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I knew I would have to be patient, and finally after a 6 month wait my Chopstick Master has arrived from Bridge City Tool Works

And it is as beautiful as a tool can possibly be made.

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At approximately $US200 (plus postage), it is not exactly a cheap way to get some eating utensils.  But it is designed to do one job as perfectly as possible (as all BCTW tools are), and it does just that.

Now before you completely loose your mind over the price for making chopsticks, let me point out that it does come with the BCTW HP8 handplane as part of the kit.

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If you were planning to get this plane on its own, BCTW sell it for $US250.  Yes, you read it right.  By buying the Chopstick Master, I actually bought the HP8 plane for $US250, and got the rest of the chopstick master kit for -$US50!  That to me is a very reasonable price.

(Ok, I am sure there is some false logic in there, but that is what I am telling myself!)

So how does it work?  You can certainly watch the videos from my original post, and I would really encourage you to read the story about the process that resulted in the invention of the Chopstick Master by John Economaki.

What it boils down to, is a jig that accurately holds the chopstick blank at the required angle for a block plane to shave a taper.  That’s it in a nutshell.  But there is more to it than that, and the devil is in the details.  After shaving 2 faces, the final two won’t cut, as they need the blank held at a different, higher angle.  The Chopstick Master has this second setting and away you go again.

The blank is held at an angle, so the plane makes a shearing cut, and uses the entire width of the plane which is clever in itself.

The blank is then turned 45 degrees, and the last 4″ or so is shaved again, producing the octagonal bottom end.

What really makes a chopstick though, is the pyramidal finial on the top end.  The original jig needed a saw blade to cut that, but the 2nd gen (which I have) positions the chopstick so the handplane cuts each face of the finial to form the perfect pyramid, and nothing beats a planed finish.

It took me a little longer than the promised 5 minutes to make my first set of chopsticks, but that was from reading the instructions, and making sure I got it all right.  Before long, I had a pile of very fine shavings, and two near perfect chopsticks.  I have no doubt the next pair will be even better now I have it all worked out.

The jig comes with a red insert, which is used to make Chinese chopsticks, which is 5mm diameter at the bottom (I wonder if the colour was deliberate?)  I also got the 2mm insert (green), which allows you to make a Japanese choptick.

The combination of disposable chopsticks used in China and Japan (alone) is over 69 billion pairs a year.  That is 2.55 million m³ of timber, or 38 million trees.  A YEAR!!!!!

Interestingly, a single pair of quality, reusable chopsticks can fetch anywhere from $1 (for an every-day chopstick), to over $100 based on the finish, material, and decoration.

I can see more chopstick making in my future!karatekid.gif

Portable Extraction

Now don’t get me wrong, I love my Festool CT36L dust extractor.  It has the handle and the overhead boom arm for the vac tube, and just does its thing as well as I’d want.

The only negative I’ve had, is when I do want to use my tools out of the shed – whether that is in the house, or off site.  It is a big bugger!   Even moving it around the workshop if I did want to use it on the other side of the shop (given mine is becoming increasingly cramped), I found I was just not using it when I should.  Lazy.

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So I’ve been investigating the options.  Still sticking with Festool for my solution.  I love it, and can’t find a reason to change (yes, I know $$), nor am looking for one.

I will admit, I have a couple of Ozito vacs in the workshop.  One doing dust extraction from the CNC, and the other from the Kapex.  I would have put a Festool CT17 on the Kapex, but no long life bag!  But I am getting ahead of myself.

So I wanted a unit that had auto start and stop (all Festool have that), and would be regarded as portable.

That gave an initial list of

CT17, Mini, Midi, CTL SYS mini

Next, long life bag, because as much as I will spend money on Festool, I hate spending money on dust extraction bags, especially when they are $10 a pop.  I am sure there is plenty of false logic there, but so be it!

That dumped the CT17 – it was close – it was the cheapest, was small and portable, had variable speed, but the lack of a long life bag was a deal breaker.

