Black Friday

Over in the US (and seen on many websites around the place if they are US based), you will find reference to this phenomenon called “Black Friday”, which is the day after Thanksgiving.

While it may not necessarily seem relevant to those in other places around the world, it still presents an opportunity to pick up some online discounts, especially from those companies who sell items that are digitally distributed.

One such company I have been doing quite a bit with (as you may have gathered!) is

They produce plans for woodworking, and although (by their title) this is pitched at the CNC owners out there, the plans can be used on scrollsaws and bandsaws, so if you like the designs, you don’t have to feel left out.

I don’t have the specific prices, but a little bird has mentioned that they will be discounting (for the day) their Lifetime Subscription (which gives access to all their plans, and all they produce in future!), their plasma mega pack (for those lucky enough to have a CNC plasma cutter), and their Super Seven Mega Pack (which has around 150 of their plans).

They will also have some dollhouse packs, a Barbie pack, their MZST packs, an HO scale pack, a holiday pack (just in time for Xmas) and others, including buy one get one free for some items.

You’ll have to look at their website on the day (in US time) to get prices, but if you like some of the models I’ve been making (and others), this would be a pretty good time to pick some up.

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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


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!)



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 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.

Getting the Festool Lowdown

Went along to a Festool evening recently at Total Tools, to see what the latest offerings from Festool were all about.

The C18 driver was shown, although I already have the T18, so they seemed pretty similar.

What was particularly interesting was the new circular saw.  This isn’t a plunge saw as is the norm for Festool, but a much more stock standard CS design.  Of course there are still the typical mods that Festool are known for.  It is driven by an 18V battery for one.

It is the HKC55 160mm cordless circular saw.

Photo 15-10-2015 17 25 43A quick flick of one latch, and the saw still works as a plunge saw.

What really seemed to set this saw apart though is the guide rail.  This is not your grandmother’s guide rail.

Screen Shot 2015-10-23 at 1.53.46 amThis one locks to the bottom of the HKC55, and effectively becomes a part of the saw.  A ‘bungee cord’ mechanism engages with the saw and returns the saw to the start of the rail after a cut.

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An easy-to-use angle-setting system on the side of the rail makes it very easy to set up for angled cuts, and by angling the saw over, it effectively becomes a portable SCMS, with a long travel distance.

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Bit hard to show with a few photos. Found this video on Festool UK.  Probably better watched with the sound muted!

So an interesting evening, getting to look at a couple of the new products from Festool.  Interesting too, seeing it with people in the trades, who are quite vocal in expressing what they need to see, and what they don’t in a demo.  If it is not a tool they specifically need to use for their job, they have no interest whatsoever, and are quite prepared to express that fact.

Came away with a showbag which is always a bit of fun.  Sadly, I didn’t find a HKC 55 in the bag, but I did get a few Festool-branded items – cap, travel mug, stubby holder, carpenter’s pencil, and a Festool carpenter’s rule.  Seeing as that normally sells for $15, I’m not complaining :)

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One of the regular readers (Michael) spotted a very rare beast indeed in the aisle of his local Masters store. (Thanks for sending through the pic).

This would be the first time that any of the box warehouses has had this particular item in stock for a very long time – perhaps as far back as when Bunnings refused to stock any more GMC products (which included Triton), back in August 2008.

So this is a sight for saw eyes (yes, the pun is intentional).


I’m surprised it is not the WC7 model – fresh start, fresh product.

Checking the model number, it looks to be 101956.

Been so long since I’ve seen one!  I think the fence is on the wrong side, but it is only a hazy memory these days.  Can’t imagine if things went full circle, and a demo program started again.  That’d be too funny (in an ironic kinda’ way).

Definitely brings back fond memories.  I’d even go to a demo night if one was on, just to experience it again.

Mass Construction

Things have been pretty full-on around here recently.

In addition to the standard fare, I have been really churning out things on the CNC.  Sheet after sheet of 3mm MDF getting turned to Swiss cheese as I make up small kits in time for a fundraising school fête this weekend.  There are now over 250 individual kits, all bagged up in zip-lock bags, with a set of instructions on assembly, and an assembled example model of each design ready to go on display.

I’m not selling them for much – $5 for many of the designs, with the larger ones being $7.50 or $10 as they really scale up.  The idea is to cover cost plus a bit for the fundraising, and still keep them affordable enough for primary school kids to afford.  With each kit taking on average 30 minutes to cut out, it means the CNC is cutting way below what you would normally calculate its hourly rate at, but that is not the intention for the weekend.

The designs I am using all come from  It raises a question about copyright – this is not just taking someone else’s concept and producing your own equivalent to sell, in this case it is actually using their designs to produce something for sale.  It is actually covered as part of the contract you agree to when purchasing the MakeCNC design.  You are allowed under the condition of the purchase of the plans, to make up to 50 of each design and include a set of instructions with each.  Given that the Mega Collection I originally purchased has over 150 designs, that lets me make 7500 models for sale (if that is what I was looking to do) and still be complying with the copyright terms I agreed to.

While some (quite vocally) disregard CNC machining as being woodworking, that doesn’t bother me at all.  This is taking the workshop I have, and producing a product that is marketable (well I hope it is marketable – this weekend will be a good litmus test!) That is a fun concept in itself, and reinforces what I like to try to get my woodworking to be – cost neutral, at least as far as possible.

It is nothing more, or less, than a cottage industry, which is a throwback to the 17th and 18th centuries (which persisted until the mid 19th until it was really replaced by the industrial revolution).  I like that concept.  A small number of people (often one) working away in a niche market to produce quality goods.  In this day and age, when everything is made in vast quantities, in factories overseas, the fact there are some items still available produced individually and with particular attention to quality and detail has a lot of appeal.


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