The Jig Drawer

Strangely, I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned my “Jig Drawer” before.

I was using it over the weekend when it occured to me that it may never have actually been referred to here.  I have a Jig Drawer. No, it isn’t where I store my various jigs, but where I store the components that may be useful in jig construction.

The Jig Drawer

The Jig Drawer

It is full of useful and interesting bits and pieces, many as it happens from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  There are knobs, hold downs, T Track Bolts and T Track nuts, high tensile bolts, grub screws, butterfly nuts, plastic Incra positioning track (metric and imperial), T Track and Mitre Track sliders and stops, and a stack of other assorted bits and pieces.

Whenever I am constructing a new jig, this is the drawer I first turn to, to get the hardware needed, and even the inspiration for the required jig.

It is nice to be able to make a jig properly, with decent knobs etc rather than some block of wood offcut from A, combined with a few nails and old screws from B, and lumps of particle board making up the body of the jig.

So that is my Jig Drawer, and now you know.

1/4 Million

Are we all watching….only about 3 weeks to go to the 250,000th site visitor……

I better get moving on finding a suitable give-away…. 🙂

3D Drawing Boards

At a number of Working with Wood Shows, I’ve seen in passing a display for 3D Drawing Boards.  At the time, I hadn’t really perceived the benefit of the system, especially since I have had a fair few years of technical drawing and draughting experience, and the boards seemed to be pitched at people with little to no drawing experience.

I have since had a chance to actually have a good look (and use) the system, and I’ve gone from being somewhat apathetic, to being a definite fan.

That does seem to be a strange way of starting a review of a product, and for that I apologise. However, what I am trying to highlight with this bit of an honest insight, is that because of our preconceived ideas and perspectives, there may be some great products out there that we really haven’t ‘seen’, and for me, this is one of them.

So let me take you through my experience of this drawing system.

Storage Case

Storage Case

When I first opened the package on my doorstep, I found the enclosed storage case, and before even opening it, I had a good feeling that I was onto a good thing. Presentation and attitude of a company towards their own product is king.  If they seem enthusiastic about their product, it is a good start!  I love this case, as simple as it is – it keeps everything together and is neat, and I’ve taken it with me almost every day and shown the drawing board off to a number of (interested) people so I have found myself rather enthusiastic as well.

This drawing board is not just for novice draughters, and in fact I’d say the more draughting experience you have, the more you’d get out of this – incredibly convenient method for achieving drawings in 3 point perspective.

The principle behind a 3 point perspective drawing is to attempt to achieve the most realistic representation of a 3 dimensional object in 2D.  Every single object you look at which has parallel lines, to our eye is not actually parallel – they trend towards a single point on the horizon.  This is known as a vanishing point.  Think of looking up at a tall building – the walls are not straight up and down – they lean in towards each other, and if you continued to build higher and higher, it would look like the very top floors were approaching a single point – that vanishing point.

To draw an object in 3 dimensions so it is visually accurate, you need a vanishing point to the left, and right, and one for verticals. This is known as 3 point perspective, and is what this board is designed to facilitate very very easily.

The Package

The Package

Inside the case was a whole collection of goodies.  There is the drawing board itself, with the unusual curved tracks, a perspex straight edge, which has its own onboard storage location (the two holes in the top-left corner), a pencil case with a pencil and liner pen, an elipse template, an optional 3D calculator CD Rom, and an exercise book.

You can tell the inventor of this product is a teacher – and I gather is a draughting instructor at a tertiary institution in NSW.  The exercise book is designed for those with little to no experience, and each exercise builds on the last, going from constructing a simple cube using some pre-supplied lines right through to a final project.  Not everyone will need the book, but it will definitely get novices easily up to speed with the system.

The 3D Calculator runs on Windows, and allows calculations to be translated into scale for the perspective drawing.  Measurements in perspective is complex at the best of times, so although it is available, I would tend to say that it isn’t something that is needed to get the most out of this board.

