Day of the Machine

After taking much of the day to do some family things (beach before, and BBQ after) for Australia Day, I also moved a number of machines into the shed, now that the electrical was completed and therefore the machines wouldn’t get in the way.

Heavy buggers, especially over soft, churned up dirt the backyard has become.  The pallet jack is such an asset – able to lift the heaviest machine easily, and with reasonably wide wheels, can even manage the ground to a certain extent.

Even so, it was too much to move the thicknesser on my own (230 or so kg), so with a brief assistance of a couple of neighbours, it flew across the back yard.

Paying the price for it all now though!

Never-the-less, a good number of moves was achieved – slowly emptying the garage, and the shed starting to take on real character.

Placement/layout is by no means locked in (never is in my shed!), but am roughly placing them still in accordance with the original plan.

What was moved in this time was the Jet lathe (still uncertain about its long term plan), Jet 14″ bandsaw, Torque Workcentre, the workbench, thicknesser.

$1000 off Torque Workcentre

Had a chat with Professional Woodworkers Supplies yesterday, as I noticed in their latest mailout that they still have their Torque Workcentre for sale.

Bottom line is, if you tell them you are a Stu’s Shed reader, and you want to buy the demonstration unit they will sell it for $1000 off normal retail. (Actually $1010, to make it an even $4000, but a round number of $1k sounded better ;) )


Just to be clear, this is a unit that in practical terms has never been used, except to drill holes in the MDF top to fit Walko clamps (as I use on my workcentre).

Normally, the TWC doesn’t come with the MDF top, so this is another $30 or so saving (plus the time it normally takes to drill all those holes!!)

Some specs on the unit: 2m long, and has a customised leg position so it can fit inside a 6′x4′ trailer.  (You can still have the legs at the original position).  It has the 900mm arm (which is the most versatile and convenient of the 3 typical sizes).  It includes the copy attachment, saw attachment and drill attachment.   The router is not included.  Think the mount for this unit fits Hitachi routers, but you can check that with Grahame directly.  Not too difficult to get it to fit other brands of plunge router.

The recommended retail for it is $5010.  For a Stu’s Shed reader, $4000 will take it away (pickup from SE Melbourne, or plus delivery if further afield).

If you want to know more about what the TWC can do, either do a search on here or click on the Shed.TV tab and watch the numerous videos.

I am not getting any kickback from this, nor am I selling my unit (too bloody useful!)  These machines are rather difficult to obtain, let alone with a significant discount.

Contact Grahame directly on 03 9776 1521, and don’t forget to mention you are wanting the Stu’s Shed discount on the purchase!



Barley Twist

After finding a natural barley twist while holidaying in Queensland, Geoff has sent a couple of photos in of a barley twist lathe that he has acquired (but yet to use).

It is interesting to study, just to see how simple an arrangement it is, and with a little bit of work, pretty easy to duplicate – especially (but not limited to) those with Torque Workcentres.

It would be pretty easy to add this functionality to a real lathe (but NOT switching the lathe on!!!) A lathe with an indexing ring would be excellent for this

Barley Twist Lathe

Barley Twist Lathe

Barley Twist Lathe detail

Barley Twist Lathe detail

I’m not sure the drive mechanism for this lathe – it may be from pushing the router sideways, but I suspect you manually turn the black winder in the second photo.  In that photo, you can also see an indexing ring, which is essential for setting the workpiece to the next start location.  Depending on the combination of how far around the workpiece is indexed, the router bit chosen, and the setting for how fast the router moves relative to each rotation of the workpiece will dictate resulting effect.

A barley twist lathe can be regarded as a glorified Beall Pen Wizard (or is it the other way around – the Beall is a miniature barley twist lathe?!)

Beall Pen Wizard

Beall Pen Wizard

Back to Geoff’s lathe – I can’t see how the gearing is regulated, but I assume it can be changed.

So that is a barley twist lathe.  Do an image-search on Google for Barley Twist will reveal over a million examples of this ornamental feature being used in different projects, with varying degrees of success!  In some instances it is beautifully complementary to the overall object.  In some other cases, it has obviously been included without any understanding of how such an ornate feature should be used.

