Feb 21

Could things just stop breaking please?

So immediately after buying it a nice new jig and making it a new backing board, the lidl grinder gave up on the grinding life. There’s something about noticing that your bowl gouge is bouncing on the stone and then realising that that’s happening because the stone is wobbling while doing around four thousand rpm in front of your face that will trigger both a sharp step to the right out of the line of fire, and will bump up the schedule for buying kit for the shed.

I probably shouldn’t be so annoyed, I got a good five years out of that and I paid about โ‚ฌ35 for it from Lidl, so I definitely got my money’s worth. And I’ve since taken it apart and the problem seems small enough that it can do light duty with a wire wheel or a buffing wheel later on, but for now it’s gone into storage along with the wheels (which were grand, they’re axminster wheels and are sound).

But I’m not a fan of the idea of exploding stone wheels in the shed given that there’s so little room that I’d get hit from all directions at once with the ricochets. So the plan to buy a slow-speed grinder was brought forward by a few months, and the plan was to buy a Creusen 7500TS because I’d used one in the woodturning course last year and they’re solid little beasties. But right now between covid and brexit, they’re out of stock all over the EU and the UK. So, plan B was the Dictum own-brand low-speed grinder, the DS150L. Placed an order and a bit over a week later, the large box shows up at the door along with Dictum catalogs to drool over.

It’s an absolute unit of a thing. Initial assembly took a little while and the sparkguards are a no-go because the bolts that attach them are so long they impinge on the wheels. Granted, I could grind them down, but honestly, given that I never use these things without a full faceshield, I’m not sure they’d give me anything. The spark arresters are a welcome addition and I left off the right hand table because that’s where the Tormek jig will go.

This thing is very very solidly built. Cast iron base, what looks to be a mild steel body. The tray thing on the bottom is thin plastic but you can’t just discard it as it’s the main cover over the inside and the electrics.

I did have to dissassemble it to put it on the backboard because it comes with heavy rubber feet so it can just sit on a bench and there are slots in the cast iron base to bolt it to a benchtop that way; but I wasn’t comfortable with that while it hangs on the wall. Maybe in a future shed ๐Ÿ˜€

Did I mention that it’s very very big? I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to reuse the backing board, but it just squeaked in there.

Okay, the entirety of the left wheel is now hovering out in free space while the right wheel has almost three millimetres of spare board left once everything is mounted, but it does fit.

You might also notice that the BGM-100 stand for the Tormek jig bar is now at full extension where as it was as short as I could make it with the Lidl grinder. Everything works, but it feels comically large compared to the old machine. And there’s a huge surface area to work on when sharpening, which is a nice bonus.

And it runs just so sweetly. Quiet, fast to get up to speed, and so solid and vibration free. If it lasts as long as the Lidl special, I’ll be very happy with it. I might even buy a CBN for it later this year if it works out (and if they come back into stock – again, covid and brexit is making a dogs breakfast out of a lot of companies’ stock levels).

With tools sharpened again, I made my first pen and a nice little box as birthday gifts for Claire, and now I have nothing in the must-do-first list in the shed so I’m thinking about the next thing I want to tackle, and well timed, this finally arrived as well…

China’s cheapest, but now I have an airbrush for every chestnut stain in the shed, and a gravity-fed cup for the iridescents and other paints and a second one for in the house because if they’re seven quid each, why not, and I do actually use them for fun outside of the shed anyway ๐Ÿ˜€

(3D printed models, not complete yet, much more work needed on painting and details)

‘Course, I’m also back to the Lidl air compressor because my little Draper 6L compressor gave up the ghost and now dumps the entire tank out through an internal valve somewhere inside the mechanism after pressurising. It should still be under warranty but I’ll give you three guesses how fast the company I bought it from is replying to my emails…

I did manage to make something from all the offcuts from the new baseboard for the old grinder though, so it took a full year, but I finally made something from offcuts that would otherwise have been burned ๐Ÿ˜€

Jan 21

New toys!

