Hot New Tools: Issue 32

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This article is from Issue 32 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Flatter, harder, sharper

IBC Pinnacle Plane Blades

In a market saturated with blade makers, the decision to enter the aftermarket arena, with 69 varieties, was made with a commitment to make the best. Partnering IBC with professional woodworkers, Woodcraft set out to manufacture blades that can be put to use more quickly, take a superior edge, and stay sharp longer than the competition. These blades make all three cuts.

Users will appreciate the first difference the moment they unwrap the blade from the rust- inhibitive paper. For starters, the sides are ground and polished so that there is no more than .001" gap across the length of blade. IBC president Brian Rabinovitch doesn’t want to divulge any trade secrets, but the backs on both samples appeared flat and polished to what I’d get from my 6000-grit waterstone. And with edges honed just as meticulously, I was able to put the blade to immediate use. According to Rob Cosman, the blades meet his standards with just a five-minute touch-up.

From a manufacturing standpoint, tolerances are key. Here again IBC blades outshine the competition. To ensure uniform quality, the company verifies and numbers the blades before they leave the factory. (If held to the same standards, 25% of a leading competitor’s blades wouldn’t have been allowed out the door.)

Pinnacle blades will only be available in A2 tool steel. According to the manufacturer, the 01/A2 debate is officially over. Higher-grade, finer-grained A2 allows for more controllable double tempering and cryogenic treatments that, when used together, produce a finer, more homogenous grain structure. The end result: a blade that you can sharpen as finely as any other, and one that outperforms old-school 01 (even some competing A2s) several times over.

I did find that the harder steel tends to dish my waterstones, particularly lower, softer grits, but that’s to be expected considering the steel’s hardness (RC60-62). To avoid this problem, I now grind the primary bevel on a wheel or diamond stone, and reserve my waterstones for honing a smaller secondary bevel.

#150007-150079   $18.99-60.99

Tester: Jody Garrett

A small slider with a really big bite

Makita Dual-Slide Compound Mitersaw

A leader among mitersaw makers, Makita has now found a way to cut more with less. With a newly-designed gearbox and guard system, their latest 10"-diameter sliding compound mitersaw has a cutting capacity that rivals larger 12" diameter saws (12"-wide crosscut at 90°, 81/2"-wide crosscut at 45°, and 43/4" vertical chop). And thanks to a unique four-tube sliding system, it does this in a smaller footprint. The two-stage sliding system allows you to place the saw closer to the wall than most sliders, without interfering with the travel. When you require more chop than slide, simply lock one or both pairs of tubes.

Other notable features include a two-piece fence on both sides of the blade for cutting crown molding, a one-touch (push in and turn) miter-lock system, a smooth 15-amp motor with electronic speed control, and a line-of-cut laser that you can activate without triggering the blade. Last but not least, the saw comes with a top-shelf 60-tooth blade for a splinter-free precision cut.

#844093   $599.99

Tester: Jim Nuckolls

New twists for pen turners

Beall Pen Wizard

Ornamental lathes have been around for centuries, but most are in museums or in the workshops of a few hardcore turners. With his latest invention, Jerry Beall has put that fascinating clockwork collection of gears into an affordable, pen-sized package.

Technically, the wizard isn’t a lathe, but a turned-pen decorator. It cuts the spirals, curves, and checkered patterns that are impossible to achieve any other way. All you need are a few pens, a rotary carving tool, and imagination. Load the turned pen or pencil, set the gear box, and then crank the handle to move the rotary tool across the pen while rotating the part.

The Pen Wizard comes with instructions, DVD, type A pen mandrel, and a depth guide that keeps the bit above the turned blank even when cutting tapered barrels.

To watch a video of the Wizard in action, visit Beall’s Web site.

$295   The Beall Tool  Company, (800) 331-4718

Tester: Joe Hurst-Wajszczuk

Watch out trees, here’s a finer Forrest

Forrest Signature Line Chop Master

Not willing to rest on their laurels, Forrest’s added 13% more teeth and redesigned the teeth angles of the venerable Chop Master to make a blade that requires less cutting pressure, enabling it to cut wood and composite materials more coolly and smoothly than their other blades. The blade also has a smaller gullet, which, according to Forrest, makes the blade cut quieter than before.

Initial shop tests confirmed the subtle but significant differences between the new and old Chop Masters. If you don’t yet own a Forrest or have plans for a new saw, this one’s worth checking out. (I’m sticking with my old blade for now, mostly because I’m happy with their sharpening service, but also because the 10"- and 12"-diameter blades won’t fit my old 81/2" Hitachi.)

#150266 10"   $169.99

#150267 12"   $179.99

Tester: Joe Hurst-Wajszczuk

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