Redback CNC

redback

Some news!

There will shortly be a new CNC machine (CNC router) on the market.  Once that is Australian designed, and made as well.

Comes from a pretty interesting stable too – the same inventor behind the Torque Workcentre, and his company, YAS Engineering.  Now Keith (for those that don’t know) is actually a specialist in CNC machines, and has been making custom builds for years from the small, to the very large.   This design is one for production, rather than custom builds, and it is only about 6 weeks or so away from making the transition from prototype, to the first production machine.

And that machine will be making its way down to sunny Melbourne, to a modest shed that I am somewhat familiar with!

The bed on the CNC is 600x900mm, although the overall cutting capacity of the machine is more than that (yes, more, not less).  That means it can work over the end of the bed, so working on the ends of boards etc will be possible.

Thinking Aspire would be the best product to get to really showcase the capabilities of the machine, rather than just sticking to VCarve.  Have played with VCarve already, looking to jump to the next dimension (the third dimension) with my CNC routing!

More news as it comes to hand!

 

A storm is coming

More precisely, a whirlwind, a tornado, or perhaps that has already arrived looking at the workshop!

One of the opportunities that comes out of such a relocation, is things get reevaluated, cleaned up, and out.

Yes.  A sale is coming.

Not sure exactly what as yet, but there will be some recognisable names and brands amongst the items I have in mind.

Jet
Triton
Torque
Hitachi
Wixey
Carbatec
GMC

It will be interesting to see what comes of it all.

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.

Burl meet Torque

Another burl found itself being flattened at the hands of the TWC at Ballarat last weekend. This one had quite a curvature, with over 1″ from edge to centre on the cut side.

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For a thicknesser, this would be a nightmare. For the TWC this was a piece of cake.

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You may be able to see the separate passes in the photo- this is because at the time of the photo, I was working on maximum material removal (4-5mm per pass, to the full width of the cutter). This means the grain on adjacent passes got cut in the opposite direction to the previous, resulting in a different reflective surface- you can see the passes, but it still feels flat.

The final pass is done with very little material removed 0.5mm depth of cut, and maximum 1/2 the cutter width max, so all the grain is pushed in the same direction.

Either way, a few passes with the ROS (random orbital sander) removes any minor irregularities.

The problem for the thicknesser is both the tortured grain – in all directions so tearout is likely. The cutter direction on a thicknesser makes this even more likely, with the cutter scooping the material up, out of the surface.

Secondly, stabilising a burl to pass through a thicknesser is also tricky. With drive rollers pushing down before and after the cutter, the chances of the burl shifting and getting a massive kickback from the thicknesser is pretty high.

On the Torque, the cutter direction is horizontal, the amount of material removed each pass can be minimal, and is not over the entire burl width simultaneously, and there are no feed rollers to potentially destabilise the burl during the cut.

Thicknessers obviously perform a very useful role, but when their idiosyncrasies work against you, the Torque Workcentre takes over!

Phoenix

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!!!

Colour my (shed) world

Even from early shed days, there was an interesting trend in the colour schemes in the shed, that paralleled where I was at in terms of equipment, and woodworking in general.

From slow beginnings, almost a precursor stage where there was an influence of GMC Blue.  This expanded somewhat, but then Triton orange appeared, and surged.  The amount of large machines grew significantly, as did my capabilities to produce a decent product.

Jet beige tried to make an appearance, but for a number of reasons, never really establised a foothold – it may have been just too early, too pricey (at the time) or for whatever reason it just didn’t catch on.  Don’t get me wrong – good product, but only one machine remains in current use.

The real surge (colour-wise) was from Carbatec blue (and some Tormek blue), and as you can see from the (very rough) diagram, it firmly pushed Triton out of the workshop, each orange machine getting replaced with something blue (and silver).

The workshop has been expanding a little since, with a combination of Torque green, and Festool green (yeah, I know the tools are mostly blue casings, but I still think of Festool based on the colour of the logo, and the colour of the latches on the systainers.)

I’m not sure what point there is to these observations.  If I drew a line through the current point and had started there, I would have saved a lot of buying, then selling of items.  But that just would not have happened – at the start there would have been no way I’d invest that much into a hobby that was not certain.

My introduction into woodworking is easily credited to that spike of orange.  It was a dominant force, and really set the hobby in motion.  That it has faded now only reflects some opportunities I had, and that my requirements outgrew it to some extent.  There is little I make these days that couldn’t have been made back then either (excluding the lathe that Triton prototyped but never released, and the unique capabilities of the Torque).  My ears are probably a lot happier – induction motors are so much quieter!

