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Rotating Head Lathes ?

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I understand that the main issue brought up by many concering rotating head lathes is center re-alignment. I am not concerned about that.

My concern is whether the lock down on better quality rotating head or slidng and rotating head lathes ( I am most interested in the Jet 1640 at this time) (excluding the Vic Marc) is such that once locked down, there is no movement whatsoever. If I get the Jet 1640, I have no intention of using the rotating head; but, I do intend to use the sliding head feature.

In other words, once locked down are the currently marketed name brand rotating/sliding head lathes (particularly the Jet) as steady as a fixed (bolted) head lathes?

I guess the sliding only headstock lathes like the Powermatic and the Revo must have some side to side movement when not locked down in order to allow it to slide. Would the lock down be the same as on the rotating/sliding head lathes like the Jet, making both types (sliding only and rotating/sliding) the same as far as stability in lockdown?

As an aside, are expert turners using rotating/sliding headstock lathes, and if not, why not?
 
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john lucas

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I've had 2. A Nova 3000 and now my Powermatic. Actually the powermatic doesn't rotate it just slides. On both of those the head locks down very positively. To realign the head on the Nova I set it where it was perfect. Then I drilled a hole at the joint where the head meets the bed. Then after rotating the head all I had to do was put a drill bit in that hole and lock the head down. Of course that meant it had to be locked wherever I drilled the hole which was the normal headstock end of lathe position. YOu can buy a double morse taper that goes in the headstock and tailstock and aligns everything.
The advantage of the sliding headstock is being able to turn off the end of the lathe and stand up straight while hollowing. The advantage of the swinging headstock is sort of the same thing but you can do it from the middle of the bed. You can also turn larger pieces than your lathe swing but only if you have whatever adaptors are needed to make your tool rest reach around. There lies the disadvantage of a swinging headstock. For cuts using the existing banjo and tool rest it's no problem. Many of them use a Cantilever type tool rest to extend the banjo to reach around the turning. This leads to excessive chatter and vibration. I got around that by rigging up a system that sat on the floor and came up and locked under the cantilever tool rest to stop the vibration.
 
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I can’t speak to the newer rotating head systems, but I have had experience with three different sliding head lathes - Jet, PM and Robust AB. I never actually looked at the PM locking plate, but the Jet had one that wasn’t substantially different from that on its banjo in size and the PM manual shows one similarly sized. The Robust locking plate is the same length as the head itself resulting in a very positive lock to the bed when engaged. I would think that heads that both rotate and slide may have, by necessity a smaller locking plate.
I’m not an engineer, but it would seem to me that the contact area of the clamping plate and the headstock surface would have an effect on the stability of the head when locked down.
I certainly wouldn’t represent myself as an expert, but I did make use of the sliding function on both the Jet and PM on aregular basis. With that said, the Jet 1642 I turned on for 5 years had a nasty habit of needing adjustment to the nut both on the locking plates. The banjo is notorious for moving when you need it most. The headstock plate also needed adjustment periodically. The PM was a little newer and required less adjustment, but I did check and tighten on occaision. With 5-1/2 years of regular use, the Robust AB has never budged when locked in place regardless of where on the bed it is locked down.
 
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Thanks for the responses thus far. Gary, are you saying that on your lathe, the headstock moves after you lock it down?
 

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My first lathe was a Delta that had a rotating headstock. After the initial gee-whiz of what seemed like a great feature I locked the headstock down and never moved it again ... not even the sliding feature because of the pain of getting it lined up with the tailstock. My Robust AB sliding headstock on the other hand is wonderful.
 
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There is only one reason to use a pivoting headstock if your set up can both slide and pivot. That would be that you don't have enough room to stand at the end of the lathe to turn. If you want to turn over size, you can do that with both the slide and the pivot. Other than that, the whole purpose of the sliding and pivoting headstocks is that you have the advantages of a short bed bowl lathe. You don't have to bend over or extend your arms way out away from your body to avoid leaning over when turning bowls. Made a huge difference for me. The pressure plate on my American Beauty runs the full length of the headstock. On my Liberty, it is a rectangle, maybe half the length of the headstock. My PM3520A was pretty much the same, though that was a long time ago. In all cases, none of the headstocks move after being tightened down. I can say that for sure the cast iron and steel beds make different noises. I can't determine that there is any real vibration issues with either. I do owe it to myself to give a Vic a serious work out, just to see......

robo hippy
 
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Thanks for the responses thus far. Gary, are you saying that on your lathe, the headstock moves after you lock it down?
Yes, it doesnt lock solid. If theres an off balance load on it you can see it twitching side to side. I had a blowout a while back that knocked it loose and rotated the head. I had to take the stand loose from that end and readjust the position pin to seat deeper and readjust the lock lever to hold tighter. Its better than it was but still not solid.
 

