Festool in the House


Ok, so it doesn’t have the same ring as Ali G, (and I suspect there are very few who even get the reference!  Oh well).

My Festool CT36 has managed to find its way inside, and it looks a bit out of place – when you get it in a small room, you realise just how large it is (particularly combined with the Oneida cyclone and Festool Boom arm).  If I hadn’t cut down the height of the boom arm by 6″ or so when I got it to fit under the shed rafters, it wouldn’t have been able to get through the doors either (without lifting and tilting the whole setup that is).

I have bought it inside as I am doing some patching and plastering, and wanted to sand without dust.

Speaking of dust, before I bought it inside, I gave the unit a quick once-over with compressed air, and emptied the bags.  Well that is not strictly true.

My Festool has the Oneida Dust Deputy Ultimate II on it from Professional Woodworker Supplies.


Dust Deputy Ultimate II

I hadn’t checked it for a while (other than to quickly confirm if the bin was full or not), but certainly hadn’t checked how much carry over there had been.

The Ultimate II has a small tube that provides suction to the bucket, and as such means the bin can have a plastic bag for dust collection.  This is very convenient, and a significant improvement over the Ultimate (I). So I was able to lift this bag out, and it was full of the worst kind of dust that your parents warned you about.  Not the sort of dust you want to bring home to meet the folks.

The dust that had been collected was so fine, that if thrown onto an open fire (or ignition source), it would create a serious fireball.  It is all about the surface area of the fuel, and the abundance of oxygen.  Not the sort of stuff you want to be breathing.

So then I went and tried to empty the Longlife Festool dust bag.  I tried, but there was nothing to empty.  It had all be captured by the Cyclone.  If there was any carryover, it was too fine to see, or capture easily in the vac bag, and would have then been caught by the HEPA filter.  What was going in was definitely not coming out!

So bad news for the Longlife bag – with this system, you can stick with a disposable bag, and even that for a long time.  You don’t actually need the capacity of the large vac either if that isn’t as important.  It also makes emptying much easier, as you are not lifting off the whole motor to get access to the dust bag.  Not to say that the Festool vac is redundant – having a combination of autostart or direct power through ports on the vac, boom arm, combined power lead and hose, variable speed, HEPA filter etc etc, still sets the Festool Cleantex apart.  The Ultimate II just makes it even better.

It was a pretty convincing demo of the Ultimate II cyclonic dust separator.

Well I was impressed.

Breaking Edges

One of the problems with having to rush to finish the Christmas present for my daughter (the toy kitchen), is that I had to skip some steps to get done in time.

As I was designing as I built, I wasn’t sure which edges would end up being the outer areas of the finished product, and thus needing to be rounded over.

Rounding edges over have a couple of benefits – the obvious one is removing sharp edges and corners, making them more child-friendly, and overall nicer to the whole tactile experience.  The other benefit is it reduces the chance of splintering of the edges.

I normally like a 1/16″ roundover – the object retains the overall concept of the square edges, but with a good rounding.  I normally use a plane to achieve this – the Fastcap Artisan Radius Plane (from Professional Woodworkers Supplies).


Fastcap Artisan Radius Plane

It is a great little plane, and works really effectively.  When I first got it, no edge was safe!  Unfortunately for this project, as I had already assembled it, this plane is no good for getting into corners and therefore wasn’t a real option.

Onto plan B.

I thought a Dremel may do the trick, even found some Dremel roundover bits in Masters.  Unfortunately I didn’t read the packet, and it turned out that the bits were specifically for the Dremel Trio.

The idea of using the Dremel high speed rotary should have worked, but I have not been able to find any round-over bit that fits.

So then I decided to look at the Dremel Trio – it isn’t too expensive, and seeing as I had the roundover bits, that might have been a reasonable outcome.  However, once I looked at it closely, I was disappointed in the build quality, especially of the base.


Dremel Trio


Trio Foot

It was really the mechanism for adjusting the base that was really cheap – not the quality that I associate with Dremel, and it really put me off buying it.  With the cost of the Trio, and the set of router bits I needed to get the desired roundover, that started becoming a reasonable portion of much better tools.

It was about now that I was kicking myself for selling the Triton Spin Saw.  Not that I have needed it until now, and holding a tool for years to finally find an actual purpose is obviously not worthwhile.  But it would have fitted the Dremel Router bits, and performed as a large version of the high speed rotary.

I have an old GMC Laminate Trimmer, but found that both for the size of the base, and the extension of the bearing section of the router bit, I couldn’t get into the areas I needed to.

