Under Pressure

When using a featherboard, you normally don’t get to choose how stiff the fingers are – they are what they are.  When you put the featherboard into operation, it is pushed up against the workpiece until the desired deflection is achieved.  However, if you find it isn’t right, you have to start again with its setup.

I’m a big fan, as regular readers would know, of the MagSwitch range.  But they only works on ferrous materials.  My router table base is cast iron just to get to use the MagSwitch featherboard, which is all very well horizontally, but given the fence is an Incra LS Positioner with Wonderfence (from PWS), and that is all anodised aluminium, there is a bit of a problem.  I need a featherboard that works in a slot (and the Incra has slots that are perfect for this).

So where to turn?  Well when it comes down to it, there are two companies with incredibly similar ethos where it comes to innovation, quality and accuracy for woodworkers.  If one is Incra, the other must be Woodpeckers.

And sure enough, there is a new Woodpeckers featherboard that is an ideal complement for the Incra Router fence.  The Incra is not the only place the featherboards can be used.  Any slot, T or Mitre can be used. Router table, table saw, bandsaw, disk sander, spindle sander etc etc.

So you choose the Woodpeckers featherboard, put some load into it-get some deflection of the fingers (or feathers), but they are a bit soft for the application.  So instead of trying to achieve greater deflection (which also makes it difficult to feed the wood under or past the feathers), with the Woodpeckers you can choose to stiffen the feathers right up without having to reposition the whole setup with their innovative design.

It also works in reverse – if the feathers are too stiff, applying too much force against a soft timber, you can use the variable adjustment to get a softer action from the featherboard.

Horizontal or vertical, these featherboards are a real complement for the tool.  They come in sets of two – infeed and outfeed, or vertical and horizontal (or just have 2 sets!)

The real secret is in the method for controlling the finger pressure.

There is an upper plate, secured separately to the featherboard itself.  Small fingers insert in between the main featherboard fingers. By loosening the central knob, this separate plate can be slid up and down, effectively lengthening or shortening the feathers as required and thus controlling (and varying) the pressure without having to relocate the whole featherboard.

The shorter the fingers are made, the stiffer they become, and vice versa.

I haven’t taken a photo as yet of this setup on my Incra Wonderfence, but they definitely look the part, and are a perfect complement for my setup.  Being Woodpeckers, they are available from Professional Woodworkers Supplies down under

Midnight…It’s MagSwitch Time

So the cat is out of the bag – and being Stu’s Shed readers you are (afaik) the first in the world to know about it (other than the retailers – thus the delay before I could release the info).

Yes – MagSwitch have added a number of new products to their lineup, and what I am ecstatic about is it is all based around…the Universal Base.

* A featherboard that can be reversed

* A thin-stock jig / rip guide

* A snake light!

* A universal track / fence

And the system still includes the single and double roller fences, vertical featherboard etc.

So onto the details:

Ever since the MagFence kit came out, I was hoping for 2 things. 1. For a featherboard that uses the same base, and therefore can be reversed as needed. 2. A featherboard kit similar to the MagFence kit.

Guess someone was listening (and no, I doubt it was anything to do with me, but sometime Mick Jagger isn’t always right (“you can’t always get what you want”))

There will be a featherboard kit – I’m dubbing it the MagSafe, but not sure whether that name will be picked up or not (kind of hope so).  I’ve also suggested that the kit includes some risers – currently sold separately.

However, there is also some possibility of discontinuing the MagFence combo kit – but personally, from someone who has sold dozens and dozens of these kits when helping out at wood shows – if you can’t sell a MagFence Combo kit, you should find a different occupation!  I think it would be a killer to have both the MagFence Combo kit and the MagSafe kit on the shelves at the same time.  I would have sold SO many of one, or the other…..or both!

But enough of me rabbiting on – time for some photos – screen shot from a web-resolution PDF, so sorry about the quality but these are the first photos out there.

Reversible Featherboard w Universal Base

The reversible featherboard can be flipped, and also (I’m lead to believe) able to be used in place of the vertical attachment.

