Problem Solving Products: Issue 23

Finesse Your Bandsaw into a Scrollsaw

THE PRODUCT: Carter Stabilizer
MADE BY: Carter Products Company, Inc.
WHAT IT DOES: Allows a bandsaw to make fine scrollsaw-like outside cuts by serving as a guide for narrow width blades
AVAILABLE AT WOODCRAFT: #140819 for 14" imported bandsaws; #838334 for 10" or 14" Rikon bandsaws; #838335 for 18" Rikon bandsaws
PRICE: $69.99
tester: Mark Duginske

While my bandsaw is regularly used for ripping and resawing, having the ability to use smaller blades would certainly increase the tool’s versatility. I prefer the bandsaw over a scrollsaw because it’s faster, capable of sawing thicker stock, and doesn’t pick up the wood and cause it to chatter in mid-cut. However, the problem with using narrow width blades on the bandsaw is that the blade’s teeth can get damaged the second you start the saw, if the metal guides are not set perfectly or mid way into a cut, should the blade deflect into the steel blocks. The Carter Stabilizer solves both problems.

Carter’s Stabilizer bandsaw guide provides stability when cutting with blades 1/4" or less in width. The design consists of a bracket that supports a roller on a bearing with a groove in the middle where the blade rides. The bottom guide (below the table) is retracted, allowing the Stabilizer to control the blade from the top guide position.

THE SETUP: On the standard 14" bandsaw, simply loosen one screw to remove the top guide holder and slip the Stabilizer in the slot as shown above. Setup takes a minute. If you own or are purchasing a Carter full guide kit then it’s as easy as sliding out the upper guide and sliding in the Stabilizer, and at this point you’re ready to cut.

Setup for bandsaws larger than the standard 14" models is more involved because the large bearing guides are hard to adjust for small blades. (Contact Carter at [888] 622-7837 or for information.)

TRIAL RUN: Before I cut wood, I made sure the small blade tracked in the center of the tires with the guide retracted so nothing touches the blade. Now, run the saw to see if the blade tracks correctly. Next, advance the Stabilizer so that it touches the blade and the blade is centered in the groove. Advance the Stabilizer forward about 1/8" so that it pushes the blade forward. 

Finally, check that the blade still tracks in the middle of the top wheel. You may need to angle the top wheel back slightly. The pressure further stabilizes the blade and also prevents it from coming forward if you back out of a cut.

I used the stabilizer to cut 3/4" stock for patterned box back and experienced no blade deflection or angled cuts. On 11/2" pine I went slower with the same good result.

BEST APPLICATIONS: The Stabilizer cannot be used for pierced scrollsawing, but it does come in handy when cutting out patterned pieces that have a lot of tight turns.

TESTER’S TAKE: There is no perfect guide system for every situation. This product helps you cut tight curves with narrow blades. For straight cuts and joinery (for example, tenons and dovetails), you’ll want to stick with a wider blade.

Low-Cost Waterstone Delivers Super Shine

THE PRODUCT: Natural Polishing Waterstone
WHAT IT DOES:  Hones the  edges of chisels and planes to a level of fineness formerly achieved only with pricier diamond pastes or  micro-abrasives.
PRICE: $30.99
tester: Andy Rae

Waterstones are fast-cutting, provide good feedback, and are popular with pros and amateurs alike for honing chisels and plane irons. But synthetic stones don’t come cheap, and natural stones are even more expensive—over $100. And the highest-grit stones, those used for final polishing, are typically the most expensive. At $30, this natural polishing stone sounds like a real bargain. So, does this budget-priced stone deliver?

THE SETUP: The stone was plenty flat right out of the box, but the surface was somewhat rough, necessitating smoothing before use. Although you could smooth and reflatten the stone with another stone of similar or lesser grit, this stone is so hard that the quickest approach is to rub the surface with a medium-grit diamond stone. (Medium-grit sandpaper adhered to a flat surface will also work.) Incidentally, at 1¼" thick × 2¾" wide × 8" long, this is an extra-thick stone which means longer wear and life. (Note: stones are cut and polished by hand so sizes may vary.)

Unlike most finishing stones that are kept dry and then wetted just before use, instructions call for soaking the Natural Polishing Waterstone for 30 minutes before use. However, I found that this waterstone worked fine with just a splash of water on its surface prior to use, and only a splash or two to keep it wet during moderate honing.

TRIAL RUN: Beginners will need practice to master this stone because it is so hard that it more closely resembles an oilstone’s feel, providing very little “grip” as you rub. Also, unlike many finishing stones that allow you to skip a few grits in the sharpening process, with a polishing stone it is important to work your way up. For general sharpening, I recommend starting with 1000 grit, then moving to 6000-8000 grit before finishing on the polishing stone.

Compared to my other stones, I noticed that there’s very little slurry build-up, even when the stone is rubbed with a nagura (a small stone used to prepare waterstones and create a slurry). This lack of slurry makes the tool want to skip over the surface, which can scratch the tool and the stone. The trick is to use a light touch, rubbing gently and with less pressure than normal. Although this process requires more strokes and takes more time, the resulting super-shiny surfaces and keen, sharp edges are worth it.

BEST APPLICATIONS: For everyday sharpening, finishing an edge with 6000- or 8000-grit stone is usually sufficient for most chisel and plane blades. But if you’d like to take your tools to the next level, such as for paring chisels, specialty carving tools, and smoothing planes, this stone is worth adding to your sharpening arsenal.

TESTER’S TAKE: An 8000-grit waterstone’s polish is fine for most of my edge tools, but this stone’s superior polish makes it a keeper for times when I need the best possible edge, such as for my delicate carving chisels and thin-bladed knives. This stone does not quite deliver the finish I can get with the micron-grade sandpapers and diamond pastes on the market. However, for a fraction of the cost of comparable stones, it does produce a wonderful mirrored polish.

Back to blog Back to issue