Hot New Tools: Issue 99

An aftermarket miter gauge with brains, brawn, and beauty

JessEm Mite-R-Excel II Miter Gauge


  • Adjustable sliding flip stop accommodates an auxiliary fence up to 3⁄4" thick
  • 20" extruded fence with telescopic arm extends to 36"
  • 9 miter detents with indexing pin
  • Locating pin resets fence to correct distance from blade
  • Vernier scale for tenth-degree miter adjustments
  • Miter bar “snuggers” ensure miter gauge slides perfectly in your miter slot

JessEm Mite-R-Excel II Miter Gauge #169343, $299.99

Canadian toolmaker JessEm has introduced a substantial sequel to their popular Mite-R-Excel table saw miter gauge. Impeccably made, this drool-worthy accessory is flush with well-designed features, and is one of the best accessories you can get for your table saw. The head is solid machined aluminum, and sports easy-to-read, dead-accurate, laser-engraved markings. The Mite-R-Excel II comes with straightforward instructions and everything you need for assembly and adjustment. I had the unit together and was cutting box parts in an afternoon.

As for features, the head squares to the table and the guide bar via a few accessible screws. Three “snuggers” along the length of the guide bar adjust to fit your saw’s table slot. A sliding stop on the 20"-long fence accommodates an auxiliary fence up to 3/4" thick. The fence includes an internal telescoping arm outfitted with a stop at its end that reaches to 36". A fence-locating pin in the head allows quick resetting of the fence to the proper distance from the blade when reverting back to 90° after a miter cut.

To set up to cut any of the most common angles (15, 22.5, 30, and 45°), loosen the handle, retract the spring-loaded indexing pin, and rotate it to lock it out. Swing the head to the desired detent, reengage the pin, and retighten the handle. For all other angles, follow the same procedure, but leave the indexing pin locked out. A Vernier scale helps to dial in angles to a tenth of a degree. The unit is configured to work only in the left-hand slot of a table saw, but that’s not really a limitation for most work. My only complaints are minor. One is that the flip stop moved slightly under light pressure, but tightening its locknut remedied that. Also, the rearmost guide bar snugger hangs off your saw when cutting wider boards, potentially compromising accuracy.

Anyone who finds it tough to justify spending $300 on a miter gauge has probably never used a top-shelf model like this. But you get what you pay for, and the Mite-R-Excel II is rock-solid and smart. Every part is beautifully machined with clean lines and smooth edges. Most importantly, this feature-rich tool delivers the goods with precise, repeatable crosscuts and miters.

—Tester, Chad McClung

Mohawk puts their spin on turners’ finishes

Wood Turner’s and Plastic Polishes


  • Liquid high-gloss polishes
  • Easy application
  • Designed for wood and plastic turnings

Mohawk Finishing Products recently added two new turning finishes to its already substantial line of wood polishes—one for wood and one specifically for plastics.

Both finishes are applied to turnings the same way. The manufacturer advises sanding through at least 800 grit, then using a soft cloth or paper towel to apply the polish in an end-to-end motion with the lathe running at a low speed. Wipe off the excess, and repeat as desired.

The woodturning finish is a traditional friction polish and has a color and consistency similar to gravy. It is easy to apply, with minimal splatter off the turning at low speed. Missing from the instructions on the bottle is the fact that, because this is a friction polish, heat and pressure are needed to build any gloss. After applying the liquid at a low speed, increase the lathe speed and apply a good bit of pressure with a clean rag. Let the turning (and your fingers) cool down before applying additional coats. I found that 2-3 coats gave optimal gloss, while additional coats had minimal effect.

I tested the polish on a pair of pens and a bowl. I sanded the bowl to 1200 grit, and gave the pens the micro-mesh treatment to 12,000 grit. Despite the difference in prep, the degree of final shine was negligible. Mohawk bills the wood turner’s polish as “high gloss,” but the final sheen is less glossy than other friction polishes on the market.

While both the wood and plastic polish tout use on carvings and flat surfaces in addition to turnings, no instructions are provided. I tried the wood finish on the top of a vase that couldn’t be finished on the lathe. After sanding, I rubbed on a coat of finish before wiping off and buffing. A good bit of elbow grease gave a shine on the flat surface that approached the lathe-finished sections, but it didn’t come easy. This is a finish best applied on a running lathe.

In contrast, the plastic polish shined up acrylic pens nicely when following the printed instructions. And when applied after micro-mesh sanding, the shine was even brighter. The plastic polish has the color and consistency of everyone’s favorite typo correction fluid, making it easy to tell where the polish has been applied and where it’s been buffed. Like the wood turner’s friction polish, the plastic polish benefits from increasing the lathe speed and applying significant pressure after initial application.

I tested the plastic polish on a variety of pens turned from acrylic, acrylester, and alumilite resin. All three materials polished up brilliantly with the Mohawk finish, and spared the mess and time commitment of a cyanoacrylate finish.

Curious whether the wood or plastic finish would fare better on popular burl-and-acrylic pen blanks, I applied each finish to a turned and sanded would-be pen. The plastic polish shined up the acrylic but left the wood portion dull and muddy. The wood polish, on the other hand, shined both the acrylic and burl portions to a glossy finish—not surprising since pen-turners have used similar friction polishes on acrylic pens for years.

Overall, while the wood finish is ultimately comparable to other friction finishes on the market, the plastic polish shined—both literally and figuratively.

—Tester, Derek Richmond

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