Spotted!

One of the regular readers (Michael) spotted a very rare beast indeed in the aisle of his local Masters store. (Thanks for sending through the pic).

This would be the first time that any of the box warehouses has had this particular item in stock for a very long time – perhaps as far back as when Bunnings refused to stock any more GMC products (which included Triton), back in August 2008.

So this is a sight for saw eyes (yes, the pun is intentional).

Triton

I’m surprised it is not the WC7 model – fresh start, fresh product.

Checking the model number, it looks to be 101956.

Been so long since I’ve seen one!  I think the fence is on the wrong side, but it is only a hazy memory these days.  Can’t imagine if things went full circle, and a demo program started again.  That’d be too funny (in an ironic kinda’ way).

Definitely brings back fond memories.  I’d even go to a demo night if one was on, just to experience it again.

George Lewin

(Story relocated to here, and expanded to full length version)

For those of us who started our woodworking aspiring to own some of the magnificent looking orange machines we had seen on display, and on demonstration at the local Bunnings, this name would be very familiar.

To those less certain, George Lewin has been one of the most influential people in Australia, let alone the planet in getting people’s foot in the door of woodworking, having been the inventor of the Triton Workbench, and what became the Triton system.

My big foray into woodworking was based entirely on the Triton brand, and as my workshop grew, it became more and more Triton orange.  I took to demonstrating Triton in Bunnings, Mitre 10 on occasional weekends, and at wood shows, and was president of a Triton Woodworking club at Holmesglen (as well as creating their website, which became the largest Triton-based woodworking website in the world).

So it came as a complete surprise the other day when I had an email from the legend himself, saying nice things about Stu’s Shed, and asking about his beloved Triton.
George has kindly agreed to give us some background, of what he (and Triton) did back in the day, and also where he is and what he is up to today.

Please note, these will be in installments as George has time to write them.


George at 66, looking relaxed and kickin’ back in Thailand.

UPDATE: The article has now been relocated and extended, so check out the new, complete article here.

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).

A Story!

In traditional Frederick Forsythyesque style, a combination of fact, rumour, innuendo, speculation and fiction results in the following:

A Story.

Once upon a time, in the Night Garden….. (you can tell I watch too much 2 year-old TV!)

After many years, (6 for me), and meetings (approximately 60), the Triton Woodworkers Club, Holmesglen is no more.  From it’s height where membership was around 70 (and coincidentally I was President for a couple of those years), to the point where but a 1/10th were left, the club had no option but to dissolve.  Today was the last meeting (although given current Bond fever, “Never Say Never”) and while we are quoting movies and books, a quote from the book of a movie from 1984 “The world ended not with a bang, but a whimper”, and the club closed its doors.

It is a reflection on a number of things, although not the current financial crisis (that comes into play a little later), but the main being an apparent steady downturn in Triton sales, combined with the ongoing increase in ever-increasingly affordable big boys toys such as tablesaws.  Of course, referencing straight back to the current financial situation, with the plunge of the Aussie dollar, I wonder how cheap these large tablesaws will be shortly – perhaps the WC2000 is not such a bad option again after all.

And another quote, this time from the Wachowski brothers (or is that now the Wachowski brother and sister?) “Everything that has a beginning has an end”

With interesting things happening in China, the dollar, downturns in the (tool) marketplace, deals with the jolly green giant, and rumours of the sale of Triton to a European company looking at the Oz market, the next 6 to 12 months could be an interesting time.

Has Triton been sold?

Are the Germans coming?

Will an Australian Company beat them to the punch?

Will that result in the reemergence of the replacement for the WC2000, or will something new be coming?

Will we ever get to see a cast iron top workcentre with drop-in induction motor?

Will it have a SawStop mechanism and finally be able to tilt?

Will the old SuperJaws make a reappearance with the new one taking on a decidedly red (at least figuratively) colour scheme?

Will George himself make an appearance once again?

Will there be a three way deathmatch at the next Melbourne Woodworking Show, with the Chinese SuperJaws battling a new (old) Australian SuperJaws, with the Jaw-Horse doing a superplex off the top rope into the fray?

What the hell has Stu been smoking out in his shed?

Needless to say, that if the last 12 months were quite a storm of events, the next 12 will be a positive malestrom.

Triton Project Plans / Free Project Plans!

The Triton Mk3 Project Book is no longer commercially available, so Triton have released the projects from that book as PDFs. Despite being written for the Mk3, they are still very suitable for WC2000 owners (and are just good projects for non-Triton users as well).

Plus (!) This is the Triton Workcentre Jigs Triton Jig Guide

Triton have also released a number of videos about Triton tools and techniques on YouTube- Triton

(There are also a number of GMC videos available here)

Series 2000 WC Part 1 (Introduction)
Series 2000 WC Part 2 (More applications)
ETA300 Extension Table
BRA200 Bevel Ripping Guide
WCA390 Height Winder Kit (Assembly)
RTA300 Router Table
BJA300 Biscuit Joiner
FJA300 Finger Joiner
TRA001 ½” Router
PRA001 Powered Respirator
TA235CSL Circular Saw
SJA001 Superjaws
SJA200 Superjaws (New)
MSA200 Multi-Stand

Episode 33 Review of Triton 2300W Circular Saw

Episode 33 Review of Triton 2300W Circular Saw

Local Manufacturing

I was down at Triton’s factory earlier today – always like having a look around, and had a chance to pick up a replacement top for the workcentre (need mine to look good for demos / videos / photos etc).

It struck me as I was watching the top being assembled just how much I appreciate having things manufactured in my own country – being able to actually see the work that goes into producing something.

For example, the tracks that get riveted to the top (which are straight) would become warped by the riveting process, leaving the ends sticking out proud of the surface if not for the fact that before they get inserted, they are put into a press and pre-warped to counteract the rivets’ forces.  That is just so cool.

It is a pressed metal top, so it isn’t as robust and inherently flat as a cast and machined top, but I was also impressed that before the top was handed over, it went onto another table and had a straight edge put across its surface, and any slight high or low spots were then subjected to another press to remove them.

It is no wonder that the Triton Workcentre occupies so many home workshops in Australia (and elsewhere).  It may not have the 0.001″ accuracy of my new tablesaw, but it is definitely more than sufficient for a majority of home workshops.  I know they have their detractors, but to put it simply, if it wasn’t for the fact that there was this range of tools that escalates the backyard shed into a small woodworking workshop, and that it was (and is) Australian made, then I can say with a pretty high level of confidence that I wouldn’t be pursuing this passion (obsession) today.

Local industry, despite the extra costs, are worth supporting.  I know they will all fade and be gone soon enough to a Chinese or Indian factory near you, but until then….

Reminds me actually of a tour I did a few years ago (must be 10 years ago now – where does the time go?) of the large engineering firms in England.  There’s a country with a large manufacturing arm!  Wonder how they are traveling these days?  I went right through the Rolls Royce Gas Turbine plant, and Dunlop Aerospace Braking Systems (Dunlop may make tyres, but then you also need good brakes to stop an aircraft, and that is some amazing engineering if you consider what those components actually go through – it may feel gentle inside the plane, but those wheels and connected components are slammed heavily into the ground with a very heavy plane above them, and the forces are quite unbelievable!), and a number of other heavy engineering industries.  Fascinating things to see, and a real loss I believe if it all gets shipped to 3rd world countries just because they pay peanuts instead of wages.

However, it is hard to deny that we have tools in our workshops now that we’d never have dreamed of owning in the past because of it.  I still think though, that we will rue the day that we lost our own manufacturing capacity.

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