Spring Clean

I happened upon a post the other day, that showed what the shed looked like 2 years ago.  Quite impressive, given it was just some formwork at that stage, waiting for the slab to be poured.

While that was interesting in its own right (and bringing back memories of finally having some space to move into after having the shed contents packed in a garage for a year), it reminded me that I hadn’t in fact managed to fully move out of the garage into the shed.

So that was Saturday’s job – with a big cleanup of the garage, and move anything around to the shed that should have been in there.

In the meantime, the CNC was churning away, cutting some Xmas decorations out ready for another market next Sunday.

The job today was to try to maintain the momentum, and get the shed in some sort of order.  What I find after every project (particularly when it is for a magazine article), is that the shed quickly gets very messy as good practices follow shrinking deadlines out the door.  And the shed hadn’t had a decent cleanup for almost 3 projects, on top of the sudden influx from the garage.

All I can say at this point, is I am so relieved that I went with the mezzanine floor, and with the powered hoist!  It is all in and up, and the shed floor has a passing resemblance to something clean.

Still more to go, even after all that.  The TWC has been a junk magnet for about a year, and that is still the case at the moment.  Plus there are some machines & tools in the shop that have a variety of needs.

Some need to be tuned up – getting them accurate.

Some need to be sold – they are surplus to requirements.

Some are not performing to the level that I now need, and these need to be sold and replaced.

I am still of two minds in some instances.

For example, the 6″ Jet longbed planer.  As a machine, it is perfectly fine, and a quality Jet machine.  But I am finding that 6″ is too limiting, and I have to modify my stock to match the capacity of the machine.

The 15″ Carbatec thicknesser. It has had no problem milling the stock that I have thrown its way.  I’m sure the blades need some TLC, but the question is whether to stay with separate machines (and upgrade the thicknesser with a spiral head), or to go with a combo machine.  What I am thinking about at the moment is whether something like the Minimax C30 would be an interesting way to go.

It has 12″ capacity on the jointer, and also the thicknesser (being a combo), is a saw (although that isn’t relevant in my case), has a spindle moulder (very interested), and a horizontal mortiser.

Downgrading from a 15″ thicknesser to 12″ is one question – although it would be fair to say that I haven’t used that sort of width for a very long time.  Going from stand-alone machines to a combo is another, although given shed space is worth its weight in gold, that may be a huge offset benefit.

Lots to do and work on.  Spindle sander, drum sander, disc sander and drill press are all up for consideration.

While all this was going on, the CNC was plodding along in the background, and worked well all day – working continuously for 8 1/2 hours (and that is actual machining time, not counting the pauses in between!) It did well :)

The Works of Kerry Strongman

Please note – all photographs used in this article were taken with permission of Kerry Strongman, and the works themselves are copyright.

It isn’t often you have an opportunity to meet and discuss woodworking with a Maori Shaman, but while visiting New Zealand a couple of weeks ago, I got to do just that, in a small town called Te Hana.

As you drive north on State Highway 1, you pass through a number of NZ towns, some larger, some smaller.  They all have a similar look and feel (and for those who grew up in NZ, very familiar, green hills, gentle winding roads (or not, if you are only used to the Australian dragstrip of the Hume! (and by that I mean long and straight, not fast))

After passing through Wellsford (and making sure you stop at “Jester’s” – their pies are unreal.  Especially the Miss Muffet- a chunky chicken pie with Camembert cheese and cranberry sauce.  Not available in Jester’s in Australia (and only then in WA), but it is unbeatable), you come across a small settlement, and on the main straight you see a mounted chopper motorbike.

Have a closer look though


It won’t be going anywhere in a hurry, being made out of timber.  But even then, this timber has been around a while already – 25000-45000 years, and is swamp Kauri.


Swamp Kauri is not the species, it is a description of how it has been found.  The ancient Kauri forests that grew in New Zealand (and there are still trees today) lived for upwards of 2000 years.  They were (and are) the giants of the forest, and are similar to the giant Sequoia trees in California.  They don’t have the same girth or height, but as the trunks don’t taper anywhere near as much as the Sequoia, they consist of a lot more actual timber.  Some trees from 25000-45000 years ago at the end of the last ice age were encapsulated in peat, and were buried in swamps, and there they stayed.  Protected by the anaerobic conditions in the swamp, it develops deep, shimmering streaks of iridescence and amazing chatoyancy.

As a master carver, Kerry Strongman makes incredible use of this stunningly beautiful timber, with carvings that are awesome in their own right, and magical when combined with the beauty of swamp kauri.