It is most useful for pre-visualising, and initial conceptual design rather than producing a set of dimensioned drawings to then build from.  Even those who use a compute drawing package (AutoCAD, even Google Sketchup) will find it beneficial to be able to quickly sketch up an initial concept before creating a digital masterpiece.

The Ruler and Vanishing Point

The Ruler and Vanishing Point

The heart of the concept are these curved slots that the straight-edge runs in. The centrepoint of the curve is the vanishing point, and this again is where this is so much easier than the traditional method.  In that method, you draw (lightly) a horizon line, then choose two vanishing points as wide apart as possible (when drawing average sized objects).  The bigger the drawing board the better, and less distorted the object appears.  This system allows the vanishing points to be very far apart, and yet the board itself is a convenient size.  The vertical vanishing point has a track with a very large radius indeed.  Often, this sort of drawing is done using two valishing points because the third is too difficult to achieve given the distance required, but this board solves that problem.

There is also available a larger version of this board for A3 sheets (the one pictured is for A4) (I don’t know if the US versions of the system are the same, or are for US paper sizes).

There is also a separate system available called the Archi-board with completely different vanishing points for people who are creating architectural drawings.  One idea I had would be to have the drawing board made from thicker stock, and the architectural vanishing points on one side, and the standard ones on the other, so you can use whichever side of the board suits the current project. For those that wanted that, it would save buying two complete drawing boards. Speaking of mods, I’d also like to see a couple of straight slots cut, probably under where the straight edge gets stored, as somewhere to put the pen and pencil when not in use (and deep enough so they don’t affect operation).  I keep finding when drawing, and switching from one to the other, that I put the pencil down on the chair, and then loose track of it.  If there was somewhere on the drawing board for storage, that would be even better.  Also, if under the straight edge, that would help retention of the pen/pencil during transportation, as the straight edge would keep them there!

The two boards are also referred to as the BEV (Birds-Eye View) (the one seen here), and the ELV (Eye-Level View) for architectural drawings.

Ruler Tracks

Ruler Tracks

As you can (just) see here, you flip the straight edge from track to track as you are drawing.  It is very quick and easy.  The bottom of the straight edge is not straight – has bumps along it.  I don’t know why they are there, but at a guess it is simply so you don’t mistake which side of the straight edge you are meant to use!

Paper Location Points

Paper Location Points

Cut into the surface are some marks for aligning the paper (which you stick down with some sticky tape – 3M magic tape would work well here, as it is easily removed afterwards).  The main marks are for aligning the paper in landscape orientation, and the small dots are if you want the paper in a portrait orientation.

Perspective Circles

Perspective Circles

Drawing circles in perspective is a bit of a trick, as you can’t simply use a compass.  A template is provided to assist with ellipses.  Personally, I also have a set of French Curves from my draughting days which I also use. (Did I ever mention I used to work as a draughtsman for a shop fitting firm in London while touring Europe in my pre-Uni and Navy days?)

Basic Perspective Cube

Basic Perspective Cube

It is a bit hard to see in the photo, but hopefully you can make out a simple cube that I’ve drawn here.  You do all your sketching in pencil, then go over the final correct lines with a fine-liner pen.

Adding and Subtracting Solids

Adding and Subtracting Solids

Taking that simple cube further, here I have added and subtracted some solids – added a cylinder to the top and a cube to one side, and subtracted a cube from the other.

More Complex Visualisations

More Complex Visualisations

When I first got the board, I sat down that evening, and in a very short time (about 15 minutes) while learning how the board worked, I sketched this workbench up, complete with drawers, and tapered portions on the bottom of the legs.

As I mentioned at the start of this article, I am rather enthusiastic about this product – having a package that I can use in the shed, or even in front of TV in the lounge to sketch up some concepts is great, and I am REALLY enjoying getting back to using a pencil, rather than a computer in project creations – I didn’t realise it, but I really missed that relationship that you have when drawing yourself, rather than the modern digital solutions.

