Problem Solving Products: Issue 32Comments (0)
This article is from Issue 32 of Woodcraft Magazine.
I approach “multi-” tools with a healthy dollop of skepticism; too often jacks-of-all-trades wind up being masters of none. However, the new Multiscribe by Trend Routing Technology bucks the trend.
The first thing I noticed was the all-metal construction. In an era when manufacturers use cheaper, alternative materials, this tool was designed for serious use, having a well-machined anodized aluminum head and steel parts. The knurled knob makes it easy to position and lock the head in the blade’s T-track.
I began by testing the Scribe’s primary function: transferring contours from one shape to another. The adjustable blade allows you to scribe lines in a variety of configurations. Such flexibility is an asset not only because of the variety of shapes you might scribe around, but also when space is tight or when positioning the tool becomes awkward.
Now for the multiple uses: with the head rotated and locked at 90o to the 1/4" graduated blade or fixed inline with the blade, the scribe doubles as a depth gauge. And as with other squares, the head has a bubble vial, like a small torpedo level, that lets me check the plumb or level of a wall-hung cabinet side and shelf, respectively.
A few extra details add to the tool’s versatility. Small holes in each end of the blade offer a convenient way to mark out circles from 1" to 19¾" in diameter. Thread a string, and the trammel transforms into a nicely-weighted plumb bob. With the string still in place, rotate the head 90°, and the bob turns into a line block or, with the addition of chalk, a chalk line. (This might seem like a stretch, until you try doing these jobs without a helper.)
The pencil sharpener seemed like an attempt to snag one more application, but I found it a surprisingly handy feature. It’s always there when you need it.
True to the second half of its name, the Multiscribe serves best as a scribing tool. Scribing isn’t something that you associate with woodworking projects—until installation time. Then, it’s the difference between a project that looks like it grew there and an extra tube of caulk. In addition to cabinetry and countertops, scribing comes into play when installing siding, hardwood flooring/tile, recreating molding profiles, or developing a story stick or template for a turning project as shown in the photo above.
While some of the advertised applications appear redundant, the Multiscribe holds its own as a scribe, level, square, trammel, and depth gauge. In a well-stocked workshop, it may not replace your precision measuring, marking, or leveling tools, but such versatility will earn it a place in your toolbox or the front pouch of your belt. By keeping all those tools in easy reach—preventing multiple trips back to the shop or a last-minute dash to the hardware store—this multitasker saves time and earns its keep.
Tester: Jody Garrett
Slick-and-simple sheet good slicer
Festool Parallel Guide and Parallel Guide Extensions
Sheet goods are notoriously awkward to handle single-handedly. Rail-guided plunge-cut saws make the job easier, but the trick of positioning the rail to make repeat cuts precisely has kept the table saw in the panel-cutting process.
To solve the rail-setting problem, Festool now offers Parallel Guides and shorter U-shaped Extension Guides that attach to the outboard and inboard sides of the rail. (The guides are sold in sets of two; to get one of each, you’ll need to buy the four-piece set.) The manufacturer claims that the pair offers a level of precision and repeatability that will slice your table saw out of the loop, but does the $325 pair really make the cut?
Attaching and calibrating the Parallel Guide to the rail is straightforward. Simply slide it onto a Festool rail, clamp the Guide with its integral clamp, and tighten the top knob. Once attached, the guide creates a solid 90° fence much like a large carpenter’s square, but the “leg” can be positioned anywhere along the rail (see photo, above). Add the second Parallel Guide to sandwich the workpiece between the guides. The guides come with stops that let you repeat ripcuts from 71/4" (the width of the rail) to 26".
The Parallel Extension Guides work similarly, but attach onto the offcut side of the Parallel Guide, with stops for cuts from 1/16" to 73/4". Attaching one transforms the contractor’s square into a giant T-square; attaching both creates a slip-proof crosscut guide (see photo).
To put the guide system to work, I set the panel on a sacrificial cutting surface, adjusted the arms and stops, and then cut the panel down to size. Going beyond sheet goods, I used the Parallel Guide and Guide Extension to trim the bottom of a solid wood, six-panel door in less than a minute and with dead-on accuracy.
The system serves as an easy way to quickly break down and prepare cabinet parts without manhandling sheet goods. You can cut panels to size in a fraction of the space required for a table saw. You can also use the system with other Festool tools, such as the router.
Despite these advantages, the system isn’t a complete replacement for a table saw. The rail and guides don’t offer the same convenience for ripping boards, one-time crosscuts, or other table saw joinery.
The Parallel Guides and Guide Extensions aren’t cheap, but in comparison, they’re less expensive and more compact than a panel saw. The instructions could be better, but it’s hard to find fault with the guides themselves.
If you already own a Festool saw and guide rail, this is what you’ve been waiting for. If you don’t, the versatility and overall sheet good problem-solving ability may convince you to select this system over the other saw and rail systems, especially if you work alone and your woodworking has you breaking down panels regularly.
Parallel Guide Extensions
Parallel Guides/Guide Extensions Set
Tester: Jody Garrett
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