Reversible Featherboard w Vertical Attachment

And being based around the Universal Base, the MagJigs can be removed in other jigs of your design.  Sadly, no MagBroom :( But it wouldn’t be hard to take that Universal Base and turn it into one ;)

Risers

Note too, the MagJigs are quite close to the front edge of the base, so about the same amount of distance between the MagSwitches and the front of the featherboard as there is with the Pro Featherboard.

Thin Stock Jig

Now here is a jig to take home to Mum, with 3 ways to use it – as a stepped holddown, with the bevelled edge holding down and against the fence simultaneously, and with the bearing as a point fence.  Be interesting to see how it also works on the router table, directly above a router bit of matching diameter so it can be a surrogate to a bearinged router bit.

3 Ways to use the Ultimate Jig

And it looks the goods!

Holding against, and down simultaneously - clever jig :)

The bearing is actually there primarily for thin ripping, but there are a number of ways I can think of already that it will be useful in other applications.

I still would like MagSwitch to bring out a simple pushstick, something like the Bench Dog one.  Not for any good reason other than safety on top of the tool is pretty much covered, and a push stick would complete the package.  Not my idea, but the concept of “If it is on top of your tools, it is a MagSwitch” sounds like a great line, and one worth pursuing.  Taken one step further, it could also include an after-market blade guard for saws that come with shoddy offerings, and perhaps a tune-up kit for the saw fence that includes some of the MagSquares.

fence

One use I could see for the Universal track would be as a replacement fence for a router table.  This would conceivably be 2 universal tracks, 2 universal bases (one on the infeed side, one outfeed side, and a joining piece that slides along the top slot to keep both fences in line with each other.  That way the infeed and outfeed could be moved closer together or further apart, depending on the size of the router bit being used.  It will apparently be sold that way, and joiners are coming.

The fence will also fit other brands of holddowns, stops etc, and importantly, it will take the vertical attachment.

Snake Light

The snake light attaches directly to the Universal Base, providing illumination wherever it is required.  Powered by a couple of AA batteries.

Auto-cupboard latch

And finally, I don’t have a full product photo, but this is part of the auto-on latch.  Reading between the lines of the description, unlike other MagSwitches, this one cannot remain in a switched-off state.  When you twist the knob to open the cupboard, the magnet is turned off, and it auto-springs back to on once the knob is released.  That is how I’m guessing it operates anyway.

My suggestion would be that a child-safe design could be incorporated, so that new parents could change the various cupboard locks in their house, and then once they were no longer needed for safety, they could have something changed/added/removed so they are rendered into a superb (standard) MagSwitched cupboard latch!

So there you have it – “You heard it here first folks”

Some Torque Details

Some more views of the Torque, now that it is all assembled and functional. Looking forward to a chance to really start putting the machine through its paces, but even the first 2 jobs (both for the recent toy kitchens), had me approaching traditional problems from a brand new direction (and no, that isn’t a reference to “overhead”, but of course that is the literal truth!)

Rear View of Y-Axis Rail

The machine is built heavy – at no stage do you feel any component has been scaled down to save on materials cost. The castings are heavy, the bearings are large, the members are solid and have no chance to incur sag, twist, or bend. The horizontal (Y-axis) beam has the tool carriage mounted on it, running on 8 substantial bearings on an electroplated arm. The black knob locks the carriage, so only x-axis travel will then occur (or rotation around the z-axis, if that is what the job requires). (Also, not counting the router plunge, which is obviously a movement in the z-axis) The z-axis movement is primarily the rack gearing that can be seen, and it is locked in position with the twist of the plunge arm. There is also a major movement of the z-axis with the threaded raising and lowering of the main arm, but that is not a movement that will be done during a cut, whereas the x, y and on-carriage z-axis movements are all directions that can be utilised during a cut.

Main Tool Control Mechanism

This is the y-axis arm from the other side, and here you can see the z-axis mechanism – the plate and bearings. One thing that strikes you is bearings everywhere on this tool – if something is designed to move, it is running on bearings, and few bearings are mounted flat – most are angled to the direction of load, so controlling and locking movement, and not just providing a smooth ride. The router mount specifically for Triton is still being manufactured which is why the Triton is still sitting on the original mounting plate, held in the circular saw attachment.