But Kerry doesn’t always stop there, and the use of clear and amber coloured resin in voids, often embedded with objects such as shells, minerals and kauri gum is a regular theme in his work.

The designs typically use the traditional forms of Maori carving – the Tanwha, the Koru, the Hei matau (fish hook), the Hei-tiki.

Another aspect of Kerry’s work is scale.  Sure, you can have a carved piece of his (or his students’) that is small and worn as a necklace,


but the pieces that really blow you away are the ones made 6′, 8′ even 12′ tall.  You do need deep pockets for one of those stunning pieces (or a corporate credit card!).  These are known as “Jewelery for Giants” to coin Kerry’s catchphrase.


Strongman-2 Strongman-3

One of the first pieces you see when entering the showroom is this fish hook (I assume) of Maui (the legend is this warrior from Hawaiiki – the mythical ancestral homeland of the Maori, cast his line into the waters and when he and his brothers heaved upon the line, they caught Te Ika a Maui (the fish of Maui), these days known as the North Island of New Zealand.  The South Island is known as Te Waka a Maui (the waka (canoe or watercraft) of Maui), and Stewart Island as Te Punga a Maui (Maui’s anchor) which held the waka as Maui caught the giant fish.)

Not only encrusted with kauri gum, it still has the rope attached at the top end.

In the third photo is Kerry himself.  Around his neck is another of his carvings, although I sadly don’t have a close up of it, it is a ornate carving in mammoth ivory (or bone?).  250 million year old mammoth!

The rest of Kerry’s showroom is filled with elaborate carvings.

I was fortunate enough to also be given a full tour of the workshops and storage areas – an area many times larger than the showroom filled with works in progress, works yet to commence (raw materials) and everything in between.  We are also both toolophiles, so were able to have a great chat about the tools used in the process of carving these works, and Kerry does not restrict himself to just using the traditional tools either.

Strongman-19 Strongman-20 Strongman-22


It is hard to do the work justice here, so if you ever happen to be in the vicinity of Te Hana (or any of the corporate offices around the world featuring his work), take some time to have a good look.  You can also check out the website at kerrystrongman.com


Not only was Kerry very generous with his time giving me a full tour, (and my daughter now has some stunning necklaces), Kerry has offered me a pallet of timber for me to ship over to my workshop.  Can you imagine a pallet of timber from someone who really understands and appreciates the true quality of timber?!  And if some was the magical swamp kauri…..well….!  This is just a small example that I got years ago, just to give you an idea of what we are talking about.

Departing quietly, Stage Right

I was exhibiting at one of the expos some time ago- from memory it was the Tradesman’s Expo 2010 when I was approach by a couple of gents who had a proposal for a Aussie garage/shed magazine and whether I might be willing to be one of the writers for it.

Initially it was being proposed to be called “Top Garages”, to position it alongside Top Gear.  At some stage in the piece, the name changed to the (somewhat unfortunate) “ManSpace” (And yes, any time that I mentioned that I write for “ManSpace Magazine”, I’d get some very strange sideways glances.  Probably much the same as those now given to writers for Playboy Magazine, now that it is abandoning nudity)

Over the course of the first 15 editions of ManSpace, spread over 5 years, I wrote about 38 articles in total, a few short, a few long.

When the 15th issue came out, it didn’t list me as a contributor (although my segmented clock article was still inside) – in hindsight the writing was on the wall, and apparently issue 16 has been on the shelves a few weeks, with my last article left unpublished.  The magazine has decided that it no longer wants a regular “how to” section (it had already stopped the tool reviews), and so, it seems, that is it.

I was actually having a conversation with someone not two days ago, who was lamenting that with the aging population there was an increasing shortage of casual paying jobs, as the retired generation were looking for something to do, and are willing to give their time for free.  In one respect, it seems that my Stu’s Shed section of the magazine has tripped over the same experience, as any future how to articles are to be written (for free) by those in the Men’s Shed organisation.

C’est la vie.  It was fun while it lasted.

Apparently there is a second season of ManSpace TV on the way, although in season one it seemed to only give a passing nod to the magazine that started it, (although they ‘discovered’ on air many of the collections and sheds that had been featured in the magazine).


It is not all bad news if you do enjoy my magazine articles, you can still get the bi-monthly “The Shed” magazine, which is an awesome read, and has a large Stu’s Shed section (not that I’m biased!)



Making an impression in China

When Chinese companies are starting to use your name in the subject line of spam emails, you know you are getting noticed.  

Spam campaigns cost money, so you wouldn’t want to use a lame duck term as the enticement.  Little do they know ;)

However, do be aware there is a spam campaign out there at the moment using Stu’s Shed in the subject.  The only email I send out are sent automatically to website subscribers when I write a new post.

