Woodworking Tools

Miter Gauges ... Everything You Ever Wanted to Know

Since the table saw is considered the most valuable tool in the workshop, it is safe to assume that the cross cutting wood would be a main function. Even if you own some sort of a mitre saw, you will still be doing cross cutting on your table saw. Getting accurate cuts, at a true right angle can be a challenge ... but help is one the way Click Below for details on how you can finally get some satisfaction from cross cutting on your table saw ...

All tables saws come with some sort of a miter gauge, and most of them look the same, and even work the same. A simple bar which is fastened to a metallic half-moon, with a series of angle marks on it and usually a big hand tighten knob on top to secure. Unless you paid big money for your table saw, most of these somewhat simple miter gauges are not very accurate to the marks on the gauge, nor to the "click stops" (if they have any). The only way to make most of these old style miter gauges accurate is to align them to the blade each time you want to use it. The other problem with mitre gauges is that the face is often too small to hold anything but smaller pieces of wood. To correct this there are adapter holes on the miter gauges that an ambitious woodworker can attach their own wider piece of wood thus making a wider fence. There is a better way.

A few companies in recent years have actually started to manufactured a variety of different designs of miter gauges that are fast and accurate to use.

For expample if you are making picture frames or home reno moldings, Incra Miter Gauge  is perfect for you. after you make one cut, you simply use the other side to make the opposing cuts ... don't even have to make an adjustment. 

Going back to picture framing for a moment ... if you have both vertical and horizontal pieces cut to lenth, or at least marked to lenght, all you have to do is cut the opposing sides using this mitre gauge. I does it all for you. All you have to do is go ahead and glue and pin the the frame together. It has one big advantage which is ease of use and setup. If you want to do some production picture framing it is easy to attach extensions on both sides of this fence so you don't even have to measure and layout your pieces, and if you want to get really fancy you could attach some sliding adjustable fence guides ... now your talking production. 

If you are looking for a more generic mitre gauge, we have the answer for that too. A mitre gauge that does it all, easy adjustments, easy to read, precision stops and adjustments ... this is the mother of all mitre gauges ... the last mitre gauge you will ever need!!

 The gauge has been manufactured with laser cut teeth to ensure absolute precision and crisp interlocking connections for a highly accurate setting. What's really cool is this mitre gauge already includes a 27 inch cut off fence  WITH a materials stop, so when you are doing repeat cuts or any kind of production, you set the stop and just start running the material through.

So ... your mitre gauge problems can not only be solved, there is hope that you can make accurate  cross cuts with repeat accuracy for years to come by investing in a tool that will make you life easier, reduce you woodworking frustrations and create the kind of projects you want.

Copyright Colin Knecht

We Tried it - Ridgid Tablesaw TS2410LS

  The Ridgid TS2410LS  is sound looking contractor style table saw. Although as woodworkers, don't give tool "looks" a lot of credibility, still if a tool looks sturdy it makes one want to at least try it out, which we did. Overall the saw appeared well manufactured with quality materials and nicely finished components, the first signs that you may be dealing with a quality item. At first blush, the saw seemed to have all controls easily available for the operator and everything ran smoothly. Click below to read more about what we found using this saw ...

The saw is equipped with a solid table, this is good for sturdiness. The one thing we really liked was the built-in "TSUV™ Table Saw Utility Vehicle" folding base. The base has special bracket that lets you quickly turn the saw's base into a hand trolley of sort. This makes the saw easy to move and solid to work with, a REAL bonus for so many woodworkers who have limited space and need mobility bases. The hand trolley not only lets you move the saw around, but also has room to carry wood and other items at the bottom ... saves making two trips. Many other mobile bases are unstable, use only tiny wheels, or use locking wheels, all in all my experience with this is not great, mostly because few are really solid once they are supposed to be ready for use; a real safety hazard.

Ridgid Tablesaw TS2410LS

The controls on the Ridgid were smooth and easy to use, but one would expect smooth on a new tool. One of the most important purposes of a table saw is ripping wood, and having a good rip fence is a must. We found the rip fence on the ridgid OK, not fabulous, just OK. This is not a bad thing for a contractors saw. There is a micro adjustment, which is also OK. Moving the fence back and forth was nice and smooth and when it was locked in place it was solid! We found the fence was not too hard to adjust as it was slightly out of alignment from the factory. The other thing we liked about the rip fence and the saw: a very decent extension, like 26 inches to the right of the blade and 12 to the left of the blade.

