Dear MagSwitch, we miss you

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The range of MagSwitch products seems to grow and grow, and rightly so, the industrial sector are the main benefactors.

However, I miss the innovative products MagSwitch was bringing out for woodworkers and workshop owners, each one being such a game-changer. I know the products are still available, but as there has been nothing new for us for so long, they just become part of the background view when you walk into a store. I still look longingly at the display, hoping to see something new.

I still love the products, and use them very regularly, I used to do the occasional woodworking show demonstration for them when they were still an Australian product.

Just reminiscing about the days when MagSwitch and woodworkers were so much closer.

Roadtrip

Went on a roadtrip yesterday to see the ‘superstore’ of a shed manufacturer.  Disappointing – they do not make anything but very standard sheds, and best they could do was design one that involved putting two of their normal sheds together, that would result in a post right in the middle of the largest working area.  Disappointing too – despite the simplicity of 2 basic sheds, it was in the same ballpark as the one in the earlier post (and that is with a 20% discount this company is currently offering!)

As a distraction, I dropped into Hare & Forbes which was just around the corner.

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A massive collection of machines – very impressive.  Woodwork & metalwork machines.  Some awesome industry-sized machines.  Drool.

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Found one thing that I am very keen to have in the shed.  I was looking at how to fit in an I beam for a chain hoist, but that doesn’t have a lot of versatility (being linear only).  This stand can lift and move along an I beam, and is wheeled to boot, so you can position the hoist where you need it.  It looks awesome, and a real back-saver.

I have the chain hoist already, so along with this mobile rail, I only need the carriage.  Would be great if I had one of the MLAY 1000×3 from MagSwitch – that would really cap the whole combination off!

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Don’t even know if these are in Australia!  Very cool though – imagine swinging my tablesaw around the workshop!

MagSwitch in the V8 Development Series

With the 2013 series of the V8 Championship about to get underway, and in a new format with multiple manufacturers finally able to participate once again, the development series is also kicking off.

On car #35 in the Dunlop (development) Series, driven by George Miedecke, MagSwitch has made a reappearance down under by becoming one of the car’s minor sponsors.

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Their logo can be seen just behind the rear wheel.

Welcome back MagSwitch, we missed you! Time to come full circle and appear at the woodshows, and/or bring out more innovative products. We’ve liked all the ones in the past, and there is still plenty of scope for further developments for woodworking products. (Still haven’t seen my MagBroom!) I know MagSwitch is still available in Carbatec (among others), but a limited range, and I don’t think it has been actively promoted since the last time I was demo’ing it at the woodshow.

There have been some new products, mainly for industrial products. There is a larger MagJig now, and MagLatches (I got a very early version of it a few years back) are now available, just not down under.

Still want an I beam in the new shed, with a chain hoist, and I’d love to have an MLAY lifting magnet to attach. Not sure what I’d lift with it, just cool to have! Being able to swing the tablesaw around the workshop perhaps!

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Enter, the Router Table

Taking the first components off to the next stage of the process involves the router table, and the rail & stile plus raised panel bits.

Cutting the interior profile

After some test cuts, the router table was set up to run the rails and stiles through the first router bit.  I use MagSwitch featherboards to hold the timber against the router table fence. They are so easy to position, and hold fast to the cast iron top of my router table.  Make you think it fortunate my router table is cast iron, but it came about in the reverse order.  I made the router table out of cast iron so that I could use MagSwitches on it.

Woodpeckers Coping Sled

After changing to the complementary router bit, it was time to cut the end grain of the rails.  If you ever wonder how to remember which is which, think about rails being horizontal.  They certainly are for trains! The stile is the other one.

The Woodpeckers Coping Sled is awesome for this task.  It holds the rails perfectly, and perpendicular to the direction of travel.  If I had taken more care, I would have used a sacrificial backing.  Probably should have – hardwood tears out a bit too easily. I’ll make sure I do when cutting the doors for the sink unit.

I just checked – the coping sled is still available from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  They now have a mini one as well, but given the full sized one is on special, I’d still go with that one (the one pictured above).  There is so much more with this one, it is worth the difference.