Z-Axis Mechanism

The z-axis beam is even heavier than the y-axis – it has to resist a significant bending moment. Still has the solid cast components, and electroplated beam. You can also see in this image the lock that allows the y-axis beam to rotate, setting the tool to angles other than just straight up and down. This is normal for radial arm saws and some drill presses, and now also for routers as well.

Critical Arm Balance Mechanism

Under the table is the main support arm. It serves a couple of purposes, carrying the beam that supports the end of the y-axis beam, but also the bearings are carrying a load to ensure the upright remains upright, despite the significant bending moment caused by having a heavy tool operate at the end of the y-axis beam. The knob and rod are actually the x-axis brake.

Copy Attachment and Pin Routing Point

An optional addition is the copy attachment. In many situations this provides significant control over the tool – with two hand grips, and will be very useful whether the copy rod is deployed or not. It is still quickly and easily removed if not required. It also provides a convenient allen key storage (a Lazy Larry solution)

In the MDF, you can just see the metal sleeve inserted that takes the pin routing guide. Again, very easy to deploy when required.

Router Table Section with Incra Positioner and MagSwitch

At the right-end of the table, I have still retained a traditional router table…….. cast iron, inset router lift with digital height readout, Incra fence with 1/1000th inch positioning. And MagSwitch of course. If it wasn’t for MagSwitch, I wouldn’t have bothered retaining a cast iron top. But the MagSwitch technology is just too good to pass up, and I want it’s ease of placement anywhere I want it, the safety of featherboards for horizontal and vertical material restraint, and of course any other jig I decide to create, with the use of MagJigs to hold them in place. One such example is the commercially available Woodpeckers Freehand Router Guard, which I have added an additional base to with 40mm holes to take a couple of MagJigs. So easy to place when needed, it actually gets used. Safety equipment is only useful when you use it, and having a method of making using it as painless as possible is never a bad thing.

Freehand Router Table Guard w MagJigs

Is this it? Have I finally achieved (through an amalgamation of quality products) The Ultimate Router Table? It certainly can’t compete with some out there for aesthetics, but where it comes to functionality, I think I am pretty safe to say there would be few tables out there that have more than one with the overhead capabilities afforded by the Torque Workcentre, a solid cast-iron router table that has an Incra LS Positioner and Wonderfence, a Woodpeckers Router Lift, and because of the cast iron, can utilise the awesome MagSwitch technology. It is going to be really interesting over the next while, really putting this machine through its paces. About the only thing it seems to be missing is CNC, and with the potential future edition of Wixey positioning readouts, even that will close the gap significantly.

The New MagSwitch Range has Landed!

After whetting our appetites at the Melbourne Woodworking Show with the new products in their range, they have arrived and are now available for sale (which is great with the Brisbane Woodworking Show on next weekend!)

Some we have seen already, and have just undergone a colour change to “safety yellow”, a change that I am actually very pleased with – makes quickly spotting the required jig in the workshop a lot easier!

Now onto the new stuff.

A really cool one, and one that is awesome to see added to the range: the Universal Featherboard.  It goes both ways ;)

Universal Featherboard on the Tablesaw

Universal Featherboard on the Tablesaw

It doesn’t restrict you in its operation, being able to be used on both sides of the tablesaw (fence on the left or right of the blade), and also on the fence (if its cast iron!), and router table.  If I had to choose only one MagSwitch featherboard, it would be this one. It is so versatile.

Universal on the Fence

Universal on the Fence

Now one thing I was rather surprised about when I opened the package.  The Universal is based around a 20mm MagSwitch, and not a 30mm. However, after querying this with the company I found out what the thought process was behind it.  Obviously cost is a definite factor, and there is a price difference between having 2 x 20mm MagSwitches in a product and 2 x 30mm. The featherboard primarily has to resist a shear load, and so what they have done is applied a Titanium Nitride coating to the magnets, which boosts the shear load capacity of the 20mm jig up to the same of the normal 30mm MagSwitch.

You can see the colouring caused by the Titanium Nitride in the next photo.  It is also worth noting that a finish like this is not a surface, added to the metal.  The coating actually penetrates the surface, and turns the outside layer of the parent metal into an alloy, with its own properties (in this case increased magnetic shear strength).