I often get gift vouchers for woodworking shops for the solstice holidays and birthdays and so on, and with Covid this year there’s been no real chance to go pottering round woodworking shops in person so those all built up; over the holidays I finally cashed them in and over the last week or two the delivery guys have been dropping off new toys at the house.

First up, no more burnt fingers when sanding bowls…

I finally found a BS10 Charnwood bowl sander kit after a lot of searching – it seemed everyone in Ireland and the UK and Europe was out of stock of this and none was expected till February, but Raitt’s up in Donegal had one or two left and even though they were technically closed for the holidays, I guess they were having the same kind of holidays I was having and they had it in the post before the new year started (I will definitely be going back there). I’ve had a small play with this since I got it and it’s such a huge step forward. I’m actually looking forward to the next bowl sanding now which seems a bit off ๐Ÿ˜€

Next up, I’ve been watching Colwin Way’s videos that he was doing for Axminister all last year during lockdown from his home workshop:

They were pretty good tutorials and one of the things he kept using is in that thumbnail – it’s a small platform that mounts in the banjo of the lathe along with a velcro-attached sandpaper disk on a plywood disk which has a metal faceplate ring on the back that his chuck grabs onto, so the lathe becomes a disk sander. It’s not a new idea by any means, but the way he was doing it was very straightforward and one tutorial covered how to build it and I have an Axminister lathe myself and a second faceplate ring for my chuck so the other parts (and they’re not hugely expensive for my lathe, came to about 25 quid in total) went into the order from the Carpentry Store

It’s a nice little bit of functionality to add for doing things like small toys and such on the lathe, as well as for ordinary rectilinear woodworking stuff. Now I just need to find storage space for it ๐Ÿ˜€

Next, I finally got myself a ring live center for the tailstock. Splitting stock with a 60 degree cone center is hopefully a thing of the past now (and since that caused some mushrooms to explode on me in the beginning, I will not miss it…).

That live center is the multihead one from Axminster so I can remove the ring part and replace it with one of a few others, and I’ve seen some examples on youtube of people turning their own insets for it for things like turning spheres and the like, so it looks to have some potential.

I also got a few carving bits from Saburrtooth for the dremel. I was watching Rebecca DeGroot making some experimental bits and pieces (seriously, you need to see her stuff on instagram, it’s phenomenal) and some of the techniques she was using looked like fun.

I only had a few minutes playing time with these so far, but there’s potential there. I also have had this idea in my head for the last six months for a bowl that I want to make that I’ll need these for (though that technique came more from Stewart Furini than Rebecca DeGroot). But that bowl isn’t even started yet, I’ve only just finished getting some resin into the blank to stabilise two annoying cracks…

I might have chosen the wrong pigments for those but I think I can work with it. If not, I’ll make another smaller one. Or something. I’m still working out how to get the thing I can see in my head onto paper, let alone into wood.

Moving on, one of the things Colwin Way was covering was pen turning and I kindof always thought I’d give that a try, it seems to be mandatory if you have a minilathe, so I got a beginner’s pen turning kit. I expect the first few to be the pen equivalent to a funnel, but hey, it’s all good fun, right? ๐Ÿ˜€

It’s a rather nice mandrel that one apparently, which is blind luck, it happened to be the one the Carpentry Store stocked that fitted my lathe. Anyway, I’ll give it a go and see how it works out.

There was a bit of restocking as well. I’ve used up all the black, yellow, green and red from my sample pack of Chestnut stains on various holiday decorations and things so I ordered bottles of those to replenish (I figure I’ll keep doing that as I use the little bottles up so that I only have to buy the stuff I’m actually using), as well as some more acrylic sealer because I was out. And I got one of the little timber kits for Calum to build and paint, which should be fun:

There was a light pull drive as well because I want a friction drive to try to get Calum turning little things on the lathe, and I don’t want him using a chuck or a pronged drive center just yet – if he sticks a tool into something with a friction drive center, all that happens is the work stops spinning, rather than there being enough of a connection between spindle and work that it can throw the tool around on him. That hasn’t arrived yet, but should be fun.