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I have demoed on a lot of 16" jets and never had an issue. Our club used one as the demo lathe for probably 10 years without a single issue. I have had my Powermatic for over 12 years and not a single problem. It gets used almost daily.
 
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Thanks again for all the responses. I am seriously considering the Jet 1640evs, unless advised otherwise. Seems like it should have no isues with the lockdown.
 
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Yes, it doesnt lock solid. If theres an off balance load on it you can see it twitching side to side. I had a blowout a while back that knocked it loose and rotated the head. I had to take the stand loose from that end and readjust the position pin to seat deeper and readjust the lock lever to hold tighter. Its better than it was but still not solid.

Gary, you may want to go to the manufacturer's website and look at the "FAQ" for your lathe. There may be a remedy for what you describe is happening. I happened to talk to someone on the phone at a woodworking store (inquiring about the Jet) who has the same model lathe as you, and he said that his locks down very solidly.
 
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My Jet 1840 has a anti-rotation block that screws into the headstock and keeps it from rotating. I have not had any issues with slop and the lock is very positive. The 1640 has the same.
 

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There is only one reason to use a pivoting headstock if your set up can both slide and pivot. That would be that you don't have enough room to stand at the end of the lathe to turn. If you want to turn over size, you can do that with both the slide and the pivot. Other than that, the whole purpose of the sliding and pivoting headstocks is that you have the advantages of a short bed bowl lathe. You don't have to bend over or extend your arms way out away from your body to avoid leaning over when turning bowls. Made a huge difference for me. The pressure plate on my American Beauty runs the full length of the headstock. On my Liberty, it is a rectangle, maybe half the length of the headstock. My PM3520A was pretty much the same, though that was a long time ago. In all cases, none of the headstocks move after being tightened down. I can say that for sure the cast iron and steel beds make different noises. I can't determine that there is any real vibration issues with either. I do owe it to myself to give a Vic a serious work out, just to see......

robo hippy

I would echo what Robo says but would add that if you are turning a piece bigger than the swing of the lathe (and therefore probably heavier than the lathe and its support structure was designed for) turning the headstock sideways puts the possibly unbalanced piece nearer to or possibly past to the edge of leg footprint. Sliding the headstock to the end leaves the bulk of the weight behind the work piece. A canoe rarely tips end for end.
 
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One of my lathes is the DVR 3000 which I have had and used now for over 12 years and the head is just as stable as the day it was purchased. My Jet and Powermatic have also been problem free. Importantly with all three line up of head stock and tail stock are dead on after movement.
 
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One of my lathes is the DVR 3000 which I have had and used now for over 12 years and the head is just as stable as the day it was purchased. My Jet and Powermatic have also been problem free. Importantly with all three line up of head stock and tail stock are dead on after movement.

Thanks, Bill.
 
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I'm late to the party on this thread but thought I'd throw in my two cents. I have a DVR XP and use the rotating head frequently. Although I have the outrigger too (used it twice with excellent results) the biggest use is to rotate it 22 degrees so I don't have to lean over the lathe bed when doing the inside of a bowl and more specifically when hollowing. I don't know how old Gary's lathe is but mine is a 2015, the last year they made them and I have swung the head stock 20 or 30 times and re-alignment has NEVER been a problem and it locks down firmly. no slop at all.
 
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If the headstock is machined correctly and the locking centering plate is aligned properly on the lathe ways, the headstock can be used as designed to turn pieces outboard on the lathe. Some of the cheaper lathes with rotating headstocks are hit and miss with being properly machined and setup for being able to use this feature. Some of these cheaper lathes have a problem with center alignment to start with and usually require some fine tuning to get everything in alignment to turn pieces with accuracy. I have turned large diameter clock faces and platters using the outboard turning feature on several lathes that had this feature. This feature also comes in handy when turning segmented pieces that are slightly larger than the capacity of the lathe before turning it to finished diameter and then adding it to the piece between centers.
 
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I purchased a new Jet 1640 lathe last October and have not had any stability problem what so ever with the rotating head nor sliding the head on the bed ways. Have not had any alignment problems either.
 