Titanium Nitride Coating

Titanium Nitride Coating

This also gives a very good view of the double-sided aspect of this featherboard.

Next, is what a lot of people have been waiting for – the MagFence Combo Kit.

The vertical fences have either one, or two bearing rollers, depending on the application.  The kit itself comes with both, and one universal base (and two 30mm MagJigs).  The base is interchangeable between the two fences, so you can use whichever is suitable to the task at hand.

It is also a good value kit – if you take the $200 price tag, and then realise that the two MagJigs that it comes with are worth $100 on their own ($50 each). And these MagJigs can be used anywhere – switch them from task to task (and jig to jig) as needed.

The single roller one I have been particularly waiting for.  It is designed (and is perfect for) resawing on the bandsaw.  The idea is that because a bandsaw blade has a real tendency to track, the operator guides the work as needed to cut a uniform thickness piece (such as a veneer).  Setting a single point of contact the right distance away from the blade really aids this, and being only a single roller means it still allows the operator full control over guiding and compensating for blade tracking.

Resaw Fence

Resaw Fence

Here the fence is set quite away back from the blade (for the photo).  If I was setting up for a veneer cut, the fence would be within a couple of mm of the blade.

Back of Resaw

Back of Resaw Fence

This image of the back of the fence reveals a number of details.  The base is interchangeable as mentioned, and it only requires 4 hex bolts to be undone to switch between them. The diagonal members are the same as is used for the vertical attachment featherboard.  The difference is the addition of the ‘sled’ below the support member which has the butterfly bolt sticking out.  This is so the angle of the fence can be controlled to ensure the roller is vertical to the table.

There are the two 30mm MagJigs as mentioned. I have fixed them down with the supplied bolts, but that isn’t actually necessary – the jigs work equally as well without the MagJigs fixed down.

Used as a Holddown

Used as a Holddown

The fence itself (either one or two rollers can also be used on other tools, as here as a holddown on the planer.

Combo Fence Kit

Combo Fence Kit

Here you can see both the single and double roller unit.  The roller bearings are supplied equally spaced as you can see, but you can rearrange them if a different layout is needed.

The last part of the kit is simple, and clever – good engineering. The holes in the Universal base are designed for the 30mm MagJig, but you may prefer to use 20mm MagJigs (or fit 20mm MagJigs into another jig with a hole for the 30mm).

20mm Adapter

20mm Adapter

In the foreground you can see a standard 30mm MagJig (base).  Behind it, a 20mm in an adapter (also shown to the left).  Simple, smart.

The final item, and again really simple, and very clever, are adapters that allow the vertical featherboard to be converted to horizontal, resulting in a multiple (high) featherboard.

Vertical Riser Adapters

Vertical Riser Adapters

This is what is provided in a single kit.  There is a longer set of bolts required for the triple featherboard orientation that you have to provide.

These are the layouts you can achieve with the various combinations and orientations.

Dual Featherboard

Dual Featherboard

High Dual Featherboard

High Dual Featherboard

Triple Featherboard

Triple Featherboard

In the final image as mentioned, I needed to provide my own bolts, and the middle featherboard is one of the old ones.  There is no difference, except in colour.  That’s a bloody large featherboard when it is tripled up!

So that’s a look at much of the new range. Watch out for me at the Brisbane Wood Show (on the MagSwitch display), and even better, get some for your own workshop – they are great!

SW09 – Preventing a Kickback

As discussed in the previous article, a kickback is when a blade stops cutting, and instead transfers the machine’s power directly into the workpiece, propelling it with incredible force.

Not getting in the way is a really good option when it happens.  However, we are talking about something coming at you at 200km/hr is hard to dodge.  Only having less than 1/100th of a second to not only realise something is flying at you, and get out of the way kind of suggests that if you are in the way when a kickback occurs, you have already been hit.  Hard.

