Goin’ on a Bender

Saw this new offering from Rockler, and it looks really interesting. Good price too!

Shame we don’t have a Rockler-like store down under……. ;)

It is a home steam bending unit, which provides steam for up to 2 hours to a steam box you can make from the plans provided with the unit.

Rockler Steam Bender

Love one these units, and the extra functionality you’d get from having one of these units at your disposal.  At $90 it isn’t going to particularly break the bank.

Steam Box

Very cool – wish I could source one down under!  Good for those in the US, where you have a local Rockler store!

Getting Sorted, Adding Hardware

With a bit of a shuffle, and cleanup, the workspace is looking good.  The shed is tight, but having the dedicated work surface is invaluable, and is already being put to good use.

The stack of Festool has been moved to a more accessible location, and again the advantage of the boom arm is apparent – giving easy access to the hose and power from the Festool vac (thanks to autostart).

Relocation of the setting out tools makes them a lot more accessible.  The gas bottle is stored under the bench at the moment- as good a place as any (currently used most often for the branding iron).  Not sure what I’ll store on the shelf – at this stage the Kreg Pockethole jig is stored under there (in a Festool Systainer).  In the drawer under the bench are bench dogs and surface clamps.

The Veritas Bench Dogs (and Bench Pups) from Carbatec are a very nice add-on.  Being used here while hand planing (HNT Gordon Aussie Jack Plane on New Guinean Rosewood).

The dogs and pups set low (as low as you want them) sit below the edge of the board so as not to affect planing.

Veritas Bench Dog (left) and Pup (right). You need a thicker bench for the bench dog (than for the pup).  The pups are very functional.

The Veritas Surface Clamps are very quick and easy to install – drop them in the desired hole and tighten the knurled knob.  There is a shoulder that prevents the clamp holddown going any deeper than necessary.

Now to find some interesting projects to really commission the bench, and get my teeth into.

Gas’n’Brand

Fire, and tools – the things that set us apart from the beasts (not much else does it seems sometimes!)

And as woodworkers, we also have the tools to separate us from the masses, and therefore having a potent source of fire is another degree of separation.  And I needed a good flame!

There are a number of sources – oxy-acetylene would have been my first choice, but you can only hire the cylinders so there would be an ongoing cost of a couple hundred dollars.  It wouldn’t be a lot if it was going to have regular use, but not for the amount I’d use it for, at the moment at least.

There are once-use bottles, and small refillable bottles for torches, but when I have a perfectly good source of gas sitting on the deck, why not use that?  Aussie BBQ gas bottle that is, and refilling is easy, I don’t have to hunt around for a refill (and a 9kg bottle is going to have a fair amount of gas!!)

I rang BOC to see what they had in the way of kits, but all they wanted to sell were oxy-lpg sets – not what I was looking for.

Bunnings had what I wanted sitting on the shelf – Primus brand fittings and hose.

Gas Bottle Connection

So the gas bottle got connected to the hose,

Torch

The hose to a handle, and the handle to the torch head.  I tried a fine head first, but just couldn’t get it to ignite – not enough heat in the ignition source (a match), and importantly, not enough air (oxygen) being entrained into the gas flow.  The medium nozzle did not have a problem igniting.

Sophisticated Leak Test Kit

However, before firing up, I had to check for gas leaks around the fittings.  My test kit was a PopTop, with a water/detergent mix.  Poured over the joints, any bubbles would be obvious.  There were none, so it was onto heating up the branding iron.

Rockler Branding Iron

The branding iron has a wooden handle, a basic stand, and brass head.

Brand Mark

An even heating of the head is important, so as not to end up with the head warping.

After a few minutes or so, a test piece confirmed the brandiing iron was ready.

Branded Maker's Mark

Episode 80 Branding the Brand

Episode 80 Branding the Brand

Discounted Rockler International Postage!

Rockler have just informed us that as a gesture of goodwill, they are going to waive their standard shipping and handling charges for international purchases!

You still need to pay the international portion (so the Bench Cookie Cones will cost $3.12 to post to Australia via 1st class post).

Use the promotion code V1956, which will only remain active for a couple of weeks, so if you were considering making a purchase, this is a good time. Of course you are not limited to Bench Cookie Cones!

Thanks Scott, and Rockler – I’m sure it is appreciated.

Rockler’s Products

Was just about to have a look at Rockler’s website to see about a branding iron, and saw on their front page some more developments they have been doing with the bench cookie.

Now, there is a fitting that turns the Bench Cookie (including other-branded ones such as Bench Dog) into a painter’s/finisher’s triangle.