The next thing we looked for was the alignment of the blade to the mitre slots. Most woodworkers don't realize that the under carriage of the blade is adjustable and should be adjusted so that the blades are perfectly aligned with the mitre slots. This is where perfectly, non-binding ripped wood comes from. To our delight, there was NO adjustments needed to the trunion assembly, it was off slightly, but was well within the tolerances of working with wood.

The next thing was to try some ripping and crosscutting. To be honest, there is little value in testing a tablesaw unless you use a "known table saw blade". The blade that comes with the Ridgid looked OK, but we opted to use our tried-and-true Freud "Glueline Rip, 60 tooth crosscut and combination blades because we know what they produce. After installing the Freud Glueline rip and turning on the saw, we were very impressed with the smooth, very low vibration and overall "tightness" of the saw. Part of this we deemed was the extra attention Ridgid paid to the pulley and special multi-band belt that connects the motor to the saw blade. An excellent choice for smooth operation.

The first wood we ran through the saw was three quarter inch red oak. The saw, with it's 15 Amp motor ate breezed through it no problem. We decided to try some two inch beech just to see what that would do, and this was getting to be a bit much for this saw's horsepower, although it made it through with a bit of reluctance , but then we knew this was pushing this saw beyond it's purposes. We went on to try the crosscut and combination blades with a variety of woods and found the saw a real joy to use.

If we have any fault with the saw , or really with the accessories, like most saws in this category the mitre gauges are only OK. If you want or need good cross cutting with your table saw a sled or one of the aftermarket mitre gauges would be a good choice.

All in all we really liked this saw, it was smooth, easy to use and very nice for anyone with a smaller work space. If you really want a quality saw this would be a good choice and one day if you have a few extra buck, purchase a bit beefier motor and this saw will be lifetime keeper.

Copyright - Colin Knecht 

We Tried it - Drill Doctor Drill Bit Sharpener Review

We have seen these handy drill sharpening devices advertised in magazines for a few years now and have always wondered how well they work. As a strong advocate of sharp tools I never really seem to know when my drill bits are getting dull except when I'm in the middle of a job and need a sharp bit the most. I have inexpensive bits and I have good drill bits and believe me, there is a big difference, but I will go into that in another article. The only bits I use are the good bits and although they stay sharp longer, they still get dull ... click below to read HOW drill bits get dull and what to do about it.

First of all, drill bits don't necessarily get dull because you are drilling into hard steel or rock or concrete. Drill bits can dull very easily drilling into nothing but wood. The reason drill bits get dull is because most of them are just steel and when steel gets hot it melts. Know I know your drill bits don't "melt" ... but the very tips of the edges can get hot enough to begin to melt which means that the steel fatigues and the edge is then lost. If you don't believe me, imagine! making about 20 deep holes into some 2" oak then try touch your drill bit with your bare fingers .... yeah! ... It's hot enough to leave third degree burns. And so what happens, the edge is now gone on your drill bit, what to do now.

Enter the Drill Doctor. We were impressed with the package. The Drill Doctor - "The Drill Bit Sharpener" unit comes in a nice blue plastic container, well laid out and with instructions and a video that were easy to follow but not extensive (which is what we hoped for). It was nice to see that it all went back fairly easily into the case when we were done too - something a lot of OTHER VENDERS could learn from -hint, hint.

The Drill Doctor we tried out comes with a couple of special "jigs" that you must first load your dull drill bit into. Depending on the size of the bit you select either to larger or the smaller jig. Not difficult to do, but it does need to be aligned as your instructions indicate.

We decided to really work this unit by sharpening a large bit. We thought that doing a small bit would not be to trying on the machine and we really needed to give it a good workout so we started off with a pretty wicked looking 3/8" bit. In fact, I would venture a guess to say this bit could have been used as a punch at some time in it's life, it certainly hadn't drilled any holes for some time.

As we inserted the bit and jig into the Drill Doctor and it switched on we could hear the small electric motor inside spinning up speed. The trick with these units is that you have to twist the bits in their jig as you insert and press it against the internal grinding wheel.

