Visit to the WA Wood Show

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After a few weeks of heady anticipation, I today had my first visit to the WA Wood Show. To sum it up: I can’t wait ‘til next year!

The show was held at the Claremont Show Grounds across three days from Friday through Sunday. A few of the Friday talks caught my eye but as I ended up working Friday, I went on Saturday; apart from a chainsaw mill setup outside, everything was indoors at the Jubilee Pavilion—the pavilion is big but it was busy from the time I arrived just past ten and stayed that way until 3:30. Parking was free—where can you say that these days?!

My wife was sleeping off a night at work and I decided to go on my own since I didn’t want to be worrying about boring a friend or family member who’s not really interested in wood. My “style” at these kind of events is a bit weird: I circulate frequently but quickly, surveying the layout and goings on and slowly zeroing in on my interests. My wife would have been bored stiff but I’ve got to say thanks to the handful youthful women who did come along with their men and made what would have otherwise been a Viagra-filled sausage party much more tolerable for younger gents like myself—WA woodworker’s girlfriends and wives are hot!

Despite being busy, the stands felt generally well laid-out and not squeezed in. It was great having all of the big shops with a lot of their large equipment displayed in the one spot, although—despite having all hands on deck—chatting with the sales reps was difficult. In addition to Carbatec, Power Tools and Machinery Sales were there along with Beyond Tools, Timbecon, and the local Felder reseller. I don’t recall an Alltools booth labelled as such but they were there in some form.

On the manufacturer side, most of the retailers listed above had side stands set up showing off Festool (it was actually quite a large display) and Makita (I’m pleased to know I paid a bit less—with shipping—for my Makita LS1214 SCMS than the one I saw advertised today ;-). There was also a Dewalt and Black and Decker break out; Jet and Powermatic were covered by PTMS and Hitachi, Bosch, and Metabo were covered as well by other retailers. On theWA Wood Show hand tools side, Lee-Nielson had what looked like all of their hand planes and a bunch of chisels, saws, and rasps on display—a good effort considering the only way to purchase their gear that I’m aware of is through their US web site. I didn’t see much on the Veritas side.

I want to single out Lee-Nielson in particular because it was really nice to be able to hold their stuff and actually try it out on a block of wood they had in the vice for that purpose. The reps were Australian but I don’t know of anyone selling Lee-Nielson planes in WA; since Lee-Nielson make expensive stuff, it was awesome touching/feeling/trying. Until today I had yet to have a really positive plane experience so it’s good having something to compare against even if I don’t buy top of the range. That said, I really liked the low angle block plane with the adjustable mouth and I’ve got my eye on the mid and large-size shoulder planes (I didn’t see the bull nose plane, now that I think of it). I also tried the 4 1/2 smoothing plane and it was a pleasure to use.

Apart from new tools, there was also a display of used and antique hand tools, many of which were for sale. I’m not a subscriber but the Australian Wood Review magazine was also there and I think Australian Woodsmith were too—both selling back issues.

Forget the tools though, it’s all about the wood, right? What’s that ever-growing collection of tools in the garage then?! Anyway, the volume of wood for sale was stupendous. Apart from the chainsaw mill setup outside where the guys were milling full logs, a surprisingly large number of timber suppliers turned up with their wares in tow—one outfit even came from afar away as NSW!

I’d never previously seen a proper slab up close and the number of beautiful slabs on sale was incredible—big, small, and everything from local jarrah to red cedar and rosewood. Considering their size I was surprised how economically priced they seemed: $500-900 for something, say, 1m wide by 2-2.5m long? There was also a really nice selection of other wood for sale. I hadn’t yet found a lot of these guys in previous internet searches so today was a great opportunity to get a feel for some of the local mills and compare prices.

On the talk/demo side, I found myself glued to Richard Vaughan and I actually attended all five of his sessions (scrapers, glue, rasps and files, planes, tips and tricks). As someone fairly new to all of this, I hadn’t previously heard of Richard but he seems to be a regular speaker on the wood show circuit. Richard is an inspiring speaker and by the looks of his work, an Richard Vaughan amazing designer craftsman. Despite working at the high end of the art form, he’s remarkably connected to the basics of woodwork and people like me just starting out. I couldn’t stay away and had to force myself to check out the rest of the show between sessions. I also attended the jigs talk by the Fine Woodworkers Association of WA and finally understand how to to attach wooden tops to wooden frames!