Animal Train

Wooden toys are one of those things I particularly enjoy making in the workshop.  The whole quality thing, the tactile thing, the longevity thing, the imagination thing (as opposed to all bells and whistles being built in), and not to mention the satisfaction of watching a child genuinely enjoy and play with a toy that you have made for them.

Some of the toys take quite a bit of effort to make, and as a one-off, that is never a drag.  It is also very rewarding to be able to donate toys to other causes, and in those situations you want to be able to make as many as possible, and as quickly as possible so coming up with a duplication method is very valuable.

There are many different ways that parts can be duplicated – stacking, router table template copying are probably the most common.  I have the advantage of the Torque Workcentre, so for this project I chose to create a duplication template.

Instead of cutting the patterns for the animal train out of the intended timber, I chose 6mm MDF.  It has the advantage of being dimensionally stable, easy to machine and shape, and cheap.

Once the shapes were cut out, I stuck them to a 19mm thick MDF board using carpet tape. Flipping the board over, then holding each pattern against the copy pin in the table while the router with a matching router bit cuts a new track.

The resulting tracks makes creating duplicates of each object very easy.  The board is again turned over, and one of the paths is captive on the copy pin.  Whatever timber you then want to make the object out of is attached to the upper side, ready for routing.

For this project, I am using New Guinean Rosewood.  Carpet tape is applied to not only stop the board moving, but once the object is cut free, the carpet tape keeps it from bouncing into the cutter.  I also used a couple of screws in non-essential areas to ensure the board could not slip during the cuts.  The patterns up can see under the board were lightly cut into the upper surface making it easy to align timber to the pattern, and in particular ensure the grain direction supports the weak areas of the pattern.

After 2-3 passes, the items are cut free.  These are then taken to the spindle sander for a quick post-machining touchup.  Given I am making these out of a decent timber, I will come back to give them a much better degree of finish.  There is some waste areas between the patterns, but this is not wasted timber.  From here, the offcuts make their way to the drill press where I cut wheels out of the offcuts with a Carbitool wheelcutting bit.

I still have some work to do to finish this train, but at least you can see here where it is heading.

The benefit of making the copy template means I can now easily produce train after train in whatever material I want.  I’ll probably make the next set out of MDF and paint it appropriately.



Cake Boss

There are router bits, and router bits.  They come in a substantial number of shapes and sizes for a vast variety of functions.

Signwriting is a rather popular use for routers, given its particular ability to operate around curves and corners, its ability to follow templates and a router bit is basically a powered chisel.

Now chisels come in two types.  Ones used to shape wood, and ones used to open paint cans.  If your router bit isn’t razor sharp, you might as well use it to open paint cans – the difference between a sharp and blunt router bit is chalk and cheese. If you want a smooth, clean finish, the router bit needs to be as sharp as is achievable.  Tungsten carbide is not the sharpest material possible, but because of its hardness and durability it is preferred for the cutting edge of router bits and saw blades.

Face it though, sharpening it is a bugger.  Quality router bits are sharpened by CNC machines, able to produce polished carbide faces, but even a quality bit blunts with use.  You can send a bit away for sharpening, but the way to really get as sharp as new, is to have a new router bit.

So where does that leave us?

The ideal is:

1. A router bit that is razor sharp

2. Tungsten Carbide tip for maximising durability of the edge, prolonging the amount of cutting when the bit can still be considered sharp

3. Cheap enough (after the original purchase) to replace whenever it dulls off

4. Still able to be sharpened to maximise bit lonegivity

Guess we really want our cake and get to eat it too!

I’ve been trying out a couple of router bits that hit all these points – the professional signmaking bits from ToolsToday, by Amana Tool, and in particular the Insert V-Groove bits, that have replaceable inserts.

Amana Tool Router bits

These are not bits for massive stock removal – there are bits with significantly heavier chunks of carbide for that operation.  These are designed to achieve one particular feature – significant sharpness, and the ability to maintain that by easy tip replacement.   The angle that they approach the work is also important – sharpness is only one part of the formula, and the angle of attack is also critical to avoid tearout.

