Well-Equipped Shop Special: Best New Tools for 2004 - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Well-Equipped Shop Special: Best New Tools for 2004

 In Questions And Answers
Each summer the woodworking tool manufacturers roll out their new products for the coming year at two gigantic shows. Here's the gear we saw there that really got us excited about going back to our woodshops this winter.

Multi-Purpose Router

Porter-Cable has taken the wraps off a long-awaited redesign of their classic 690 series router. The new 890 series has taken a giant leap forward in recognizing that woodworkers love their router tables, and want a router that's designed to be used in one.

The 890 is available as a fixed-base router for $200. For another $50, you can buy a kit that adds a plunge base. We love interchangeable-base kits because you can leave the fixed base in the router table and use the plunge base for hand-held work. With this setup, one router motor can do just about everything.

Changing bits and adjusting their height is easy with the 890 mounted in the router table. It's all done from above, so there's no need to remove the router body. You can also access the locking lever from above, so the only time you have to reach under the table is to turn the router on and off.
A 12-amp, variable speed 2-1/4-hp motor powers the 890. This is just what you need for running bits larger than 1-3/8-in. diameter, such as panel raisers in a router table. The motor slowly ramps up to speed with a soft-start feature, terrific for those big bits. Electronic feedback ensures that the motor maintains a constant speed under load.

  The 890 is unusual in that it has two switches. One is located down low, by the collet, so you can turn the router on and off without letting go of the fixed-base handles. That's a great safety feature. When you put on the plunge base, though, you can only use the second switch, located on top of the router.

Replace one of the 890's handles with the GripVac ($29, not shown) and you've got a convenient D-handle with built-in dust collection. Connect a
vacuum hose to the top of the handle in order to pull dust through the base.
If you've already got a 690 base setup in a jig or router table, you'll be happy to know that the new 890 motor will fit.

Porter-Cable, (800) 368-1487
890 fixed-base router; $200
895PK (includes plunge base); $250,
GripVac; $29.

Shim-Free Dado Set

Fine-tuning the width of a stackable dado head with shims can make you dance the Hokey Pokey. You put a shim in, take a shim out, make a test cut, and pull your hair out! Freud's new 8-in. dado head, the SD608 Dial-A-Width ($230) does away with shims altogether. Instead, there's an adjustable hub on the outer blade.

Rotating the hub changes the width of the dado cut. As you turn the hub, each click indicates that you've moved the position of the outer blade by .004 in.; a little more than the thickness of a dollar bill. For smaller adjustments you can lock the hub in- between click positions. One full rotation of the hub moves the outer blade by 1/32 in.

No matter what the setting, the Dial-A-Width cuts a flat bottom dado. Dialing the hub doesn't tilt the outer blade; it just moves it in and out. That's an entirely different principle than a wobble-type adjustable dado head, which does tilt the blades and doesn't cut a flat bottom.

The Dial-A-Width works on both right- and left-tilt saws. To keep it accessible, the hub can go on either the right or left outside blade.

Tool Crib of the North,
Dial-A-Width Dado, SD608; $230.

Adjustable Pocket Hole Jig

The new Pocket-Pro Joinery System from CMT ($140) picks up where many other jigs leave off. They're designed for 3/4-in.-thick pieces, but the Pocket-Pro is adjustable to correctly position a pocket hole in material anywhere from 1/2- to 1-3/4-in. thick.

The trick to making a strong pocket hole joint is to get the screw to exit in the middle of the board. As a board gets thicker, the pocket hole has to be drilled farther from the end to keep the screw centered. CMT's solution is to mount the drill guide on a base with a toothed rack, and index the rack in 1/8-in. increments. It's easy to fine-tune the setting for a board of almost any thickness simply by raising or lowering the drill guide.

The Pocket-Pro kit includes a toggle clamp and base, a pair of stepped drill bits and a stop collar, two square-drive bits and a quick-release clamp.