Ok, not everything is going to be accelerated to the full tip speed of the blade.  A full sheet of MDF will not find its way to 200km/hr.  It will still find itself winging its way towards you, and given its mass, and the power of the tool that threw it………

So hopefully we have determined that being out of way before the kickback is a really good idea.  Staying out of the “fling zone” is a really good start.  For example, on a tablesaw, don’t stand directly behind the blade, or stand to one side, and reach across the line of fire to push the work through (dumb on a number of levels).  Position yourself where you can fully and safely control the workpiece AND stay out of the fling zone.  Body armor is not a bad idea either.  If you can’t get some of this, a leather shop apron is a great idea (and is not budget breaking either)

Anti Kickback Suit

Anti Kickback Suit

So that takes care of what happens when it happens.  Now let’s try to prevent it happening in the first place.

Tablesaw:

Ensure the fence is parallel to the blade.  If you can’t be SURE it is parallel, it is better to toe out than toe in (in other words, angled away from the back of the blade rather than towards it).

NEVER crosscut using a mitre gauge AND the fence.  You have trapped the workpiece solidly between the blade and the fence, and given it is a crosscut if it has any chance to twist at all, it will bind and kickback.  I have commented in the past about how I use the fence for accurate measuring before completing the crosscut, but note even my method leaves a good 40mm for the workpiece to move into so it can’t get trapped.

Have some form of holddown (if possible) at the back of the blade.  It doesn’t have to do much, but if it resists the workpiece floating up with the rear teeth rising, lifting it then this will minimise the likelihood of it being thrown.  In saying that I took the holddowns off my saw – they were too strongly spring loaded.  My blade guard does a reasonable job anyway.

Use a splitter and/or riving knife.  As a piece of timber is cut, internal forces are relieved and you can get significant amounts of timber movement.  If that happens to be in the direction to close up the kerf, the timber can attempt to bind on the back of the blade = missile.  Also, this helps prevent an offcut coming into contact with those rear teeth (remember I said I had some evidence 12 months after a kickback – it was my gut that got in the way, and it was an offcut that was the missile).

Riving Knife

Riving Knife

This riving knife (which also carries the fence (not show)) rises and falls with the blade, and is removable with a quick release.  It is kept pretty close to the blade to prevent an offcut getting in between and being kicked.  It also acts as a splitter, holding the kerf apart so it cannot close and pinch the blade.

Never use the saw without either a mitre gauge or fence (ie never freehand cut).  If you twist the piece even slightly, see above result.

Even better is to also use featherboards, to hold the workpiece snugly against the fence.  I use the term deliberately, as a featherboard can be snug without being so tight as to really make it difficult to slide the workpiece.

These featherboards from MagSwitch are my favourite, as they can be positioned anywhere (and are not dependent on the location of the mitre slot).  And the really nice aspect I think, is that it can almost be an afterthought – you are all set up for the cut, and you remember that you’ve forgotten the featherboard (heh), it is a simple matter of bringing it in and locking it down, wherever it is needed.

MagSwitch Pro Featherboard

MagSwitch Pro Featherboard

You will notice it is positioned just forward of the blade.  Once the blade has begun cutting, I don’t want anything pushing that offcut back into the blade.

Storage of the MagSwitch is also easy, and ensures it is right onhand whenever needed.

MagSwitch Storage

MagSwitch Storage

Pushsticks are also a great idea (obviously). Not only do they keep your fingers away from the blade, but a good one, a good design will also assist in preventing a kickback.

You can easily make a pushstick, and if you want to there is no reason not to.  If however, you never get around to things, there are some good designs on the market, such as this one by Kreg:

Kreg Multipurpose Pushstick

Kreg Multipurpose Pushstick

This one is from Carbatec, costs all of $30 or so.  The reason why the design works so well, is it pushes the work through (thanks to the lip on the back of the pushstick), but because of the position of the handle, effort is both forward, and downward.  Because of the large leading edge, the workpiece is held down well onto the surface of the table.  A kickback caused by the workpiece floating during the cut is virtually eliminated by this design.

Ensure the blade is sharp.  Dull blades = accidents.  Some blades also come with an antikickback design.  These have a tongue of the sawblade body out of the back of the preceding tooth so you can’t (theoretically) overfeed the blade, and the blade has less opportunity to pick up bits of waste etc.  Not sure how effective these are, but it doesn’t detract from blade performance.

