Plotting the End of Days

Given we are still here, guess that yet another “End of Days” has quietly slipped on past.  However, the Mayan calendar (or is it Aztec?) is still one of the challenging images that are sent to CNC machines all over!

I’ve been playing with this one today:

Mayan Calendar

Mayan Calendar

It is quite a challenge for a CNC machine – results in around 1/2 a million lines of G Code to produce all the required cuts.  I started off cutting it into pine, but the initial size chosen (200x200mm), the depth of cut and the crapiata used, the results were not worth pursuing, so I cancelled it after about 45 minutes (so at least I could get a good idea how it could look).

Photo 18-08-13 13 33 16 Photo 18-08-13 13 33 24 Photo 18-08-13 13 33 45

Given how packed the garage is waiting for the new shed, working on a CNC machine is almost the only way I can actually manage any woodworking at all!  Note the precarious location for the laptop, so it is somewhat out of dust range from the router.

I then decided to find something more suitable, and this laminated electrical board was eminently suitable, given the lower layer is a significantly contrasting colour, so the pattern shows up exceptionally well.  Again, this was only a test cut on the underside – this was scaled to 300×300, and would have taken 4 hours to complete.  I stopped it after an hour, again as it was only a test, and a couple of settings I chose were causing some issues.

The other side of the board is a shiny surface, and should look pretty spectacular.  However, I plan to make it near the limit of size of the machine (a 580×580 calendar).  I didn’t start it today as I wanted to get a better idea of the settings before getting it underway.  It will also take 14 hours(!!), so I need to get some noise control in place before trying it on.  I might drop it back to 500×500, which will probably be closer to a 12 hour machining.

Photo 18-08-13 14 28 19 Photo 18-08-13 14 28 32 Photo 18-08-13 14 57 41

The CNC Shark range can be sourced from Carbatec, and seen in operation on Stu’s Shed 😉

Shed Layout

Going to throw it out there – if you are interested in helping me design the shed layout, I’d be most interested in your ideas!

To start, these are the shed dimensions.  The location of the roller door is pretty much fixed (won’t fit anywhere else), but all other doors and window can be shifted at this stage.  There needs to be one door accessing the rear triangular area, and I do want a door accessing the back of the shed.

Finalised Shed Design

Finalised Shed Design

Inside, there are columns to compete with, which are fixed in place.  The slab design shows a pillar directly in the middle of the roller door, but I am doubting that is actually needed!  Pretty pointless if it is – if this shed was for a vehicle, you’d have to split the car (or boat) in two to get it inside!



The door in the 9’10” wall only needs to be in one of the two 9’10” walls, move as suitable!

I’ve been using the Grizzly Shed Designer website – if you know of something better, I’d be keen to hear!

This is one design I have come up with, but I’m sure it isn’t as good as it could be.

Shed Layout?

Shed Layout?

So some specifics.  The tablesaw is the TS10L (discontinued), and has a long wing on the right.  It needs in and outfeed, but also room to the lefthand side for long items (at least until I get a Kapex). There is a router table which is about 680mm wide, and 1000mm long.  Infeed and outfeed is across the shorter width, as the Incra LS Positioner extends down the length.

There is a workbench – 1500×800, and the Torque Workcentre 2500×800 (the lathe on top of the workbench represents the overhead arm).

A 15″ thicknesser, a 6″ longbed jointer, a drill press.

There are 2 bandsaws, one a 17″ Carbatec which is used for resawing, and a 14″ Jet for small items (no outfeed required).

A Triton spindle sander, and a disk sander/linisher.  There are three lathes showing.  One is the DVR XP, one is the Nova Comet II, and the third is a Jet Mini, but this one will be used to hold three buffing wheels, so is part of the sanding section.

As far as the rest, I’m not showing any timber storage as it will either be on the mezzanine, or stored elsewhere.  The dust extractor and air compressor will be in a nearby shed, and can either be located in the triangular section (top left), or at the back, or alongside the shed at the right – your choice.  I’m not showing any storage at the moment – either suggest what you will, or have a look at older photos of the workshop to see what I have been using in the past.

So that’s the general scope – questions to refine the issues welcome.  Hope someone can come up with a plan that really works!


A storm is coming

More precisely, a whirlwind, a tornado, or perhaps that has already arrived looking at the workshop!

One of the opportunities that comes out of such a relocation, is things get reevaluated, cleaned up, and out.

Yes.  A sale is coming.

Not sure exactly what as yet, but there will be some recognisable names and brands amongst the items I have in mind.


It will be interesting to see what comes of it all.

A Cool Nova Tool

For regular followers, you will remember my little jaunt over to the land of the red, white and blue, to Denver Colorado to appear on Cool Tools.  Haven’t forgotten the experience, from the flight on the A380 to getting around Denver, being on the show, meeting and working with Chris Grundy, visiting Rockler, and, well, the whole experience.