Sanding the panels

After removing the panels being glued up in the Frontline clamps, I used the Festool belt sander to do a final flattening (including removing any glue squeezeout).  The large sander weights 7kg, and when coupled with the sled means you can hold the handle, and, well, hang on – letting the tool do all the work.  The work is clamped up using brass dogs on the vice, and dogs in holes in the table.

Panel bit

Once sanded (not the final sand – more a sizing sand than a finishing one), it was back to the router table, this time with a raised panel bit.  I don’t have a raised panel bit with a cutter for the back yet, so have to adjust it manually. This is not the final pass, but an intermediate one to check fit.  Best to do the crossgrain first, then the longgrain.

Panel bit

This is a monster bit – pretty much at the limit that a router can (or rather should) drive.  The run at the slowest speed still gets a decent tip speed.

Test fit

A quick test fit showed I was close, but still needs another pass to get it there.  Looking good though.  Will look even better when I do the 3D routing into each panel!  Once that routing is done (next session), then I can glue the panels up.

Thicknessing undersized stock

One thing I have been surprised with so far, is the lack of waste.  I’d always try to use timber to maximise yield, but there is always waste.  So far I’d not have enough offcuts to fill a 10L bucket – the yield is exceptional.

Even these thin panels that were ripped off the 19-20mm thick boards.  They will be perfect for the back of the units.  I wanted to run them through the thicknesser, but it just doesn’t go thin enough.  To solve that problem, I clamped on a sled.  The boards would not feed initially, but with a quick rubdown with Sibergleit, the boards fed through smoothly and easily.  I wouldn’t do this with any timber, or to go too thin, but it will get you out of trouble.
So a good session.  Progress seems slow, but this is always the slow part of any project.  Once the items are cut, and some preliminary joinery done, it usually flies together.

 

Some good news and bad news.  The good news is that I am documenting sessions on video.  Bad news is I am not planning on releasing the video until the project is complete!

Baby Bed Build Bis

Had a change to take another crack at the cot build this weekend, which was good – more progress.

After last weekend, we had the bed itself built (as in the surround and support for the mattress), so today it was time to build the side rails. Oh, and fwiw we are referring regularly to ensure compliance with the Australian Standard for cot design, so the maximum clearance between mattress and bed, height of sides, gap between slats etc etc are all being carefully adhered to.

Once again, we started with a large chunk of timber (around 250×45) and began machining it down.

A combination of jointer, thicknesser and tablesaw gave us the rails and stiles as the frame for the sides.

Despite having them for years, this is about the first time I have actually used the jointer MagSwitch featherboards. They worked very well to ensure even pressure across the jointer cutter. A quick tap down between passes to ensure even pressure is maintained as the board becomes thinner (I do 0.5mm passes on the jointer, so not a real issue in any case). And in case you were wondering, we jointed an edge so we had something straight and true to run up against the tablesaw fence, then ran the board through the tablesaw to get 2 lengths a bit over 90mm wide. From there, we started machining the boards from scratch, jointing a side, then an edge. Next onto the tablesaw to rip the boards in half, so they ended up 20mm thick after machining.

We then spent some time testing and preparing to make the slats for the sides. A number of test pieces, and setups done to fine tune the operation. We started with the Domino – when we need mortices, why not use the best tool for the job?! So with a 10mm cutter, and set to the widest mortice setting, we got a 33mm slot, and thus our slat size was determined. We then made one, and tested it for strength. That went well too.

With all setups done, all the spare pieces, offcuts from other pieces of this job were run through the tablesaw to create the number of slats needed, with a number of spares. Each was then tested, bent and abused. A few failed, but the majority were perfect, and will be able to survive even Arnold Schwarzenegger’s kid.

Still need to actually create the mortices in the rails, but will do that after some sanding and finishing.

To get the required slat placement, the Domino grows wings. It makes cutting the required mortices so incredibly easy, and accurate.

Now I know there are two main groups out there – those who cannot understand how any tool can be worth as much as a Domino, and those who love the tool. Unfortunately, I used to belong to the first camp, but since first using the Domino and then more recently (last couple of years) owning one, I cannot help but reside in the second. Awesome machine. Yes, I know – hideously expensive. But very, very cool. One of these days, I’d love to become permanently familiar with the Domino XL too.

