Starting out on a lathe

This is a comment I made on the Australian Woodworking BB in reference to giving turning a try- thought it would be good recording it here as well.

You can still do some pretty acceptable work on a $99 GMC lathe. May not be the highest quality lathe, but for the occasional turning job for toymaking, it may be all that you need, and isn’t a large outlay.

If you find that the bug then really grabs, no real loss if you upgrade.

Grab a (small) lump of wood, jamb it on the lathe, grab a chisel and give it a try. (The U shaped one ) 5 minutes (literally), and you’ll start to see how it can aid your toy making ventures. Do a little more practice each time – even if it is just turning a block to round.

You will discover what not to do very quickly, but also find that there is success pretty quickly as well. (Then years to master it, but the rest of us can still get something useful out of it, even without really knowing what we are doing).

Borrow some books from the library, perhaps a DVD or two.

In the end, like all our tools – you don’t learn by having it sit in the corner gathering dust.

Episode 26 Safety Week 2008 Introduction

Introduction to Safety Week on the Wood Whisperer Network 2008

A quick introduction and discussion about personal safety equipment, not only using it, but ensuring that the solution actually works for you so that you actually use the equipment when needed, rather than leaving it sitting on the shelf as being too cumbersome or uncomfortable to bother using.

Also too – the first (brief) look inside Stu’s Shed 1.7 as it continues to undergo its physical transformation.

(Right-click, and select “Save Link As”) Best video quality is achieved by downloading then playing the mp4 version.

Episode 25 Sharpening Series Watercooled Grinding Stone

This is part of a series of videos I will be doing over the next few months on various sharpening techniques. This episode looks at watercooled grinding stones, such as the Triton, Scheppach and Tormek. In this instance, a $A199 Triton Wetstone Sharpener is used to produce an edge on a plane blade of HSS.

It also happens to be the last video shot in the old shed, so a bit of nostalgia there!

(Right-click, and select “Save Link As”) Best video quality is achieved by downloading then playing the mp4 version.

Sharpening demo at Carbatec

Carbatec are going to be running a sharpening demonstration morning on Saturday April 5 from 9:00AM until 1:00PM.

They’ll be demonstrating a a number of different sharpening products and methods, including

Tormek, Veritas, Japanese waterstones , DMT diamond sharpening tools to name a few.  The demo morning is free btw.

If I have a chance, I’ll definitely be heading along.

Anatomy of a Saw Blade

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The saw blade – irrespective of how good the saw is, how flat the table, how rigid the fence, if your saw blade is substandard, everything else is cheapened. The blade tends to be somewhat overlooked (ok a bit of a generalisation), as it just seems to keep going and going and going. What it is however, is a series of tiny chisels. A hand chisel gets looked after, cleaned, sharpened and stored correctly, and the saw blade should receive the same attention.

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These days, the blade is often laser cut from high carbon alloyed steel, with the cutting edge being a Tungsten Carbide Tip (often a Tungsten-Cobalt alloy) The tip is very hard, but brittle, and is brazed onto the body of the blade. It is used because it will retain its edge for about 10 times longer than steel. The width of cut (the kerf) is primarily the width of the Carbide Tip, although there are other factors that come into play. In general, the kerf is 3mm, but there are also thin-kerf blades which are good for minimising wastage, and to get better performance out of lower-powered saws.

Click here to read full article

Today’s the Day on Ebay

A bit of an era draws to a close today (although it is a bit of a soft ending). My Triton 2000 Workcentre and 2400W Triton saw will sell in a couple of hours time. Feeling a bit nostalgic about it.

Back in Christmas 2001 when my wife and I were married, I had a lathe on the wedding registry (little thing, but unbeknownst to me at the time, it was the key to a massive door that had been there in my periphery since almost forever). So I had this lathe, and I needed a bench to mount it to. Around our new property (bought 6 months earlier) there were a number of redgum sleepers, and I thought a couple of them would make a great lathe stand. I did have a handsaw, but no circular saw, and this was the justification I needed to head down to Bunnings and get one.

In Bunnings, I had long admired (from a distance) these amazing orange tools that looked to be for the professionals – workbenches that I hardly recognised what they were for (in hindsight, they would have been a Triton 2000, a router table, superjaws etc). But they looked GOOD.

So I went to get a saw. Dad’s had an Hitashi for a long time – serious looking tool, and so I had an idea of what I was wanting. While there, going through all the models, one that stood out was an orange beast – 2400W, 9 1/4″ blade (price tag to match), but it dawned on me that one day, I might, just might get one of those cool looking workbenches, so I might as well have the saw that matches. Boy, was that a good call.

Got home with this thing, and if you know me, you know I love toys (uh…..tools), and this thing looked mean. When I took it to the sleepers, I was in shock – it sliced the sleeper like butter, and that was it, I was hook line and sinker into Triton at that point.

Click here to read full article

Finishing

After spending time planning the job, spending good money purchasing the wood, etc etc, why would you then not spend the time getting the finish right?