It all jumped back in mind when I was reading up about a tool sitting out in the shed, and heard it was about to be featured on….Cool Tools!

The tool in question: the Nova Comet II midi lathe, from Teknatool.

Nova Comet II

It is a very interesting addition to the midi lineup, and simply based on name, it has quite a pedigree.

There are a few other lathes in the same niche, so lets pull them all out, dust them off and see what we have here.

Jet Midi, Variable Speed

Jet Midi, Variable Speed

Carbatec Midi, Variable Speed

Carbatec Midi, Variable Speed

There are others, but these are the ones I have some familiarity with.

Must admit, I didn’t have variable speed on a lathe until I got my DVR.  My old Jet midi lathe didn’t have the feature.  Variable speed is pretty cool, and means you can quickly change the speed to suit what you are doing at the time, rather than stopping to change the belts (or simply ignoring the speed isn’t ideal, mores the point!)

Both the Jet and the Carbatec have the variable speed tacked onto the side, as if the lathe was designed without and on certain machines they get the upgrade.  For both the Jet and Carbatec, this is pretty much the case.

The Comet has it designed to be much more integrally part of the lathe from the outset.  This may just be an aesthetic, but it also means there isn’t a speed control box sticking out the side.  Dust does build up, and objects do fall or hit things that are sticking out.

While we are looking at it, some other specs, side by side

Specification Comet II Jet Carbatec
Price $639 $849 $799
Speed 250 – 4000 200 – 4300 250 – 3600
Swing over bed 300mm 304mm 355mm
Distance between Centres 419mm 510mm 430mm
Reverse Yes No No
Weight 32kg 45kg 39kg

All have 3/4HP motors, indexing heads

So in the first rounds, the Comet II really is holding its own.  Especially given the price.

There are some aspects that do come in though, and this is probably price-related.  I like cams on the various movable items, and although it is only the tailstock, I would have preferred it to have been a cam.

Although the finish on all user areas is good, there are some rough castings underneath.  The foundry really needs to invest in an angle grinder.  It wouldn’t have been hard to tidy up the casting a bit more underneath.

Toolless access to the belt drive.

Other than those points, there are some distinct advantages too!

Reversible. The other lathes can’t run backwards! (Correct me if I am wrong (update – the Carbatec does))
Excellent access to the belt drive – much better than either of the others.
Ability to add accessories, such as a grinder (for sharpening chisels during turning)

It may be a bit lighter (weight is a bonus for lathes), but not too much so, and it does make it more transportable.

I’ll revisit the accessories when they arrive, but the concept is very interesting!

When I have a chance to really put the lathe through its paces, I will feed those experiences back.  The initial testing didn’t reveal any issues.

So a very promising addition to the lineup, and at a rather cost-competitive price point!  You can afford to add a Nova G3 chuck and still be ahead.  Don’t forget, the 4 jaw self-centering chuck which is now the standard for wood turners was invented by Teknatool.

Nova DVR Remote in Australia

I have just gotten the confirmation from Teknatool and Carbatec, that the Nova DVR remote (and retro upgrade kit) will be available in Australia in December this year.

So if you have a DVR (and not necessarily an XP), then something to look forward to – just in time for Christmas………

DVR Remote

DVR Remote

New Trays for the Pandora

As mentioned yesterday, the trays I made felt rushed, and subsequently I wasn’t happy with the results, and so a remake was in order. One of those things – less haste, more speed.

I decided that I really did want it to have dovetailed sides – the wall height was around 20mm, so it would involve a single pin and two half-tails, with a wall thickness just sufficient for the Gifkins Dovetail Jig. Once the Silky Oak was machined square and to size, the dovetails were cut and the sides dry-fitted together.

Tray sides dovetailed, ready for slots to be cut for the base

It was only a dry fit at this stage, as I wanted to have a captive base, as I had done for the main box. With a clamp holding the box together, a groove was cut all round the inside of each tray, about 5mm from the bottom and 5mm deep.

The inside dimensions of each tray were again measured, and 10mm added to give the size for the base. In reality, I tend to cut it about 0.5mm-1mm undersized, so there is no chance the base will stop the sides coming together completely during the glue-up.

How I measure this is with a rule, and in this case I regularly turn to the Woodpeckers Rules, which are particularly easy to read. By setting the reading under one of the teeth (and ensuring the desired dimension is on the correct side of the tooth), I set the fence position (or the stop on the mitre gauge, depending on the cut – rip or crosscut).

