Ode to Joy — Peter Follansbee, joiner’s notes

I first learned about Beethoven through Peanuts and Huntley/Brinkley. I was awake in the night last night, and thought of this wonderful video – I first saw it 6 years ago, and posted it then at Christmastime. It has nothing to do with Christmas, but that doesn’t matter. We could all use a little joy […]

Ode to Joy — Peter Follansbee, joiner’s notes

Shared by US Woodworker Peter Follansbee…

Here’s to a little joy in our lives!

A Proper Australian Dolls House

Bob Aitken passed this on to me:-

CVWA member Dick White has been spending some time in the shed during COVID restrictions.  He recently finished a doll’s house for one of his granddaughters – see photos. Now working on a truck for his grandson.  Well done Dick – a ripper of a doll’s house by CVWA member Dick White.

This is a proper Australian Dolls House. Does it have a redback?

Free Workbench Book…

Lost Arts Press is a small independent USA based publishing house that specialises in publishing books about woodwork. Some of their titles are new, some are reprints of older books or magazine articles. They are mostly USA based, but many of the books are from other countries – UK, France even Latvia!

The books are stocked in Australia by Lie-Neilson Australia and by Carbatec. I have a couple of Lost Arts Press books – they are well made, usually with cloth bindings and quality paper. They are also well written and well designed.

Lost Arts Press is the brainchild of Christopher Schwartz, woodworker, teacher, journalist, author and former editor of Popular Woodworking Magazine. He is driven by his personal commitment to what he calls ‘Amercian Anarchy’ – and it doesn’t involve bombs and revolution.

Lost Arts Press have released the book ‘The Anarchist’s Workbench’ as a free download in .pdf format – which means that you can read the book on your computer, your tablet device or even your smart phone. Or you can print the book from your computer to your home printer – although at 316 pages, it will chew through a bit of paper and ink!

I haven’t read all of the book yet, but I have enjoyed what I have read so far. Chris Schwartz begins The Anarchist’s Workbench with a bit of history of his experiences with work benches and a bit about his personal approach to woodworking and life in general. He describes the bench that is the distillation of his experience with work benches, and then he describes the process of making the Anarchist’s Workbench. The book also has sections on historical work benches, bench hardware, fixtures and fittings – even using a bench with no vices!

Workbenches are a very personal tool. Some folks are workbench obsessed, and want the best ever workbench – they can turn their benches in to works of art, making them out of exotic timbers, fitted with exotic hardware and costing a mint. Some woodworkers use an old door on trestles as their workbench – I did for years. There are as many different points of view on what makes the ideal workbench as there are opinions on the ideal bench hardware.

The Anarchist’s Workbench is designed to be affordable, practical and highly effective, using construction timber to make the bench top and structure. And I’m sure it works very well. The book is written for readers from the USA, but the information and advice can be applied to Australian woodworkers.

The book also reflects the authors interest in historical benches and woodworking methods – that’s OK too. The reader can take or leave the advice, and make a bench to suit themselves.

For what its worth, my own bench (pictured above and below) was made mostly of oregon that was pulled out of a verandah and deck of our house at the time, as well as other odd timbers – recycled bridge timbers and even some treated pine 190 x 45 that we had lying around. I used low cost vices, and fitted them out with hardwood faces. At the back of my mind was the idea that I could always build another one if my bench disappointed. It may not be perfect, but I’m not disappointed with it, and I have no plans to replace or upgrade it.

If you are interested in workbenches, or you secretly want the coolest workshop, or you desperately need a bench of your own, down load the free book and start reading. Once you have read the book, sketch up the bench you want to work with, and start building. How hard can it be?

To download the book, click here and follow the links…

Local Galleries Reopening…

Coldstream Gallery in Ulmarra have announced that they have reopened to visitors – although with reduced hours. Meanwhile, check the video that Coldstream Gallery posted earlier this month…

While we are here, check out Coldstream Gallery’s new website, with some of our members work in their on-line store – click here.