These bits are designed for CNC machines, and router tables.  So of course I turned straight to my ‘manual CNC’ machine – the Torque Workcentre.

My ‘manual CNC’

To try the bits out, I set up with the copy attachment, and chose a letter to duplicate as a first trial.


The 1/2″ bit is mounted (this is the 90 degree bit – with the blade set at 45 degrees, the resulting groove is an exact 90 degrees.  There is also a 91 degree version for ‘mitre folding’ – this is where you cut a groove, then fold the material at that groove – used in furniture making with melamine and the like to get a sharp corner, with the outer skin being continuous around the corner, and not with a cut at the very corner).

From the Wood Magazine website, here is an example of a box made with this technique. (You can do it with a 90 degree bit – a 91 degree bit just achieves a sharper corner)


First 2 passes, increasing total depth to around 5.5 – 6mm

The first pass went well, and a very clean cut.  I then increased the cutting depth for a second pass.  It comes down to how you use the Torque, but as a general rule this isn’t pushing the bit as much as a CNC will – it has a much higher feed rate tha what you’d tend to do by hand. Still, it coped well.

I then changed the copy pin to one with a wider diameter (from 1/4″ to 1/2″) and ran around the template again.

Twin pass

The bit cut really cleanly, and easily.  Don’t judge the small indentations around the curves of the “S” – that comes down to the smoothness of my template. I can really see how well this would also work on an actual CNC machine.

If you want a fine cut, then the 45 degree bit is for you.

Fine cut

With a combination of the two bits, you can cut large solid letters, and fine, precise details.  And as they dull off (as all bits will with use), the cutting surface can be removed and replaced or resharpened as you desire, without having to incur the price of a new router bit.

Available from in the USA. Now you can have your cake and eat it too…or in terms of router bits, you can always have sharp router bits and use them too!

Another Torque Session

Had another (and final, at least for the current series) session at the Berwick Woodworkers Club, teaching how to use the Torque Workcentre.

This happened during “safety week”, so left posting about it at the time so as not to detract from the series of posts/quizzes for Safety Week 2012.

Same as the others, covered surfacing, drilling, rip and crosscut sawing, circle cutting, pin routing, and template copying.  Workholding gets a good mention too, and safe practices throughout.

NEW from Torque Workcentres

It is like a news week that just keeps on giving!

I’ve known about this being in development for quite some time, but now it has been seen in the wild for the first time, I can let ya’all know!

Thanks to Larry from Lazy Larry Woodworks for use of the photos and info (lucky bugger got to see it first!)

So, new from the inventor of the Torque Workcentre, we have this little puppy:

Image used with permission from

Now that is one heavy duty, large CNC machine that will soon be available!  One of these in your shed will cost around the $9k-$10k mark according to Larry (don’t have any more official word at this stage).

It is reported as being fast: over twice the speed of the CNC Shark Pro.

It isn’t your average shed tool, but you look at this beast, and immediately see an income generator.  Not limited to signwriting either – don’t limit your imagination!

Image used with permission from

In saying that, the signs you can produce are pretty stunning!  These have been produced on the machine by a signmaker called Bruce, from Queensland who has been working with Keith on this machine (not sure if it has a name as yet).  Contact to Bruce if you want one of his signs can be done through Larry and the link provided

Image used with permission from

Image used with permission from

Seeing what it can do in 3D is quite mind blowing, and again, the ability to produce more than just signs is blatantly obvious.  Some pretty sophisticated furniture component fabrication would be well within the machine’s capacity, and given the overall scale of the machine it would make this very feasible.  Kid’s toys, part duplication, it is all looking amazing.

Image used with permission from

Image used with permission from

I expect there will be a lot more information coming out about this machine over the next few months: thanks to Larry for the above, we have our first taste.

Keith: unbelievable! Congratulations :)

(Update: there will be comparisons drawn between this and the CNC Shark.  FWIW, this is what the shark pro looks like)

Quite a difference in scale and capacity…speed!

