Thursday, 30 August 2012

Arbortech Mini-Grinder

Recently I attend the Sydney Timber and Working with Wood Show, if you don't remember look here.  One of my purchases was the Arbortech Mini-grinder, something I had had my eyes on for a while.

I am not an experienced carver, in fact I am a novice, in fact I'm not even that accomplished.  I have only had one attempt at carving a bowl from a burl and that was using my Arbortech Woodcarver attached to my angle grinder, and it scared me a little.  There was a lot of noise, power and spinning blade to be careful off.  The project I tackled was a little small for the blade, but I wanted to give it another go.

The Mini-Grinder used to come as an attachment for angle grinders, but due to the many different sizes they now only come as a whole unit including the grinder, neck and blade.  It was great to open the box and see it set up ready to go (I hate having to assemble new toys beofre I play).

The kit comes with two carving blades and four sanding discs, as a show special they also through in a Tungsten carving blade (haven't tried it yet).

My challenge to test out the device was this Red Mallee Burl.  Firstly there is a lot of power for a small device, ideally it would be great if you could slow down the RPM a little.  I soon discovered the moving in a sweeping motion was the best way to remove waste wood (and there is an instruction guide and you tube help).  If going vertically the blade will bite in and saw a straight, deep cut very quickly. 

Protection is a MUST!  It removes wood in a hurry throwing chips everywhere.  As well as ear and eye protection (full face mask highly recommended), I also need gloves and long sleeves as my hands we getting a fierce uncomfortable shower of wood.

The unit is easy to hold, and two hands are needed, but I did find the location of the hand grip a little awkward at times.  This though is something that I will probably find in the right place once I establish my style.

It did make light work of some hard wood.  The general finish was smooth, and I'm sure I will get much better at it, but this first effort did require a lot of sanding to remove ridges.  As the Mini-Grinder is very light it is easy to get some finesse in the finishing, but again the blade can grab and pull you along if not held tightly.

Blade changes are easy, just the case of a screw driver and an Allen key.  It took me about thirty seconds to change blades.  To smooth out the ridges I gave the sanding disc a try.  I was stupid at this stage, as although I had my mask on, I did not turn the dust extractor on.  With high speed it sanded quickly covering the shed in a fine layer of dust.  The sanding discs though did wear rapidly and aren't cheap to replace.  It may be a case that the plastic backing can be recovered extending wear, this is something I will investigate further and keep you posted.

They did however last long enough to do a great job in getting a smooth finish, that plus a little elbow grease.

The bowl is still drying so I don't have any finished photos yet, but it's looking great.  The Mini-Grinder has certainly opened my eyes to the world of carving and I have a few more burls and a big chunk or Red Gum waiting its attention.  It is a great easy to use tool, if you treat it with respect and a little practise  it will give you great results.  I can't wait to get out to the shed and create more saw dust.

Now all I need is the Arbortech Turbo-Plane and the fun can really begin (hint, hint if anybody at Arbortech is reading!).  If you want to know more just check out their website or most good woodworking shops.

What is your favourite way to carve?

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Dremmel 3000

I love a Dremel!  It is one of the original rotary tools.  I used to own a cheap brand version and was not very impressed by its construction or performance, however that can't be said for the real McCoy.  I was a lucky duck and was given one by my wife recently, just for being a great Hubby!  So with a new toy comes a new review.

This is the Dremel 3000, the latest evolution in the Dremel range and the new model replacing there most popular model the 300.  It comes in several packs, this was the 26 piece pack giving a great box of all the basic accessory bits. 

Looking at the Dremel it looks sturdy, and I have always reckoned the best way to look at quality and durability is at the cord, if that is thick and solid then it is probably a reliable tool.  I was a little sceptical about its size to fit in the hand for ease of use, but it is a comfortable fit and design.  The ON/OFF selector is also the speed control (5000 to 32000RPM) which was an easy single finger operation.

Changing drill bits and accessories is also straight forward and they have come up with a great design to stop you losing the nut wrench.  They call their new system the EZ Twist nose cap, basically you unscrew the nose cap and that is the wrench, no chance of losing that! Press your finger on the blue button to lock the spindle and turn, even I can do it.

So what can it do? I have employed it on a number of tasks, first was to sharpen a few garden tools, plus drill a few holes, no problems there.  The more tapered nose allows for an easy pencil like hold.  One of the bits I had lurking was an engraver, so why not give that a whirl.  I would post a picture of my glass engraving efforts but they were poor, no fault of Mr Dremel, more a clutsy operator.  With a range of carving bits available though I am very interested in trialing it with my wood work (stay tuned).

I really could list all the different attachments but there are too many, just check out your local hardware store to see or just click here.  I am sure I will be adding a few more to my collection.  The tool itself retails around the $100 mark depending on which pack you buy so would make a great fathers day gift.  The four year warranty means you can have piece of mind that it will last.

Overall I haven't found any flaws with mine, it has been up to the job.  It is a little noisy but certainly quieter than other make I have tried.  This model comes in a hard carry case which I am not fan of.  I did prefer the previous models soft bag to hold but that's just me, I already have too many hard plastic cases in the shed.  It is my favourite rotary tool on the market and their continued success means they are doing something right.

