Gold Plated Machines

You know, I get it. I can see why Marc (The Wood Whisperer) Spagnuolo has a workshop full of Powermatic. I’m sure it is all part of his huge sponsorship deal, and more power to him (pun intended), but he would also want to have the best workshop he can have too.

He may not have a SawStop, but the flame-covered tablesaw is pretty cool never-the-less.

He also doesn’t have a DVR, but I had a closer look at the Powermatic lathe today, and what a beast it is.

Not only enough cast iron for a small country, but every (moveable) component glides so smoothly.

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3 phase motor, with its own onboard converter from single phase. Built-in vacuum system for vacuum chucking. A 96 point indexing system with a heavy-duty indexing disc.

What’s not to like (except the price tag)? You’d have to be pretty dedicated to really make use of such a machine, but then, it would also handle some pretty significant turnings as well.

Had a look at one of their promotional videos, just to see what it looks like in use. Yup, that is a beast! Anyone got one? What do you think? And more importantly, what have you managed to make with one?

SawStop, and my Woodworking Assistant

On one hand, the shed is regarded as a dangerous place for the unwary, and the inexperienced. Not so much inexperience in woodworking, but inexperience in life.

On the other hand, being able to enjoy woodworking with you child (or grandchild) can be an immensely rewarding experience, for both of you.

I would normally be very reluctant to have an inexperienced hand using a tablesaw, yet while making some shelving for some kitchen cupboards, Jess (my 7 year old) wanted to help, and not just help by standing around watching. Having a SawStop meant the answer to that question was not “No” or even a reluctant “Maybe”. It was a definite “Yes, of course”.

Now she didn’t get to cut the board unsupervised or unattended – I’m not that confident! Tablesaws can do damage in plenty of other ways, particularly hurling things at you at 250km/hr!

By setting up a featherboard, having the guard in place, and standing beside her, she was able to feed boards through the blade, and not give me absolute conniptions. Even on a regular saw, she would have been safe, but knowing that there is also the SawStop technology between her and a disaster really enhances the experience of woodworking with your offspring.

And it is another activity for her to add to the crazy quilt that is life’s experiences.

SawStop really makes a huge difference in relieving some of the stress that can surround the workshop.

Blasterboyz Plaque

One thing I had yet to try on the CNC router, was other materials, and specifically aluminium.

As much as ‘they’ say that some Australian timbers are harder, and that I have both cut and routed aluminium manually, it was still with trepidation that I mounted a plate and engaged the CNC router.

There is more than hardness to the effects of machining different materials. Different materials form chips in different ways, different amounts of heat generation, and in the case of aluminium, a tendency for waste material to try to weld itself to the cutter if chips are not cleared adequately.

It is for this reason that aluminium router bits tend to be single fluted, allowing a much larger flute for more aggressive chip clearance.

Had a project come up that made it a great excuse to give it a try. The Blasterboyz are a group of JetSki riders, with a common tool of the trade- the Yamaha WaveBlaster. They often ride socially, right through to competitive rides.

They have asked if a plaque can be made, which will be used as a bit of a trophy. I won’t tell you what the trophy will actually be called – too politically incorrect!, but it translates as “go hard, or go home”

I set up to try a pretty standard V groove bit (before risking one of my soli carbide bits), and played around with feed and plunge rates to get one that cut sufficiently, without chatter or causing the CNC to move faster than the cutter could cope. The CNC Shark isn’t the most rigid, so when push comes to shove, there is some flex, which results in an imprecise job. The solution is to ensure the feed speed chosen suits the cutter and material.

So as a first attempt, this is the result. With some refinement, and a better, sharper, dedicated cutter this could be quite satisfactory. If the opportunity arose, it would also be very interesting to see a lasered result.

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RapidAir

As indicated in my previous post, I have begun installing the RapidAir system around the workshop.

It is as easy as the product suggests to create a comprehensive pneumatic system around the workshop.

After preparing each of the outlets (which realistically didn’t take a lot of time), I began mounting these around the workshop.  Each set up with the inlet from the top, and drain at the bottom.  The plan is to run a ring-mail around at roof level (the underside of the mezzanine), and by using a T piece, drop down to each outlet.  The manifold has three outlets, one will feed a local outlet, the other two will supply the ring-main.

