Friday, August 31, 2007

Spyderco Sharpening Ceramic Stones

As some of you know, I am a advocate for sharp woodworking tools. Traditionally, fine woodworkers have used water stones. Other options include oil stones, abrasive papers, and more recently, diamond impregnated plates.

Water stones are messy (as they must be stored in water, used wet, and occasionally flattened). Likewise, oil stones require honing oil which can be a bother. Abrasive papers wear out (meaning there is a large hidden cost). Diamond stones are convenient because they only require a bit of water as lubricant and don't need flattening. They are, however, somewhat expensive.

Spyderco is now offering ceramic sharpening stones. These new ceramic stones seem to have everything going for them: no oil, no water, no wet storage, no flattening, no replacing paper. They require only the occasional cleaning with an abrasive kitchen cleaner (Comet, or the like). They are fairly affordable to boot!

Note that Spyderco has the traditional flat stones (right) for sharpening chisels, planes, jointer blades, and knives. In addition, they are have a set of specially shaped stones (left) for sharpening odd shaped carving tools.

Check out the new Spyderco Ceramic Sharpening Stones.

Here's a video on the product courtesy of Woodcraft Woodworking Supply.

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Quick Clamp Wrap - Clamps Odd Shapes

Developed for aerospace applications, this tape is made from an elastic silicone compound. It sticks to itself on contact and fuses permanently in a day. It grips almost anything and should not damage surfaces because it is inert.

Long used for automotive and home repairs, now woodworkers have discovered X-Treme Tape can function as an impromptu clamp for holding wood pieces during the gluing process. Even odd shaped pieces can be held because of the tacky nature of the tape.

This stuff is just plain good to have around in case of emergencies. It forms an air and water-tight seal, is heat-resistant up to 500 degrees F, and insulates up to 400 volts per mil. Wow.

Here's an article on X-Treme Tape from the Woodworker's Journal site.

Rockler Woodworking Supply sells X-Treme Tape Quick Clamp Wrap in 10 foot rolls for about $6.50. Keep this in mind as a stocking stuffer for the holidays.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Proxxon Precision Drill/Grinder set

Proxxon Precision Drill/GrinderProxxon Precision Drill/Grinder
Precision drill/grinder is ideal for milling, drilling, grinding, polishing, brushing, cleaning, deburring, sawing, carving, engraving, rust removal and more!

Proxxon Router Base Attachment
If you make small boxes, frames or furniture, this router base attachment is the right tool for you! Great for routing slots, notches, grooves, edges and profiles with or without the fence or circle attachment (both included).

UPDATE: The set is no longer available, but here's where you can get the Proxxon 38481 IB/E Professional Rotary Tool. I sort of guessing it might work with the Dremel 335-01 Plunge Router Attachment

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Automaton Artist: Kazu Harada

The Automata / Automaton Blog is pleased to present you with Japanese automaton artist Kazu Harada.

Automaton by Kazu Harada
After studying Art History at in college, Kazu worked mainly as a computer operator. He started making automata as a hobby in 2002. Last September, he traveled to England "to meet great automata makers and develop my automata making skills".

Kazu chose his destination wisely; he has been apprenticing with The Fourteen Balls Toy Company -- under master automata makers Paul Spooner and Matt Smith -- while studying at Falmouth University.

See Kazu Harada's Automata Gallery at

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Saturday, August 18, 2007

Interactive Gear Template Generator

Matthias Wandel's excellent site has an interactive gear template generator "intended for generating paper templates for cutting low precision gears from plywood, phenolic, or other suitable materials with a band saw."

This elegant online tool allows you to input a handful of values to generate involute gears of various sizes and teeth. Most likely, you will want to check the "Two gears" checkbox and punch in the gear ratio (as number of teeth). You can then check that the values will create a gear pair that won't jam by checking the "Animate" checkbox. If you see the teeth of one gear overlapping the teeth of the second, you need make some adjustments.

This tool uses printer-friendly Flash. Use the on-screen "Print gears" button to print out only the gears and not the entire web page.

He even shows how to cut the wooden gears on the bandsaw.

Generate some gears to cut from wood using the Interactive Gear Template Generator. [via Make Magazine's blog]

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Gear Lab - Cool Gear Toy Set

The folks over at Edmund Scientifics have an interesting gear toy. The Gear Lab consists of a gears workbench, an assortment of pulley wheels and gear cogs, long and short axles, cranks, and a cord. The entire set is contained in its own storage box. Nice.

This Gear Lab looks like fun to me!

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Downloadable Paper Robot Automaton

Here's a robot for everyone! This is another paper automaton kit from the folks over at Fly-Pig Animation Kits.

Turn the handle and the Robot marches in place dutifully. This may be one of the last robots we have FULL control over.

Print this model onto thin photocopier card-stock then all you need to make the model are scissors, ruler, white glue, and a sharp knife.

Download the Paper Robot (for less than $6) and make one for yourself.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Homage to Dug North's Machini Automata

I am pleased to present to you one of the first duplications of a Dug North Automaton original design.

I am truly flattered that my original Machini The Marvel performing the Transmutative Hat has been recreated by a talented special-effects artist named Dorian based in Madrid, Spain. He has made some modifications -- four objects rather than six and a cloth coat. Check out all the details he has added. I like the addition of the back wall to set the scene.

Visit Dorian's Blog to see other photos of the piece he as titled Automata Transmutador. Pretty cool!

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Automaton How-To Article, MAKE Halloween Issue

Automaton article in MAKE MagazineI am very pleased to announce that I have contributed an article to MAKE Magazine's first-ever special Halloween issue. The article shows the secret behind the trick top hat I designed, so that you can build one for yourself!

You can pre-order MAKE Magazines Special Halloween Issue now. I have a feeling it is going to be a really great issue of MAKE.

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Mad Mechancial Toys = Whacky Toys Book

Making Mad ToysI finally received my copy of Making Mad Toys & Mechanical Marvels in Wood by Rodney Frost from

As far as I can tell this is the exact same book as his book entitled Whacky Toys, Whirligigs & Whatchamacallits.

It has a new cover, a new title, a new blurb from the publisher on the back cover...but that's about it.

My opinion stands that this is one of the top three automata books for aspiring makers to have. It remains one of the few books with actual plans for making wood automata. His style is wonderful.

The fact is though, if you own one of these titles you don't really need the other.

On a brighter note, this must mean that his other new book, Creative Kinetics: Making Mechanical Marvels in WoodMUST be new material!

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Flash Animations of Mechanisms for Offline Use

This new product is a download that gives you the ability to use the mechanisms part of the site on a computer not connected to the internet.

The download contains a .ZIP file of over forty web pages with over forty animations. The pages provide information on many types of mechanism and movement.

A great educational and reference resource!

You can can download the latest version with new mechanisms at any time for twelve months with no charge!

Order the Mechanisms Offline from Flying-Pig

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