If you need more info just check  out the Dremel website.

What tool or gadget do you love in your shed?

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Humour in aviation

We have a good time on the flight deck.  Jokes are needed to break up the day, and occasional friendly banter across the air waves are not un-common.  In fact I'm flying with a comedian at the moment, his PA announcements always bring a smile to mine and the crews face and his humour has disarmed a few angry passengers over the years.

It's not just the crew in the plane that are having fun. Those chaps at air services Australia who design the airways we fly also have the odd moment of fun.
Leaving Brisbane, near the Gabba cricket ground we fly part me and, dad an, denis lilee.  At the other end, over water we fly part the way points, leaky, boats, sinnk.  Who says humour is dead.  Though one of my favourites is over South Australia

That's right, put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone. There are many more to be found in the charts around Australia.  All I can say is humour, us pilots and aviation workers have got it going on!

What humorous  things have you found?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Candy Cane Stylus

As we may remember I recently had a great prize pack from Timberbits.  In this pack I choose some of their newly stocked Slimline Stylus pen kits.  These are basic Slimline pen kits with a Stylus tip at the clip end for use with Ipad/Smartphones etc.  

I was very keen to turn one of these kits so I teamed it up with a Candy Cane Acrylic that I had picked up in a sale ages ago.

Being a slimline it was a quick kit to turn.  Just drill with a 7mm drill bit, cut in half and glue in the two tubes and trim.  Let the glue dry overnight and turn.
I love acrylics, so much colour and so quick to turn and no CA finish to take up time at the end (or stuff up!)
Acrylics polish up so well.  I usually work through 150 grit wet dry paper to 800 and then bring out the micro mesh pads.  That should have made it nice and smooth and removed any hairline scratches.  Now time to make it shine!  I give an over kill with some Brasso and then car polish, though the car polish is enough.  Then assembly time.
The finished article is great, and the fantastic thing about these kits (found here) is that because the stylus tip fits a 7mm tube it creates many more great possibilities (stay tuned).

Wednesday, 8 August 2012


OK, so I love playing with wood, and one of my favourite items to make are pens.  Whenever I am in need of pen kits my first port of call is always the Timberbits website.  If I'm honest, I look at this site weekly to see what new stock or specials are on, its always a good time to buy more stuff!  Anyway recently the crew at Timberbits had a Facebook competition, just like their page for a chance to win a $200 gift pack.  Already a follower I made sure I was entered, and then completely forgot about it.  Luckily they did not forget and guess who won?  Yes I was as happy as a wood turner in a forest!

Now the hard part, choosing.  With $200 to play with and Timberbits always low prices you can get a lot of bang for your buck (in this case their buck!).  I only placed my order yesterday but by this morning this was waiting at the post office.  I shouldn't have been surprised, the people their are fantastic and the delivery is always prompt, in fact fantastic service all the time!

I was very keen to get home and see my goodies, as you can see I did manage to squeeze it quite a bit for the money.

Included were Sierra, Streamline, Slimline with stylus nib, Executive clicks and European pen kits.  Add in some new bushes, glue, some great acrylics and a new stand to show off the finished pens and it was a full box.

Now I guess a few of you will look at this and say I'm getting a kick back to write this but no, until I post this they will have no idea.  In this day and age of poor people relations its good to be able to plug a small family business.  I can't wait to go and play with some of these acrylics.  If you are into pen making and wood turning check out the web site The service is always great, the prices low (I don't know how he gets them so low) and the postage rate fantastic even overseas. 

Where do you get great service?

Monday, 6 August 2012

Hotel Etiquette

I stay at a lot of hotels, it's the nature of my job.  Here are a few ideas on how to behave to make every bodies stay more pleasant.

Firstly be friendly to staff.  If you are having a bad day, don't take it out on them and make them grumpy. I may be the next person in line and I don't want to hear them complain about their last customer or take their frustration out on me.

Lifts are an annoyance. Yes we must wait for them, but chances are if you are waiting then it is in use.  This means wait for the doors to open and see if anybody gets out before you get in. Don't try and  run through the door the moment it opens and be surprised when you walk into somebody coming the other way.  The lift doors will remain open long enough to allow people both in and out.  On the same note if you do have lots of bags, be organized and ready to go and do not expect that you may take up a whole lift carriage to you and your three bags.

While in the lift do not talk to me.  I don't care that you once flew Qwackadoo Airlines and had a bad experience, we don't discriminate, we give everybody a bad ride.  I also dont care that you think I have a good job or you have a friend who is a pilot, I just want to get to my room.

Left over room service trays are best left next to your door and not spread across the hall way.  Grazing on the left overs is not recycling or being environmentally friendly, it is being cheap.

In your room have fun, but keep the noise down.  There is nothing worse than the people in the next room having a loud party when your are trying to sleep, nobody wants to be flown by a tired pilot.  On the other hand if there is a party going on, why not invite yourself over.

Finally clean up.  Yes I know the hotels have cleaners, well sort of.  Please don't leave your half eaten sandwich in the minibar, it is not what I want to find reaching for a beer, or used tissue stuffed behind the bedside table. Do however feel free to make towel monkeys and leave friendly (repeat friendly) notes hidden in the toilet paper roll.

Follow these rules and we will get on fine.