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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

Way of the Dado

The dado blade – taking a standard sawblade, and deconstructing it into its various elements.  Then taking one of the fundamental variables of a saw blade and making it variable, making it controllable.

Normally, we accept (and suffer) the kerf (the width of cut) of a sawblade.  When you cut a piece of timber, the kerf is wasted timber – it is turned to dust and sucked away.  The thinner the kerf, the less material is wasted, and the less power the saw requires to drive the blade.  But then, the thinner the teeth (more susceptible to damage, and less resharpening opportunity), and the more flexibility of the blade.  It seems the most popular kerf is 3.2mm.

However, there are times when you want to have width to the cut.  If cutting a long slot (a dado, slot or trench depending on your country’s definition), then doing this on the tablesaw is a lot faster, and puts a lot less load on the machine than trying to do it with a router bit.  So the dado blade is one where the alternating top bevel is now on different blades (a left and a right one), and the chipper teeth are on chipper blades that sit between the two outside ones.  By adding additional chipper blades, the kerf of the assembly can be increased, and then finetuned with thin shims.  This obviously cannot be done with router bits, so now the dado blade has two advantages over completing the same job with a router bit.

A router bit can plunge and cut a stopped dado, a dado blade cannot, and there are other instances when using a dado blade is not the method of choice.

But when you want one, they can really do the job quickly, easily, and repeatably.  So long as they are a good quality set.  So far, the dado sets I have used have been a disappointment when it came to testing them, so rather than run through all the potential variables if this set (the CMT 230.524.08 8″ 5/8 bore to suit my specific saw, from Carbatec) can cut a decent trench, it will be the winner – all the others I have tested so far have been rejected.

Here I have assembled a 16mm dado stack, mounted in my tablesaw and already plunged up through a wider insert that I made for my tablesaw from MDF.  The maximum size dado the set can create is 25.4mm (1″), but this is wider than my particular tablesaw can cope with.

The blades are 1/8″ each (and you must use both for all setups) so the minimum dado width is 1/4″  If you use all the chippers and the shims, you get the maximum dado size of 1″.

The chipper blades are 1x 1/16″, 1x 3/32″ and 4x 1/8″

The shims are 2x 0.020″, 2x 0.012″, 2x 0.008″ and 2x 0.004″

I also chose the 5/8″ bore version to match my current setup.  Most of my other blades have a 30mm bore (from memory) and then use an insert to get them to match my saw.  But if I was to try that here, I would be juggling one for each outside blade, then one for each chipper.  Too much stuffing around just to future-proof a dado set.  And I’m not planning on upgrading my tablesaw any time soon (not unless a SawStop Pro or Powermatic  falls into my lap!!!)

My tablesaw is 10″, but I’ve chosen to have an 8″ dado set.  That might seem strange – why not get a dado set that matches the capacity of the saw?

This is actually a very common practice.  A normal blade is only 3mm wide, and if it takes a significant proportion of the saw’s power on the most testing of cuts, what would it mean if you tried to spin up a dado set that could weigh 5 – 8 times as much, and then push that thickness through a block of timber?

So a smaller diameter blade is significantly less weight to spin, and even the splitters are weight-reduced with portions selectively removed to decrease the power required to drive them.  Even so, this set is no-compromise.  The splitters are 4 tooth on a full disk.  Some dado sets have very limited splitters, more like a airplane prop than a blade.  Not sure which I’d prefer, not sure I care (other than 4 teeth are better than 2)

The biggest reason for going for a lower diameter blade?  You don’t need bigger!  This is for dados, not for sawing timber in twain.  And creating a zero-clearance insert is much easier and safer when the blade can be wound down into the table far enough that it fully clears the bottom of the insert.

Not the best photo, but you can clearly see the outside blades have a combination of bevel tooth and chipper, and the chippers in the middle only have chipper teeth.  Also, you can see that the width of the chipper teeth is not important – it is the thickness of the body that determines the full stack width.  So the wider teeth make for overlap, to ensure they fully clear out the slot.