Anything else, including selling something  (such as smart card readers) is spam!

Toy Story

I have often been critical of just how little imagination is needed by kids to play with modern toys.  They come with all the bells and whistles – dolls that talk/cry and have all the bodily functions, dinosaurs that walk, and roar all on their own.

But kids don’t, and shouldn’t need such props to be able to have fun, and treasure the toys they have.

A few visual clues are really all they need, and their imagination fills in all the additional details.

My folks took these photos in one of their recent trips, of some kids playing

Photo 8-03-2013, 14 22 42

There is an obvious attachment to that toy car.  But when you look closely at it, you realise that most of the details are being filled in by the child’s imagination, not with photo-realistic modelling of the real thing (let alone sounds, lights, remote control etc etc)

Photo 8-03-2013, 14 23 28

As far as toy cars go, that is awesome.  That is a real toy.

I was over in NZ last week for a bit of a break, catching up with family. I took a few of the CNC models over – a couple for my brother who is a teacher, as I thought his kids would appreciate them.

Unexpectedly, he had the idea that I visit his class, and build the models with them, in person.

The kids were really taken with them, and the experience of putting them together.  We all had a lot of fun.



We made a dolphin and a velocirator in the session, and they are getting painted up at some stage by the class.


If you were wondering about the school uniform – it was a couple of days after the rugby world cup final, and it was “all black dress day”.

Processing Timber

Trees come down every day.  Be that to make way for a new house, the result of a storm, a tree that threatens coming down in an uncontrolled manner etc etc.  When you see timber lying there, going to waste, it is frustrating when you can’t do anything about it – wouldn’t it be great to be able to easily, and safely convert it into usable boards?

To get a rig that can give you this capability normally seems well out of reach, at least for occasional use, so I was rather curious when I found logosol.com.au had a basic one for $295.  Sure, at that price you have to make your own rails from a couple of lengths of board, but if you are only going to use the rig occasionally, that may be all you need.

If you don’t want to make your own rails, you can get Logosol ones for an extra $1000 – again, it depends on how much work you are planning to do with the setup.

The Logosol website (which is Australian) has a whole range of other tools and machines for processing timber, including multisided planers and molders, bandsaw mills and complementary accessories.  A wood drying kiln would be very handy if you are processing a lot of recently felled timber – you could set up quite the production house with the range of machines Logosol has.

Interesting to check out what is available in general, but definitely have a close look at the Timberjig.  Particularly for the price, it is very interesting indeed.


Something I’ve not seen at a show before (and in fact, can’t actually recall seeing them anywhere else for that matter), but there was a stand, promoting firework exhibitions.  Given that Guy Fawkes is almost upon us (still celebrated in NZ, and what’s more you can still buy firecrackers legally!) this stand was particularly fitting, though I doubt you could ever buy these fireworks for personal use!  More a bomb than a cracker!!!!

Another popular NZ pasttime was well represented- fishing.  This variant of a kontiki caught my eye, some serious overkill, used to achieve shore-based deep water fishing.

Of course, woodworking had representation there as well, including the sausage risking, blade destroying safety mechanisms.

That might be a familiar face to Australian wood show afficianados!  Or if you’ve been to a Carbatec demo evening. 😃

Auckland is the home stamping ground for one company of particular interest… Teknatool.

(No, that actually wasn’t the Teknatool stand, but it just had a lot of relevant gear for the photo!)

What Teknatool had to show, was their working prototype of the DVR drill press, which I have been desperately waiting for!  So I had a good play 😄

The digital variable reluctance drive is a 1.75HP motor with constant microprocessor sensing and control.

The drill press motor has depth sensing, load sensing and vibration sensing.  It can either stop normally (running down the motor by cutting power), or emergency stop, which uses electronic braking.

The motor is a direct drive of the spindle, and can run from 50RPM to 5500RPM.  It has a 6″ quill stroke, and 18″ swing (9″ from column).  It has intelligent speed selection, auto pilot hole, break through detection, and a tapping assist function.

The LCD screen provides a wealth of information- actual speed, depth, load, recommended speeds for different bit types, sizes and materials etc etc.  

There are 4 user-definable buttons that you can set to your preferred purpose.  This could be fwd/reverse, favourite speeds, or a commnly used menu item to name a few.

Now we just need Teknatool to turn this proposal & prototype into a production model!

I took the unit through a few demo runs- from lowest to highest RPM, and it was rock- steady. So little vibration or noise- it was a beautiful thing.


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