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?