Setting up the Incra Miter Gauge

Setting the rule to measure to the side of the blade tooth

The photo doesn’t show an actual measurement, but in any case accuracy is always something both difficult to achieve, and worth pursuing. Even measuring to the edge of the tooth is not an assured result. All blades (and all tablesaws for that matter) have a degree of runout. The only real way of determining a measurement is with a test cut. You can take some steps to actually get accurate measurements, but it still involves a test cut, and measuring to the side of a specific tooth, and measuring to this tooth each time. So long as the blade does not slip on the arbor, and you do not change blades then this will then remain reasonably accurate.

In practice, this degree of accuracy is rarely needed – wood is reasonably tolerant in any case, and there are other ways of ensuring accuracy. One is gang-cutting. If I want two sides to be cut to exactly the same length, you can either use a fixed stop that each side butts up against (such as the Incra Shop Stop), or cut both sides at the same time.

Back to the bases, once they were cut to size, it was over to the router table to cut the rebate around the edge. To set it accurately so the base sits flush with the bottom of the sides, I use the same router bit as used to cut the trench. It needs to be dropped an accurate amount, and I have a reasonable way to achieve that, and it doesn’t involve a rule.

Setting accurate router bit height

A router bit is a power chisel, so I use it as such. Without turning the router on, I lightly scrape the endgrain just enough to reveal the exact height of the router bit. This leaves a mark to line the router bit up with when dropped to the lower position.

Scoring the exact chisel height

Tray base and sides, ready for glueup

Each tray got glued and clamped. One interesting aspect of dovetails, is you primary clamp the tail sides, which pulls the pin sides in. I still use a clamp to ensure the actual joint is not loaded up until the glue sets – you don’t want the wood fibres getting compressed unnecessarily. You may note that I used pine for the base – given I planned to cover the working surface with felt, I didn’t see the point wasting top quality timber in that situation. It doesn’t look bad from underneath, and will rarely get turned over in any case.

Once the trays were glued, and sanded, I tried the fit to the main box.

Testing for fit of the tray inside the box

You know you have the fit pretty right when the tray struggles to sink into the box – not because of friction between the sides but because of air pressure in the box! With a little more sanding, it slips down nicely, still with a little resistance, and a very satisfying “shhhh” as the air escapes. Love it!

I had another detour at this point. After the trial a week or so earlier of the dividers, it was time to make them for real.

Jarrah interlocking dividers

The dividers were cut with the thin-kerf CMT blade, and again the Incra Miter Express proved invaluable.

FWIW, Incra and Woodpeckers gear all comes from Professional Woodworker Supplies, and the CMT blade from Carbatec. Thought I’d mention it if you were looking at what I use.

Main tray with dry fit of Jarrah dividers

I was happy with the main tray with the dividers made, but when I fitted them into the smaller tray, it looked too hard to get the individual charms out, and too much like a iceblock tray.

The “ice bock tray”

Again, when not being prepared to accepting something not quite right, I decided there was no option but to remake the dividers for the upper tray. This time, I chose a wall height of 6mm. When working with power tools, that is small, and risks putting fingers too close to blades.

So it was time for handtools. Yeah, I know – shock, horror.

The sides were cut close to the height required, and then it was time for the handplanes.

There was no point trying to bring a handplane to the individual piece – too hard to see what is going on, let alone controlling it, so I reversed the situation, and used the plane in the same way as it’s power equivalent: inverted!

Inverted HNT Gordon Trying Plane

So I took my HNT Gordon Trying Plane, and mounted it in my Veritas twin-screw vice. The individual sides (the dividers) were then run over the top of the blade. The blade was set for a very light cut – there is no rush! If you haven’t set a traditional wood plane blade before, there are no adjustment screws, it is all done with a careful tap tap of the wooden mallet you can see in the top right of the photo.

The new, 6mm high dividers

So the new dividers in comparison with the original ones – chalk and cheese, and right.

I haven’t mentioned how I cut the slots, other than the Incra Miter Express. The short lengths were done very easily in two passes, and all gang-cut at once. With the Shop Stop set, the first slot was cut, and then the whole bunch rotated and the second cut. Took no time at all. I had made some trial cuts to ensure the blade height was just right.

The two long lengths obviously took a little longer, and the V groove track on the Incra fence was invaluable, allowing me to move the stop exactly 22mm between cuts (20mm for the gap, and 2mm for the kerf)

These V groove racks that ensure accurate positioning of the Shop Stop are invaluable.

So the whole jewellery box was coming together. Next, we will look at the lid, and then final assembly.

Hope you are enjoying the process!

Preparing Timber – Resaw (part a)

Over the course of a number of posts (not necessarily consecutive), we will follow a piece of timber through a whole range of machining and processing steps, until it becomes a finished product.  You may not need all the steps – it depends on your particular source of timber for one.