After mounting the outlets (and deciding that 2 more would properly finish the setup), I started connecting the tubing.  It is pretty rigid, so although it means it isn’t designed to go around corners (that is what L connectors are for), it does mean that each run is able to be done neatly, easily creating a professional-looking (and functioning) setup.

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The tubing is easily cut square using the provided cutter

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As mentioned, there are T and L connectors, combinations of which provide the different configurations required.

The tubes happen to still be hanging in free space, as I haven’t secured them in position with clips while I finalise the layout.

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I will change the configuration of the manifold slightly, so the standard nitto fitting from the air compressor can plug straight in.

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Proceeding very easily- another installation session will pretty much see it done.

When taking it slow is the fastest way to go

I was in the process of mounting the RapidAir outlets, which required pilot holes to be drilled for the screws (not self drilling unfortunately).

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It was taking ages- having to start on smaller and smaller drill bits, just to drill a 3.5mm hole. Ridiculous.

So decided to stop being lazy, and continue working with something obviously blunt. Take the time, set up the Tormek, and the DBS22, and put a real edge on the bit.

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Back to drilling through steel like butter. All that extra time sharpening was saved in just the next 4 holes, and I still had 50 holes to go.

Time spent sharpening pays off in spades.

Flight of the Navigator

David, from the classic 1986 movie, had Max (the alien AI spaceship) attempt filling his brain with starcharts.  When David asked how the experiment had gone, the answer was the same as an issue I had with the shed in today’s beating rain.  It leaked.

To be fair, the vast majority of the shed was fine – such a relief not to be ankle deep in a river as was the (exaggerated) case from the previous shed.  That one needed the ShopVac to suck as much of the free water up so it didn’t start lapping around the base of the tools sitting on wheeled bases.

The leak today was no more than a puddle forming on the floor of the mezzanine, directly under one of the windows in the eaves – rain was getting in around the rubber seals of the glass.  Not ideal, but with a bit of glazier’s silicone, should be pretty easy to rectify.  If that is the only leak I ever have to experience, I will be happy.

At least nothing was raining on the cast iron tools – I’ve had enough dealing with rust on tools.  Tried some Killrust Rust-Eeter (sic) the other day, and although I am sure it did a good job in converting the rust, it is only suitable as a product when intending to paint over the surface afterwards. It left the surface completely black, as if it had been painted (which effectively is what it was).

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It didn’t work as I was hoping – I just wanted to convert rust back to raw metal, or use something that cleaned rust off.  Both on large surfaces, but also something I could set up as a bath to immerse smaller tools in to clean rust off.

Does anyone have a good product for doing this?  I have some old tools that really need some of that TLC.

Tip Truck

The first project out of the workshop is proving to be fun (aren’t they all?) being a tip truck that I am making (and designing as I go).  It is meant to be for a magazine article, but with the combination of trying to get the shed functional, demands of work, and family, I might have missed the deadline.  Never-the-less, it was good to be ‘forced’ to get back to what the workshop is really about.  Murdering electrons while making sawdust.

It has been a great little project to commission the SawStop on, and that has been fun in itself (as my previous post eluded to).

truck-2A number of blade tilts (guard removed for clarity, and in this instance to stop the project hanging up on it, but note the riving knife instead, which worked perfectly).

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Making something out of your head is always an interesting evolution – lots of contemplation working out what is needed next, some false starts, but all in all, successful

Given (from the title), it is a tip truck, I needed wheels, and although you can make a round wheel on a tablesaw, I don’t see it being a good practice.  SawStop or no, I’m not sticking my hand that close to any spinning blade.  Instead, I went to my old trusted solution – wheel cutting bits from Carb-i-tool.  I initially made them all the same size, but the front just looked wrong, so they were made with a larger diameter cutter.  The rear wheels were made thick (about 30mm thick), so after the drill press, I headed over to the bandsaw to roughly cut the wheels free, then to the Comet lathe and the pen mandrel as it happens, to finish the job.  As a system it worked well, and the tip of a skew chisel was used to cut grooves around the circumference as tread.

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The truck is still “rough and ready” – it’d take about the same amount of time to finish it (which is normal for a project, I find).