Speaking of the Fine Woodworkers Association, they seemed to be responsible for the student furniture exhibition at one end of the pavilion. The exhibition was primarily comprised of projects by year eleven and twelve students. The work was stunning and I hope the parents of these kids are tremendously proud because there were some beautiful pieces of furniture on display. Sure, I spotted a few imperfections but what have I built on that scale recently? And a better question: what was I doing in grade 11/12?!?.

On my final lap around the show floor I stopped to watch Stan Ceglinski doing his thing. I’d seen his area earlier in the day and heard some hoohar about an axe race or somesuch and continued quickly on my way. I regret that now—or at least not coming back to watch Stan in action before he knocked off around 4pm to join the bluegrass band—it’s an incredible experience watching someone like Stan work. I did catch the tail end of him making a whacking board for an older woman to use on her husband: he roughed out the piece with some kind of axe and finished it off with a draw knife. Seeing his understanding of the wood structure put to practice and his ability to extract a three-dimensional form from what was a log moments before is a really earthy experience.

Last but not least, I stopped by the Carbatec setup to price up the 8” jointer and 15” thicknesser. Both were on special for $50 off their regular prices and I was promised a further $50 for buying both together; an okay deal but not quite the discount I’m after for nearly $3000 worth of machinery. The show sale is extended until “the end of next week” (I’m not sure what that means) and they’ve promised to extend the double purchase discount while I mull over my choices—of which I don’t have many. I’ve ruled out Sherwood because the forums suggest their stuff is rubbish; the next step up is Jet and the 8” Jet jointer is $2500; nope, that doesn’t include the thicknesser. Metabo may be an option but I have yet to see anything of theirs I like and I’m not sure they make decent jointers or planers. Other options at the Carbatec prices? Dunno.

Apart from a stack of business cards for the mills and the PTMS catalog, I left empty handed but completely buzzed by the experience. The only thing I’d really like to see at a future show is some kind of woodie’s collective. The FW Association seems a bit too formal with nomination forms and membership fees… it would be great to have a booth setup for the sole purpose of introducing yourself to other WA woodworkers interested in chatting further.

Perth Wood Show 7-9 August


I didn’t realise this year’s wood show is just around the corner. Makin’ my list, checkin’ it twice… I’ll be looking for show specials on the Carbatec 8” jointer and 15” planer ;-)

Update: Read my review of the show.


Table sawn dados without a dado blade

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In the very first podcast of Woodwoorking ONLINE’s podcast series, the presenter demonstrates a simple technique for making grooves and dados without measuring them out. HPIM1999I suck at rudimentary math and my measuring skills are fairly basic as a result… as I’m also without a dado blade, I thought the it would be interesting to have a try myself. 

The basic premise is fairly simple: establish the blade height, account for the width of the blade to establish the left outer cut, factor out the width of whatever materials will ride in the dado to establish the right outer cut, and then clear out the waste. Clearing the waste involves taking advantage of the width of the blade kerf; the teeth on my CMT fine cutoff blade are supposedly 2.5mm so I simply move the work piece over about 2.5mm with every successive cut. For the rest of the article I’ll discuss the other steps involved.

Establish the blade height

If you’re lapping two pieces of wood, you’ll generally want to set the blade height to half the height of the work piece. This can of course be measured but I’ve found the technique described here to be very accurate.

Start with a piece of scrap wood the same width as the wood you’ll be using. Use your eye to set the blade height to slightly less than half the width of the stock. Cut the first slot and then flip the work piece over and make a second cut from the opposite site as though you were making a tenon. The two cuts probably won’t meet up so sneak up on the centre point by raising the blade height progressively—bear in mind you only want to raise the blade by half of the width of the remaining waste as you’ll continue cutting from both sides.

When the final sliver is nipped away, you’re at the halfway mark for the stock in question. Lock down the blade height so things don’t move.

Establish the left outer cut

You’ll need to determine the width of the slot left by your saw blade for this task. Although the teeth on my saw blade are marked as 2.5mm, in practice I’ve found a piece of scrap 3mm MDF fits perfectly into the slot left behind. Dado setup - left cutThe work piece will initially be positioned in relation to the rip fence and the blade; the 3mm spacer provides the offset necessary for the first cut.