A bad piece can’t be made good by getting the finish right, but a good piece can be wrecked with a bad finish.

I tend to find that you need to spend as much time on finishing (sanding, polishing etc), as you do on the construction of the project. And unfortunately, some areas of the project have to be bought to a reasonable degree of finishing before assembly, as it becomes very difficult to reach some places after assembly.

If you want a woodworkers ‘Bible’ on finishing, get “A Polishers Handbook”, by Neil Ellis. Read it cover to cover, twice, then keep referring back to it- there’s heaps to learn, and it is chock full of information

Handplanes, a quick look

I’ve been avoiding this topic for quite a while, as much because there are so many knowledgeable people about there who live and breath these traditional tools, that I know I won’t be able to do them justice. But putting that aside, there is a surprisingly large learning curve to traditional tools and what they are capable of.

Woodworking has been around a lot longer than our planers and thicknessers, tablesaws, routers, drop saws etc etc. How wood was shaped and worked was often with handtools, and a group that has survived the ages are handplanes. Of the vast majority of traditional handtools that existed, at least you can still walk into a hardware store and buy one. How good they are is another matter entirely, but there are still some quality handtools around.

I said recently that I’m a bit of a strange fish where it comes to some things, and this is no exception. I came across a toolmaker at the Melbourne Wood Show a few years ago, and was really inspired by what could be achieved with such a basic form. He was (and is) Terry Gordon, and I really enjoy owning and using some of his planes. (HNT Gordon Planes).

So onto planes themselves. I mainly only have HNT Gordon planes to show you at this stage to highlight my points. In a roundabout way, this is another aspect of the start of the sharpening exposé. After all, when you are talking about sharpening, there has to be something that needs to be sharp!

It is said that there are the big 4 planes that all complement each other, and all fill different roles.

They are: the smoothing plane, the trying plane, the shoulder plane, and the low-angle block plane. In addition, I’d add the spokeshave, and the jack plane to complete the basic set. (And at this stage, I still need to add a spokeshave and jack plane to complete my set!)

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Now I know that what I have here do not look like the planes you normally expect to see, but other than quite a different looking form to the modern plane, they still perform the same function.

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I also really like the fact they come in such a traditional looking box…

The left-hand plane is the low-angle block plane. The low angle makes it very good for end-grain, and given it’s small size, is very convenient for a number of quick shaving jobs (like taking off the edge of a board)

The plane on the right is the shoulder plane. It is unusual, because the blade gets right to the edge of the plane itself, so planing the shoulder of a tenon is achievable (and where it gets its name from). It can also be used to cut a rebate, or a dado.

The last two planes really do complement each other, and as you can see, look quite like each other, just different sizes. They do have different functions. The large plane is called a Trying Plane, and is used to flatten a board. Because of its length, it rides across high spots, allowing them to be planed down, rather than following the rise and fall and just smoothing them. It can remove quite a bit of material quickly, and is the original version of what we know as a jointer (or planer) when talking about powered tools.

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The other is a smoothing plane. Capable of removing the finest of shavings, and leaving a surface so smooth and shiny, that only a light touch with 400 – 600 grit sandpaper is needed before reaching for the finish.

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The smoothing plane can cut so fine, that you can easily read through the shaving it produces.

So these are the 4 planes, and each needs a razor sharp blade to function. In the case of the trying and smoothing planes, I have a very thick chunk of high quality steel, and for the smoothing plane in particular, I chose a cryogenically treated steel. Bloody hard to sharpen (because it is so hard), but it holds a beautiful edge. I sharpen these on Japanese waterstones, using the Veritas Mk2 Honing jig. (The blades are so thick, you can pretty easily do it by hand, but I don’t get enough practice to trust myself.)

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Here in this final image, I decided to measure the thickness of the shaving I was getting off the smoothing plane. You might be able to see it, reading 0.01mm, or in other words approximately 4/10000th of an inch (ie about 1/2 a thousandth of a inch). I’m probably beyond the capabilities of the gauge to measure that fine. I think that is thin enough!

A Router Table Tale

A friend of mine over in Japan asked today about the story behind my router table, and although its history is covered (and spread) over many posts both here and on the Australian Woodwork Forum, I haven’t ever really bought it all together into one consolidated tale. So here goes.

When the whole Triton thing exploded for me back in about 2002, one of the items I really became interested in was the router. It seemed to be a more versatile machine than just a bit of a roundover of edges, and the Triton video made that very clear. So the idea of a table-mounted router came into my awareness, and shortly thereafter, I was the proud owner of a Triton Router table, and 2400W Triton router.

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And it was on this table that I learned a huge amount about routing, and about woodworking. It is a very versatile form of a router table, and despite all my various upgrades, it still gets a regular use (particularly on site – good portability) It has an excellent fence, hold-downs, dust extraction, microadjusters etc. If you are looking into woodworking, this is an excellent point to start.