There is a very comprehensive set of instructions on their website which are worth reading (and watching).

http://www.3dboards.com.au/

You can purchase the product directly from this site – costs $A140 for the standard A4 board detailed here.  If you are in the US / Canada, there is a link for ordering from a US distributor, and costs around $US60 (will confirm price shortly)

(I just had a look at the site to get the pricing, but it is going through some maintenance on the ordering page, so in the meantime you can ring them directly on 1300 363 352, or email merrick@3dboards.com.au). Merrick (who created the product) is more than happy to chat to anyone who wants more info about the product, how to use it etc.

Bottom line – awesome product which I am really enjoying using, and another great Australian product to boot!

Router Bit Maintenance

I’ve always considered that the real tool when routing is not the table, or the router, but the router bits.  It is the bits that make contact with the timber, and as the collection grows, it is the bits that make up the majority of the cost of a router / router table (although it takes some time to exceed the cost of an Incra fence if you head down that path!)

I haven’t had a chance to finish off the router storage cabinet – just another on a long list of jobs, and part of that is cleaning up the bits themselves.  There is quite an investment in them, so it makes sense to keep them in optimum condition.

The main issue I find with mine is they get quite a buildup of pitch and sawdust on the cutting surfaces, and that can’t make for an optimum cutting condition.  Some of my bits haven’t been cleaned for a while, and they were looking quite the worse for wear.  Unfortunately I didn’t think of photographing the worst one before I started.

Setting Up

Setting Up

Setting up to clean the Toy Train Track bits.  The bits are in a shallow tray, mainly to stop them rolling onto the concrete floor.  I’m sure there are better ways to transport bits around the shop, but that is what I have at the moment.  The other bowl is what I clean the bits in, and we have a cloth, an old toothbrush, Pitch Remover and Bit Lubricant.

Prior to Cleaning

Prior to Cleaning

This isn’t a particularly dirty bit, but it is the worst of the ones that I had when taking the photos!  You can see the pitch builds up to right near the tip of the bit, so I’d be very surprised if it doesn’t affect performance.  It would also cause the bit to heat up a lot more, but I don’t know if that is particularly detrimental to it, but it doesn’t sound like a good thing.

Application of Pitch Remover

Application of Pitch Remover

The Pitch Remover (from Carb-i-tool) is applied liberally over the bits (it’s also for saw blades etc).  I do this over the bowl which collects the excess – once I’ve finished with it, I can return the majority of the remover back to the bottle – no point wasting it!  Only a little that collects at the bottom which also has a majority of the removed pitch is thrown out.  Carb-i-tool also sells a container specifically for router bits, although this seems a reasonable alternative.

After Cleaning

After Cleaning

It doesn’t take much soaking time for the pitch & dust to be loosened, and the majority is removed with the toothbrush, which can get into all the corners etc, and isn’t going to damage the bit itself. the cloth is used to wipe the loosened pitch and the spray off.  The bits are them given a rinse in clean water and allowed to dry.

Bit Lubrication

Bit Lubrication

Next, I do a similar process with the router bit lubricant.  I don’t see why this would be particularly critical for non-bearinged bits, but it can’t hurt.  For bits with a bearing, this gets right into the bearings so they run smoothly. Normally bearings are sealed, but this isn’t always the case, and/or the seal can get damaged over time, so again it is a step that may or may not be particularly critical, but it can’t hurt.

Feeling loved once again

Feeling loved once again

The initial collection of bits after being treated.

Resurrection

Resurrection

This was my worst bit – used on a lot of pine on the Triton Introduction course, and had significant buildup.  Doesn’t look like it now, so it is back to being a bit happy (or is that a happy bit).

So that’s it – a quick job is all it takes to look after a significant asset.