Roll the fence into position, drop in the spacer, and then position the work piece against the mitre gauge. Adjust the fence to line up the first cut and then lock the fence in position. If the work piece it too short, use an additional block to pad out the gap between the fence/spacer and the work piece. Make the first cut to establish the left shoulder.

Note the fence is only being used as a stop block; as usual, you shouldn’t use the mitre gauge and fence at the same time, although in this case there is less opportunity for the work piece to bind if the fence is out of alignment.

Establish the right outer cut

Look ma, no measuring! No math! Leave the fence where it is and remove the spacer. Keep the extra “pad” block in place if necessary. Position an offcut of the same width as the material that will Dado setup - right cutsit in the final dado between the fence and the work piece (or pad block). This offsets the work piece the width of that material. Make the second cut to establish the right shoulder.

Clean out the waste

At this point go ahead and clear out the waste material. When you’re done, the material intended to fit into the dado should fit fairly perfectly! The one issue I ranHPIM2000 into was a result of the  teeth on my blade being angled in opposite directions; this resulted in a series of v grooves that would necessitate some additional cleanup with a shoulder plane or router. To correct this situation, the Woodworking ONLINE presenter suggested shifting the work pieced left and right over the blade; this does an okay job but I’m not sure what would happen if the work piece came in contact with the shoulder of the dado!

First Kick-back

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I’ve read about table saw kick-back, I’ve seen the kick-back demonstrations on YouTube and other woodworking video sites, and I’ve even read the kick-back warning sticker on my own table saw. In short, I understand why kick-back happens and the precautions to stop it happening.

table saw kick back warning

Yet today I experienced my very first kickback and the power with which the exposed blade threw the wood over my should was awesome. So what happened?

Firstly, I was experimenting with dado-making using a regular cross-cut blade so I had the splitter and blade guard off the saw. I’ll point out had the blade guard been in place the kick-back would not have happened but of course it needs to be off since I wasn’t cutting all the way through the piece.

Secondly, I wasn’t cutting a board. Most of the internet videos demonstrating kick-back using a square piece of foam or plywood. While I was using a scrap 2x4 I wasn’t expecting to be any safer but in theory there may be less opportunity for kickback with a smaller piece of wood.

Thirdly, while the blade guard was removed, I was being extra careful having never used the table saw without this critical piece of equipment. In short, I was not standing directly behind the blade but off to the side and I was being careful not to twist the work piece while applying sufficient pressure to stop the blade lifting lifting it off the table.

Finally, as mentioned, I was using a regular cross-cut blade to kerf out the dado; this meant taking pass after pass to arrive at the correct width. To keep moving, I would take one pass and leave the blade spinning while sliding the work piece back to the front of the table for the next pass.

The dado making went quite well, apart from the v-grooves from the blade. As I stood back for a final check of the union between my scrap “shelf” piece (another 2x4) and my new dado, I fumbled and dropped the shelf piece. It landed on end in front of the blade and before falling forward onto the still-spinning blade.

Although it crossed my mind to lunge forward and knock the piece out of the way before it hit the blade, I thought better of that idea and stood back while the drama unfolded. As you’d expect, when the wood made contact with the blade it was gone before I could blink. Just for “kicks” (sorry!), the impact dislodged the metal throat plate and it got mixed up with the blade. HPIM2001

I was standing to the right of the blade and the piece of 2x4 (which was about fifteen centimetres long) ended up in the back corner of the garage with a thump. When I later went to find it, the gash from the saw was deep and rough. Again, very impressive.

In one sense, I hoped to never experience kick-back but at the same time I did want to know what it’s like to really experience this mythical event. Having been there now, I can honestly say I hope it never occurs again and I’ve learned to shut down the saw unless I’m working with it directly. I’ve also been meaning to get a decent leather shop apron to shield my torso if I were to even get hit directly.

In normal operation, the saw’s safety items would be in place and I’d probably be using feather boards and push sticks as well, if not clamping the work piece to the mitre gauge.

Newbie Alert

Hi, welcome to the new blog! As the title of the blog suggests, I’m a weekend warrior when it comes making things with wood; while  I’ve fallen in love the material, the tools and the craft, I’m a young buck and still have a lot of learning to do. The plan is to use this blog to document my experience setting up shop in my new house, applying the techniques I learn and the information I glean from various sources, and of course relate my screw-ups in gory detail!

Hope you enjoy reading,