From the Editors and Contributors
In an effort to inform our readers about the latest and greatest, Popular Woodworking has surveyed the rich landscape of tools and equipment available and made our picks of woodworking tools of note for 2019. Here’s our top ten, plus one tool storage accessory thrown in for good measure.
Armor Tools • Price: $140
Pocket hole joinery using screws is, many times, easier and faster than traditional joinery methods, and Armor Tool’s Auto-Jig has features to make the process easier yet. The “Auto” in the name means that the jig self-adjusts to the thickness of your material as it is clamped in, and the action of clamping down your workpiece also sets the drill guide to the correct height as well as setting the position of the stop collar on the drill bit. It takes all the guesswork out of using a pocket hole jig. If you use Armor Tool’s screws, they are painted to correspond with color-coded dots on the drill guide so you can confirm the correct length at a glance, too.
Axiom Tool Group • Price: $499
Ceiling-mounted ambient air cleaners are stuck in one spot in your workshop, and have to fight gravity to collect airborne dust. The Stratus air cleaner can be moved to wherever you’re working, so it’s closer to the source of dust. It’s designed to catch dust on the way down before it has a chance to circulate throughout the room. At its top setting, the Stratus inhales air at a rate of 848 cfm through its washable outer filter and 1 micron inner filter. Available upgrades include a stainless steel body and an odor and smoke neutralizing charcoal filter. The Stratus packs a lot of air-cleaning power into a small footprint.
Bridge City Tool Works • Price: $769
When John Econo-maki sold Bridge City Tools to Harvey Industries, some people were worried about a drop in quality (we were, too). But having gotten our hands on the products coming out of the factory, we were very impressed (John was, too). Case in point is this high-tech, high-concept block plane with both the adaptability and precision to justify its price tag. Unlike other block planes, (with the exception of previous Bridge City models), you can switch the HP-9v2 from a 42-degree low-angle plane to a general purpose 47-degree model by flipping its dual-sided iron end for end. With its unmatched fit, finish and precision — not to mention its knockout good looks — this Bridge City plane is awesome. It comes with depth-guide skids and a side-mounted combo square and bevel fence. And, because they’re being made at scale, you don’t have to wait six months or more to get yours.
Festool • Price $1475
No other miter saw has the cachet to be known by a singular appellation like the Kapex, and now the next generation of this venerable saw has arrived. But beyond any snob appeal, the Kapex has a well-deserved reputation as an accurate and easy-to-use saw with great dust collection. Legacy features include the up-front, micro-adjust-able bevel angle adjustment knob and dual lasers that define both sides of the blade’s kerf. New features on this latest model add extendable material supports, an improved motor and optional crown molding supports and stops.
Grex Power Tools • Price: $288/$305
A 21-ga. nailer is a crossover tool that leaves a smaller countersink hole than an 18-ga. brad nailer, and provides more holding power than a 23-ga. pin nailer. The H850LX from Grex shoots slight-head brads from 3/8″ to up to 2″. An ingenious edge guide keeps the nailer in the correct position where accuracy really counts such as fastening along the edges of casework or applying edging to sheetgoods. Like other Grex nailers, this tool features an all-metal design for durability, as well as other premium features like rear exhaust and dry-fire lockout with a manual override to allow you to use the last several nails if you’re not at a convenient stopping point to reload.
Grizzly Industrial • Price: $1295/$1725
Every woodworker wishes they had a wider and longer jointer, and these new models from Grizzly more than fill the bill for most workshops. The G0857 has a cutterhead with four straight knives while the G0858 employs 36 indexable carbide inserts on a helical head, but both models share the same specs in other regards, such as 3hp motors, integrated mobile bases and parallelogram bed adjustment with four points of contact and arched table travel for alignment. These jointers are priced right, function well and are made to last.
Jet Tools • Price: $1700/$2600
Jet’s new 15-inch straight-knife and helical-head planers aren’t just their latest mid-size models, with the addition of Jet’s PASS system, they’re also quite possibly their greatest. PASS stands for Precision Air Strut System, which is a mechanism that actively pushes the cutter-head upward to alleviate snipe. Both planers share the same 3 hp motor, two-speed gearbox with 16 fpm and 20 fpm feed speed, and 5,200 rpm cutterhead speed. But the 15B has folding steel infeed and outfeed support wings, while the pricier 15BHH has fixed, cast iron supports. As for cutter-heads, the 15B uses three straight steel knives, and the 15BHH features a helical head outfitted with 48 carbide-tipped inserts.
Kreg Tool Company • Price: $900
Track saws are an easy, portable solution to using a table saw for making precise cuts in materials, especially when working alone. It’s much easier to guide a saw over your work-piece rather than struggling to feed heavy, unwieldy sheetgoods along the fence of a table saw. And for long diagonal cuts, a track saw is really the only way to achieve accurate results. Kreg has introduced a plunge-cutting track saw and track system, along with a work table and other accessories designed for woodworking, and they’ve done it at a significant bargain compared to major competitors in the market. For a woodworker looking to save space or have a portable, fully-featured cutting solution, the Kreg ACS is definitely worth a look.
Rikon Tools • Price: $2000
Rikon took their model 10-326 14-inch bandsaw and made it one of the most versatile upright bandsaws for the shop with the addition of a DVR motor. That’s digital variable reluctance in case you’re wondering, and it lets you slow the speed of the motor way down (to an amazing 100 rpm) without losing torque. Common induction motors found on most shop equipment run at one speed and require you to rearrange belts and pulleys to shift gears. With its “smart” 1 3/4 HP DVR motor, Rikon’s new saw features 15 preset speeds ranging from 45 sfpm (with a pulley change) to 4,400 sfpm so you can choose the correct blade speed to avoid scorching certain woods, melting plastics, and overheating blades when cutting metals. Other welcome benefits from the DVR motor include very low vibration and an electronic brake eliminates a long coast-down period after cutting.
Triton Tools • Price: $119
Oscillating spindle sanders add an up-and-down motion to their rotating spindles to avoid wearing out their sanding sleeves in one place along the thickness of your material. Most spindle sanders are benchtop models, but Triton is offering a portable handheld version to allow you to smooth and profile the edges on larger workpieces. This sander is just the thing for squaring up the edges of curved materials or thick slabs, but it can also be used freehand for breaking sharp edges with more maneuver-ability than a belt sander. The included adjustable edge guide adds a measure of control to keep you from gouging divots into edge surfaces, and the tool also comes with a bench-mounting kit that lets you use the tool inverted in stationary benchtop mode for use with small pieces. For maximum versatility, the tool comes with four rubber sanding drums in 1/2″, 3/4″, 1 1/32″, and 1 1/2″ diameters.
Woodpeckers • Price: $125
Pipe clamps, f-clamps, and parallel-jaw clamps are a chore to store efficiently, and the weight of all that steel adds up quickly, so you need a heavy-duty storage solution to load them on. Rack-It brackets from Woodpeckers provide high-density and secure hanging storage in a small amount of wall space. Mounting plates of different widths are sized to span common wall stud spacing, and you can attach the two sizes of arm brackets to the plates in different positions to customize the rack for your specific clamp storage needs. Optimally packed, the 16″ model can hold 43 clamps in the space of a single stud bay (as shown).