Sourcing timber is always a bit problematic, and I will be looking further into the whole timber supplier thing later on.

Unless you have purchased a kitset (and even then in some cases), timber does not come in any sort of finished state, and particularly a dimensioned state ready for your project.  Even if it is sold as DAR (dressed all round), you can be pretty sure it will have twists, warps, cupping etc, even on a minor scale.  Perhaps difficult to pick up while shopping, but painfully obvious in the final project if not dressed properly before it is used.

However, first things first. If timber is too thick (or if you want bookmatched boards), the ability to resaw timber (which can be considered to be taking a board and splitting it into two thinner boards) is an incredibly liberating function.  You are not restricted to the thickness of boards you buy (or having to resort to wasting to sawdust good timber), or even if you are provided/manage to scavenge branches and sections of tree trunk, you have the ability to turn them into useable, rough-sawn boards ready for drying and processing.

The tool to achieve this is one of the most valuable in the woodworking workshop, and one of the most versatile: the bandsaw.

This is not what I’d call a (and apologies if anyone gets upset by this) toy bandsaw 8″- 10″ (and smaller) – you need something with a bit of power, and the capacity to take a reasonable blade, and they don’t start until you get into the 14″+ size.  There will be some who’d still call these toys until you hit at least 24″, but a 14″ bandsaw should be able to resaw a 12″ diameter log.

This does get into bandsaw sizing, and when you first come across the bandsaw, you’d think the size (8″, 12″, 14″ etc) refers to the resaw height – the depth of cut.  It actually refers to the diameter of the bandsaw wheel (at least on a 2 wheel bandsaw), which dictates the maximum throat depth.

Depth of Cut vs Depth of Throat

What I have found in the past, is (as a general rule) the smaller bandsaws have real tracking difficulties – not only in following a line, but also in simply keeping the blade running on the wheels.

A bandsaw blade needs a fair amount of tension to work properly, and the little bandsaws just cannot get the blade tight enough, which makes them worse than useless.  I’m sure if you pay good money that there will be small bandsaws that can do a good job, but if you are forking out $100 – $200 (or less!), then you might be better saving your money.

My current bandsaw is the 17″ one seen above.  I still have a 14″ Jet which I am still very fond of – with the 6″ riser block, the Jet is capable of resawing 12″, and still has a reasonable throat.  This 17″ one does pick up some things that make my life a lot easier.  The tension wheel is underneath the top wheel (hard to see in the photo), and is at a good working height to crank the tension on easily.  Both this, and the Jet have a quick tension release, and both can take a reasonable resaw blade.  3/4″ for the Jet, 1″ for the Carbatec.

Blade Comparison

A bandsaw may come with a single blade, but it most certainly should not be the only blade you own.  In fact you should be seriously considering changing blades for each job you do (assuming they are inherently different tasks).  A blade that may be suitable for cutting tight circles (such as the 1/4″ 10 TPI blade seen fitted here) is completely unsuitable for cutting through thick timber, where you have a much deeper depth-of-cut, or for resawing.  The other blade seen here is my primary resaw blade.  1″ across, 3 TPI, it will not leave anywhere near as smooth a finish as the small blade, it cannot go around a corner (well about as well as a bus can, compared to a mini!), but it can handle significant blade tension, will stay very straight during the cut (including not bowing, so the cut remains vertical, and flat!), and won’t result in burning as it has significant chip clearing capacity.

I’d suggest having 3-4 blades of different widths, and different teeth counts to cover the range of typical tasks.  The blade that came with the saw you can keep (put aside), and use it for jobs where you wouldn’t want to subject a good blade to, such as sand-encrusted timber, aluminium etc.  (Yes, cutting aluminium on a bandsaw is a perfectly reasonable task, as is plastic).

The bandsaw is, in my opinion one of the safest cutting tools in the workshop – certainly much safer than the tablesaw, SCMS, or router table.  You can still do significant damage to oneself if not careful, but it is a tool I’m more comfortable in using (standard guards and safety gear all still bought into play of course).  The cut direction is down, into the table so work is much less likely to be thrown at you, and if there is a failure (such as a broken blade), it doesn’t fly around the workshop and instead simply stops moving.

You can still cut yourself though – no tool can be used with impunity.  A bandsaw has teeth, and any tool with teeth is designed to eat.  If it has no trouble with hard timber, then your hand/arm/body will prove no problem if you happen to offer it up as a sacrifice.

So the bandsaw – one of my must-have workshop tools.  Whether it is for resawing


or scrollsawing,


circle cutting (as will be covered in the next edition of ManSpace magazine)

Circle Cutting

Circle Cutting

or anything in between, it is often going to prove to be the go-to-tool.  In this case, (for the purposes of this article), its ability to break down logs and resaw boards is invaluable in the workshop.

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