CMT, (888) CMT-Bits
Pocket-Pro, PP.002;$140.

Heavy-Duty Storage

Isn't the piece of wood you want usually on the bottom of your huge wood pile? Anybody who collects odds and ends of wood like a pack rat could use the WoodRack storage system from Triton ($70). Unlike most heavy-duty shelving, this one uses low-profile arms to divide up the most stuff in the least amount of space. Each level can hold up to 110 lbs. That's about 40 bd. ft. of red oak per level.

The WoodRack is easy to install. All you have to do is secure the standards to studs in your wall with lag bolts. (The lag bolts aren't included.) The kit includes spacers that go between the standards and the wall to compensate for irregularities.

  The WoodRack comes with two vertical standards and 12 support arms, enough for six levels. The standards are 41-in. high and the arms are 12-3/4-in. long. The spacing between the arms is 7-1/2 in. By simply moving a setscrew or leaving out a support arm you can modify the spacing.

McFeely's, (800) 443-7937
Triton WoodRack WRA 001; $70.

New Line of Portable Tools

If you shop at The Home Depot, you're probably familiar with Ridgid stationary power tools. Starting now, you'll also see an entire new line of Ridgid portable power tools. You'll find cordless and corded drills, random orbit sanders, a finish sander, jigsaw, circular saw, reciprocating saw and an angle grinder.

Three X2 series cordless drills, 12-, 14.4-, and 18-volt, cost from $169 to $259. They all have a 1/2-in. chuck, two speeds, a 24-position clutch and come with two batteries. The chuck has an automatic spindle lock for one-handed tightening and loosening of bits. The batteries recharge in half an hour, which is exceptionally fast.

  The Ridgid R2600 random orbit sander ($80) has a speed range from 7,000 to 12,000 rpm, comparable to other sanders. It also has electronic feedback to maintain speed when the motor is operating under a heavy load. This sander accepts both hook-and-loop and pressure-sensitive sandpaper. For dust control, you can use a bag or connect to a vacuum that has either a 1-1/4- or 2-1/4-in. hose. This machine also has a conveniently long 12-ft. cord.

Ridgid Tools, The Home Depot or
(800) 474-3443,
Cordless drills: R82015 12 volt; $169
R83015 14.4 volt; $199;
R84015 18 volt; $259
Random orbit sander, R2600; $80.

Rugged 14-in. Bandsaw

If you've ever stood a wide oak board on edge and ripped it in half on a 14-in. bandsaw, you know what it's like to push a tool to the max. Laguna's new 14-in. saw, the LT14SE, ($1,095) is built to handle a heavy load like that with ease.

A bandsaw needs extra power, rigidity and capacity to resaw big boards. With more power, you can keep up a reasonable feed rate, and this saw is driven by a 240-volt, 2-hp motor. (Most 14-in. bandsaws have a 1- or 1-1/2-hp motor.) The Laguna is built with a stiff, welded-steel frame to make a smoother cut. (Most saws have cast-iron frames, which flex more under load.) The LT14SE can handle boards up to 12-in. wide, as is. (An additional riser kit is necessary to bring most 14-in. saws up to this capacity.)

The LT14SE's wheels are wide enough to turn a 1-in. blade. Maximum blade size on many 14-in. machines is 3/4 in. The wider the blade, the straighter the cut, because a blade's stiffness increases with width. To get the longest life out of a blade, this saw uses low-friction ceramic guide blocks. (For a closer look, see page 79). A fence is included with the saw, but the stand is a $80 accessory.

Laguna Tools, (800) 234-1976
LT14SE; $1,095
Stand; $80.

Blank Tape Measure?

Whoever invented this tape is a genius! One half of the tape is blank-a perfect example of less is more.

The blank strip under the numbers on the PSSP-16 tape from FastCap ($6.50) is for ticking off your own direct measurements with a pencil. Rather than measure the width of a cabinet, for example, and write it down incorrectly, you simply make a mark on the ruler itself.