Accurate Tool Setup (Torque)

The following steps may have been done specifically on the Torque Workcentre, but they are equally relevant to many other tools as well.

As I have often said, the digital angle gauge from Wixey (Oz supplier Professional Woodworker Supplies) is a shop apron tool.  It is too useful not to have it with you at all times in the workshop.  Using it to check, and to setup a tool so it is exceptionally accurate is one of the best uses for it.  To be able to get a tool within 0.05 degrees is significantly accurate for woodworking, and from there things are always so much easier.

Take the gauge, and set it on a true surface (such as the bed of the workcentre), and zero it.

Zeroing the Gauge

On this Wixey Gauge you can see there are two sets of numbers.  The large set is the one the user can zero, then compare the angle of the first surface to a second, and this is what I use for setting tools up.  The second is like a bubble level, only digital (and still accurate to +/-0.05 degrees), so it gives an absolute angle reading.  It just so happens, by complete fluke (or perhaps not – when I poured the slab we did use a spirit level to try to get the slab flat) that the top of the workcentre is actually at 0!

Next, we want to ensure the arm is not twisted around at all (around what I call the Y axis). I do this first, because once the arm is level and tightened up, I won’t want to loosen it again to be able to rotate it!

Torque Workcentre 6 Degrees of Freedom

So step 1 is to get the rotation around the Y axis correct (orangy/yellow)

To do this, I use a 1/2′ steel rod in the collet of the router.  Has to be steel – most stainless steels are austenitic, and therefore not magnetic.  The angle gauge is then stuck onto the rod, and the whole arm rotated as necessary to achieve 90 degrees.  I do it this way because in the end, what is important is the router bit is perpendicular to the workpiece.  It doesn’t matter how much degree of error is in the router mount, or in the plunge mechanism (typically very little for the TWC), but if the router bit is exact, there are no other accumulated errors.

First DOF locked to the perfect angle (using my other digital angle gauge fwiw)

Next, the Y axis arm itself is made parallel with the table.  Again, zero the gauge parallel to the arm, then lift it onto the arm itself and adjust.  You can get reasonably close with the adjustments provided on the front bearing set of the TWC, but I find the final way is to simply move the carriage forward and backward for minor adjustments, or to actually lift or push down on the arm to get it right.  This is done with the outfeed support bar loose, then tightened to lock the arm when it is parallel.

Getting the arm parallel

Finally, get the tool so it is rotated correctly around the X Axis.  Here I have it with the tool slightly out (88.6 degrees).  The MagSwitch magnet at the back was my idea because I found the magnet in the newer Wixey angle gauge was not strong enough to support its own weight (sadly).  Unfortunately, this also proved to be a very bad idea as I’ll show in a second.

Close, but no cigar

So by loosening off the X Axis rotation, I was able to bring it to exactly 90 degrees.  Again, this means the router bit is exactly perpendicular to the table (and if using a surfacing bit, it will make the top of the timber parallel with the reference plane (aka the table top)).

Adjustment point


The point is, with a digital angle gauge this sort of adjustment to this sort of accuracy is a piece of cake, so you don’t have to be concerned about using the machine as you need to, then resetting it back to being exactly perpendicular to the base in both dimensions (X and Y).

Now, as to putting a big magnet near the angle gauge, it did turn out to be a very bad idea.  Turns out the internals of the angle gauge are magnetic, and held in place by their own magnetic strength.  So when angle gauge accidentally got close to big magnet, the internals decided to shift…….

I ended up having to take the gauge apart, discover what was wrong and put it all back together.  I managed it, but it will never look quite right again.  Bugger.

Wixey Internals

Specifically, that ring of tiny circles are each small magnets, and they got a bit too excited when the MagSwitch got close. Mea culpa.

The brass- looking pendulum thing is how the new Wixey does dead-levelling – using gravity to ensure it knows the absolute way up.  A digital angle gauge is pretty much a must-have tool.  Don’t bother with one of those sold in the big hardware stores – tried a few and found they are crap.  The Wixey is definitely one that does the job.


Over the past 4 months or so, I was becoming increasingly concerned about the Torque Workcentre, people’s purchasing experiences, lack of communication (particularly given just how invested I had been in it for a few years).