Meanwhile, Ferry Park Gallery at Maclean has also reopened for business. Ferry Park is open from 9:00am to 3:00pm daily. Although business is quiet, partly due to the Covid, but also the dislocation of the new highway, but numbers are reasonable and should pick up once travel to Queensland resumes.

Bellingen Woodcraft Gallery is also set to reopen soon. The new owner, Ian Horncastle is set to reopen on July 1 – more on the Woodcraft Gallery later….

Axminster Eccentric Spiralling Chuck

Recently three CVWA members (Neil Cryer, Terry Hulm and Bob Aitken) each purchased an Axminster Eccentric Spiralling Chuck. This chuck, made in Axminster UK using CNC techniques, is typically used for a variety of eccentric geometric patterns and spiralling stems. Here Bob, Neil and Terry describe the chuck, show some or their initial work and comment about their use of the chuck.

The Axminster chuck (Photo. 1) consists of a faceplate ring which can be held by a conventional four-jaw (dovetail) chuck, a central main plate which can be adjusted to create different amounts of offset, and a small faceplate that can be indexed to 12 positions. The 12 indexing positions on the small faceplate can be seen in Photo. 1. The small faceplate is attached to the workpiece by three screws. 

For offset positions there are four settings clockwise and four anticlockwise. By loosening the counter sunk machine screws on the main plate, the plate can be rotated and set to any of the threaded holes on the faceplate ring. The extent of offsets (centres) achievable are shown on a workpiece in Photo. 2. The centre is shifted by approximately 4, 7, 11 and 14mm as the main plate is moved successively from one hole to the next.  These eight offset positions combined with the 12 indexing positions on the small faceplate allow for the creation of a large number of geometric patterns.

Photo. 1. Axminster chuck components (left) and the assembled chuck.
Photo. 2. Centre with no offset (C) and with offsets for clockwise (red) and anticlockwise (yellow) rotation of the main plate.

Bob’s comments and workpieces

Prior to purchasing this chuck I had not owned an offset chuck.  So initially, I explored its offset capabilities and turned a few offset items (see photos) leaving Neil and Terry to explore the pattern and inlay possibilities of combining offset and indexing.   

Although the instructions mention gluing the indexed faceplate to the workpiece, I used screws that imbedded at least 15 to 20mm into the workpiece as I considered this safer.  Consequently, this means that 20mm is sacrificed from bottom of the workpiece.  An alternative I used for one workpiece was to attach the workpiece with wood glue to a sacrificial piece of timber screwed to the faceplate.

The Axminster eccentric spiralling chuck is probably best used for small to medium sized workpieces.  The size of the workpiece is limited by the ability of your lathe to handle imbalance. However, my first item was a large (300mm diameter) offset bowl. Because of imbalance I had to turn this bowl at a very low lathe speed. Even for relatively smaller items such as the offset bud vases shown a low lathe speed was needed.

Although I have yet to do any geometric patterns, the chuck, in my view, represents good value for money. On the downside I would have preferred the indexed faceplate to be of steel rather than aluminium as it is easily scratched and marked.  Instructions provided with the chuck were not particularly helpful.

An offset Jcaranda bowl and two offset bud vases turned by Bob Aitken using the Axminster chuck.

Neil’s comments and workpiece

This first trial using an eccentric chuck took quite a while as the variations available take time to digest. It’s a fiddle to keep taking the chuck off the lathe for adjustments and the instructions are scant. However, it was a most entertaining first attempt and there will be much more work done with this chuck!

Offset inlay in a lidded bowl using the Axminster chuck by Neil Cryer.

Terry’s comments and workpieces

To do the geometric patterns shown in the photos below, both the offset and indexing capabilities of the chuck are utilised. To change the indexing position, the Axminster chuck has to be removed from the conventional four-jaw chuck, a machine screw loosened, and the small faceplate rotated to the desired position. When remounted this can result in very slight alignment changes. Similarly, loosening the machine screws to offset the main plate results in the faceplate ring loosening in the jaws and may result in a small realignment issue. I plan to investigate the use of a spacer on the four-jaw chuck to prevent the Axminster faceplate ring moving when the machine screws are loosened.