Setup for the dado cut.  The fence is locked down and the timber held against it with the latest featherboard from MagSwitch (the reversible featherboard on the universal base).  The guard and splitter are removed – cannot be used with a dado, or partial depth cut.  A zero-clearance insert is in place (shop made) and the blade set for the depth of slot required.

Setting the dado height, you have to be careful NOT to measure to the height of the bevel teeth – they do cut deeper than the depth of the slot as you will see in the next photo.  You measure to the top of the chipper teeth.

But the final truth is simple: can it cut a decent slot with a flat bottom or not?

Yes, it can.

You can see how the bevel teeth cut a bit deeper at the edges – not ideal (although pretty normal for dado sets).  It ensures there is a sharp, sliced corner rather than a rougher chipped one.  That’s not a bad thing – only matters at all if you are going to see the end of the slot at all (and you can see it is pretty minor even so)

This slot took no time at all – it really demonstrated to me just how useful a dado set is if you have a fair few slots to cut – blows routing them completely out of the water.

So the bottom line.  This CMT dado set is a win (as is the storage case personally – industrial, tough, and functional).

The CMT 230.524.08 8″dado set, from Carbatec.  This has a 5/8″ bore.  For the 30mm version, it is the 230.524.08M

Now That’s a Knife

It’s only been 4 months since I got this set of steak knives from Professional Woodworker Supplies.  That is a pretty quick turnaround time for me these days!  Everything hasn’t gone to plan though, as I will elaborate, but I got close to achieving a good result.  I don’t like accepting a compromise – it may be that others wouldn’t notice anything wrong, but I would every time I use one of these.  However, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Knife blanks

These four knives are begging for some stunning handles (the timber on either side are known as “scales”), and so the timber of choice is African Rosewood.  I recently bought a couple of lengths during the recent April WoodFest with the vague idea of making a box, but it jumped out at me when I was looking for what to make the knives from.  The timber is around 19mm thick, so a bit over double the thickness required for each side of the knife.  So resawing was the order of the day.

Resawing the African Rosewood

I changed the blade down to a 5/8″ blade on the Carbatec bandsaw, then racked up the tension.  With the MagSwitch fence in place (single roller), the blade sliced the timber cleanly in two.  I am so loving having the bandsaw tensioning handle below the upper wheel.  The benefits of a larger bandsaw.

Single Roller MagFence making the job easy

Can’t beat those MagFences either for resawing. Love how easy, and accurate it makes the task.

Passes through the Drum Sander for accurate dimensioning

From the bandsaw, the next step is to run it through the drum sander.  This may not be everyone’s first choice – for one you have to have a drum sander to be able to use it.  I’ve become a big fan, especially for situations like this.  These are pieces of timber way too short to ever consider running through a thicknesser, so you’d have to resort to a ROS, hand plane or similar.  Me, I like the electron-murdering whirling abrasive wheel! With careful passes, I was able to get the board down to within 0.1mm of the required thickness.

Jig to accurately cut the handles

Next job was to shape the scales.  The only important side initially is the edge that butts up against the bolster.  To save on timber (a big mistake – not how I chose to do it, but any attempt to scrimp on timber inevitably leads to undesirable results, and more timber wastage. I know this, and still find myself doing it), I cut the timber close to dimension, and drilled holes using an MDF template I made of the scale from the knife tang. I used a couple of lengths of brass rod to replicate the rivets to position each scale to be cut precisely.

Thinning down the pins

For the two pins, I needed them a little thinner than the rivets would be, so I could get the scales off the jig.  To take off a small, controlled amount, mounting the pin in the drill, then running it on the sandpaper provided a precise size decrease.

Ready to cut the handle end

In hindsight, doing it this way was a mistake. Drilling the holes for the rivets needed to be done after the first scale was glued to the tang.

Knife handles roughed out

The scales, ready to be glued on.  Rather than gluing both sides at once, the plan was to do one side only, then use a pattern copying bit to get the scale to accurately match the tang.

Gluing the first handle side on

Two part epoxy resin (Araldite) being the glue of choice.