Now I had 3, with quite a cost range, and different features.  If I didn’t already have the CT36, then the midi would have won hands down, but it covered more criteria than I was wanting for this unit.  And in the end, the CTL SYS mini won out.

It is a weird machine, in that it doesn’t look like a vacuum.  It looks like a systainer.  In fact, it is a systainer! In fact, 2 systainers.

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The top one is the cable store, and vac tube garage.  The bottom one is the dust extractor.  The only negative, it doesn’t have variable speed.

Other than that – very portable, and I can combine it with other systainers for off site work (such as my TS55 circular saw).

down-s-ctlsys-584173-a-24a.jpegI haven’t made too much use of it yet – I have my sander plugged into it currently, it starts, stops, sucks, and isn’t really any louder than the sander so it seems good so far.  I’ll make more comment on its performance when I have had more experience with it, especially as the dust bag fills.

I could couple it up with a cyclone unit, such as the Oneida, but that would start to work against why I chose this unit over a Mini or Midi.

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Picked the unit up from my usual Festool dealer – Ideal Tools.  You can chat to Anthony, get some advise, order it and it turns up with free delivery, often the next day (or so!)  Rather dangerous! 😉

Pre-judging a Tool

It is a rare thing for a tool to perform significantly different to what you imagined, and often that is not a positive thing.

So it is even rarer to find oneself completely surprised by how a tool just purchased operates, and in a good way!

The tool in question is the Arbortech Contour Sander.  It is fitted to an angle grinder and is for smoothing odd shaped items (such as one might create with some of the other Arbortech tools!)

Now the angle grinder is not exactly a tool that you would regard as being subtle.  It is loud, it vibrates, and it runs at around 10,000 RPM.  You would imagine that attaching a shaft to that, and sticking a piece of sandpaper on the end, that you are about to have some very rapid stock removal, in a cloud of dust.

Nothing could have been further removed from my expectation.

Instead, I had a tool running at very high speed (as angle grinders are want to do), but the sandpaper end was barely moving on the workpiece.  It is a random orbital sander style, so the rapid angular speed of the angle grinder translates into a more linear, but random amount of microstrokes.

It was subtle, it sanded quickly, but at a very controllable rate, and the soft end allowed the contours be sanded, without them being removed or abraded away.  Contour Sander indeed!

I think my only negative point was that the sandpaper is stuck on, rather than using velcro/hook & loop, so it isn’t easy to change from one pad to the next, working through the grades.

I’ve already used the sander on a few small jobs, smoothing and softening the natural edge of some timber, but I well expect it will prove a very useful tool for a range of projects in future.

Drilling down

The saga of my drill press continues.

For years, I have had a full height drill press – Woodman series, that I purchased pretty early on in the scheme of things, making the best decisions that I could at the time.  That is to say in hindsight, I have been a bit disappointed in it from the start.

I tried many different ways to deal with the shortcomings – different table tops

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(the second was very interesting, but WAY too heavy!)

different chucks, but what began the end-game was when one of the capacitors blew.  That was back in May 2014, and somehow I have been dealing without one ever since.

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Can’t exactly remember the timing, but either late last year/earlier this year I finally got around to trying to fix the motor, replacing the failed capacitor with another.  Seemed to work, and a few 5 second runs seemed to show it was back to being functional.  Still, after having it out of action for so long, I’d learned to work without it, so it didn’t get used.

I finally needed to on the weekend – a small hole with a forstner bit.  3/4 of the way down (20mm or so), and the motor on the drill press was smoking more than the workpiece!  Soon thereafter, and the motor ground to a halt, and this time it will be permanent (at least as far as I am concerned).

So it was off to the store once-known as Masters (now in liquidation), and picked up a bench-top drill press a couple of friends have also purchased, and have been pleased with.

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Got it for 10% off (liquidator’s price), then an additional 5% with my soon-t0-be defunct Masters trade card.  Cost about $350.

That will keep me going at least until the Nova Voyager drill press is finally available from Teknatool.