So next, I had a look at the Bosch Blue laminate trimmer, or what the actually call (and more appropriately), the Palm Router.  This has the benefit of taking 1/4″ router bits, and is the machine of choice for the CNC Shark & Shark Pro. A pretty good endorsement on its own!


Bosch Blue Palm Router

It is a very nice-looking tool, and doesn’t try to “bling-out” to create a sale.  My only experience of Bosch is a corded drill I bought about 14 years ago, and despite my best efforts I haven’t managed to kill it yet.  Says something about the brand.  Not sure about the height adjustment on this either – seemed a bit difficult, but they may have been inexperience with the tool.


Festool Laminate Trimmer

Finally, I considered the Festool OFK 500 Q.  There are larger trimmers from Festool, but getting into tight areas is key.  The base looks promising, and the cut-off area from one side allows it to get into pretty tight areas.  There is one ‘interesting’ feature of this tool – it takes proprietary router bits.  However, it does come with what Festool calls an Ogee router bit, which everyone else calls a roundover bit, so that is a bonus.

So those are the choices I am considering.  The Festool is the most expensive, but as I was already willing to get the Dremel (plus the router bits) which came to $200, that is a reasonable amount off the price of the Festool, so it is more justifying the difference.

Got some thinkin’ to do.



Scratchin’ out a living

When you are used to using power tools and machines for your woodworking, it is easy to forget that sometimes a handtool is the best tool for the job.

They are quieter (much, much quieter), safer (although any sharp thing can cut), and often can get into places denied to power tools.   They also can have a different method for removing material. Where both can slice, only a handtool can scrape.  (Now I’m sure someone will tell me I’m wrong…..)

Scraping has its benefits.  It avoids tearout, as the blade is not parting material ahead of the blade – lifting and cutting.  Think of all the adverts on TV about shavers, where the blade lifts and cuts the hair.  If you are lifting timber, there is a chance more will lift than you intended, and tear out.  Scraping has the blade at a different angle of attack, with the cutting edge trailing behind, rather than leading the way.

Scraping is used in a number of hand tools.  For planing a surface with torturous grain (burls and the like), you can get planes with the blade set vertically for a scraping cut.  You can use scrapers (a piece of steel with a fine burr to perform the actual cut) as an alternative (and superior to) sandpaper.  And you can use a scratch stock as an alternative to a router.

It is a very simple tool – a piece of spring steel with the required profile cut into it.  And a holder.

You can make your own, or check out this one from Hock Tools (Ron Hock being very well known for the quality of his plane blades).

Hock Scratch Stock

This is available from Professional Woodworkers Supplies in Australia, who sell items from the Hock Tools’ range.  The body is made from a laminate of bamboo, which has good water resistance, and shape stability.  Instructions for using the scraper can be found here.

Where noone would consider manufacturing their own router bit, this comes with a second piece of tool steel so you have plenty of opportunity to create just the profile you want.

I came across an interesting concept while looking at these scratch stocks (and especially the supplied profile).  It used to be quite common for this profile to be used on the leading edge of a kitchen bench….underneath.  The purpose was as a drip arrestor.  Any liquid spilling and running over the edge would gather at the bottom of the curve of the profile and drip off, rather than continuing on its journey into one of the drawers (often the cutlery!)  Simple idea – pity it seems to be forgotten by modern kitchen manufacturers.

A very simple concept, a very simple tool, the ability to make your own profiles, and the ability to deliver that profile just where you need it, right out of reach of powered tools.

Knuckling Under

Being able to firmly secure a workpiece down significantly improves both accuracy and safety.  There are lots of different clamps on the market that engage with the working surface, and work with varying degrees of success.

The knuckle clamp from Woodpeckers is an innovative approach (as is typical for them!), using a reinforced polycarbonate body with seven pivot points to maximise the capacity of the clamp.  Either end of the body is a pivoting foot to ensure the clamp makes maximum purchase on the working surface, and the workpiece.

Clamping down the workpiece

Clamping down the workpiece

The clamp also utilises the Woodpeckers Multi-knob, which makes gripping the knob and tensioning it up easy.  Not sure just how much load the clamp can take, bit it certainly provided more than enough for the test job here.  They are said to be virtually indestructible, but I didn’t want to risk destroying the ones I had to prove the point!  You can use Knuckle Clamps on all sorts of tools and jigs (homemade and otherwise) which have T track slots. In this case I chose to use the clamps on the Pro Drill Press table from Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  It would work equally as well on other items such as the router table, Incra Mitre Express, the T slots on a Torque Workcentre, and any homemade jigs that you have incorporated T slots.

