Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Powermatic machinery now available in the UK

For years I have been looking at the mustard brand that is available over in North America. Unfortunately they have not been available to buy in the UK unless you were willing to import yourself and convert the motors to 230V 50Hz (or use a converter). Until today March 20th 2017 when the big UK tool retailer Axminster announced this morning that they are selling UK spec machinery from Powermatic at long last :). The PM1500 in the UK is 415V 3 phase and will require running 3 phase 415V power into our shops and for most hobby warriors would be cost prohibitive :( .
PM1500 Bandsaw

Initially this is only limited to 8 machines:

  • 31A Belt Disc Sander  1.1kW 230V 1ph
  • PM2244 Drum Sander 1.3kW 230V 1ph
  • 719-T Floor Standing Morticer 1.3kW 230V 1ph
  • PM1900XT 3hp Extractor 2.2kW (3.0kW Max) 230V 1ph
  • PM1300TX 2hp Extractor 1.3kW (max output 1.97kW) 230V 1ph
  • PM1500 Bandsaw 415V 3 phase
  • 3520B Heavy Duty Woodturning Lathe 1.5kW 230V 1ph
  • 4224B Heavy Duty Woodturning Lathe 2.25kW 230V 1ph

1 Horsepower is approx 745 watts

None of them are cheap of course but at least they are now available.

No tablesaws or drill presses at the moment but it is only a matter of time....

So if you are UK or Europe based head on over to www.axminister.co.uk and have a look.

Axminister sell Lie Nielsen and Veritas stuff already and have done for many years.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Sharpening with diamond sharpening plates

Over the years I have gone through many different sharpening techniques, oilstones, waterstones, sandpaper on a granite plate, using honing guides, free etc. All have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Recently I have become a fan of Paul Sellers and bought his recent book of 2016 "Essential Woodworking Hand Tools" and its associated DVD collection.
In the book and DVDs Paul shows the system he has developed over the years of using 3 diamond plates of various grits to hone plane irons and chisels. The honing is done with car glass cleaner. He is very specific about this so who am I to argue.

Final polishing is done with a leather strop coated with green honing compound.
Diamond Plate Holder

I decided to adopt Paul's system so taking advice from him bought a set of three diamond plates. I had the option of the expensive DMT Dia-Sharp plates or the still expensive EZY-Lap plates. He recommended the EZY-Lap plates as there was no appreciable difference in performance from the two decades of experience he gained from using both manufacturers.

The plate size is 3" x 8" which is a decent size to hone most common woodworking hand tools. Paul recommends using a piece of wood or plywood no thinner than 1/2" but preferably 3/4" thick.

Plate holder manufacture.

I had some 18mm marine plywood in stock so cut a piece 11" x 9.1/2"

Plate holder dimensions

Using a knife and straight edge I marked out the 8" x 3" pockets. Then the pockets were cut to depth using a powered router taping a plywood straight guide to get a straight line. The centre was hogged out with the router. Finally finishing the depth with a hand held manual router plane. This was just to clean up the bottom of each pocket.

A ledger strip of oak was glued and screwed to the bottom face of the plywood. I used screws as it is easy in operation to tear the face veneer off from ply. You can either do as I have done or cut a dado into the base and glue the strip in.

The pockets were sized to be a tight fit on each diamond plate. A couple of release holes could be bored into each pocket to allow later removal of the plates. The whole board was given a couple of coats of General Finishes Exterior 450 to protect from moisture.

In use.

Clamping the holder into the bench vise puts the plates at a reasonable height to start honing.
I use the Veritas MKII honing guides (both the regular one and the narrow blade one) to hone my edge cutters.
I arranged each plate the same way Paul does: "Coarse" on the left, "Fine" in the centre and "Extra Fine" on the right. 

First off I flattened the base of my Lee Nielsen #4 bronze. This only took a few minutes as it was already very flat. Then I worked on the A1 blade in the #4. Even with diamond plates this took some time to do. The resulting finish wasn't mirror finish from the extra fine. I ran it over my leather strop with green honing compound applied and it soon became mirror like.

Next using the regular MK2 honing guide I reformed the primary bevel to 25 degrees. Again this took some time to do but was so much easier than using a waterstone or sandpaper (Scary Sharp). The strop again gave a mirror finish.
I applied a microbevel of 26 degrees to the tip and refitted it to the plane.


After adjusting the plane I was able to produce very fine shavings on a mahogany test piece. The resulting surface finish was superb as I expect from a premium plane sharpened with diamonds.

I then did the same on a Acorn by Stanley plane (1930s vintage "second quality" Stanley plane made in Sheffield but still better than some modern planes!); flattening the sole, flattening the frog and honing the blade. This blade is just the regular thin O2 blade and was very easy to do. This took a mater of minutes to flatten the backside and hone the bevel. The diamond cuts so quickly.
Reassembling the plane, adjusting the frog to close down the throat gap and fitting the freshly sharpened blade.

The results from fettling this old plane was astonishing. Not quite the premium quality from the Lee Nielsen but still more than acceptable for this old beater plane. I have had this plane for 30 years and it was ok when sharpening with other methods. Now it is superb with diamond.

I worked through all my LN A1 chisels and all the vintage Sheffield O2 chisels and achieved a fine mirror finish on each. As ever the harder A1 were slower to get sharp but the diamond made short work of the regular oil hardened steel.


Early days so far but initial indications seem to show that sharpening with diamond is quick, less messy and easy to do.
The diamond plates don't need flattening unlike oilstones or waterstones, no furrows are ploughed so sharpening tools should be quicker. Go to the plates, hone and get back to work.

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Flickering T8 Shop Lighting

I have a decent amount of light in my shop due to good placement of twin tube 5 foot T8 lighting fixtures. I had these installed when I remodelled the shop from ground up back in 2012.
Here is a plan view of the current shop layout in 2017.
The T8 lighting layout can clearly be seen in the plan view of the shop.

The lights have been great in that time with only one tube needing to be replaced.
Late last year 2016 I did notice that one fixture was flickering but it was out of eye level most of the time so didn't cause me too much of an issue.

During a winter build I broke out the router table and positioned it close to my dust extraction. This also but the flickering light in eye view. It was irritating so I changed the tubes. That made no difference so meant the ballast was faulty.

I looked up the part number and it was a Chinese made ballast which could be bought from Amazon. However there was a vast shipping cost so I went with one made by PRO LEC that was on Amazon for £14.36 GBP including free UK delivery. If you are interested search for BALLAST ELECTRONIC T8 2 X 58W GD-T8258C2 By PRO ELEC.


Went it arrived I carefully pulled the connections out of the old ballast and pushed them into the new ballast observing the connection diagrams. No tools are needed with these push in connectors. The only thing I needed was a nut spinner to remove the mounting hardware. The new ballast fitted the same screw holes and was fitted into place. Then the fixture was rehung on the chains and connected to the power.

When I reset the lighting circuit breaker and switched on the lights it lit first time with no flicker and was bright. The other lighting fixtures were dull though. Then I noticed a fine layer of sawdust on each tube. I then spent aboput 30 minutes taking down each tube, wiping with a glass cleaner and replacing. The results were spectacular. I now have full brightness restored to the shop.

It just goes to show that the fine sawdust particles settle everywhere including on lamps. Take the time at least once a year to clean your lighting tubes to maintain lighting levels in your shop.