Problem Solving Products: Issue 26Comments (0)
This article is from Issue 26 of Woodcraft Magazine.
Drill-Press Wood Shaver
THE PRODUCT: Drill-Press Safety Planer
Made by: G & W Tool
WHAT IT DOES: Mills wood to thickness; cuts rabbets; makes specialty cuts.
AVAILABLE AT WOODCRAFT: #03Q41
TESTER: Andy Rae
This classic cutter mounts on to your drill press and shaves away wood as it’s slid underneath. In addition to planing, the tool can cut rabbets and tenons, and perform a bunch of other specialized cuts. But in this age of affordable lunchbox planers and routers, does it still make the cut? And how safe is it to operate?
The (somewhat dated) manual shows special applications, but doesn't offer much basic setup information. I suggest mounting an oversize table to your drill-press table. The manual says that you can use the accessory freehand, but a fence makes things much safer. To make one, cut a small rabbet in the edge of a piece of MDF, and then saw a cutout in the center of the fence slightly larger than the diameter of the planer, as shown below left.
It’s best to feed boards from left to right to prevent grabbing. Again, the manual claims that kickback is impossible, but the cutter tends to grab the workpiece if you feed it in the wrong direction.
Don’t forget to plan for chip collection. I clamped a shop-made box directly behind the cutter, and then fitted a dust hose to the box to collect most of the debris.
For the smoothest cuts, select the fastest speed on your drill press, as long as it’s less than 6,000 rpm. The top speed of my drill press—2,300 rpm—worked fine for all cuts.
I made a series of different cuts in a variety of species, including highly figured woods. To thickness a piece of wood, I lowered the cutter 1/8" below the stock’s surface (heavier cuts will tax the drill-press spindle) and locked it in place with the spindle lock. Next, I set up the fence to use less than half of the planer’s diameter, and fed the workpiece evenly and slowly. As I expected, surfacing wide boards was tedious and significantly slower than using a thickness planer. (To mill rough stock, you’ll need to flatten one face with a hand plane or a sander first so it sits flat on the table.)
Running a piece of highly-figured sapele under the cutter produced a slightly rough surface but with zero tear-out—even when feeding the workpiece against the grain. The texture was similar to what you would get from a saw blade. After some minor sanding, the surface was ready for finishing.
Cutting rabbets proved easy. I used the same fence and lowered the cutter into the cutout, letting it project from the fence by the desired width of the rabbet. A 1/4"-deep cut, as shown above, was no problem. However, rabbet depth is limited by the head of the tool. I maxed out at 1/4". Still, that’s a useful depth for fitting thin backboards or milling smaller drawer parts.
In theory, you can use the rabbeting technique to cut tenons, but despite my best efforts, I could not cut them to fit as tightly as I’d like.
Luthiers and hobbyists working with small-scale stock might find this planer quite handy for shaping moldings, preparing neck blanks and fingerboards, and cutting rosettes. Although it can’t compete with a thickness planer in speed, because it causes less tear-out and does not snipe, it has the slight edge when working with small pieces of highly-figured wood.
With a fence setup, this is a very safe tool to use, although you need to take light cuts to prevent overstressing your drill press. It won’t replace my thickness planer or routers, but for the price of a few good bits, you can teach your drill press a useful new trick.
Two-In-One Turning Tool
The Product: Skewchigouge
MADE BY: Crown Tools
What It Does: Tackles all sorts of turning tasks.
Available At Woodcraft: #140474
Tester: Ken Kupsche
As the strange-sounding name suggests, this high-speed steel hybrid blends the cutting qualities of a skew chisel and a spindle gouge, the two most common chisels used in spindle turning. Allan Beecham, a noted turner and the tool’s designer, and scores of Skewchi-fans claim that this inexpensive tool can plane, cut beads, pummels, balls, bird’s beaks, and V-grooves, and is virtually catch-proof.
The secret, they say, lies in the grind. The tip of the 71/2" -round bar-stock blade has a spindle gouge fingernail profile, but instead of a standard gouge-like trough on the other side, the Skewchigouge has a spoon-shaped concavity, shown in the inset above.
Compared to other new tools, the factory grind looked unusually good. I pulled the edge over a stone twice to pull up a burr, ran it against my buffing wheel, and it was ready to go.
Diagramed instructions explain how to make all of the cuts, but I was confused by Beecham’s terminology until I realized that “chisel mode” meant “used with the concave edge face up and cutting only with the tip” and “gouge mode” meant “turning the concave edge 90° and cutting with the side edge.”
For my test, I used spindle stock that I had prepared with a roughing gouge. I first tried turning the Skewchigouge on edge, using it in skew-mode to mark and start my cuts. Next, I tried cutting a bead, as shown on page 68. Because I’m not accustomed to using a skew and plunging straight into the cut, it took me a few minutes to find the Skewchigouge’s “angle of roll,” but before long I found it to be a simple fluid motion.
I tried running the Skewchigouge along the length of the spindle to make a smooth planing cut, but after a few attempts, I decided to stick with my standard skew. The advantage to a regular skew is that the wider beveled edge can rest on the stock to get a smoother cut. The Skewchi’s gouge-like grind isn’t large enough to provide the same support.
Spindle turners interested in cutting beads and shoulders will really appreciate the two-in-one tool because of its ability to instantly transition from gouge to skew. And, unlike a regular spindle gouge, you can make a V-cut between beads without the risk of having the edge catch the stock and ruin the cut because with the Skewchigouge, there’s no protruding edge to catch.
If you’re already proficient with a spindle gouge or skew, then you may not need a Skewchigouge, but if you’re a new turner, or constantly switching between the two tools, then it’s worth a try.
Eventually, you’ll need to regrind the concave top surface. If you haven’t yet mastered this trick, don’t worry; it’ll take a few years of use before it’s time to regrind. Considering the price, it’s certainly a quality addition to your turning tool collection.
You must be logged in to write a comment. Log In