Hot New Tools: Issue 40

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This article is from Issue 40 of Woodcraft Magazine.

Powerful palm-sized router

Porter-Cable 11⁄4 HP Compact Router Kit

The popularity of laminate trimmers in small shops has less to do with trimming laminate and more to do with the terrific maneuverability of such small routers. Because they’re conveniently hand-sized, trim routers are used for a wide variety of edging and grooving chores. Unfortunately, most trim routers have rather rudimentary height adjustments, making precise depth setting difficult and mortising downright dicey.

Enter the Porter-Cable 450PK. Bridging the gap between laminate and full-sized routers, this palm-friendly 7 amp, 1.25 hp router comes with both plunge and fixed bases that resemble those used on larger Porter-Cable routers. The plunge base has a 2" plunging depth—deep enough for mortising—and turret stops for making incremental cuts. The fixed base offers 11⁄2" of travel and has a depth stop ring for dialing cut depths to within 1⁄64".

The only minor disadvantage is that the router only accepts 1⁄4" shank bits. This prevents using profiles that are too large for the router, so if you’ve stocked up on 1⁄2" shank bits, it will add a few more to your arsenal.

#847926  $199.99
Tester: Andrew Bondi

Wood that’s so old, it’s new

Ancient Kauri Wood

Here’s your chance to work some of the oldest workable wood in the world. Recovered from peat bogs in New Zealand, Woodcraft has obtained bowl and pen blanks from kauri logs dated at 50,000 years old.

Normally, wood this old would have petrified or have turned to coal, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that kauri (technically a softwood) works much like cherry or soft maple. (Using a sharp tool really helped reduce any feathering.) The consistency of the stock is due in part to the ring density. Where most woods have just five or six rings per inch, kauri has more than 50.

Kauri’s colors range from gold to dark caramel. Super-fine sanding (600 grit and above) brings out shimmering iridescent streaks.

#152643-152648   $14.99 - $79.99
Tester: George Snyder

Tough chisels at a tough-to-beat price

WoodRiver 6-Piece Chisel Set

When considering new chisels, the savvy woodworker has three primary questions: How tough, how comfortable, and, of course, how much? WoodRiver’s newest chisels provide some happy answers.

A refinement of WoodRiver’s previous version, these chisels have chrome vanadium (CRV) blades with an average Rockwell hardness of 60 and reasonably comfortable bubinga handles. After lapping and polishing the backs, the metal held up nearly as well as some of my more expensive chisels. At 10", these chisels handle well for paring, although I found them a bit long for efficient chopping.

The really nice news is the price of the six-piece set, which includes 1⁄4", 3⁄8", 1⁄2", 5⁄8", 3⁄4", and 1" blade sizes. At around $13 apiece, these competent chisels will be a solid set for those just starting a shop or for seasoned woodworkers looking for a backup set.

#151268   $79.99
Tester: Paul Anthony

Mystery-less miters

Starrett Prosite Mitersaw Protractor

Most of us have a multitude of ways to reliably measure 90° and 45° angles, but accurately determining the angles in between involves some hit or miss. That’s why you need this protractor. To use it, simply place the tool into a corner, adjust the legs, and read the center arrow on the dial’s outer scale. Use the arrow on the handle and the dial’s inner scale for math-free miters.

Starrett offers pricier, all-metal models, but I recommend the cheaper plastic version. The 7"-long legs are the right size for measuring in tight quarters and for slipping in a tool belt or shop apron. What’s more, the tool is priced so that you’re more likely to use it for away-from-the-bench woodworking, such as installing crown molding or finishing up a deck. At this price, the tool can easily pay for itself by preventing a miscut or two.

#150770  $24.99
Tester: Joe Hurst-Wajszczuk


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