Not too much time has past though, it seems. My last article I wrote before the speedbump has only just made it to press (in the latest edition of Australian Woodworker- I haven’t seen it yet. Has been a while because I can’t remember what I wrote!).

Had a phone call on the back of that from the new business manager, and a great deal of information exchange ensued.

For one, just how much of my involvement, in promoting a quality Australian product, and in design suggestions, and modifications had been lost/forgotten. Even the very comprehensive assembly manual’s existence had been forgotten, and it was only during the phone conversation was it mutually discovered that all this history and quality relationship with Torque had been lost. Even just who I was, and what I, and Stu’s Shed represented as an independent asset for the company, and the product had gone.

Without going into as many details, I know where discussions were going prior to the Melbourne Wood Show last October, what I was lead to believe by a prior company ?manager?, only to discover I was two timed, and the same discussions were also being carried out with another.  They got the gig I was promised, and I was out in the cold, both in a business sense, and what was meant to be the arrangement for the wood show.

Ok, so that is the negative. And it wasn’t, and isn’t directed at Torque Workcentres – they (especially the inventor) are the real victim in all this. Funny thing is, early on in the relationship I was offered to become a part owner- a 10% share (for no financial buy-in). To this day I am still glad I declined the offer. I rather remain independent- remunerated if I do any work for then (such as the assembly manual), but otherwise free of any expectation. And able to continue to provide reviews and opinions which are not compromised.

It has been a very difficult recovery for Torque (and more to come)- I imagine recovering from a real flood or fire would be the equivalent, but it has begun, and what I heard is that recovery is going to be pretty spectacular. Some of the products on their way will blow our collective socks off.

I am going to wait until I get a firm direction from Torque to talk about them, but from the sound of it, it isn’t far away.

In the meantime, if you are looking to have dealings with Torque Workcentres make sure you are using a reputable dealer. These are the ones listed on their website, including Lazy Larry in Queensland.  Apparently Larry is no longer a Torque dealer.

So hopefully, this will represent a return to Torque again making for exciting content on Stu’s Shed. Can’t wait!!!

Torque Workcentre 2m for urgent sale

The sale on the Torque Workcentre has disappointingly fallen through, so the unit is again available.

However, rather than any further auctions or special arrangements as I am now out of pocket, it will be a fixed price only.

The sale is this:

One Torque Workcentre 2m, including the 900mm arm and standard fittings.  Check the photos below and ask questions before making an offer please.  Standard fittings include a router bit guard (metal), hex (allen) key, copy pin and a mount for a router.  In this case it is for a Triton.

There is a user-fitted MDF top (Torque do not sell tops with their machines).  This machine predates the ones including longitudinal tracks, which is not a bad thing – I retrofitted the tracks to my machine, and in my opinion they are a waste of space.

Additionally, there are the following attachments

Saw attachment (original version)

Drill attachment

Copy attachment

First in gets all this for $3000.

I received the machine on Sunday and gave it a quick clean and tuneup.  It was a sale-on-behalf, but now I own this machine so need this to be a quick sale if at all possible to recoup my money.  I had a too-late offer of $3000, so that has set the price.  (The TWC label on the arm was removed after being damaged in transit (it looked tatty).

To make this more tempting, I am throwing in a Makita 3612 (1/2) already mounted to a Torque attachment.  It has been attached to the mount for years, so seems to have become fused to the mount! Personally, I don’t see this as a big problem – I don’t remove my Triton from its mount either, but it is being thrown in for free, so gift horse and all that.

Please note: the gate, the ladder and anything else not specifically referred to in the text is NOT INCLUDED.  The original sale fell through because the stock photo showed a router being demonstrated on the Torque that wasn’t actually part of the deal.

The machine is pick up ONLY from just north of Frankston, Victoria (actual address will be provided for anyone wanting to see the machine, or once sale is concluded).  I would really like the machine sold and collected before this upcoming weekend as it is now in my way, but if not I’ll just have to have my daughter’s party around it.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,572 other followers

%d bloggers like this: