Hot New Tools: Issue 35

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This article is from Issue 35 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Ready-to-work bench

Pinnacle Workbench

A workbench is the cornerstone of the workshop. Building one can be a rewarding experience, but it does require a sizeable investment in tools, time, and typically some sort of “starter bench” to build it on. If you're not quite up to the task, or are simply more interested in making furniture than building stuff for your shop, you need to check out this alternative.

Following the plans drawn many years ago by noted woodworker and draftsman Carlyle Lynch, Woodcraft has enlisted talented Ohio craftsmen to build a premium all-American workbench. Unlike some imported lightweights, this bench is meant to be worked on; the base and 3"-thick solid beech top weigh in at over 200 pounds. The front vise and tail vise, specially designed to fit this bench, are cast aluminum with steel threads and threaded inserts to ensure a long service life.

You will need a socket wrench and an extra pair of hands to assemble the bench, but the process is fast and easy. Following the step-by-step directions, we had the bench out of the box and ready for woodworking in just under half an hour.

671⁄2" l × 22" w × 361⁄2" h

#150811  $1,499.99
Tester: Brian Renner

…or build it yourself

Classic Workbench, Shop Plan #1

Here’s a second option for woodworkers on the other side of the money/time see-saw. Working from the same plans, Woodcraft Magazine also built Lynch’s famous bench. Our retake offers illustrations, photos, and step-by-step instructions to guarantee your building success. If you have a reasonably-equipped shop and a source for thick hardwood, the plans will give you the needed help to complete this American classic in a few weeks. (Use the money you saved to buy a few extra tools.)

#150845  $12.99

Just plane perfect

Pinnacle/IBC Blade & Chipbreaker Matched Set

Aftermarket blades can turn a flea-market find into a newfound friend, but it’s possible to have too much of a good thing. The problem is that older Stanleys aren’t designed to fit the thick blades found on newer premium planes. In response, most blade makers offer thinner (.095") blades. This solution is a decent compromise, but the performance isn’t quite as good. Working with Rob Cosman, IBC has come up with a thicker solution that has caused me to rethink the way I shop for hand tools.

IBC’s A2 blades are .140" thick—60% thicker than the standard blades. Making this blade fit involves a combination of clever engineering and a little elbow grease. As shown, the matched chipbreaker comes with special extension tabs. The tabs enable the plane’s yoke to reach past the super-thick blade. The other half of the job is opening the plane’s mouth. I was apprehensive about filing, but Rob Cosman’s DVD (available free with the set for a limited time) makes the process a walk in the park. In about an hour, my old #4 was getting tissue-thin shavings from curly hard maple without any vibration or hesitation.

The blade/chipbreaker combo isn’t cheap, but I figure that I’m putting my money where it counts. Considering the price, the matched set makes these aftermarket “parts” planes almost as pretty as the premium planes I could only afford to lust after.

#150812  13⁄4" wide (fits #3 and #5¼) $99.99
#150813  2" wide (fits #4 and #5) $99.99
#150814  23⁄8" wide (fits #4½, #5½, #6, #7) $104.99
Tester:  Joe Hurst-Wajszczuk

Router table to go

JessEm Benchtop Rout-R-Table

Redesigning a tool from full to portable usually means some sort of trade-off. Meet the exception to the rule. JessEm’s 16 × 24" benchtop Rout-R-Table might be half the size of bigger brothers, but the smaller table more than holds its own.

Like larger models, this benchtop table comes with a standard-sized phenolic insert and leveling system mounted into a high-density MDF laminated top. Underneath, the table is fastened to a 11⁄4" tubular steel frame. Unlike flimsier benchtops, the top and frame provide rigidity and heft for use with a large router and for working larger stock without the fear of tipping or pushing it off the table. The 24" MDF-faced aluminum fence is a foot shorter than standard, but it’s hard to think of many routing operations that need a 36"-long fence.

In addition to the side “saddlebags” for tool and bit storage, the nylon bag wrapping the frame sports a 2" dust port to fit a shop vac. For a basement or garage shop, this built-in dust-busting ability may be the table’s top feature.

#150786  $259.99
Tester:  Peter Collins

Power stopper

SafetyGate Professional Power Stopper Plug

Sanctioned belt sander races are fun, but when an accidental trigger pull turns your workbench into the drag strip, “race day” can end with a damaged workpiece or trashed tool. Considering the hazard potential of this and other tools, it’s easy to imagine how an unexpected start—when resetting a blown fuse or plugging a tool into an outlet when it’s switched “on”—can be much worse than an amusing anecdote.

The SafetyGate offers insurance from such false starts. The device attaches to your tool’s plug to function like a magnetic switch found on big machinery. Should the power go off, or if the plug is pulled while the tool is “on,” the gate shuts to prevent the tool from firing up even if power is restored. To reset the gate, simply switch the tool off then on. The device has an LED light to indicate that it’s receiving power.

#151006  $23.99
Tester: Brian Renner

Chip splitter

Micro Jig Pro Steel Splitter

Kickback happens the moment a board pinches the tablesaw blade’s rising rear teeth, causing it to launch the workpiece up and back. The easiest way to prevent this is to buy a new saw (the law now requires that all new tablesaw models come equipped with riving knives). A more affordable alternative is to make a zero-clearance insert plate, and install an aftermarket splitter.

The new Micro Jig splitters do more than just deny a board access to the rising rear teeth. The new steel-cored splitters feature a slight offset (each “+” sign indicates .003") so that they can provide a hint of side pressure, like a mini featherboard, to widen the kerf or direct the stock against the fence to prevent burning. The Kerf Keeper is another interesting innovation. Designed for ripping solid wood, the keeper lifts out when pinched, keeping the kerf open while giving you a warning that it’s time to turn off the saw.

Two models are available; the blue is designed for standard-kerf blades; the orange for thin-kerf blades. Both sets come with handy templates to simplify splitter positioning.

#845404  1⁄8" Kerf MJ Splitter SteelPro Kit (blue)  $34.99
#845405  Thin Kerf MJ Splitter SteelPro Kit (orange)  $34.99
Tester: Joe Hurst-Wajszczuk


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