Terry Hulm used the Axminster chuck for geometric patterns with resin inlay and geometric texture.

Cyclone Dust Collection for your Vacuum

A couple of years ago, I wanted to upgrade my dust collection system. The Triton dust bucket worked OK, but the filter blocked a fair bit, and a fair bit of dust got through to the vacuum bag. And cleaning the filter was messy.

Carbatec sell the American Oneida system – a cyclone and dust bucket. I’ve no doubt that its a good product, and probably worth the money, but it was more than I was prepared to spend at the time.

So I went on to eBay, or evilBay, as my son calls it – found a bunch of cheaper and similar cyclones – bought one for not much money. (For what its worth, they are are even cheaper now!) When the unit arrived, I started to look for fittings to connect my hoses to the cyclone inlet and outlet.

Finally, after a lot of procrastinating, I turned a couple of fittings out of pine. I re-purposed the old Triton bucket, sealed the cracks in the bottom and hooked up the system to the Trade Tools Industrial vacuum cleaner. It worked.

There was a drawback – the system was cumbersome to move around, and I would regularly tip it over, which didn’t do much for its dust collection. Two years later, I made a dinky cart for the vacuum cleaner and cyclone.

How well does it work? I used the system for all sorts – sanding dust, floor dust, router table, power saw dust, chisel chips, what ever. I swept up the most of the big plane shavings because the neighbour has chooks, and we swap eggs for sawdust. But everything else went into the cyclone. When the Triton bucket was about 2/3 full, I emptied it and weighed the sweepings – around 2kg. I took the vacuum bag out (new bag), weighed it, emptied the dust out and shook it about, weighed it again – 5 gram of dust made it into the vacuum cleaner. That means approximately 99.7% of the dust stayed in the cyclone.

It took a few years, and if I’d bought the Oneida system, I might have been using it form the get go. But all said and done – Happy with that!

100th Anniversary for Iconic Australian Alvey Fishing Reel Manufacturer

Alvey (late 1920s – early 1930s) with a spring loaded (Gem) centre pivot and Silky Oak reel. Restored by Bob Aitken.

Bob Aitken has provided this story on anniversary of the remarkable Alvey fishing reels.

This year (2020) is the 100th anniversary for iconic Australian fishing reel manufacturer Charles Alvey & Sons. Over the 100 years, Alvey have used a range of materials for their reels (eg. Bakelite spools were introduced in 1936; graphite backing plates in the 1990’s) but here I will mainly describe their wooden reels.

The company began production in 1920 when Charles Alvey used a treadle lathe (no electricity at the factory) to turn spools and backing plates from Silky oak. By the mid 1920’s powered lathes enabled the backing plates to be machined from gunmetal and the spindles made from brass. Rosewood and Red Bean (Miva Mahogany) timbers were used to turn spools.

For a brief period after World War II, post war material shortages lead to the use of Camphor Laurel for spools. For the larger diameter spools it was necessary to replace Camphor Laurel (which had inconsistent grain) with finer grained cedar.  By the 1950’s Australian Red Cedar was used almost exclusively for the spools.

Alvey reels are known for their quality and longevity so pre-production treatment of the timber was important. Selected cedar was slabbed and seasoned for two years. Spools were rough turned and then set aside for a further two months before final turning. I have restored a number of wooden Alvey reels from the 1950’s and have been impressed by the general soundness of the old spools and fittings.

In 1974 Alvey stopped using cedar and the spools were made from a polyester and fibreglass mix.  However, the company has marked anniversary milestones by producing limited editions of reels with Cedar spools.

Restored 1960s era Alvey reel with a Red Cedar spool.
Old Alvey spools used to make Reel Clocks