Some resawing

Didn’t have much time to get things done in the shed, but I did manage to process a bit of timber I’ve been given recently.  It was a couple of short posts of cyprus pine, one that was approx 150x150mm square that was cracking badly.

I wasn’t sure if there was anything I’d be able to get out of it, but had nothing to loose.

Whacked on a bimetal resawing blade (about a 3TPI in this case), and ran it through for a first pass.  Some definite promise there – some checking that has penetrated deeply, but mostly very useable timber.  I then angled the bandsaw table over so I could run resawing passes parallel to the worst of the cracking, and fired it through for a number of passes.  The timber by and large is extremely useable.  I was cutting boards between 15mm and 20mm thick – it still has some settling and aclimatising to do, so I wanted some extra thickness for when I machine any twists etc out of the boards.

When I got down to the small pieces that were left, these were cut into pen blanks.  No point wasting them!

Cyprus Pine

Cyprus Pine

I will still have to sacrifice the ends that have cracked etc, but there are certainly some boxes etc in that lot.

I know it has good outdoor properties, but what a waste of such a timber, cememting it into the ground and whacking a coat of paint on it and calling it a post.

Cyprus Pine

Cyprus Pine

iPhone, iTunes, iShed

So the last one doesn’t exist (although perhaps it should – hmm Stu’s virtual shed……)

I have been playing around with the other two.  The iPhone is a new toy, and is very interesting. Not that much of a leap from the iPod Touch that I have been using for a while, although having built-in speakers makes watching the latest podcasts even easier.

Speaking of podcasts, Stu’s Shed is currently one of the “Featured” podcasts in the hobby section of iTunes, and we are in the top 4 of hobby podcasts 🙂

Amalgamating the two, I do keep an eye out for apps that have a use for woodworking, and although the level was pretty good (and has been improved even further since, now with a digital as well as a spirit level readout), a few other apps seem very pointless (using the phone as a ruler!?).

One that does look to have some promise is a ShopCalc, able to handle fractions, imperial and decimal. It also has a special division button useful for fractions, so a length can be divided by a length or into equal portions.

Not sure if I understand it yet myself, but from their site,

13 divided by 3 =  4.33333

13 foot divided by 3 inches = 52 pieces

13 foot divided into 3 equal portions = 4 feet 4 inches.

ShopCalc

ShopCalc

In future they are planning extra calcs for volume, and board feet.

The other benefit this calc has, is you can do the calculations in whichever unit you want, and convert the answer to whichever system (eg get imperial decimal from your plan, and convert the answer to mm).  You can also combine measurement systems easily, so adding 2 63/64″ + 2.756″ – 3mm is easy.  There is even a tickertape display so you can double check that you entered all the units correctly.

(and the answer is 142.8mm or 5 5/8″ or 5.622″) – see, even I can handle the different unit types now (having grown up in a metric education system).

Australian Wood Review

The latest issue has just hit the streets, and as always has lots of interesting content. Including a full-page review by yours truely of the Excalibur EX21 Scrollsaw.  For obvious reasons, I can’t reprint the article here – if you want to see it, you have to buy the magazine!  However, any feedback on it (or the previous review of the Pro Drill-press table) is welcome.

issue_61

Not been having much luck recently with the short courses at Holmesglen – I don’t have any visibility of the overall performance of courses at the moment, whether overall attendance is dropping, or if just hobby pursuits are having a bit of a downturn in the current economic crisis, but my recent introductory Triton woodworking course, and shed course have both been cancelled for lack of numbers (hard to run a course with 0 attendees), and the same has happened for this weekend’s toy making course.

Bit of a shame really – was looking forward to that, and have done quite a lot of preparation work for it.  Have a number of tools just waiting in the wings to be taken along for people on the course to get to play with (including thicknessers, bandsaws etc), so I guess they can all be moved back into deep storage again – there isn’t another one now until Feb 21, so there is no point having the extra workshop space taken up with them for another 3 months.

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