The Rockwell Bladerunner is an economical tool designed for constructing small projects and is, from that perspective, a great tool for home-based woodworkers. Its main function is serving as a bench top machine and with its dimensions (15 ¾" wide by 17" deep), we think it's the perfect size. The table surface measuring 9 ¼" above the surface of the machine is all brushed steel panels and inset T-miter slots, which in turn accept the included miter gauge. One miter slot runs side-to-side meeting the second running front-to-back all across the table. The case comes with rubber soled corners which helps in reducing sound transmissions. With the table edges being square (despite the corners clipped at 45 degree angles), aftermarket shop built jigs, clamp-on fences and other specialty operations can be used with relative ease.
While the Bladerunner's blade guard (with built in dust port) is included and provides rudimentary functionality, it can be adjusted at any height to accommodation different material thicknesses. The lever operated pressure foot keeps the woodpiece down and over all, the port is pretty straightforward. It includes a twist-in connector measuring 1 ½" in diameter which will fit major shop vacuum hoses. Over all, though, the dust collection system does a decent job as long as the guard is down during operation.
The keyed on/off flip switch is installed on the front right corner while the speed control dial is fixed on the opposite corner. When we removed the plastic key, the switch was disabled to prevent any unauthorized access or use, which is great for anyone who has curious kids poking about in their shop. The motor powering the Bladerunner clocks in 5.5A, 120V and produces between 800-2800 strokes per minute, 7/8" blade stroke.
The Rockwell comes equipped with five different blades: one each for wood, steel, scrolling wood, aluminum and ceramic materials. When equipped with the right blade for the workpiece (insert a metal cutting blade and it can cut through aluminum up to 3/8" thick and steel up to 1/8"), the Bladerunner is incredibly effective. Aside from metal, it can also cut up 1 ½" thickness of wood and 1 ¼" diameter of PVC piping. Even ceramic material can be cut up to 7/8" in thickness with the accompanying blade. And since Rockwell employs a number of T-shank style blades so you effectively have several options, although we would recommend purchasing high quality blades to get the most bang for buck. One of the best things about this machine is how easily the blades can be changed and/or replaced simply by operating a slide button on the table's surface. Simply depress the red button and the blade is released, install the new blade through the rubber seal blade mechanism protection and release the slider lock.
The Bladerunner comes with two accessories: the circle cutter and picture frame cutter. The former allows you to cut in perfect 3"-18" diameter circles with materials up to an inch thick. The accessory itself easily slips into the front to back miter slot mentioned above locking onto the side-to-side slot keeping the jig in place. The Circle Cutter kit includes the jig, a center pin fixture, screws and a scrolling blade. Before installing the Cutter, mark the center of the stock with lines crossing from each corner and then place the center pin over the intersecting point of the lines, using the included screws to fasten it down. Follow it up by affixing the scrolling blade into the machine.
Bladerunner Trade Show Demo Video:
The Picture Frame Cutter like its circular cutting counterpart also fits into the front to back miter slot, but makes use of two preset and positioned faces to hold stock pieces at a 45 degree angle to the blade. The full kit contains the base jig, an adjustable stop, a rabbet pointer (for cutting pieces with rabbet as a backing board) and an extension arm and the Cutter can cut pieces up to 26" in length and ¾" in thickness. Using the Cutter is relatively straightforward: simply place the piece up against the front and cut and depending on the piece's length, you can choose to add the extension arm.
The outer casing of the Bladerunner includes a carrying handle which makes storing and shifting within the shop a lot easier, and without an additional cart to do it for you. The machine's cabinet includes a pull out dust drawer, cord storage pegs and just beneath the table, a pullout blade storage drawer with a built in magnet that helps securing the blades during movement or shifting, etc.
If you're really looking to get sharp cuts and high performance, we would advise getting third party manufactured blades which enhances the performance and the quality. You might also want to look into the option of building a sled in place of the included miter gauge. Don't expect this to replace a table saw, however. Unfortunately, miracle tools like that haven't been designed yet and when they are, we'll be the first to write let you know.
Over all, the speed controls are useful particularly when switching style blades or when working with different types of materials and there's enough raw power to use enhanced blades and feed rates. The arm blade guard also works well although we did have a bit of trouble setting it up. The dust collection system didn't always collect every little sliver of dust but it definitely stored most of what we threw at it.
The Rockwell Bladerunner shows its true colors when paired with an aggressive scrolling-type blade and while it can't match the fine work deployed by a scroll saw, with the right blade it comes very close.