A while back we reported on the arrival of a very important new team member, the Woodcut Max3 coring system and a review was promised once the system was in use. Wel,l if you want to see how we got on, click the read more button....
The system was selected after trying the original two blade version and also trying a McNaughton system, the selection was made based on ease of use and reliability or predictability of results. I am certain that others who have tried both systems may have made a different choice but for me the Woodcut system won out easily.
However the original two blade version was set aside as it did not allow for larger work pieces of the type I frequently work with.
The Max3 system is a much more robustly constructed system when compared to the original two blade model, it has three interchangeable blades for different sized workpieces. Each blade is equipped with a replaceable tip, the tips are reckoned to be good for 300-500 uses so I will let you know when I get to that point next year. The tips can be honed with a diamond card or file which must be used only on the flat top and front edge and not on the sides.
The RU required a specially machined toolpost but for those with more "normal" lathes you can get a few different sizes of toolpost so something should be available for those of you considering a purchase.
Our basic workflow for coring goes as follows:
- Prep the blank - usually using an electric chainsaw.
- Mount the blank on the lathe - these are big workpieces so I normally use a faceplate. The main thing here is that you do what you feel is safe for you.
- Turn the outside of the largest bowl with a spigot for the chuck, you want this to be of an appropriate size because it is going to be put under a great deal of stress. It also needs to be of solid wood, not rotten or damaged. Again its up to you to do things in a way that is safe for you.
- Reverse the bowl and true up the face, at this point I normally put in a recess for reversing the core when I take it out.
- Set up the coring system - more on this later.
- Take out the core - also see later.
- Set aside the larger bowl and remount the core on the lathe using the recess in the front. This allows a new spigot to be turned so another core can be taken.
- Once all of the cores are done then apply some end grain sealer (slows down drying) and put somewhere cool and allow to dry.
So that just about summarises the process and yes I know I skipped some details but we do offer courses!
Setting up the system is reasonably straight forward, firstly you need to set the system up at the correct height - this is really important, if this is not done correctly you will have an "unhappy" experience which may result in your spigot parting company with the bowl blank and a need for new underwear. See the image below:
The system is provided with a toolpost and collar so you need to adjust the height so that the cutter is dead on centre height then use the collar to hold the system at that height and tighten up the grub screw with an appropriate allen key (no, its not a wrench, its a key). If you only use the system on one lathe then you should only need to do this once which is good because it really does need two people to do this easily. If you have more than one lathe and switch the system between them then I would recommend buying extra toolposts and collars as it really does save time and a lot of "fiddling around".
Once the height is established you will need to decide upon the wall thickness you want or need, as we normally turn green blanks we work on around 10% but seldom go below 3/4" to allow for finishing when dry. At this point you need to align the system and for this Woodcut provide some paper templates which can be stuck onto some cardboard or plywood and cut out to give you a permanent template.
You get three templates, one for each blade and you simply put the template on what will be the base of the bowl and then line up the centre of the systems pivot bolt with the other side of the template, see below:
After you have the alignment sorted out then bring up the tailstock and engage the connection to the system, we have to use a Morse Taper adaptor as the RU is MT3.
Once everything is aligned you need to check everything is tight, including the little handle underneath the tailstock attachment point - I have trouble seeing this so it is something I tend to forget so mine will be changing colour shortly so it stands out more.
Lathe speed needs to be set down, I use a low gear on the RU which gives me a lot of torque and a maximum speed of just about 500 rpm which is about all my nerve will take with a 20" diameter, 10" deep, 50kg blank - you may be braver than me.
Bring the cutter into contact and allow it to do its job, this is not a thing to rush at - especially not with the large blade. Take your time, withdraw the cutter often to clear the shavings, again especially with the large cutter when you get further into the cut, a jam caused by shavings can also cause one of those "unhappy" coring experiences mentioned above.
You will only need light pressure on the cutter, the bulk of the forces and stresses of the process are transferred into the system and the lathe which is where I prefer them. I have tried other systems where this was definitely not the case.
The system works very well and if you set it up correctly and take your time you should not have any problems, when you get near the end of the core you will hear the sound change. At this point it is best to stop the lathe and see if you can break the core loose easily, if not start up again and do a short cut then try to loosen the core again. This will avoid the core breaking loose and jamming between the bowl and the system/banjo and giving you another of those "unhappy" experiences.
Once the core is out all that is needed is a quick tidy up then onto the next bowl in the set.
If you are doing green blanks it is advisable to give yourself enough time to do the whole nest in one go as this helps to avoid things drying out and cracking/splitting.
The system itself is of good quality and has handled the blanks so far given to it without much difficulty, it can struggle with large diameter blanks which are pretty shallow, for example an 18" blank which was only 6" deep proved to be tricky but the Max3 got the job done.
I have heard criticisms levelled against the system saying that it does not offer the flexibillity of shape, however this has to be balanced against ease of use and predictability of results - I don't particularly want to make 24" lamp shades.
Any criticisms I have are fairly minor:
- The instructions could do with being a bit better in terms of some more detailed information about blank sizes and general hints and tips on how to get the best out of the system.
- The locking handle under the tailstock attachment point could do with being in a bright colour, though thats most likely me being rubbish.
- I could do with a bigger blade, but then I can see that I would most likely be the only one stupid enought to use it.
On the whole I would say that its a good system and well worth the expense over the two blade system provided you have a lathe with the capacity to use the extra blade. If you don't then stick to the two blade one, you can produce three bowl nests with it - you can see one in the slideshow on the front page of the site!