Another Twist in the Ultimate Router Table Tail

When I was first setting up my workshop (slowly, over time), I got to the point of deciding between a router table (something I’d never experienced, or knew what it was really for), or a drill press (sounded a bit boring).  I was relying on Triton Orange products to know what to get, not knowing better and the first few purchases were exemplary (particularly the original 2400W Triton Saw).  Triton had a couple of jigs for their router table – a biscuit joiner and a finger jointer (which was technically a box joint rather than a finger joint) and so I had the impression that a router table might be quite useful if they were the sort of things you can do with it.

Once getting the router table, I discovered just how much control, safety and capability having the router mounted provided.  Over time I have outgrown that table (and some subsequent ones, well documented on this website if you do a quick search), and some jobs I have done since have needed me to develop some hand-held routing skills.  But I’ve always returned to the router table whenever I could for that overall control.  But what if I could have both?

One of the things that drew me to the Triton range was that it was an Australian company, and it was local manufacturing, something that I think is definitely worth supporting, and encouraging.

Once I went away from a commercial solution (not finding something that satisfied all my requirements) I started combining quality components to make a Frankenstein router table to beat all router tables.  But as much as I am happy with how the top is progressing, the base was always far behind.  I’ve always liked Norm Abrams router table design too fwiw.

Having a solid base has been something I’ve wanted to add to the whole package, but just what that would be has been in question for years.

So I had a bit of a brainwave on the way to work the other day: as you might have gathered from my recent road-trip, (and some upcoming videos) (and by reading Lazy Larry’s blog post), I have decided to add a Torque Workcentre to my workshop, and gain all its significantly impressive capabilities.  My thought was – why not combine the two?  It would save me significant space in the workshop, having both tools occupy a single footprint, and allow the features of one to add to the other when it was applicable.  There is a small problem area, where the router under the table can impact on the support arm for the overhead router, but if I need to use the whole top for a large slab, the in-table router can simply be lifted out.

With a 2.4 meter top, I will have 2m of working range for the overhead router, so with all that bench space my main fight will be keeping it clear of detritus that seems to build up on any and every flat surface in my workshop!

The Torque Workcentre is significantly solid as a platform, it is an Australian invention, and is manufactured here, so ticks all those boxes as well. There is an added benefit to that which I first was exposed to when I was heavily endowed with Triton machines with the factory in Melbourne – spares are easy to come by, and you can have an influence on the product design, and when need be, talk with the real experts – the manufacturers, designers and engineers.  Those in the US/OS don’t miss out – these workbenches can be purchased worldwide, exported from Australia, and as demand dictates it may be that manufacturing is also exported under license (there being a worldwide patent on the design). Lazy Larry Woodworks (and the first ever owner of a Torque Workcentre) is listed as the international distributor. (There is a definite benefit of going through Larry – he’s an owner as well, so understands actually using the machine, and isn’t just trying to sell it to you! This approach worked very well for Triton in the past as well – real owners out demonstrating the product, allowing the product to sell itself (as good products will)).

My Torque workcentre is currently being built, and should be shipped down from Brisbane either the end of next week, or the start of the week after at the latest (at this stage!)  As much as I got to try out Larry’s one last Wednesday, it is a completely different experience when it is just you and the machine in your own space.  It’s going to be awesome!

I haven’t decided yet whether I am going to dedicate a 2400W Triton to the cause, or get a router specifically for the Torque Workcentre.  All these things are yet to be determined, and can only really be done when the machine arrives.  I’ve already had a number of ideas, how to incorporate a Wixey height gauge into the Torque design, the incorporation of a down-draught table, and of course having a table-mounted router mounted into the tabletop of workcentre.

So the path to the Ultimate Router Table has taken an interesting turn, and with this latest development, it is looking to be the most unique, and capable router table out there!  Eat your heart out Norm 😉

An Alternate Perspective

Getting to see an event from another person’s perspective is rather cool, especially when it is your own event.  I’ve been writing about recent shows, and trips to Brisbane, and now have been reading about the same trips and events from Larry’s viewpoint on his Lumberjocks blog.

Stu’s Shed trip to Brisbane

Melbourne Wood Show

Alternate Wood Show

He certainly gets a lot more comments on his blog posts than I do. The benefit of having a blog attached to such an active woodworking community as Lumberjocks!

The Main Event

Over the course of the day, we took the Torque Workcentre through a number of its basic evolutions, but we didn’t get close to even covering all of those, let alone any of the myriad of inventive ways the machine has already been utilised.

When I saw the Torque at the Melbourne Woodshow, I didn’t realise that it was such a new animal, but it turned out that it has only been on the market for about 9 months or so – a major development to the Router Master.  The Router Master was an overhead mount system, with the router on a rail that could rotate through 360 degrees.

The big improvement is now the vertical mounting point isn’t fixed, and instead can be slid along the length of the table.  This provides x,y,z router movements, and still has retained the rotation component/ability to move through an arc.  But I’m getting ahead of myself – what I am wanting to get across is if you haven’t had a chance to see the Torque Workcentre operate, it is worth checking out at your next woodshow (and the Brisbane Hands-on is only a couple of weeks off fwiw).