We expected that if the Drill Doctor could re-grind our bit it would take a while ... and it did, but in the end it did a pretty nice job. We did find that using the unit was a little bit slow on larger bits and it takes a while to get used to using, but it did fix up our rack of dull bits. In fact I might even say some or all seemed to be even sharper that when they were new ... this may not be the case but they seemed to be at least as sharp as they were when they were new.

So, if you want to breath new life into your steel twist drill bits, Drill Doctor does a nice job, but be patient with the larger bits, they take longer and may need a bit more attention. Now if only they could come up with something that will do my brad point bits, that would really make me happy.

Copyright Colin Knecht

The Radial Arm Saw

  Sometimes the best deals in tools can be made by looking to the past. In the decade when "sliding compound" and "chop" saws are the norm, why would anyone even want to consider a Radial Arm Saw ? I must admit I haven't had much to do with Radial Arm Saws for years, and like many others, had purchased a sliding compound saw. I never was in love with the sliding compound. I found it a bit light-weight and ... well, a bit finictity to use, if you know what I mean.

Recently I inherited at barely operational Radial Arm Saw . It hadn't been used in years and needed a real big clean-up. I decided rather than throw it out, I would re-build this saw from the past and try putting it to work. Lucky for me the motor worked, and pretty much everything else on the saw except the power switch, which was the first repair. All saws movements were either seized or very stiff ... so after a few hours of dis-assemble and re-assembly with bit of new grease and oil ... everything worked like new again.

One of the problems with these ole Radial Arm Saws is that they can be more dangerous than some other saws. Most of the reason for this is because they seldom are fitted with the right blade, which makes all the difference to this saw .... click below to read more

Often these saws came from the manufacturer with horrible old combination blades with teeth in them that looked like they could rip through two inches of solid steel. These old blades are part of the "safety" problem with Radial Arm Saws. If you have one of these blades, I suggest you make an nice shop clock from it or send it to metal scrap, do not use these blades on anything, unless you are cutting fire wood. Their cut is rough and they are far too aggressive for most woodworking applications.

I have found the one of the best blades is the 72 tooth Freud Sliding Coupound cross cut blade , and if you want to add another element of safety, you could pick up the one with the anti-kickback teeth. These 72 tooth blades give excellent cuts and are far less dangerous and aggressive than the old "combo blades" that came with these saws. This particular blade was designed for chop and sliding chop saws and is manufactured with a NEGATIVE tooth hook angle. This means that the blade is biting more into the wood surface and using the table for resistance than postive hook angle teeth that would be biting into the back of the wood being cut where the resistance is more the person holding the wood (and subsequently more dangerous).

Most of the Radial Arm Saws are pretty easy to figure out, even if you have never operated one before. They also do some hand things that a Sliding Compound could never do, like rip wood or use a Dado blade in for certain applications. I particularly like the ease with which 45 degree cuts can be made, and they are accurate, at least on my saw they are ... which is more that I could say for the sliding compound which could never seem to make a decent 45 degree cut.

The disadvantage of these saw is that they are not portable ... at all, despite that in the past they were used on construction sites and were even advertised as construction site saws, these things are big and heavy, and I would venture a guess to say if saw safety were an issue, moving these saws is far more dangerous than actually operating them.

In terms of saw guards and saw dust collection, Radial Arms Saws also have draw backs. The dust collection, although not usually a big issue with cross cutting, is often not well handled by most of these saws although many do at least come with at shute to attach a hose to. These saw never did experience good quality saw guards. That is one area the more recent Sliding Compound and Chop saws have it over the old Radial Arm Saws. But - With careful and deliberate operation and the proper blades these old gems from the past can still be very useful tools.

If you really want to dress up your saw and make VERY usefull, adding a Flip Top fence stop is a HUGE time saver. I have discovered that after a few weeks of use I have fallen back in love with this "vintage saw". I like how sturdy and secure it feels and how it handles cutting. The tool is far more versatile than any Sliding Compound, and the best part is ... you can pick up these tools right now for next to nothing. Just check out your local auction, newspaper or classified ad section. Compared to the price of a decent Sliding Compound, and "vintage" Radial Arm Saw, with a bit of TLC and new Freud blade might just the thing you are looking for!

 copyright Colin Knecht


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