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the biggest use is to rotate it 22 degrees so I don't have to lean over the lathe bed when doing the inside of a bowl

I can only speak theoretically, but to rotate the headstock slightly, seems like the most logical advantage of a rotating headstock. A sliding headstock has one disadvantage (IMHO), and that is you lose the ability to brace your body against the lathe while hollowing out the interior of bowls (when the headstock is positioned at the end of the bedways). Possibly some turners feel this is inconsequential, but after using a fixed headstock for the past 36 years, my style/technique has become very dependent on bracing my body against the lathe (while working on the interiors of bowls). It's true that I have to do the "reach around", but I'm so completely accustomed to this, that my technique has become attuned to it.

-----odie-----
 
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My sliding headstock is usually position close to the middle of the ways, I have the spot marked with a red sharpie. I also have the advantage of a swing away tailstock so when doing the inside I can stand and brace myself against the ways. My back really appreciates it. Also doing the inside of a bowl I am completely out of the line of fire. I don't notice any misalignment when moving the headstock.
 
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My sliding headstock is usually position close to the middle of the ways, I have the spot marked with a red sharpie. I also have the advantage of a swing away tailstock so when doing the inside I can stand and brace myself against the ways. My back really appreciates it. Also doing the inside of a bowl I am completely out of the line of fire. I don't notice any misalignment when moving the headstock.

Howdy Fred.......From my understanding gained by interacting with other turners, I've come to a belief that positioning a sliding headstock in the center of the bedways, is in fact, the most unstable location for a sliding headstock. This may make no difference under some conditions, and with some turnings, but it could also exacerbate a balance condition that is so critical to getting the finest tool cut possible.....and, therefore necessitating additional sanding where it could have been bypassed. o_O

-----odie-----
 
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A sliding headstock has one disadvantage (IMHO), and that is you lose the ability to brace your body against the lathe while hollowing out the interior of bowls
I had a PM 90 fixed headstock for about 1-1/2 years before buying my Laguna 18-36 with sliding headstock. I don't really remember if I braced my body using the PM. However using my Laguna with the headstock at the end I don't have a need or desire to brace against the lathe. I thought you need to move your body when turning and don't understand how you can brace yourself against the ways and do that. http://www.aawforum.org/community/index.php?threads/multi-quote
 

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I thought you need to move your body when turning and don't understand how you can brace yourself against the ways and do that.
I agree with you. However everyone has different styles.
I know several successful turners who can’t move their body so they have adopted other techniques.

most important to me is to have my back straight or it will hurt.
I tend to move all my weight from one foot to other as I cut with the tool handle tight against my side.
The dance that creates curves.

Bracing can give extra leverage( not needed when you let the tools do the work)
Bracing can also provide support needed for a variety of physical issues.

Eric Lofstrom has nice article in the May Fundamentals - Biomechanics and Body Movement
It is well worth a read. He has a lot of interesting ideas.

I met Eric at SWAT last year and even caught one of his demos.
Eric is demonstrating at Portland in a few days....
His demo was fun to watch, entertaining, and engaging.
If you are going to Portland try to see one of Eric’s demos.
 
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I had a PM 90 fixed headstock for about 1-1/2 years before buying my Laguna 18-36 with sliding headstock. I don't really remember if I braced my body using the PM. However using my Laguna with the headstock at the end I don't have a need or desire to brace against the lathe. I thought you need to move your body when turning and don't understand how you can brace yourself against the ways and do that.

Well, William......I understand that others don't see things from my perspective very well. Perhaps we'd have to do a Vulcan mind meld for that to happen! :D

From my point of view, the ability to brace my hips against the lathe, is exactly why I've been so successful in making multiple smooth uniform passes on the interior of bowls.

If you look here:
http://aawforum.org/community/index.php?media/
....you'll see that there's just not very many turners who do traditional bowls. Basically, ALL of us pretty much start out making bowls, but nearly all of us end up doing other things. I've got a theory about that, and it's that most of us get frustrated doing the interiors of bowls......so much so, that they move on to other things without ever mastering the techniques required for excellence here......and, even though it's a difficult thing to get fine details on the exterior of bowls, the interior of bowls remains the most difficult part of a well executed bowl. Either turners make bowls that are shaped specifically for the ease of power sanding, or they move on to other things. Of course, there are a lot of very finely crafted turnings in the AAW gallery.....but, there is a distinct lack of bowls with visible interiors, or otherwise easily scrutinized by the observer.