There is still some GMC in the shop (very little – a drill, a 3 mill. candle lamp, a router) and some Triton (circular saw and routers) but that is pretty much the extent of it.  The lack of Jet is a bit of a surprise – not a reflection on the brand, but some opportunities that were missed that others grabbed.

Are there any lessons in this for someone either starting out in woodworking, or considering doing so?

Woodworking is a very personal pursuit.  Every single person will have a different story, different requirements, different resources (space, time, money), and a different degree to which they want to become involved, so it is very difficult to even make generalisations.

I know a number of years ago (when Triton was still very popular, and readily available), as the influence of Chinese manufacturing was starting to be felt, there were a lot of comments out there about why buy Triton – you could get a reasonable tablesaw for the price.  Perhaps true, perhaps not (at the time).  It is certainly the case currently (but again, that will change).

Triton was very much a feeder brand – it bought people into woodworking that may never have gotten involved otherwise.  And because you could build up your collection of tools, accessories and additions over time, your budget didn’t take the same hit than if you spent it all at once on a dedicated tablesaw. It could be folded away, (and transported) which was another important consideration for those space poor, and not necessarily looking at setting up a full workshop (not at least until the addiction takes hold and spreads).  Many woodworkers to this day are still happy using their Triton workbenches, and may not have invested much, if any more than that.

If asked today, Triton probably would not be the answer I’d first think of, given the price has risen, and even more so compared to the price other brands have come down.  Get a shed, or workspace that is dedicated (if at all possible), some basic tools, and take your time to build from there.  A jigsaw (the puzzle, not the tool!) is completed one piece at a time, each is contemplated, assessed and placed before moving onto the next.  Treat your tool acquisition in the same way.

These days, now I’ve had a sentence or two to think about it, I’d probably say, start 2nd hand.  Acquire, contemplate, assess, place, use, then as your workshop grows you can then look at moving items on and scaling up the collection to bigger, better, perhaps newer.  At least when you do decide to, you will have a much better idea of what the replacement should be, and you should be able to recoup a large portion of your investment to reinvest.

Triton Tools during my Holmesglen courses

In my case I outgrew the Triton range.  However in saying that, the money invested was not a complete loss.  When I on-sold the tools, I still got around a 75% return on my investment.  The money that I didn’t get back could easily be put down as being paid for the use I got from the machines, the education I received in using them, the lessons I learned.  That 25% is not a bad investment!  On top of that, some of the work I did on the Triton saved me a great deal compared to the alternative – buying the furniture items from Ikea and the like.

Without even counting the magazine articles I wrote, the demonstrations I was doing, the courses I ran, once the last item was sold, I could easily say that the Triton made me money.  A hobby that paid for itself!  That is not a bad hobby to get into.

What you need to do is determine what sort of woodworking you want to pursue, at least initially – no matter your choice, you are not locked in.  The way to work that out is quite simple.  When you imagine yourself in 5 years time, a veteran woodworker, what sort of things do you imagine you have made?

Turned bowls, vases?

Penturning?

Fine furniture, Krenov cabinets, Windsor rocking chairs?

Practical furniture, bookshelves, kitchen cabinets?

Scrollsawn masterpieces?

Kids’ toys, dollhouses, marble rollers?

Kids’ furniture, playhouses?

Fine boxes, dovetailed joints, fancy lids?

Pyrography, burning pictures in wood?

What you visualise will determine what path to pursue initially.  You can then find books and magazines on the topic (libraries are a great initial resource, and the price is right).  You could enrol in a course.  You could join a club or get into the woodworking forums (but be aware that everyone has a bias (even me), and they may guide you to what would be best for them and their version of this pursuit, and not necessarily yours).

Whatever direction you choose, if it is something that really excites you, then that is an excellent place to start. Start small, build up your collection, and challenge yourself.  But most of all, enjoy it – life is too short not to really enjoy what you do.

Torque Demos

Had an interesting night tonight- a couple of woodworkers came around to see what the Torque Workcentre was all about. Seeing as I didn’t get to do any demonstrating at the show, it was fun getting into it tonight. So easy to demonstrate a tool when you get genuinely passionate.

Went through a whole suite of things – creating accurate fences perfectly parallel to the direction of travel, rip and crosscut saws, router surfacing, copying.

And a whole bunch of things you can do on a Torque Workcentre that you won’t get watching other demonstrators, tricks and techniques I have developed, either in practice or at least far enough that the theory is mature enough to achieve the desired result.

We also chatted a bit about other woodworking things – Walko clamps, Festool Domino etc.

So a good hour and a half, and two happy woodworkers now off to become Torque owners. Shame I don’t sell the machines eh!

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