Can’t wait!!

Panel Saw

Had a ‘new’ panel saw turn up over the weekend.  It is a Safety Speed Manufacturing branded H5 saw, made in USA.

Their website lists it as being around $A3500, although in this case the saw is well used (second hand), and doesn’t have the motor or blade any more, nor the counterweight.  (In Australia, it is listed as $A7300.  Does it seriously cost that much to land it from the USA?  In saying that, it makes my $100 investment about the best bargain I have ever done!)

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In saying that, it is otherwise complete, and includes an aftermarket dust trap.  Adding a counterweight will be easy, as will mounting a saw to it.  So not bad at all for $100!  It is an ex-Bunnings saw, and came from the demise of the Woodworking Warehouse.

A mate with a truck dropped it off yesterday (thanks Dennis!)  It weights a tonne (actually 135kg)

The saw can cut panels up to 1600 wide, and can be orientated to also do a rip cut.  Additionally, the saw can be replaced with a router, and although I probably won’t, it is an interesting idea.

It is a bit of a monster to fit in, but I have it across the roller door, so that may be ok.  It is partially blocking the outfeed of the tablesaw, but only for large cuts, and well, large cuts are probably better done on this panelsaw now anyway!

Like everything, I’ll juggle it around until I get a good fit.  Hmm- wonder if it can double up to be a mount for the Frontline clamps…….  Not bad for $100 anyway!

Loot Boxes

So apparently there is a really big thing out there that I was only vaguely aware of, called Loot Boxes.

It is like a high-end version of a show bag that comes to your letterbox once a month (so you don’t have to brave the dodgy rides, candyfloss and wait a year between events for a show).

A very popular version are the Geek Boxes – things that appeal to the fantasy/sci-fi/anime etc community.  One such company producing these is called Lootaku, run out of Hong Kong.  They charge about $US50 / month, and you get a box of goodies worth around $US80 in your mail box.

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A couple of weeks ago, Lootaku contacted me through my Etsy store, as they had come across my Game of Thrones inspired Hodor door stop, and wanted to include it in the latest box they were sending out for June.

That was on the Wednesday night, and by the weekend, I had 160 of the suckers made up, wrapped, and flying their way express to Hong Kong.

If you don’t watch Game of Thrones, then a Hodor door stop will make no sense to you what-so-ever.  Fans of the show get it 🙂

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What is fun now, is watching the recipients open their loot boxes on You Tube – videoing the opening is also a popular past time it seems.

Here’s one of the first videos – I’ve fast forwarded it to near where they get to the Hodor.

Cool reaction.  That’s what I enjoy about making things – the reaction of the recipients.  You don’t normally get first reactions recorded for prosperity on YouTube, but that is where Loot Boxes are somewhat unique.

And another

And another

And yet another!

And on it goes……

Transcending language barriers

Torque Workcentre for sale!

A regular of Stu’s Shed has a 3.5m Torque Workcentre for sale that has had very little use.

Given how rarely second hand Torque Workcentres come up for sale, and the lead time on getting a new one, I am pretty sure there will be someone out there keen to snap this one up.  It is being sold for $5000

“I have for sale a Torque WorkCentre. I have had it for a number of years, but have never really used it. It simply doesn’t suit my woodworking, or workflow.
The details and accessories are:

3.5m by 900mm WorkCentre ($5060 current new price (cnp))
Extension beam ($745 cnp)
Circular Saw Attachment ($245 cnp)
Copy Attachment ($190 cnp)
Triton Router Attachment ($160 cnp)
Dust Extraction Guard ($115 cnp)
Drill/Grinder Attachment ($60 cnp)

Also a pro router switch, multiple lengths of t&g T Track, various stops, fences etc.

All up new, that’s more than $6500. And I guarantee, my unit is as new (some shipping plastic wrap still on some parts!)

I am based in Gippsland. Please message me if you have any questions at simonleecreations@bigpond.com or call on 0478 401 013”

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