-----odie-----
 
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Kind of hard to move your body when your hunched over the tool rest deep inside a vase or deep bowl. This is when most people find a comfortable position for their body to be in for the hollowing process. A shallow large opening vessel allows plenty of movement with the tools, but a small opening vessel limits range of movement again. Being stationary hunched over in one position for any length of time at a lathe is not much fun.
 

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If you look here:
http://aawforum.org/community/index.php?media/
....you'll see that there's just not very many turners who do traditional bowls. Basically, ALL of us pretty much start out making bowls, but nearly all of us end up doing other things.

The posted photos do not give an accurate representation of how many people do bowls.

I have very few photos of bowls because my hollow form photos were taken to get into shows. Go to any instant gallery and you see lots of well executed bowls. I like doing once turned hollow forms and NE bowls more than traditional bowls because I think it shows off the wood better and turning green wood is more enjoyable to me. But I always do a few traditional bowls because people like them.

I think there are so many folks doing well made bowls that I don’t post photos of a bowl unless it’s a little different or a spectacular piece of wood. I did put photos of a couple of sandcarved bowls in the gallery because they are different. There are photos of some terrific bowls in the current AAW journal.

Below are the results of a member survey done in 2016. Bowls and platters rank number one in every category.
F7064E06-E3BC-45AD-B322-AA1D66A88443.jpeg
 

Bill Boehme

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While bowls aren't my primary interest, the reality is that I turn far more bowls than anything else because people like my bowls for whatever reason. I highly value technical excellence, but at the same time I recognize that technical excellence doesn't necessarily correspond to high precision nor to creative excellence. Each of these three characteristics stands on its own merit.
 
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A sliding headstock has one disadvantage (IMHO), and that is you lose the ability to brace your body against the lathe while hollowing out the interior of bowls (when the headstock is positioned at the end of the bedways).
I agree with Odie that this is the only disadvantage with a sliding headstock. Bowls and plates are my primary interest now and when hollowing I found out also that you do loose the ability to brace your body against the lathe. When I am turning bowls I find that I always use my body to lean against the lathe to brace myself for steady and precise cuts.
 
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I guess that is where we differ in our styles, Lamar. I do not brace or need to myself against the lathe for precise cuts. To me it is not necessary. I am no expert and it is still a learning process, but all the info and demos I have seen, precise cuts can be made without bracing yourself against the lathe. So a sliding headstock is a definite advantage to me.
 
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So a sliding headstock is a definite advantage to me.
Hello William, I do agree with you that a sliding headstock is a advantage and that is why I bought the Jet 1640. For me though, when hollowing I got used to leaning against the lathe for a better balance and more control with my cutting. And yes, I'm sure that some turners don't need to brace themselves. I believe in doing what is best for you. William, maybe it is the fact that I'm getting old and need all the support I can get! :D
 
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Well......one thing is for sure......we all have opinions about what works best for our own styles and techniques. On this forum, it's difficult to give opinions that don't conform to what is generally accepted turning philosophy, and/or techniques. Rule by consensus (aka: herd think) is not the best way to explore our own possibilities! :D

-----odie-----
 
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Last night I was doing a bowl with the tailstock out of the way and the headstock in the middle of the ways. I was thinking about this thread and realized that I wasn't leaning against the lathe at all but standing fairly straight and swinging my body with the tool. The only contact I had with the lathe was my left hand on the toolrest. It is really easy on my back compared to working off the side.
 

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Well......one thing is for sure......we all have opinions about what works best for our own styles and techniques. On this forum, it's difficult to give opinions that don't conform to what is generally accepted turning philosophy, and/or techniques. Rule by consensus (aka: herd think) is not the best way to explore our own possibilities! :D

-----odie-----
You have to actually visit the herd sometime - see it in action. It would be terrific to see some of your work in the instant gallery at Portland. You would be amazed at the quality and extraordinary assortment of the turnings in the instant gallery. It would give you a perspective on how you see your own turnings in that vast array.

When I go to a symposium I see dozens of demonstrators using different techniques to accomplish spectacular work.
When I visit the instant gallery I see hundreds of well executed pieces and a few by brave newbies that haven’t quite achieved the surface quality and form they strive for ( I have spoken with dozens of them over the years In the intimate critiques)
I get to talk with turners about their work, their philosophy, the tools they use.
The main commonality of the herd is that they use the same watering hole then go off and do their individual work.

All ideas are worth sharing.
It is not however appropriate to compare your techniques and work to techniques and work you have not seen.
 
