The Torque and the Triton

There is a NZ author called Hugh Cook who wrote a series of 10 fantasy books which all had titles “The something and the something“, such as “The Wordsmiths and the Warguild”.  He was planning a series of 60 books, but sales didn’t eventuate, which is a pity. I’d have needed another bookcase though!  Nothing else relevant in this, other than whenever I read (or write) “The something and the something“, I’m reminded of Hugh Cook.

Back when I bought my Triton Workcentre – the Workcentre 2000, I was concerned if there was going to be a 2002 version that was going to supersede it – the danger of using a name that also depicts a year.  A lesson that Microsoft are starting to learn – your product is dated by the name.  As it turned out, the WC2000 was the final version – a newer version that was ready for prototyping was binned by GMC when they took over.  When Triton still existed as a company, they did get the occasional prompt to bring out a new version – a 2005 version for example.  This never happened (obviously), but there were a number of existing owners who wished it would happen.

As I was assembling the TWC, a feeling of familiarity, and deja vu struck, and stuck.  Even though I found I didn’t need any assembly manual to put the TWC together, the home-grown aspect to both companies did come through, but the differences also came through strongly – one being thin pressed metal and aluminium section, the other being steel, steel and more steel.

Despite there being no commonality between the companies, or between the workcentres (other than both being Australian Engineering, both being called workcentres, and both being woodworking related), there is a degree to which the Torque Workcentre (TWC) could be regarded as being a logical upgrade to the Triton.

Consider each function:

The Tablesaw.

The biggest criticism Triton owners hear, is the money they spent on the Triton Workcentre system over the years could have bought a significant tablesaw.  There are counter arguments to that, but not relevant for this article.  They then have a brushed-motor circular saw secured by plastic under a pressed-metal top, in an item that weighs around 30-40kg.  (Again, there are all sorts of other pros and cons, not my intent to discuss).  It can handle (with the extension table) a 2400×1200 sheet, with a cut depth of around 65-67mm.  A plastic-thread height winder.

The Torque workcentre is not an ideal tablesaw, and if you already had a tablesaw you wouldn’t consider the Torque as a replacement.  However, despite having a very good cast iron tablesaw I am still looking forward to being able to process sheet goods on the Torque with ease – being able to lay the goods out, and bring the saw to the sheet (with all the control the TWC offers) to safely process the sheet into the required sections.  For ripping, a tablesaw is still the preferred method, whereas for crosscutting, the TWC has it all over the Triton, as with a saw attached it effectively becomes a radial arm saw, which until the development of the SCMS (sliding compound mitre saw) was held in very high esteem in many, many workshops (and still is by existing owners).  The TWC could potentially give a radial arm saw some serious competition – increased range, support at both ends of the arm for 90 degree cuts etc.  A top quality RAS would most likely win, but for most workshops, the Torque makes the grade.

The Router Table.

The Triton router table was the first item that I left behind as my woodworking improved – I felt held back by its limitations – the top wasn’t flat enough for my needs, and I headed down paths seeking more and more accuracy, precision and flatness.  There is a definite benefit to a table-mounted router, but one thing I found missing (and had no solution for) was the ability to have the router controlled in an overhead position, without having to hand-hold it.

This is where the Torque absolutely kicks butt.  Even when all the other parallel functions being discussed here are removed, replaced with dedicated machines, you’d still look at the Torque Workcentre as an overhead router system – it is what the TWC excels at, and the primary reason for buying one.  All other functions of the workcentre are secondary to this – bonuses. IMO that is! There is so much potential that overhead routing capabilites provides, I’m going to be exploring it for a long time yet!

Now this doesn’t mean the table-mounted router is obsolete – far from it.  How I have dealt with that, is combining the two tools, and I have an area where the table-mounted router resides in the top of the Torque workcentre, and at this stage I don’t believe it does anything to detract from either machine.  While the table-mounted router is in place, I loose about 300mm of total capacity of the TWC because I have placed it at the end where there is some dead-space anyway, and I can regain that area by simply lifting the table-mounted router out to regain the full TWC capacity. The best of both worlds you might say.

When in place, the table-mounted router has the advantage of a cast-iron top (which I added), and the Incra LS Positioner and Fence, so that is pretty optimised, and yet I also have the overhead TWC to complement it.

I’ve long seen the router table as being a compromised tool – most workshops that have one have had to make it themselves (other than the low-cost Triton, GMC or Ryobi tables).  To get a machine as serious as the tablesaw as a router table, you’ve had to turn to the spindle moulder, and that machine has a very limited top speed, and is not effective for small router bits. (Not that I am belittling the Spindle Moulder – it is a very capable machine, and can be found in many professional workshops, but it isn’t designed for modern router bits.) The TWC is a machine built specifically for the router.

Drill Press.

Like the tablesaw, it is an additional (rather than primary) solution.  Like the Triton, take a hand power tool and give it extra functionality by providing a solid mount.  But again, in a pretty serious way – a drill press that can drill materials up to around 1300mm from the support pole, has massive work support, can handle angles, and drill points in arcs.

Jointer/Planer/Thicknesser.

There isn’t to my knowledge a jointer on the market that can allow you to prepare the face of a board 2000×1300, yet that is bread and butter for the TWC.  And anything smaller.  I’d say many workshops will still have a dedicated machine, but when its capabilities are exceeded, the TWC takes over.  If you don’t have a jointer yet, the TWC puts off the requirement to invest in one.  It doesn’t do the jointing the edge to 90 degrees to the face however (although you can use a router bit to run down the edge to perform that role).  You can also thickness with it, and again with significant capacity beyond any affordable thicknesser on the market!  For smaller items, a dedicated machine will be faster and easier, but the TWC can still substitute until you have the dedicated machine.

So, what do you think?  Could the TWC be regarded as an upgrade to the Triton system?  Both fit hand-held power tools to increase their safety and functionality.  One weighs a substantial 200+kg, so has the stability (with a corresponding loss to portability).

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