And a whole $5 or so (US or AU $$s these days :) )

Then there is the Tupperware-looking brush cleaning and storage container, for $8

And finally, one that has been around for a bit longer, but still looks like a good idea, the blade and router bit cleaning kit.

Such a range of things to look at – almost forgot why I visited the site in the first place!

Brief Update

Not much to show, or rather there is, but I want to do a big cleanup before doing the final reveal.

All the trunking in the main shed is complete, with all the machines I intended to connect into the 4″ collection system done, with blast gates isolating any machine not in use so there isn’t unnecessary loss of suction.

At the end of the process, I can only reiterate that

1. It is much harder to retrofit a dust system to a shed in use, especially when it is rather packed with stuff.  On the other hand, at least I knew where each machine would be located!

2. The Carbatec Kit worked well, although I probably could have made my life easier with a second, rather than trying to combine the kit with the 100mm stormwater fittings and pipes I have been using in the past.  A pity there are no converter pieces to allow moving from one system to the other easily. However, with a bit of fudging I have gotten away with using a combined system.  I also found that there were enough of some fittings for what I needed, there were some I ran well short of, especially the joiners, and there is no way currently of buying them separately.  I guess the kit was actually designed for a simple, minimal run, not the extensive one I’ve come up with (and having only 1 90 degree bend and 3 blast gates supports this). It takes a lot of fittings to get a dust system to actually fit in with a real shed, rather than some optimum, theoretical one.

3. The Rockler blast gate mounts are brilliant – no two ways about it.  Combining them with some basic U clamps to provide rigidity where I wasn’t using a blast gate has resulted in a system that feels very secure.

The next step for me will be getting the trunking from one shed to the other (a matter of a big hole), then finally joining it to the 2HP dust extractor.

Finally, once I have the system up and running, fitting my remote starter to the dust extractor.  Seems a way to go still.  And of course, I still have to try to restore some semblance of order to the shed again!

Hopefully this layout is again an overall improvement, and will stay in commission for a while longer.  What it has replaced had become very disrupted with the many layout changes. At least a great deal of the previous system was able to be reused.

Once the main shed is a little neater, I’ll give you a final tour of the new system, and we will finally get to test some of the assumptions I’ve had to make along the way (especially where I’ve gone overhead – still have no idea how that will work!)

Deconstructing the Dust Kit

When I saw the kit for the new Carbatec dust collection system (and the clear tube setup), it wasn’t going to be long before I was fitting it to the shed.  And the timing is rather appropriate – the system needed a revamp with the various item moves that have been happening.  A dust system needs to be flexible, both to deal with vibration and minor machine moves as well as being able to be reconfigured with minimal fuss when a new arrangement is required.

I use flexible hose in some cases to maximise the flexibility of the system, but it does result in quite a bit of suction loss so where I can I use straight tubes, with flexible pieces near couplings.

In the new Carbatec kit are a who swag of connections

What's in the box?

T sections, 90 degree corners, 45s, blast gates, adapter rings, mounts and 8m of clear tube

Curves, Corners, Clamps and Clear Stuff

It would do a small setup, but mine isn’t small!  I’m going to use the clear trunking where it is sensible to determine that flow is occurring (and showing where there are blockages), so for the long, straight runs it makes sense.

Extra accessories acquired

The reconfiguration will also include the blast gate mounts I got from Rockler early this year, and reusing some of the PVC downpipe I have been using in the shed until now.  The dust collector is again in the lower shed, and so I am back to the old problem: how to remotely start and stop it, given that it has a no-volt release on the switch, and the branded remote control is over $300.  I don’t want to have to go into the second shed just to start the collector, and I don’t want to have to do something like have a broom handle passing from one shed to the other to try to hit the start (like a ‘remote control’ from one of those US sitcoms, or cartoon shows)!

Starting the refit

I’ve started at the tablesaw, and I am trying to do each part of the setup just that little better.  The previous setup design was good, but having the tube running along the ground meant it has always been a bit in the way.  Lifting it up to just below the table means it is out of the way for storage under the tablesaw wing (and is the level I want for the tubing for the rest of the run).

Rockler Blast Gate Mount

I’ve screwed one of the blast gate mounts directly to the back of the tablesaw.  This specific gate at the back of the saw will normally remain shut – it allows access to the length of tube at the back of the saw in even of blockages, and also to plug in flexible hose for cleaning up that end of the shed (and I suspect I will still use a temporary run to the jointer, rather than try to run a full length of tube across the entire shed just to get its waste!

More to come as I progress the system.