Antikickback Tooth Design

Antikickback Tooth Design

Router Table:

Ensure you use the correct feed direction.  Normally right to left when using a fence (but don’t have the workpiece passing between the router bit and the fence).  Climb cutting has its place, but the vast majority of cuts, you should feed the workpiece in the opposite direction to the spinning bit.

If freehand routing (with a router bit with a bearing) always use a starter pin.

This can be as simple as a brass pin screwed into the tabletop near the router bit, or as complex as this freehand router guard from Professional Woodworkers Supplies (and Woodpeckers)

Freehand Router Guard

Freehand Router Guard

This one has been adapted to include the convenience of MagSwitch for positioning and mounting onto the router table.

When you are dealing with smaller pieces, a router table also benefits from featherboards, both horizontal and vertical where possible.  Again I’m using the MagSwitch Pro Featherboard as an example, with the optional vertical attachment.

MagSwitch Featherboards on the Router Table

MagSwitch Featherboards on the Router Table

If you are wondering about the colouring, the one on the right is the current colour scheme, but the functionality is identical.  I have 2 mounted here, as it is a really good idea to have both an infeed and outfeed holddown on the router table (unlike the tablesaw).  You can also use a fence-mounted vertical featherboard if you have a fence that can take one (this can), and own one (I don’t!)

Other things to avoid for kickbacks – don’t try to take off too much material in any one pass, use sharp router bits, watch your feed direction, be particularly careful when first engaging the router bit – for example feeding a long piece in means the bit is first going to impact into the endgrain, and if it doesn’t just chip out, it could kick.  This is minimised by using bits with an antikickback feature.

Antikickback Router Bit

Antikickback Router Bit

You can see the large amount of body in front of the carbide.  This limits just how much of the carbide is exposed to the workpiece.  Most router bits these days incorporate this feature.  If it doesn’t, be very wary!

Jointer/Planer:

Again, adequate holddowns are the go, with pushsticks, and optionally a fence featherboard should be sufficient (and don’t try to take off too much in a pass)

Fence Featherboards

Fence Featherboards

Again, MagSwitch have featherboards particularly suited as they attach magnetically directly to the vertical fence.

Kickbacks do happen, and most can be prevented.  If you get a kickback, the first, second and third reasons you consider should all start with the term “User Error”.  Find out what you did wrong, and try not to repeat it!

Episode 46 MagSwitch

Episode 46 MagSwitch
MagSwitch technology is a revelation in my workshop – changing how I work, the jigs I make, even influencing the decisions on major item acquisition.
(Right-click, and select “Save Link As”) Best video quality is achieved by downloading then playing the mp4 version.

An Innovative Approach to Featherboards

Reading a fellow blogger’s site recently, I came across a tool that I had to talk about here as well.  So after a couple of quick emails for permission, I can show you a brand new tool over in the States, that is so new that it isn’t even on the developers own website yet.

The blog I was reading is by Al Navas, who runs Sandal Woods – Fine Woodworking and Cabinetry Blog. A link is (and has been for ages) available under blogs down the left hand side of this page fwiw.

The tool company is Sommerfeld Tools, and I am going to have to pay closer attention to Marc’s products if this is the sort of thing he is coming up with.

Onto the product itself – it is called the Feather-Guard, and is, surprisingly (ok, not so surprising once you actually read the components of the name), a featherboard and a router bit guard in one.

Sommerfeld Feather Guard

Sommerfeld Feather Guard

For one, the approach to the feathers themselves is novel, and the fact this featherboard is designed to work at the point the workpiece encounters the bit and not before (or after) is really interesting.  It also covers the bit, and thus the guarding component.

I’d probably wish that it was made from a transparent material, but this isn’t compulsory for safe operation.

It runs in a T Track, and so would be absolutely perfect for an Incra Fence for example.

It can also be used mounted to the table as a horizontal featherboard, and again would need a T Track in the table for this.  Of course you know what I’m going to say next- needs to be able to have MagSwitches attached!

I guess it is unlikely that I’ll get to play with one in person anytime soon to be able to provide further insights into this product, but it certainly looks like one worth keeping an eye on.

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