  This innovative tape also has an exceptionally readable scale, with all the fractions spelled out. In addition, there's a blank space on the body that's a note pad on which you can record measurements. And finally, did we mention that there's a built-in pencil sharpener? Wow!

FastCap, (888) 443-3748,
TriTape PSSP-16 16-ft. tape measure; $6.50
TriTape PSSP-25 25-ft. tape measure; $9.50.

Turn Logs Into Lumber

Have you ever dreamed of taking a project from tree to finish by milling your own wood? The new chainsaw-based Woodworkers Mill from Logosol ($1,995, without the chainsaw) can help make the dream come true.

This could be the most expensive woodworking tool you own, but few things can save you more money on wood. It's also pretty cool to salvage wood destined for a landfill, or stockpile unusual species that aren't available commercially.

  Portable saw mills aren't new, but the Logosol is exceptionally easy to move around, even deep into the woods. It fits in the back of a small truck and only weighs 85 lbs. It will cut logs 4- to 8-ft. long, weighing up to 1,100 lbs. The maximum log diameter depends on the length of the chainsaw's bar. Logosol recommends using a saw with at least a 5-hp. motor. They also sell a model that includes a chainsaw ($2,795).

One problem you'll run into is hoisting the log up onto the 20-in.-high cutting platform. You'll need either some strong help, lifting equipment, a ramp, or all of the above.

Logosol, (877) 564-6765,
The Woodworkers Mill, without a chainsaw; $1,995
with a Husqvarna Husky 385XP chainsaw; $2,795.

Smart Drum Sander

Drum sanders can be big time savers, but if you're not careful you can burn through an awful lot of expensive sandpaper. The latest version of a classic drum sander from Performax, the 22-44 Plus ($999 without stand), incorporates an electronic feedback device that takes some of the aggravation out of fine-tuning the depth-of-cut setting. This device, called SandSmart, was previously only available on much more expensive drum sanders.

To use SandSmart, you turn the variable speed control to the top rate at which you want your work to feed through the machine. If that speed begins to overload the drum as you sand, SandSmart kicks in and automatically slows down the machine's conveyor belt. It continually monitors the load on the drum and subtly adjusts the feed rate.

  The 22-44 Plus is a 22-in. cantilevered drum that sands material up to 44-in. wide, in two passes. We recommended this machine as an Editors' Choice in AW# 93, April 2002, before the addition of the SandSmart system. The machine's 1-3/4 hp motor runs on 110-volts, but requires a dedicated 20-amp circuit. Accessories include infeed and outfeed tables ($100) and casters ($90). The 22-44 Plus on an open stand goes for $1,099. With the closed stand shown at left and casters, it's $1,199.

Performax, (800) 274-6848,
22-44 Plus, without stand, $999.

Miter Stand Kit

Want a plan for a solid miter saw stand on wheels? Get the steel parts from Rousseau ($129) and add the wood parts yourself.
The Model 2850 includes a metal frame, locking casters and the hardware to put it all together. To make the shelves and folding wings, you'll need a little less than one full sheet of plywood or particleboard.

When you're done, you'll have a miter saw stand that takes up little space but can handle large jobs. With the wings folded down, the stand measures only 19 by 33 in. It's easy to roll into a corner of your shop, out of the way.

  When you're ready to cut, roll the cart in place, lock down the wheels and pop up the wings. Each wing is 36-in. long and 15-in. deep. With the wings raised, the stand is 8-ft. long. The wings can accommodate a fence with stop blocks, a must-have feature for cutting long material.

The stand is designed to fit almost any size saw, even a huge slider. The height of the main table is fully adjustable, so you can fine-tune the alignment of your saw with the folding wings.

Rousseau Co, (800) 635-3416
Miter Saw Stand, Model 2850; $129.

EDITOR: Tom Caspar
PHOTOS: courtesy of the manufacturers

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