Hot New Tools: Issue 27

Eye-popping pens

Laminated Pen Blanks

Few (if any) manufacturers have even tried to make blanks like this because producing a multi-stage lamination without excessive glue lines or voids proved almost impossible. Woodcraft’s found a manufacturer that has not only proven that it can be done, but also has created a complete line of fanciful pen blanks.

Starting with thin strips of select domestic and exotic woods, the material is resawn and glued under high pressure, then sawn again, to create turn-friendly blanks containing from 40 to more than 100 separate pieces of wood. You might be able to replicate this technique on your own, but at this price, you won’t want to.

The laminated line includes basket weaves, herringbones, and checkerboards—10 designs that are now available; an additional 10 styles will be available in the months ahead—but the only way to appreciate these names is by turning one and watching the rectangular lamination reveal the geometric complexity hidden within. Want to create a gift item with the so-called “wow” factor? Look no further.

#149446, #149447, #149450, #149452, #149454, #149455, #149459, #149460, #149462, #149463  $11.99 each

Woodcraft Tester: Darin Lawrence

Simpler saw setter

Pinnacle Table Saw Gauge

The trick to smooth, burn-free cuts at the table saw is getting the miter gauge slot, blade, and fence into perfect alignment. This isn’t always easy. Most slot-fitting setting gauge systems work well enough, provided that the saw slot is perfectly consistent. When it isn’t, or if the slot isn’t a standard width, shimming or loosening the bar can sacrifice the thousandth or two of an inch that you’re trying to catch.

The Pinnacle Saw Gauge employs a unique three pin-system that reliably fits into any size slot. Simply drop in the two steel pins and cradle (a larger pin) into the slot, place the gauge on the tabletop, and you’re ready to set the gauge.

The gauge’s body has a stepped bottom that allows it to easily adjust to obtain the optimal position of the dial indictor. I found that the stepped base also enabled me to quickly calibrate the blade and readjust it to check the fence, without unbolting it and/or losing my original setting. By shaving time off the setting process, I find myself using this jig more frequently…long before seeing saw marks or burnt edges.

#149019   $99.99

Woodcraft Tester: Tim Rinehart

Multi-use fence and featherboard set

Magswitch MagJig Universal Base Combo Kit

If you haven’t already felt the pull of Magswitch, this combo will introduce you to a stock-handling system that’s as simple as turning a knob. The kit contains two 30mm MagJigs and all the fixin’s: a dual roller fence, resaw fence, universal base, and assembly hardware. The set gives you the flexibility to employ the magnets all over your workshop, but I especially liked using the dual-roller fence for handling large pieces of stock across my jointer and table saw. The resaw fence spends most of its time on my bandsaw where the single-roller bearing provides support, but still lets me steer boards through the blade. (The universal base also works with Magswitch’s vertical featherboard attachment.)

This kit isn’t cheap, but considering that you’re getting a workshop’s worth of hold-downs, plus a pair of incredibly powerful magnets (each retails for more than $30) that can be used with any other jig you might create, it’s a worthwhile investment.

#149493 Combo Kit   $149.99

Woodcraft Tester: Peter Collins

Dowel-like strength from a screw

Confirmat-Style Starter Kit

Particleboard and MDF are fine for basic casework, but these man-made materials don’t work well with traditional fasteners. Enter the Confirmat-style screw: an extra-thick fastener that functions like a threaded steel dowel. The reason why Confirmats aren't found in most hardware stores is because they require a special three-stepped hole: a pilot hole, through hole, and a countersink. Good stepped bits are expensive and can be hard to find. But with help from a U.S. manufacturer, Woodcraft now offers a tough, affordable step drill with a replaceable pilot bit.

To assemble a joint, align the mating pieces together and drill until the third step of the drill grazes the surface. As the screw draws the parts together, the head should sink just beneath the surface. Attach the cover cap and you’re done.

The kit contains everything you need to start assembling cabinets: connecting screws, cover caps, a Pozi-drive bit, a step drill, and a replacement pilot bit. Use the 5mm×40mm kit for 1/2" to 5/8" thick materials, and 7mm×50mm kit or 5/8" to 1" thick materials.

#149260 5mm×40mm Kit   $29.99; #149261 7mm×50mm Kit   $32.99

Woodcraft Tester: Darin Lawrence

Lathe-less bowl maker

CMT Bowl and Tray Router Template Kit

No lathe? No problem. With this kit, all you need is a plunge router, drill press, bandsaw, and some scrapwood to make dozens of bowls and serving trays for your kitchen, or to give as gifts. The kit includes two CNC-fabricated templates, a bowl and tray bit, a collet extension, and an instructional DVD.

To make the bowl, first trace the desired recess on your blank using the template, then remove the bulk of the material from the center using a drill press and Forstner bit. Next, rout out the interior using a round-bottomed bit. (The bit extension included in the kit provides an extra 31/2" of cutting depth for deeper bowls.) After routing, cut the exterior to shape and sand smooth.

The templates can be used to make several different styles of bowls and trays, but it’s easy enough to make your own to rout custom designs.

#149502   $99.99

Woodcraft Tester: Peter Collins

Quality hand planes at affordable prices

WoodRiver Planes

I’ll admit that I’m a hand tool snob…you’ll get my L-N’s when you can pry them from my cold dead fingers…so when Tim Rinehart asked me to test drive Woodcraft’s new WoodRiver planes, I wasn’t expecting much. Now it looks like I owe Tim a beer.

These planes aren’t as pretty as the competition, but they surpass the other knockoffs by a few miles. Woodcraft put its money where it counts. The sides are square; the soles are dead flat. Give the blade a few minutes worth of sharpening and you’re good to go. The high carbon (Rc 60-64) steel takes and holds a decent edge but if you want, you can upgrade to A2 for half the price of a top-shelf plane.

Consider this a sneak peek. We’ll conduct a serious test in a later issue. These tools will arrive soon at your local Woodcraft store. When they do, you’ll want to check them out for yourself.

#149381 Block Plane   $69.99; Bench Planes: #149382 No. 3,  $99.99;

#149383 No. 4,   $109.99; #149384 No. 5,   $119.99; #149385 No. 6,   $129.99

Woodcraft Tester: Joe Hurst-Wajszczuk

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