I stuck with my standard principle (that I try to apply as often as is practicable) that it is only wood and glue (axles and all).

truck-1It is a good size – about 400mm long, 130mm across, and about 180mm high (to the top of the cab).  Functional too – wheels turn, the tray tips, tailgate swings open.

It will be pretty durable too, but as the weakest component are the axles (both on the wheels and also the tray), and they are simply dowel, easily repaired.  I think it is always good to consider damage and repairability when making kids toys – you want something that will last the distance, even if there are a few repairs required along the way.

Urgent trophy job

One of the family friends does woodcarving on the side, and had a job dropped onto him at the last minute.

So we decided to get the CNC Shark to do some of the heavy lifting.

6 shields, by tomorrow! Not a problem.

2 hours later and they were done.

I suggested that he follow Dennis’ lead, and use a resin filler – makes the designs really pop.

Anyway, it was a bit of a distraction, but at least sawdust was being made (and even the Festool ETS 150/5 made an appearance).  Slowly a sense of normalcy is returning to the shed space.

Brushed vs Brushless

We’ve been hearing this term more and more with power tools, particularly drills, impact drivers (and pretty much anything Festool handheld).

We know brushless is meant to be better – same power with a lower voltage battery, and/or longer run time, longer durability of the motor.  But why?  What makes a brushless motor so ‘special’?  And if it is so great, why do we have brushed motors in the first place?  This will be a pretty simplistic look at the concept – there is plenty of info out there if you want greater detail!

Let’s start with the last point.

Brushless motors require electronic control, so it is only with the inclusion of a modern microprocessor has it been possible to build such a motor.  Still, they have been around since the early ’60s, so perhaps a little strange they are not more common (cost does play a factor).  They have only been becoming reasonably common in some tools in the past 5 years or so.  Perhaps why they are so good is still not really appreciated.

In simple terms, a canned motor (or brushed) has a rotor at the centre which is an electromagnet.  Power has to get to that electromagnet, which is done via ‘brushes’ that brush against contacts on the rotating body.  Around the outside is the stator, made up of permanent magnets.  (Stator => Static/stationary is how I remember it.  Rotor => rotating)

Brushed Motor

Brushed Motor

The brushes are rubbing continuously on the core (the rotor) (at a point called the commutator fwiw).  Brushes wear, there is friction, heat.  A typical brushed motor is around 50% efficient, even down to 30% on smaller motors.  That means an 18V brushed motor power tool (if looking at cordless versions for a sec) is getting 9V worth of power from the motor. (Even as low as 5.5V)

Triton Router Brush

Triton Router Brush

Triton Rotor (image from http://www.horizontalheavens.com)

Triton Stator (image from www.horizontalheavens.com) - static electromagnets typically replace the permanent magnets in AC motors

Triton Stator (image from http://www.horizontalheavens.com) – static electromagnets typically replace the permanent magnets in AC motors

A brushless motor swaps the operation of the rotor and stator.  The rotor is now a permanent magnet, and the stator is the electromagnet.  As it is not rotating, getting electricity to it is easy – no brushes required.

Brushless Motor

Brushless Motor

Electronics control the switching on and off of each electromagnet around the stator, causing the rotor to, well, rotate.

A brushless motor is around 70% efficient, so in the same cordless scenario above, a 13V tool as a cordless model is about the same power as a good 18V brushed motor one.   So, for example, you take my 14.4V Festool brushless impact driver that I got from Ideal Tools recently, and put it up against an 18V cordless model (with a brushed motor (Hitachi, Milwaukee etc etc)), and the Festool is going to kick its butt :)  Not that Festool are the only brand with brushless motors, both the aforementioned brands also have brushless versions – but it is definitely worth making sure that the tool you are buying does. And the brushless aspect makes a lot more difference than the battery voltage as you can see.  Once you have electronic control in the tool, you can do all sorts of other smart things, like Festool’s ECS controls not only the motor’s speed, but also provides overload protection and controls the electronic clutch to boot.

Even in a corded model, you are looking at less wear, a lighter tool (for the same power), a quieter motor, and electronic controls of other functions.

Brushless vs Brushed

Brushless vs Brushed

One is spinning as freely as possible, (you still have bearings etc in both types of course).  The other is like driving with the handbrake on.

Episode 100 Assembling the SawStop

Episode 100 Assembling the SawStop

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