The thing that caught my imagination, is look beyond the actual demonstrations to what is actually happening with this machine. Full control over whatever tool is mounted, and that isn’t specifically restricted to the router (although I’d imagine most work these workcentres do will be router-based).  Freehand, template, copy work, pin routing (using a pin to follow a track), and so on.  When I first got into woodworking, discovering the benefits of a tablemounted router for a sense of control and safety really opened my eyes to the advantages of a router.  However there are a number of applications where it isn’t possible to use the router in that manner.  Handholding then is the only option, and there are a lot of applications where that isn’t enough.

At a BBQ of a Woodworking Forum a few years ago, I saw a home-made rig made from an aluminium ladder and some other components which then created a sled to carry the router over the workpiece, allowing it to be used to surface a board.  It was pretty cool and looked quite interesting, but it wasn’t something I was likely to get around to making.

For this first real look, we started surfacing a slab of Camphor(?), just to see how it performed this operation.  I’ll put up some videos shot of this tomorrow, so stay tuned 😉

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Installing a router

There are a number of different brackets for mounting a range of tools – router, circular saw, drill.  I’m sure there will be other ones that would also benefit from such a control platform.  In this case, the mount is for a router.  There may be, in time, a way of mounting a router using its own base, but having one dedicated to the workcentre is the preferred method.  Removing the original router base then allows the router to be quickly mounted and unmounted as required for bit changing.  There is a dust shroud upgrade as pictured which makes a lot of sense.

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Mounting a slab

The slab is secured to the table by whatever means you have, and in some cases, using some wedges to stabilise where there are twists and warps.  The surfacing operation can replace both a jointer and thicknesser, and unless you are very lucky, who has a jointer (or thicknesser) that is 900 or even 1200mm wide!

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Finetuning

Here is Aaron finetuning the setup – getting the router surfacing bit parallel to the travelling arm.

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Finding High Spots

The first sweeps across the workpiece is to find the high spots, and getting a feel for how the piece is distorted. (Larry is still plugging in the dust extraction here – rather than routing!)

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Surfacing Passes

Once you have determined the heights, the real job of planing can begin.  It may look like a long job, but it goes very quickly and smoothly.  If you get a slight ridge between pass, it means you haven’t properly leveled the bit, so you can either tweek the setup, or just hit it with a few quick passes with a ROS to smooth it all out.

The surface of the slab in this case looked like there were ridges, but not detectable to touch.  My guess is it is an optical illusion not unlike how a checker pattern is created in the grass of a cricket pitch.  Brushing the fibres in different directions, catching the light, but still at a uniform height.  Nothing a quick sand wouldn’t remove (and not apparent in all types of timber).

The machine itself is very solid – mostly steel construction, some welded, some cast, multiple bearing rollers.  The MDF top is sacrificial, and the 2.5m version has a working area of 2m.

If you are looking for more details on the availability of these machines, contact Larry – he’s a distributor for the Torque Workcentres (and the international distributor as well – yes, the Torque Workcentre isn’t restricted to a lucky few down under, and they already have had queries from the US).  You can get him through his Lazy Larry Woodworks website, or phone (+61) 7 54 993361. (Substitute +61 for 0 if within Australia obviously!)

Northern Exposure

In the end, it was quite a massive day, an absolute whirlwind.  From waking at 5am, I was home 1am the following day (thanks in part to some disruptions to flights on the way home on Qantas, and in part because I got to the airport 30 minutes early iaw my ticket, and was told it was too late, and for a local flight I should have planned to be there 90 minutes early. Oh well, had an iPhone packed with movies, so time passed quickly).

Qantas 737

Qantas 737

At the airport, I was met by Larry (Lazy Larry Woodworks) and Aaron (Torque Workcentres), so it promised to be a day full of info.  Larry owns the first Torque Workcentre sold (around 9 months ago?), and Aaron manufactures them, so it was a great tag-team.  More on the workcentre in the next post.

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Bread and Cheese Boards

Other than a general lack of sawdust 😉 (Larry had taken a garden blower to the shed), it was my kind of chaos.  I recognised a Carbatec workbench there on the left.  This is looking towards the back of the shed, with a beer fridge in the back corner (out of view), a clamp rack, lots of storage, and little wallspace, with jigs and creations on all the working surfaces.

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View towards shed front

A view from the beer fridge (an essential in Brisbane – hot and humid (well it seemed so to me)), stocked with XXXX Gold, and some ciders.  Oh to have so much working space!

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Timber, timber everywhere!

Larry certainly has a range of timbers, and a decent quantity of each.  He also knows his timbers a lot better than I do.  Bit disappointing hearing how much they pay for timber up there – anyone would think timber was gold encrusted in Melbourne for the comparable prices.

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Torque Workcentre and more jigs

Walls covered in jigs – the essence of a functional shop.