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You have to actually visit the herd sometime - see it in action. It would be terrific to see some of your work in the instant gallery at Portland. You would be amazed at the quality and extraordinary assortment of the turnings in the instant gallery. It would give you a perspective on how you see your own turnings in that vast array.

When I go to a symposium I see dozens of demonstrators using different techniques to accomplish spectacular work.
When I visit the instant gallery I see hundreds of well executed pieces and a few by brave newbies that haven’t quite achieved the surface quality and form they strive for ( I have spoken with dozens of them over the years In the intimate critiques)
I get to talk with turners about their work, their philosophy, the tools they use.
The main commonality of the herd is that they use the same watering hole then go off and do their individual work.

All ideas are worth sharing.
It is not however appropriate to compare your techniques and work to techniques and work you have not seen.

Al......you'd have to observe "the herd" from the outside, to have any understanding of how restrictive an influence it is on those who seek knowledge. It's the belief that the accepted way of doing things is the best path to success. When overly confident practitioners of "the faith" do not recognize the validity of the alternatives, they actually do a disservice to others. Not only that, but to be a member of "the herd", it actually requires a certain amount of gullibility.....to walk the well traveled, and established paths.

-----odie-----
 

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Al......you'd have to observe "the herd" from the outside, to have any understanding of how restrictive an influence it is on those who seek knowledge. It's the belief that the accepted way of doing things is the best path to success. When overly confident practitioners of "the faith" do not recognize the validity of the alternatives, they actually do a disservice to others. Not only that, but to be a member of "the herd", it actually requires a certain amount of gullibility.....to walk the well traveled, and established paths.

-----odie-----
The point is - you never observed what you call the herd.
What is your concept based upon.

Most of the tier one turners I know respect and value alternative methods. They never stop learning from their peers and students. About 1/3 to 1/2 of the club turners I encounter are in the same mode learning as much as they can. Using what works for them.

You have never observed the herd. You seem to have formed some concept that everyone else does things all the same way. They don’t. They also are open to better ways of doing things. And many are stretching the envelop.

Are there people who copy other turners? Sure there are.
Copying is a great way to learn technique and form. At some point the good turners move on to their own unique forms and technique.

My turning style is built on a foundation of techniques I learned from self taught, Liam O’Neil, David Ellsworth, and many others. The influence is likely recognizable. But I do some turnings no one else does.

It is great feeling to do a turning no one else has done.
 
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Al......you'd have to observe "the herd" from the outside, to have any understanding of how restrictive an influence it is on those who seek knowledge. It's the belief that the accepted way of doing things is the best path to success. When overly confident practitioners of "the faith" do not recognize the validity of the alternatives, they actually do a disservice to others. Not only that, but to be a member of "the herd", it actually requires a certain amount of gullibility.....to walk the well traveled, and established paths.

-----odie-----

How much can one observe if his eyes are closed? While the ability to imagine is fuel for ones own creativity, it isn't a window to the possibilities that lie outside. The limitation of imagination is that it's a mirror, not a window.

One thing that I have observed at these gatherings is how different we are yet there's a common passion for working with wood that pulls us together. If that makes us herd creatures then you're one too. :)
 
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I'd like to see a turning no one else has done before. I wonder how far back we would have to go? It is interesting that someone can turn in a vacuum and still come up with something that has an inside and an outside and holds soup or salad. It is hard to say, I always do this, or, I never do that, because from boxes to bowls to platters and beyond, I turn differently depending. One of the things I like about the herd is the giving nature. Yes, some of the information is wrong, but that's life in general. Part of life is figuring right from wrong. I really enjoy teaching, I'm into the fundamentals. With a good foundation, a student doesn't have to struggle with catches, dismounts or torn end grain. I know experienced turners who think catches, dismounts and torn end grain are a normal part of turning.
They are wrong.
I learned woodturning by beating wood into submission, started sanding with 80 grit because I didn't know there was such a thing as 36. Now, I can get a finish off the tool that 1200 grit muddies. All the time? No, but that was a fun day. What's next for me? Not sure, I like my traditional bowl gouges but there are things a swept back does better. Negative rake scrapers? Assisted a segmented turner at Arrowmont in 2014 (what a blast), learned about, and added NRS to my arsenal. Don't use them all the time, didn't convert all my scrapers to NR but I know which one to grab for the job at hand. I hone, I burnish, sometimes...
Part of the Herd? Guilty. It is how I learn. I love being in a classroom whether student, assistant or instructor. What fascinates me is the different directions the participants take their new found knowledge. Wait, they're going off in different directions... Dang it, you can't even corral the herd...
 
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