And lastly… well, look, I got two nice woodturning tools last year, a Crown PM 10mm bowl gouge and an Ashley Iles 1″ skew chisel. They’re lovely tools but I’ve been afraid to go near them because my sharpening setup was… well, it wasn’t getting it done. I was grinding into the jig itself for one gouge, for another I couldn’t get the jig to clamp it at all, the axis line for the inside and outside curves on the gouges weren’t aligned anymore so I had asymmetric tools, it was a mess.

That last one is an old photo from April – I did change out the carborundum wheels there for aluminium oxide ones a few months back, but the jigs themselves are cheap knockoffs of the wolverine guides and they just were driving me nuts and they were wearing in places and I couldn’t see how to get better performance out of them, so I splurged and bought the BGM-400 kit, took the grinder platform apart and rebuilt it all…

So now I have the Tormek mounting bar, and the gouge sharpening jig, the general purpose sharpening jig that does roughing gouges and parting tools and so on, and the skew chisel sharpening bit. And it’s very very neat indeed. I’m hoping to be able to fix the bad sharpening on all of my gouges, stop shortening the tools quite so fast by keeping a consistent grinding angle rather than constantly having to grind off another bit of steel to correct a bad grind and so on. I know, it’s not a slow speed grinder and it’s not got CBN wheels, but those will have to wait for another day and with a consistent jig setup for sharpening I might be able to start using that lovely Ashley Isles skew soon…

There was one more thing, and I know this is all excessive but it’s birthday gifts and solstice gifts and some savings that would have been spent over five or six months all happening at once before Brexit really bites and we can’t get this stuff or the price doubles in the next few weeks. That’s more likely than not I think – we already are having increased problems getting stuff from the UK or Europe, DPD won’t ship to Ireland at the moment at all because Brexit has mangled both exports from the UK to the EU and shipping from EU to Ireland (we are still in the EU in case anyone was wondering ๐Ÿ˜€ ) via the land bridge over the UK, which has caused a few things to go astray (and I don’t even want to think about what’s happening to hardwood prices at the moment).

Plus as I said about the bowl sander, a lot of stuff is out of stock everywhere with no really clear restocking date; and we’ve already seen one major woodturning shop in the UK (the Toolpost) close its doors with Covid and Brexit being cited as the cause. Hopefully more don’t follow, but 2020 was not a year that gave us all a lot of cause for optimism, and so far 2021 has started off not getting out of the first week before the US has an actual coup attempt and the news cycle in Ireland has been something of a nightmare as well; we’re now 20% worse than the US for Covid infection rates per capita – literally no other country in the world has had positivity test results this bad or this fast a descent into disaster – and on top of that we just had the Mother and Baby homes report published which simultaneously informed us of nine thousand dead infants in the small percentage of religious institutions investigated and also tried to absolve from blame the religious orders running those institutions and the state that signed contracts with them. Maybe this just isn’t optimism’s best year either.

But I’m one of the very lucky ones in that I can try retail therapy for now instead of the internal screaming. This last present to myself is a real luxury – I bought a set of six cheap airbrushes (the suction variety rather than the gravity fed ones) to put the chestnut stains in. Changing bottles on the one gun was leading to a rather surprising amount of stain winding up on my hands and the bottles and the floor because of capillary action and general clumsiness – I’m hoping this will alleviate it (and there’s a seven-euro-special one as well for gravity feeding so I can try other paints). Now, the airbrushes from aliexpress aren’t exactly what you’d call good compare to a Badger or an Iwata (in fact I don’t think they’re good enough to even dust off an Iwata), but for the kind of thing I’m doing, I think using an Iwata would be an absolute travesty of waste. Those should be used by people who know what they’re doing on very fine work, not the stuff I’m doing, which is the airbrush equivalent of painting houses (badly). They’re cheap, they’re cheerful and they should be here before March and I’m looking forward to playing with them.