Clamped up

There is plenty of overhang which is a good thing, but this is where two mistakes compounded.  The trying to be too thrifty which resulted in the scale slipping in a couple of cases enough that the tang wasn’t properly covered, and when the glue had set, not trimming off the excess resulted in a couple of chipouts on the router table that destroyed the handle.  The router bit here is a straight bit with copying bearing.  Straight after this, I was down at Carbatec and picked up a solid carbide spiral router bit with double bearing – the spiral has a shearing/slicing action rather than a chipping action for the next time I attempt to make more handles.

Shaping the blank to the handle

Did have a couple of successes, the bearing running on the tang so the scale gets cut accurately to match.

As good as it got

The results were looking good, and the few refinements to my technique should prove very successful.  For the handles here, I took the photos, then took a chisel and snapped the scales off. Oh well, I’d rather it right than compromise.

A Surprising Weight

It has been quite a while since I mentioned the latest releases from MagSwitch were on their way, and finally, the wait is over.

Found an interesting package on the doorstep full of interesting yellow things, plus a couple of long thin boxes.  They came down from Maxis Tools, the Australian importers of MagSwitch products for woodworkers, and are retailed through Carbatec.

It was these that were significantly larger, and heavier than anything I’ve seen from MagSwitch before.  They were the Universal Fences.  One is 18″, the other 36″.  When I first saw the images of the items back in August, they seemed like they would be an average thickness, and it would not have surprised me (or bothered me) if they turned out to be a type of plastic.

However, the boxes were something else – a surprising weight and the contents seemed even heavier when they were out of the box!

Universal Fence Track

The fence was not the plastic I was expecting.  It is a heavy-grade anodised aluminium extrusion.  Heavy, strong.  The 36″ is an amazing chunk of metal.  Both take 1/4″ hardware on one side, 5/16″ hardware on the other, and T bolts on both, making it a flexible system to work with the jigs and accessories you already have.  It connects to the Universal Base on the back, and uses the same system of a diagonal member to ensure squareness of the fence to the base.

Shown here on a drill press, it can be used on all sorts of tools.  The 36″ one takes two Universal bases, which means it has 4 MagJigs holding it down, which is a lot of magnetic strength.  A fence also needs to resist horizontal slippage, and although this isn’t the strongest direction for a magnet to resist, having 4 strong magnets working together to resist is still a significant amount.

These are $49 and $85 for the 18″ and 36″ respectively.

Reversible Featherboard

There is also the new reversible featherboard, which again goes with the Universal Base.  It can be flipped over so works whichever side of the fence, or tool you want to use it on (so long as it has a ferrous base for the magnet to attach to!)  One thing I found interesting is it has been improved in function since the original featherboards.  There is now a variable thickness of the featherboard fingers – the first couple are thinner as the stock initially encounters the featherboard, being properly secured against the fence before the stronger fingers ensure it stays put.

The universal featherboard is only $19, and can be used on the base, or as the vertical attachment on the Universal Fence Track.

Now this is some pretty significant news: there is what they are calling a “Starter Kit” which consists of everything you see in the photo above.  The base, the featherboard, and the two MagJigs.  That isn’t the significant news.  What is, is it is priced for retail at $99.  That is only $1 more than buying 2 MagJigs on their own.  And if you have been following this site for a while, you’ll have an idea what else you can do with the MagJigs, so getting a base and reversible featherboard effectively for free will mean these things will sell like hot cakes! (And quite frankly, it is something I’ve been suggesting for years!)

Thin Stock Holddown

Finally, the Thin Stock Holddown, which again attaches to the Universal Base.  Has a stepped side as well as a diagonal side, whichever is your preference.  And the bearing in the middle is a roller guide when that is the best solution.  Again, the price is only $29.  Surprisingly reasonable prices (to my mind), which is seemingly more and more uncommon these days when prices are so often set as high as the market will bear.  At these prices it is more to my way of thinking – more money can be made by maximising the number of sales, not by trying to get every single dollar out of every single sale.

So whether you already have a growing collection of MagSwitch, or have yet to start a collection of your own, these new products, combined with those already out there will make the additional products very tempting!

And if you want a chance to check them out – I am at Carbatec (Melbourne) tomorrow morning (Saturday 19/3/11) demonstrating them along with a few other products and brands as part of the current Carbatec sale weekend.

Episode 76 Resawing for Hidden Treasures

Episode 76 Resawing for Hidden Treasures

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