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Larry's version of a trivet

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Twin axis jig used for cutting complex curves

So that’s a bit of a look around Larry’s workshop – still plenty missed.  You know what it is like in your own shed – all those nooks and crannies where things are hiding, jigs only you vaguely remember the job it was created for, timber offcuts you couldn’t quite throw away.  There was even a radial arm saw I caught a glimpse of on the video I don’t remember actually seeing.  Guess it has become pretty superfluous now Larry has the Torque Workcentre!  His tablesaw is a 12″ contractor’s saw, with a full Incra fence and positioner system, Incra 2000 mitre sled.

So a big thanks to Larry for his hospitality, and a chance to have a good look through the place.  Of course, the primary reason for the visit was to see the Torque Workcentre, and that will be covered shortly.

Oh, and thanks heaps for the timber too – Larry sent me home with some Hairy Oak, Avocardo (that will be interesting to see how it comes out – I doubt it will be green though!), a couple of other piece I can’t remember the names of (as I said, Larry knows his timber a lot better than I do!), and most generously, one of his large woven design cutting boards.  Thanks mate!

Another Road Trip

Been a while since I had a road trip, although I guess technically it is a road/air/road/road/air/road trip. Total round trip distance is 3600km.  In US terms, I think this is roughly like a round trip from Miami to NYC.

Yup, tomorrow I’m heading north for the day, with a flying visit to Brisbane to check out Lazy Larry’s workshop, and particularly get a really good look at the Torque Workcentre.

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Larry's impressive "weave" pattern

Torque Workcentre

Torque Workcentre

Needless to say, I’m taking my video camera!

 

 

 

MagWall

The MagWall

The MagWall

Didn’t get all my jigs in the photo (actually, it wasn’t planned at all, so most of the jigs are missing), but this is my MagWall (or more precisely, MagDoor).  Where I store the various MagProducts until needed. You know, it must be like the Apple iThing.  You can put a Mag in front of pretty much anything.

Now all I need are some of the Ridgid coloured MagSwitches to add to the collection.

Ridgid MagSwitch

Ridgid MagSwitch

YHS P2 Dust Masks

At the recent wood show, I found my recent comments about dust masks may need some additions.  I have previously disregarded disposable masks because of their lack of comfort, and cost, but I came across YHS at the show, and after trying a couple of their masks over the weekend, (and being surprised at their price) there is certainly a place for them in a workshop when working with materials that require certified protection (such as MDF, and other materials that produce airborne particles below 3 micron).

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Cost:

I haven’t shopped around much (at all – I keep falling for the “Lowest Price Guarantee” trick) for disposable dust masks, and at the show I came across the YHS masks (Your Health and Safety) which were being sold for $1 each for P2 level of protection (or $2 for those with a built-in exhaust filter).  As much as this will slowly add up over time, that is still 1/5th the price I have seen similar masks being sold in common outlets.  Their P2 filters were going for $10 for a box of 10 without an exhalation valve. ($20 for 10 with). The equivalent box (different brand etc of course – no price matching possible here!) was $46 in the Green Giant. (Prices were their show specials, not sure their normal retail pricing).

Comfort:

In the past, I have used variations of the Cup shape mask (you know the one – looks like a round dish, and is the common shape of nuisance masks).  What I tried in the shed over the weekend was the flat-fold type, which come individually wrapped (and in the case of the box I was trying, have an exhalation port, which is good for preventing safety glasses fog-up). It felt remarkably comfortable and form fitting, with P2 level of protection, and an exhaust valve to prevent fogging.  They may be disposable, but are significantly cheaper than the disposable masks of equivalent rating that I have used in the past.

Flat Fold DM2000

Flat Fold DM2000

When needing a high level of protection, such as what I was doing on the weekend, working with MDF, I found the DM2000 (flat-fold mask) to actually be a very comfortable mask, much more-so than the rubber mask with removable filters I have been using for that sort of work in the past, or the cup shape disposable masks I have had previously.

YHS P2 Dust Masks

YHS P2 Dust Masks

The company operates out of North Ringwood in Victoria – definitely worth considering if you need masks with P2 protection.

On that point, what is P2?

P2 is the highest particulate classification level available for disposable masks under AS/NZS1716. As I understand it, the P2 rating is determined by using a sodium chloride aerosol, with a size range of 0.02 micron to 2 micron, with a mass median diameter of 0.3-0.6 micron. The P2 rating requiring a minimum of 94% efficiency / 6% penetration.  P1 masks, which are typically around the same price only require 80% efficiency and 20% penetration. They filter down to around 1 micron.  (cf 0.3 micron for P2) Not sure why you’d bother with P1 – the same price as, the same ease of breathing, and much poorer filtration – Europe and the US have pretty much dropped it, and in the US the P2 meets N95 (equivalent to AS/NZS1716), and is their “entry point” mask.

P1 masks are generally for mechanically generated particles, P2 for thermally generated ones (and obviously will therefore also be perfectly suited to mechanically generated ones, but with the added filtration of much smaller particles.  You can also get P2 masks with an active carbon layer, but you are unlikely to need that in a workshop (unless it is the size of a broom cupboard….)

(BTW, don’t Google P2 and Micron, all you get are pages and pages about the old Pentium 2 Micron from Dell!

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