything being …… well …….. round!



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