After a number of years, I started pushing the tolerance limits of the Triton, so started to seek ways of improving it. (Remember here, I still fully believe in the Triton tools as excellent products – I could not demonstrate them if I didn’t. I just got to the point that I was looking for greater and greater accuracy, and as I’ve said before, I rarely own something that I don’t try to fix/improve/modify and or rebuild!)

My next iteration was adding a single-piece top to the Triton, and a number of people have since copied my design (with my blessing).

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This was a very successful upgrade, as it retained all the functionality of the original table, could still fit all the commercial jigs, and still allowed the full use of the Triton fence. It is removed along with the router holder, and the entire process can be easily reversed. Constructed from 6mm structural grade aluminium, it is attached to the router mounting plate, so is lifted off at the same time as the mounting plate if you need to remove the router. Small shims of the same plate are added to each jig so all the Triton jigs still work.

The beginning of the end happened when I discovered a little thing called Incra. The sort of accuracy that owners can enjoy for years. I originally spent quite a bit of time trying to work out how the Incra system could be adapted to fit directly onto the Triton, but kept finding there were more compromises than I was prepared to make. I am a bit of a strange bird where it comes to accuracy, but this path is not a logical progression for everyone. I have made (and continue to make) quality items on the Triton router table, and where it comes to something like dovetailing, a Triton router table coupled with something like a Gifkins Dovetail Jig is a powerful combination. In all likelihood, I may not have progressed much further anyway if I hadn’t become a Triton Demonstrator. I know that seems strange, but I really do like the Triton Router Table, and didn’t want to loose having one. Once I had my demonstration gear, I was assured of not being without the Triton Router Table, so was free to indulge in this process.

Be assured too, we are not comparing apples with apples here. The Triton Router table is around $200 and for that price is a brilliant addition to the workshop (in fact, once I discovered table-mounting routing, I was absolutely sold). By the end of the journey, (which I haven’t reached as yet), we will be talking of a router table costing around 5 times that of the Triton.

So let me take you on the path that I took.

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My first test iteration was a combination of parallel decisions. Firstly, that the Triton table and the Incra was not going to be combinable without costing functionality. There was going to be no advantage to maintaining the original table, so it was best to start from scratch, than adapt. I got this router table top from Professional Woodworker Supplies, designed for the Incra positioning system. There is a lot of table behind where the router sits, and you will soon see why.

This was the original Incra positioner, and it did two things. Convinced me of the concept of fence positioning, and convinced me (personally) that I wanted more!

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To start using the router table, it was precariously balanced on two Triton multistands (well not unsafely, but not exactly a router table to speak of!) It was only a temporary arrangement, so I could test out concepts.

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I caught up with a mate and once seeing what was available from Incra, I couldn’t resist. (The mate was Steve Bisson, who sadly passed away earlier last year).

So the Incra LS Positioner was added to the lineup. As has been gone into in quite a bit of detail already in other posts I won’t talk about the fence, but as you can see here, I have the materials laid out for construction. Also too, the base has been improved (but sadly, is still in that sorry state, and will be the subject of a complete rebuild at some stage soon. There is some advantage in staging a project – you work out exactly you want in the final design!)

In the end, I was enticed by this, (from www.incra.com)

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and if there was a router table that could do that, I wanted it!

As detailed in an earlier post, I had the LS positioner with a home-made fence, and finally, the current version is thus:

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Now I think you can appreciate why I needed such a large top, with a significant area behind the router, and why I couldn’t adapt the Triton enough to take this monster. I have a whole set of the templates for the Incra, but the secret, if you can call it that is simple. Incredible, repeatable accuracy. Because of this accuracy, you can precisely position, say, a dovetail bit and make accurate joints. The templates are nothing more than a standard ruler with the lines you don’t need for the current job removed.

This is why I don’t consider the Incra system to be a dovetail ‘jig’. It isn’t. The fact that I can precisely position the dovetail bit where I need it means I can make dovetails, but I see the Incra as an accurate fence system, and not a jig (by my definition). (Accuracy to 1/1000th of an inch)

So that’s my router table tale. Even so, I still have a long way to go before this tool will be considered “complete”.

A Quick Safety Tip

Imagine a barrier exists at least 6″ away from any spinning router bit, saw blade, or other cutting machine hellbent on getting you.

Can’t think of any better way to elaborate on that.  (Ok, I know I break this rule where it comes to scroll and bandsaws, but they are inherently a safer design.  However, they can and do still inflict significant injuries, and I certainly abide by this rule when my 1.3 TPI 3/4″ blade is running – scary bloody thing!)  (Well hopefully not literally obviously!)

I really wish I could afford a Saw Stop cabinet saw.  Even after years, they (tablesaws) still give me the willies (and that is probably a very good way to be, and even with a Saw Stop, I’d still feel and act the same, but at least there’s just that one extra thing acting as backstop if I EVER drop the ball).

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