Work holddown

Work holddown

As a bit of a test for the clamps, I decided to try a partial-width drill with a forstner bit.  Should prove a pretty good test of the hold capability of the clamp.

Partial width forstner bit hole

Partial width forstner bit hole

Clamps held well, without any suggestion of a kickback.  Didn’t know you could even do this with a forstner bit, especially when the central pin was not in contact with the work.  Something you must not do with a forstner bit mounted in a handheld drill – the risk of a kickback is too great.  On the drill press this is achievable, but you must keep hands well away.

Preset Clamp Height

Preset Clamp Height

The clamps can be preset, both in position along the track (and locked in position), and also preset for the degree of “opening”.  This is via a second nut on the bolt which has a spring to hold the clamp up.  This nut does not have to be moved while clamping down, so makes clamping, and reclamping work very easy.

Partial width forstner bit hole

Partial width forstner bit hole

After the first cut, I tried a few more with equal success.

Forstner bits are boring ;)

Forstner bits are boring 😉

So that is the knuckle clamp from Woodpeckers.  Sold in Australia through Professional Woodworkers Supplies.  They also have kits which includes track to create some useful bench-clamping solutions.

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!

Now That’s a Knife

It’s only been 4 months since I got this set of steak knives from Professional Woodworker Supplies.  That is a pretty quick turnaround time for me these days!  Everything hasn’t gone to plan though, as I will elaborate, but I got close to achieving a good result.  I don’t like accepting a compromise – it may be that others wouldn’t notice anything wrong, but I would every time I use one of these.  However, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Knife blanks

These four knives are begging for some stunning handles (the timber on either side are known as “scales”), and so the timber of choice is African Rosewood.  I recently bought a couple of lengths during the recent April WoodFest with the vague idea of making a box, but it jumped out at me when I was looking for what to make the knives from.  The timber is around 19mm thick, so a bit over double the thickness required for each side of the knife.  So resawing was the order of the day.

Resawing the African Rosewood

I changed the blade down to a 5/8″ blade on the Carbatec bandsaw, then racked up the tension.  With the MagSwitch fence in place (single roller), the blade sliced the timber cleanly in two.  I am so loving having the bandsaw tensioning handle below the upper wheel.  The benefits of a larger bandsaw.

Single Roller MagFence making the job easy

Can’t beat those MagFences either for resawing. Love how easy, and accurate it makes the task.

Passes through the Drum Sander for accurate dimensioning

From the bandsaw, the next step is to run it through the drum sander.  This may not be everyone’s first choice – for one you have to have a drum sander to be able to use it.  I’ve become a big fan, especially for situations like this.  These are pieces of timber way too short to ever consider running through a thicknesser, so you’d have to resort to a ROS, hand plane or similar.  Me, I like the electron-murdering whirling abrasive wheel! With careful passes, I was able to get the board down to within 0.1mm of the required thickness.

Jig to accurately cut the handles

Next job was to shape the scales.  The only important side initially is the edge that butts up against the bolster.  To save on timber (a big mistake – not how I chose to do it, but any attempt to scrimp on timber inevitably leads to undesirable results, and more timber wastage. I know this, and still find myself doing it), I cut the timber close to dimension, and drilled holes using an MDF template I made of the scale from the knife tang. I used a couple of lengths of brass rod to replicate the rivets to position each scale to be cut precisely.

Thinning down the pins

For the two pins, I needed them a little thinner than the rivets would be, so I could get the scales off the jig.  To take off a small, controlled amount, mounting the pin in the drill, then running it on the sandpaper provided a precise size decrease.

Ready to cut the handle end

In hindsight, doing it this way was a mistake. Drilling the holes for the rivets needed to be done after the first scale was glued to the tang.

Knife handles roughed out

The scales, ready to be glued on.  Rather than gluing both sides at once, the plan was to do one side only, then use a pattern copying bit to get the scale to accurately match the tang.

Gluing the first handle side on

Two part epoxy resin (Araldite) being the glue of choice.

Clamped up

There is plenty of overhang which is a good thing, but this is where two mistakes compounded.  The trying to be too thrifty which resulted in the scale slipping in a couple of cases enough that the tang wasn’t properly covered, and when the glue had set, not trimming off the excess resulted in a couple of chipouts on the router table that destroyed the handle.  The router bit here is a straight bit with copying bearing.  Straight after this, I was down at Carbatec and picked up a solid carbide spiral router bit with double bearing – the spiral has a shearing/slicing action rather than a chipping action for the next time I attempt to make more handles.