The Cookie Monster

Those who have been following this blog would have seen and heard about the Rockler Bench Cookies, but in Australia getting hold of them required purchasing from the USA.

I even tried to get Rockler to consider me making them available but that didn’t come to anything either.

So it looks like Australian woodworkers will just have to do without……or will they?

Rockler have been making the Bench Cookies in other colours, and with other brandings, including Bench Dog, and it so happens that Professional Woodworkers Supplies can now provide Bench Cookies under the Bench Dog brand – $27.50 inc GST.

Bench Cookies

So if you were ever wanting THE item from the last AFWS in Las Vegas, they are now here and available!

Click here for my previous Bench Cookie article, and here is a quick video I shot about them on what sounds like a very rainy night, back almost exactly 12 months ago:

The Camera is Mightier than the Pen

With the upcoming Carbatec pen demo (31 July), I have been giving some thought to the whole pen-turning process, and just what equipment I use these days when making a pen.

Before I start (and you may have already glanced ahead at the collection of photos), remember that pen turning is a good beginner exercise, and as such you do not need such a collection of tools to produce a pen.  They help obviously, but are not mandatory.

Even the lathe is optional. You can turn a pen using other means, the primary alternative being the humble drill press.  You don’t even need turning chisels – many a pen has been made using a sharpened screwdriver.

Mini Lathe

A lathe makes life a lot easier of course.  I haven’t used a dedicated pen lathe, but my feeling is they would be too underpowered to really be effective.  You can use a belt-driven one or variable speed – I tend to run it flat out for pen turning, so that makes the decision rather moot.  I have a mini lathe, but it would be no issue using a larger lathe as well.  So long as the lathe is accurate (the two ends (head and tail stock being directly in line).

Variable Speed Mini Lathe

A variable lathe does have the advantage when dealing with larger, or more out-of-round blanks – being able to change speed easily without having to move belts between pulleys.

Drill Press

A drill press can substitute as mentioned – turning the pen vertically rather than horizontally. It also is particularly useful for drilling the centre of the blank to insert the brass tube core. This drill press has the laser attachment for centering the bit on the blank.

Bandsaw

A bandsaw is useful for easily trimming the blanks and can also be used to knock the corners off before turning if the blank material is prone to chipping/splitting during the initial turning to round.

It also has a major advantage in preparing blanks – scavenging materials from offcuts, resawing dried branches/logs etc.  You can take a lump of timber full of defects and still extract plenty of material for pens.  If you ever get into segmented turning (and yes, you can do segmented pens), then the bandsaw becomes critical. Not sure where the photos of my harlequin pen have gone…

Harlequin Pen

…..found a poor version back from about 2006.  Made from Red-gum, Pittosperum and Purpleheart. I only made the bottom half of the pen in harlequin – wasn’t happy with the result to justify continuing this experiment, but the principle is valid.

I also made this slimline for an informal pen comp where the theme was cross.

Cross Pen

I went with a traditional cross, with the obvious religious overtones. So I decided to take the photo on the woodworker’s bible (no insult intended).

Disk Sander

I find I use a disk sander for some jobs as well – trimming the ends of a blank down close to the length of the brass insert ready for the pen mill.  It isn’t particularly critical – I use it because it is available, and convenient.

Spindle Gouge

As far as turning tools, you can go the whole hog – roughing gouges, skews, gouges.  For a long time this was the only one I needed – a basic spindle gouge.  Used it for roughing and finishing, and details.

Detailed Pen

Captive Ring Pen

Even with a pen, you are only limited by imagination.  The captive ring was made by taking a very cheap skew and sharpening it to a much longer point so it could reach right under the ring as it was forming.  You can buy dedicated captive ring chisels – never tried one (yet), but the basic tool still achieved a perfectly good ring.

Hamlet Mini Turning Chisels

For very fine detail, a set of mini turning chisels can be quite effective, but again not critical – I got these more for dollhouse furniture than pen turning.

Wood Pen Blanks

The blanks themselves can be either timber, acrylic, bone, horn, metal (cartridge) etc etc.

Acrylic Blanks

Acrylics are interesting to work with, producing some quite colourful results, but I never feel like the pen is fully my own, and it won’t until I get into producing my own acrylic blanks.  This isn’t too difficult, but I need to learn how it is done so I can really feel like some of  these pens are really fully my own creation.

Laser Cut Blank

You can get very elaborate with blanks.  This for example is a laser cut kit from Rockler, and is a development of the segmented turning concept.  Pens made from these sorts of kits are also very interesting, but you are nervous the entire construction because of the cost of the ‘blank’ (around $US50 for this one, and the one below).

Fire Pen

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