Last Thursday evening after a regular workday, I jumped on a plane to Charlotte, N.C., to attend a SKIL Tools media event. The event centered on a new line of SKIL benchtop tools. Lowe’s and SKIL have partnered to produce and distribute a new line of tools for the up-and-coming woodworker. All the tools are entry-level tools , although I could see a couple of these tools hanging around a shop as experience grows.
So what are the tools? Here you go. New to the market and expected to be in stores by September ’08 are a 10″ table saw (3305-01), a 10″ benchtop drill press (3320-01), a 10″ compound miter saw (3315-01) and a 9″ band saw (3385-01) that has a 2.5-amp motor with two speed settings and a fully adjustable, tilting table (there’s also a work light that didn’t quite reach around to the front of the blade , where you need it , and a laser that I find all-but-useless on a band saw). There’s a universal miter saw stand (3300MS) that accommodates most compound saws up to 12″ and most sliding compound miter saws up to 10″ (quick-fit mounting brackets make it a snap to install your miter saw on the stand, or lift the saw off for easy movement), a combination belt and disc sander (3375-01) that uses a 4″ x 36″ belt and 6″ disc and has an easy-to-move table for making use of either setup, a 10″ scroll saw (3335-01) with a 16″ deep throat and electronic variable speed control and finally as well as a 6″ bench grinder (3380-01) with two wheels , coarse and medium , and eye shields with built-in LED lighting. Each of these tools are expected to be priced at $99 while the grinder is slated at $40.
The table saw has a cast aluminum tabletop, a 15-amp motor and comes complete with a heavy-duty stand. There’s a self-aligning fence, a lockable on/off switch and all the accessories attach to the base of the saw. I used this saw to rip stock for a project built during the event and it did just fine. No, it’s not a Powermatic 66. It’s not supposed to be. But at this price, you just might want to have a SKIL table saw in your shop for a quick cut or special circumstances.
The benchtop drill press has five speed settings, a keyed 1/2″ chuck and a battery-operated, two-beam laser that projects an “X” for accurate drill locations. I don’t know about you, but the drill press is a little-used tool in my shop. I’ve gone years with a radial drill press. I’ve seen no need for a floor-model tool. In my opinion, this drill press could handle most of the tasks I would ask of it.
SKIL’s 10″ compound miter saw has a few interesting features. I like the table extensions (shown in the photo). The extensions slide along a rail for multiple positions, then lock with a simple twist knob at the back. The entire rail can be set to either side of the saw depending on your work. In addition, this miter saw has a dual lock-off switch that allows smooth operation whether you’re a righty or a lefty. A 15-amp motor has no trouble spinning an included carbide tooth blade. And, safety is covered with this saw. When fully engaged in a cut, the blade guard never opens past a 5 o’clock position. This greatly reduces your exposure to the blade. This is another tool I expect could be used well into a woodworking career.
Once these tools are released, we’ll get a chance to put them through the tests and see how they stand up to the competition and how they work in the shop. For a quick look at the tools, click the SKIL Tool’s link below. And if you’re interested in additional information about the tools, click on the “About the Tools” file below.
How does NASCAR fit into this entry? As a bonus for attending their event, SKIL set up an afternoon at Lowe’s Motor Speedway for a ride-along with the Richard Petty Driving Experience. (Did I tell you how much I like this job?)
Each of us had an opportunity to take a few laps around the track reaching 165 mph. I wasn’t awed by the speed on the straight, but when you dip into the corner you feel the force. And there was no need to worry about sliding around in the car. First of all, those drivers must be a bit smaller around the mid-section than me because I barely squeezed into the seat. Then there are the safety precautions. Attached to me were more belts, clips and buckles than there are at a leather-goods facility.
The time was short, but I had a blast. If you’re in the area and haven’t done a ride-along, or if you’re planning a visit to Charlotte, give it a try. I guarantee you’ll be smiling as you exit the cars , we all did. And they pay me to do this.