Shaping the blank to the handle

Did have a couple of successes, the bearing running on the tang so the scale gets cut accurately to match.

As good as it got

The results were looking good, and the few refinements to my technique should prove very successful.  For the handles here, I took the photos, then took a chisel and snapped the scales off. Oh well, I’d rather it right than compromise.

Inlay Kit for the Router

I’ve always wanted to do inlays, be that detail for boxes, or adding that something extra to other projects, but it always did seem to large a mountain to climb to work out how to do it, and more precisely, to get the templates just right to make it work.

There is a secret (not a very well kept one mind!), and it actually comes down to the template guide moreso than anything else.

In a collaboration with Woodpeckers and Whiteside (and Professional Woodworkers Supplies who are bringing them into Australia), there is a kit available which makes doing an inlay a breeze.  And I mean really, really easy.  This is my very first attempt to ever do an inlay in a contrasting coloured timber.

Poker Template Inlay

Poker Template Inlay

Now before I get into the “How”, lets have a look at the “What”, as in “What are we actually looking at here?”

On the right side, we have an inlay of a contrasting timber (which in this case happened to be approx 3mm thick), which is completely flush with the pine. Pretty clever eh, even if I did do it myself!

On the left, you can see a cut out, and that is simply because I used this test piece as the backing for cutting out the contrasting heart.  There is a video btw, and it will be on Stu’s Shed in a couple of days.

So that is the “What”, now the “How”

There are a few bits n pieces to this puzzle. Firstly, and most obviously, we need a template. This can be shop made, or commercially purchased. The one I am using for this is the Poker Inlay Template from Woodpeckers, which is 1/4″ thick phenolic, which means it is strong, and dimensionally stable through a significant temperature range (well beyond shed temp ranges!)

Poker Inlay Template

Poker Inlay Template

As you can see there are 2 of each pattern, and to give a rough idea of sizes, the smaller ones are approx 3″ high, and the larger 4″.

You don’t use both of the sizes for the male and female parts of the pattern – the template guide takes care of the sizing requirements.  You just have to choose if you want the smaller or larger design. There are other templates available from Woodpeckers – a butterfly template which is for butterfly key joinery

butterfly-joint (which is both a mechanically strong, and decorative panel joinery method), and a circle template for ….. um….. circles! Particularly beneficial for both contrast inlays, as well as simply producing accurate, larger diameter holes.

Imagine, for example, making a computer desk, and using the circle template to not only cut the hole for the cables, but instead of using one of those commercial plastic caps,

H3864you could, with a little thought, produce your own in timber – so much nicer!

Hmm – getting a bit sidetracked.  We still want to know the answer to the big question “HOW?”

Tempted to make you wait for the video……. oh, all right – here’s the short version.

Whiteside Inlay Kit

Whiteside Inlay Kit

The kit comes with a 1/8″ diameter solid carbide spiral router bit (on the right) with a 1/4″ shank. Next to it is an alignment pin so you can accurately centre the template guide.

Finally, you have the template guide itself. It is a pretty standard size (unless you are using a Triton router for example, which uses the 50mm or so templates) so fits a number of routers.  If not, as was the case for me, it didn’t fit my router, until I added the Woodpeckers router base that is! Update – not exactly true – as revealed by Hugh, and further clarification in this post.

Woodpeckers Universal Adapter Plate

Woodpeckers Universal Adapter Plate

There might seem to be a LOT of holes in this phenolic plate, and in fact the one I have has even more! It is so the plate can fit almost any router, and definitely includes the Triton router.  I’ve added this to my 1400W router, and will probably leave it on permanently, so I can continue to use the different template guides. The centre hole is perfect for the brass guides.

Back to the template guide.  It is designed specifically to work with the 1/8″ router bit.  There is a brass disk in the earlier image.  When cutting out the cavity, this disk is fitted to the template guide. An O Ring inside the ring ensures it stays in place.

Next, this disk is removed, and the same template is used to cut out the contrasting timber.  That’s about it – a really simple evolution in the end, and a classy finish.

The Poker Inlay Template will be put to good use in an upcoming project, when I make a poker table. (If you couldn’t guess!!)

So as mentioned, there will be a video out in the next couple of days so keep an eye for that.

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